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In conversation with David Cassidy

Overview

2020 was the year which proved to any remaining sceptics that good technology was the only way to ensure business continuity. Head of Technology, Dave Cassidy, explains how our Technology team rose to the challenges of remote working and ensured not only a smooth transition for our entire workforce, but continued to innovate and bring smart solutions to the firm. 

Technology has never been more important than in 2020, with businesses around the world having to adjust to remote working. Can you tell us about the Travers Smith Technology team and how it has coped with this transition?

2020 was the year which proved to any remaining sceptics that good technology was the only way to ensure business continuity. 

The Technology team at Travers Smith was well equipped to cope with the pressures and demands placed on a completely remote workforce, largely due to the investments made in our technology capabilities in recent years and the top talent we now have in the team.

The Technology team has several sub-groups focused on ensuring the stability of systems and providing top-grade support when inevitably some things do go wrong! From the very start of the pandemic, the Tech Support team was able to provide a high level of support to our remote working workforce. This has ranged from helping people in the firm get the right kit to enable them to work efficiently from home, to promptly identifying the common problems, such as some pretty shaky broadband connections at times, arising from the fact that we are no longer connected to a robust office-based network.

We also have internal teams which specialise in device performance, network performance and getting the best out of the data we have at our fingertips, all of which play a crucial part in our efforts to provide a seamless experience to our users. This is, of course, in addition to the overarching requirement to be cyber secure and prevent any potential cyber threats, which became particularly pertinent in 2020, both for corporates and individuals.

What have been the main challenges for your team, and how have you worked to resolve them?

The talent in the team has allowed us to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic and adapt to new requirements quickly. Decisions on technology systems and functions were taken and implemented in-house with incredible speed and agility.

For example, in Feb 2020, Skype for Business, as a video tool, was barely used. A month later it was the only effective way the Travers Smith staff could communicate with each other from home.  We did not stop there, however, and soon realised that Skype was just a stop gap, and we needed a better-performing technology, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Again, relying on our in-house resources, we were able to migrate to these new systems, in a planned and secure way.

We are currently seeing over one million minutes a month, being consistently used on Microsoft Teams calls. (Please see the graph below.)

All of this is underpinned by how well you can train your people to use technology. Once again, we were able to roll out remote training with great success and use a clear communications strategy to embed the learning. We received fantastic feedback on this and, in particular, on our engaging Tech Tips emails designed to assist everybody in the firm with their day-to-day use of technology.

Can you share with us any specific successes and innovative solutions that the team has come up with to support the firm and its people?

During this period we recognised the firm had some challenges in the email filing space, and it was taking far too much time for busy lawyers to keep their files up to date, which prompted the Legal Tech team to create our own and easy-to-use filing solution - MatMail.

In a few clicks, lawyers can now simply link folders to the document management system, allowing us/the system to do the rest. MatMail is efficient and fast. Most importantly it is completely reliable, and the results have been amazing. In a six month period, we filed more than two million emails.

Again, we assisted our lawyers with the adoption of the MatMail filing system by issuing helpful and easy-to-follow training videos, which proved to be very effective. It is the innovative projects like this which set the Travers Smith Tech team apart in the industry. We are able to execute ideas fast with our in-house team and reap the successes from our endeavours, without the support from external providers.

How did you keep your team motivated?

Keeping the team together and engaged during the COVID-19 crisis has had its challenges.

We quickly realised that information shared informally over a quick coffee or a chat in the corridor, was very difficult to replicate in a remote setting, which was a shock, culturally. When working in the office, we would spend an hour every week going around all of the Tech sub-teams to hear what was going on, and we continued with that during the remote period to ensure everyone was connected and very clear on what was required from them that week. In addition, I built more structure around the team, so that everyone had some certainty, which, I learnt, was a really important component of managing a remote team in uncertain times.

Most difficult to replicate in a remote scenario is the social interaction and culture of the firm. We have tried quizzes and fun group activities, which help but cannot replace face-to-face interactions with friends and colleagues in the office.

You have been at Travers Smith for nearly 20 years. What has kept you at the firm that long? How has the Technology function changed during this period of time?

Travers Smith is an amazing place to work and, in some respects, this pandemic crisis has highlighted that even more. People look out for each other here and we can build, collaborate, and implement innovations fast without lots of red tape.

The Technology function is unrecognisable, compared to what we had when I started. Cloud computing did not exist and we had three servers the day I walked into the firm. We now have somewhere in the region of 125 servers to look after, and, most importantly, our key services are integrated within Enterprise Grade cloud services to ensure we are fully operational 24/7.

I can honestly say this is a very exciting time to be in the industry and work for such a prestigious firm as Travers Smith.

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