Law firms often come to us looking for advice about which technology trends will drive their firm in the coming year. However, compromising security to embrace the latest technology innovation is not an option for a firm whose primary asset is sensitive information. Bleeding edge technology tools are new and are undergoing security improvements and additional refinement, making it difficult for your firm to justify the risk of early adoption. The first steps to choosing a technology solution that can support your firm and its goals are (1) gaining a comprehensive understanding of the latest technology solutions, and (2) knowing what needs to be done to integrate such solutions into your IT environment. For your law firm, every second counts. The less time your organization can spend managing menial tasks and dealing with technology setbacks, the more time you can allocate to keeping your clients happy. Our experts have identified four law firm technology trends worth following in 2017.
Law firm technology trend 1: Security and compliance focus
Cringing thoughts of network invasions, data disasters, and costly legal penalties are common among companies that store and share business-critical information daily. Your business depends upon the trust of your clients and if this bond is broken, your organization may lose both industry credibility and profit. Technology is continuously evolving and so are the threats designed to obstruct it. Having the necessary information to ensure your firm has the right technology and security protocols in place will help protect both your clients’ assets and the reputation of your organization. According to ILTA’s 2016 Technology Survey, security compliance and risk management were the primary technology concerns for law firms and 39 percent of participants said it was their main IT issue. Many law firms approach technology as an afterthought, which can seriously impair the business in the long term. For example, a firm with a mixture of hardware and software technologies that are difficult to integrate or upgrade may leave security holes within the firm’s network and potentially expose valuable client information to not-so-friendly sources. Such an assembly of technology solutions can also result in the need to correct issues caused by this ad-hoc approach to managing technology in the first place. These IT projects can lead to unexpected costs and company downtime that impact your bottom line. Your firm’s IT team or IT outsourcing provider should work to develop an IT environment that protects your business without sacrificing innovation and productivity.
Law firm technology trend 2: Time-saving technology solutions are being developed
Today’s lawyers are increasingly mobile, so securely accessing important client information while on the go is integral to their ability to keep pace with competitors. The demand for comprehensive, easy-to-use solutions is high and will guide the development of technology targeted specifically to law firms. The ILTA survey found 34 percent of law firms considered the struggle of balancing security and usability to be their biggest IT security challenge. While many software solutions present attractive advantages for a firm, every decision must be focused upon protecting the information stored, accessed, and shared within their organization. Smaller firms may be unable to afford the infrastructure needed to support an application tool they want to use. This can put smaller firms at a disadvantage and limit their ability to grow. Experts predict large software companies such as iManage, Case Logistics, and Netdocs will be pressured to provide the same level of service without requiring the extensive amounts of hardware currently necessary to deploy their technology solutions. Secure, cloud-hosted offerings that enable firms to track time, manage documents and email, and share information securely will likely be developed and tested in 2017. Many firms are looking for an all-in-one solution that isn’t too expensive for their business. The ability for application providers to offer such services at an affordable price will likely enhance the security of information stored by smaller firms with less manpower and resources to protect their data.
Law firm technology trend 3: Law firms continue to debate a move to the cloud
Cloud technology is still a point of contention among firms looking for a comprehensive solution to their unique needs. Some law firms are averse to the cloud because of the potential for network threats and data risks. Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are hosted in the cloud and many of these solutions offer time-saving, flexible tools that can help a firm’s employees use less manpower recording time or emailing documents back and forth. The first question a law firm should address when debating the switch is the cost of deploying the cloud solution. The cloud isn’t the right solution for every firm and it’s important to know if the long-term benefit of the investment justifies the time and expense. If your firm finds cloud computing to be potentially beneficial, your next consideration should be the compliance protocols around your data. Some companies restrict the storage of their business-critical information in the cloud, and you need to know what restrictions you’re working within before you make an expensive mistake.
Law firm technology trend 4: IT consulting becomes integral for law firms
To ensure your firm is using the tools and operations necessary to simultaneously maintain productivity and security, your IT team or IT outsourcing provider needs to understand what shapes your business.
- Is your firm bound by unique compliance requirements?
- Do you have employees located outside of the U.S.?
- Does your staff need the ability to work remotely?
- Is investing in the infrastructure to host a SaaS solution a cost your firm is willing to expense?
- How will a move to the cloud affect your firm’s operations?
- Do you have the resources to regularly train employees on how to securely use these tools?
- What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the IT solution?
- Are your clients okay with their information being stored in the cloud?
These are only a few of the questions your firm needs to ask when conducting an IT assessment and considering some of the popular technology solutions available today. Generally, the first consideration for a firm is the cost of a solution. When deciding upon an application, it’s integral the firm review the TCO of the technology. For example, an application provider may present the solution as cheap and easy-to-deploy. However, once your firm attempts to implement the technology, you find your IT environment lacks the necessary hardware and infrastructure to support it. At this point, you’re likely required to make an unexpected hardware purchase and invest time and money into an IT project you weren’t ready to execute. This can result in downtime, client frustration, and opportunity loss for your firm. To prevent making the wrong investment, your firm should look to your IT team or managed services provider to make a realistic analysis of the cost and benefit of purchasing the application. A managed IT services provider with CIO-level consulting likely has the resources and forward-thinking approach capable of assessing what technology can best fit your business needs and long-term goals. We’ve served a variety of law firms and we know every firm is different. Your clients, operations, and culture determine what technology will be best for you, and Aldridge can help translate those elements into a fitting IT solution for your business. Check out our IT consulting services to learn more about how we can help your firm understand your needs and navigate upcoming technology changes.