It’s an exciting time to be a lawyer. Canadian law firms are adopting new technologies to deliver legal services more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Legal tech is evolving at an astonishing pace, and enterprising lawyers have a wide variety of tools to choose from.
As lawyers add more technology to their practice, their requirements for IT support increase in complexity. IT providers are quite eager to offer their services, but how do you know if they’re the right company for you?
To help get you started, we’ve compiled five common red flags to watch out for when researching outside IT management for your firm:
They don’t understand law firms
Lawyers have unique business needs. In order to deliver quality service and protection for your clients, you require an IT provider who is knowledgeable about the operation, priorities and culture of a thriving law practice.
According to LAWPRO, law firms are prime targets for hackers because of their valuable data: financial and medical records, M&A details and other privileged information can bring a high price on the black market or even worse, bring in excellent ransom. The stakes are high and it is critical that your IT provider provide adequate security measures for you and your clients.
From document management to e-discovery, for many firms legal software is an important element of day-to-day operations. Something as small as slow-loading files or periodic screen crashes can disrupt workflow and cost you time, money and patience.
You have invested in your software; it’s essential that your IT provider be familiar enough to be able to provide the necessary integration, optimization and support that will keep your team productive and your IT management hassle-free.
The solution they’re offering isn’t their core business
As technology rapidly evolves, many companies are adopting new and innovative solutions to improve their business. In order to stay competitive, IT providers have to offer in-demand services. Beware the “Jack of all trades, master of none”: providers who tack new services onto their business without a lot of experience or training.
For example, many onsite managed service providers are now offering Cloud-based solutions, but they lack the experience and infrastructure to deliver it effectively. Before you proceed, ensure the provider has experience, credible references and extensive staff training for the specific solution they are offering.
They outsource some of their services
This isn't necessarily a red flag, because the majority of small to mid-sized IT providers, especially those who offer Cloud IT, resell third-party solutions and host their data on other companies' servers. They will often outsource their helpdesk to another company as well, sometimes in another country.
However, it's important that you are aware of their third-party arrangements, because this can translate to them having less accountability and control over your systems and data.
Companies who own and operate their own equipment are more familiar with the system, which means fewer problems, and most importantly, more accountability should something go wrong.
They don’t disclose where your systems and data are being hosted
It’s important to know where your physical servers are located – if you aren’t housing your servers on premise, where will they be? Will they be kept in a secure, climate-controlled facility, or in the trunk of someone’s car?
If the provider is Cloud-based, their data may not be stored on Canadian soil. If they host your data on servers belonging to a third party, they may not even know where it’s located, or it could be spread out among multiple servers in multiple locations.
If data is hosted in a foreign jurisdiction, you will need to assess the risks related to that jurisdiction’s privacy and security laws.
It’s also critical to know who holds custody of your data, and how easily you would be able to access it should the need arise.
They have hidden fees
Watch out for additional, hidden costs. More and more managed service providers are now using a fixed fee model to simplify IT management – just keep an eye out for hidden costs for services such as afterhours support, upgrades and maintenance.
There are many other important questions to ask when vetting a prospective IT provider, but this list will get you started on your path to a better way to do legal IT.
About the author
Mike Dewdney is CEO of LexCloud.ca. In his 22 years with the company, Mike has executed hundreds of IT projects to help firms be more secure, effective and efficient. @LexCloud.