Jeffrey McShane – Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP
It’s funny. Jeffrey McShane has spent his entire professional life working for law firms, but he isn’t a lawyer. In fact, he laughs at the idea of going to law school and working as an attorney.
But while it’s true that McShane is so comfortable around lawyers that he’s chosen to work alongside them for more than 20 years, what he’s most comfortable around is technology.
Technology makes it easier to operate the business efficiently, says the CIO for Obermayer, a Philadelphia-based law firm with 11 offices and 225 employees.
“I enjoy the challenge of strategically implementing the technology that will help our firm best service its clients,” McShane says.
And, while the impact of COVID-19 couldn’t have been predicted, McShane’s enhancements made Obermayer’s transition to a work-from-home environment, due to COVID-19, much easier.
The upside to upgrades
Even before the pandemic, McShane was upgrading the organization’s technology infrastructure to surpass that of competing firms. His improvements have included a virtual desktop environment, updated Windows and Microsoft systems, and a new document management system by NetDocuments.
The virtual desktop environment allows attorneys, paralegals and other staff to access all their work, just as they would in the office, but from any location and any device—an upgrade that came in handy when most employees were required to work remotely.
However, that system and others couldn’t run to their potential until McShane and his team completed an upgrade to the law firm’s storage area network, which is hosted on-site.
Also, before the pandemic, McShane had been testing the teleconference system called LoopUp. When staff switched to working from home, he accelerated the launch. Among the new tricks: Users don’t need to dial into a call; instead, they just click a link—and there is nothing to install.
“There’s also screen-sharing and recording of the calls, as well as videoconferencing and a mobile app,” he says. “It was a big improvement over what we had and we’re getting more for less money—always a good thing.”
McShane also obtained additional licenses to implement dual-factor authentication and trained the IT team on how to use all the new remote work platforms. He says the first 10 days were hectic, and despite trainings, some employees didn’t focus hard enough. Fast forward several months and McShane and his department are receiving kudos from firm management on how quickly they moved everyone remote and kept the firm running smoothly.
He says none of these enhancements would be possible if firm management wasn’t receptive to his vision. It helps to have strong outside support, too.
“Whenever we do major upgrades, it is important to choose a trusted and experienced business partner that will educate you on all of the enhancements and benefits,” McShane says. “Helient Systems provided guidance on the design, implementation and knowledge transfer for my team regarding our new Windows 10 desktop, Microsoft Office upgrade and VDI environment.”
Keeping up with technology and the competition
The upgrade to Windows 10 was necessary, and has been beneficial, because the firm’s document management system—NetDocuments—has certain features that weren’t available with older versions of Windows and Microsoft Office.
The biggest feature is a new email management system that McShane and his IT team of five were testing in late July before rolling it out to a test group.
“Everything related to a client’s file should be stored in there, and while attorneys can save emails now, the new platform will make it much easier for them to keep those important documents,” McShane says. “It’ll help the attorneys be more efficient, because it’s much more user-friendly.”
NetDocuments also centralizes the firm’s work product and all data pertaining to matters are stored in one repository. Matter workspaces are available for easier accessibility and better searching functionality.
“Generally speaking, the legal industry is slower to adapt to change,” McShane says, but for the most part, it takes quite a bit of work, persuasion and real-life use to get the buy-in required to make a significant impact at a firm.
One example he gives is DocuSign, an electronic agreements management tool; a product new to the firm and one seeing increased use.
“I think the pandemic, especially for legal, has made people appreciate all our available technology more, when before they may have taken it for granted,” he says.
A career in law but not as a lawyer
While he’s found a groove over the last 20 years in IT for law firms, that wasn’t always McShane’s plan.
Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, McShane initially wanted to be a high school gym teacher. But after a year in college pursuing that field, he decided teaching wasn’t for him. Luckily, he had a connection who was an IT administrator at Peirce College, and gave him a tour that convinced him that computers were the future and a career in tech would be lucrative and fulfilling.
While pursuing his degree in information technology, McShane worked in the accounting department for Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads which was in the process of an organization-wide upgrade to Windows 95. He worked on the rollout, becoming a help desk analyst and then spending more than five years managing that help desk.
In July 2006, McShane began a nearly 11-year stint as the director of IT for Flaster Greenberg, where he implemented the iManage document management system and Nutanix Hyper-converged technology. He left in February 2017 for the opportunity at Obermayer, a larger firm and greater challenge.
“I always said when I left Flaster that my next move would be where I finish my career,” he says. “I definitely can see myself staying here until I retire.”
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