After over 20 years leading IT departments in law firms, David Griffiths recently made the move to join Peppermint Technology on their mission to support business transformation within the legal sector.  Georgina Fradley, Head of Marketing at Peppermint, recently sat down with David to ask him why he felt it was the right time to make the transition.

You have spent many years within law firms, what attracted you to the Peppermint opportunity?

Having led IT departments within law firms for many years, I have become increasingly frustrated with the availability of, and investment in, innovative software solutions for our sector.   As a result, I believe that our industry has fallen behind the technology curve.

As IT Director of Pannone I implemented email cloud services many years ago, as did many others, and this was such an enabler when it was introduced.  It should have been the catalyst for the move towards other cloud-based services but we’re only now beginning to see wide spread adoption of these services.  For example, document management systems are increasingly being remotely hosted along with firms capitalising on hosted infrastructure, thereby saving on the internal and external IT costs and capital spend on hardware.

I looked at Peppermint three years ago, and I honestly didn’t think the product was ‘there’ in terms of development, so what I discovered when I looked at the latest iteration from Peppermint was genuinely surprising. I discovered that they are so far ahead of the curve, not only being able to host a one stop Practice, Business Development, Case and Document Management solution in the cloud, but in addition negating all the issues of integrating third party Client Management Systems by offering this module as a integrated solution to the client onboarding process.

“I discovered that they are so far ahead of the curve, not only being able to host a one stop Practice, Business Development, Case and Document Management solution in the cloud, but in addition negating all the issues of integrating third party Client Management Systems.”

The platform is built on Microsoft Dynamics, meaning the key issues of integration and managing client data disappear. Firms are able to access a single view of the client across all systems, which helps businesses to be proactive and also to better manage their business development and marketing strategy.  This allows firms to build deeper relationships that facilitate client retention and cross selling, which is now being recognised as business critical.  I feel this gives a tremendous head start and opportunity over other legacy on-premise systems, offering the first true SaaS (Software as a Service) model of delivering end-to-end legal technology.

When it comes down to it, for the first time in a long time I can see exciting technology that should be embraced by law firms, and I want to be part of driving that business transformation.

In your opinion, what does Peppermint uniquely offer the market?

I honestly believe that Peppermint offers the ‘holy grail’ of systems within legal which ticks every box for today’s business needs and anticipates tomorrows.  It’s a solution for law firms that want to focus on their business and strategy without being held back by technology.

Peppermint is hosted remotely, allowing firms to save the pain and cost of managing their own infrastructure.  With security threats becoming increasingly sophisticated I believe firms are recognising that a hosted solution benefits from best of breed security, which is extremely difficult to maintain in isolation.  Peppermint offers an end-to-end solution, from initial contact with a prospect through to closure, supporting every need on the client journey.

Perhaps most telling however is that it is built on Microsoft’s technology platform, making it future proof by benefiting from their huge continuous investment in security, functionality and R&D.  In addition, this provides seamless integration with Office 365, meaning data can be accessed and captured as part of day-to-day activities, and the interface is clean and easy to use both of which are essential to drive user adoption.

What is it about Peppermint solution that you think is especially relevant and useful for law firms today?

The key is bringing all the different components together as one in the Microsoft cloud. Most law firms are still struggling with multiple systems trying to talk to one another, and the end of life for legacy practice management systems has left many faced with the prospect of bringing in three or more systems to replace them.  Existing system suppliers, where these have not already been retired, are having to invest in substantial rewrites in an attempt to future proof their offering and remain relevant.

“The key is bringing all the different components together as one in the Microsoft cloud.”

Peppermint offers an elegant readymade solution to these problems and, being based on Microsoft Dynamics, is already primed for the next wave of innovations.  Importantly, all data resides in a secure and easily accessible format – enabling the rapid adoption of AI and machine learning tools.   The product really is ready to realise its potential as a pivotal game changer in the legal marketplace.

What would you advise those seeking to invest in a new tech solution?

A firm’s business strategy must be supported by the IT strategy.  It must be able to deliver what’s important to the business in a timely way.  In the next decade the way in which lawyers work will change radically.  Any solution needs to not only meet, but actively anticipate the needs of the modern professional. I would advise they look closely at whether the solution has the capability to keep pace with demands.

“I would be looking for a simple clean interface, near to 100% availability and the ability to rapidly support the end-to-end business processes.”

In their position I would be looking for a simple clean interface, near to 100% availability and the ability to rapidly support the end-to-end business processes. Of course, security is already paramount and as attacks become even more sophisticated, I would require strong evidence of resilience in the face of these threats.

What are the risks for firms that choose not to invest in future proof technology?

There are so many factors this list could be endless: security, agility, client expectation… But a specific example that springs to mind is the move towards remote working and on-the-go law.

The Law Society predicts the legal sector’s productivity could double by 2025. With firms now having a better work-life balance, businesses are also embracing agile working to attract and retain younger millennials who are demanding a shift away from the profession’s traditional high-pressure, long-hours culture.  Agile working empowers people and enables them to be judged by their results rather than by the number of hours they spend in the office, and technology is the vehicle by which all of these changes can be delivered by the firm.

“Agile working empowers people and enables them to be judged by their results rather than by the number of hours they spend in the office”

To underpin this change in working practice, it’s critical that client information remains secure.  For example, firms need to eliminate taking paper case files out of the office, as losing sensitive information could result in a claim that could tarnish and even destroy the firm’s reputation.

How will the robot revolution impact law firms?

Technology is set to transform the legal sector for the better.  Changes in legal IT are expected to help firms work more quickly and accurately by using machines to do many of the profession’s mundane tasks and thus eliminate waste.  The advent of AI (artificial intelligence) within legal systems should deliver benefits such as cutting the large number of negligence claims caused by simple errors: a missed deadline, a forgotten property search or clause omitted from a contract.

I don’t believe the robot could ever replace the high end legal professional, but even they will be affected by automation within parts of their role.  At a more process-driven level we can expect that everything which can be defined by a structured process will eventually circumvent human intervention or limit it to a few key touchpoints.  The Law Society predicts that IT will take over many of the roles currently performed by people and it forecasts that 78,000 jobs in the legal sector could be lost over the next 20 years through automation.  Microsoft now uses AI to power chatbots and Skype, it analyses data in Office 365 and it has setup a research group that cuts across Office 365, Dynamics and Azure.

Fortunately, as a Microsoft Dynamics based legal platform, Peppermint gives its clients the opportunity to seamlessly adopt these new technologies and approaches – at a time and pace to suit that particular firm.

What is your prediction for the legal market and technology?

For those firms that embrace it, I believe that technology will deliver a far superior client experience.  It will remove so many frustrations – such as the length of time currently wasted on straightforward conveyancing for example.  Law firms will rely on their technology to minimise wastage and, even if the billable hour survives, they will expect that their technology minimises the time spent on lower value tasks.  This will enable the legal professional to concentrate on the areas that machines cannot predict, analyse or control.

“For those firms that embrace it, I believe that technology will deliver a far superior client experience.”

Soon we will surely see the technology already in use in other industries become mainstream in the legal profession.  A comparison style internet market place for consumer law services may not be too far away either.  The services delivered will need to be underpinned by the kind of technology that Peppermint delivers: a solution which is flexible, secure, highly available and built on a platform where innovation occurs as standard.