If this blog were being written two years ago, before the advent of the coronavirus, it would be a very different article. We would likely be focusing on the myriad IT challenges that lawyers encounter in the workplace (which, quite frankly, are not much different from what all non-techie employees face). These challenges would include, first and foremost, learning how to manage not just megabytes but terabytes and exabytes of data churned out by the relentless legal machinery of our day. Running a close second would be mastering our firms’ technology—hardware, software, and security protocols—which is supposed to be user-friendly, but rarely truly is.
But that would have been two years ago. Covid-19 changed everything for all of us.
IT Challenges in the Age of Covid
Taking stock of the ongoing ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is evident that the tentacles of the virus reached far beyond the realm of health and hospitalizations. It has altered the very logistics of living, conducting business, and following our chosen profession. As things gradually return to normal, many changes instituted during the pandemic—working remotely, for example—will endure and forever alter how we function.
Where feasible, many organizations are in the process of embracing a hybrid model, where some employees work in the office, while others work remotely. Or some do a little of both. According to a PwC blog (2021) reporting on the findings of a webinar with 800 international companies, “the overriding priority for most was increasing support for hybrid working.” A 2020 Clio Legal Trends Report noted that 58% of consumers considered technology to be more important than it was prior to the pandemic. The paradigm shift clearly indicates that working remotely will continue to flourish in our post-pandemic world.
Attorneys and legal staff looking to “gladiator up” in this new, fierce arena face several challenges. Kathleen Hogan, the Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Microsoft, offers pertinent guidance with regard to office space, salary and benefits, local law, personal taxes, expenses, and more in her blog article, “Embracing a Flexible Workplace.”
For lawyers, the work environment may be somewhat different, but the endpoint product remains the same: providing excellent legal services. The one big spanner in the works, as alluded to in the beginning of this article, is helping attorneys and staff get over the hump of mastering the IT aspects of their profession. The secure gathering, processing, and exchange of sensitive data will determine their survival and success in this “upgraded” playing field rife with new rules of engagement, client expectations, and evolving regulations.
Specific IT Challenges for the Legal Profession
Some of the most significant challenges for lawyers in the realm of legal IT include:
As with all businesses, the pandemic took the legal profession quite by surprise. While everyone depends on tech tools for work—from the Chinese restaurant a block over using Squarespace for billing to complex software for trajectory calculations at NASA—legal firms that handle private, confidential data may be unprepared to trust technology to the extent that has become imperative for daily operations, thus opening the door to serious data breaches.
The old guard:
Veteran lawyers who have been masters of the game may resist the necessity to adopt safe legal IT habits. Would your grandfather trust a self-driving car? Trust aside, the technology can be intimidating at first blush. After all, two-factor authentication can trip up and slow down even the most tech-savvy personnel!
A learning curve when incorporating a VPN service and adopting appropriate conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom for management meetings and interfacing with clients is unavoidable. Software for dictation and recording of pleadings and depositions may also prove to be a challenge as part of the legal IT toolbox.
Horror stories of data breaches like the Equifax and Cambridge Analytica debacles eroded faith in the protection of vital consumer and company data, even when expensive and extensive firewalls were erected. According to a Reuters report (May 2019), “Risks associated with data, data privacy, and the changing global regulatory landscape for such issues are some of the most complex challenges facing financial-services legal and compliance departments today.”
Usage of cloud storage, digital centralization of data, complex data processing tools, and other IT elements in play, especially for legal clients situated in Europe, must adhere to compliance directives as per the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Violations can incur hefty fines and irreversibly damage a firm’s hard-earned reputation.
Here are some of the most salient components of a law firm’s IT resources that often need to be installed, configured, and reviewed for security and compliance:
- Online data storage
- Client portals
- Video conferencing
- eDiscovery tools
- Legal research tools
- Automated document creation
- E-signature software
- Time tabulation and billing processes
- Mobile apps
- Transcription AI
Contracting for the services of an IT solutions company like FullScope IT facilitates incorporating legal IT best practices for lawyers with confidence and ease. We provide all levels of consulting for Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, VoIP, Cloud Services, and Security Services. The FullScope IT team is adept at assisting lawyers in tackling the challenges of incorporating IT services in the legal profession based on individual needs to streamline their firm’s resources for secure and sustainable operations, now and into the future.