Reliance on technology (and the need to make sure it work hassle-free more of the time), the need for business continuity, the complexity of the range of IT used day to day in a legal office, more focus on development of IT solutions (rather than just keeping systems up and running) and the need for absolute security for online communications are all factors driving law firms towards more use of managed and outsourced IT and communications; alongside the growing number of providers and better solutions available.
E-technology has taken over the way in which lawyers think about delivering services and communicate; within firms, with lawyers in other firms, with clients and other professionals. Technology has become so critical to lawyers ability to provide a service that disaster recovery and business continuity – which were scarcely on the agenda seriously for most firms just 3 years ago – has become an essential measure for all firms; reflected in its inclusion as a requirement in Lexcel accreditation.
Online services which all rely on e-technology – now used routinely – include:
- Email – no practice can cope for long without it now.
- Property searches – Local Authorities, Land Registry, drainage
- Online billing – Legal Services Commission.
- The courts – issuing proceedings
- Banking – managing accounts, reconciliations, BACS
- Document submissions – Inland Revenue (SDLT), Land Registry
- Remote access to the office from home / anywhere
- PDA’s, Blackberries – email, diary, text, web, dictation
- Dictation – from anywhere to anywhere via digital dictation
- Websites – with many now providing a significant flow of enquiries 24/7/365
- Online tracking – clients, introducers of business
- Telephones – which all rely, like the Internet on the national and global networks
“Convergence” of documents, data and voice technologies creates many of the growing opportunities to capitalise on new technology. An example of the inter-operability of these three media, which have historically been regarded as quite separate – but which have all become just “packets” of data when they are transmitted electronically – is the option to have your emails and attached documents read to you and for you to speak your email reply while you drive your car. There is now also very little distinction between sending emails on the computer in your office or from your mobile phone – you can choose what is most convenient for you; equally there is little difference between sending a text to a mobile phone compared to an email … and the distinction between mobile phones, cordless and landlines is disappearing too – enabling everyone to work more flexibly from anywhere any time.
… and how quickly this has happened, mostly without much planning on the part of lawyers and law firms, many of which are ill prepared for the challenges that all these new methods of working and communicating present. Equally, few firms are equipped to capitalise on the opportunities to develop a more capable and profitable practice that all of these initiatives present. The reality is that most IT managers in most law firms cannot possibly keep up to speed on the wide range of IT, telecoms, multiple channel networking and security skills needed to provide a full service today. They need more help to get to grips with all the issues and solutions available.
A law firm can no longer operate without effective, stable and secure technologies and an assurance of minimal down time, with close to zero security breaches, even in the event of a disaster. Commercial clients in particular, but also the general public, have raised the bar as they have recognised what can go wrong based on their own failings and plenty of publicity when things do go wrong.
The principal concept behind outsourcing or managed service is that the responsibility for the management of the infrastructure and support of a professional services organisation can be given to a specialist organisation in part or as a whole to enable the remaining IT resources of a business can focus on adding value to the firm through enhancing business processes and providing a better service to clients.
There is a general lack of appreciation of what “outsourcing” and “managed” services encompass and of the components and benefits that can be derived from these initiatives. If you would like to know more about the options available, take a look at the web site of MSC who are dedicated to reviewing the potential of managed services for professional services organisations and facilitating the change.
For more information contact Bill Kirby on 07946 251277 or firstname.lastname@example.org