In what it believes to be a first for the legal profession at least in Canada, law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP has enlisted a commercial wireless hotspot operator to provide WiFi Internet access for its clients in the

reception areas, meeting rooms and guest offices of its Toronto facilities.

The firm calls the service FMC hotspOt. Spotnik Mobile Inc., which operates public hotspots in coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and golf clubs in Toronto and southern Ontario, is operating the service on the law firm’s behalf. There will be no charge to clients to use FMC hotspOt, said Chris Pinnington, managing partner at the Toronto office of Fraser Milner.

“”The benefit to our firm is enhanced client service,”” Pinnington said. “”We see it as fundamental to every successful client relationship that we have that client service is paramount.””

Some clients spend extended periods in Fraser Milner Casgrain’s office, Pinnington explained – for instance, international clients negotiating business deals in Canada might spend days or weeks in Toronto and work out of the firm’s office while there. “”There are frequently circumstances in which we become in effect a home away from home for those clients.””

The firm could provide visiting clients with network access before, by allowing them to use its own PCs or connect their notebook computers to its network. But the new hotspot service makes access more convenient, Pinnington said.

A client must still obtain an access code and password to use the service, Pinnington said, and the hotspot is separated from Fraser Milner Casgrain’s internal network, so hotspot users do not have access to the law firm’s computers.

Murray McCaig, president of Spotnik Mobile, said his company has piggybacked the service on Fraser Milner Casgrain’s wireless LAN infrastructure by using a separate service set identifier (SSID) that connects hotspot users to the same Spotnik systems that provide access in public locations.

IBM Canada Ltd. provided Fraser Milner Casgrain with initial consulting and help with integration and deployment. Steve Henderson, general manager for the legal industry at IBM Canada’s Toronto office, said the use of a separate hotspot service was “”really a way to mitigate the security and privacy exposure.””

McCaig said Fraser Milner is the first client for a new Spotnik service called GuestSpot, which will provide wireless Internet access in clients’ facilities as a convenience for their customers. Spotnik is talking with several other potential customers for the service, including other law firms, he said.

“”My sense is we’re seeing a lot of interest in the area,”” Henderson said.

At Toronto law firm McMillan Binch LLP, an early wireless LAN adopter, partner Bruce McWilliam said clients can obtain wired connections to the firm’s network for access to the Internet and their own corporate networks. Once it completes a move from Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza to the neighbouring BCE Place this month, he said, McMillan Binch plans to offer clients wireless access via its own network, rather than through a hotspot operated by a third party as Fraser Milner is doing.

So far, Fraser Milner offers the hotspot service only in its Toronto office, but the firm plans to roll it out to its five other Canadian offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. The timetable for that has not been announced, Pinnington said.


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