Marquez: Expanding your perimeter for your firm’s cybersecurity

In all likelihood, your law firm has taken the effort and invested treasure in securing the infrastructure in the office. You’re able to check all the boxes for your cybersecurity insurance and satisfy the requirements of your large corporate clients who insist your firm’s (no matter the size) standards meet their expectations. Your firm has tasked your internal or your outsourced IT resources to make sure you are compliant. Everything is running securely and in tip-top shape, which is great for your attorneys and staff who regularly work in the office.

However, as we have witnessed in the past three years, things have shifted. Even before the pandemic, the practice of law was changing, with more and more firms leveraging cloud solutions for everything from document management to time and billing. In a way, even before COVID, many attorneys were a hybrid workforce, with the ability to work from home. As a legal IT company, we are seeing more and more attorneys who are rarely to never in the office and sometimes don’t even have an office.

With this shift in work routine, the lines are being blurred where the perimeter of the law firm’s technology responsibilities end. Some firms issue laptops and sometimes VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phones that attorneys and staff are to use in their home office. Other firms, especially smaller ones with attorneys spread out across several states, may have strict BYOD device policies. Some law firms may even be a mashup of the two, with no formal documentation or policy in place. Having some level of formal guidelines within the firm is important for multiple reasons. Below are just a few.

Security: What was once a singular in-house network for IT to secure and maintain has now split into a multitude of networks with varying locations and internet service providers. This is no small feat to manage and keep secure, as IT often has little oversight as to what is on these networks, what type of internet service is being delivered to these attorneys’ and staff’s homes, or who has access to these networks.

General awareness leading to frustration: It is not uncommon for techs to receive calls from those working from home requesting assistance with toner for the printer, issues with the scanner or a second monitor at home. Many times the person calling the help desk is unfamiliar with the technical details of the device they are needing assistance with, and the components are hidden behind a desk or in a closet. Without some formal guidelines about what equipment will be supported and what technology has been set up at that location, it can make the situation very difficult for IT to troubleshoot.

Response time for solution: As we all know, response time matters because often, the call to tech support was initiated by someone trying to desperately complete a brief that just disappeared from their screen, or who continues to experience slow performance while connected to the virtual private network with a critical deadline approaching. The lack of knowledge and tools in place to properly assist the attorney who is working from home can become an issue that ranges from just being an annoying inconvenience all the way to being detrimental to the entire firm’s wellbeing.

In addition to formal guidelines about equipment, here are some other best practices to help alleviate some potential pain points that can otherwise come as a result of IT support and security in a hybrid world.

Home visit

Assuming the attorneys or staff are within a reasonable distance of the office, a home visit by your IT personnel to survey the technology and placement in the home may be a good option to get the information that is needed and ensure that things are set up according to any firm protocols and that the home Wi-Fi is secured using best practices. The IT tech can document the type of internet equipment and any other network equipment in use in the home to be used in the future without having to ask the remote worker for a series of technical information when calling in for help.

While on the visit, the IT tech could also make recommendations, such as which equipment should be plugged into battery backup (UPS) appliances and which will be sufficiently protected by a surge protector. Using a labeler, the IT tech can label specific equipment to make it easier for the remote worker to identify specific equipment when they are troubleshooting over the phone in future calls, including what order things should be started, to help make remote work as painless as possible.

Depending on the number of remote workers your firm has, it may not be ideal to arrange home visits for every single one of them, but VIPs and those who often have technical issues should be considered to receive a visit.

Technology survey and equipment

If a home visit is not possible, IT can send a technology survey to help collect useful information from the attorneys and staff about their home networks. It would be useful, too, if pictures were taken of the equipment to be included in the survey. Putting in the effort up front to collect vital information will make it easier for IT to provide support and recommendations.

Send equipment

If the budget allows, it may make sense to send specialized equipment that enables remote users to work securely. There is even a market for equipment now that businesses can use in securing their remote workforce, such as the Cisco Meraki Z3, a wireless router that can be mailed to a user’s home and simply plugged in. Once plugged in, the devices are managed and monitored from a centralized dashboard in the cloud. Standardizing the type of router and Wi-Fi that would be at every remote worker’s home should greatly improve your IT techs’ ability to support remote workers whenever they face connectivity issues.

Efficiency and resourcefulness

The goal of having a better understanding of the remote worker’s technology setup is to make troubleshooting more efficient. Often in troubleshooting, too much time can be wasted trying to figure out what possible points of failure may exist. The process has the added potential of just making the situation more frustrating, especially if time is an issue.

If your firm expects IT to support remote workers the same as workers in the office, it is important that they have the necessary information and resources to provide the best possible results for your remote attorneys and staff.

As in most things in life, communication is the key. Taking these proactive steps will provide IT with the information needed to more effectively provide solutions in a hybrid setting.•


Tino Marquez ([email protected]) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis-based legal technology company Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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