3 Resolutions All Law Firms Should Make in 2019

Another New Year is upon us! ‘Tis the season for law firms to take stock of the past year’s successes and shortcomings and make goals for the upcoming year.

It used to be that preparing a law firm for a new year mainly meant staying the course and constructing growth goals. While growth is something that most law firms want to happen in 2019, there’s now more that goes into making a robust and agile law firm.

Get up-to-date on technology

If your law firm is still going about the business of law the old-fashioned way, it is going to be left behind. Technology has helped to even the playing field for law firms. Now, with technology’s help, smaller firms can take on more complex clients. And, larger firms can provide more efficient, more accurate service.

Automation and management

With a wide array of legal applications, law firms can streamline management and administration. For example, practice management software, such as Amicus Attorney® or Time Matters®, allows administrators to track and manage schedules and records. Document management software, such as Worldox®, takes organization and productivity a step further.

Time and billing software simplifies the invoicing process, increases accuracy, and frees up valuable attorney time. And, legal document generation automation software, such as Hot Docs® and ProDoc®, prevents attorneys from re-inventing the wheel every time they create a transactional document.

Using this kind of technology releases legal minds from the tyranny of busy work. It also allows management to manage instead of worrying about the little things.

Flexibility and reliability

By now, most law firm management has heard about using the advantages of using a cloud environment. One benefit is that attorneys and employees can access their workspaces from their Smartphones, tablets, laptops – practically any device that can connect to the internet. And, downtime is a thing of the past: Cloud environments like Legal Workspace use top notch technology and talent to provide clients with reliable, seamless service.

And, all of the above mentioned legal applications are compatible with Legal Workspace – which means that you can either do a complete technological overhaul when you make the switch to the cloud, or, you can work with Legal Workspace to integrate your current software with its environment.

Secure your data

Hackers have New Year’s resolutions, too: to work continuously and find new ways to penetrate defenses and steal data. Clients are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers and have higher expectations for data protection. And, of course, large clients and clients in certain industries (such as those associated with medical records) have high security standards (such as HIPAA) that need to be met.

Legal Workspace was created solely for law firms, so security is paramount. The Legal Workspace cloud environment utilizes military-grade security, which means that your clients’ data is much safer than it would be if you were to attempt to build your own secure environment. Not only that, but if a client does have a particular security request, Legal Workspace can adapt its environment to meet its needs.

Prep for disaster

No one likes to think that a natural disaster might occur that could wipe out their law firm’s records. Fire, flood, and tornadoes are just a few examples of challenges that could interrupt business and cause irreparable damage to a law firm.

When you have your data and workspace housed in a cloud environment (and that data is stored redundantly in multiple geographic locations and regularly backed up), that’s it: You’re prepared for disaster. Your data will still be accessible in the cloud no matter what might happen on the ground.

These three ways to prepare your law firm for 2019 can be accomplished easily by making one decision: to move to a cloud environment. Make this year the year that technology and data stop causing challenges in your law firm.

Who Wants Budget Stability? A New Year, Better Predictability

The year’s end is a time for reflection and projection. You look back at what happened over the past year, and you think about what the future holds. Some of this process is subjective, and some of it is speculation – but some of it is hard numbers.

Take your law firm’s budget, for example.

How was your IT spending in 2017? Did you stay within the parameters, or did you experience any major technological fall-out that caused you to dip into another line item?

What about next year? How’s your server holding up? Will this be the year be the one that results in multiple repair bills or the cost of a replacement server (and the associated migration costs)?

Good news: There is a way that you can stabilize your law firm’s IT budget for 2018. Migrate to a cloud environment, such as Legal Workspace, and you will experience predictable monthly costs instead of highly variable IT repair and maintenance bills.

Consistent bills, consistent budget

Because a cloud environment like Legal Workspace is constantly upgrading its software, servers, and security, those costs to your law firm – and that worry – can just disappear.

The responsibility is on Legal Workspace’s shoulders, not yours. No longer will you have to pay for upgrades. You won’t have to stretch a dying server’s viability until its last gasp. Instead, your data will be stored on up-to-date, state-of-the-art equipment.

You’ll simply pay for a predictable, unchanging monthly bill. Now that’s easy to budget.

Quicker client payments

Not only will you be able to stabilize your law firm’s IT budget, but you can utilize Legal Workspace’s tools to get paid faster, too.

Administrators can spend hours reviewing invoices. They might allocate a significant portion of their day to sharing invoicing information with attorneys – and attorneys might be wasting their time on clunky timekeeping and pre-billing. The Legal Workspace team can work with law firms to determine the best technology and processes for streamlining billing.

Working with Legal Workspace on this issue results in faster payment. As Diane Kuhre, firm finance manager for Davis Schilken, PC, puts it, “Since I can complete monthly billing in half the time, invoices get out the door in two days. The firm gets paid much more quickly now.”

 

All-in-one solution

Other headaches can fall by the wayside, too, when you start to use a cloud environment. Constantly adjusting to hackers’ increasingly adept and creative ways to penetrate law firms’ shields is a major annoyance – and it takes significant expertise (not to mention serious dollars) to protect your firm’s data adequately.

That’s one of the many reasons so many law firms now take advantage of a cloud environment for data storage. Law firms no longer need to worry about security updates or maintaining back-ups; it is all taken care of for you.l

Adopting the use of a cloud environment like Legal Workspace results in many benefits – not least a healthier bottom line. Just one simple decision can stabilize your IT budget, take away headaches about security and back-ups, and get your law firm paid more quickly.

Is Your Firm Prepared for the Unexpected?  

The world is unpredictable. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, affect wide swaths of the United States. Hackers have become increasingly adept at penetrating security shields, resulting in devastating data breaches for large companies.

Under these circumstances, how can a law firm protect its data and maintain privilege?

Data storage and accessibility

 A natural disaster may occur, but when you work with an organization like Legal Workspace, your data will be able to weather the storm. Legal Workspace stores your data in geographically diverse data centers – making it highly unlikely that a single natural disaster will affect your data integrity.

Beyond that, Legal Workspace backs up its data regularly, storing two weeks’ worth of backups. That means that if some unthinkable catastrophe were to occur, your law firm could still be up and running, and your data would be intact.

Natural disasters can wreak havoc on property, and they often force location changes on attorneys and staff, too. Some people might not be able to make it into the physical workspace. Others may be stranded across the country for longer than expected due to overbooked flights and bad weather. That doesn’t mean that your firm has to close its doors until conditions improve. Because Legal Workspace’s cloud environment is accessible from any device and from any location, your staff and attorneys can conduct business as usual.

Security requirements

 Hackers are a real and formidable threat. But, Legal Workspace provides the kind of security that most small to mid-size law firms could only dream of building themselves. For more than 20 years, Legal Workspace has been safeguarding its clients’ data from current and emerging threats.

It keeps records in accordance with state bar requirements to ensure that there is no breach of attorney-client privilege. Legal Workspace has special knowledge in this arena because it was designed specifically for law firms.

Some of the advanced security measures that Legal Workspace keeps in place include advanced data encryption, firewalls with sophisticated detection systems, and limited physical access to servers. And, if a problem ever were to occur, staff is available to react instantly. Not only that, but Legal Workspace has redundancy built into every security measure, which means that its clients’ data is constantly being monitored and protected.

Legal Workspace even has a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant version of its cloud environment. In other words, it can comply with the tightest security restrictions required. It has worked with law firms to meet special security mandates from financial institutions and government contractors, as well.

If the unthinkable happens…

Disaster preparedness isn’t only about building emergency kits. It has increasingly come to include data protection – and any day could constitute a disaster if a hacker were to infiltrate your law firm’s files.

Legal Workspace offers the most secure, highest-rated facilities and enterprise-grade safeguards for all data storage, so, in a world where hackers can attack or natural disaster might occur at any time, its clients can have peace of mind.

 

5 Unexpected Benefits of Cloud for Law Firms

There are so many reasons for law firms to use the cloud, ranging from increased convenience to more robust security. Here are five unexpected benefits of cloud services for law firms:

1. Bump up holiday and summer billable hours

It’s summer time, and the living is easy—right? All of your clients are settled on a beach somewhere, and all of your attorneys are kicking back with their feet on their desks. Maybe in a parallel universe!
In this world, hours need to be kept up during the summer and holidays. With Legal Workspace, remote computing for law firms allows just that: Attorneys can access data and the programs and applications they need whenever and wherever they need them.

2. Eliminate network downtime

Network downtime can be a scourge. It sidelines productivity, it causes headaches, and it costs money. When you transition to using a cloud environment, any fears you had about experiencing network outages and failures can disappear. Legal Workspace, for example, has redundancies in place to ensure that its servers are consistently up and available for customers using its cloud environment. No interruptions. No glitches. No downtime.

3. Automate data back-ups

Stuff happens. One attorney might inadvertently leave her laptop on a plane, another might find his smartphone went missing somewhere between the office and the commute home. And it’s not only lost or stolen devices that could cause problems: Security breaches also pose data loss risks to law firms reviewing and storing sensitive, privileged materials.
Most people know that data back-ups are paramount to guard against data loss. Unfortunately, not many law firms perform regular back-ups as they should. When law firms use the cloud, data gets backed up routinely, thus eliminating worries about data loss.

4. Easy onboarding

Onboarding new employees can be a hassle. You may be introducing multiple unfamiliar applications, programs, and procedures to any new attorney or staff member. Working in a cloud environment such as Legal Workspace can ease that pain because the platform is standard across devices; there’s no need to re-invent the wheel every time someone logs in from a different device or location. Legal Workspace also provides an environment that’s intuitive to use, which reduces trial-and-error interactions while reducing law firm overhead expenses.

5. HIPAA compliance

Law firms and attorneys that work with Private Health Information (PHI) have an additional responsibility: complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Some cloud environments, such as Legal Workspace’s HIPAA Compliant Edition, offer enterprise-grade safeguards for data storage, which meet HIPAA compliance obligations. This type of solution removes the need for large law firms’ IT departments to cobble together a system for additional data protection. It also allows smaller law firms access to security that would otherwise be impossible for them to create and maintain.

When a law firm begins using a cloud environment like Legal Workspace, it instantly benefits from increased convenience, consistency, and security. The cloud can be an immediate painkiller for a lot of common law firm headaches.

2 Easy Ways to Tighten Security

Law firms have an obligation to keep client data secure. As hacking becomes an ever-increasing threat to businesses of all sizes—especially those that store and transmit sensitive data—two options, Two-factor Authentication and Email Encryption, can help put up barriers.

Two-factor Authentication (2FA): What is it?

2FA simply verifies a user’s identity a second time to make sure that the person making the request to enter a system is the actual user.

Often, it works in such a way that you enter your log-in credentials as usual, then the system sends a code to your cell phone that you enter to verify your identity a second time before you can access the system.

2FA is quickly becoming more prevalent in the business world. Some companies that currently use it include Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Paypal, and Citibank. Many colleges and universities, including Penn State and the University of Chicago, are also adapting their systems to incorporate 2FA. Because these organizations understand that the data they house is precious to their users, they know that extra security is necessary to protect that data. It’s only a matter of time before 2FA becomes the standard.

What advantages does 2FA offer?

It can be frustrating to come up with a unique password for every single account—and that means that many people duplicate passwords across accounts or use simple and easy-to-remember passwords and passphrases. That may make it more convenient for the user—but it makes hacking more convenient, as well.

Even a strong password might not be enough because hackers sometimes use tools that repeatedly guess passwords. Such a tool was used to hack Apple’s iCloud in 2015 [link to: http://www.businessinsider.com/icloud-hack-idict-patched-by-apple-2015-1]; many high-profile users were affected. One way Apple responded was by improving 2FA.

Whether users employ weak log-in credentials, their information gets stolen, or they repeat passwords across accounts, 2FA adds an extra layer of protection that protects law firms’ data.

How does 2FA work?

Legal Workspace offers 2FA as one of the many security options so its clients can experience greater peace of mind around data security. When a Legal Workspace user logs in, he or she can automatically receive a one-time code on his or her Smartphone app. Then the user enters the code in the Legal Workspace environment and gains access to their workspace. The whole process takes five seconds or less.

Most users find the process painless, but if any issues arise, Legal Workspace offers complimentary technical support for assistance.

Email Encryption: What is it?

Email encryption protects content from being accessed and read by unauthorized parties. When an attorney sends a sensitive document to a client, he or she probably assumes that no one but the client will be able to see it. However, most email can easily be accessed by hackers determined to get the information, and the device where email is retrieved and stored—whether that’s a laptop or a Smartphone—is also at risk.

What advantages does Email Encryption offer?

Attorneys know it’s their duty to perform due diligence to protect client privilege. Sending unencrypted documents puts client data at risk—especially since email is one of the most vulnerable and targeted areas for anyone.

When a user opts to send encrypted email, the sent document is never stored on that user’s email server or computer. That means that the information is safe in the event of a computer or email server hack. It also protects information in case laptops or other devices are stolen or lost.

How does Email Encryption work?

Legal Workspace uses a system that works as follows: An attorney who is sending something to a client types the word “encrypt” in the subject line. Instead of the email server sending the email to the other party directly, it instead sends a link that informs the client that he or she has been sent an encrypted email. The client clicks the link, goes to the website, and can access or download the sensitive document from the website, bypassing the email system completely so the files are never stored on the recipient’s email server.

2FA and Email Encryption considerably help law firms battle ever-increasing threats to security. It’s no longer enough to cross your fingers and hope that hackers won’t attack your firm. If you store and transmit sensitive information, you are at risk. These two offerings mitigate that risk by giving you extra layers of protection.

10 Technology Mistakes Lawyers Make Every Day

An email arrives from an address you don’t recognize with an attachment that is marked “important.” Since it may be something urgent from a current or prospective client, you decide to open it. However, with a quick click, you could inadvertently download a virus that could hijack every file on your firm’s server.

Security is just one of the technology challenges that law firms face every day, and the threats are constantly evolving. Nearly 60% of the respondents to the International Legal Technology Association 2015 Legal Technology Purchasing Survey listed security management as their top IT challenge. That was followed by email management at 48%, information governance at 40% and risk management/compliance 33%. BYOD, cloud-related security risks and change management were all tied at 22%.

Additionally, Bloomberg reported last year that at least 80 of the largest U.S. firms by revenue have been hacked since 2011.

Lawyers need to understand how even simple errors can compromise their firms, their clients and even their livelihoods. By educating attorneys and staff alike, law firms can keep their data—and their reputations—intact and avoid the top-10 mistakes that occur at firms every day.

Clicking On Attachments From Unknown Senders

While attorneys strive to be responsive, being too quick to open every email can lead to serious consequences. This is the most common way law firms find themselves infected with viruses such as Cryptolocker. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, more hackers will use malware to hold organizations’ data hostage in 2016 than in 2015—and there were more than 4 million samples of ransom-ware in the second quarter of 2015 alone.

Prior to opening an email, check the email address to find out if you recognize the sender and if it is his or her correct information. Also check the subject line and body to help identify any red flags such as typos, inconsistent information or requests for access to personal or financial data. Most importantly, be sure you have robust virus protection installed that can scan attachments and warn you before you hit open.

Storing Unencrypted Client Data On A Laptop Or Mobile Device

Laptops, tablets and phones are prime targets for thieves. They contain almost anything a thief needs to harm your practice–client files, financial information, passwords and personal data. Thieves can auction off the information, use it themselves or can simply sell the device–putting your firm at risk from other unauthorized individuals.

The portable nature of laptops and mobile devices means that they are often in areas that are at a high-risk of theft–cars, restaurants, hotel rooms or subways–when compared to office-bound PCs.

In short, laptops and mobile devices are easy targets. You should avoid storing information on these devices. Instead, opt to store information in the cloud, which offers an elevated level of security including two-factor authentication, intrusion detection systems and encryption. That way, if your laptop or mobile device is stolen, they may have the hardware but not the data.

Failing To Invest In High-Quality Internet

When a new DSL provider offers a cheaper rate for internet access, it may be tempting to sign up. Cheaper isn’t always better. That is especially true now that so much data is moving to the cloud. Good quality bandwidth, such as fiber through an internet provider, will always pay off when it comes to staff productivity by eliminating connectivity issues with apps, voice calls and more.

Investing In New Systems Without Considering Security

Clients expect you to provide stellar, seamless service. But they also demand that their data stays secure every step of the way. If your systems do not include top-notch security features, the odds are high that your firm will have to rip it out and start all over again.

This can be a challenge for most lawyers, as security standards and threats are constantly evolving. For example, imagine that you implement an online solution that uses an out-of-the-box firewall. When one of your clients conducts an audit and discovers how basic your security is, they may demand that you install a new software program with enhanced security that includes intrusion detection systems, full-disc encryption and two-factor authentication.

If they do not have a security expert on staff, law firms should consider partnering with a business or consultant that specializes in protecting electronic systems and information. These experts, who are dedicated to staying abreast of technology and its threats, can ensure the highest level of protection for your operations.

Listening To “Bob From Microsoft”

Lawyers are now well aware of cyber threats and are exploring proactive ways to protect themselves. Hackers are now taking advantage of that.

The con starts with this: Someone from a tech support company may call your direct line claiming to have noticed a virus on your computer. When he or she offers to do a screen connect to fix it, you accept their help. But allowing an unverified technologist to remote into your computer is a huge mistake.

No one is ever going to call you out of the blue to fix your computer, no matter how knowledgeable they sound. If you do not recognize the person or the company, you shouldn’t let them anywhere near your computer.

Falling Prey To Proprietary Data Storage

There are hundreds of legal software applications to help you manage your firm. Sometimes trouble arises when law firms outgrow their current software and need to upgrade to an entirely new system. Different software applications format data differently (and oftentimes they have a proprietary format for doing this), which makes extracting or transferring that data out or to another program difficult.

Skimping On Training

At a time when technology plays such a large role in the success of law firms, cutting back on training to save a few dollars can cause extensive harm. Chances are that if a lawyer or a staff member doesn’t understand how programs or apps work, they will either resist using it or won’t be able to take full advantage of all of its features.

It’s like giving someone who has never driven the keys to a race car.

Take the time to fully acquaint all lawyers and staff with new solutions. Have trainers or providers explain how the solutions work, what they offer and how to leverage them in day-to-day tasks.

Handling Your Own Tech Challenges

While some attorneys shy away from technology, others embrace it. You may think you can hire one-off vendors to manage your technology infrastructure and services, but that is usually a short-sighted approach. In the long term, you will probably lose time and money and heighten your security risks. Just think of the lost billable hours, headaches and frustration that happen when you have to call your managed support provider (MSP), explain your tech troubles, and manage their timeline and budget. Choosing the right IT provider that specializes in law firms, cyber security and legal software can make all the difference. When you hand off IT to the true experts, they can handle your technology issues easily and correctly the first time.

Choosing Solutions Based On Cost, Not Effectiveness

The cheapest solution is not always the one that pays off. Your firm needs to take the time to understand the features of new technology and how your attorneys and staff will use it. Only then can you thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of each new tool. For example, many firms use non-legal-specific software for bookkeeping. It may be cheap, but a good billing and accounting software program designed for law firms is a better choice since it can accommodate specific issues firms face when tracking timekeepers’ hours.

Not Taking A Holistic Approach To Technology

When selecting different technology tools and systems, you must consider the needs of everyone, including attorneys, staff and clients. Only then can you select tools that will help meet everyone’s goals. That means you, or any other individual attorney, may not be the best person to make decisions on new software purchases.

You should work with experts who are familiar with many different types of software and know how to line up a firm’s needs and goals. Experts can bring a completely different, and more encompassing, point of view to the technology selection process as well as a keen eye for helpful and powerful integrations.

In today’s world, it’s impossible to avoid incorporating technology throughout the practice. Clients won’t accept that approach, and younger attorneys wouldn’t want to. By avoiding a few common mistakes, you can make technology work to your advantage, not let it hamper or harm your practice.