Canada: From Chrysalis to Butterfly: An I.T. Metamorphosis

Last Updated: December 20 2001
Article by Paul Knapp

This article was originally published in Law Technology News in August 2001.

Over the past 15 months, Aird & Berlis LLP has been busy overhauling and largely replacing its entire I.T. infrastructure. We’ve installed a new communications platform; network and desktop operating systems; and new servers, PCs and notebook computers. We introduced Web portal technology to allow staff and client access to documents.

Aird & Berlis LLP, located in Toronto, was created with the 1974 merger of two firms: Zimmerman, Grant, Hugo, Paddon, Worley & Bennett (founded in 1919); and Edison, Aird & Berlis (founded in 1953). Today, Aird & Berlis LLP is a full-service Canadian firm, with a diversified national and international practice. The firm has approximately 120 lawyers and 265 support staff. With more than 15 practice and industry groups, we represent some of the world’s largest corporations, as well as a wide array of entrepreneurial businesses, associations, government agencies and individuals.

Global Trends

Before getting started with our I.T. metamorphosis, under the guidance of executive director Gary Torgis, we looked at global industry trends in communication technology. Based on this research, we conducted an assessment of the firm’s need for a "fully integrated" information communication infrastructure. We focused on electronic messaging in all its forms, regarding voice as just another form of data (like e-mail and fax.)

Improving lawyer/client communications was our underlying motivation. Today’s clients demand a professional document management service and the ability to communicate swiftly and effectively on various electronic levels.

No matter how satisfied a client may be with the knowledge and service of their legal representative, if the firm lacks the technological capability to communicate efficiently, and to allow for easy and secure access and collaboration, many clients will simply walk away.

We needed to execute an I.T. transformation to carry our firm into the next decade, and give us a technological advantage over our competition. As you can imagine, this was no small task.

Good Intentions

When it comes to a major I.T. overhaul, good intentions would only carry us so far. To proceed with our intended revolution, we sought the cooperation of the entire firm, beginning with senior management. Once we had the "buy in" from the executive committee, the next step was to sell the proposed new system to the firm’s lawyers, clerks, assistants and administration staff. Fortunately, we were met with open acceptance and valuable feedback, after holding open information sessions for the entire firm.

Because document production and management is the backbone of a law firm, one of our objectives was to personalize the type of access for each client, allowing them to obtain information that relates specifically to them. We chose the Hummingbird EIP Portal, which offers a customizable, Internet-accessible window into our internal document management system. It includes collaborative "whiteboard"-style access to their documents; querying of selective billing and financial data; and industry news that is pertinent to each client.

Another major focus was improved client communication. We investigated what other law firms in both Canada and the United States were considering; and explored both the Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies unified messaging systems.

We selected the Definity Business Communications System from Lucent, along with Octel UM component from Avaya.

The unified messaging system integrates the voice mailbox into Microsoft Exchange 5.5, which is our current e-mail platform (soon to be Exchange 2000).

All voicemails are processed by the messaging system server and stored in the Exchange server’s recipient inbox, thus recipients can recover voice and e-mail messages from the same source.

Special text-to-voice synthesizing technology allows the user to listen to e-mail messages over the phone.

Our lawyers, whether in the office, at home, or on the road, can use their telephone or computer to pick up, listen to and respond to voice and e-mail messages, and to redirect faxes.

Hardware & Software

We upgraded hardware and software throughout the firm. After looking at the major players (including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett Packard Corp. and IBM), we chose HP for all hardware platforms. We purchased network servers (LH3000R and LH6000R); ePCs for desktops; OmniBook 6000 notebooks; and HP gigabit switch technologies for the network infrastructure.

As for software, we installed Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000 Advanced Server for our network operating system; Windows 2000 Professional on our desktops and notebooks; and Exchange for our e-mail platform.


During the installation process, we worked with Accord Communications and AMH Communications-two local system integrators. Accord was the lead integrator on the new phone switch and UM installation/configurations; AMH is our main systems integrator on all of our network hardware and software products.

The payoffs from this IT makeover are becoming more and more evident every day. Our lawyers are using the unified messaging environment in creative ways that free up more of their time and make them more responsive to their clients’ needs.

For example, one of our lawyers saved the day in a dispute by playing back a critical voice message to his client!

Under the previous system, the vital voice message would have been deleted from the system.

So, after many months of effort, Aird & Berlis LLP is emerging from its technology cocoon. The journey is far from over and there will be many future enhancements.

But our butterfly is taking flight with a new sense of enthusiasm and professional pride based on new technologies for delivering quality legal services. Paul Knapp is director of information technologies at Aird & Berlis LLP.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions