Future Legal Support
As legal technologies advance, and attorney expectations increase, law firms will need to implement dramatic changes in how they deliver IT services. Outsourcing, mobility, security and big data are coming, whether you believe in them or not. Are you ready for the change?
Many firms have little problems advancing their technology. Some will religiously upgrade applications to every new version that comes out. Desktop and server operating systems get patched and patched again. The basic desktop hardware gets refreshed every three to four years.
But even as these systems advance, for many, the support structure remains the same as when the systems were first installed.
What factors have or will be changing that should impact the way you deliver IT services in your law firm? There are several large scale themes that will affect future legal support...
Outsourcing will increase
For many firms we will see a dramatic change as services, software and even infrastructures become outsourced.
The trend toward outsourcing will continue to rise in law firms, but in a very uneven manner, with some firms outsourcing selected subsystems and services, and others selected tasks and duties.
Smaller law firms will continue to lead the "whole package" outsourcing as a way to combat the in-house IT capabilities of larger firms. You should look for a decrease in maintenance and management positions and a rise in internal analyst/consultant roles.
Mobility will disrupt traditional workflows
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has disrupted the traditional mobile mail and remote access systems.
Where BlackBerry once reigned supreme, many firms have abandoned them or turned to support multiple devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android. While RIM attempts a comeback with the new BlackBerry 10, Microsoft has entered the fray with Windows8 phones and Surface tablets.
More devices, more variations and different kinds of software require new policies, or an expanded capability at the help desk. Some firms are developing "mobile specialist" roles to provide the expected level of attorney service.
The emphasis on mobility, coupled with efficiencies, will force the creation of a next generation of collaborative workflows. They will be designed from the ground up for mobile devices so that approval, delegations and requests for additional information can all be handled remotely and across all platforms.
The outsourcing of work will also require these workflows to reach outside the firm, further emphasizing cross platform web tools and lessening the value of proprietary software tools.
Security will be re-worked
Of all the potential areas of change, the most needed and most urgent is that of security. In too many law firms, security needs to be totally reworked and greatly enhanced.
To meet these needs we will see the number of Chief Security Officers in law firms increase. Larger firms will bring on more dedicated security staff. We'll see smaller firms drawing upon the expertise of outside security consultants. These security personnel will focus on access issues and reorienting security to the data (not the access device).
User security education and training are also major issues that law firms will have to address. The mechanics of how to secure and access client materials is one thing. Even what constitutes a "strong" password can be considered easy. User awareness and general concern is another. In addition to raising awareness on spear phishing attacks, the proper use of the numerous social media outlets must be raised.
Security will be on the lookout for what I am calling BYOS (Bring Your Own Software). Attorneys and staff, with access to all the amazing software tools for smartphones and tablets can, and will, create their own workflows using tools the firm has not authorized or may not even know about.
While security will be out to control and restrict these situations, the phrase "there's an app for that" will take on new meaning as beefed up law firm programming teams develop more applications. This new breed of application will not be the marketing/newsletter "fluff" application, but hardcore, productivity tools. The legal vendor community has been slow to change and the larger firms won't be waiting for them to catch up.
Big Data will gain traction
As law firms’ jump onto the big data bandwagon, there will be a need for very high end system analysts to make sure that the proper data is being captured, and that all the disparate data can be brought together in a useful way.
Remember the story about how Target was able to use the big data it collects around purchasing habits to predict a young girl's pregnancy, before the parents even knew? We're going to see more of this. Law firms will be using its own statisticians to analyze their client and industry data to enhance their business.
Are you ready for the change?
Are you planning a system upgrade in the New Year? Are you looking forward to that new version of MS Office or that faster laptop? If you aren't also addressing your support structure, I say, "why bother?" If you've let your support structure languish, you are in for a big shock. Outsourcing, mobility, security and big data are coming, whether you believe in them or not.
Jeffrey K. Brandt is a former AmLaw 100 Chief Information and Knowledge Officer with over 25 years experience in the field of legal automation. He is currently the owner of Brandt Professional Services and the Editor of the PinHawk Technology Digest. Connect with Jeffrey on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @jeffrey_brandt.
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