The business of owning and running a law firm constantly evolves, but has seen vast change, particularly over the last few years.
The legal market is much more competitive as there are simply more law firms providing legal services than ever before. This means that a law firm needs to be more efficient and effective in delivering legal services in order to compete in the market. The trend in administrative and support staff to attorney ratio has been declining over the past several years, translating to more work for the administrative staff who have to deliver the same results with fewer people.
How attorneys operate also continues to evolve. Attorneys need access to their important files and applications at all times to meet the demands and expectations of clients. They do not just want mobility; they require it. They need the ability to work remotely, whether that be from home, from clients’ offices, or from the courtroom. Attorneys always need to maintain access to all the same applications and data as when working inside the office. Allowing attorneys to work with this flexibility means your firm can more easily meet the ever-growing demands of clients.
In addition to how attorney needs have changed, so have the expectations of clients. Clients expect to be able to communicate and collaborate, simply and securely, with their attorney and all other relevant people at the firm.
To address these changes in expectations, a law firm needs to change how it leverages IT. In the traditional IT model, ownership is key: a firm buys servers, desktops, and applications, places them in the office, and everyone utilizes them to perform the business of law. While this IT infrastructure has become more critical, it has also grown in complexity.
In addition to investing financially in your IT to operate, you also need to invest additional dollars to:
- Secure your IT: Cyber crime is rampant compared to just five years ago, particularly in small to midsize firms. Cyber criminals know firms are dependent on IT much more now than ever before. Crippling your firm with ransomware takes little effort yet brings these criminals great rewards. It is therefore a very attractive, albeit illegal, enterprise.
- Backup your IT: Simply keeping a backup copy of your data locally in your office is not sufficient. You need to invest in a cloud service that backs up your data to a location outside your office. It is important to ensure the service is trusted and tested. Generally, the more expensive backup options are the best, especially when backing up databases and application data. Most firms invest bottom dollar in a cloud backup. But remember, more important than a great backup program is a great restore program! When you pull that lever your data better be returned in the format required to run your firm. This is not something that can be acquired with minimal investment.
- Protect the ongoing operation of your IT: what happens when your IT stops working? Ten years ago, it would be a huge inconvenience but unlikely that your firm would stop operating. Today, no IT essentially means that your firm cannot operate. Attorneys and staff expect to be able to leverage all of the tools your business provides. More importantly, your clients hold those expectations, as well. Adding a platform that insures your business can continue to leverage these tools if an event occurs that knocks out accessibility to your IT systems is a necessity.
Managing IT in a law firm has become a lot more complex and a lot more expensive. Firms may not want to make this investment and may not feel like they need to; however, the market is screaming a different message.
So how do you start leveraging IT differently? The first change is a mindset change. Owning your IT, servers, desktops, storage, and applications does not always translate to faster, better, and more secure IT for your business. In business, we outsource lots of functions: we rent offices, use the services of bank, and hire a company to clean our offices, just to name a few. Why should IT be any different?
Leveraging cloud is the next step. It will enable your firm to provide all the IT services your attorneys and team require, and it frees ownership management from the need to have continuing and repetitive conversations about IT that do not ultimately change or improve how your firm and people operates. When was the last time replacing 20 desktops and a server in your office, really improved how your firm operates?
The complex conversations of security, backup, and business continuity are removed, as is the need to invest additional IT dollars in what really are “IT insurances.” These investments do not change how your business can operate, nor do they move the needle when it comes to making your law firm a better law firm in the current market. Rather, these insurances are necessary when a firm owns its IT.
Lastly, your attorneys and team will be free to operate simply and securely from any location and from any device. There is no need to purchase, design, and build additional infrastructure to enable simple and secure remote access, dictate devices that your people use, or spend valuable IT time managing these devices.