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Essential Questions Law Firm Leadership Should Ask When Preparing for a Remote Workforce

Erik Schmidt | March 13, 2020

As the economic and social disruption caused by current events continues to mount, law firms and other organizations are beginning to temporarily close offices and require employees to work remotely. The current situation is a reminder of the issues that firms should evaluate when planning for business continuity: its business needs, its users’ needs, and what is required from the IT staff and network to support those needs. Following are some questions firm leadership should ask itself and the firm’s IT organization when planning for business continuity in the event of a situation like we now face.

  • Business needs and processes
    • Does the firm need 100% of employees working remotely?
    • Do employees need to be at 100% capacity while remote or can some functionality be suspended?
    • Which processes cannot stop? How long can others be down or at limited capacity?
    • How long do we anticipate this change to last? Days? Weeks? Indefinitely (is it the new “norm”)?
  • User experience
    • What will be the employee experience as they connect and work remotely?
    • Does IT deploy tools like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to make the user experience the same as in the office and across form factors (i.e. phones, tablets, laptops and personal computers)?
    • If not, what will be different?
    • How will IT train users on these differences?
    • How will the Help Desk scale support during the adjustment period?
    • Will users be able to contact the Help Desk in the same manner? Is there a new phone number or email address?
  • Infrastructure and security
    • Does the firm currently have the necessary resources (IT staff, network bandwidth, licenses, laptops) to support large numbers of remote workers?
    • How many of our lawyers and support staff currently have laptops or tablets able to remotely connect to the firm network? What is IT's plan for those without laptops?
    • Under what circumstances, if any, should the firm allow personal devices to access the network?
    • How will information security be maintained?
    • How will IT monitor for any potential breaches in a distributed network of remote employees? 
  • IT staffing and operations
    • Can IT staff perform their duties remotely?
    • Can our infrastructure (servers, desktops, networking devices) be managed remotely or does it require hands-on management?
    • Is our IT staff dispersed enough to reduce the likelihood of a local incident interrupting business operations?
    • If IT staff is geographically concentrated, can a rotation be developed to limit impact?
    • How will our Help Desk manage tickets and provide support if they are working remotely?
    • What level of resiliency do we have in our data centers and co-location facilities? How long can they sustain independent operations during a disruption? 
  • Network and telecommunications
    • Are the firm's wide area network (WAN) connections appropriately scaled for this level of usage? (Network bandwidth and virtual private networks (VPNs) are often bottlenecks during mass absenteeism from normal work conditions.)
    • Are our WAN connections redundant in case one of our service providers is negatively impacted?
    • If not, how rapidly can IT scale or descale WAN capacity to ensure all remote employees can work effectively?
    • How will IT re-route our telephone and messaging systems to support remote staff?
    • Is our video conferencing solution scaled to handle the additional load of a remote workforce?

With an understanding of the firm’s business continuity priorities and user needs, firm leadership can identify what is required from IT to support those needs. If there are gaps, it is worth examining if your IT organization has the necessary skills and bandwidth to close these gaps in addition to existing operational responsibilities, as well as how long remediation will take. If there are issues with skills, bandwidth or time, the firm may consider seeking assistance from third parties specializing in these areas as their core competencies. True business continuity preparedness takes months, not days, to achieve.

If you have questions about IT business continuity planning, please feel free to contact Erik Schmidt or another member of our Managed Services team.

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