Business Technology

30 Digital Champions: An Essex law firm mixing old traditions with new innovations

11 min read

12 April 2016

Former deputy editor

The legal industry isn’t immediately one you’d consider digital-centric, but that’s precisely why Essex-based law firm Fisher Jones Greenwood has embraced technology across the company.

Named the latest in our batch of 30 Digital Champions, our ongoing campaign with Microsoft that highlights the forward-thinking firms enhancing operations with tech, Fisher Jones Greenwood has proven that the legal industry is ripe for disruption.

We found out from Matt Cann, the firm’s digital marketing manager, how a variety of digital services are enabling the company to scale, improve efficiencies and catch up with larger counterparts.

(1) Please give us a brief introduction to the business?

We are a law firm dealing in a full range of legal services for individuals, business startups and established companies alike. Having started in Colchester in 1983 with little more than a simple idea, we now have over 30 years’ experience, six offices and over 160 lawyers and support staff.

A mainstay of our success has been looking forward in a very traditional industry while making sure that even through our growth and innovations, we always put our clients first.

(2) What have the significant growth milestones been in the last few years?

We have grown both organically and through mergers throughout our 30 years, but the last five years in particular have seen vast and rapid expansion. We’ve gone through two significant mergers and expanded from a Colchester-based firm into a truly county-wide firm across Essex.

On top of that, we have developed a presence in Central London, introduced new products and niche services and started making widespread use of new technologies. In fact, without putting an emphasis on making sure we use the best technology, we wouldn’t be able to offer the efficient service that we do.

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(3) What inspires you as an entrepreneur, and how does that come across with your company?

It’s inspiring to see the firm not just survive, but thrive in what has become an extremely competitive market at the same time as being able to keep our original focus on providing great customer service intact.

In 2012 the legal market was deregulated as alternative business structures became able to provide legal services. With large national firms now in the marketplace and numbers of competitors increased, the legal market isn’t a closed shop anymore. It’s exciting though to have to think innovatively and stay ahead of the curve which is something we’re very proud of being able to do throughout our history.

(4) What kind of obstacles are you encountering as you grow your enterprise?

One of the biggest obstacles for us, as it is for all growing firms, is communication – internal and external – and technology is playing a huge part in making sure we can overcome that obstacle.

One of our core values is to provide the highest level of customer service possible and we’ve found that increasing the number of ways that people can get in touch with us and communicate with us has been key to keeping that value.

Internally, we’ve started to use Yammer, a social enterprise networking tool, alongside our other existing tools. Adding this into the mix means even though we’ve expanded across six offices, it’s actually easier than ever for us to stay in touch and up to date on an internal basis.

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(5) For a company that isn’t technology based, how has a digital approach helped you to carve out a bigger market and acquire new customers?

Using a digital approach has meant that we can offer the most efficient service we can, with more options for how clients communicate and more touch points in the customer journey for them to get in touch. Ensuring we have efficient processes in place, not just communication tools, but internal systems also, means we have been able to capture and maintain a larger client base than we would have without embracing digital.

Digital thinking has also enabled us to introduce new products like MyFJG to capture a wider audience. MyFJG lets you draft your own legal documents for free with helpful guidance and live online chat; a service that simply wouldn’t be possible without digital-thinking.

We’ve also embraced digital in our marketing strategy – digital innovation in such a traditional industry has helped us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Using a content-led approach to our social media channels has been another key, a digital approach that is letting us be seen as a thought leader and a place to go for advice and opinion, again opening up a new audience to us.

(6) How is technology helping you to overcome hurdles, and what are the challenges of implementation?

Using external tools and platforms is vital to helping us move our business forward. We are migrating most of our work over to the cloud at the moment for instance as the benefits it will bring are exponential. Using other tools like Hootsuite for managing our social channels through one portal, helps us save time and operate more efficiently.

We use technology to overcome obstacles for our clients too though. By embracing other tech tools through creating YouTube videos and infographics and having the option of talking to us through Skype for Business, we are trying to make sure that our clients have to take as little or as much time as they wish, to talk with us.

Two of the biggest challenges with implementing the technology that we use are integration and training. It’s vital to make sure that all our different technology doesn’t operate in isolation, but works in a way that makes other systems run more smoothly. At the same time, we need to make sure that everyone is on board and knows how to use each tool so that ultimately, the technology helps to make our lives easier and our work more efficient.

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(7) Do you employ any kind of flexible working, and how does technology fit into this?

Whilst we don’t have flexible working in the sense of flexi-time hours, our systems are set up in a way that allows remote access. This has made sure that in certain situations, our lawyers are able to access their work remotely from wherever they are and make sure that clients aren’t left in the dark, especially on those rare occasions like snow days!

Being able to access our work from any workstation across all offices also ensures that we can move around offices when needed and meet clients wherever is most convenient for them, without having to write off ineffectual time in a different office.

(8) What kind of technology tools can you not work without?

Some of the best technology tools are the ones we almost forget that we are using, the ones that become second nature. Our social media channels for instance aren’t an add-on to our marketing strategy, but are an intrinsic part of the business. We use them every day to make sure that we can communicate to as many different audiences as we need to.

It’s something that changes all the time though; in two years’ time a tool like Yammer may be as ingrained and as second nature as Outlook is now.

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(9) What kind of technology would help you better compete with larger rivals?

Having a fully integrated CRM system is something that can help our efficiency hugely which is why we have recently invested in a system.

Being able to get these tools to a level where it is integrated across the whole business is certainly one aspect that we are looking forward to and one that will enable us to compete on a very high level.

(10) Where do you want to take your business in the future?

While our growth has already been significant we plan to continue to grow over the coming years. As important as further growth though is making sure we are looking after our systems, our people and our processes and to continually innovate and invest in new technologies.

We have a five-year plan, the 2021 vision, where we are specifically looking at how to further improve systems, marketing, governance and HR procedures. The 2021 process in itself will mean we are operating at the highest level possible and will therefore open up even more growth opportunities to the firm.

Alongside that we have held the Investor in People Accreditation for over ten years and the next step is to become a top 100 company, something that we are hoping to achieve very soon.