ShoreTel is touting the advantages that law firms can derive from the deployment of the company's on-premises VoIP platform with integrated unified communications (UC) capabilities.

"ShoreTel is simple to manage and law firms don't need to hire external support," a company spokesperson said Thursday. "This saves law firms money over the life of the system."

The company's on-premises technology also can be easily customized, which results in better time management and tracking --- criteria which are critical to the legal industry, said Shoretel Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Gavin.

"Without it, the needs of a client can be jeopardized and customer Relevant Products/Services satisfaction threatened," Gavin said.

Some legal professionals like having traditional phones on their desktops while others prefer to use instant messaging and "soft" phones. But having disparate communications systems really limits what capabilities can be introduced, is too expensive and also hard to maintain, said David Michel, CIO Relevant Products/Services at the law firm of Burr & Forman, which has offices throughout the South.

"We wanted an easier approach to share information -- especially for lawyers who travel to depositions, hotels, meetings, and such," Michel said. "We chose ShoreTel for its ease of use, simplicity, total cost of ownership, disaster recovery, and cost savings."

'Strong Positive' Rating

ShoreTel was the only top-tier business Relevant Products/Services VoIP phone system vendor to gain a "strong positive" rating in Gartner Relevant Products/Services's latest report covering UC platforms for small- and medium-size businesses in North America. By contrast, Shoretel rivals Avaya, Cisco Relevant Products/Services, Interactive Intelligence and Mitel received positive ratings, whereas Alcatel-Lucent, Digium, Microsoft Relevant Products/Services, NEC, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Toshiba were rated as promising.

"The vendor ratings speak for themselves," said Gartner Research Director Jay Lassman.

Overall, ShoreTel has designed a solution that effectively addresses IT-constrained organizations' needs for easy-to-use, easy-to-manage and easy-to-implement communications solutions.

"The user, administration and implementation simplicity as well as the inherently redundant architecture of ShoreTel 13 is well-suited for most SMBs' UC needs and resource limitations," wrote Lassman and the new report's co-author, Megan Marek Fernandez. "ShoreTel's architecture offers the SMB market the same inherent redundancy that is used by large customers."

Though contact center Relevant Products/Services capabilities were not a priority criterion for Gartner's new report, Lassman told us that ShoreTel's contact center technology isn't as robust as competitive offerings from Cisco, Avaya and Interactive Intelligence. Gartner also recommends that SMBs evaluate channel coverage before extending deployments to sites outside of North America, given ShoreTel's limited geographic footprint.

Focus on Customer Satisfaction

ShoreTel's on-premises VoIP platform has already gained significant traction with legal firms because of the company's guarantee of the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

"ShoreTel's focus on customer satisfaction through the implementation cycle and beyond translates to generally positive customer experiences with ShoreTel UC," Fernandez and Lassman wrote.

Up-front costs represent only 25 percent of TCO, which is why ShoreTel provides prospective buyers with the requisite tools for calculating what their long-term operations and maintenance costs will be.

"We've moved from Nortel to ShoreTel, resulting in new services being available to our employees at lower cost and backed by ShoreTel's tremendous support," said Kevin Sullivan, director of technology at Cohen & Grigsby. "There is no question that the ShoreTel system provided a lower TCO."

For legal firms, security Relevant Products/Services is an obvious priority. Voice encryption is a standard feature on ShoreTel's platform that can be enabled, guarding against eavesdropping on the internal network Relevant Products/Services. "Voicemail messages can also be marked as private -- which limits their distribution to the intended recipients only," a ShoreTel spokesperson said.