The IT challenges of 2016 – are firms ready?

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8 January 2016

Posted by Nigel Wright, managing director of Legal Futures Associate Converge Technology Specialists

Wright: increased digitisation

Wright: increased digitisation

Cybersecurity, agility and digitisation of the courts will be the top IT concerns for law firms in 2016, according to a number of our law firm clients.

In conjunction with our colleagues at Zylpha, we spoke to a range of our clients who told us that there are some clear lessons to learn from some unfortunate events in 2015.

We’ve seen cybercrime impact organisations as never before, so it’s critical that firms have plans in place to protect data, systems and client information. Who would have thought that a 15-year old could hack into a telecommunications company or that we would hear about less-than-sophisticated scams targeting firm and client bank accounts via emailed links?

As the Solicitors Regulatory Authority continues to flag various scams, firms must tighten up security or face fines and loss of reputation. Having a good disaster recovery plan in place will be key to protecting data and securing systems but it will also provide a competitive advantage.

One of our customers, Poole Alcock, has prioritised this and told us: “Panels are asking for evidence of disaster recovery in place. We have this and it’s a proven advantage over competitors.”

We’ve also seen firms introduce more agile ways of working. It’s an important component in meeting client demands to allow them to access legal advice at any time and from anywhere, but it also enables firms to provide staff with flexibility.

As firms seek to boost profits and meet client demands, more will move to agile working to enable them to work at client sites, work from remote locations at times to suit clients and also to optimise fee-earners’ downtime when travelling or out of the office.

In November’s Autumn Statement, the government announced a £700m investment to modernise the courts and justice system. Law firms will need to ensure they have the right technology in place to be able to operate in the new world, although questions remain about whether it will be the courts or firms that will be ‘catching up’ in the brave new world.

That aside, the profession has seen increased digitisation and growth of online services. Firms expect to see further improvements in processes and accessibility to case management files with more systems becoming electronic and digital in 2016.

Again, client expectation will drive this efficiency as they demand access to services outside of regular working hours, whether for a case update, to view documents, or to be able to work remotely themselves.

Technology linked to return on investment will also feature in 2016, with IT becoming a ‘proactive function’. Continuous innovation will be demanded but only where there is demonstrable return on investment.

As our customer Total Conveyancing Services says: “Any ICT solution must bring benefit to the business as a whole and deliver more streamlined and speedier process but without reducing the quality of work and the service we deliver… Technology has to evolve with your business.”

This year could herald a marked departure in the status quo of IT. As firms begin to grasp the opportunities afforded to them by getting IT right and digitising processes, a new window may be opened to greater efficiency, opportunity and profitability.

Converge TS and Zylpha will be publishing a joint report in January 2016, ‘Legal Landscape 2016’, which will look at the issues affecting law firms’ IT and case management experience.

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