Law Firms Expect to do More Work Remotely

 

With all 50 states having at least partially emerged from the COVID-19 lockdown, business owners are doing everything within their capacity to re-establish some semblance of normalcy and get back to their winning ways. However, given the length of the shutdown – which in several cases was in place for well over two months – what were originally unusual processes have taken root as routine.

One such industry is legal, as success with work-from-home models has some firms wondering when – or if – they’ll go back to the office now that they are mostly free to return.

In a late-May survey of over 200 law firm executives and leaders, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they anticipated not needing as much office space moving forward, given many of their employees or partners were performing well by working remotely, Thomson Reuters reported. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 said they expected to need as much as 25% less square footage than they did prior to the pandemic.

“Nearly three-quarters of respondents anticipate not needing as much office space.”

Sherry Cushman, executive managing director and leader of a prominent legal sector advisory group, told Reuters that numerous commercial office transactions were tabled due to the shutdown.

“Any [real estate] deals that were in the works, if the breaks could be put on, firms put them on hold,” Cushman explained.

Slow period for new client volume
Although some industries increased revenues in the wake of COVID-19 due to the nature of their products and services (e.g. big box retailers, grocery, paper and plastic suppliers, etc.) the vast majority have seen sales slip. Law firms have felt some of those adverse effects, which may also explain why commercial real estate deals were scuttled or suspended. For instance, in April, demand for legal services fell by a median of approximately 5%, Reuters found, based on a poll of 60 law firms. In a fifth of such cases, demand fell by as at least 20%. Indeed, a separate survey done by Martindale-Avvo revealed 81% of law firms saw revenues dip in line with the shutdown that stemmed from COVID-19 and health officials’ attempts to “flatten the curve.”

Martindale-Avvo President Diana Schulz doesn’t believe this dip in business will be long-lasting, however.

“The one thing about the legal system is, a lot of these matters can’t wait too long,” Schulz told ABA Journal. “So I do think the legal industry will recover faster than some other industries.”

Attorneys, legal assistants and paralegals’ ability to pivot from a primarily office-based environment to one entirely from home has enabled many firms to maintain productivity on case volume and workload. Leveraging cloud-based document management software and networking have further assisted them in these efforts.

Additionally, as projected by McKinsey & Company, it’s highly likely that litigation and business restructuring workloads will grow in the post COVID-19 world, services with which many law firms either offer or specialize in.

How can attorneys at law break out of the restarting gate strong? McKinsey offers a few suggestions:

Key in on clients
While clients should always come first and foremost, it’s particularly important in times like these. Partners should prioritize connecting, listening and responding to their clients on an ongoing basis and letting them know you’re able to help them however and wherever they need. This can help to deepen trust and strengthen lawyer-client relationships.

Make relevant information more personal
It’s an information age and people are bombarded with it from every which way. You need to ensure what you present is not only germane to their interests or goals but in a format that they best respond to.

Trim, don’t cut, the fat
Firms have emerged from the shutdown with new perspective on what services to maintain and which to eliminate. Instead of removing them entirely, look for opportunities to reallocate and build new capabilities.

Afinety has the software solutions and network support that can help your firm succeed as a more responsive, agile law firm, whether your employees work locally or 100% remotely. Contact us today to learn more.

Stepping Up Your Cyber Security Game – Protecting Your Assets

Originally published June 26, 2020, by Bill Sorenson, VP of Product, Netgain at www.elite.com.


Learning from the COVID-19 Impact

We’ve seen a dramatic change over the last four months in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the significant places that have impacted most firms is the work-at-home requirements placed across the country. Some firms were able to respond quickly, and others struggled for a significant time to enable their employees to work. One of the large impacts has been the increased risk exposure associated with cybersecurity. How you handle this impacts your firm’s value, both overall as well as in the marketplace.

Risk Management at the Heart: Protecting Your Assets

It all gets back to risk. In our industry, most of what we do and the decisions we make are related to risk and risk mitigation. When we look at cybersecurity, there’s no difference. Expanding your risk footprint with work-at-home employees dramatically increased your risk. The question is, is it short-term or not?

  • Running Your Technical Environment: First let’s look at your technical environment and, as an example, how you run 3E® or ProLaw® and your other applications. You may run it internally with your own equipment, in a computer center somewhere else, or in the public cloud. Each implementation has different risks and productivity considerations for your employees and the firm. For the firms that have run it and the rest of their applications in the cloud, the move to work-at-home was simple. They were already used to the idea that their employees could work from anywhere. For the other firms, the move to work-at-home created a hectic environment with a struggle to get everyone working at the same time, the performance was horrible, and security became an immediate concern.
  • Cybersecurity as a Base: When we look at cybersecurity and the extension of a firm’s environment to each employees’ home, many things raise red flags. First, simply locking down employees’ technology to restrict confidential information exposure has been key. Additionally, in many situations, the computers people use at home are shared. This dramatically increases the exposure to the firm. By implementing key controls around the devices that employees use, firms have been able to reduce this risk exposure quickly. Make sure you’ve reviewed the risks specific to your firm and have implemented controls to keep your firm’s data secure.
  • Coming to Grips with Reality: Going forward, there will now be an increased focus on disaster recovery, business continuity, and cybersecurity. Focusing on those protections related to your employees and the remote workforce will significantly level-up your overall security. In a time when there is a dramatic focus on hacking each of your employees, there is no time to waste to secure your environment.

Protections Needed Now

  • Work-at-Home: You need to implement technical controls on each user’s device and put in place additional policies and procedures around work-at-home, bring your own device, and possibly, confidential information exposure.
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity: You need to review your disaster recovery and business continuity plans and look at how they were implemented with COVID-19 and adjust.
  • The Human Element: Training, training, training. It is time to step up and help your employees protect you. If you haven’t already rolled out cybersecurity training, it’s time to do that now. And this includes partners. Partners are really the focus of phishing attempts and, many times, are greenfield for hackers. By training employees, you increase the sentries that are protecting the firm.
  • Direction to the Cloud: One thing COVID-19 has shown us is that firms that had already adopted the cloud were well prepared. They made those decisions based on cybersecurity, costs, and productivity gains for the firm. It is time for you to look at that as an adoption rather than a review.  By choosing Amazon® AWS, or Microsoft® Azure®, you’re able to leverage the best in the world at costs you can afford. The key piece is finding a partner who’s focused on your industry.

The Transition Back

As the pandemic progresses and different states begin to transition industries back to a more normal work life, it’ll be time for you to look at transitioning your firm back. As you’re making that decision, take into account the lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic. Key takeaways from this article for you and your core partners to review include:

  • Staffing Lessons: How did our staff respond, and how did we help them?
  • Client Lessons: Were we able to provide what our clients needed and expand our services in response to the pandemic? If not, could we have?
  • Technical Lessons: Were we prepared for this emergency? Did we use our disaster recovery plan, or did we take it for granted? Do we need more focus on moving to the cloud now to protect us from this type of situation going forward?
  • Firm Lessons: Was our mindset one of quick response and focus on where we could help, or was it reactive and overwhelming? Would we be better served by spending time walking through realistic examples and responses? Can we be better prepared?

Set up some time with the firm leaders and take the time needed to go through your new normal.  As you are reviewing the past months, be open to input, criticism, new methods, and ideas from all levels. Many people have been impacted in several different manners. Understand how you can step forward and help your partners, staff, and your clients now and in the future.

How Afinety’s Services Can Be an Asset in These Times and the Future

 

Whoever said, “May you live in interesting times” couldn’t have possibly imagined the “times” that we all are now experiencing to one degree or another.

While the massive shutdowns that led to millions of job losses and thousands of business closures have largely come and gone since coronavirus first made its presence known, the “new normal” largely persists, particularly in portions of the country that were once hot spots. Indeed, many businesses – inside and outside the legal industry – continue to encourage employees to work from home and to practice social distancing, as recommended by health experts. Gathering places, fearing the sudden spike in infections and cases as a result of the phased lift in restrictions, are operating well short of 100% capacity. These include movie theaters and restaurants – 44% of Americans ordered takeout in the second full week of May, up from 26% back in late March, according to a Gallup survey –  but also law schools, courtrooms and law firms of all sizes.

Were it not for the cloud, it’s hard to fathom just how difficult it would be to get work accomplished.

The past few months have been inconvenient to the extreme, but you and your firm can help to enhance simplicity and expedience with Afinety – a trusted partner for your practice. Here are some of the services that are available by choosing us for IT support and cloud networking:

Unparalleled law office network security
Cybercriminals never fail to take advantage of openings; they’re constantly looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. They’ve dialed up their efforts over the last couple of months in response to the surge in web traffic. Indeed, according to survey research conducted by (ISC)2, nearly 1 in 4 organizations said they’ve encountered a surge in cybersecurity incidents since more staff have started working from home.

“Afinety specializes in network

security that is designed to keep your firm effectively protected.”

Afinety specializes in network security with a wide array of complementary tools and resources that help to keep your firm – and its team of partners or associates – effectively protected. These include managed firewalls, multifactor authentication, licensing verification, automatic system updates, and spam filtering.

Support to prevent downtime
It’s safe to say that there is no good time for downtime. These days, however, it’s occurrence is particularly vexing, as many companies are operating with skeleton crews due to layoffs, furloughs, or health concerns that have workers sidelined. Afinety provides onsite and remote support to handle all your network management needs. These all-inclusive, enterprise-quality network monitoring solutions are big on delivery, but small on price.

We understand the social distancing rules that are in effect, which may prevent us from being on-site. However, most network and server issues are the kind that can be readily recognized and seamlessly fixed from where we are so you can get things back up and running where you are.

Works off of AWS
The Afinety Cloud Platform is built upon Amazon Web Services, or AWS. Not only is AWS one of the largest public cloud platforms in the world, but it’s also highly flexible. You can thus easily deploy applications, retrieve data, and maximize productivity, all within an extremely reliable cloud environment.  With data encryption in transit and at rest, automatic backups and multifactor authentication, your firm’s security needs are covered so you can focus on your business.

Streamlined email and document management
A law firm is composed of many working parts, but to maximize efficiency and delivery to high expectation clients, it has to operate as one. This has been complicated by COVID-19, as individuals who might normally all be under one roof are off-site.

iManage Work can help to minimize relocation complications by integrating with the Afinety Cloud Platform and Office 365 so that documents, emails, notes, and pleadings can be shared and stored efficiently in a paper-free format. As a certified iManage partner for approximately 25 years, we at Afinety can promise you successful implementation by deploying our IT team and their migration, configuration and training capabilities.

These are highly uncertain times, but Afinety can help you plan and implement the responsive cloud solutions that are needed for ongoing success. Please contact us today to learn more.

Why Multifactor Authentication is Essential

 

If there’s one thing that law firms have in massive quantities, it’s information. From email inboxes containing clients’ addresses and signatures to file folders that detail highly sensitive particulars about financials, attorneys possess reams of data that can damage reputations and ruin lives should it happen to fall into the wrong hands.

While numerous methods of protection exist to keep eyes-only information just that – including passwords, firewalls, identity theft resources and physical security – there are equally as many ways of gaining access. Be it hacking, malware, phishing or skimming, bad actors resort to a wide assortment of underhanded tactics to expose and make off with private data.

Multifactor authentication throws a wrench in these malicious methods. Instead of entering just one password or inserting a single keycard, multifactor authentication – otherwise known as 2FA – requires two or more credentials for access to be granted. Generally speaking, the more that are required, the harder it is for information to be stolen. As noted by Carnegie Mellon University, 2FA involves several “somethings”:

  • Something you know (e.g. password, security question, PIN number);
  • Something you own (e.g. key fob, ID card, smartphone);
  • Something you are (e.g. fingerprint, face, voice, palm vein)

This latter something is a fairly new technology in terms of availability and usage. It involves biometrics, or the analysis of physical characteristics for authentication. Because no two fingerprints are perfectly identical, it makes them difficult to replicate or steal.

Given the effectiveness of 2FA, more industries are adopting it. Many handheld devices now require users to input two or more credentials, or at least provide this option.

“Many attorneys and law firms aren’t fully embracing this security methodology.”

However, whether due to resistance to change, in general, or unfamiliarity with technology, attorneys and law firms aren’t fully embracing this security methodology, ABA Journal reported. If you’re among them, here are a few reasons why you may want to reconsider:

Data breaches are more common than ever
At one time, it seemed like every cyberattack was reported by the mainstream media, particularly those that impacted retailers. They’ve largely fallen out of the news cycle, but that doesn’t mean they’ve become any less common. According to the most recent statistics available from the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of consumer records stolen in 2018 rose 126% from the previous year, totaling 446.5 million overall. That’s up from 197.6 million just 12 months earlier.

The chances of data being stolen are significantly lower when 2FA is in place. As reported by Forbes, household-name software providers say 99% of automated attacks can be successfully blocked by enabling 2FA. Several other telecommunications and technology companies also hail the effectiveness of multifactor authentication.

Firms are a top target
No business or industry is entirely immune from data breaches, and that especially includes the business sector, an umbrella that law firms fall under. Of the 1,632 breaches that took place in 2018, 907 of them affected business, ITRC reported from its findings. This equated to 181 million records, with healthcare in a distant second at 5.3 million records and 384 breaches.

Small law firms in the crosshairs
According to the most recent polling available, tracking how many practicing lawyers are currently in the U.S., the number sits at over 1.3 million, based on the ABA’s figures. The vast majority of these attorneys work for small firms. Conventional wisdom might suggest the big firms would be targeted the most, but as Attorney At Law Magazine reported, those that have fewer partners tend to receive the lion’s share of the attacks because there are more out there to potentially exploit.

2FA helps to guard against attempted data heists by adding an extra layer of security.

If your firm has transitioned to the cloud, you can’t afford a software solution that doesn’t incorporate multifactor authentication. Built on the largest cloud provider in the world – Amazon Web Services – Afinety leverages 2FA, firewall protection and unparalleled monitoring to ensure information stays under lock and key. For more information on the Afinety Cloud Platform and its offerings, contact us today.

Organizing Your Files in the Cloud

 

Cloud technology makes it easy and convenient to back up your files online. Rather than sift through stacks and boxes of physical papers and photos, you can now access all your files digitally in one place. To get the most utility from your cloud, make sure you take the time to organize your cloud so it can best serve your needs. Keeping your files neatly organized in an easy-to-navigate format will ensure you can locate exactly the file you’re looking for exactly when you need it. The following tips can serve as a starting point in your organizational efforts.

Create a system for naming your folders

Develop your own or decide on an existing system for naming your folders. TechSoup recommends using a simple system that you will easily remember, such as Date_Type_FolderName, where “Type” refers to either personal, work or other files. So, if you have a folder full of photos from a given legal case, you could label the folder October2018_[Case Name]. Keeping your folders organized like this will help you easily navigate through your cloud. You can simply scroll down chronologically to find the exact document or photo you’re looking for.

Create your folders and start moving files

It helps to create the folders before you start moving your files over so you have somewhere to put them and can avoid the clutter of random bits and pieces that all belong in different places. Once you’ve created and labeled your folders according to your naming system, you can start dragging and dropping files into their respective folders.

Tag your files

Every file on a system has a certain set of attributes like author name and date last modified called file properties. Another type of file property is called a tag. Designed for user customization, tags are a good way to make searching easier because they function as searchable keywords, according to TechRepublic. Use words and phrases that make sense to you when tagging your files. It helps to assign more than one tag to a file so you can search it up using multiple keyword terms. Consider tags like #evidence #finance or #testimony.

Create and use subfolders

Creating main folders may not be enough to tame the clutter of your files in the cloud. Organize files within your folders into subfolders, or even group your main folders into larger ones to make the navigation process easier. Make sure you use the same naming system from before so nothing gets confused in the added steps. It is also best to have the same subfolders in all your main folders. Consistency in organization makes navigation much easier.

messy officeAlthough transitioning to the cloud may seem intimidating, it will make your office cleaner, more comfortable, and more efficient.

It’s important to clear out the old before you implement the new. Consider taking the following two steps before you even begin setting up your cloud environment:

1. Declutter. Get rid of any files that have been sitting around untouched and which you no longer need.

2. Purge. Agile Law suggests adopting the “one touch” rule for this step. Pick up a file or document and decide whether to keep it, destroy it or store it, and then, most importantly, act on that decision. Don’t just set the file down just to deal with later. You should only have files that are open and active. Keeping closed files mixed in with open ones just creates more work as you sort through files to find the one that you need. Those closed files which you choose not to destroy can be stored in a folder like 2017_Archive.

Depending on how many files have compiled over the months or years it’s taken you to switch over to cloud storage, organizing can seem intimidating. However, as long as you make a little bit of progress each day, you will slowly but steadily work your way through the clutter and create the perfect organization structure for your needs. Learn about cloud storage and the Afinety Cloud Platform, designed specifically for lawyers.

How to Protect Your Firm’s Data

 

Security is one of the top concerns for most law firms, especially those which deal with large cases or protect corporations. The reality of this day and age is that much of the evidence brought up in legal cases is digital, and that data has to be protected. Even non-digital evidence needs to be indexed for future use. Physical files aren’t secure enough to be used for this sensitive information. It’s far too likely that they will become damaged or get lost, which is a problem law firms simply cannot afford to have. It is wise for law firms and private practitioners to move their data to the cloud.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the practice of using a remote Internet server instead of a local server or a personal computer to store, manage, and process data. While the idea of it may seem foreign at first, it is actually likely your firm or practice already employs the cloud for daily tasks.

Often times, files on private servers are too large to be sent by email. They are instead sent as Google drive attachments, or with Dropbox or OneDrive links. All of these services are, in fact, cloud platforms. And they’re safer than you may think.

cloudCloud technology has measures in place to keep your data safe.

Encryption and security in the cloud

According to Security Week, when it comes to protecting data in the cloud, encryption is considered the most effective. Encryption not only makes the file easier to store, but it also makes it harder to access by a potential intruder. Medium defines encryption as a process that encodes a message or file so that it can be only be read by certain people who have an access key. Before a piece of encrypted data is unscrambled, it’s completely unreadable and is referred to as ciphertext. After being unlocked, the message is translated back into plaintext.

Rudimentary encryption can be as simple as switching out certain letters for others and render a sentence or even a word unreadable. For example, if you were to switch out every vowel for the character “@” and every “s” for the letter “c,” the word “biologist” would be encrypted as “b@@l@g@ct.”

Cryptography has since developed into a more complex practice. Medium reports that computer algorithms have more or less replaced mechanical encryption in recent years, making codes even harder to crack. Keys, or passwords, are generated using random number generators or computer algorithms with similar functions. Modern systems sometimes generate a fresh key for every single session to add another layer of security.

Because of the constant development of cryptography and encryption styles, data is as safe in the cloud as it would be under lock and key, if not safer. Thanks to dedicated professionals in the cybersecurity industry, you don’t have to fear cloud technology.

Accessibility of files

Security and accessibility go hand in hand. Having files uploaded to a protected cloud platform makes it possible to access case files from anywhere at any time. Lawyers no longer need to spend every second of their time in the office, and will be able to work from the road, while traveling or from home. Increased accessibility to work materials leads directly to increased productivity.

Choosing a provider

Afinety is the best choice for law firms and private practices looking to migrate their files to the cloud. Not only is our platform secure, but it was also designed specifically for lawyers, and is optimized to run a variety of apps. To learn more about cybersecurity and other IT options and services offered by Afinety, browse our website, or get in touch today.

How to Save Money for Your Law Firm

When it comes to practicing law, time is money. Cloud technology can save your firm a significant amount of both.

Save on Supplies and Storage

Physical files require tens of thousands of sheets of paper and typically need to be shredded if they’re not being stored. This is not only an incredible waste of natural resources – according to The Atlantic, it takes more than three gallons of water to make a single sheet of paper – but also a waste of utilities and space. Throughout the course of a case, attorneys can accumulate boxes and boxes of files that are not only difficult to navigate and keep organized, but also to store.

Cloud technology allows law firms to reclaim their office space by making physical copies of files completely unnecessary. Storage rooms can be converted into conference rooms, office space, reading rooms, and more.

It’s significantly easier to locate specific files through the cloud than it is to dig through file cabinets and boxes for a physical document. The cloud helps lawyers work more efficiently and saves them billable hours throughout the day which they are then able to dedicate to working on clients. In fact, CISCO conducted a survey that found companies that invested in collaborative technology like cloud services saw productivity increases of up to 400% due to increased ease of access to files.

Save on Manpower

If your firm has an in-house IT team or dedicated IT person, their responsibilities will shift to a more strategic role. Rather than focusing on time-consuming break/fix issues, they can investigate various software applications, training and provide a strategic IT roadmap for the firm’s future. While your firm focuses on the business of law, a provider like Afinety manages updates, security, and maintenance needs for the system.

Save on Billable Hours

Because data in the cloud is accessible from anywhere, attorneys are able to conduct business from the office, from the road and from home with the same access to resources. Multiple versions of documents no longer need to be saved to individual hard drives, and those documents don’t need to be emailed back and forth as they are updated.

Lawyers and all other employees at a firm using cloud technology are able to act on issues and assignments instantly with all the materials they need just a click away. They are also able to capitalize on opportunities more quickly than those firms without cloud technology, winning business, and pulling ahead of competitors – a key advantage for smaller firms and independent practices. Cloud technology also makes analyzing big data easier, which is especially relevant to big firms hoping to sort through large masses of data.

deskIncreasing attorneys’ ability to conduct remote work is a great way to increase your firm’s efficiency.

Other Benefits of Cloud Technology

In addition to saving law firms money in multiple ways, cloud computing can also help foster rapid growth. With a strong digital infrastructure, firms are able to take on more work from more clients and get their name out in the community and beyond. Entrepreneur reports that a huge factor in facilitating this growth is the analytics services offered by cloud providers which help businesses to establish data warehouses and conduct real-time analytics, visualization, and more.

Additionally, cloud technology streamlines internal communications by providing a platform through which firms are able to use and coordinate phone, messaging, conferencing, and scheduling tools. Some cloud platforms even have workflow management systems built-in, according to Business.com.

The Afinety Cloud Platform

An advanced and secure solution designed for law firms, the Afinety Could Platform is powered by AWS, the largest cloud provider in the world. Run all of your legal apps such as iManage, ProLaw, TABS3, Worldox, TimeMatters, and more in the Afinety Cloud Platform. For more information about how to switch your firm over to Afinety’s platform, browse the website or get in touch today.