Law firms often have high standards for their staff. You need to make sure every person on the team can contribute and work at the level expected by the firm and your clients – particularly if you’re a smaller firm with fewer resources where staff have to wear multiple hats. But we’re not just talking about your lawyers.
There’s a wide range of roles law firms need to operate successfully. Office managers, accountants, HR, IT – they all play a crucial role in day-to-day operations. Having the right people in these key roles can make a huge difference to the overall performance of a firm.
But ensuring you’re getting the right people and support isn’t always easy – especially for roles in IT, a highly specialised function that not many firms have in-depth knowledge of. Hiring for a role you don’t have a clear understanding of can be incredibly difficult (particularly when you’re competing for talent with bigger firms) and can easily leave you without the right support.
The truth is, you don’t need to fight for talent, blow your budget or even do the hiring and managing of IT staff yourself. You just need to recognise what you need from IT, what you’re missing, acknowledge it is engrained into your business processes, and leave the rest to the specialists.
Are there gaps in your IT support?
In comparison to other businesses, law firms are quite unique in how they operate in general, and how they use IT specifically. In law environments, IT that doesn’t work with you is working against you. And it has little to do with IT staff and their capabilities. Even a wonderful IT manager can only do so much if the IT configuration isn’t set up to streamline roles, processes and best support the needs of other areas of the firm.
Here are four red flags that you might see in your existing IT that should raise concerns:
- Your IT staff look busy all the time
- Larger IT projects have no momentum
- Your IT staff always complains about overtime – whilst there is always work to occur after hours, this should be planned well ahead
- You don’t understand what your IT staff are saying – a good IT team member should be able to explain the problem at your level
Think of a general IT set up in a small law firm. It’s quite normal for there to be just one (maybe two) full-time IT support staff who take care of all the IT and technology needs of the firm. No matter how experienced or knowledgeable staff are, this set up already raises questions about whether it can truly support a growing firms support demands.
Differing support hours
Lawyers rarely work Monday-Friday, 9-5. It’s a demanding job and often requires long or abnormal hours. Yet most of the time, a full-time internal IT Manager will expect to work regular office hours. Something goes wrong outside of this time? Lawyers are on their own.
Gaps in knowledge
No matter how experienced or talented an IT specialist is, there will always be gaps in their knowledge – and so there should be! One person can’t be expected to know (or be good at) absolutely everything in their field. Relying on one person’s knowledge can put firms at a disadvantage.
Just as one person can only know so much, they can also only do so much. With a limited amount of time each day, IT support can only get to so many issues. It can often lead to long delays and productivity interruptions – not to mention, with all energy going to troubleshooting, there’s no time left over for proactive IT support to streamline processes and repeatable tasks.
In normal circumstances, these gaps aren’t great. They have the possibility of interrupting day to day operations and billable work for your staff, but also put you behind other firms who have the resources to prevent these gaps and start to look over the horizon to make their firm more efficient.
Add to that the fact that things are changing and the way we work is becoming more remote, flexible, and tech-enabled, and it has the capacity to truly put you behind the pack.
Understanding what you do need, what don’t need, and what you could need
The most logical way to overcome these three key challenges is to just hire more staff. The problem with that, though, is often small firms don’t need this level of support and expertise all the time. Investing in a larger internal IT team means paying for support that you don’t always use, as well as having to manage, hire and maintain an in-house team and all the work that comes with that.
That’s why understanding the specific IT needs and the strong link between IT and other areas of your firm is so important. IT is an investment and is engrained into your firm’s processes. And, like any investment, it’s important to match what you’re receiving with what you truly need. Are you paying for something you don’t need? Or underinvesting in something really important?
Furthermore, it’s important to understand the impact that IT has on other areas of law, the specific expertise or services that you need, and what you aren’t receiving that could be a benefit to your firm. This includes:
- Understanding what you need and what you should be expecting from IT (eg. heightened security, cloud-based applications, remote access, optimised efficiency)
- What you don’t need from IT (eg. lawyers wasting time on IT, responsibility of hiring, training, managing IT staff)
- How you can maximise your investment in IT (lowering IT costs, support flexibility, changing the focus of in-house team to focus on more billable work, more maintenance and less “break fixing”).
A perfect example of the efficiency improvements a high-functioning IT department can have on other areas of a law firm, and one that my clients love, is a new-user form. When a new employee starts at the firm, a single digital form can determine what areas the new user has access to, what onboarding is required, security and more. The same thing occurs for decommissioning a user.
Once you understand the role IT plays in your firm – and the possibilities on offer – you can start focusing on getting the right level of talent, support and expertise (that is, the right people) into your firm.
Widen your options (and talent pool) with outsourced IT
Once you’ve determined what you need, the next (and biggest) step is sourcing it. For some firms, internal IT is the best option. But for many smaller firms, looking outside this traditional delivery method is allowing them to better meet their needs and get more of a flexible and progressive approach to IT.
Outsourcing has become a more viable option recently and more boutique firms across Australia have started utilising it. When it’s all about the people – getting the right ones on board, keeping them there, and ensuring they’re performing their best – outsourcing provides a number of benefits small internal teams can’t:
- Access to the best talent – more talent is now going to IT-specific businesses, rather than internal industry teams. Don’t have to compete for it, share it.
- Bigger teams and more support – outsourced teams provide multiple people, meaning 24/7 support and a larger pool of expertise
- Flexibility – don’t pay for what you don’t use, and ensure you can still be helped as you change/grow
- No hiring, training or managing required – focus on internal work, and don’t worry about managing a role you have no expertise in
- Changing the focus of your in-house team to focus on more billable work – lawyers wasting time trying to fix IT issues or perform repeatable mundane tasks isn’t valuable for the firm
- Improved efficiency – IT is ingrained in your firm’s processes, and if done right can support the efficiency and effectiveness of all areas of your firm
While many a drawn to outsourcing for the cost alone, it’s the people power that law firms can really benefit when it comes to outsourced IT. You can discover more about the benefits of outsourcing and how it can support your firm in the free Effective IT Management eBook.
At Innessco, we specialise in outsourced IT for boutique law firms. We can develop effective, tailored strategies that align with your firm’s goals and ensure you’re getting the most out of your IT and from your IT investment.
Contact us today to find out more about how we can empower your law firm with state-of-the-art IT.