Law firms' digital future

By James Walker|02 August 2016
James Walker

Many law firms are increasingly using digital tools and cloud-based solutions to improve their efficiency and cut costs. While the advantages of these technologies are obvious to most, some organisations remain curiously rooted in the way the industry’s computing worked five or six years ago – maybe even further, writes James Walker.

A server farm on premises, limited or poor remote access, and simple telephony and communication systems – they’re all hallmarks of what worked best a while ago. Unfortunately, sticking with that technology is not a recipe for unbridled success. In fact, the stark choice is this: adapt or die.

Set your firm (and employees) up for success

A digital transformation can make your law firm more competitive in two ways: by saving money and creating new business opportunities.

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By improving your firm’s internal processes and saving your employees time, you will not only make a considerable saving, you will also have more capacity to focus on creating new services, upselling to your existing customers, and finding innovative ways to reach out to new prospects.

If your firm doesn’t stay current with transformative technologies, your opportunities for revenue generation will diminish over time, regardless of the intellectual property among your partners. You’ll be outpaced by more nimble competitors that have adapted their workflow and/or service offering using technology that makes them more appealing to deal with and work for.

So what’s the best way to get started on a transformation with a minimum investment but maximum outcomes?

Easy. Introduce new enterprise collaboration tools and build an asset protection and data security strategy.

Collaboration tools drive productivity

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In today’s mobile era, with people always on the go and clients expecting a fast, reliable service at all times and under all conditions, using tools that foster greater collaboration between staff members and clients is compulsory.

Your staff want to collaborate. Setting up a conference call, video call or chat should and must be a simple process. Finding out if someone is in the office or working from home shouldn’t require a staff member to walk the length of the building. Exchanging large documents with remote users should be a cinch.

If you don’t provide staff ‘official’ ways to collaborate, they’ll find their own, which can be time-consuming, cumbersome and disjointed. When non-IT staff make decisions on which tools to use, this is known as ‘shadow IT’, and it opens your firm up to all kinds of information security weaknesses.

If they are not able to use enterprise tools, your employees might, for example, use unsafe public cloud applications to store data, take home important documents on USB, or communicate on their phones through insecure instant messaging.

Seeing as they’ll do it themselves anyway, you might as well provide professional solutions that are secure and offer a seamless experience to both staff and clients.

Asset protection through data security 

In addition to collaboration tools, data security is one of the top priorities that law firms, especially small and medium organisations, should consider when looking at their IT investments.

Contrary to what one might think, cyber threats are not the sole preserve of big organisations. Smaller firms can be victims of data breaches, whether caused by an external hack, a flaw in your own IT system or a careless employee.

Unfortunately, most SMEs don’t feel concerned by security issues. They often think that they won’t be hacked, that their IT team has enough expertise to remedy any flaw and that an employee’s careless mistake will not have a large negative impact.

The truth is that ransomware has changed the IT space forever – you can suffer a data breach no matter what size company you are. In addition, IT teams usually have too much on their plate to be able to prevent data loss, and typically don’t have enough expertise regarding the increasingly complex cyber security landscape.

Finally, even a small mistake from an employee can create huge losses for a company.

If you’re not convinced about the importance of upgrading your data security toolkit, ask yourself how much it would cost your firm in reputation and lost business if you lost just 20 per cent of all your client information, if your email system wasn’t accessible for just 48 hours, or if all the professional information stored on an employee’s phone or laptop was stolen.

It’s a long journey; time to implement the basics now

The inclusion of advanced technologies in every aspect of the enterprise world is an unstoppable tide, and that is a very good thing because it brings new opportunities and challenges accepted practices. On the other hand, firms that don’t keep up will find themselves outpaced in the competition for talent and clients by more adaptive competitors.

If your firm is not making the most of collaboration tools and data security, you’re exposed, whether you like it or not. It’s time to take a few quick strides to catch up and enjoy the benefits of a more digitised economy.

James Walker is the founder and managing director of Brisbane-based IT services provider, Computer One.

Law firms' digital future
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