With the rise in business and rental rates and the economic uncertainty following Brexit, law firms in the city are looking to flexible and agile working methods to cut their costs.
According to a March survey from CBRE, there has been a 50% reduction in new office space leasing by law firms in the last year, with 30% of the firms surveyed having implemented an agile working policy and a further 40% looking to do so within the next 12 months. The trend is likely to continue and will affect law firms of all sizes across the country.
Cloud solutions are a must for law firms wishing to implement agile working. So what steps should they take to implement a strategy that cuts cost and increases productivity, whilst still upholding their duties to respect client confidentiality and protect data?
Secure email first
Email remains one of the first places legal professionals will turn to conduct client relationships, exchange knowledge and insight, and share mission-critical documents, so it’s vital that firms are able to offer employees secure access to their email inboxes – regardless of device, location or time of day.
Without this, a study shows that around three-quarters of employees will invariably turn to their own workarounds, such as personal email inboxes and consumer-grade file sharing applications.
This presents all kinds of risks, which is why implementing a cloud email solution should be one of the first steps that a law firm takes in any move to the cloud. This will protect against the use of unknown and unsanctioned email applications, provide security on unsecured WiFi networks, and more.
Law firms should look for technology that can not only encrypt email messages but can also offer fool-proof security solutions that can guard against employees opening harmful emails. (The latter will usually be an add-on provided by a cloud partner instead of an out-of-the-box solution.)
Move your Office suite to the cloud
Microsoft Office is the de facto choice of productivity software for most businesses, including law firms, and so for a completely seamless transition between office and home - or the court and the train - migrating these ubiquitous applications to the cloud should be the next step.
Office 365 offers cloud access to applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint online which integrates seamlessly with documents already created in Microsoft Office - either internally or externally. Users can therefore view and edit documents created in Office 2016 whilst in the cloud and then save or move documents in Office 365, or vice versa.
Online document storage and collaboration
If you don’t move your online document storage to the cloud, remote working can often involve inefficient workarounds such as emailing over documents to review and saving newly created documents offline to upload on returning to the office.
To maximise productivity gains, you should look for a cloud solution that not only offers the ability to access client matters and files from any location or device, but also enables real-time collaboration of documents.
Guard against human error and unauthorised access
Once your documents are in the cloud, it is worthwhile taking advantage of additional security features. Sending documents to the wrong recipient is one of the most common security risks in law firms, according to ICO data. Another risk is that sensitive data may be subsequently shared with unauthorised persons at the other end, whether advertently or inadvertently.
The SRA recommends that law firms prevent or restrict the use of data sticks or email attachments and instead use secure direct log-ins and online collaboration tools. Cloud solutions such as Office 365 can enable firms to set user permissions at client, matter or folder level, so that documents are only shared with those authorised to do so.
Reducing costs further with BYOD
For law firms looking to reduce costs, a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy (where employees are encouraged to use their own laptops, smartphones and other devices in the place of employer-owned ones) can be an effective strategy.
However, this presents its own security risks – you could have implemented all of the above features, but if your employees lose their mobiles or laptops on the train then you will need to be able to wipe that data quickly and without resistance. Fortunately, remote wipe solutions exist that can segment the personal and business data so that your firm’s data can be remotely wiped in the event of loss.
We have worked with a number of law firms looking to implement agile working with cloud solutions and recommend Office 365, as it offers access to all of the productivity and security features mentioned above with a seamless transition and low entry costs.
Find out more about how Office 365 can help law firms with agile working whilst guarding against data and client confidentiality risks with our free whitepaper: A guide to the cloud for legal professionals.