Spoor & Fisher case study


Spoor & Fisher is a specialist, full-service intellectual property (IP) law firm servicing customers throughout Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. The firm covers all aspects of IP law including patents, trademarks, copyright and designs, related litigation, commercial transactions, due diligence, and portfolio management.

In recent years the firm has experienced a significant increase in employee numbers as part of its overall growth strategy. In executing the strategy, Spoor & Fisher engaged an independent consultant to review the firm’s operating practices to find efficiencies.

Mike Berry, Chief Operating Officer, Spoor & Fisher, said, “We already knew we used an awful lot of paper in our organisation. We create it, store it, shift it and retrieve it: too much time is spent on working with paper. Additionally, the amount of paper we were creating was starting to take up a significant amount of floor space. We needed to reclaim this floor space to accommodate new staff.

“The consultant confirmed our suspicion that we could achieve significant savings by reducing the amount of paper we used. It was unrealistic to think we could eliminate paper altogether, particularly in the short-term.”

As well as the obvious cost- and space-saving benefits of reducing the firm’s reliance on paper, employees’ overall efficiency was likely to increase.

Mike Berry said, “Keeping everything in a hard copy file created some inefficiencies. For example, it takes time to print something out, retrieve the file, place the new document in the file and then return the file. If someone has the file on their desk because they’re working on it, then other staff members can’t easily access that file. And if the staff member locks it in their desk over the weekend or in the worst-case scenario, actually loses the file, then that means no one else can work on it until it is retrieved or recreated.

“Effective document management is business critical for Spoor & Fisher. As a law firm, we must maintain secure, accurate and up-to-date records. Without that, we would likely go out of business very quickly.”

An integrated document management solution that saves time and space

Spoor & Fisher decided to implement an electronic document management solution from Trinogy Systems. The firm reviewed a number of potential solutions before choosing the iManage solution.

Mike Berry said, “The iManage solution from Trinogy Systems is well-established in the IP law industry so it was natural that it would be on the shortlist. We had spoken with other firms already using the system and they gave us the positive feedback we needed to confirm that this was the right solution for us.”

iManage sorts electronic documents and emails into logical files based on the cases lawyers are working on. All documents are stored and indexed to allow users to search the full text of each document to find the one they need. Everything is stored in a central repository so that it can be accessed by any authorised person.

This makes teams more efficient as each member can access the information they need at the touch of a button without searching for physical files that may have been misfiled or even lost.

Mike Berry said, “Most documents are no longer printed and inserted into a physical file. Instead, people now just save the document into the appropriate case file within the system. If a physical document comes in via post or fax, staff scan the document and save it with the rest of the files in the system. As a result, a high proportion of our case files are now stored electronically. This means people can access what they need, when they need to and it is far less likely that files will be lost or locked away.

“Storing files electronically instead of physically has also freed up a significant amount of space. Having expanded from 60 staff members to 95 staff members in four years and pretty much reached capacity, we are able to accommodate more staff now without having to move offices. We can put desks where previously we had filing cabinets!”

A smooth implementation

The implementation process took six months to complete, with the Trinogy Systems team working closely with Spoor & Fisher’s staff. Trinogy Systems offered expert advice based on extensive experience with other, similar firms. The rollout was made easier by the careful change management approach taken by Spoor & Fisher.

Mike Berry said, “We made a conscious decision not to mandate use of the new system immediately. We have a number of highly-experienced lawyers amongst our team who are used to working with paper documents and it didn’t make sense to force them into a new way of working. We wanted them to come to it in their own time.

“This approach had its advantages and disadvantages. Across the spectrum of staff there were many people who found the solution to be easy and intuitive, so they adopted it early and have started seeing benefits. By not forcing anyone to adopt the new system straight away, we have avoided upsetting staff, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is that we might have had wider implementation of the solution sooner if we’d mandated its use.

“One year on from the implementation we have 65 per cent adoption, which is a good result and in line with our expectations at the beginning of the project.”.

Trinogy Systems integrated iManage into Spoor & Fisher’s core administration systems to let staff review customer-specific information along with case-specific information.

Mike Berry said, “Trinogy Systems created a CaseView component to the solution, which means staff can always see instructions relating to the client they’re currently working with. This is important because it tells staff how they need to interact with the client and what they need to know about servicing that client correctly. Previously, lawyers may have had to use two or three separate systems to access this information. If they were in a hurry to get something done, an important instruction might be missed. Now, that information is right in front of them, easy to get to.

“We’ve achieved real, tangible benefits as a result of our iManage implementation. Working with Trinogy Systems made the experience a lot easier for us because of their extensive experience working with other IP law firms. They understood our business and our challenges and requirements very clearly and delivered the project on time and in budget.”