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Forsters LLP chooses NetDocuments for cloud-based document management

Forsters LLP chooses NetDocuments for cloud-based document management

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Forsters LLP, a leading UK law firm, deployed NetDocuments as part of its ambition to move more of its services to the cloud, enabling the organisation’s 400+ staff to securely access and work on documents from any location and device.

NetDocuments, a leading secure multi-tenant cloud-based content services and productivity platform for law firms, corporate legal teams and business organisations, has announced that Forsters LLP has gone live with its NetDocuments Document Management System (DMS) implementation.

Forsters is one of London’s leading real estate and private wealth law firms and the company was recently recognised in The Times’ Best Law Firms 2021 listings. The implementation of NetDocuments will provide Forsters’ 400+ staff with a secure cloud platform to manage, share and discover electronic files.

The new DMS is part of Forsters’ on-going IT transformation and strategy to move more services to the cloud, which saw NetDocuments win a competitive evaluation against iManage. As a true-cloud platform, NetDocuments provides Forsters with the around-the-clock availability and support it requires – enabling the law firms’ employees to securely access their documents at any time and from any location.

In addition, NetDocuments’ native integration with Microsoft Office365 allows it to be used within familiar Office365 applications, which has quickly boosted user adoption.

Verlata Consulting, a certified NetDocuments partner, successfully led the remote implementation of NetDocuments during the UK COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Within the first week of the implementation of NetDocuments, Forsters had been able to add 26,773 documents and 46,620 emails to the new DMS.

“NetDocuments’ robust enterprise search and machine assisted filing means our employees can find the information they are looking for in a matter of seconds. In addition, the high-levels of security provided by NetDocuments gives us peace of mind that documents are being shared safely,” said Anthony Stables, CIO at Forsters LLP.

“Both Verlata and NetDocuments have been extremely supportive during the implementation, and we are confident that we now have a cloud document management platform that will scale with our business needs.”

Intelligent SME.TECH spoke to Stables to find out more about the implementation and how it has enabled the organisation to scale.

Can you give us an overview of the challenges that you were looking to address ahead of implementing this solution?

Upon joining the firm in May 2018, I carried out an exercise to understand exactly what the IT environment looked like. IT hadn’t received the right investment over the years preceding and had reached a point where we needed to almost start everything over again.

The core systems the law firm uses revolve around its practice management system – which traditionally handles the time and billing processes – and the document management system, which is the essential system of record.
We looked at which of the two was causing the most pain in the firm and it was by far the document management element. It was that impetus, as well as the complete and total IT transformation that we were executing, which led us down the route of selecting NetDocuments for this particular project.

What is driving your IT transformation and strategy to move more services to the cloud?

As a firm we recognised that technology was really going to be a differentiator and could enable us to offer more options to clients.

When I arrived at the firm, my vision was really around the fact that although we could do what every other law firm does and be the same, we could actually get ahead of the pack and start to start to innovate.

We’re a growing firm, having taken on a number of people throughout lockdown, so we need to be flexible and enabling that flexibility is really the whole ethos around having a cloud-based strategy.

Why did you ultimately decide to work with NetDocuments on this project?

I’ve had the privilege of working in legal services for a long time in various different firms, as well as in financial services, so I’ve seen several document management systems.

When it came to choosing the system for Forsters, I knew there were two big players in the legal IT document management market in the UK. And then, it was really down to the technology front and the underlying fundamental technology for NetDocuments is a true cloud system.

It just performs well out the box and we knew it would be flexible enough to give us what we want.
In normal times, quite a few people end up travelling globally and with NetDocuments they have a system that’s accessible wherever they are.

NetDocuments is also so well aligned with Microsoft and, as we’re adopting Microsoft Teams, that alignment is really going to start to pay off, because we’re going to have integration.

The implementation was remotely led – tell us about that experience and any challenges that you encountered and how these were overcome?

I think the credit there really does go to Verlata, our Australian implementation partner.
The start of the project, which involved interviewing people to understand how each area of the practice is using the document management system, was done face to face in the UK.

Because we’re working with a cloud document management system, the fact that Verlata were in Australia didn’t really matter. And when it came to our data migration into NetDocuments, we gave Verlata remote access via Citrix to our systems, so documents weren’t going from London to Australia and then back up to the UK again.

We went live under lockdown, so it wasn’t quite the same ‘go live’ experience that we would have planned for and that was definitely the same for Verlata – their working day ended up starting at 9am their time and finishing somewhere around 6am or 5am.

Communication is key and if you have got people who are good at communicating and a good plan, it works.

What are the key benefits you’ve experienced as a result of this implementation?

I think the immediate benefit is just how easy it is for people to go about and do their job, which was harder under the earlier system.

Just having things simple things like a folder in outlook that synchronises to a folder in your document management system is kind of revolutionary to some people and in the first week we had 26,000 new documents added.

It’s been a system, crucially, that people were able to get to grips with quickly, that’s intuitive and the interface really guides you around.

As we look longer-term, we’ve now got a platform that is allowing us to integrate with other systems. As we come to review the practice management system, for example, we need something that’s going to work hand in glove with this document management system.

We’re now in a position where we’ve got a document management system that’s leading edge and which we know will be an advantage for us, as opposed to a hindrance.

We’re in a position where we can look after our clients’ data securely, we’ve got good, secure access to it and we can make it available to them very easily.

How far would you say the solution has enabled your organisation to scale?

We went live across the whole firm on October 26, 2020 but we had an unexpected pilot, where we had a group join us from Orrick in April, 2020.

We were in lockdown and this group had been using NetDocuments in Orrick.

The last thing I wanted to do was to take them off NetDocuments and put them back 20 years into a system wasn’t really going to work for them.

So, we ended up taking them from the Orrick instance of NetDocuments and putting them into the Forsters instance of NetDocuments, and they kind of existed in their own ecosystem for a few months.

The reason we weren’t expecting a pilot group is because when we did the analysis, assisted by Verlata, we really came to understand that the practice areas at Forsters are so integrated, that to rip one of them out and put them into a separate document management system as a pilot would really hamper the interaction between those teams that were already established. But for the new team who had joined, that wasn’t a problem, and they were self-contained for a short while.

That meant that we could grow from 20 people to 450 people. And we’ve got a solution now that can scale as big as we want.

What advice would you offer other businesses in your industry who might be looking to use cloud tools for business benefits?

One thing that is really important about cloud tools, in my opinion, is how do you get your data out?
It was crucial for us to make sure that we could get data out, as well as in.

And then security is another key consideration. The way that documents are stored in NetDocuments is incredibly secure – each document splits many sections which are hidden away and encrypted.

But you can still just log on with a username and password if you let people do that.

So, make sure the cloud service that you’re going to consume fits into the standards that you have for the security in your environment. Of course, we secure NetDocuments and our other systems with multi-factor authentication, certificate authentication and things like that.

While the cloud provider is highly likely to be more secure than the environment that you’ve already got, you need to make sure that your access to it is just as secure.

And then the whole reason for going to cloud is flexibility, not just in terms of your technology but also in scalability, so make sure you can scale up quickly and scale down as you want to.

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