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Blank Rome’s Firm-Wide Surface Pro 3 Rollout Provides Increased Efficiency

Blank Rome became the first firm to provide the Surface Pro 3 for all legal employees.

These days, the typical office for the law firm attorney has grown. But it’s not because real estate has suddenly gotten less expensive—it’s because mobile lawyering has helped drive efficiency by giving attorneys and support staff access to documents, emails, and firm software at a moment’s notice.

Blank Rome, which boasts more than 540 attorneys across the globe, has taken the idea of mobile lawyering to a new level. Starting earlier this year, the firm supplied each of its firm employees with a Surface Pro 3. This makes them the first firm to roll out a mobility enabled ecosystem firm-wide, an accomplishment that was verified by Microsoft.

Speaking with Legaltech News, Laurence Liss, the firm’s chief technology officer since 1998, said that the timing made sense. Blank Rome revamps its hardware and software every four to five years, and for this cycle, he had been focusing on mobile technology.

As the firm deals consistently with Microsoft, Liss said, he was looking for technology that “gives the benefit of tablets, but it integrates cleanly with the Microsoft world.” While they tested the Surface Pro 1 and 2, even going so far as to supply 14 partners with a Surface Pro 2 as a test run, the wide roll out would not come until the newest tablet arrived.”

“The Surface Pro 3 came out, and we brought those in and said, ‘This is it,’” Liss said. He added that the timing was perfect, as “we were due for a refresh of all of our hardware and software anyway.”

In particular, Liss added, the firm valued the Surface Pro 3’s significant improvements to the form factor: lighter hardware, increased battery life, stronger video conferencing, and myriad new features. “Just a better overall implementation,” Liss said.

The rollout began earlier this year, and it was completed in early July. Along with the tablets, the firm also upgraded its software in numerous areas, including Microsoft Office, its document management system, and its time entry system. Liss said that most software integrated cleanly, as it already worked with the firm’s desktops running Windows 8.1.

The firm also encrypts all data on the device. Samuel Becker, a partner with Blank Rome in Philadelphia, described the tablet hardware as “agnostic” to Legaltech News, saying that the firm encourages attorneys to use it for their own purposes. Still, the firm applies different security standards based on whether employees are logged in to the firm’s VPN.

The results of the tablet rollout have been immediate, Liss found. “We’re trying to cut back on paper and make people more productive by being able to move around, and also more responsive to our clients and their colleagues,” Liss said. “For example, people now can obviously take their tablets to meetings, to other peoples’ offices, and they have all their documents or their emails at their fingertips.”

Becker added that the tablets also help administrative employees handles tasks immediately, as compared to writing everything down and having to do it later. “The idea of mobility also was to allow people to work where they wanted to. That can hopefully increase productivity because they’ve got the tool there,” Becker said.

So far, the firm views the rollout as a success. In particular, the tablets have been popular among younger attorneys, and Liss cited them as a major factor for Blank Rome placing fourth overall in The American Lawyer’s 2015 Midlevel Associate Survey, a jump of 61 spots from 2014.

“We talked among ourselves about what we call the ‘coolness factor.’ We thought that people would appreciate the new form factor and the flexibility it affords. It turns out that it really paid off in a big way,” Liss said.

The administrative staff responded positively too, he added. “When the staff heard we were going to be providing tablets to everybody, I heard numerous responses like, ‘You mean us?’ I think it really stepped up morale quite a bit,” Liss explained.

Still, Becker noted, there are some attorneys who need to get on board. “I think people under 40, it’s become a part of what they do every day,” he said. “I think the older you get, the more resistance there is to undocking and taking it with you, for example. But my expectation is, the more opportunities we give people to do it, the better it will be.”

For example, he explained, Blank Rome encouraged attorneys to work from home while the Pope was visiting in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. That way, the firm would not only get older attorneys accustomed to working with the technology, but also keep up morale so that they did not have to fight through the crowds.

Overall though, Becker believed that the dual work and personal use nature of the tablets will only lead to positive results for the firm. “Just the fact that they’re on it and it’s there has improved efficiency and response time. It’s not just for work, it’s also for having fun,” Becker said.

"Blank Rome’s Firm-Wide Surface Pro 3 Rollout Provides Increased Efficiency," by Zach Warren was published in Legaltech News on October 6, 2015. To read the article online, please click here.