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.

How law firms can benefit from managed services

 

Setting up and maintaining an internal IT infrastructure can be a challenge for any law firm. Lawyers, aides and other personnel are busy with critical tasks, leaving little time to focus on their IT development. Legal practices should look to leverage managed services for their IT needs. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest ways that managed services can benefit your law firm:

1. Skilled personnel

Legal practices come in a variety of sizes. For the small to medium-sized ones, it can be difficult to attract a qualified in-house IT expert, based on resources and opportunities for advancement. This can result in hiring personnel who don’t have the experience or skills necessary to suit your business IT needs.

Managed service providers have experts on hand who are well-versed in the latest technology and trends. They are constantly looking ahead to stay on pace with industry changes and ensure that you can take advantage of valuable hardware and software assets. This will save considerable costs and time associated with recruiting, training and employing an internal IT workforce.

MSPs have skilled personnel to provide round the clock support_AfinetyMSPs have skilled personnel to provide round the clock support.

2. Diverse contract options

Every law firm is different, and your solution should reflect this. Managed service providers offer a variety of services and contract options to choose from that will fit your unique requirements. Bundled services might be perfect, whereas a la carte options might be better to pick out specific functions. As Law Technology Today contributor Eric Hoffmaster noted, providers might also have a fixed-price contract, offering unlimited support for a set price. You can take advantage of monitoring and remote guidance 24/7/365.

Many decision-makers worry about buying a solution that doesn’t have the full suite of assets for their needs, or paying for features they don’t need. By teaming up with a managed services provider, you will have a number of services and tailoring options available. Solutions can be customized based on your users and functionality expectations. It also helps to have a vendor who is experienced with serving your industry. The managed services provider should have a proven track record of success in the legal sector, demonstrating that they uphold compliance requirements and can deliver on their promises.

“Managed services don’t have to replace internal IT. “

3. Less reliance on internal IT

For legal practices that have internal IT personnel, they can still take advantage of managed services. IT departments receive numerous calls and tickets per day, making it difficult to address all issues quickly. By offloading some of this burden onto a managed service provider, internal IT personnel can handle other tasks and explore other avenues for growth. As CIO’s Thor Olavsrud noted, managed services don’t have to replace internal IT. They can instead complement internal IT capabilities to focus on more strategic projects and save costs.

An MSP manages servers and hardware on their end, reducing your overall investment in this area. A good vendor will also look to configure your solutions appropriately and provide around-the-clock support for any situation. Law firms can experiment with the latest technologies and mobile capabilities with the help of an MSP while giving time back to internal IT personnel.

For small law firms, it’s particularly difficult to set up and maintain IT infrastructure, especially if you don’t have a dedicated IT staff member. Partnering with an MSP like Afinety that tailors solutions to your firm and understands the legal industry can benefit you in a number of ways. With a proven record of 99.999 percent uptime, we ensure that you’re able to access important files and business assets anywhere at anytime. Our 24/7/365 support and monitoring will provide peace of mind that we’re here to help and are constantly watching for any unusual behavior that could impact your firm. Contact Afinety today for more information on how partnering with us can bolster your IT capabilities.

Beyond Belief: 3 myths about the cloud that need to go away

Why Law Practice Cloud Myths Are Not True

Technology has been advancing quite rapidly in the past few years. For a lot of businesses, it can be difficult to keep up with it all. This is especially true of the cloud, an innovation that can be confusing for many people. Due to this, quite a number of myths and misconceptions have been spread about what the cloud is and what it can do.

Most of these are flat-out wrong, and are keeping companies from making the switch to a technology that could revolutionize their operations. To help dispel these rumors, we’ve put together the top three myths about the cloud that just need to go away.

Myth #1: It’s not secure

This is by far one of the most common myths about the cloud. Somewhere along the line, somebody spread the rumor that not keeping your data in-house meant that it was up for grabs by the nearest hackers. Obviously, this isn’t the case.

“In-house operations are often anything but secure.”

To begin, in-house operations are often anything but secure. Many employees struggle with basic security concepts, such as falling for phishing scams, which can leave your entire network in a vulnerable state. Cloud providers, on the other hand, are intensely focused on security and don’t fall for these dirty tricks. The cybersecurity measures put in place by these vendors are incredibly complex, which is why it isn’t surprising that Transparency Market Research predicted the global cloud security market will increase from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $11.8 billion in 2022.

Myth #2: It’s not reliable

On a similar note, a lot of companies feel that keeping IT operations in-house means they can better mitigate the risks associated with a disaster. Again, this is far from true. Cloud providers generally have all kinds of systems in place to ensure uptime, ranging from backup generators to temperature monitoring systems to avoid overheating. In fact, a study from CloudHarmony found that the amount of downtime for all of Amazon Web Service’s cloud products during the entirety of 2015 totaled a measly two and a half hours.

What’s more, keeping your data in the cloud is kind of a disaster recovery plan in and of itself. Information stored in a cloud-based platform can be accessed anywhere at anytime, which means employees still have access to mission-critical data if the office is severely damaged.

Disaster recovery is a big part of the cloud_ image _ AfinetyA disaster is when your company needs access to important data the most.

Myth #3: It’s a fad

Another myth about the cloud is that it’s just a passing fad. Of course, a cursory look at the number of companies relying on this technology could quickly dispel this rumor, but a more interesting piece of information is the number of organizations that stick with it. According to a study conducted by 451 Research on behalf of Microsoft, a whopping 95 percent of those observed said they wanted to continue working with their hosting and cloud vendor in the future.

If the cloud was a fad or some trend that would blow over, companies wouldn’t be scrambling to continue paying for the service. Clearly, these organizations are getting something out of the deal here, which means that the cloud has some serious advantages to offer modern businesses of all sizes.

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.