As the children in our community start back to school (even if most are virtual), I find myself looking around at the landscape of where we stand after 6 months of Covid adjustments to seemingly every aspect of our lives. In a world where disagreements are the norm, one thing most everyone agrees on is that we have changed and are not likely to go back to the way things were. With that in mind, let’s look at 5 lessons we can learn from the pandemic.
1. People like working remotely.
We have all participated in a forced experiment in change and technology adoption, for better or worse, and participation pays dividends.
We now know that we can get a good portion of our actual jobs done without going to the office each day. In fact, a recent report found that 67% of lawyers would like their job to stay remote for a portion of each week. This desire has implications throughout the entire cost structure of any business. Some of them are obvious, some of them not so. Each of these creates an opportunity to propel your firm forward, no matter how small.
2. Smaller offices mean more savings.
A just released Cushman & Wakefield study shows that law firm respondents anticipate a 40% reduction for their in-office workforce post-Covid. This means that to recognize these savings fully, office space will need to be proportionally reduced. The legal sector already far outpaces most other segments in office spending (traditionally 6-8% of gross revenues). With this new shift, it stands to reason that a commiserate reduction in office size should produce a savings of 2%-4% of your firm’s gross revenues.
Many industries have already moved from assigned cubicles or offices to flex space over the past decade. It is now Legal’s opportunity to give this concept some thought. Even if it’s just for the accounting department, reducing wasted space and repurposing it for a higher value use, or just downsizing and realizing a cost savings, is a real opportunity.
Suddenly, an accounting department of three people may only need one large office with two desks instead of three standard-sized offices. Each employee has likely become accustomed to working from their laptop and carries their office in a backpack by this point. Not only is this a cost savings opportunity, but most of us really enjoy being able to work from home at least a day or two each week.
3. Cybersecurity has never been more important.
There are two kinds of businesses out there: those that have experienced a data breach (hack) and those that will.
It’s been a buzzword, a scare tactic, a sleep stealer and now a reality. Gone are the days where we look down on those firms that experience a breach. There are numerous reasons for this but the one we can’t change are people. No matter how much software and hardware we purchase, no matter how smart the network monitoring company we hire is, no matter how much money we throw at the problem, we are still doomed. That’s because upwards of 90% of cyber attacks are not hacks so much as they are allowed intusions. I draw the line because most hackers simply knock on one of your doors and an unwitting employee opens the door for them, through:
- Fishing emails
- Fake text messages
- Embedded code
- Fake prize giveaways
- And many more
We’ve all heard of them, most of us have seen them and some of us have fallen for them. It’s difficult to be 100% vigilant. All it takes is one good email that looks like it’s from the boss to send an employee racing to enter all of their usernames and passwords on the provided spreadsheet for safekeeping. Sometimes it’s as simple as clicking on a link that actually works but, in the background, installs a ransomware on your organization’s server.
Whatever the tactic, the cyber criminals are busy, and to lessen the likelihood of your next data breach, this is the time to begin working on your plan. Some points of consideration as you review your cyber defense spending:
Mobile Device Management
- Mobile device management is a way to validate each remote connection with certificates stored on mobile devices.
- This type of defense is most often associated with phones and tablets, but can be used on laptops as well.
- While working inside the walls of the office, our physical location acts as a factor of authentication. Coupled with our credentials, we can then login to most applications completely safely and securely.
- Now that we are remote, we lost the most important factor for authentication, our physical presence in the office.
- As we try to access those platforms remotely, a second authenticating factor (text message, alternate email, etc.) greatly reduces the success of attacks from outside of our organization.
- Most data breaches occur because you or an employee clicks on something that is not what it purports to be.
- The only way to lessen this likelihood is with ongoing employee training. As we close one loophole, the hackers seem to open three more. Continual active training is a must for any successful cybersecurity plan.
4. Law firms with centralized support have an advantage.
As someone who was guilty of needing someone to “come fix” things for me when possible, I’ve found myself dependent upon, and not minding, remote support. In the Before Times, I would sooner go into the Apple Store and wait for 45 minutes to talk to a “Genius” than I would deal with a support person who called me on my phone to assist. The pandemic forced me, and a bunch of you, outside of your support comfort zones.
It’s no surprise that law firms with centralized support departments going into the pandemic fared much better than those that relied more on over the shoulder support. A well-trained and well-developed help desk solution that is used to fixing the problems law firms incur has never been more valuable. Your firm will greatly benefit from this solution as you can reduce the need for office or data center visits by your IT staff and consultants.
5. The Cloud beats servers (on speed and security).
There may never be a better time to move your server environment to the cloud. If this sounds scary, it is, but don’t worry, some of your stuff is almost certainly there already. If you have Microsoft 365, you’re in the cloud. You might as well think about moving the rest of your shared folders and applications to a cloud environment too.
The benefit lies in the remote connectivity options a robust cloud environment offers. If you are still accessing important software and documents via a VPN or Remote Desktop, a cloud-based solution will make you wish you had moved it all there sooner. As VPN and Remote Desktop solutions are slow and clunky at times, your cloud-based server environment always treats you as a remote employee, so your speed is much better, and your security solutions are already built in.
While these times remain a little crazy, there are also many opportunities for good and well-timed changes that can strengthen your law firm and your practice. Don’t be afraid to investigate your options and make changes.