Law firm technology issues are a huge expense very often, yet they also provide equally large efficiences.
But what are the best ways for a small law firm to start going about changing technology and better organising your law practice?
A checklist was recently provided in an AbovetheLaw article by Jeff Bennion which looked at email options, bringing your own technology to work and the inevitable Cloud question.
Let’s start with the question of email, one of the foundation blocks for operating efficient inhouse systems.
1. E-mail Options
When you sign up for an e-mail account, you have the option of getting either a pop account or an exchange account. Exchange accounts typically cost a little bit more, but they save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Let’s assume that you have a home computer, an office computer, and a phone with a mail app.
An exchange account will make all of your e-mail in your inbox and sent items sync up. A pop account will just download copies of e-mails to each device, and sent e-mail will only be saved in the sent items folder on the device you used to send the e-mail. So, if you send notice to opposing counsel from your home computer, then you need it while you are at work to attach as an exhibit, or if your home computer dies, that sent e-mail is not synced up with anything, so it exists only in one place.
This is a particularly troublesome issue with sending e-mail from your phone. If you want copies of all of the e-mails you send from your phone to also be on your computers, you should get an exchange account.
Exchange accounts also allow you to save offline copies of e-mails on your computer for when you need to work without an internet connection.
2. BYOD Policy
BYOD means “bring your own device” and you need to have a policy for it. It pertains to employees bringing their own computers to work or using personal phones for work purposes. IBM has a good explanation of BYOD policies here.
Imagine the following scenario: You hire a law clerk and that law clerk uses his own laptop and phone to work on cases and access e-mail. That law clerk gets another job a few months later. He said he transferred all of his work product over to the server at the office, but a few months later, you need to finish a research project he was working on and you can’t find copies of his research memo.
Since he already billed the client for doing that work, you have to start it over again and not bill for it. Likewise, you just assume that he deleted all of the sensitive e-mails and files that have client bank information and Social Security numbers and case strategy documents, but you have no way of knowing for sure. This is especially problematic if the employee left on bad terms.
You can get past lots of these headaches if you have a policy about (1) what personal devices can be used, (2) what types of files can be saved on personal devices, and (3) what happens on termination.
3. Remote Access and Cloud Policies
Along with employees storing files on their personal devices, you should have a policy for remote access, including whether you will allow for cloud access through programs such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Also, be aware of what options you have for monitoring and changing access to files.
In Dropbox, you can view all “events,” which allows you to see what was changed or added or deleted from the files you have access to.