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Q&A with Darren Jones, Quill’s Interactive Documents software developer

Darren JonesWhat’s your job title at Quill [1] and how long have you been in the post?

I’m software developer for Quill, specifically looking after our Interactive Documents Add-Ins [2], a position I’ve held for two years. These Add-Ins effectively connect Interactive with Word and Outlook to give users full blown document management capabilities on top of existing case management and legal accounting tools.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on some brilliant development projects. Following on from our recent template integration work, we’ve built even closer email integration between Interactive, Word and Outlook so you can now select whether to send documents to the client, opposition, expert witness or any combination directly from these Microsoft applications.

On the same subject, I’ve just finished developing functionality which gives users the option to convert documents to PDF and send them as attachments in PDF format. This is much more secure as documents of this type can’t be edited by recipients. Our clever system does it all for you – converts from Word to PDF and attaches to emails – at the click of a button.

I’m also in the midst of rebranding our Add-In icons. These are the buttons that sit in the top toolbar of both Word and Outlook. I’m bringing them more in line with our overall umbrella branding. The new icons are more intuitive and complement designs used elsewhere such as the menu icons in Interactive’s ribbon bar, so it’s more easily recognisable to users. The same applies to pop-up forms which are being improved from a user interface perspective too.

Our philosophy at Quill always is to provide tight integration between our Add-Ins and Interactive so we’ve also created the facility for users to assign attendance notes to documents or emails when time recording. This really helps with keeping track of case progress and improving billing accuracy as well as locating particular documents or correspondence at a later date.

What are your greatest achievements to date at Quill?

Interactive Documents, generally, is more fluent and efficient than ever with automation applied to as many steps as possible in the document production, upload, download and searching processes. You see, we’ve listened carefully to clients and given them what they want – the ability to spend the majority of their time working in Word and Outlook. This is achieved via our Add-Ins.

I’m proud of every development over the past two years, big and small, from auto-locating cases using ID codes within documents to selecting recipients from drop-down lists when sending emails.

What advice would you give to prospective clients considering using Quill’s Interactive Documents?

Documents are the most important factor in the working life of a solicitor. Having a robust, feature-rich document management system is absolutely essential. Start by setting up your precedents in the template library to save time and repetitive actions, making the most of client data already stored in Interactive. Our software is lightweight yet stable and underneath the attractive branding it does exactly what it’s supposed to. There are a whole selection of time-saving, accuracy-boosting tools along with the facility to use on the move as it’s web browser based.

One of the main advantages is its affordability. Priced at just £17 per month per user, it’s incentive enough for those who haven’t yet taken a look at Interactive Documents to do so as a matter of urgency. In my opinion, there’s no better platform to manage law firms’ most valuable and abundant assets – their documents.

Talk us through your career to date including what first attracted you to a role in software development and how you learnt your skills.

I’ve had an extremely varied career. Having not set out originally to work in the software development field, my earliest jobs were in care roles supporting adults with learning difficulties and children with autism. The school side involved use of computers. That’s when I first became interested in programming, wondering how, by pressing a certain combination of keys, certain tasks are performed.

This thirst for knowledge resulted in enrolling for an IT distance learning course which I completed whilst working full time. As my confidence with computers grew, I landed a job as a junior software developer. Although very low level, this presented my big break. I’ve now worked as a developer for ten years, two of which have been spent at Quill.

Now that I’m much more experienced, I can make a real contribution to Quill. I’m made to feel very welcome here and there’s a great sense of teamwork.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

The most obvious challenge is the rate with which technology changes. Keeping pace is not for the faint hearted! It’s difficult meeting expectations too. Software users want instant results which it’s impossible to provide, not if you want to maintain high standards anyway.

Proper development takes time to go through all the proper steps, thorough testing included, in order to get things right on first release. It’s a balancing act between meeting expectations and ensuring accuracy.

For me, quality is the foremost consideration. It’s a satisfying feeling issuing new versions of Interactive Documents because I know everything’s stable and operating just how it should. That’s what gives me the biggest feel-good factor – providing clients with a system they enjoy using which allows them to work smarter.

What do you do for fun?

I’ve got four children and six grandchildren. They keep me pretty busy and I love spending my free time in their company. I’m also a keen walker and swimmer which give me deep joy and keep me fit. On Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, I volunteer at a coffee van, serving up free tea, coffee and emotional support to people who’ve overdone it on a night out. It’s rewarding being able to give back to the community like this.

Something else close to my heart is the condition, Spina Bifida. My youngest grandson, who’s only 21 months old, was born with it. With October being Spina Bifida awareness month, it’s vital that we all try to raise more awareness and support around us for those living with Spina Bifida, my grandson amongst them.

To find out more on Quill’s Interactive software and Add-Ins, please visit www.quill.co.uk/Practice-Management-Software [3] and www.quill.co.uk/DMS-Professional [4] respectively.