In today’s legal landscape, technology has become an indispensable tool for law firms of all sizes. From managing client data to streamlining operations, the right IT partner can make a world of difference in the efficiency and security of your practice. However, choosing the ideal managed service provider (MSP) for your law firm can be a daunting task.
With an array of options available, it’s crucial to consider various factors to ensure you make the right choice. Use these 11 tips as a guideline when evaluating a new MSP for your firm. These tips include critical aspects such as cloud solutions, security, customer service, data backup, and industry expertise, all of which play a pivotal role in the success and growth of your legal practice.
- Private or public cloud. Due to the nature of the legal IT landscape, the cloud tops the list as one of the primary discussion points with your potential IT partner. The MSP should help you understand what’s in the cloud, whether private or public, such as: servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence. If they’re able to offer these computing services, it will enable them to innovate faster while taking advantage of flexible resources and economies of scale. What experience do they have with migrating their clients to the cloud? What do their clients say? Based off their experience, when does it make sense for you?
- Customer service. Slightly different from support, the managed service provider should clearly define how they work with you, partner with you, and provide ongoing industry expertise, thought leadership, and innovation. Client references will provide a clear understanding on how clients rave about the potential MSP–you’ll learn how the IT partner provides support, continues to bring new industry trends and best practices to the forefront, and wants to partner with you to ensure your firm is successful, and even how migration and implementation is laid out. What differentiates their level of service from their competitors. What is the average years of experience of their team members? Do they support other solutions or industries? What are their support hours? How has past migrations and implementations gone?
- Security. Security. Security. It’s cliché, but your IT partner should be over the top on security. Nothing is more critical than safeguarding your firm and client data. The chosen cloud provider must offer robust security measures, including encryption and access controls. Understand how the MSP handles security–ensuring they do what needs to be done and that they hold your firm accountable on what needs to be done to stay secure as well. Data privacy and legal compliance are equally essential, and the cloud provider should have a clear understanding of the legal requirements and regulations governing the storage and transmission of legal data. Security should be a layered approach using best-in-class solutions to safeguard your firm. This includes multi-factor authentication, security awareness training, endpoint detection response, and SPAM filters, etc. In addition to the technology stack that they offer, what best practices and solution design do they use to modify user behavior toward safer data practices?
- Data backup and disaster recovery. Side by side with security, your MSP should have clear and outlined standards for data backup and disaster recovery in the case of an incident. Additionally, your IT partner should work with you to create a clearly defined and well-documented disaster recovery plan that outlines the steps to be taken in case of unforeseen incidents, whether they are natural disasters, cyber attacks, or hardware failures that will safeguard your firm’s environment and ensure little to no downtime. This plan should encompass regular backups of all critical data, both onsite and offsite, and ensure that data can be quickly restored in case of data loss. Additionally, it should include a timeline for recovery, assigning responsibilities to team members, and testing the plan periodically to guarantee its effectiveness. The MSP should also maintain redundancy in their systems to minimize downtime and ensure seamless continuity of law firm operations during adverse situations, ultimately safeguarding the firm’s crucial data and maintaining business continuity.
- Customer support and CSAT. To ensure your firm is operationally efficient at all times, there should be multiple ways to contact your IT partner and create support tickets. Typical support should include email, chat, a customer portal, and phone. In addition to support communications, the MSP should be transparent about their current CSAT scores and able to provide client references to you. How many tickets are they processing? What is their response time and issue resolution time? What is the average age / experience of their support desk?
- Cost. The MSP should share comprehensive, predictable, and transparent pricing. Pricing should include specific details on what you’re expected to pay and what you get for that price. Additionally, understand if that pricing is scalable and flexible over time (both up and down) Understand if the MSP caps amount of storage, license count, and support hours. Are they going to nickel and dime you on storage? Is it a monthly fixed fee structure? Or is it time and materials? Not all MSPs are created equal. Be wary of low-cost providers since experience and expertise cannot be commoditized. If the cost seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Technology is a relatively agnostic tool. Any provider can go out and purchase the latest technology. But do they know how to use it and support it. Do they take the time to get to know the firm’s needs in advance to properly implement / utilize the tools.
- Implementation. Transitioning to a new IT partner can often be the scariest part, aside from cost. Ensure the MSP has a proven project management approach to get your firm up and running with minimal downtime. Don’t hesitate to ask the partner’s references on how they felt the implementation was handled.
- Certifications. You want to ensure your new IT partner takes cyber security seriously. Compliance and risk management are crucial to the success of your law firm. Certifications and credentials are a clear indicator they’re committed to ensuring best practices for your firm and for your data. Some certifications to consider are: SSAE 18, ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type 2, or PCI.
- Capacity. Capacity should be a simple one. Does the vendor have the capacity to deliver what you need? Dealing with a small IT partner has advantages, especially in terms of communication and commitment, but it’s a bad fit if they can’t handle your business. It’s important to understand their service level agreements (SLAs) both now and over time as the relationship expands. Do they have enough human capital to handle day to day support even if a large project surfaces? This can be validated with a request for historical response times and issue resolution times.
- Industry expertise. Working with a provider that fluently understands the complexities and legalities of law firms and their applications will ensure a successful partnership. When your MSP knows your business, your hardware and software applications, and how your process work they know the right services to offer you to ensure firm success–profitability, reliability, and security. Industry expertise is one of the crucial components toward service delivery. Does the potential MSP partner understand the business of law behind standard support.
- Customization and control of environment. Especially with attorneys, there is a delicate balance between customization and control over a law firm’s technology environment. The more standardized and controlled the environment is, the easier it is to manage and secure. Unfortunately, when it comes to the desktop, customization leads to increased vulnerabilities, complexity of service requests, and opportunities for human error.
Selecting the right IT partner for your law firm is a decision that should not be taken lightly. In this fast-paced digital age, where data security and technological efficiency are paramount, your choice of an IT partner can significantly impact your firm’s success. By following the 11 tips outlined above, you can navigate the complex landscape of MSPs with confidence and clarity.
Whether you prioritize robust security measures, exceptional customer service, or industry-specific expertise, make sure to thoroughly evaluate potential partners to find the one that aligns best with your law firm’s unique needs and objectives today, tomorrow, and into the future. Remember that the right IT partner isn’t just a service provider; they are a strategic partner in your journey toward achieving excellence and success in the legal profession.
Download the full checklist to use when your firm is considering a new managed services provider.