What does working for a digital friendly law firm look like?

One way to observe if digital disruption is impacting professional services in Australia is to visit the places where those professionals work and look for evidence of change. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to visit law firm Hall & Wilcox‘s new office in Melbourne’s Rialto Tower.

Hall & Wilcox are interesting from a digital disruption perspective for a number of reasons. I first came across them because of their use of Microsoft Yammer, an enterprise social network (ESN), which they use for communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. But their active use of Yammer is simply one indicator of the firm’s overall attitude towards the role of technology. Josephine Murfey, Knowledge Manager at Hall & Wilcox, describes their managing partner, Tony Macvean, as someone who is “pro technology”. Following the appointment of former Deloitte Digital CEO, Pete Willaims, to the Hall & Wilcox board last year he also said it was to help the firm “face up to the disruptive change that technology is causing“.

Josephine also explained that their Chief Operating Officer, Sumith Perera, has also been working closely with Hall & Wilcox’s partners to help them understand the impact technology will have on their practice and clients. He believes that technology is essential to competing in the market place and an important way for them to make an impression with their clients.

Both Macvean and Perera have clearly been a strong influence on the technology strategy in their new Melbourne office. The inclusion of technology in the fit out is immediately evident on arrival, where you find a hot desk for visitors.

Hall & Wilcox - Guest hotdesk

The firm has other spaces that guests can use, and I was pleased to see that powerpoints were readily accessible and available.

Hall & Wilcox - Guest Cubby

During the visit Josephine went on to explain more about the different collaboration technologies the firms uses, including Yammer. She explained that prior to move they began implementing Microsoft Lync (now known as Skype for Business). Once they moved into the new office they were able to extend collaboration further with new videoconferencing capabilities and WIFI. As well as the new office in Melbourne, Hall & Wilcox have also recently expanded their presence into the Sydney market and their new digital collaboration infrastructure has become critical in enabling them to coordinate activities across the firm at a partnership level.

Hall & Wilcox also encourage people to use LinkedIn and run regular sessions to help people learn how to use it effectively and keep their profiles updated.

Moving into the new office, people were also offered the choice of laptops or a Microsoft Surface. While the work style of some staff is still desk-based, the increased mobility within the office has changed how they use both formal and informal meeting and work spaces.

Hall & Wilcox - Casual Workspace

For those working with laptops, workstations are outfitted with docking stations and multiple monitors.

Hall & Wilcox - A Typical Desk

Workstations also are setup with webcams to support casual videoconferencing.

Hall & Wilcox - Webcam

While this type of fit out is not necessarily uncommon in many modern Australian offices, I am more interested in the intent behind Hall & Wilcox’s decision to invest in digital technology in parallel with the physical design. My impression is that it is a deliberate attempt to create digital workplace as part of their overall business strategy, which includes both how they engage with staff and by providing tools that make online collaboration as efficient as possible. This does not mean their whole business model is disrupted at this point, but it does suggest the effective use of technology is seen as something that can give them an edge over other firms in a changing industry landscape.