Technology is constantly changing and it’s costing more each passing day. Sure, you can go online and order a home computer for less than $500 from Amazon but it’s a totally different world when you involve large database applications such as document management or even financial management.
Even though not so many firms in the legal industry are embracing technological changes, it is inevitable for law and technology to go hand in hand. Innovations are not only inexorable but desirable as well. They bring lots of benefits to both the law firms and their clients. If the appropriate tech tools are put in place, a law firm can function more efficiently and connect to clients in tremendous ways than ever before.
To manage technology in a law firm, there is a need for qualified IT department which can be very costly these days. Moreover, the IT responsibilities might be greater than what a single employee can tackle. It goes without saying that a big IT team needs more resources which means more expenditure. This is where outsourcing comes in. Have you considered outsourcing IT for your law firm? It’s high time you jump on board. Find out the potential benefits of choosing this path.
What Does Outsourcing IT Mean?
To outsource is whereby a company or in this case, a law firm contracts or hires an outside separate company to handle or carry out some of its work or functions. This could be a law firm contracting an IT company to handle its technological matters such as data backup and storage.
Over the four decades, since the explosive growth of law firms began, many of their needs have been outsourced. Legal research has been outsourced to leased databases, and so has more specialized legal research and brief writing.
Common IT functions Law Firms should outsource include:
1. Business Research
Today, more than ever, lawyers need to learn more about business. They need to understand their own company, their competitors, the industry, and the current trend if they want to excel. Obtaining company, industry, and competitors profiles can be a pain in the neck. It’d be much easier to outsource IT for business research.
2. Legal Research and Drafting
Domestic companies have long offered outsourced legal research and drafting but recently, the service is being offered even by offshore providers.
3. Presentation Graphics
As outside counsel learn the value of “pitching business”, they increasingly need graphic presentations (typically in PowerPoint). Many law firms and departments are ill-equipped to meet all the demand for high-quality presentations. Outsourced services can meet this demand.
4. Word Processing and Transcription
With the increase in the ratio of lawyers to secretaries, law firms need to employ more word processing specialists. A lot of paperwork and word processing is required in legal proceedings. Outsourcing word processing and transcription will allow the firm to concentrate more on their clients’ legal matters.
5. Call Center Services
Being a lawyer is one of the most demanding occupations on earth. The time commitment alone is strenuous, not to mention the overall demands of the job. Call center services for law firms provides the option of having consistent, well-trained staff who can manage calls and messages while you tackle the daily duties associated with your firm.
6. Computer and Printer repair
Many firms purchase name-brand systems from manufacturers such as Dell, Gateway, or HP with extended warranties. When a system needs to be repaired, the firm either ships it off to the manufacturer or they are repaired on site by a service technician. With an outsourced IT personnel, the maintenance of equipment is made easier and faster.
7. Substantive Software Systems
Law firms that utilize financial management, document management, or case management systems typically have annual support and maintenance contracts that entitle them to updates and technical support. The law firm usually handles 1st tier support, but beyond user assistance, and technical support that comes from the developer.
8. Web Design and Development
Websites are becoming more complex with database designs, flash, and JAVA-based scripting. Law firms may choose to outsource their Web design, development, and maintenance.
9. Data Backup and Storage
Law firms recognize that while computer systems can be replaced, the intellectual property and information stored on the systems cannot be. There are alternatives to backing up your own system in-house. Companies such as EVault, LiveVault, and West provide backup services.
Reasons for Outsourcing IT Functions
Increasing Core Competency
There is a belief that focusing on the core competency of businesses will allow them to deliver better products and services. So, what does it mean if businesses can increase their core competency?
First, their products and services improve drastically. For law firms, this will translate to more clients resulting in increased billable. But how exactly does outsourced IT increase core competency? Freeing up staff members and allowing them to focus on their competencies will translate to the development of their individual talents that will benefit the law firm.
Comprehensive and Reliable Service
There is no question that the demanding practice of law can be extremely stressful. Therefore, it is necessary for the lawyers to focus on their core competencies on the needs of clients rather than the technical requirements of the firm. Lawyers and associates also need quick and easy access to reliable systems that are designed to increase their productivity and competence in handling different cases.
How can outsourcing IT service help achieve this goal? By expertly setting up all the technological support system, lawyers, associates, researchers, and other staff will be able to focus more at what they are good at i.e. practicing the law and serving their clients.
Most outside IT companies utilize high-end tools and best practices as they are in the heart of the industry and must stay on top of their game when it comes to new technology. Hence, it’s easier for them to identify the root causes of network problems and technical issues.
Scaled Resources and Expertise
When outsourcing your IT operations, you’re leveraging a person dedicated solely to fixing your computers, internet, and other IT problems. You pay them and in turn, they ensure that the best service is delivered.
Skill Set Sophistication
By hiring an outside service provider, you open up your firm to a wide variety of knowledge since they are comprised of teams who are good at what they do and are highly experienced.
A good outside IT firm will monitor your systems on a 24/7/365 basis. They also have resources which are meant for emergencies. They will offer a sense of security and an “illusion” of availability.
Predictable Management Costs
Disasters are not predictable- and they can be costly – particularly if there is no disaster plan and disaster resource. With an outside firm, you won’t be caught spending unplanned lumps of money in a desperate situation (e.g. server crash). In these cases, a set of the monthly budget can be put aside specifically for issue avoidance, prevention, and service optimization.
Client Access and Visibility
Attorneys need to be available and accessible 24 hours a day. For most clients, their lawyer is a lifeline, and knowing that their firm’s technical infrastructure is always at arm’s length can sometimes be the difference between success and failure. This runs across all technical aspects of the firm: email, phone systems, internet content, messaging, financial data, files and data access; and all critical areas of the client touch points.
Law firms need to be laser-focused and are best served by outside firms that provide complete end-to-end service technical expertise. One single point of contact for all technical needs offers the most efficient and user-friendly scenario. Whether it is email support, networking, software management, cloud services, hosting, telephone systems, messaging support, or mobile application support, the cost of having to manage multiple specialists creates too many communication layers and can distract employees from client-oriented tasks.
The Final Word
In order to justify their hourly fees, attorneys cannot afford to spend any time or energy dealing with technology snafus. They require systems that have been properly engineered and work as expected all the time so they are able to bill their clients and not worry about lost hours on non-client related activities.
Whether or not to outsource IT services remains a choice of your law firm. It also depends on other factors such as the financial ability of the firm, size of the firm etc. Outsourcing of IT services has shown to have more benefits as compared to delegating those functions to in-house team members.