With over 150 years of history and experience in the legal market, Webber Wentzel has become one of South Africa’s most prominent law firms, operating at the forefront of legal services and home to the country’s longest-standing pro bono practices. The firm aims to act as a beacon of innovation for the industry.
In a move to increase data security and accuracy, develop greater transparency with clients and foster team collaboration, the firm implemented Microsoft’s suite of cloud-based solutions, including Teams, Stream, Planner, Power BI Apps, and more.
Nurturing productive teamwork
Diversity and inclusion take top priority for Webber Wentzel, recognized as one of the most esteemed pro bono legal companies in Africa. Streamlined collaboration is therefore critical for the social empowerment of the organization’s diverse teams and partners. According to Matthew Pool, Associate Attorney in the International Trade Department at Webber Wentzel, his department represents numerous South African businesses and industry organisations in front of government regulators and other institutions. It has to cope with towering volumes of paperwork every day, managing applications worth billions of Rands. Before the firm entered the cloud path with Microsoft, Pool’s team followed the established way of working, “When I joined the practice, it was very much as things had always been done: manual processes, collecting lots of revisions, going back and forth to the client,” he explains.
By implementing an integrated set of Microsoft collaborative solutions, team members can now work faster and more efficiently, wherever they are. “Now, when we collect a document, we load it into SharePoint, and the process flow is then automated with Microsoft Power Automate. The system gets copies out to the client for review, assigns tasks to everyone in Planner, and allows us to start working on the documents and marking them up simultaneously. Also, everyone on the team runs To Do to keep their lists and assigned tasks together. Where there is a need to take handwritten notes, we work off the same information in OneNote, which serves as a shared notebook,” explains Pool.
External as well as internal collaboration is improved through Stream. The team can record every meeting and immediately check if their drafting is consistent with the client’s own expectations. “We’re really pushing towards a fully digital practice,” emphasizes Pool.
This enhanced teamwork has positively impacted the firm’s bottom line. “By leveraging Microsoft solutions, Pool’s team has gone from seven months to about 5-6 weeks in applications submission time. Over the period between January and May 2019, it recorded an 18-25 percent lift in billable performances,” says Warren Hero, CIO at Webber Wentzel. “What’s more, for previous matters, we’d probably have 40 or 50 files sitting in the bulk filers. Now, we have only one file of original signed documents. We used to print a whole forest of files; half a year later, we rarely print anything for the same amount of work.”
Shaping the legal practice of the future
The digital journey with Microsoft has just begun for Webber Wentzel. As the next step, the firm is planning to move all aspects of internal collaboration into Teams, turning it into a single workplace for all its employees. Further enhancement of the client experience is another crucial area that the organization is setting out to explore.
The transition to the cloud has already completely reinvented how the firm conducts its business, paving the way for other legal companies to move forward. As Hero confirms, “What we are envisaging is what the future legal practice will look like. As we’re rolling this out to other practice areas, this is the de facto standard that we are using.” The firm sees a future where trust, as well as technology, is key. “When our practice started looking at Microsoft solutions, we understood we could get things done both faster and more accurately. However, our collaboration has not just made us better, more efficient lawyers; it’s also made us more trusted advisors,” Pool concludes.