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At LegalTech: How to Ensure Your Firm is Ready for Today’s Security Challenges

Scott McFettersSecurity is not a new concern for law firms. However, with news of breaches—including just this January when tens of thousands of phishing email scams were sent, looking as if they came from some of the top US law firms--persistently hitting the headlines, so too are clients’ demands to increase security measures. 

It is no surprise that the subject dominates much of LegalTech New York’s 2015 agenda. LegalTech is always one of the best conferences for the legal industry to discover innovative products to meet their current and future technology needs. But law firms may be questioning how the necessary new security products, updates and releases showcased at LegalTech can fit into their budget.

The law firm security landscape

Law firms are now at the center of the storm because they store some of their clients’ most sensitive business information and are viewed by criminal elements as a less defended path to that data.  Firms must take care to understand and respond to evolving security trends and response strategies.

A growing number of clients are demanding that their law firms take more steps to guard against online intrusions that could compromise sensitive information as global concerns about hacker threats mount.  But behind the big headline stories, are people, the IT professionals themselves working amongst what may be at times contradictory pressures.  

The inaugural 2014 Security Pressures Report from Trustwave, based on a survey of more than 800 IT professionals, reveals the security threats most concerning to these practitioners.  One of the main areas of contradictory pressures faced by IT professionals is both the pressure to “do something” but without the resources, as evidenced in these statistics from the 2014 report:

65% of IT pros are pressured to use security products with all of the latest features, despite 1 out of 3 not having the resources to do so effectively.

More budget, more security skills/expertise and more time to focus on security are the top three items on wish lists for IT pros in 2014.  

Here are some additional key findings from the 2014 Security Pressures Report:

  • 54% of IT pros felt more pressure to secure their organizations in 2013 compared to the previous year, and 58% expect even more pressure in 2014.
  • Targeted malware was the threat IT pros felt the most pressure to protect against — with 64% noting increased pressure over the previous year. 
  • Customer data theft worries 58% of IT pros — more than reputation damage, fines and legal action combined.
  • External threats caused more pressure than internal security threats, but employee accidents caused more pressure than employee malfeasance.
  • 50% of IT pros say their owners, boards of directors and C-level executives are applying the most pressure, while 13% say it’s coming from themselves.
  • Pressure from the top may not always have security in mind, with 4 out of 5 IT pros feeling pressured to roll out IT projects, despite concerns they were not security-ready.

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Financial strategies that help

Here is the question on the minds of law firm IT departments, CFOs and Executive Directors: how are we going to pay for the security technology that’s necessary today if it’s not in our firm’s budget “today”?

Advances in technology and software upgrades especially in the data security arena are being made with extreme rapidity.  A firm that wants to protect itself and its clients with the most up to date versions of security technology and software available may not want or be in a position to purchase it outright.  Leasing or financing provides the opportunity for an IT department to replace/upgrade equipment and software on the fly as upgrades are released, while at the same time working within a budgeted monthly payment.

Leasing converts what might be a large cash outlay into a monthly expense that keeps them within budget and provides a predictable and efficient way for your clients to stay on top of upgrades and equipped with top notch tools.

Many products are now being offered as a monthly subscription because the monthly payment—as opposed to a total cash purchase--is the most efficient way for a firm to stay within budget and have the flexibility to keep vital technology up to date.  Leasing a firm’s hardware, software and other soft costs is a solution that can strategically allow a firm to convert what might be a large purchase into an affordable monthly expense.  Financially, this means leasing beneficially conserves cash reserves, keeps bank lines of credit open for short-term use, and cuts the out of pocket costs for security upgrades while still enabling new projects in the budget.  

These combined financial strategies allow for flexibility and quick decision making which are distinct advantages when the security landscape is in constant flux.

“Securing” the right lessor 

When choosing a leasing partner it is important to find one who will work in your interest, and a lessor who understands the constraints of the legal industry.  Leasing is not just a one-time transaction; it is a long term relationship.  It’s in your firm’s best interest to be highly selective.  If the vendor decides to bring a lessor into the relationship, here are some best practices we recommend:

  • Be highly selective and do your due diligence and select a lessor with a depth of legal experience.  Vet potential partners in peer groups such as ALA, ILTA or any user groups such as Elite and Aderant.
  • Seek lessors with excellent and highly responsive communication abilities, flexibility in solutions offered and predictability and longevity of the management staff.  
  • Forge relationships with vendor-neutral, customer-focused lessors.
  • Look beyond the least rate factor.  Of course the rates and credit acceptance offered by the lessor are important considerations.  However, these are rarely the predominant factors in maintaining long-term partnerships. In fact, the primary selection criteria should be the service level and experience of their potential business partner, along with the strength and transparency of the Master Lease Agreement.  

In Conclusion:  Information is the new oil

As The Security Pressures Report illustrates, overall security-related pressures are rapidly increasing.  But also evidenced, is the gap between what your IT professionals know needs to happen and the financial resources that it requires. 

I hope you have a great show at LegalTech.

Scott McFetters is President of CoreTech Leasing, Inc.  CoreTech is an independent leasing company working in strategic partnership with over 100 of the nation’s most distinguished law firms.  For more information, please visit www.coretechleasing.com, follow us on Twitter @CoreTechLeasing, and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/technologyleasing.
 

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