1 – Choosing new IT without making security a priority
The question most legal organisations ask about new IT is – “Will it make us better/faster/more cost effective?”. And of course you want IT to deliver on all these areas. But it’s not as common to hear “Will it make us safer?” – and yet this should be one of the first considerations for any Irish legal firm today.
Clients are increasingly expecting data security to be both integral and explicit – they share the most intimate details with family lawyers and routinely expose trade secrets and confidential business information to commercial legal teams.
Entrusting such sensitive data to a law firm means that they must be as satisfied by your security systems as they are by their own. Equally important, recognising that your legal firm may be the victim of a cyber attack because of your client base requires you to implement security structures that offer facilities like intrusion detection, data encryption and two-stage access verification. To learn more about protecting your organisation from cyber threats, read our comprehensive article on cybersecurity.
Failure to make security a priority can lead to one of three negative results (or all three in fact!):
- Being attacked, hacked or breached
- Losing substantial clients through lack of obvious security protocols
- Having to re-invest in retrofitting an effective security solution to an existing IT system.
2 — Ignoring better metrics
One of the key deliverables with new IT should be access to better metrics. Legal practices ignore the value of better information at their peril.
For example, while most Irish legal firms have profit and loss accounts, more sophisticated IT can reveal such powerful profit elements as expense metrics (including establishing often unrecognised labour costs like research per case cost profiles) and even the hidden cost of incomplete or inaccurate research.
Then there are partner performance metrics that make clear the cost management of each case, and can show where partner workloads are inefficient and even where partner behaviour reduces or increases profitability per case.
While better metrics can be an uncomfortable process at first, they generate firm-wide information that cannot be ignored. Legal firms that draw upon the widest range of reporting structures to understand their profession and the changing legal landscape are inevitably the ones that develop profitable and rewarding client bases and create sustainable business practices that support success.
3 — Failing to view technology as a firm-wide aid
It may sound silly to suggest that legal firms view technology as anything other than an aid, but decision-making practices often suggests the opposite! All too often the decision maker in a legal practice isn’t empowered to explore the role of technology at every level, meaning that senior staff are often isolated from the full benefit that IT could bring.
Similarly, the decision-maker may have a narrow view of the role of IT and, as a result, make purchasing decisions that don’t meet the needs of the entire firm.
The failure to explore technology as a firm-wide aid to performance can lead to several adverse results:
- Inadequate or over-specialised IT purchases
- Inability to select systems with long-term value
- Failure to recognise the training load involved in IT incorporation firm-wide
- Creating silos of IT in some areas of the practice, leaving others stranded in a ‘pre IT’ world.
IT is a critical support to all good law firms, to successful practices and to better profitability. By avoiding these three critical mistakes Irish legal firms will give themselves the best opportunity to grow and thrive.