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Balch & Bingham Case Study

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Innovative feature set, and resiliency post-Hurricane Katrina, made the case for Mitel

Balch & Bingham

Too many phone systems, too little performance

The firm, first established more than 80 years ago, had separate telephony systems at each of its seven offices. Poor performance translated into missed calls, unhappy clients, high maintenance costs, and continuous administrative headaches.

Need for improved communications, efficiency, and manageability

When the law firm Balch & Bingham decided to pull the plug on its multiple, aging circuit-switched telephony systems in favor of a single converged network, business continuity was certainly an important factor in selecting a replacement.

But the real driver for making the switch to IP telephony was the promise of improved communications efficiency and manageability.

Balch & Bingham was painfully aware that its disparate phone systems lacked the resiliency that is critical to bringing the business back online in case of a business disruption. An IP telephony system with the right set of continuity and recovery capabilities is essential to a business that absolutely depends on its voice communications. The firm couldn’t afford to not make business continuity a priority.

“Phones are critical in a law firm,” says Mark Norris, director of IT for Balch & Bingham. “We had experienced problems with Hurricane Ivan. One office flooded, and moving the telephone system to the second floor was a major effort. We had already done quite a bit of disaster recovery planning.”

After struggling with a Cisco AVVID pilot, Mitel’s up and running in an hour

Thus, it was essential that the phone system Balch & Bingham deployed be resilient and efficient. The firm thought it had the right solution when it selected Cisco AVVID. But weeks of struggles to pilot the Cisco AVVID system in one office prompted Norris to rethink that choice.

“The engineer had the Mitel system up and running in an hour,” Norris says. “We had the Cisco guys in for weeks before we could get things going, and we still had a lot of dissatisfaction from our users.”

When one of the firm’s attorneys suggested Balch & Bingham meet with a channel partner specializing in Mitel solutions, the firm welcomed the opportunity. A lunch meeting led to a demonstration. The results were impressive. “When we turned Mitel on, it worked. After the Cisco experience, that was a big one,” Norris says.

Mitel enables major cost savings and improved services

A clearer picture of the cost savings created by Mitel did not emerge until after installation. “The rollout of the telephone system produced savings of $2,500 per month even after accounting for the leasing costs of Mitel and installing an upgraded data network to hold it together,” comments Hendry.

The savings were later reinvested in a Quality of Service WAN that has improved the delivery of its health support services for 15,000 people. “The real savings came from eliminating on-call part-time call center roles in our regional centers and consolidating operations to the main center in Christchurch, which services the entire country,” says Hendry. “We were able to reassign 10 call center staff to more productive work. In that move alone, Mitel must have saved us at least $450,000 in annual salaries.” Hendry estimates that Mitel directly contributed to Access Homehealth gaining a minimum 30 percent cost savings in telephony.


Mark Norris, Director of IT
Balch & Bingham

Guilty of impressive performance from day one

Balch & Bingham was so pleased with the Mitel architecture, cost structure, and capabilities that Mitel became the frontrunner. Norris says Mitel’s customer references spoke in glowing terms, so the firm decided to run a six-month trial.

Balch & Bingham immediately realized significant benefits. The firm relies on Mitel’s workgroup capability, which allows it to place six attorneys and two administrative assistants in the same group.

Now administrative assistants can act as the workgroup administrator, setting up and transferring conference calls, as well as monitoring extensions and calls in the queue from their desktops. The receptionist functions can be handled easily across locations. Users are pleased with Follow Me/Find Me, and unified messaging, which allow attorneys to stay in touch and reduce the burden on their assistants to find them and retrieve important voice messages.

Business continuity, thanks to Mitel resiliency

In the wake of the devastating hurricane, Balch & Bingham’s Gulfport, Mississippi office sustained considerable storm damage, and half of the office’s 45 employees lost their homes. Needless to say, communications were knocked offline, but the surprise was how brief that disruption proved to be.

Their solutions provider came to the rescue, and loaned the firm two Mitel demo kits to quickly get the phone system up and running. BellSouth restored PRI service within days, so the firm was able to get WAN connectivity from that location.

Thanks to Mitel’s remarkable recovery capabilities and the solution provider’s help, Balch & Bingham re-established communications services to its Gulfport office in a day, even though the facility was badly damaged and many employees were scattered over other offices and temporary locations. The firm loaded the database and routing information into a new server, and then integrated the new and existing information.

The phone system worked as if the Balch & Bingham employees were still sitting in their Gulfport office, when in fact they might be hundreds of miles away, and it was completely transparent to the users.

Norris adds that the firm has taken advantage of another Mitel capability during lesser weather events. Balch & Bingham used Mitel to show the state public utility commission and service provider when the PRI had failed after a storm. The service provider could use the Mitel system to troubleshoot its PRI.


That kind of insight and greater resilience has more than validated Mitel’s value to Balch & Bingham. And when continuity is so crucial to business recovery, the Mitel solution helped Balch & Bingham find its footing so the firm could get back to business.


  • Balch & Bingham had six aging conventional phone systems, which made maintenance, management, and disaster recovery enormously challenging. The systems were inefficient, poorly performing, and lacked resiliency. Balch & Bingham struggled to deploy Cisco AVVID with minimal success.


  • After a lunch meeting with a Mitel solutions partner, Balch & Bingham ultimately decided to deploy Mitel in all of its offices based on important features, including unified messaging, simplified PC-based administration, redundancy, and recovery.


  • Ease of deployment
  • Efficiencies of workgroup functionality
  • Unified messaging
  • Disaster recovery capabilities

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