MIS @ Pillsbury Madison & Sutro
Goodbye VAX, Hello Windows NT, iManage
Word processing, e-mail and security concerns prompted move.
By Glenn Rogers
ALTHOUGH there were days when it seemed that the only technology issue of 1999 was Y2K preparation, Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro actually spent most of last year completing a hardware and software upgrade.
Based in San Francisco, Pillsbury is a full-service firm, with 520 lawyers, 715 support staff and 11 offices. We began the upgrade in 1998, and started with two key questions:
First, what systems would allow us to react quickly to our clients' needs? As our clients' use of technology has become more sophisticated, we wanted to anticipate their requirements, rather than just react to them.
Second, what systems could link 10 U.S. offices (from coast to coast), and one international office? Our attorneys have become increasingly mobile; we a workstation model that allows staff to roam anywhere, yet access information from any Pillsbury PC.
Early on, we recognized that our existing VAX wasn't the platform to support the new applications we planned to use. It just didn't have the flexibility of the distributed client/server model.
Originally, we had one VAX system in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles. If there were problems linking to the system in either location, all of the other offices would be isolated, with no way to resolve the problem. Another issue: the VAX e-mail system could not support file attachments. These factors prompted us to take a decentralized approach.
We considered Novell Network, but it did not support the applications we wanted to use. We chose Microsoft's Windows NT server infrastructure, with a frame relay-based Wide Area Network to provide greater bandwidth.
In our discussions with the various offices, it was clear that speed and accessibility were critical. We opted for local equipment, so each office now has its own server resources, such as separate e-mail, SQL, and file and print servers. If there is a problem in one office, it doesn't affect others, which has given us additional resources to deal with emergencies. The current server configuration also accommodates growth at each of the offices.
Security was another factor in our decision making process. As e-mail became increasingly standard for communication with clients, we anticipated that our clients would want encryption. We knew that it would be difficult to accommodate the many technologies that clients requested with the VAX system. With the Windows NT system, we can support many different encryption applications. The two that we use most often are PGP (Pretty Good Protection) and WorldTalk. (We offer a free download to WorldTalk, but clients often request the system they prefer.)
Another reason for changing from the VAX was that we knew we wanted to make the transition from Corel's Word Perfect to Microsoft's Word, and the VAX couldn't support Word. We also knew that there were additional tools and services that we would be adding that couldn't run on the VAX.
In addition to changing the infrastructure, we had another major situation to address. Because of a series of earlier acquisitions, Pillsbury had three primary financial systems in place, and we faced Y2K compliance issues. The goal: Choose a single system to be used firm-wide and then convert all the data from the old systems to the new one.
The firm looked at CMS Open and Elite. We chose CMS because it is supported by the MS SQL server, which was more compatible with our new infrastructure. We also felt that CMS had more flexibility for generating custom reports and would give us easier access to data.
Workstation Refresh Project
We have 1,200 workstations throughout the firm and needed a consistent configuration for each one. We know we must update applications periodically, and we wanted standards that would allow us to make changes with minimal effort. The workstation set-up utilizes an unattended installation method.
We incorporated Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) into the workstation model. This allows us to inventory all of our hardware and software and to manage the workstations remotely. Now, when we have a new application to install, we can create the package once, test it, and send it to individuals, work groups, or firmwide. We can add or update an application firm-wide and track the status at each workstation.
When we discovered a problem in the system configuration while we were doing training in the Los Angeles office, the SMS application allowed us to make a change in the core package and send it out remotely to every workstation in the firm. We didn't have to notify the staff that a change needed to be made and we saved days of staff time because we didn't have to visit each workstation to make the change.
In addition to CMS Open, each workstation has MS Office 97 Professional, Outlook 98, and Internet Explorer 4.0. We will be moving to Internet Explorer 5.0 soon. All attorneys have access to legal research tools through suites of products from Lexis Publishing and West Group, as well as the reference tools that are available in MS Bookshelf.
From Lexis Publishing, we have Lexis-Nexis online searching, Compare Rite, Full Authority, Check Cite, Cite Rite, and others. Westlaw's online service includes West Check, West Mate, Find and Print, and others.
We've also added accessories such as FTP Tools, the Adobe Acrobat Reader and Win Zip. We are using virus scanning software from Network Associates. We use the auto update feature that downloads the most recent pattern files daily.
The next phase of our unattended installation will be the update to Windows 2000 as soon as the final product is available. We plan to apply the installation to laptops, and expect to deliver about 300 laptops to staff this year.
The final phase of our software upgrade was the transition from Word Perfect to Word, the addition of Word templates, an SQL server-based Address Book, and the installation of iManage.
Most people find Word easier to use than Word Perfect because it is not necessary to learn Macro keyboard shortcuts. The availability of Word templates allows us to easily generate memos, letters, pleadings, and other basic business documents. One of the most valuable features is the Forms Bank. We have 800 sets of text available through pre-defined templates that cover everything from engagement letters to jury instructions.
Until last year, the firm did not have a centralized address book. This is a component of the Word rollout that has been of tremendous value. We are in the process of melding 67,000 records from everyone in the firm. The address book database is a work-in-progress, but we now have a template for the information so that we can consolidate everything in a consistent way.
The beauty of the system is that everyone in the firm is feeding information to one database. Anyone in any office can make a change to the database, and within 30 minutes it is replicated throughout the system and is viewable from any location.
We also provide the ability for people to synchronize the contacts within Outlook into the address book. We're working with our marketing department to leverage data in the address book by coding it in various ways. The coding allows us to query different fields and return results that can be used for various kinds of mailings.
We chose iManage for our document management system because it uses three-tier architecture, which works well with our new infrastructure. The Work List is one of the features that our attorneys use often. It shows the last 30 documents that have been worked on or modified. They can also create queries that can be saved, reused, or shared with others in their work groups. This year, the iManage browser access component will be extended to clients in order to collaborate with them on documents.
Training and Implementation
Because we were introducing so many new applications, we decided to do a "road show" for employees. We visited each office and gave demonstrations of all the applications for attorneys and staff. We explained how all the tools worked together and how the on-site servers gave them the advantage of faster access locally and better connections to the rest of the firm. Extensive training was provided at each site, with an emphasis on the efficiency of generating documents through Word templates and the Forms Bank.
It was, to put it mildly, an exciting year.
Glenn Rogers is the acting director of information technology for Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP in San Francisco.