What Are a Firm’s Options When it Comes to Law Firm IT?
Law firm IT is an important part of law firm life. With ever-changing technology solutions, data security standards that must be met, and an increasingly broad range of software to help you manage your practice, capable IT support and management is a must. In this article, we’re going to explore the three main paths available for law firm IT, specifically: The three (primary) options a law firm has when it comes to getting support and management of their technology.
This article will predominately focus on law firms of 5 to 75 total staff. Firms smaller than this range (such as solo practices) tend to take a DIY-approach to managing their IT needs (which are minimal to begin with). Firms larger than this range begin to have some level of internal IT staff. But the 5 to 75 person range of law firms usually:
- Has a real, legitimate need for qualified IT support, and
- Is unlikely to have an in-house IT resource (because the economics simply don’t make sense).
That qualifier behind us, lets examine the three primary ways a firm can approach managing their law firm IT.
Method 1: Break-Fix Law Firm IT (AKA: “Plug-and-Pray”)
Break-fix law firm IT is exactly what it sounds like. Something isn’t working, so you call your local IT consultant or company to fix it… and that’s virtually the only time you call an IT professional. Firms that fall into this camp, generally:
- View technology as a necessary evil (rather than a competitive edge),
- Spend as little as possible on technology (and are proud of it),
- Often spend more money to put out IT fires than prevent them in the first place.
- Downtime and system outages.
- Software problems
- Lack of productivity (often for your entire firm)
- Loss of data (yours our your client’s)
- A data security breach
- Damage to your reputation
As you can undoubtedly tell, taking a purely reactive, break-fix approach to law firm IT is absolutely the wrong way to go about it. The firm may think they’re saving money in the very near-term, but in almost every case, they’re being a penny wise and a pound foolish. After all, what’s the real cost of:
And honestly, most qualified, reputable IT consulting companies won’t take on clients interested in a break-fix only relationship. And it makes sense, the law firm doesn’t take their technology seriously—why should they? Yes, you can probably find some independent local IT consultant willing to come in as-requested, on an hourly basis. But most law firms want something closer to a gold-standard in law firm IT support (not just the cheapest guy who will take anything he can get).
The real problem, though, of break-fix IT is it misses the preventative part of IT management. Proactive maintenance, monitoring, preventative care. Updating your systems. Testing your backups. Reviewing server logs.
So, for any readers that employ this plug-and-pray approach to law firm IT management: Please, do yourself, your firm, and your clients a favor, and consider method 2 or 3.
Method 2: Managed (Proactive) Law Firm IT
Next, we have managed, or proactive law firm IT. While the particulars in this method can vary from firm-to-firm (and IT consultant to IT consultant), in general a proactive approach to law firm IT includes:
- Routine preventative care (usually onsite, typically once or twice a month)
- 24 x 7 x 365 server/network monitoring (catching problems before they occur or grow)
- As-needed support (usually via a help desk, this is the reactive, day-to-day support).
This approach costs more money up front, yes. Usually (with the right IT consultant) in the form of a predictable, fixed fee every month (fixed-fee, fixed-scope). But it will save you tons of headaches, drama, downtime, problems and money over the long haul.
Because, fundamentally, the purpose of proactive IT care is to:
- Significantly reduce the likelihood of IT problems or disasters, and
- Put your firm in a better position to recover should a problem happen anyway.
If you’re going to own servers (which to run many of the best legal practice management applications, is a necessity), do it right: And be proactive with your law firm IT.