New Year’s Resolutions For the Law Firm IT Manager

What can law firms do right now in information technology to kick off the New Year on the right note? I would start with some organizational introspection.

It is the time of year for reflection, projections and resolutions. What was 2013 like? What will we do in 2014? What kind acts can we promise to do, or what self-improvements can we instigate?

2013 was an interesting year. I think 2014 promises to be even more interesting. I’ve been asked what law firms can do in information technology – right now – to kick off the New Year on the right note?

2014: The Year for Organizational Introspection

I would start off with some low hanging (low to no cost) fruit – organizational introspection. It is something rarely done and the potential savings are enormous. If you were starting from scratch in 2014, would you organize the IT department the way it is currently? Are the right people doing the right jobs? Technical skills can be taught to almost anyone, but does your help desk manager have a service attitude? Should new technologies, hardware and software tools purchased over the last few years influence different job positions? As the CIO or IT Manager, are you aware of exactly what your people are doing day to day?

Critically Assess Your Legal IT Department

What skills have I not been able to build internally or recruit? What functions have been overlooked? What staff training and development opportunities were missed in the constant efforts to “clear the swamp of alligators?” What occasional things (client audits) have become routine, more critical and in need of more process? Has the firm grown and changed? Is the staffing what it needs to be to support those changes? Which have become less important to the function of the firm? What functions can better be served by outsourcing?

Get Attorneys’ Technology Skills Up to Scratch

The next area to focus on for the upcoming year is developing users’ skills. In August of last year, the American Bar Association made changes to the Model Rules requiring lawyers to keep pace with relevant technology. That is more than enough to focus on attorney technology skills. Add to that increased client pressures and demands, and even the most training adverse cultures will start to yield to the inevitable. When it comes time for you to try and pass D. Casey Flaherty’s outside counsel test, you’ll be glad you did.

Address Missing Policies & Procedures

The rush to adopt consumer technology had many firms implementing the technology ahead of defining the procedures and processes. That put many in a hole that they are still trying to work out of. BYOD is leading to BYOS (software) and since the consumer push has no end in sight, the sooner you can address those missing or inadequate policies, the better.

Get Serious About Security

Some firms are still working to address security around BYOD/BYOS and consumer technology. I’m not sure I’m willing to pronounce 2014 as the “Year of Law Firm Security,” but it is going to be top of many people’s lists. The recent ABA Techreport 2013 – Security Snapshot: Threats and Opportunities, as well as others, indicate we still have a long way to go in this area. Smaller and mid-sized firms are going to have to realize they cannot do security internally and do it properly. It would not surprise me if 2014 ends up being the “year of the breach,” where a law firm gets dropped by client for an electronic security problem. While security hardware and software are important, there is no better investment than user education and awareness.

2014 will be an interesting year for us all. There is a lot to do. With a little introspection, policy refinement and attention to security, you can help make sure your law firm is still around to ring in the New Year in 2015.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @jeffrey_brandt, let’s keep the dialog going.

Jeffrey Brandt

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 the owner of Brandt Professional Services and the Editor of the PinHawk Technology Digest. You can connect with Jeffrey on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @jeffrey_brandt.