Afinety Employee Spotlight: Bill Sangston, Technical Support Manager

Our greatest assets here at Afinety are our extraordinary and dedicated employees who look for ways each day to maintain excellent client service and find new ways to deliver value to our clients.

Today, we’re introducing a new video series that will highlight the various employees — both client-facing and behind the scenes — that are committed to ensuring our law firm clients have a high-performing technology platform they can rely on.

We’re starting our series with a name most of our clients know intimately: Bill Sangston, Technical Support Manager.

Cybersecurity for Law Firms: Our New Blog Series

Why Should a Small/Mid-Sized Law Firm Worry So Much about Cybersecurity?

In a recent article, Managing Editor Zeljka Zorz of Help Net Security wrote:

“Businesses in the Professional Services industry (more specifically: law firms) have been heavily targeted by ransomware attackers.”

And you don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of that. In 2020, a banner year for ransomware, experts estimate that cybercriminals made off with $370 million in profits.

The reality is (as the ever-growing list of victims of such attacks makes clear): Cybercriminals are actively targeting organizations of nearly all sizes. And law firms, with their access to highly sensitive data, are a prime target.

But this blog post isn’t designed to be a scare tactic. Instead, we hope to help you better understand the steps you can take to mitigate your risk. Our goal is to do our small part in advancing broader cybersecurity awareness and education within the legal community, particularly given the exponentially escalating nature of these cyber-threats.

A Layered Approach to Security

Over the next couple of months, you’ll be seeing a series of blog posts – from high-level security strategy highlights to security tools that law firms can use right now – that we hope will shine a light on different areas of security and provide law firms with key considerations and best practices to keep in mind.

We’ll structure the discussion using a layered security model we have adopted for our own security roadmap. This includes:

  • Perimeter Security
  • Network Security
  • Endpoint Security
  • Application Security
  • Data Security
  • Policy Management & Enforcement
  • Monitoring & Response

Within each security layer, we’ll explain that layer’s purpose, and highlight:

  • Common security mistakes organizations can make
  • Minimum security measures every organizations should take
  • Best practices around security that organizations should consider

Layered approach to security

Some of our recommendations will be familiar – who hasn’t heard of multi-factor authentication? – but will be no less important for being familiar. (According to at least one survey, 78% of Microsoft 365 administrators do not have multi-factor authentication activated.)

We’ll also talk about security philosophies and mindsets – least-privilege and zero-trust for example – and the steps you can take to help improve security in your organization – regardless who manages your IT infrastructure.

Shared Responsibility for Security

For too long, managed service providers and technology partners (including us) have taken the stance of shielding our clients from the headaches, intricacies, and complications that a strong security stance involves. While it’s true that we can significantly reduce the burden of security on our clients and their teams, the responsibility is still shared. We owe it to our clients to ensure they not only understand the steps we’re taking as their IT partner, but also the measures that require their active participation and consent.

We hope this series of blog posts will help form the basis for those conversations, and we’re looking forward to more discussions to come.

The Key to Strategic IT for Law Firms

In our last blog post, we highlighted the importance of making IT a partner when defining law firm strategy. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the barriers to being able to do so.

While IT has taken an increasingly more strategic role over the past decade, the demand on IT has also increased exponentially.

Consider: in the past 10 years, we’ve seen a dramatic expansion in application adoption and a rise in complexity via the use of virtual machines, remote desktops, public and private clouds, the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, and more.

In addition, organic adoption of tools and software by legal staff as well as the rise of software as a Service (SaaS) applications and the proliferation of mobile devices expands the footprint the IT and operations teams need to secure.

As more data is held online (and email addresses become the de facto key to unlock that data), cybercriminals have actively targeted law firms both for their access to sensitive client data, but also as an easier entry point to penetrate the more secure walls of firm clients.

All this is to say that even if a firm has continued to invest in IT with more resources, the demands on IT have likely still outstripped your investments.

A Bird’s Eye View into IT

Let’s look at that claim more closely. At a high level, the image below outlines the challenge IT teams face today.

In red are the critical, urgent activities that every IT team must execute against. Very few of these are strategic in nature, but they’re all necessary to “keep the lights on.” And while some may be occasional (depending on the size of the firm), many – if not most – of these responsibilities require constant, time-consuming vigilance.

Across the board, each are impacted by rising complexity, shadow IT, application adoption, and an increased threat surface. Even those that seem less urgent (disaster recovery & business continuity plans as an example) need attention as the recent COVID-driven remote work mandates recently illustrated.

In the face of a constant barrage of urgent tasks, it’s no wonder that strategic IT initiatives are frequently de-prioritized in favor of an immediate crisis or action item.

Creating IT Capacity

As law firms continue to push productivity and profitability initiatives, staff capacity is always both a concern and a focus. In actuality, strategic IT investments—when aligned with your overall firm strategy—can actually advance those goals faster than any other initiative.

Yet to be successful, in such initiatives, you need the right mix of talent. Proper execution of many of the responsibilities outlined previously depend upon a highly specialized technical skillset (e.g. cloud infrastructure and application support) that is costly to acquire or grow in-house. 

Urgent but not strategic IT tasks
A list of tasks that often take up a tremendous amount of time and are “urgent” and “critical” – but rarely strategic. Such tasks typically eat into time internal teams are supposed to be spending on strategic initiatives.
 

What’s interesting, however, is that while such responsibilities typically require a high degree of firm familiarity, it does not require the firm intimacy that strategic initiatives do.

When we analyze that set of IT responsibilities through such a lens (i.e. what requires intimate firm knowledge vs “mere” firm familiarity), we quickly identify a rather large percentage of responsibilities that require specialized technical skillsets, but where firm intimacy is not strictly necessary.

Strategic but not urgent IT activities
These tasks could have a meaningful impact on firm growth and bottom line – but require concerted time and attention to plan and execute.

It’s no wonder also why firms that outsource their IT are left with a tactical rather than strategic relationship—if you don’t select a true technology “partner” with deep industry expertise, you can’t get the intimate consulting partner you need.

Meanwhile, a law firm with internal IT can take advantage of cloud services and identify a partner that has the necessary cloud, networking, and application skills that will enable you to transfer ownership for up to 50% of IT responsibilities and gain meaningful support for two-thirds of what’s left. 

That leaves your internal team the space to prioritize and focus on the strategic initiatives that will advance your firm’s long-term vision. 

Kicking Off Your Near-Term Initiative

Of course, none of this is quite as easy as such simple charts make them seem. Turning to cloud services is itself a series of critical tasks and decisions. You need to address the reservations of firm leadership, perform a thorough cost analysis, weigh the benefits of private versus public cloud options, etc. 

However (and we acknowledge our implicit bias here), most firms find that identifying the right partner early in this process can substantially reduce the time and effort to kick such an initiative off.

While helpful at reducing the burden, a tactical relationship will leave you still struggling to advance IT strategically as you get pulled back into day-to-day fire-fighting.

If you already rely on an IT partner but find that your internal capacity has not dramatically increased, you may have found yourself in a tactical relationship rather than a strategic one.

Instead, look for a consultative cloud services partner that has: 

  • Intimate knowledge of the challenges law firms face to help navigate internal concerns (and the references to back it up),
  • Experience to transition your IT environment quickly and effectively, 
  • Partnerships to ensure your cloud environment is both cost-effective and robust, 
  • Expertise to address security, performance, reliability, and scalability, and most importantly, 
  • A consultative mindset to ensure you preserve current and future agility.
Shared IT responsibilities
Shared IT responsibility model

How are you doing things at your firm? Are you seeing the same patterns impacting your firm’s ability to make IT a strategic partner to the firm?

 
 

Making IT Strategic to Law Firm Direction

However, as functions, Operations and IT are all too often considered tactical enablers rather than drivers that serve as an equal partner in setting and executing firm strategy. This approach may align with the traditional role that these functions have played in years past, but ill reflects today’s reality, where fluency in technology, data, and process can have enormous impact on outcomes.

By not bringing Operations and IT leaders into strategic conversations earlier, law firms can lose valuable time or miss critical opportunities in executing against their long-term firm vision.

In this post, we’ll discuss the impact strategic IT can have, why tactical IT remains so dominant, and how firms can shift their focus from the urgent to the strategic.

The Three-Stage Strategic Planning

While not revolutionary, the first thing we recommend is to break down your strategic planning into three timeframes: long-term (2-5 years), medium-term (1-2 years), and near-term (<1 year). This sounds somewhat obvious, but we often observe that resource constraints and the everyday demands of business often result in long-term strategic planning being neglected in favor of critical near-term priorities. The outcome of this neglect often shows up in unexpected ways – an inability to react quickly to an emerging opportunity or threat, for example, or a delay in taking advantage of new technologies to advance firm strategy.

Oftentimes, we see IT not having a meaningful seat at the table when it comes to long-term firm strategy – a practice that can lead to one of two outcomes: First, a lack of understanding as to how long a strategy might take to implement technologically (or what impact it might have to existing technology), or second, missed opportunities because IT isn’t there to highlight how what’s possible.

Long-Term Strategy

The long-term strategy is the end goal – what your firm wants to achieve as a business in the next five years. These “big stretch” goals can range broadly: Some examples include doubling firm size, adding new practice areas, geographic expansion, or establishing regional dominance in a practice area.

Giving Operations and IT a meaningful voice at this early stage can help partners understand some of the underlying considerations, risk, and investments needed to achieve the goal. While the role of technology is just one consideration, the analysis operations leaders and technologists can bring to the table—whether internal or external—guides firm leadership when prioritizing one potential goal over another.

Small Operations & IT-led adjustments could expedite the automation and process improvements necessary for an efficient M&A strategy for example, while including Operations and IT in defining a geographic expansion vision allows firm leadership to have a well-rounded understanding—and realistic expectation—of impact and timelines.

Medium-Term Strategy

Once the long-term strategy has been set for the firm, IT and operations leaders can then define the technological path to get there. Typically consisting of a series of small- to mid-sized projects, IT and operations leaders collaborate with business stakeholders to prioritize these projects and their associated interdependencies and map out milestones in 6-12 month increments.

For example, if your long-term goal is to add a new practice area through acquisition or absorption, then your first project might be to streamline the speedy onboarding of new employees so you can get them integrated, fully functional, and billing faster. This might include reviewing licensing and policy procedures, speeding technology acquisition, or simplifying the spinning up of a fully functional desktop.

Though this is a high-level roadmap and simplified for the purposes of example, the process can be used for any initiative.

Near-Term Strategy

Time and time again, we see that it is neither lack of will or skill that keeps law firms from achieving their strategies, but rather the age-old problem that we all deal with in our daily lives, the prioritization of urgent over strategic.

That’s why for mid- to large-firms we work with, near-term strategy often includes one major initiative: Finding the time and IT talent to achieve your mid-term objectives and advance your long-term vision.

Finding the right capacity is critical. Even if you have internal IT, they are often relegated to a highly tactical, sometimes fire-fighting role. They may have the talent to be strategic, but not the time. For companies with outsourced IT, partners are often chosen for budgetary fit rather than consultative capabilities, resulting in a relationship limited to the tactical, with little room for strategic support.

Driving productivity and profitability

Ultimately, Operations and IT can not only drive both productivity and profitability, but also play a starring role in the achievement of a law firm’s strategic objectives.

However, doing so requires the operations and IT team(s) to:

  1. Be a strategic partner to firm leadership and aligned with business goals
  2. Have the capacity to focus on such strategic initiatives

The first may be a mindset change for both parties but can help accelerate achievement of firm goals.

The second can seem daunting. Recent changes in economic and work conditions have profoundly impacted the role and expectations for operations and IT teams, making it difficult to find the capacity needed to focus on strategic objectives.

However, operations and IT teams can create capacity by reviewing and prioritizing responsibilities through a dual filter of which require intimate firm knowledge to advance, and which align to your future goals.

By transferring tactical and specialty (e.g. cloud) tasks that require firm familiarity but not intimacy to an industry-aligned cloud services partner, you can free your team to focus on strategic initiatives.

Ultimately, it’s easy to push off strategic initiatives that don’t have a hard deadline. But achieving your firm’s strategic vision depends heavily on your team’s ability to focus on it and break down goals into time-aligned, manageable initiatives.

By starting immediately to free up capacity and strategically plan, you’ll set your firm up for long-term success.

Conversations with Law Firm Leaders: Steve Adnopoz of Pearlman Miranda

Steve Adnopoz of Pearlman Miranda

Recently, we sat down with Steve Adnopoz, a public finance/municipal securities lawyer and partner at Pearlman & Miranda, LLC. With offices in both New Jersey and New York, Pearlman & Miranda is known for their cutting-edge work on public, renewable energy, and redevelopment P3 financing models; value-based estate planning; and social investment law projects.

We chatted with Steve about the role of IT within the firm, their decision to move to the cloud and the firm’s experience with Afinety as their cloud partner.

Prior to Afinety, what were the main IT challenges faced by Pearlman & Miranda?

Like many smaller firms, we had our servers and related equipment in a closet. We have a couple of locations, so any remote location was served from that closet. Although we had pretty good capabilities, it was difficult to maintain the equipment, keep it up to date, make sure everything was working properly and have strong security.

Why did you consider moving to the cloud to address these challenges?

Moving to the cloud offered several advantages: Not having to maintain equipment and having someone be physically present, for example, which has been particularly relevant during the pandemic, but would be helpful any time.

We didn’t have a full-time IT person on staff, so responses were slow. If there was a problem, somebody would have to go into the server room and make adjustments. There were many factors that could disrupt our work. Overall, we had some real challenges with maintaining our equipment and keeping everything running smoothly for everybody.

What was important to you when evaluating a partner to help you solve these challenges?

I got to know Afinety while working at a prior firm. I watched the firm transition to Afinety and was very impressed. So, I sort of had a test run and made a note to myself that this was a place to go, where they had real expertise with law firms, were good to work with, and did a great job.

A few years later when we were looking to do this, I spoke with some of my former colleagues and found that they were still satisfied with Afinety. They basically don’t have to think or worry about their IT, it just works. And that was it, that was all the fact checking I felt that I needed to do.

Ultimately, why did you select and decide to go with Afinety? Why did you feel you could trust them?

In selecting Afinety, I think their specialization with law firms, familiarity with the applications we run, and their ability to know how to deal with the firm – both in the transition and in what’s necessary to get set up so there isn’t any downtime, lost data or other issues with the crossover, were all important components of our selection and decision. It was a great and very successful transition.

What does Pearlman & Miranda use the Afinety platform for?

My practice is very document intensive. Our document management system, Worldox, is very important, and integration with other applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and Workshare Compare is key. Everything that we’ve done on the computer is on the network, and we really rely on that to function. And we’re able to do all of it from whatever location we’re connected from.

Can you speak to your experience with Afinety during the COVID-19 pandemic? How did they help you transition to remote work?

Our cut over was right at the beginning of the pandemic, which in some ways was fortuitous for us. We didn’t make the switch because of the pandemic, but we really benefitted from being on that system at that point where everybody went remote – the system just worked. We didn’t have any downtime, and we were able to remain productive. It was very smooth; we were well-informed during the transition process. People were able to pick up and continue. We were ready to go, it’s been terrific. We’ve been very fortunate.

From a high level, what have the results been? What has Afinety enabled for you?

In my view, with Afinety we are able to have top-level security in terms of backups and being able to recover in case of an issue. We have not had a problem with any sort of attack or sort of data loss where anything has had to be recreated. We also don’t have to maintain the hardware or worry about system updates. We have terrific, user-friendly, and responsive support. It’s just been a terrific experience.

How has partnering with Afinety helped in terms of flexibility?

Our remote capabilities are enhanced so that we have more flexibility in terms of being able to be remote and not worry about the speed or quality of our connection. Being anywhere is really the same experience as being in the office, it’s just as reliable and responsive. We have access to the same applications. All the work is going on in the cloud, and we’re just connecting from wherever we are. The network, the support, the applications, the experience is there, and it’s virtually the same.

What’s the number one, biggest benefit of working with Afinety?

It’s hard to identify the biggest benefit from Afinety. I would point to the security, the reliability of the system, and the top level of support we receive. I think it really puts us on a par with a much larger firm or enterprise. And our applications are kept up to date. Security is so important these days with cyber-attacks. I really feel that we’re in good shape with security. It’s really been a terrific thing to know that this is all being taken care of at an expert level.

Would you recommend Afinety? If so, to whom and why?

I would certainly recommend Afinety to any law firm. It seems to me these days, pandemic or not, you want to be able to work from anywhere and be responsive to clients, to go out and visit clients and access your network. I think this is a terrific platform.

It’s been great working with the whole team. Basically everyone we come in contact with at Afinety has been helpful, patient and terrific to work with. It’s nice to have people who want to help and understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

An Exciting Year Ahead for Afinety and Our Law Firm Clients

As we head into the middle of March, I’m struck by how quickly 2021 is progressing. Here at Afinety, we are also making concerted progress on several fronts. I want to take this opportunity to provide an update and share our plans for the future.

Over the past 30+ years, Afinety has been devoted to serving the IT needs of law firms. With the pivot to a cloud-enabled remote model and all the complexity and security issues this brings, we see an even bigger role for a managed services provider (MSP) such as ourselves to partner with law firms and deliver technology leadership and IT services that support their firm’s goals. As part of our 2021 plan, we are doubling down on our Legal business in a bigger way on a few different fronts.

In particular, we are executing against three key priorities:

  1. Expanding leadership as we build additional depth in the Legal vertical
  2. Elevating the client experience with greater emphasis on proactive engagement
  3. Enhancing our value proposition to further expand our security-related offerings and capabilities.

Here’s what that looks like in practice.

Ed Grubb, VP of Legal at AfinetyBuilding Additional Depth in the Legal Industry

As part of our investment in building depth and leadership, I am excited to announce that Ed Grubb has joined us as Vice President of our Legal practice. Since 1987, Ed has been a trusted adviser to small and mid-size law firms across the country, helping them select and implement technology solutions to address their business needs.

In addition to Ed, we’ve also brought on board several new team members in both client executive and technical roles, each with deep expertise in guiding law firms on how to best use technology strategically to increase agility, productivity, and growth.

These additions will supplement the dedicated existing team our clients are already familiar with to ensure that we continue to strengthen our legal offerings and evolve it in line with your future needs.

Elevating the Client Experience

Key and core to our value proposition is our ability to provide a great client experience. This year, we commit to not only continuing to improve that experience, but also to align it even more closely with your needs as a firm. We’ll be looking for opportunities to reduce friction in our clients’ daily experience, make it easier for them to connect with Support, and build new offerings and service additions that will provide value to their firms.

In addition to elevating your day-to-day client experience, as your technology partner, we see it as our responsibility to understand how law firms are using technology to become more agile, more profitable, and more productive. As a result, we are continually evaluating new and different technologies against our existing offerings to identify areas for improvement or for a stronger client experience.

Expanded Security Capabilities and Offerings

Given the sensitivity of the client data our clients engage with, we continue to take steps to enhance our security posture. As part of our continued commitment to drive a concerted focus on security, we are also hiring a Chief Information Security Officer and further expanding our Security Services function. This new executive-level role will be responsible for driving our security roadmap and priorities, guiding client-specific security initiatives, and managing key compliance obligations.

We expect to rollout additional security services in the weeks and months ahead and will be providing additional updates. In particular, you’ll be hearing about new security services that will offer elevated ransomware protection. This is in addition to our existing security offerings around email security, multi-factor authentication, and advanced security awareness training.

We’re committed to providing additional offerings this year in a number of areas – you can expect to see more exciting ways we can bring value to law firms.

Today and Beyond

We truly appreciate continued trust our clients place in us and will continue to work diligently to earn that trust and meet or exceed client expectations for our partnership.

We remain genuinely excited about the path ahead.

Sumeet Signature

Sumeet Sabharwal
CEO
Afinety

Choosing a Cloud Partner? These Are the Questions to Ask.

Choosing a cloud partner is the single most important decision you’ll make in your cloud journey. The cloud provider has the ability to make or break the project, the user experience, and the overall success of the cloud services.

Based on our over two decades of cloud experience, we’ve compiled an extensive list of questions your law firm should ask when evaluating cloud partners.  This week, we’ll explore the first set of questions. Be sure to check back next week for the second set of questions, and watch for our list of red flags to watch for as you evaluate cloud partners.

  1. What other legal services firms do you provide cloud services for?Law firms have unique needs and compliance requirements, making it important to find a cloud provider with experience helping organizations navigate complex technology challenges and increasing regulations.
  2. Do you have experience supporting firms of our similar size and specialty?What’s going to happen to your IT environment and the support provided if team members take vacation or sick time, or the company experiences turnover? Your cloud provider’s team should be made up of multiple group members so that you know you will always be covered. It’s also important to understand the cloud provider’s commitment to staff continuity, and what efforts they make to retain team members.If you work with a smaller cloud provider, make sure they have partners who specialize in areas you need further assistance in. The partner may be able to manage certain aspects of your environment.
  3. How long has your company been providing cloud services?The rapid adoption of the cloud has resulted in an uptick of technology providers offering varying degrees of cloud services. Take the time to understand how long they have been in existence and specifically how long they have been providing cloud services.While the cloud may feel new, some providers have been serving clients for decades.  Experienced cloud providers will have a deeper understanding of the technology required to offer the levels of performance and availability your practice needs.
  4. How is your company different than other cloud providers?Some cloud providers are just a service at the end of the wire while others focus on building a relationship with you, understanding your challenges, and achieving your desired outcomes.Ask the cloud provider what makes them stand out. Are they legal focused? Can they host all of your applications, not just your email? Will they advise you on what telecom solutions you should use? Do they offer telecom support?
  5. How does your security protocol keep our clients’ data secure?Your cloud partner should provide core security services that include identity-based security and encryption. In the legal world security is incredibly important, so make sure they reach or exceed that level.
  6. Provide your company’s disaster recovery and business continuity plan.Discuss how the hosting provider will continue supporting your environment in the event that a natural disaster takes down data center operations. This plan should include backup processes that include daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly backups and their corresponding retention policies. Experienced cloud providers even provide continuous snapshots throughout the day at intervals of 15-30 minutes, providing even greater coverage in the event of a disaster. A provider should assist in recovery due to major power outages or natural disasters. Make sure they will help you maintain redundant systems and manage automatic failovers (cutover to a secondary server should the first one fail).
  7. How are storage, server or compute resources scaled?The legal landscape changes rapidly, and a cloud provider should have the flexibility to adapt just as quickly. As your practice grows and changes, your storage, server, and processor needs will also change. How quickly can your cloud provider accommodate? What are the associated costs? Hosting fees are typically calculated based on the number of users and consumption of resources. This monthly fee structure provides budget predictability and stability.Cloud providers can mitigate this cost and enhance performance by offering tiered storage solutions that archive data based on its recovery and availability needs. Check if your cloud provider offers tiered storage as a way to curb storage costs.

Asking these questions will give you a really good feel for how the cloud provider will serve you now and into the future. Next week, we’re going to explore seven more questions — focusing on the right questions to ask so that you can ensure your project is a success.

Key Safety Tips for Telecommuting Law Firm Staff

Save for appearances in court, life as a lawyer is one that’s ideal for telecommuting. And amid the coronavirus outbreak, many attorneys are spending the brunt of their typical 9-to-5 schedules from the comfort of home rather than going to their workplace.

Given the kind of personal information that attorneys deal with on a day-to-day basis, the spike in remote work raises the risk of this same sensitive data falling into the wrong hands, an issue that has cybersecurity experts sounding the alarm.

During a recent webinar hosted by the American Bar Association, ABA Cybersecurity Legal Task Force Co-Chair Ruth Hill Bro warned of the potential perils law firms face should they not take the appropriate precautions.

“Cybersecurity is a moving target,” Bro explained. “Law firms are attractive targets and the risk of cyber breaches multiplies as more employees work remotely.”

Bro also noted the surge in malware viruses and websites that have been created over the past few months, each aimed at bilking people out of their money through misinformation campaigns.

Even though coronavirus restrictions are easing, remote work is here to stay, and may grow in frequency given that the shift in work arrangements for many law firms went smoothly. Here are a few suggestions to ensure the data that you and your remote staff handle is fully protected.

Take advantage of multifactor authentication
Multifactor authentication, or MFA, requires users to input several pieces of information before they can obtain access to a database. For instance, instead of only entering a username and password, MFA may also require answers to personal security questions (e.g. What is your mother’s maiden name?), fingerprint scanning or a code sent to an email address. These additional elements provide several layers of security, entailing more guesswork for would-be hackers.

As noted by Bro during the webinar, MFA enhances the protection of shared use servers.

Install antivirus software updates ASAP
Because cyberattacks are such an ongoing and pervasive threat, antivirus software developers are constantly releasing patches that address certain vulnerabilities. It’s easy to put these off, given they often take time to download. Try to avoid this if you can and get in the habit of downloading the patches as soon as they become available.

Time to change passwordPasswords serve as one component to multifactor authentication.

Check your Wi-Fi connection
When you click on the Wi-Fi symbol at the top of the page, you’ll likely see several networks that are in your immediate vicinity. If yours has a padlock next to it, that’s a good sign. If not, it means your network is free for anyone to log on. Even if you know your network is protected, get into the habit of checking it out on occasion; there may be instances in which the lock symbol doesn’t appear. If that’s the case, consider contacting your network provider to see what might be the problem. The issue may be confined to you or it could be widespread.

Be more discerning about access
Just because technology allows your staff to access information remotely doesn’t necessarily give them license to do so. In other words, if employees only need access to certain portions of a network to do their job, there is no point in granting more far-reaching access. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out, setting access privileges can serve as a fail-safe mechanism by isolating network penetration so it doesn’t affect all users.

Back up your data frequently
Ransomware is quickly becoming among the most common ways cyberattackers obtain sensitive data. These can be devastating if you don’t have a carbon copy that can replace whatever is stolen. Here as well, make this process part of your daily or weekly routine, especially for information that may be compromising to your clients’ reputation should it be exposed.

At Afinety, we specialize in cloud-based solutions so your staff can continue their work in all environments. Leveraging the world’s largest cloud provider, Amazon Web Services, Afinety has the network protections that you, your clients and your staff can depend on. Contact us to learn more.

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.

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.