Law Firms and Doctors Offices Must Embraced Technology

Law firms aren't technicians and most would say unapologetically that they aren't technically inclined. If that sounds like a sweeping statement, we can say definitively that only about ten percent of these professionals are also interested in computers and computer security. In most cases, they aren't good with technology and in many cases, they find it repelling. It's something that the law companies and medical firms themselves have often joked about, but the days of joking about technology and its use in professional circles are over.

There is a responsibility that is inherent in every law firm or medical firm to respond to the needs of their clients. There is also a responsibility to keep the information that they are given secure and that is something that every professional knows.

In today's environment of email and online paperwork and client login areas, the need for better cybersecurity is well known by every company out there. It's been a topic of serious conversation for the past couple of years. That need for more security has also been the focus of a considerable amount of discussion and speculation by hackers and those to whom proprietary information could be a real windfall.

For attorneys and legal companies, medical companies and more traditional firms, many of whom are owned by older and more traditional members, online security and privacy is something that didn't receive a lot of consideration until recently. That said, they've still, at least according to the American Bar Association, been making progress.

Jody R. Westby, CEO of Global Cyber Risk LLC says " Law firms have never been very good with technology, and now they are struggling, as breaches in firms have made headlines and clients increasingly are asking questions about their security programs. The FBI issued warnings to firms and held a meeting in early 2012 with about 200 firms in New York to discuss the risk of breaches and theft of client data."

Most companies have begun asking themselves what they can do to keep their systems safe and their information from being breached.

When it comes to countering a major security breach or a cyberattack and being able to protect all of their critical and proprietary information and data, most law firms are essentially the same as any other company. They are doing the best that they can to accomplish it, but many simply do not have the means and in some cases, despite the rules requiring them to do so, they don't have the motivation.

Today a few law firms are hiring security specialists and network specialists to help them to secure the sites and computing devices that they use. A few more are using IT in their job every day. That's a big step forward, but many law firms are finding that it is not enough. They need the means to file and to communicate online and their clients and customers are insisting on it. Not only that, but their professional organizations expect it of them too.

The American Bar Association's Model Rule of Professional Conduct has one rule ( 1.1) that requires that their members "“keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. "

That means that it is not enough to keep an IT specialist or to hire a security specialist. Lawyers and paralegals are required to learn the benefits and risks of technology that they are using and budget for technology and security in their firms.

Despite the many advances, the benefits and the risks that are associated with technology and the things that it can do for law firms today, a panel for the ABA determined that only 58 percent of law firms budget for technology and only 39 percent of law firms believe that training in technology is important.

Surveys and reports also show that “a full 25 percent of firms have no security policy at all. Encryption is greatly underutilized. Even at large firms with resources, less than 50 percent use encryption of files.”

The typical law firm approach to technology is a “break-fix” mentality. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. The lack of change, the lack of innovation and a proactive approach to technology leaves them behind in security, but it also leaves them behind in other areas as well.

Litigation support and assistance technology is in wide use in larger cities. That technology can protect customers and protect law firms from such problems as being late with depositions or filings and costing them a lost case. That, in turn can cost the law firm dearly financially and reputation-wise.

The federal court system has used electronic filing for several years. Some jurisdictions have made that filing methodology mandatory. Many states are making electronic filing available. The vast majority of attorneys do have computing devices, but studies show that only about 17 percent of attorneys have used litigation support software that might have assisted them dramatically to support their customers more fully. It can also help to prevent problems and lawsuits against the law firm.

There is more at stake today in the average law firm than the need to protect the firm--and the clients—from insecurity and the breach of their data. There is the need to protect clients from data loss, from loss of time and effort and to protect the law firm from litigation.

Internet, video conferencing and other techniques have replaced phone calls and the yellow pages.

Online filing, litigation support software and techniques have and will continue to change the face of the legal system, allowing law firms to help the clients, and to lower mistakes in filing as well as tardiness in filing. Further, these types of software also offer increased efficiency and improved security in the practice of law.

If you haven’t fully embraced technology and IT in your practice it’s well past time that you explore what it can offer you—and what it may save you.


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