Law Firm IT – What Are Your Options?

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.

Trust me.

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.


Being proactive with your law firm IT will result in:

  • Less downtime, less system and software problems
  • Less frustrated staff
  • Much less likelihood of data loss
  • Much less likelihood of a data security breach or incident
  • Much less likelihood of a virus outbreak or ransomware
  • Much faster resolution of problems, whey they occur
  • Much faster recovery of files, data or systems if they crash
  • Early detection of small problems (before they become big problems)

Your goal ought to be to shift from being a firefighter, to becoming a fire marshal.

If I’ve convinced you to take a proactive, managed approach to law firm IT—good for you! Now, be sure to find the right law firm IT provider.


Method 3: Law Firm IT – in the Cloud

Finally, our third method for managing law firm IT: Doing it in the cloud.

And, I’m not talking about abandoning the practice management or document management software that your firm relies on in exchange for a watered-down web application.

Let me take a step back.

Many of the best case management applications (as well as other types of software used by law firms) requires a server; it needs a place to live. That’s why many law firms have servers in the first place. And for many years, if you wanted to run practice management software like ProLaw, PCLaw, Time Matters, Tabs3, or even Timeslips and QuickBooks, you needed a server, one way or another.

This used to mean you had to buy a server and (hopefully, following method #2 above) retaining a capable IT consulting firm to manage it for you. Today, you have another option:

A Private Cloud.

A private cloud is a completely hosted, secure IT platform for your law firm and all of your software, documents, data and (sometimes) more. Applications like those I mention above require a server (as I said, one way or another); and in the case of private cloud, a private cloud is the server.

Here’s how it works.

With a private cloud, the cloud provider builds dedicated, private cloud servers just for your law firm. They’ll install your legal software (and other software), move your data, documents and in some cases email from your local, on-premise servers to your new servers in the cloud, or your new private cloud.

With the right private cloud company, that company will be intrinsically knowledgeable about the software your firm relies on. They’ll know how to install it, support it, optimize it and keep it running at peak performance. (Have you ever had an IT consultant give you that deer-in-the-headlights look when you present a problem within your legal software?)


The cloud service provider is responsible for all backups, maintenance, updates, and cybersecurity. Your firm simply logs in (from anywhere, anytime on any device), and get to work.

And everything just works.

Each person in your firm logs into a virtual desktop, which runs full-screen, and across all of your monitors. In your virtual desktop you’ll find your legal software, your file system (EG, “the S: drive,”), your Office suite, Outlook email—everything you need to work.


Law Firm IT in the cloud brings the benefits of managed, proactive, IT with the added benefits of:

  • No servers or IT headaches
  • Work anytime, anywhere (on PC’s or Macs)
  • Maintenance, security, backups—all handled for you
  • Expert legal software support when you need it
  • Much more reliability (cloud infrastructures are always more reliable than a server sitting in your coat closet)
  • Fixed, predictable law firm IT costs.


Closing the Loop

So, there are the three primary ways to approach law firm IT. Hopefully you’ve learned that:

  • Break-fix, or being reactive is the worst (and ultimately most expensive) approach to IT management for a law firm, and that:
  • A proactive, or managed approach to IT is a much better way to prevent and get out in front of IT problems before the occur (or become worse), and that:
  • Hosted Law firm IT in the cloud brings the benefits of proactive IT with a host of other benefits, including security, reliability, mobility and economy.

What IT challenges does your firm face? What approach do you find works the best? What lessons have you learned about managing law firm IT? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions in the comments below.

Onward and upward.