You’ve spent years building up a reputable firm known for looking after your clients best interests. In the early days it was easy to control things because case files were physical so you could store and access them when you needed. Urgent legal documents may not have always been at hand, but they were stored behind lock and key. They were safe, or at least that’s what you thought.
Over time the volume of physical documents has grown and managing hard copies is simply not practical for any number of reasons. However the idea of changing to a better system may seem daunting.
As a lawyer you need access to client information 24/7. Add to this the fact that we are in an age of hyper-connectivity; people, services and data are on the move. And if firms don’t offer the technologies to facilitate worker mobility, employees will store files in emails or use consumer products like DropBox to give them the access they want. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if this better or worse? “Does the way we work now, help us meet the confidentiality expectations of our clients and the requirements of the SRA Principles?”
Consumer grade products are good for certain things but if they are outside of your control confidential information could be stored in non-company owned accounts, in local storage or emails on personal mobile devices (laptops, tablets, phones). These devices are prone to being lost, stolen and hacked.
For example, did you know that:
- More than 3 million handsets were stolen in 2013 (Consumer Reports)
- 314 mobile phones are stolen in London every day (2013) (BBC)
- A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds (Gartner)
- The vast majority of mobile thefts occur in bars, pubs or clubs (30%) or on public transport (38%), but also at work (19%), in the street (6%) and elsewhere (8%). (Met Police)
Lost devices lead to potentially exposing confidential information or intellectual property. Let’s not even talk about the risks presented by disgruntled employees, or those looking to leave the firm. These things put you and your firm at risk of not fulfilling the obligations to your clients under the SRA Principles, specifically Principle # 10, opening you up to legal action or, at the very least, damage to your reputation and relationship with your clients.
You know it’s important to use technology but you don’t want to use new services just for the sake of it. This could mean significant disruption to your established processes with no guaranteed benefit. You need ones which compliment your existing processes but will improve your workflows, productivity and client interactions all while making things more secure for you and your clients.
So here are a few tips to look for in new cloud based solutions and providers:
1. Look for services which will compliment your existing processes.
In many cases adopting new technologies does not have to mean reinventing the wheel. Look for ones that will improve what you already do. For example if you regularly send out proposals, letters of engagement or contracts via email for signature, there are tools available that allow you to send links to documents (rather than the actual documents) which can then be e-signed and stored online. This saves on email capacity as well as traditional office based filing capacity and ensures the documents are only seen by the appropriate people through simple permission control. Alternatively, there are ways to securely deliver emails to mobile devices (employee or company owned) without allowing the data to never reside on the physical device. This allows you to control access to company information and revoke access if the device is lost or the employee leaves. But it still allows employees to use the device they choose.
2.Look for services which make it easier to meet compliance requirements.
There are numerous consumer products available, many which are free or cheap that can be used to do things such as send emails or save files in the cloud. But these offerings are generic and will not stand up to the requirements of your industry. There are better solutions available and the right technology partner will have knowledge of them and experience delivering them. Cloud offerings for legal firms can be designed to include secure email archive capabilities for storing files up to 30 years or indefinitely as a default. Traditionally collaboration on legal documents meant that multiple versions of documents were sent to various parties for input. This opens up the risk of confidential information being spread across numerous internal and external participants and makes it difficult for everyone to see the latest updates and who made them. By having one master copy everyone is able to see the most current version, what changes have been made, when and by whom. On the other hand, if you already have good workflows set up, why not simply move all of your existing IT including servers, data, applications and integrations to a cloud provider with experience in your industry and who is familiar with your compliance requirements.
3. Look for a technology partner who is local and offers multiple services, not multiple providers for multiple services.
As a legal services firm, your business is to be in front of clients earning money. The less time you spend on IT, the more time you can spend on revenue generation. When looking at potential services and suppliers for your firm it is important to work with an established firm who can do everything from mobile device and desktop support through to strategic planning to align technology to your business. The right technology partner wants to spend face time with you, understanding your business and goals in order to align the right technology to reach them. In many cases firms work a particular way based on old models and technology. By working with someone who specialises in technology for your industry you get a fresh perspective on solutions that can make your business run more efficiently and in some cases add money to your bottom line.