Long-term home working will have had its pros and cons for many legal practitioners over the last 18 months. But, with new research showing that many law firms plan to switch to a permanent model of hybrid working as restrictions ease, questions and challenges are thrown up around privacy and compliance.
Here, Brian Rogers, Regulatory Director at law technology specialist Access Legal, discusses the most overlooked compliance procedures during the pandemic and the processes law firms should consider introducing to their remote working policies to ensure clear boundaries are set.
How confident are you that you really know what a document management system (DMS) can do and the additional opportunities that it can provide to the firm? I find people broadly know what it is, but their understanding only goes so far. Yes, a DMS allows for electronic filing of documents and emails into a virtual filing cabinet from where they can be easily searched and retrieved. But that’s ‘DMS 101’. What’s really powerful are the other things that become possible when paper is eliminated and the physical is transformed into the digital. This short article is about what can be achieved when you start to realise the opportunities beyond DMS 101.
In March 2021, Microsoft shared detailed information regarding a “state-sponsored threat actor” based in China that targeted a wide range of entities in the U.S. — including law firms. The highly sophisticated cyber attack used previously unknown exploits to infiltrate on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server software at tens of thousands of organizations across the U.S.
The American Bar Association published Formal Opinion 498 on March 10, 2021 which provides guidance for the virtual practice of law. They stress some of the same things they have previously such as the competence requirements of ABA Model Rule 1.1 and the confidentiality requirements of ABA Model Rule 1.6 and Formal Opinion 477R. They now go further and discuss some of the other rules that go beyond an individual lawyer working remotely to an entire law firm working remotely.
Recent research has shown that professional services firms face a variety of pressures surrounding pricing, competition, and client expectations. In the 2020 Law Department Operations Survey, 75% of respondents revealed their companies are actively trying to save costs by bringing more work in house. The recent Legal Pricing and Project Management (LPPM) Survey also pointed to a client-driven innovation trend, with firms implementing new processes for budgeting, proposals, and fee arrangements driven by the LPPM function and partner-led change management.
The COVID-19 pandemic has removed any doubt that for firms to remain competitive in 2021, they must embrace and invest in technology that will better serve the customer and reduce costs. Despite a historic resistance to change, the profession was already feeling the heat pre-pandemic as technology giants have set a new standard for customer communication and transparency. These redefined customer expectations cut across all industries — not just big tech.
When the UK first locked down almost a year ago, even law firms with a deeply rooted culture of presenteeism had no choice but to adapt quickly to remote working. Concerns that people might be less productive or ‘available’ at home were overshadowed by the unfolding events.
No matter how well-equipped they were, firms didn’t only have to maintain continuity of service to clients but also manage cyber-risk in this highly regulated environment.
It is easy to focus on the severe disruption that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on almost all sectors of the UK economy. Business closures resulting from Covid prevention measures and pivoting to remote working practices have forced firms to rapidly change their operations. However, while this has been enormously disruptive for many companies, some sectors have also captured efficiency gains as a result.
In the property industry, significant progress has been made to digitise legal processes to ensure that transactions could take place safely and securely and conveyancers have adapted to remote working to allow them to continue to facilitate property transactions during the pandemic.
As we head into another 6 months of uncertainty, with the UK Government once again urging as many of us as possible to work from home, are we coming to terms with the fact that, the way that we used to work, is fast becoming a distant memory? The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly given companies of all shapes and sizes (and from all sectors) the opportunity to explore, in more depth, their approach to agile and remote working. The legal sector is no different.
Where to start? That is the nagging question facing those tasked with managing a modern investigation involving electronically stored information (ESI). Gone are the days when an ESI investigation simply meant having the IT Department run a rash of search terms across the enterprise email system and farming the results out to a cadre of reviewers for a “quick” three- to six-month turnaround.
Today, data and device proliferation demands anticipatory planning as well as careful and thorough execution to ensure that all means of electronic evidence will be available and accessible, particularly in view of the continuing transition to a predominantly remote workforce driven by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily, law firms generate large volumes of paperwork, with letters and forms changing hands via faxes, express mail delivery, and increasingly, in digital formats such as PDF. With everything from internal partner memos and court filings to privileged communications with clients now existing in digital spaces, security is more important than ever. Protecting these documents, not only from outsiders but also from internal misuse, requires a proactive approach to document security.
With that in mind, here are seven ways law firms can take action to better protect sensitive legal documents from misuse and potential exposure.
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