Perhaps now more than ever, technology is critical to law firms’ businesses, even as the threat of an economic downturn makes it particularly important for firms to manage IT costs. In-depth reviews of multiple law firm IT environments have shown a tendency for many to rely on their IT suppliers — including the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the value-added resellers (VARs) from whom they purchase hardware, software and services — when they need external advice on design and configuration (not to mention optimal pricing) for the products and services they need. If this describes your firm, you may inadvertently be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.
The U.S. legal industry headed into March with a full head of steam, aside from some growing concerns about a novel coronavirus that appeared to be spreading. By the end of the month, our very way of life in America had been turned upside down and organizations from every business sector have been forced to change the way they do business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wherever there is change, and wherever there is uncertainty, there is opportunity!”– Mark Cuban
As we face the prospect of an economic downturn, firms are looking at ways to best position themselves. A centralized, clear vendor governance strategy that aligns with the firm’s strategic direction can aid in responding to economic turbulence. Vendor governance can help a firm readily identify operational costs for reduction, minimizing the impact on profits, and sustain those cost savings during an economic downturn.
The 2019 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey found that corporate law departments are shifting their focus to adopting innovative legal service delivery practices, such as the increased use of other service providers, including alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). For those who use those, spending increased by 11% in 2019.
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.
Since 2016, HBR has surveyed law firm library leadership to gain insights into the current state of library operations, including staffing, tools and budget priorities. In 2019, HBR launched the Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey (BLISS), providing, for the first time, the ability to segment the data and identify the most relevant information via an interactive dashboard. Not only does the survey provide benchmarking information against which individuals can track their progress, it also yields insights into overall direction as we enter a new decade.
Law firms face a wide range of risks associated with the information technology (IT) operations in their firms. The most obvious tech-related risks are cybersecurity threats and business continuity needs in the event of an IT infrastructure outage. These are indeed high-stakes risks that are deserving of the news headlines and conference keynote addresses in recent years.
I was privileged to present on the topic of contract risk at the recent 2020 LegalWeek, along with Lee Matthews of Wolters Kluwer, one of HBR’s technology partners. The presentation centered around the types and sources of contract risk and how to combat them.
Law firms of all sizes require solid and stable technology services that power their day to day operations, but that can be challenging for midsized law firms that lack the massive global resources, technical expertise, and financial capital of the world’s largest firms. An unexpected outage that causes disruption of any kind within the IT ecosystem – whether it be a major weather event, a cybercrime incident or something as simple as a hardware failure – can paralyze a midsize law firm and cause disastrous financial impacts, not to mention the damage it likely will cause to the firm’s reputation and client trust.