I recently came back from ILTA’s fantastic LegalSEC Summit where I learned quite a bit from my colleagues at law firms of all sizes - big and small - as well as a number of amazing vendors. The IT folks in attendance were looking for tips to better influence culture and get a handle on information security. As you might expect, many firms are serious or getting serious about security. But let me tell you, some firms are very, VERY serious about security. At LegalSEC I also had the honor of speaking with Steve Boyce from Microsoft. Our topic was entitled, The Internet of Things Are Lurking. As that information was published I had a number of people reach out to me on the subject of the IoT (Internet of Things).
I think that it's fair to say that while the potential benefits of mobile productivity are significant and incessantly discussed, they are not broadly understood and remain elusive to the average law firm. To many firms, remote access is a separate entity from laptop access, which in turn is different from mobile access. Many firms fell behind in the big push for BYOD and have not yet recovered. In the rush for multi-platform, consumer connectivity, firms flocked to Microsoft's ActiveSync to enable email but that's it. Many firms have moved on from the original BlackBerry but not from the almost single purpose it served.
On June 4th of this year, Kathryn Rubino wrote an article on Above the Law, entitled "Which Biglaw Firm Has Blocked Personal Email?" In it she noted that law firms Mayer Brown, Latham & Watkins and WilmerHale joined King & Spalding in blocking personal email through the firms' internal network. I was a bit surprised by her post.
She quotes one of her tipsters, "[I]t's hard to imagine a more obvious way to alienate the prototypical millennial hire… We spend obscene money entertaining summer associates, then undo all that goodwill by subjecting them to internet content filters which my summer mentee said made her feel 'like a secretary or something.' Meaning, I suppose, a low-level white collar drone nobody respects." Ms Rubino would seem to think the answer is easy peasy. "Computer viruses are bad, but some basic online education should shore up that hole." Ahh if only it were that simple! I might argue that if "some basic online education" worked as well as Ms. Rubino would like, she would never have written this post in the first place.
Earlier this month, I joined several thousand legal professionals congregating in New York for LegalTech as well as the 11th annual Law Firm CIO & CTO Forum where I ended up. Thanks to an invite from the Tikit folks, I was asked to moderate a panel presentation entitled, "Engaging Human-Computer Interaction & Ergonomics Experts to Boost User Experience and Profitability". More or less, it's a fancy way of saying what are the best ways to design an app and to develop the user interface (UI) for the ultimate user experience (UX) and productivity? Mark Garnish (MG), Tikit’s Development Director, Peter Zver (PZ), Tikit North America’s President, and Justin Hectus (JH), CIO at Keesal, Young & Logan made up the panel.
A futuristic picture of how technology, artificial intelligence and big data might impact law firms in the future
Good morning Mr. Phelps and welcome back to the global law firm of DLA, Watson, Siri & Wal-Mart. I see from your expression that you have noticed the change in my voice. I am Stevie, a Mark 8 assistant. After the Apple-Microsoft merger on Tuesday, all the firm's assistants have been upgraded to the Siri/Cortana hybrid. I am sure you'll find the upgrades useful.
It looks like you have a very full schedule today. Your calendar and associated information have been transferred to cubical 45-38-7, which is your assigned office for your stay here today. Office lighting, temperature and virtual artwork have been updated with your stored preferences. Your personal assistant, Jordan 7188 has updated your iSlate II with a firm map and will guide you to your office.
If you haven't yet heard the news, the Texas State Bar's Professional Ethics Committee now forbids non-lawyer processionals to have titles containing the word 'principal' or 'officer.' Lest you think this is some sort of new routine from Monty Python, sadly it is not. It is very real. The first question presented in Opinion 642 is "May a Texas law firm include the terms 'officer' or 'principal' in the job titles of the firm’s non-lawyer employees?"
Everyone knows the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." But few people know that little Goldilocks grew up to have a career in law firm IT management. Goldilocks worked her way up the ranks, consulting and working for law firms and then found herself as the newly minted Director of IT at the firm of Andersen & Grimm. She'd been there for a year when she uncovered a very similar problem to one she ran into as a little girl so many years ago in the forest - settling in on "just right."
In his guest post "Big law, small law, new law, old law… it’s bigger than that" on Brian Inkster's The Time Blog, Ben Wightwick said, "Currently there are, broadly speaking, four types of CIOs: Chief Integration Officer; Chief Innovation Officer; Chief Infrastructure Officer and Chief Intelligence Officer. All CIOs will fall into one of these main camps." His comment really got me thinking. There is the old joke that CIO actually stands for "Career Is Over." But are there only four types of CIOs? I sat down with my extensive electronic Rolodex and started searching out other types of CIOs. In no particular order, this is what I found:
Our columnist Jeffrey Brandt got inspired and articulated the essence of legal IT training in a beautiful short poem.
For want of a trainer the skill was lost.
For want of a skill, the application was lost.
For want of an application the document was lost.
For want of document the matter was lost.
For want of a matter the client was lost.
For want of a client the law firm was lost.
And all for the want of a trainer.
The Confession, or Well... It Could have Happened
I have written a fair amount of late about law firm information security. I know what many law firms' security is like and it's not pretty. I want to see law firm security improve. Not just a few selective biglaw firms, but all firms, down into the AmLaw 200 and below. I want to see initiatives like ILTA's LegalSEC continue forward, because "championing an initiative to deliver a set of best practices and a framework that firms can adapt to their needs to build or enhance their information assurance/security programs" is something the industry desperately needs. Right now law firms are the weakest link the chain with their clients.
Note to readers: this is a column, not a news story
I've written a fair amount of late about law firm information security. I have engaged with many clients and former colleagues on the subject. But even so, I was surprised when I opened the express mail envelope complete with the infamous 1060 West Addison return address (Was the sender also a Blues Brothers fan?). It contained a short, unsigned handwritten note and a printout of an internal memo sent via email. I thought it was somewhat odd as I held the physical copy, but as I read it the memo, the reason why was soon made clear.
I agreed with the anonymous source that there was value in sharing it with the larger community. I scanned and OCR'ed the printout and eliminated the names and other pieces of information that might identify the firm. Right now I don't want to be the one to "out" the firm.
The Horrible Law Firm CIO doesn't listen to their staff when they present concerns. He does listen for ideas and suggestion that he can then claim as his own when he talks to his boss.
The Horrible Law Firm CIO is always right. She deflects failure and problems to her staff and soaks up all the glory and praise. After all it's the head of the department that should get all the glory for the works of the team. And if something goes wrong - well someone on the team messed up.
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