How Law Firms Can Go Paperless

Benefits Of A Paperless Office

Experts and industry analysts have been touting the benefits of a paperless office for some years. While part of this movement has been driven by the shift toward environmentally friendly practices, digitizing workflow produces a multitude of additional benefits. Law offices can save time, money and improve security through making the switch from paper to digital, to say nothing of reducing carbon footprint.

While the idea of digitization can sound intimidating, especially with an older law firm, the process doesn’t have to be a painful. Going paperless has been attempted and refined by various legal enterprises over the years. Firms today can learn from past examples, as well as more properly understand the documented benefits of a digital office workflow.

Preparing To Go Paperless

The American Bar Association recommended that law offices, no matter how eager, not simply launch into the digitization process. While newer firms can establish a digital workflow on day one, older firms likely have many physical files on location. These contain confidential information on active and past clients. Before the paperless environment can be fully realized, these documents must be scanned into the network.
Digital documents can exist in a multitude of places, including on a computer, a server, a flash drive or in the cloud. When legal firms begin the digitization process, they should already have a chosen data receptacle in mind.

Organization methods should also be determined before a legal firm begins to go paperless. One of the largest drives behind the move to digital is increased productivity, but that won’t happen if various lawyers and legal assistants are all filing data in different locations without consulting one another. Before scanning begins, have a meeting and outline the categorization methods that will be utilized.

Once this is done, a naming structure should also be determined. Law firms want to be professional and orderly so having a system where any employee can quickly find the information needed is a benefit. If one attorney is naming case files as “client documents” while another labels them “case documents,” the potential for confusion greatly increases.

Lastly, a secure paper disposal process should also be in place once the files have been scanned. Legal documents contain confidential information and should be properly shredded before being placed in recycling bins. Law offices looking to be especially careful can place shredded documents into multiple recycling stations to reduce the risk of the papers being reassembled.

Afinety takes law practices digital on the cloud_Afinety Cloud PlatformFile digitization should be treated with the same care as traditional paper organization.

Redesigning Office Space To Reduce Costs

Once a law firm begins the digitization process, it must understand just how transformed the workplace environment will be. It won’t be a simple matter of replacing the filing cabinets with server racks. Depending on the data storage solution, the file archives space can be completely repurposed into offices, an employee rec area or some other functional room.
Copier machines and printers will also be downsized. Without paper, the need for these machines drops dramatically. Legal firms can absorb the savings of reduced equipment needs, maintenance costs and supply ordering.

Going paperless may be an investment, but it’s one that generates value quickly. According to Nitro, 28 percent of businesses report a full ROI within 6 months. This number climbs to 84 percent after the first year and a half.

“Cloud solutions save the most room and can assist in file organization.”

Digitizing Fully With A Cloud Solution

As stated earlier, there are several options for data storage when digitizing office workflow. A cloud solution arguably represents the best option, especially for law firms worried about cybersecurity and technical support. Cloud providers help monitor their software against unauthorized access, keeping confidential data secure.
Cloud solutions, especially those tailored for the legal industry, can also assist in organization and interface for file storage.

How To Spot Phishing In A Legal Firm

Alert: Phishing Methods That Law Practices Need To Know

Everyone has experienced phishing in some way, whether through a phone call from an obscure agency, a letter claiming its recipient won a contest he or she didn’t enter or an urgent email either offering a fortune or threatening legal action. Phishing is one of the oldest scams in existence, and this is what makes it so dangerous.

With powerful new ransomware being developed by cybercriminals, some may believe that all cyberattacks are increasingly sophisticated, but this is only partly true. Phishing today is more cunning than it was years ago, but it still operates on the same simple principle: trick the user into a response. With legal firms handling so much confidential data, they cannot afford to ease up on phishing. Firms don’t need to be hit with ransomware like WannaCry to suffer a breach.

Phishing Is Evolving

Phishing isn’t what it was even five years ago. The days of the Nigerian Prince are largely over. These cyberattacks depended on malicious attachments to infiltrate a secure network. Thanks to providers like Google and Microsoft, however, these emails were increasingly filtered to spam folders. The suspicious attachment, especially from an unknown source, was easy to detect.

In order for phishing to work, the recipient first needs to see it. Recent Proofpoint research has uncovered a switch in phishing tactics. Phishing emails are now far less likely to use the filter-catching attachments, opting instead for emails with dangerous hyperlinks and attached archives like compressed Javascript files. This change is designed to beat the automatic filters and deliver the message into a regular inbox where it has a much higher chance of being read.

This change also allows phishing to deliver far more than ransomware and malware. Adware, banking trojans and generalized information theft are now possible through these malicious messages.

Phishing can be used to deliver a host of unfriendly software into a network, or to steal confidential employee information_fraud alert image_Afinety, Inc.Phishing can be used to deliver a host of unfriendly software into a network, or to steal confidential employee information.

Why Comprehensive Employee Training Matters

One of the most dangerous aspects of phishing is that every employee is at risk. Cybercriminals can target executives, assistants and everyday employees once they have the right email address. It only takes a breach at one level to potentially expose an entire network.

Take this real world example: an HR officer preparing the office W2s. This officer receives an urgent email from the CEO (or at least from a very similar email address), stating that there’s been a problem and HR must email the W2s back right away, so that they might be fixed. The tone of the email implies that the problem is severe and that immediate action must be taken. Given that it’s the boss, why hesitate?

In this instance, personal identifying information of not just the HR rep but the entire staff has been exposed. Life-crippling data like Social Security Numbers are now in malicious hands that can use the information for a variety of nefarious deeds.

Phishing can also retrieve passwords, usernames and a host of other information that can enable network access. Many legal firms operate on older systems, ones created before the principle of least privilege, software construction designed to limit employee access to only the files they need, was widely implemented. This means that an assistant might have full access to case files and other sensitive data.

“Most successful phishing attacks are designed to look like emails the recipient is expecting.”

The Telltale Signs Of Phishing

According to Verizon’s 2017 data breach report, roughly a third of phishing emails are opened. Organizations cannot be dismissive of any kind of cyberattack that has this level of success. While phishing has evolved, the benefit is that it has retained certain common characteristics. This makes the malicious messages easy to spot, so long as an individual knows what to look for.

A Wombat security report claimed that the most successful phishing attacks were, unsurprisingly, designed to look like emails the recipient was expecting. That HR example was one such instance. This practice, known as spear phishing, is designed to camouflage into the regular inbox traffic. However, the email – while similar – will always be at least slightly different.

Be weary of suspicious domain names. For example: LawCEO@Firm.com may be real but LawCEO@Firm.com.co is likely malicious.

Instruct staff and partners to never click on an embedded link from an unknown source, even if the email looks legitimate. Employees should also be weary of any correspondence containing multiple spelling or punctuation mistakes. Hackers rarely have the same commitment to standards that corporations do.

Lastly, train all staff to beware of any messages with intimidating or overly urgent tones. Phishing schemes are designed to make a person act first and think later. It is not uncommon for these malicious messages to threaten legal action or firing in an attempt to force an immediate response. Employees should be advised to contact a supervisor if they ever feel threatened before responding to an email.

You've Been Hacked image_phishing_Afinety, Inc.Phishing tones are typically charged, whether ecstatic or enraged. They are trying to discourage rational thought.

How A Cloud Solution Helps

Unfortunately, many legal firms do not have the budget to retain a full time information security specialist to monitor for phishing schemes and keep employees up to date on cybersecurity trends. Many do not even have the resources to fully meet all cybersecurity needs.

In an increasingly dangerous technological landscape, legal firms can feel like little fish in a very large pond. However, passing off data solutions to a trusted cloud provider can help. Cloud companies typically have much more in the way of resources to help prevent data breaches. Companies like Microsoft annually invest $1 billion in cybersecurity research, according to Reuters.

At Afinety, we take all aspects of cybersecurity seriously. Our cloud platform has been tailored to the legal industry, making sure all of your needs are met. As phishing and other cyberattacks continue to evolve, so will our product. Contact Afinety today to learn exactly how our experts and software can help your firm.

Why Legal Firms Are Switching To Cloud Computing

 What’s Driving Law Firms’ Need For The Cloud

While many sectors have been quick to embrace cloud computing, law offices have traditionally lagged behind. Part of this has to do with regulation concerns governing case data and another aspect is the lack of technical expertise not infrequently present within a law firm. However, according to a recent article from Big Law Business, legal firms are finally starting to make the shift away from in-house data centers.

This move is being prompted not just by the advantages of cloud computing but by shifting international laws and data regulations. Larger legal offices that deal with clients from around the world are finding it easier to rely on cloud technology.

Help With GDPR Adoption

A large factor driving this change is the deployment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the European Union. This law was written to better protect user privacy rights within an increasingly digital world, setting clear definitions as to what information can and cannot be discretely collected and used without the user’s informed consent.

While much of these new regulations link back to the growing prevalence of social networks, even basic communications like email and instant messenger fall under GDPR review. As such, many tech companies that service international clients, including cloud service providers, have updated their solutions to be in full compliance of the GDPR. By making the switch to the cloud, legal firms save themselves the time and energy that would be needed to ensure their data infrastructures follow the new EU law.

Reduced Storage Needs

Another large benefit of cloud solutions is the reduced need for space. Traditional filing systems included filing cabinets and, typically, an off-premise third party storage provider. This infrastructure, while solid, was easily impacted by lost or missing information, in addition to piling up sizeable annual costs – even for smaller legal firms.

Switching to a cloud solution relegates the majority of data, especially archived cases, to digital only, freeing up space and eliminating third party storage costs.

Even on-premise, digital storage requires devoting a room to servers and other hardware_Afinety, Inc.Even on-premise digital storage involves devoting a room to servers and other hardware.

Secure Data That Is Readily Available

However, space saving is not the primary reason to digitize confidential information. As the American Bar Association pointed out, cloud platforms offer a variety of benefits including improved mobility and, more importantly, data security. The vast majority of cloud solutions are designed to be transparent, letting administrators keep an eye on each aspect of the system. This reduces the time needed to detect malicious data breaches, allowing the cloud security to crack down on the problem before it is severe.

Most cloud software builds in automated responses, working to close breaches as soon as they’re detected. Storing data on the cloud also allows it to be encrypted and stored behind multiple levels of authentication, including at least one password. In addition, cloud infrastructures tend to utilize the principle of least privilege. This means that the average user has their permissions restricted to only the files they need. Doing this lowers the risk of accidental change and makes it so that, if a cybercriminal gains access to an account, the whole system does not have a chance of being compromised.

As digital laws continue to shift in response to the GDPR and other regulations, expect even more legal firms to adopt cloud platforms. A modern world calls for innovative solutions.

Meeting The Needs Of Modern Law Firm Clients

 

Technology has brought a number of opportunities to operate more efficiently, maximize benefits and better serve customers. It’s affected all aspects of our culture, including consumer expectations, forcing organizations to keep up with these developments. Today, legal consumers anticipate the same type of accessibility and capabilities from their attorneys as they do from other service providers. Law firms must ensure that they have the infrastructure in place to meet the needs of their modern clients.

Following Through With Changes For Efficiency

Organization leaders are increasingly recognizing the potential that technology can bring to their operations, with the cloud in particular being a major disrupter. The benefits these platforms bring can significantly increase efficiencies in the delivery of legal services, but law firms must be ready to follow through to achieve these goals. A study by Altman Weil found that while 94 percent of respondents were focusing on improving efficiency, only 49 percent have changed the way they approach legal service delivery. Above The Law contributor Nicole Black posited that this trend could indicate the difficulties of changing long-held processes despite the overwhelming evidence that these shifts are necessary.

While adjustments are certainly challenging, using the cloud can boost your business to the next level. Migrating your network to the cloud is a significant way to innovate legal service delivery and improve your efficiency. Following through with your commitment to change by implementing training for your users will bring new ways of serving client needs and performing up to emerging expectations.

“Digitization will help the legal sector work better and more flexibly for everyone.”

Improving Sharing And Collaboration Opportunities

Law firm clients don’t communicate in the same ways they did a decade ago. They’re mobile and look to have easy accessibility for advice and services. Confidence in the cloud is steadily increasing across the consumer and enterprise sectors, making it a critical asset for bridging the gap between both parties. CBR Online contributor Doug Hargrove noted that legal practices can significantly reduce the amount of paperwork in the office and courtroom simply by moving assets to the cloud. This in turn drives workforce flexibility and collaboration by providing a single portal to access business information and find necessary documents.

Modern clients expect their lawyers to have the appropriate case files on hand at all times and to address their particular problems. The cloud ensures that attorneys have an easily searchable database to deal with issues quickly and deliver effective solutions. Digitization of the legal sector will help it work better and more flexibly for everyone. Law firms can also use the cloud to collaborate on a case or reach out to a specialist to get the best answers faster.

Ensuring Compliance And Confidentiality

Cloud platforms are now becoming more secure than in-house options, making platforms like AWS a major value for supporting and protecting critical business information. A 2017 survey from KPMG found that legal and financial service firms no longer have compliance challenges that were once associated with cloud-based services, Legal Futures reported. Fears associated with security and privacy are steadily being abated by continual vendor protection improvements. If law firms hope to meet modern client needs, the cloud should be the first technology adopted to advance their capabilities.

“Security, connectivity, mobility and scalability will all be fundamental to ensure the required level of performance and resilience is in place to enable such modernization,” Legal Futures stated. “High maintenance, complex legacy systems will be a significant barrier, which is why moving to a cloud-based infrastructure is no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.”

Change can be difficult, but it’s necessary to meet evolving client needs and keep up with the competition. To learn more about how the cloud can help you meet modern law firm client expectations, contact Afinety today.

3 ways to take advantage of ProLaw (Video)

Is your practice management system limiting your law firm? ProLaw offers major benefits and improves on current processes. Legal teams can take advantage of ProLaw in three main ways.

First, they can use it to streamline their workflow. Customized reports offer critical analysis on revenues and transactions. Secondly, Afinety is fully certified ProLaw partner, offering consultation, training and support. We help ensure ledger reconciliation and advanced reporting capabilities for these environments.

Lastly, ProLaw can run from the Afinety Cloud Platform, enabling a safe and reliable way to access your system from any connected device. For more information on how you can leverage ProLaw, contact Afinety today.

Could your firm pay the price for downtime?

 

Few organizations want to think about what might happen to them if a crisis event arises. Taking the time to set out a clear recovery strategy is essential, but some law firms aren’t following this necessary step or don’t have a plan that adequately covers their operations. Rather than waiting around for disaster to strike, you will want to ask if you could pay the price of downtime and what actions you should be pursuing now to avoid this situation.

Downtime costs on the rise

If your important systems went down, how quickly could you get them back up? Every minute of downtime costs money, and the price is continually rising. According to the Silver Linings report by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, law firms might pay up to $12,500 per hour for downtime. As DataBarracks noted, this number represents the entire sector, meaning that the costs might be lower for your particular firm. Regardless, the expenses associated with inactive IT services and hardware are on the rise, and many legal practices simply cannot afford to pay these charges.

Law firms' downtime costs are steadily rising_AfinetyDowntime costs are steadily rising.

Other prices to consider

Downtime itself is dangerous, but there are costs that come on top of it that can truly bring down a business. For one, without access to critical systems and resources, employees will not be as productive as they should be. Lost productivity can lead to missed revenue opportunities and impact your overall bottom line. MSPMentor contributor Dan Kobialka noted that you will also rack up costs for compliance and regulatory violations, recreating lost data and notifying clients of a breach. When clients are notified of prolonged downtime, it will result in a loss of reputation and cause even long-term clients to consider alternatives.

Paying money for downtime itself is considerable, but when you factor in compliance needs, loss of clients and missed revenue generation, downtime becomes much more costly to your firm’s stability. It can take a significant amount of time to fully come back from a breach or downtime event, and expenses from these situations will further hinder your practice’s growth and capabilities.

“A capable provider should have a full understanding of your industry.”

Team up with an IT provider that specializes in law firms

When partnering with IT solutions designed for law firms, like those from Afinety, you will have direct expert support during difficult situations and will not be responsible for maintaining your system. A capable provider should have a full understanding of your industry and your practice’s particular requirements. We tailor our solutions to fit your needs and provide 99.999 percent uptime with our Afinety Cloud Platform solution. Firms can also take advantage of our 24/7/365 monitoring and support capabilities to identify unusual network behavior and prevent issues from occurring.

Downtime isn’t something that any organization wants to experience or pay for. Being hit with such an event can significantly damage your firm and drain your available resources. Teaming up with a partner like Afinety will help outfit your practice with IT solutions that are not only configured to your needs, but also accessible anywhere at anytime. Contact Afinety today to see how our offerings can help you overcome downtime.

How to reduce reliance on internal IT [Video]

Internal IT staff have critical tasks to take care of, but this can take significant time away from addressing other issues. A help desk with around 300 users might close an average of 225 tickets per month. Less reliance on internal IT can reduce this workload and increase efficiency.

You don’t want to spend billable hours trying to get your laptop or application to work. Training employees to anticipate issues and providing the right tools can help them solve problems that may arise. This will mitigate instances of duplicate tickets.

You also have the option to team up with a managed service provider. Afinety offers full support and maintenance, so these areas are no longer a concern for your team. Contact Afinety today to see how law firms can take advantage of our offerings.

How the cloud improves law firm productivity [Video]

The right tools can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing productivity and efficiency within a business. Law firms need a solution that provides tangible value to their jobs. The cloud can significantly improve productivity among legal practices.

Many professionals within the industry handle a lot of paper. This can be time-consuming as documents must be handed off, signed, returned and archived. Transferring so many times can result in errors and lost documents.

Cloud-based document management solutions, like iManage, offer a central repository for files that can be accessed anywhere at anytime. Employees can collaborate on cases and can even go paperless within the office, boosting productivity. Afinety, a Certified iManage Partner, can help you with all aspects of document management cloud solutions for your firm. Stay tuned to learn more about how the cloud can benefit your law firm.

Alleviate an overworked IT staff with the cloud [Video]

Have you ever felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day for your IT team to live up to their full potential? You’re not alone. A study found that CIOs think their IT departments are around half the size they should be.

[marker] Welcome to Afinety, the first name in cloud computing services for law firms. We know the kind of stress your IT team is operating under, and we’d like to help.

[marker] Implementing a cloud-based platform from Afinety means that your internal technology team doesn’t have to worry about general maintenance or even putting out daily fires. Instead, these employees are given the freedom to accomplish company goals, allowing you to more efficiently distribute your business’s manpower. Further, your users will work more efficiently, without disruption from IT related issues.

How downtime affects your firm’s bottom line

 

IT services are absolutely vital to any law firm’s continued success. Legal workers need constant access to a wide variety of information, and it simply makes sense to store this data within a digital platform. However, doing so creates the the issue of downtime.

Anything from a flood to simple human error can cause your firm’s IT infrastructure to go offline, and such an event can have catastrophic effects on your bottom line.

The downtime itself is going to be expensive

Regardless of industry or business model, making money is probably the main goal of your organization. Therefore, it makes sense that your first concern is going to be with the financial impact of a downtime event.

“The average cost of downtime to be $5,600 per minute.”

That said, figuring out exactly how much a company will lose isn’t easy, especially for law firms. A good place to start is the Gartner estimate that found the average cost of downtime to be $5,600 per minute.

The major difference for those working in the legal sector is the fact that most IT services aren’t client-facing. Unlike an online vendor like Amazon, law firms can’t count the number of sales they lost due to an outage.

However, this doesn’t mean that downtime won’t cause a major financial impact. Being unable to access important client information means employees can’t complete any work, which translates to a loss of billable hours.

What about your firm’s reputation?

Although your clients won’t be able to see the effects of downtime, they’ll certainly be able to feel them. Legal issues are very often time-sensitive, and having to push back important deadlines due to an outage is going to seriously affect your firm’s reputation. Jacqueline Rupert of consulting firm Avalution spelled out the importance of protecting your company’s name in a quote published by Continuity Insights.

“For some organizations, having a billion dollar loss is a drop in the bucket but if their CEO is on the front page of The New York Times saying they did something terrible it is very impactful,” said Rupert. “You have to understand what’s important.”

Regaining client trust for law firms is hard image_ www.afinety.comAn angry client isn’t easily brought back into the fold.

While few companies truly have the ability to scoff at a billion dollar loss, Rupert raises a good point. Despite its central role in every business, money comes and goes. A reputation, on the other hand, is incredibly hard to rebuild once it’s been tarnished.

You need to work with experienced professionals

To avoid both financial and reputational damage resulting from unplanned downtime, financial firm leaders should look into partnering with Afinety. Our cloud solutions boast a 99.999 percent uptime, which means your IT solutions will be available when you need them the most. This is because we have 24/7/365 monitoring of all of our services.

Our highly trained professionals and state-of-the-art technology can help ensure that you get the IT services you so desperately need to run your business. Contact one of our representatives today and find out what an Afinety cloud-based solution can do for you and your company. Our reliance on the highly-rated Amazon Web Service’s line of products can ensure your data is stored securely and is accessible on a consistent basis.