Saturday August 15, 2020

New legal option for law firms operating in the cloud

Dublin firm eXpd8 hopes the Thread Legal system, developed in collaboration with Microsoft, will be a launchpad for expansion

2nd August, 2020
Shane Branagan, chief executive at eXpd8, says the initial export focus for Thread will be the UK market. Picture: Fergal Phillips

A new cloud-based practice management system for law firms has hit the market.

Thread Legal was developed over three years by Dublin company eXpd8 in partnership with Microsoft.

Shane Branagan, the newly appointed chief executive at eXpd8, said its launch would allow the company to expand outside the island of Ireland, initially in Britain.

The firm was established in 2001 by Branagan’s father Declan as a sister company to his existing managed services venture Branagan Business Supplies, trading as BBS. Together, BBS and eXpd8 employ 30 people and have about 550 clients in the Republic and the North, including Coillte, RTÉ and the Dublin firms Holohan Law and Peter Fitzpatrick Legal Costs Accountants.

“My dad set up BBS in 1985 and we moved into the case management market in about 2001, basically because he saw an opportunity there,” Shane said. “We’ve learned a lot over the years in the Irish market about what legal firms need from the system, but eXpd8 was a legacy system. To run it, you need a physical box like a server.”

Branagan said Thread would allow the company to scale more easily in international markets: “It’s fully cloud-based. It’s taken three years to develop and now we’re moving into the sales and marketing phase with it.”

Built on the Microsoft Azure platform, Thread Legal has been designed to allow users to share data across a range of built-in legal collaboration tools.

“Microsoft is a really important part of our entire story as a business. We’re a Microsoft Gold Partner on the services side, so we have a really solid technical understanding of its applications,” Branagan said.

“Thread Legal is a full Office 365 solution, so it integrates directly with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, email, Calendar, the whole lot. It’s a bit like a next generation document management system for law firms.”

eXpd8 is a client company of Enterprise Ireland, and Branagan is currently taking part in the International Selling Programme run by the state agency.

“Our initial export focus for Thread will be the UK market. Enterprise Ireland has helped us a lot to prepare for that and to put together our Brexit plan,” Branagan said.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and now we have Covid-19 to deal with as well. It’s been a rough few months for every business in Ireland, particularly for small businesses. For ourselves, we’re self-funding and our sales suddenly stopped in March for about two months. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to adapt quickly. We shifted our focus pretty quickly from the services side of the business to Thread, offering SMEs a free 90-day trial.”

For Branagan, who grew up in Portmarnock in north Dublin, taking over his father’s business this year has been a baptism of fire.

“It’s been a real learning experience. I’m only 32, so taking over as chief executive has been really daunting. I have a lot to learn, but I’ve had a lot of encouragement from the management team here and from people saying to me: ‘back yourself’,” he said.

“Back in March when Covid-19 kicked off, some of our orders got backed up and we found ourselves dealing with frustrated customers. My dad would always say: ‘Put yourself in their shoes. They’re panicking, because they’re scared. Your job is to deliver a solution that helps them to keep going.’ He taught me that the customer always come first. That has always been his focus in business, and I’ve seen how much our team here is prepared to step up and get stuck in.”

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