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Interview with Tom Haughey

Haughey, Philpot, and Laurent PA


Tom: My name is Tom Haughey, I'm an attorney and I practice law in Laconia,  New Hampshire.  I'm a senior partner with the firm of Haughey, Philpot, and Laurent.  I've  been practicing for over 30 plus years and got to know Steve recently in connection with our computer needs.  We have seven attorneys 17 staff people backing up at our attorneys.  We' re a bit of a boutique firm.  We do not do a broad general practice, we don't do any criminal representation or certain kinds of specialty practices and so on. We do a substantial amount of real estate related work.  In that regard, we deal with many of the largest banks and mortgage institutions in the country.  We also do general civil litigation in connection with bank work, mortgage foreclosure work at this point in time, being given what's going on in the economy, and a lot a bankruptcy representation for these large banks and lenders when their customers file for bankruptcy relief. We actually were, I think, the second law firm in the state of New Hampshire to get involved with using computers in our law practice.  We did that because we are doing a large amount of real estate transactions, and one of the very large title insurance companies was moving in that direction.  We started using computers early on and used them extensively in our real estate practice.  Things evolved dramatically a few years ago in that the very large banks and mortgage companies began demanding of the law firms that they worked with more sophisticated technology than a lot of law firms had in place.  We did have in place at that time seven or eight PCs.  First they were not networked, but then we had a local network computer consultant set up a network just with a router.  We also actually dealt with several local small technology vendors, and it seemed we were constantly having to change our technology backup.  We are not big enough to have really an in-house full-time IT person.  So we always had to look for outside consultants to give us any idea of where we should be going with our technology needs.


Bill:  Can you give us an idea of what the challenges immediately before you started working with Steve? I mean, where was it coming to and what were the challenges you were facing?


Tom: Sure.  The situation before we started working with Steve was that we had been using a local vendor that seemed to be fairly knowledgeable about handling computers troubleshooting and so on, but he was very un-business like to work with.  Sometimes he would show up promptly when we needed him.  But sometimes he wouldn't, and with cell phone availability and so on, we were very uncomfortable that we were so dependent on our technology systems and didn't have either an in-house person or reliable outside vendor to work with us.  As time went on and our clients became more and more demanding in the technology department and so on we really felt that we'd better get a really good outside technology vendor to have us keep up with what our clients were wanting. New Hampshire where we are based is an extremely small state and has a relatively small economic impact on the very large banks and mortgage companies that we work with and those companies have very little appreciation for that fact.  So they would require what we felt might be appropriate for a very large law firm with hundreds of employees and substantial in-house IT staff and so on. They had no sympathy for as they insisted that we employ these sophisticated systems and so on.  We had a network of PCs but were not operating with a server.  We also needed to add some PCs at that point, we probably had a dozen PCs connected with this whole network and wanted to bump that up to 15 or 16.  The real catalyst was that one of our clients wanted to adopt an encrypted e-mail system and in order to do that we needed to have a server-based environment, so we were really forced to move into a server environment. It seemed like the ideal time for us to engage a really professional, experienced technology vendor that could install the server and implement the encryption system that the client was insisting on, guide us through getting used to the server environment, and then expand the use of that environment.  Largely in small firms and medium-size firms the technology needs are simply e-mail and document transfer and creation and so on and sharing of those documents, maybe a firm wide accounting system, billing system and a firm a wide communication system.  Steve was just wonderfully adept in not only getting the server installed in a manner that was minimally disruptive to our operation, but really did a tremendous job of getting us all comfortable and showing us some of the ways that we could improve what we were doing and streamline what we are doing.


Bill: You've got seven attorneys, 17 staff people working in your office.  Now I understand that one of the challenges that you had in your old system was that you would have documents that wouldn't necessarily be accessible one to another. Now that you're on a server, you have the capability of being able to access documents much more easily.  Can you tell us a little bit more of how that might benefit your law firm in terms of productivity?


Tom: It's a tremendous benefit.  It eliminates a lot of staff time to freely share documents and so on.  But what was involved before was somebody printing the thing out, photocopying the thing, hand delivering it down to somebody else that needed it and so on. Now everyone can simply log on to the server go to the appropriate drive, pull the document up, and edit it however they want.  The original document remains intact to the parties that were using it initially, but it morphs into a revised document in different departments, if you will.


Bill: One of the things that I recommend everybody do is do the math. It is for a couple of reasons: one is you feel really good every time you have to write a check to cover technology because you realize it's really a return on investment.  So can we just do some real quick math here?  In the past, if an attorney, and as I understand that you have two stories in your office building is that correct?


Tom: Three, actually.


Bill: So you've got three stories.  If you've got an attorney up on the third floor and he wanted to be able to share information with somebody on the first floor literally he'd have to go to his printer and print it. Then somebody has to go from the third floor down to the first floor to actually share with that person.  So just that one activity probably would take how long -these documents might be fairly long, is that right?  How long do you think it would take to print it, walk down to talk to the person, have a cup of coffee on the wayÖ?


Tom: Sure, and then the personís not available, or they get a phone call or intercom call and you don't know where they are there- somewhere in the building, we think.  But you don't know, so you have to leave them a voicemail and if it's urgent, send a page around the building looking for them.


Bill: So how often a day do you suppose this would happen, this kind of event where we need to share information? Do you have any idea how many minutes this would take to print it and take it down to this person.?


Tom: Oh, I donít know. Iím sure numerous times a day.



Bill: Two or three?


Tom: Sure.


Bill: So, if we just say it was three times a day, thatís a half an hour, and I just wanted our listeners to do than math because sometimes they don't realize what this means.  All of this mounts up, so if we just took 30 minutes a day that's a pretty conservative estimate, don't you think?


Tom: Oh sure.


Bill: So we multiply that times 2.


Tom: We are so much more efficient than we were previously in many ways.  Not just that, but Steve has made himself available to each of the computer users in the firm to help them with any issues, whether it's an e-mailing issue, an Internet issue.  He just seems to be completely knowledgeable about everything that comes up or if he doesn't have it right off the top of his head, he's always figured out the thing and gotten in here to solve the problem quickly. You may or may not be aware of this, but he does a great number of things remotely. In other words, he doesn't have to drive over here and sit down with the computer, unplug the computer and take it back to his shop to fool with.  Many things he's able to do remotely via his own computer and accessing ours on the Internet, so it's been great in that department.  One thing that we haven't mentioned, and it's very, very useful to us, is that he's fixed us up with scanners at most of our workstations.  I personally really enjoy that because I don't have to get up and go walking around to the fax machine making a copy of something and faxing it.  I can just put the thing in a scanner, push a button, and I can attach it to an e-mail to someone. In our field, where documents are almost everything, that's enormously helpful.


Bill: And it's not just that it saves you a few footsteps and a little bit of time, but the fact of the matter is, all of that time adds up, and the one thing every business needs today is more time to do what they do.  People are taking way too much work home and work way too many hours.  In just that one little example we had before, that would save your firm 125 hours a year just on just the one thing that we mentioned about sharing documents.  Now you add another thing and another and these things add up.  Pretty soon you've got 500 to 600 hours a year that are saved. We don't notice these things a lot of times because they're like little micro-transactions, a little bit here, a little bit there, but those things really add up in the long run.  What would you say to people in terms of what it's like working with Steve, what kind of guy is he, what kind of technology chops does he have?  We know he's nice to talk to, but does he also have the skills?


Tom: There's not a problem that's come up that he didn't either know how to solve immediately or be able to solve in a really prompt fashion that day or the next day.  So we're delighted.  We now look at our computer systems and technology the way you would if you were a professional carpenter or something like that, the way they would look at their tools.  If you're really good professional craftsman of any sort, you don't deal with a taped together tool, you want the best tool.  You want to be able to take a tool for granted.  You want a tool to be able to do the best job.  That's what Steve has obtained and installed for us and I'll say this in terms of the way he's operated with us: he hasn't sold us products and taken a markup or anything like that. He's essentially created a list of the products that we need, hardware and software and so on, and allowed us to buy it on a best priced basis.  That's really appreciated.  Not only has he allowed us, he's done it for us!  And I get the invoice directly from a really good national supplier that's known to have the best or extremely competitive prices.  I think he has saved us a huge amount in that department.


Bill: Tom, you've been so helpful with us today.


Tom: Let me add something here-I'm very, very enthusiastic about Steve and what he has done for us in the process.  I want anyone that listens to this to realize that I am not gung ho on technology.  I'm 61 years of age.  I was dragged into technology against my will and against my wishes.  And yet now, having been dragged through all that and brought somewhat up to speed on these things, I've converted.  I've really seen that my staff tremendously benefits from this; we benefit from it.  So I want people realize that I've never been gung ho on technology, but I've been converted from being dragged into it to now being as much into it as is appropriate for my other obligations and so on. And again, we've just thoroughly enjoy working with Steve because he's been so professional with us and timely with us and effective in what he's done for us.


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