Birchall Blackburn Law is one of the North West’s leading firms of solicitors, employing around 250 staff at its offices in Chester, Chorley, Leyland, Manchester, Morecambe, Preston and Southport.
Named as Conveyancing Firm of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, the firm offers a broad range of personal and commercial legal services, with its specialisms including family law, personal injury, commercial property and medical negligence
With its existing Avaya IP Office platform having reached end of life, Birchall Blackburn Law needed to examine its telephony upgrade options.
The existing solution utilised inflexible, costly and increasingly outmoded ISDN lines.
The firm was also keen to improve the efficiency of its call handling, strengthen its disaster recovery capabilities and streamline its call recording function.
Seeking out the best solution for its multi-site operation, Birchall Blackburn Law turned to Pennine upon whose telephony expertise it had relied upon for over a decade.
The Bury-headquartered communications and data specialist again placed Avaya IP Office at the heart of its proposal. It recommended installing Server Editions of the market-leading VoIP and unified communications platform at Birchall Blackburn Law’s Manchester and Preston offices.
These were to be complemented by five remote Avaya IP500 gateways to connect all seven of the firm’s sites which were to be served by 75 SIP trunks to handle data and VoIP traffic.
To assist the firm in satisfying professional compliance issues, the solution was completed by Xima call recording software.
… We can manage all of the extensions and DDIs from one IP Office console now. That central management is brilliant
JONATHAN DICKINSON, IT MANAGER, BIRCHALL BLACKBURN LAW
For Jonathan Dickinson, Birchall Blackburn Law’s IT Manager, Pennine’s solution offers multiple benefits which extend beyond the original remit given to the company.
Prime among them is the impressive resilience it offers in the event of a failure on the network. “The key benefits of what we have are resiliency and redundancy,” he says. “At each site we have a controller and dedicated SIP trunks on a secondary line which Pennine installed. That means if our network falls over, we can still make and receive ‘phone calls at every site.”
He’s also impressed with how, despite the geographical diversity of Birchall Blackburn Law’s offices, the firm’s telephony can be easily administered from one location. “We can manage all of the extensions and DDIs from one IP Office console now. That central management is brilliant”
The solution also supports both hot-desking and remote working which is increasingly important for a progressive professional services firm keen to be as responsive as possible to client needs. Any member of staff can log on to any handset at whichever office they’re in to make and receive calls, using their own desk extension number.
“A Manchester solicitor could call from the Southport office using the Manchester number which their client knows them by. Their actual location to the client isn’t relevant,” explains Dickinson.
Whilst the current IT infrastructure means remote working is not yet widespread across the business, it’s something Dickinson wants to promote for its efficiency and HR benefits.
If inclement weather – a familiar occurrence in England’s North West! – or childcare issues make it difficult to get into an office, staff can simply log-in to the network from home.
“It’s certainly a trend which is taking hold in professional services now, to help staff achieve a better work-life balance. It’s important that businesses get that.
“People want to be able to access their voice mail or take calls from wherever they are working from, on the road, from home or a remote office.”
He himself is well aware of the benefits having set up a home office to take advantage of the remote working capabilities delivered by Pennine’s solution. “I’ve got a VPN box which gets me into the network and an Avaya handset on my desk. If people call me they don’t know if I’m in Manchester, Preston or working from home and, from their standpoint, it doesn’t matter because I’m capable of doing the job from wherever I’m connected.”
… The team are quick to respond …. I get a response within a couple of hours and their staff are knowledgeable so, in most cases, can fix an issue at first contact. That’s great
ANDY KAY, CHIEF RISK OFFICER, REICH INSURANCE, BIRCHALL BLACKBURN LAW
He also points to the high cost of office space as a reason why professional firms might increasingly look to embrace flexible working solutions.
Indeed operating costs are never far from the minds of business owners and managers. Here the Pennine solution also scores gold stars. “Now we’ve moved to this platform we’re not paying for calls between offices so there’s definitely a cost benefit,” says Dickinson noting that the savings are significant, running into over £8,000 per annum.”
Call handling has also been enhanced with a call routing plan introduced by Pennine proving highly beneficial. “It’s obviously had a positive impact on how calls are handled, particularly in New Business and Client Services,” confirms Dickinson. “Certainly talking to our client services manager it’s clear that she’s seen an improvement in the way things are dealt with by her team”.
Whilst the technology is delivering what Birchall Blackburn Law wanted – and more – its important that the firm can rely on fast and effective technical support. Here Dickinson is again impressed, citing both the speed and quality of service provided.
“The team are quick to respond. If I send an email to Pennine’s Service Desk I get a response within a couple of hours and their staff are knowledgeable so, in most cases, can fix an issue at first contact.
“That’s great,” he concludes.