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Beyond the silo, where next for the legal sector?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Beyond the silo, where next for the legal sector?

by Tim Long, Managing Director, Zylpha Ltd.


With law firms seeking to boost profits and meet ever increasing client demands, there is a growing trend for legal IT departments to develop and implement greater efficiency gains, the rise in document management systems such as iManage being one.

From speaking with our clients and prospects the message is clear: Evolve now or become irrelevant.

Here are just some of the solutions that Zylpha clients have begun to implement.

Innovation is not the answer if it’s kept in a silo.

Before we begin, let’s take a minute to remember that the primary focus of innovation should be on the client. Practices are in the people business as it is the clients that pay the bills. Yet, in reality, too much is made of those technology solutions that do not improve a practice’s relationship with its clients. In their quest to differentiate themselves from their competitors, some practices have started to use any recently made innovation they can point a finger at as a useful enticement for customers to buy their services.

Our biggest problem with this kind of innovation is that we are constantly and inexorably searching for more technology advancement irrespective of its impact on client service. All this leaves us with is a series of expensive solutions that, all too often, have not been utilised across the entire organisation. A carefully deployed document management system is worth far more than a handful of poorly executed single department specific innovations.

The office is no longer important.

From our report The Legal Landscape there is a growing trend to move to agile ways of working to enable them to work at client sites, work from remote locations at times to suit clients and also to optimise fee-earners’ downtime when travelling or out of the office.

Having access to your emails is the de facto standard rather than the exception. However, this is not enough anymore and we have noticed a trend in firms beginning to choose IT solutions which enable legal professionals to have access to their document management system and their key files whilst out of the office.

Increased digitisation and the growth of online services.

Firms will expect to see further improvements in processes and accessibility to their document management files with more systems becoming electronic and digital in 2016. Once again client expectations will drive this efficiency as they demand access to services outside of regular working hours. This is the norm outside of the legal sector.

Overall, the clients of law firms too are now using the internet and digital services more fully and on a daily basis, so many now expect the same level of interactivity form their legal advisors.

Legal IT delivers ROI

In the past, the IT department has been seen as the purchaser of services to help fix a problem.

However, we have seen a trend that new ICT solutions must now bring benefits to the business as a whole which delivers a more streamlined and speedier process; but without reducing the quality of the service delivered. Put simply, the technology has to evolve with the demands of the client. It is no longer enough to just implement a document management system and think the project is completed – now is the time to drive additional ROI leveraging integrations between both existing document management systems and new solutions.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Integrate email security with document management processes to curtail data breaches

Integrate email security with document management processes to curtail data breaches

By Roy Russell, CEO, Ascertus Limited

It’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ that an organisation will suffer a breach is the widespread viewpoint of security professionals. Attacks against organisations are consistently rising across all variants – phishing, ransomware and most recently whaling (i.e. email impersonation). In fact, in the last three years, whaling scams have led to more than $2.3 billion in losses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sadly, law firms aren’t exempt, rather are seen as lucrative targets due to their cash rich status and huge volumes of often confidential data stored on their IT networks. QBE , insurance group, which insures more than one in 10 law firms in England and Wales, says that approximately £85m has been stolen across the legal market in the past 18 months. With this level of cyber threat, law firms will feel the pinch when they renew their insurance premiums.

Email, the sitting duck

With a high level of reliance on emails for record keeping, correspondence and collaboration in business; it comes as no surprise that the ubiquitous email is the ‘soft touch’ for cyber criminals. According to Mimecast, the email security services provider, 91% of attacks start with an email. Furthermore, security vendor Proofpoint’s quarterly threat summary for the first quarter of 2016 shows that there has been a 66% increase in emails containing malicious URLs and attachments over the last quarter in 2015. Compared to the corresponding period in 2015, this represents a phenomenal 800% increase!

Against this backdrop, and with stringent regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); the onus of data security rests fairly and squarely with organisations holding the data.

Email security + document lifecycle management processes = shoring up data security

Email security must be a key component of a law firm’s data security measures and a good way to achieve this is by integrating a best-of-breed email security solution with the firm’s document management system. Such an approach will streamline the processes and technology to create a strong security foundation in the organisation. It will:

  • Automate processes to detect suspicious URLs, identify keywords and match known sources of scams and threats to a blacklist

  • Institute best practices around people and processes so that in the event of a human error, the technology steps in to protect the data and the organisation

  • Set up ‘governed locations’ in the document management system for sensitive information, protected with features such as multi-factor authentication, and encryption at rest and in motion, to add additional security

  • Limit access to confidential information to select members on projects, deals and matters

  • Help replace the use of email as a default collaboration tool or restrict unprotected consumer file sharing services (e.g. Dropbox); with similar, easy to use, auditable tools from within the document management system

  • Enforce corporate data retention and destruction policies

  • Offer analytics to monitor unusual activity

    Regulations such as the GDPR are equally applicable to organisations of all sizes, and it’s imperative that the small and medium sized law firms don’t ignore it. A Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2014, 173 UK law firms were investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office for data breaches. Now with the much strengthened EU GDPR, coupled with ever-growing ransomware and whaling attacks, the scrutiny will further increase.

    The good news is that today best-of-breed, integrated email and document lifecycle management solutions, underpinned by email security, are well within the reach of smaller law firms. They are truly affordable. Talk to us if you would like to explore. It is our strength and area of expertise.

  • Wednesday, December 7, 2016

    E-billing has come of age!

    Guest Blog by Bryan King, Independent E-billing Consultant

    Typically, e-billing systems leverage project management principles to provide visibility to clients on exactly where and how their law firms spent time and budgets on legal matters. These solutions utilise the Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS), which is a set of codes that help breakdown legal work and expenses across a timeline of activity to a fine level of detail. For every matter, the client receives an itemised bill with full transparency of the fee earners who worked on the account, what tasks (e.g. a witness statement) and activities (e.g. drafting a letter) they undertook and such. Once the e-bill is generated, all the information is validated by the e-billing solution vendor based on the client guidelines provided before it is passed on to the client.

    The benefits of this approach are many. A corporate could easily contrast and compare the cost and efficiency with which different law firms execute similar matters. Such insight allows corporates intelligent and well-informed conversations at times of law firm reviews and re-negotiations. All of this cumulatively enables the corporate legal department and law firm alike to become smarter in the way they execute matters.

    This of course is the traditional approach, where the focus is very much on analysis ‘after’ the e-invoice has been submitted to the legal department. With the ever-growing budgetary pressures that corporate legal departments face today, the more sophisticated e-billing solutions providers have gone well beyond mere electronic invoicing to offering legal spend management functionality. For example, to eliminate surprises and ensure quicker payments, law firms can send matter-related fees and expenses at regular intervals across various stages of the legal case so that the client is able to see how the budget is being utilised as the assignment progresses. If for any reason, say 70 percent of the allocated budget is used up half way through the project, an automatic alert to the client, facilitates timely assessment to ascertain the reasons for the potential over-spend and a corrective plan of action, as may be necessary.

    Similarly, the modern e-billing tools offer a huge amount of sophisticated reporting and metrics to enable in-house legal departments and law firms to look at matters by type, fee earner and partner involvement, and such. This kind of analysis is also a good way of assessing the level and quality of relationship between the two parties.

    E-billing solutions have truly come of age today. As legal spend management solutions, they offer end-to-end functionality – everything from initiating an RFP, supporting the matter management process through to metrics and KPI-based analysis and of course electronic billing.

    Most crucially, these tools are now hassle-free to deploy and immensely affordable as many are cloud-based. Minimal IT involvement is required, the total cost of ownership is low and the return on investment high. Consequently, IT departments have little to object to, which historically has often been the bone of contention between IT and the legal department. IT departments in corporates are focused on delivering systems and solutions that are core to the business of the organisation. Hence legal departments have long struggled to get the technology systems they need. But now with other core legal applications like document management also available as cloud-based solutions, legal departments are in a good position to deploy and leverage integrated e-billing/legal spend management/matter management and document management solutions.

    It is only a matter of time that this approach becomes the norm in the legal sector.

    About Bryan King

    Bryan King is an independent consultant, advising law firms and in-house legal departments on e-billing issues; and assisting with the successful implementation of legal spend management projects. Prior to this, he has senior IT management positions at Linklaters, Lovells and Clifford Chance. At Clifford Chance, he also held global responsibility for the firm’s electronic invoicing (e-billing) projects.

    If you are interested in finding out more about how the new breed of legal spend management and e-billing tools mentioned in Bryan’s article can help your legal department save time, significantly reduce overhead and collaborate more effectively with inside and outside counsel, please email contactus@ascertus.com for a, no obligation demonstration of the BusyLamp web-based enterprise legal management solution.