Inside a Law Firm: MPS Brings Efficiencies to Critical Business Processes

by Emily Offshack

With 1,600 lawyers and multiple offices in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Reed Smith represents many of the world’s leading companies in a wide range of complex legal matters. As with all law firms, they rely heavily on producing printed documents for their clients and courts. 

After years of managing their own print environment, they piloted one vendor’s managed print services program and discovered the benefits that MPS could bring to their business. Reed Smith ultimately adopted the Océ MPS program, which has helped them to manage this critical area of their business in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

No Time for Printing Pain

Prior to adopting an MPS program, local Reed Smith IT teams managed their own printing environments. Because their business relies so heavily on being able to print documents for clients, making sure their users were always able to print was a main concern.

“I think law firms are unique in that their tangible product is often the printed word. So I think we’re more intensive in printing compared to most organizations on a per-user basis,” said George Yorty, IT operations senior manager at Reed Smith. “From an end-user point of view, the only thing they predominantly require is that they have a good, clean, functioning print device capable of meeting their needs at a moment’s notice without having to think twice about it.”

Ryan McEnroe, director of IT operations at Reed Smith, added, “There is no doubt an emphasis on printing in the legal vertical, however, at Reed Smith we also have a strong green initiative to help offset that, whether it is restrictions on printer banner pages, double-sided printing, or other non-printing related controls like using Energy Star compliant equipment and automatic power down of PCs at the end of the day.”

From drafts to final client printouts, there is a constant demand to print inside law firms. To support this demand, Reed Smith has a large fleet of printers, consisting of over 650 Hewlett-Packard machines, the majority of which are black-and-white devices, including 350 multifunction machines.

“As in most law firms, we routinely encounter very tight deadlines, and sometimes even the inconvenience of your local printer being down and having to go down the hallway is significant.”

“Downtime is a very bad thing for these printers. As in most law firms, we routinely encounter very tight deadlines, and sometimes even the inconvenience of your local printer being down and having to go down the hallway is significant. So we needed to avoid that. We needed to make sure we had good service,” said Yorty.

Michael Greenberg of Océ Managed Print Services explained that because law firms print so much and so frequently, the convenience of printing is a critical factor in how a law firm’s environment is structured.

“It’s getting the document closer to the user in law firms. In typical environments, you’ve got the lawyers, you’ve got their secretaries and assistants and associates, and they’re all generating huge volumes of documents,” said Greenberg.

Reed Smith was originally set up in a print room format, where they had MFPs in relatively centralized locations. They restructured their facilities to more of a workgroup format, with HP printers and MFPs in close proximity to users. Greenberg said, “They saw the associated cost of having centralized printing devices and distributing the documents manually, as opposed to having technology distributing the documents by putting the devices closer to the users.”

The other primary concern that Reed Smith had was the costs associated with printing. “From a pure budgeting point of view, of course you need to watch your spend,” said Yorty.

Discovering MPS

The IT management staff at Reed Smith realized that, since printing was such a large, complex and critical component of their business, their company would be a good fit for an MPS program.

“We originally started off having separate, multiple vendors,” said Yorty, “and we saw that we needed an MPS solution in general. And of course we reached out to several different vendors for their offerings. We had a previous relationship with Océ. They were the provider of our bigger, more centralized copy devices. So we had a pretty good relationship with them there.

“Prior to our transition to an MPS program across the U.S., we were in a long-term pilot program with another MPS provider in a couple of offices. This early, long-term pilot gave us additional insight into the potential capabilities and benefits of a nationwide MPS solution.”

From the point of view of Océ, Reed Smith was a perfect candidate for MPS, particularly because printer downtime can become a critical situation for them. “It really becomes an opportunity to provide them full-level service, and they’re willing to contract for that kind of level of service. So they really are a prime candidate for MPS, as far as the critical nature of their business,” said Greenberg.

MPS Concerns and Challenges

Before they implemented MPS, Reed Smith had been having issues with the vendor that provided service for their printer fleet. “We were seeing our previous provider really degrade as far as the services that they were providing and timeliness of their repairs,” said Yorty. When they chose a vendor for MPS, they needed to make sure it was a company that could provide good service.

Yorty noted that any time you change vendors or processes, there is a risk that the new system will not work as well as the original. “Printing is an area in most organizations where when it works, it goes unnoticed. And while we were, with Océ, in the discussion phase of the process, it became very clear what the more tangible benefits of their MPS program were going to be,” said Yorty. “Actually making sure that they were going to come through and ensure that the end result for the user was going to be just as good, if not better, was a little bit of a concern.

“My group was doing a very good job overcoming and masking the shortfalls of our previous vendor. From an end-user point of view, they rarely saw some of the problems that we were experiencing. Every once in a while, the service provider would take several days to resolve a straightforward issue and this was difficult for us to hide. But in most of the other cases we were doing such a good job of covering for the vendor that from an end-user point of view, printing just worked.”

Because Océ was one of their existing vendors, they had a good feeling that what they were saying about their customer service was true. “We also saw from our previous relationships with Océ, and through our discussions with them on MPS in particular, that they really were focused and dedicated on providing good customer service on multiple levels,” said Yorty. “They gave us a pretty good feeling that we were going to have a good relationship with them before we even committed to their MPS program.”

The challenge for Océ was to prove that they could provide the level of service that Reed Smith desired, knowing that as a law firm, they could not wait around for service. “They do not have the desire to have a product or service that isn’t responsive, effective and efficient for their environment,” said Greenberg. “Their expectations are extremely high around the service and the deliverable and the quality of the product that you’re providing. I think that is a challenge in itself in engaging with law firms, proving that you can deliver this level of service that they expect. And doing it competitively—that would certainly be one of the key challenges for us as well.”

Initial Assessment

A unique aspect of law firms is that, because printing is such a critical aspect of their business, and because many elect to bill their clients for prints generated, they already have quite extensive knowledge of their print environment.

“It’s actually kind of a nice industry to be in,” said Greenberg, “because they have a pretty good grasp of their environment, typically. They understand the equipment they have, because it’s such a mission-critical piece of the legal industry. They’re much more in tune with what’s happening in their environment with these devices.”

The initial assessment that Océ provided for Reed Smith was relatively straightforward, since their internal IT staff already had a good understanding of their print environment.

“We did go through and map out and assess one of their key locations that was undergoing a pilot program. Initially we did a three-month pilot and then rolled them into a long-term agreement,” said Greenberg. “That assessment process was basically going in and doing the traditional assessment: collecting information, mapping out devices and serial numbers, looking at their toner inventory and levels, but essentially what we were doing was validating data.

“The biggest challenge came into play when we didn’t have costs and the customer didn’t want to expose that information, which we run into a lot, especially across enterprise accounts, so that was one of the challenges with this customer.”

Even though the IT staff at Reed Smith already understood some of the areas where cost savings could be obtained, they appreciated the analysis and recommendations given by Océ.

“We had done some surveys in the past, and we basically knew and saw even before an MPS solution that it’s always cheaper to print to the bigger iron, the bigger copiers, the more centralized copiers,” said Yorty. “But we had to walk a line between what is purely the most inexpensive way to do something and what is most convenient and beneficial to the end-users. Océ did provide us a lot of good suggestions and areas for improvement, and then we, as I think any organization should, applied those that fit within our environment, met the needs of the end-user and conformed with broader green and paperless initiatives. So in some areas, we were able to apply them a little bit more, in other areas we just made a conscious decision to say, that’s just not a direction we’re able to go in at this time. Because we have instances where printing is exceptionally intensive, critical or deadline-packed, sometimes the convenience of having a printer nearby is the right decision. So that’s really the balance that we have.”

Reed Smith has centralized Océ MFPs available for all their employees, and they do encourage their use. They have put together some guidelines as to when users should consider using them—in general, for bigger print jobs.

“Very few people have personal printers, very few people,” said Yorty. “And the ones that do, it’s because they deal in highly confidential matters. The great majority of everybody else works in a workgroup environment where they have a multifunction printer near them, just ten, fifteen, twenty feet down the hall. A typical printer covers between eight and twelve people. We found out that we could probably be a little more cost-effective if we pushed even more of those print jobs to the centralized copiers, where there’s maybe one or two per floor, but again that starts to encroach upon where the efficiencies really are for our user base. Again, in some areas we are eventually able to follow through on their suggestions, and in other areas we hear them loud and clear, and see that they would be beneficial to us from a pure cost point of view, but there’s also a hidden cost to us in just making sure that we do make life at least somewhat easy and quicker for our end-users.”

“I hate to use the term, ‘time is money,’ but when your source of revenue is billing clients for your service, clearly time is money.”

McEnroe said, “One way to sum that up in a very brief statement is cost versus convenience. I hate to use the term, ‘time is money,’ but when your source of revenue is billing clients for your service, clearly time is money. Océ has given us some input on how we could reduce some costs just from a pure printing standpoint, but there’s also that convenience factor. We think we walk very close to that cost versus convenience line.”

One unique aspect of the Océ MPS program is that there is no hardware purchase requirement to enter the program, so Reed Smith could keep their existing infrastructure. “This customer went out and had acquired all of their equipment originally, so we didn’t provide any hardware in this particular situation, and we manage everything,” said Greenberg. Despite being from a different manufacturer, all of the HP printers are managed in addition to the Océ MFP devices.

Robert Russell, director of enterprise account development and MPS at Océ, added, “Our approach is to extend our clients’ print output resources and asset base, regardless of what vendors they currently have installed. We look to optimize the print environment by first taking inventory of the output assets, then leveraging the client’s current print infrastructure and extending those resources. This is in the best interest of our clients and offers far more value than recommending immediate hardware replacement.”

Pilot Phase and Rollout

Reed Smith underwent a three-month pilot program before rolling out the Océ MPS program across their U.S. offices. “We didn’t go with the big bang deployment model, if you will, we didn’t roll out to everybody in one shot,” said Yorty. “We did a pilot phase, where we identified three offices spread around different areas, different scenarios, different criteria for each of the offices, different challenges for Océ to meet.”

The pilot phase was used predominantly to work through any stumbling blocks they encountered. “I don’t consider it a knock on Océ at all, I think they did very good throughout their pilot and actual roll-out phase, but I think any time you’re changing vendors, especially for sizable items like this, there are going to be some learning curves on both sides,” said Yorty. “So, with the pilot we were able to work a lot of those kinks out.

“Going through that pilot phase was very beneficial in our transition to Océ across the U.S. During the pilot phase, we teamed with Océ to identify which processes worked and which needed slight modifications to fit our environment. By the end of the pilot phase all systems were working smoothly. While the pilot did extend the overall transition time from our previous vendors to Océ, the trade-off to ensure all offices had a successful, smooth transition was well worth it. After the pilot, we were able to tailor training classes and provide relevant documentation to the teams, significantly shortening the learning curve and ensuring each particular office quickly transitioned to Océ. I think it went really well and spoke volumes about the growing relationship between Reed Smith and Océ.”

Installing remote print management software was one component of the pilot and roll-out phase. “We’re using FMAudit to manage this customer and actually manage our enterprise across the board,” said Greenberg. “It was deployed at the IT level—these folks were pretty savvy and essentially did a self-deployment of the application.” Greenberg said they use their FMAudit software to the fullest extent; in addition to collecting meters for billing, they use toner levels and service alert data to assist with supplies and service fulfillment.

For the IT staff at Reed Smith, the software installation process was relatively simple. “It was a very straightforward application,” said Yorty. “Océ provided the executable and easy to follow instructions. They also made available support from Océ to help us through the installation should we have an issue. So, while the application was new to us, the learning curve was short, and we had it up and running very quickly. We recently transitioned to a newer version and our experiences remained equally positive. Océ made everything available to us, walked us through it and were available if we had any questions. In the end we had no issues with the initial installation or the recent upgrade.”

Service Fulfillment

From an end-user and internal IT point of view at Reed Smith, the inefficiency of printer service was their biggest pain point. “The service that we were receiving for the bulk of our deployments was, lackluster, to put it a little politely. And it’s truly night and day between the service that we received before and the service that we receive from Océ today,” said Yorty. “And I think even beyond that, comparing Océ’s service with many of our other current vendors, their service has been at the very top of our list.”

“Prior to Océ, we had far too many cases where it was simply easier and quicker to repair the printer ourselves.”

Yorty explained how the service they receive through the Océ MPS program saves their internal IT staff a lot of time and effort. “They just come in, take care of the problem, and make it very easy on our side,” he said. “We just need to call it in and relay some very basic information to Océ, and they schedule the appointment to come out by the next day—that’s our SLA. And they usually resolve the issue on the first try, which is great. Prior to Océ, we had far too many cases where it was simply easier and quicker to repair the printer ourselves. We would spend hours on the phone relaying the issue, basically doing troubleshooting on behalf of the service provider. Calling in a failed printer became drudgery, and I could see it in my team’s eyes every time they had to place a call, because they knew that they were just going to be locked away in their office for an hour or two for what should have been a straightforward break-fix.”

The staff at Reed Smith have also been impressed with the service technicians that come into their offices. “That has to be one of the greatest things as far as my team is actually concerned. They make a call, the technician comes out, he’s polite, very knowledgeable, and good with both Reed Smith IT and just as important, because they’re out on our floors, they’re good with the users,” said Yorty. “The users will sometimes come up and ask them questions, talk to them, and they’re very polite, they’re informative, they put on a good face, if you will, in representation for Océ. I really probably can’t speak highly enough of what we see from Océ on the service side of this.”

Greenberg said they fulfill service for Reed Smith through an HP authorized service provider network. “Essentially we fulfill on a contractual level for next business day, although we’re averaging a much better response time than that,” he said.

Supplies Fulfillment

Reed Smith originally had two vendors for supplies: an MPS provider for two offices, and a separate vendor for the majority of the offices. Local IT teams were responsible for ordering their own toner, and even for the two offices under an MPS program, supplies fulfillment continued to be a manual process.

“On the consumables side, it was completely a manual process by our local teams,” said Yorty. “We saw a lot of deficiencies and over ordering. Even today with MPS, we do maintain some small spare inventory just for sudden spikes in usage, but prior to MPS, the offices all basically dictated on their own what volume they wanted to have, based off of what they thought were the local print needs, and they would often order in large quantities. We suspect there was a lot of waste in there as well, as far as they would swap out toners early. So, it was a very time-intensive process for the local teams.”

While they wanted to reduce their on-site supplies inventory, the staff at Reed Smith wanted to have some supplies on hand because of the print-intensive nature of their business and the possibility of unpredictable, sudden increases in print volumes. “We still wanted to have that safeguard and Océ was good enough to work with us on that,” said Yorty. “That was one of the things that we appreciated from them.”

One major benefit that Reed Smith got from the Océ MPS program was the ability to use remanufactured toner cartridges. Océ was able to provide remanufactured toner that not only met their performance needs, but also fell in line with their green initiative. While Reed Smith had always recycled their empty cartridges, it was good that they could also begin using “new” cartridges that had been previously recycled.

“Several times in the past we tried transitioning from HP OEM toner to remanufactured toner, but our tests never produced the results we needed,” said Yorty. “I think we have pretty high standards, again because our tangible product is the document itself. This made transitioning to Océ remanufactured toner one of our bigger concerns. In our testing though, we were pleasantly surprised that yes, the remanufactured toner from Océ was able to meet our needs. From an end-user point of view, I don’t think they can tell the difference.”

Yorty explained how Reed Smith receives supplies today through the Océ MPS program. “We have Océ software in place that can tell us when we’re going to be running low on toner, and they proactively ship out cartridges for us. It’s essentially a just-in-time delivery model and it works really well. There’s far less time and effort spent on our side ensuring we have an adequate supply. It’s rare that we need to reach out to Océ and say we’re running low, and again that’s usually only when we have a sudden spurt in a particular department. The whole process is essentially worry-free; toner just arrives, local teams know where it needs to go, they swap it out and ship back the empties to Océ. Compared to our previous methods, the Océ replenishment process makes for one less area of focus for the teams.”

Under their new MPS program, Reed Smith has eliminated the problems associated with running out of toner. “When we started rolling out MPS there was a little bit of a learning curve, but beyond that I can’t think of a case where we’ve not had toner to deploy for our printers. Unfortunately, that was not what we had before,” said Yorty. “When each of the sites controlled supplies on their own, it was every month or two that an office ran out of toner for various reasons, such as falling behind on placing the order or incorrectly forecasting needs. And sometimes this would be compounded further by an urgent need within the office. So thankfully, the byproduct is we don’t have any of those cases now that MPS and Océ delivers everything just-in-time and really handles all of that side for us.”

To provide this efficient delivery, Océ drop ships from multiple regional fulfillment centers, and guarantees delivery within 48 hours to the device level.

Budgeting and Invoicing

One of the first things that MPS providers think about when dealing with clients in the legal industry is that lawyers need to bill their clients for prints. The reality is, law firms have to already have a good handle on budgeting their printing costs in order to do this.

McEnroe said that having an MPS program doesn’t change how they capture print volumes, “because any printouts that could be considered for client bill are captured at our document management system level.” So whether they are using an MPS solution or are self-managing their print environment, the method for cost capture remains the same. What MPS does do is help them more easily and more accurately determine what their costs are.

“Previously, we essentially used the same information back then as we do today, however today we can be I think a lot more precise on what our costs will be,” said Yorty. “Before MPS, we would basically take a look at how many pages we printed, and then also take a look at how much we actually spent the year before, and come up with our own rough number as to a cost per page. Then we would look at that and validate it against what we saw, as far as growth in the coming year and other factors, and just transfer the numbers over from one year to the next and adjust accordingly.

“It’s basically the same as today, because we still ultimately need to predict how many pages we’re going to be printing, but I think we can be a lot more precise in that now. It’s a much more specific correlation between a page and how much it costs to print it, where before there were just a lot of variables. We had less control over the consumables side of it—the toner and the maintenance kits—that made it very difficult to predict with any kind of real accuracy. Now that we’re under MPS on a cost-per-page system, it makes it very easy for us to look at the past and really make an informed decision on what our page volumes are going to be for the coming months and years and budget accordingly.”

Under a cost-per-page model, it also makes it easier for Reed Smith to add printers without there being a major impact on their costs. “If we were printing 5,000 pages a month to one printer and we add another printer from a convenience standpoint, the likelihood is that those 5,000 pages are just going to be spread out,” said McEnroe. “Our costs are going to be the same. In the previous model, our costs would certainly have increased.”

The biggest contributing factor to their simplified budgeting is the change in how Reed Smith is invoiced for their printing costs. “If you look at what we were before, we were spread across three different print vendors,” said Yorty. “Especially on the toner side, it was very difficult and time consuming on our side, because obviously each office was placing their own orders. They all did them at different times, different quantities. It just resulted in a lot of bills per office, per month that we had to track and pay out. So now it’s immensely simpler in that we basically get the one bill, once a month, we just go through with Océ and validate that yes everything looks fine, and quite frankly it’s a piece of cake.”

The Reed Smith annual MPS contract from Océ consists of a base number of black-and-white prints and color prints with an overage charge built in.

Quarterly Reviews

Before they had the assistance of managed print services, internal IT staff at Reed Smith tried to identify trends and areas for cost savings, but a lack of tools combined with their scattered supplies ordering processes made it difficult. Now that all of their printing costs are bundled into a single, monthly invoice, and they have Océ to conduct external quarterly reviews, they are better able to assess their environment on an ongoing basis.

“It gives us a good opportunity to take a look back and say OK, let’s get out of the weeds and take a higher point of view,” said Yorty, “Do we need to juggle some printers around? Are there some printers that are a little lower use or a little above average use that we want to give some attention to? Maybe that low-use printer doesn’t need to be there anymore and we can redeploy it more effectively somewhere else. Maybe the higher-use printer, we need to upgrade the printer itself or there are some jobs that we can push off.”

The quarterly reviews provided by Océ also let them review the support calls that have been made over the time period. “Every once in a while there’s one that went just a little bit longer than you would have expected, and we just dive into that and figure out why, and it’s usually always explainable as to what happened,” said Yorty.

The quarterly reviews, according to Yorty, have been very beneficial for Reed Smith. “I think it also helps Océ better understand us as a client, allowing them to further tailor and provide us the reports and information that we need as well as better appreciate the requests we make of Océ,” he said.

In large enterprises, the internal IT staff often view their users—in the case of Reed Smith, the lawyers, associates, secretaries, etc.—as their own customers. Greenberg explained that because of this, they want to understand what’s happening in their environment so they can better manage their customers.

“They’ve asked for toner yielding reports,” said Greenberg. “We asked why that would be important, and their reasoning doesn’t have anything to do with the program itself, other than their IT support people doing toner changes started questioning, is this a valid process, because I feel like I’m having to change toner more often. We had to go back and validate that not only were they changing toner the same amount, they were in certain cases changing it less often, because in the compatible toner world we’re fulfilling cartridges that yield beyond the OEM specification. So even though their perception was that they were changing toner more often, the reality was that it was less. We had to prove that out, so a lot of more demanding reports from that standpoint. They’re able to manage their own internal process and business better using the program.”

In addition to the standard quarterly review, Océ is helping Reed Smith to initiate some additional, customized assessment processes so they can improve their printing environment even more. “In our last quarterly review, we’re actually implementing a few questionnaires so we can better gauge how we’re doing,” said Yorty. “When I say ‘we,’ I mean both Océ and Reed Smith management, in making sure that we are meeting all the needs of both the users, and Reed Smith IT, and some of the other personnel that are involved in the printer management side. The Océ relationship makes gathering this information much easier than if we were going it alone. So we’ll be able to get very good, detailed metrics off of what we’re already doing and what we’re going to be implementing as far as an assessment, a review.

“One way we are doing this is through the use of automated surveys. The sending of surveys will be triggered by certain events, such as after a certain quantity of toner has been sent to an office or when a field service call is closed. With this level of interaction and feedback, we anticipate identifying small problems and taking the necessary steps to ensure they don’t become larger issues. It also allows us to take a step back in the quarterly reviews and really assess where we’ve been in the previous quarter and where we need to place greater focus going forward. Gathering this level of detail is made simpler by integrating it into the overall Océ MPS program.”

Ongoing Partner Relationship

From the Océ management team to their service technicians, Reed Smith has been very satisfied with Océ as their MPS partner. “The Océ management team, every time we’ve just had a question or if we say we’d like to do things a little differently, they’re very flexible to our needs,” said Yorty. “And that’s probably one of the biggest intangible items you can ask for going into a relationship. I think that’s one of the things that you hope is going to happen. Océ demonstrated before we actually committed to them that’s what they would do, and sure enough they actually followed through on it. That’s huge to us, because I think no organization is the same, and there has to be some flexibility on the part of your providers to meet your particular needs. So I think they’ve done very good with that and I think they’ve impressed us on that side.

“Again, the other big area that was a huge improvement for us is on the support side. I can’t speak highly enough about their technicians that come out and do the day-to-day work for us, because in the end that’s half of what matters for us. And then the other half is again, we’ve been happy with the remanufactured toner as well. That was a little bit of a concern on our part, just because we’re generally fearful of remanufactured toner based on past experiences, but it was really proven to be a non-issue as well. All that with pretty significant cost savings, I’m not sure what I could complain about.”

One of the advantages that Océ has in delivering an MPS program, according to Greenberg, is that they are one of the few manufacturers that only goes direct to consumer. “Océ manufactures product, yet they have no conflicting channels within the marketplace,” he said. “So they’re direct to end-user, not only from an equipment standpoint, but from a service deliverable, on a scale much greater than a lot of players in the marketplace, but they are a small enough organization that they can be flexible and react relatively quickly in comparison to some of the larger OEMs. I think that is certainly one of the biggest unique competitive advantages for Océ.”

Without any middlemen involved, customers of the Océ MPS program have a single company to contact when they have issues. “We talk a lot in this business about ‘one throat to choke,'” said Greenberg. “This is a situation where there is no go-between, there’s nobody else between Océ and the customer. There’s no finger-pointing or pushing out in other directions saying, oh this is their responsibility. I think that’s where the brunt of the success is coming from the program.”

Greenberg said that the results of the partnership with Reed Smith, from the point of view of Océ, have been outstanding. “They’re one of the clients that’s a real pleasure to do business with, even though the size and the scope of the operation is relatively big and they’re quite demanding, but they understand the business intricacies of what is happening in their environment. So they’re able to manage a lot of their own internal support with their own help desk people, which really helps filter things amongst my staff.”

“We’re seeing a nice rate of return on business,” Greenberg said, “and it’s been a good relationship for us, and I expect nothing but for it to continue to be that way.”