The legal industry is not known for embracing change. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, legal professionals have been forced to re-evaluate their business models and reassess the best way to work. For law firms, to survive the downturn, many different approaches were taken (e.g., layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts). Now, downsizing office space, hoteling and remote working are all new options as firms update their policies and consider phased returns, rotation of resources, go-forward social distancing activities and other steps to return to the workplace. Of these options, remote work activities historically have been frowned upon due to concerns around productivity. However, the continuing containment measures and business impact of COVID-19 has made the need for flexible work environments a must; the industry can ill-afford to retreat into another confinement period without a plan or the tools to meet client demands.
Rapid advances in technology
In its newly released 2020 Legal Market Report: How Innovative Technology is Reshaping the Business and Practice of Law, Thomson Reuters discusses several factors, including the impact of unforeseen business disruptions and pandemics, necessitating corporate law department and law firm adoption of innovative technology. The report illustrates how the industry is undergoing “a transformative evolution toward a more diversified, flexible, technologically sophisticated model of legal-service delivery.” It also notes that “the most resilient organizations are addressing a business continuity strategy to ensure their teams can remain productive as well as deliver services – anywhere and anytime.”
While some technologically savvy law firms and legal departments are equipped with systems and tools to perform legal work outside of the office, many lack the infrastructure to support a flexible work environment and ensure effective collaboration and access to data. Keeping up with internal and external client demands, and remaining competitive, means embracing and implementing a scalable information management infrastructure – one that supports mobility and easier access.
In 2020, I predicted the legal industry would see increased investment in technologies that enhanced flexibility as part of a need to retain a younger workforce and remain competitive. The current crisis has accelerated the understanding that cloud technology is more critical than ever to support these objectives. Secure cloud and SaaS solutions allow professionals to work where and when they want. In addition to reducing IT costs, resource constraints and security burdens, the ability to communicate and share content faster and easier with customers (and with co-workers) is critical to survive and thrive in the world’s new normal.
Cyber resilience pushed into hyperdrive
I also predicted that 2020 would be the year law firms took aggressive action to revise security policies, update incident response plans and implement technology to better protect, monitor and control data access. While many firms have been taking significant measures to re-adjust cybersecurity practices, no one could anticipate how COVID-19 would push this transformation into hyperdrive. The global shift to a work-from-home model has introduced new security concerns and exposed endpoints, leaving many law firms even more vulnerable to potential high-profile data breaches and ransomware attacks. This virtual workforce may be using their own private devices, such as smartphones and laptops, without adequate protection, storing content in less-than-secure locations and/or disregarding policies for content management and file transfer.
In its report, Thomson Reuters noted that data breaches often “happen through phishing scams or other human mistakes.” Financially motivated cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers continue to look for new and creative ways to penetrate networks and exploit vulnerabilities to access the valuable confidential client information law firms possess. Resilient legal professionals need to protect their endpoints and take steps to mitigate the risks against the most advanced forms of attack.
COVID-19 has been the impetus to push digital transformation forward – forcing legal professionals to adopt more flexible approaches to improve the way they work as well as to strengthen cyber resilience strategies and retain customers’ trust. Legal leaders must recognize the importance of leveraging technology to remain competitive, ensure a high level of productivity and keep business disruption to a minimum.
To learn more about how the legal industry is adopting technology to effectuate change, download the new 2020 Legal Market Report: How Innovative Technology is Reshaping the Business and Practice of Law.
To better understand how OpenText™ can lead you through the recovery by supporting your cyber resilience activities and ensuring security and visibility across a dispersed enterprise, read the white paper, Investigate Everywhere with OpenText™ EnCase™.