Do you know what a law firm's IT needs really are? Does the size of your law firm impact your IT needs?
For one thing, law firms and courts are a prime target for criminals. The American Bar Association reports that 22 percent of law firms have had a data security breach. It’s important to not only protect your firm’s security from external threats and internal blunders, but also stay up to date on the latest IT trends and make sure your equipment is up-to-date and can file what it needs to without slowdowns.
From ensuring your systems are functioning up to par so that your staff can get the job done—and make clients as happy as possible—to safeguarding sensitive data, we’re here to address many of the common areas you may be wondering about when it comes to IT support for law firms.
Size of your law firm and IT needs
Choosing the right IT support for law firms can depend on several factors, such as the unique IT support needs and budget considerations that may come with the size of the firm. Larger firms have more employees with various access levels and locations, but firms can also be as small as one person. We provide managed services to solo practitioners, multi-office law firms and everything in between.
Large law firms
Large law firms are generally known as full-service firms and can range in size from several dozen lawyers and employees to several thousand.
Because large law firms often exist in multiple cities, states and countries, these firms need secure ways to collaborate and communicate without geographic restrictions. Teams need to have solid file sharing software, reliable remote access, capable cloud storage and robust backup systems, as there is a high volume of data.
Proprietary systems are often employed, along with secure VPNs and other enterprise-level network systems.
There is a lot at stake for a large law firm with many clients counting on you to protect their data. For best results and to avoid costly mishaps, make sure your technology is high-functioning and that your files are locked down and stored well.
Small law firms and solo practitioners
Small law firms are known as “boutique” firms and tend to have a dozen or fewer lawyers. Although more localized than large firms, boutique law firms still require good communication tools so attorneys can collaborate on complicated legal matters.
Solo practitioners are solo law firms with only one attorney that may have an administrative or legal assistant. Just like large firms, a solo practitioner requires IT support for law firms to ensure secure storage of client files and e-filing with the court. If it’s a one-man or one-woman show, they can’t be expected to know everything there is to know about IT. They’re focusing on law.
For both categories, when it comes to the data that has to be stored, there is still a significant amount—and it comes with all the same pressures as the larger practices.
Not only do your systems need to be able to hold all important information and keep it organized for fast, efficient retrieval, but smaller groups often underestimate the potential for cyberattacks. They may think that no one would want to target them because they’re not worth predators’ time or energy, but their lack of cybersecurity just makes them all the more vulnerable.
Security is just one component of a well-rounded IT plan, but it’s a hefty one. Many small firms have had to shutter their doors for good after going bankrupt from a particularly nasty breach. Speaking of funds—smaller groups are less likely to have the resources to hire additional full-time staff, so working with an outsourcer can save you money and time in the long run while still getting the tech services needed.
IT best practices for law firms
When it comes to IT, there are so many things to be aware of and keep track of. It can feel like more work than you’ve signed up for, especially when you have so many other responsibilities to tend to. You want to be able to do your job and get back to client needs and success, so we’ve cultivated a short list of the basics you’ll want to see to. Better yet, find an outsourced partner who specializes in IT support for law firms so you can operate worry free. Just make sure they implement the following tips.
1. Use cloud services
As more people learn how beneficial the cloud is, software companies are coming out with cloud-based services that can be integrated with programs you already use. The cloud can help workflow feel more seamless and productive, and should definitely be considered if you’re looking to implement a new system to support your firm’s needs.
A cloud ecosystem makes it easy to sync, share and update documents from anywhere in the world. It can even be used for safe and organized accounting, billing and payroll. Cloud implementation and applications are ideal for scalability, redundancy and resiliency so that everything isn't on a single server.
If you do choose to take advantage of the cloud for mobility, convenience and beyond, make sure you have someone who can set it up correctly so that all data are protected. IT support for law firms should be adept at helping you with major system setups if you don’t already have someone on your team who is certain that they fully know what they’re doing. It’s crucial that any new tech is configured the right way from the start.
2. Using role-based access control (RBAC)
Every device, drive and employee within the organization should have a unique ID associated. These IDs are used to group access levels and ensure people only have access to the data and devices they are supposed to. This mitigates internal threats, whether malicious or intentional.
When auditing file access, ensure you’re logging traffic into the network, file access, deletes and any history of changes so you can know who is accessing what, when they are accessing it and what they are doing.
Law firms have a treasure trove of private and personal legal documents. These documents need to be stored digitally—and sometimes physically—with a backup.
A sudden loss of critical data has the potential to cause a client to lose a case, which could, in turn, establish a bad reputation for your firm. Always keep your clients’ trust for you in mind. Ensuring data are kept where they should be is one of your biggest responsibilities.
The cloud is not a reliable backup solution for your firm, so make sure you have your documents and data backed up on an external system. By all means, utilize the cloud for all sorts of things as discussed, but when it comes to backups, get professional IT support for law firms on your side—they’ll know precisely what to do to make sure you have proper technology and are as secure as you can be. Corrupted files are no joke, so see to it that your cybersafety won’t be compromised by foul play or erroneous behaviors.
4. Intrusion detection
Law firms of any size should be aware of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which protects electronic communication from unlawful monitoring. Attorney-client privilege should be protected at all costs—this includes end-to-end encryption of all email, chat and voice channels. When properly implemented, IT best practices should keep your firm protected.
Any security practice implemented is a best effort. That being said, it’s important to remember that breaches happen. If and when they do, you still need to be able to find out if someone got access to your systems. Think about it this way: when you leave your house, you lock your door. Ideally, that security measure will work and you won’t need to worry about anyone breaking in. But, if someone does manage to get in, you want to have an alarm system to let you know. The same concept applies to intrusion detection.
For a comprehensive strategy, you really need both protection and detection, not just one or the other.
Information security (infosec) can begin with a risk assessment to determine what possible threats and vulnerabilities your firm has. This is a great place to start your improved security measures. Security breaches can include hacking, a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a physical office break-in and more.
Top 3 IT threats to law firms
According to CPO Magazine, cybersecurity will cost an estimated $6 trillion in damages by 2021. Half of these attacks are targeted at small businesses, leading to a $300 billion cybersecurity market. IT support for law firms focuses on three leading threats.
1. Bring your own device (BYOD)
A survey from Cisco reported 69 percent of IT decision-makers favor BYOD because it saves workers time. This can cause problems when personal devices are holding private client information. A mobile device management (MDM) application keeps an eye on this issue so you don’t need to worry about unintentional security breaches from personal devices.
Symantec’s latest cybersecurity threat report points out how artificial intelligence and the internet of things (iot) are fueling the next wave of cyberattacks. Phishing emails, web links and social engineering can lead to sensitive data being leaked, which in turn leads to malpractice suits. It’s vital to keep anti-malware, firewalls and anti-virus software updated.
3. Lack of security awareness
The biggest vulnerability in any company’s IT plan is the employees. Your staff need to be trained to use technology properly and tech needs to be regularly updated. Using outdated legacy computer systems, unsecured public Wi-Fi or even writing down passwords can have detrimental long-term effects on your law firm. IT support for law firms can help teach proper use of a network and best practices so that staff is prepared to use it responsibly.
A proactive approach to law firm IT cybersecurity and data protection: backups, passwords and user training
IT support for law firms is important, and we provide managed services for law firms to make data security a priority every day. The first step to protecting yourself is to always protect your computer. Anyone with physical access to your computer can wreak havoc on your business network, whether purposefully or by accident—it’s essentially the equivalent of letting a stranger inside your home.
Backups and data redundancy are also key to successful legal IT support. If client data are lost, a case can be lost too, and that’s only the start of the problems ransomware and other threats can cause. And of course, it’s not just about security from cyberattackers—outdated systems or systems that don’t have enough storage can crash, sometimes without warning.
Don’t be left relaying bad news to your clients. Have an IT team that knows what to do in times of crisis, or how to prevent havoc in the first place by doing an assessment and recommending the technology that can handle the needed task.
Proactive IP and password protection keep the keys to your firm’s internal networks safe. LastPass is a great start for secure password management. You should also enable two-factor authorization (2FA), which requires an additional authorization beyond a password. For the ultimate in password protection, physical devices like Yubico’s Yubikey require you to physically touch the device to generate a code. This ensures hackers can’t remotely access user accounts, even if a password is leaked. A solid VPN is an added measure that can help to obscure your IP address while online.
Employees should be properly trained on all things security—a hot-button issue during the 2016 election that looks to be a recurring theme for 2020. One threat that commonly looms over a staff member is email security. All employees need to understand the importance of accessing client emails solely on secure devices connected through a safe VPN.
Otherwise, employees risk compromising data security for the entire firm. They could fall prey to online threats that spread quickly across the entire network to other devices, such as social engineering and phishing attacks. A great IT partner will teach your team how to identify threats like these, as well as threats that come from systems outside of email.
Attorney-client privilege is a trusted channel that requires diligent, real-time security to protect. Managed services for law firms ensure systems are always updated and secure while providing 24/7 monitoring and access to legal IT support. Luckily, finding the right IT support for law firms doesn’t need to be a complicated matter.