Global law giant’s UK practice rationalises its hard copy document storage needs and improves document management with Iron Mountain
CHALLENGE: To consolidate suppliers, bringing consistency of service, reduced risk and reduced cost
SOLUTION: Iron Mountain as sole document management supplier, enabling improved document storage and a robust, auditable procedure for storing, archiving and retrieving files
VALUE: Significant cost reductions, nationwide efficiency gains and reduced operational risk
Now the world’s largest business law practice, DLA Piper was formed in 2005 from a merger of three major law firms: DLA LLP, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP and Piper Rudnick LLP. The firm has more than 70 offices throughout Europe, Asia Pacific, the United States and the Middle East, with 4200 lawyers working across the full spectrum of corporate and financial activity. DLA Piper UK LLP has eight offices and is a full service law firm providing local, national and international business solutions.
Itself the product of earlier mergers, DLA Piper UK LLP had inherited a legacy of various document storage and management practices, including both in-house and external storage solutions.
This situation resulted in fragmented processes, making it difficult for the firm to achieve economies of scale. There were inconsistent procedures for sending closed files to archive and live files to off-site storage, making document retrieval complicated.
As part of a UK-wide drive to reduce the number of suppliers across the UK, DLA Piper UK sought to consolidate from four suppliers to one common supplier for the UK.
For a law firm, efficient access to current case files and secure storage of long-term archives are essential to business success. As part of a drive for greater business efficiency, DLA Piper was determined to improve its document management processes to achieve economies of scale and better control of costs.
“Records storage is a very important part of a law firm’s business, but it can be a minefield,” confirms Gill Middleton, National Records Management Project Manager at DLA Piper UK.
Historically, DLA Piper UK had employed four companies, including Iron Mountain, to manage its paper records. A search for a single UK-wide partner company was set in train. As part of that process, Iron Mountain satisfied DLA Piper UK that its services would meet the exacting demands of a large law firm with a diverse international caseload.
Two national contracts with Iron Mountain were put in place. The first was for off-site storage of files relating to live matters and the retention of closed matter files, which DLA Piper stores for 15 years before destruction. The second was for archiving of documents in need of permanent safekeeping, such as wills and deeds.
DLA Piper was convinced by the professional reputation of Iron Mountain and the high standard of its facilities, especially the Iron Mountain Deed Vault which is temperature‑controlled and equipped with gas suppression technology to reduce the risk of damage to stored documents in the event of fire. The company is also using IM Connect™, the efficient and easy-to-use Iron Mountain records management portal. This records and tracks the location of files and documents throughout their lifecycles.
“Some of our offices were using spreadsheets and an in-house programme that wasn’t very flexible,” says Gill Middleton. “This meant double data entry sent on to our off-site storage companies which opened up the risk of error. IM Connect™ is a very efficient way of recording the information that we need to retrieve our files quickly every time.”
The first staff to be given access to IM Connect™ were the document storage managers. In future, all relevant staff will be able to use IM Connect™ to track files and see whether a file is on or off site and who is holding it at any given moment.
DLA Piper is seeing measurable cost savings and gains in business efficiency, along with greater flexibility and reduced operational risk.
Working with Iron Mountain, DLA Piper is saving a significant sum annually on national document storage costs; both through economies of scale offered by a single supplier, and because accurate file tracking saves time and enables more efficient use of expensive office space. Eventually, document managers will be able to see at a glance if files have remained unused over a given period and make a decision accordingly about how best to store them.
“We needed to reduce the amount of office accommodation taken up by storage,” explains Gill Middleton. “Every one of our offices has endless rows of filing cabinets where client files are held. But we don’t need to access them all, all of the time. Moving inactive documents off site is releasing space for more profitable use.”
The improvement in business efficiency means DLA Piper can offer better customer service. “Every office had tales of whole days spent searching through databases, spreadsheets and index cards to find the right file,” recalls Gill Middleton. “The important thing when you send something off site is that it’s accurately recorded and tracked, so that it can be easily retrieved. We have now achieved this across the UK.”
In addition, Iron Mountain helps DLA Piper maximise flexibility. “One of the main advantages of having a consistent service throughout the UK is that any office can now run document retrieval for any other office,” says Gill Middleton. “Until recently, they couldn’t share the process.”
A law firm’s business is built on its reputation. This reputation can be substantially damaged if documents are lost or data is breached. Working with Iron Mountain has brought DLA Piper a significant reduction in operational risk. “It’s vital that we can securely retain and retrieve our files, and Iron Mountain has never lost a file in all the time I’ve worked here,” concludes Gill Middleton.