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Pivoting to the Practice of Virtual Law

Pivoting to the Practice of Virtual Law

Virtual Law

The law profession has been slow to embrace virtual work. It’s a people-oriented business, and there is great reliance on sensitive files and court documents, yet the pandemic pushed lawyers – and the rest of us – to embrace more digital technology.

Sure, lawyers were using mobile devices before. They worked in satellite offices, on-site with clients, or from home. Still, the profession’s traditionalists were loathing putting paperwork online or meeting virtually. Now they have to do so.

In the United States, 70–90% of firms surveyed by the American Bar Association still used traditional offices in 2019. By early April 2020, 48% were working online, and a further 40% were doing a hybrid of on-site and remote.

While many are eager to get back to the office, digital transformation has still taken hold. Let’s discuss the digital technology available to law firms today.

Digital Technology in the Law Firm

Digitizing documents and uploading them to case and practice management software has many benefits. The law firm gains:

  • collaborative access;
  • streamlined process;
  • improved productivity;
  • storage space previously wasted on boxes of file folders;
  • greater flexibility of interactions with clients familiar with digital upload of documentation;
  • peace of mind data backup is available;
  • centralized systems.

The software also adds a layer of accountability, as firm leaders or administrators can see who is accessing what and when. This enables better measurement of productivity and billable hours.

Clients also enjoy not having to leave home and find parking to drop off documents. Paperless transactions can speed the process on both sides, especially with virtual forms collecting data. This also avoids the inaccuracies that can come from manual data entry.

Another significant development for the virtual law firm? Relying on cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). Paralegals and lawyers can work on documents and spreadsheets simultaneously in real-time. With Outlook email and calendar sharing, everyone stays current on any device.

SharePoint and OneDrive also offer secure document sharing. SharePoint is an internal file management tool, whereas OneDrive is a bit simpler.

Communicating Face-to-Virtual-Face

Lawyers now need to meet with clients and opposing counsel, and to appear in virtual courts. Online communication requires a good internet connection, plus a quality camera and microphone to take part in a Zoom or other type of virtual meeting.

 

Other firms are moving to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Those who have used Skype are already calling via data packets transmitted online. And there are other options available: B2B VoIP vendors offer options integrating call forwarding, call queues, and more. With VoIP, the client calls a local number and connects to an employee anywhere without noticing a difference.

All these digital technologies can have a positive impact on the day-to-day running of the law practice, yet it needs correct installation, as security is critical. You don’t want confidential documents shared publicly or phone conversations carried out on insecure lines.

Enjoy digital transformation efficiency with a managed service provider (MSP) installing the right tools. The technology saves space and frees up resources for other practice priorities. Meanwhile, an MSP will offer its IT expertise at a consistent set fee you can budget around. Plus, you’ll know you have IT help on speed dial if something goes wrong.

We’ll make sure your digital transformation – whether short- or long-term – is done right. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2021-03-03T12:05:14-06:00April 6th, 2021|Cloud Services|0 Comments

It’s Who You Know: Verifying Identity at Law Firms

It’s Who You Know: Verifying Identity at Law Firms

Verifying Identity

Trusting identity is foundational to a law firm’s work. In a law office, the documents going back and forth contain sensitive information, and contracts, negotiations, or transactions can’t be shared with the wrong parties. The industry needs to be cautious about validating identities.

Legal service providers need to achieve compliance and protect clients and their assets. Techniques are changing as lawyers move from in-person conferences to digital document exchange. This article examines four digital-age areas in which lawyers need to validate identity.

#1 Phishing Scams

Phishing is always a risk, no matter the industry. Paralegals, associates, and lawyers risk inadvertently clicking on malware, especially as this field relies heavily on attached documents going back and forth.

A cyber-criminal criminal might steal money copying a vendor’s invoices. Everything looks the same, but payment details put the dollars in the crook’s bank account. Or they will send an “urgent” message containing a link that goes to a Web page that looks credible. It might seem to be from a bank or the government, but one character in the URL is different. Those who don’t notice the difference will enter sensitive account details into a form that goes to the bad guy.

Verification tip: Firm-wide filters can check for malicious attachments before they reach people. Educate employees about always verifying the URL before clicking on a link. Hovering over the highlighted text will show the address where a click will take the user.

#2 Business Communication Email Scams

Business communication emails scams also often target law firms. In one example, Jared Kushner’s lawyer exchanged emails with someone imitating the ex-White House aide. Emails from [email protected] prompted the lawyer to share newsworthy information.

Verification tip: At the beginning of an engagement, verify the client’s private, secure email address. Always confirm that the sender’s email address is the same as you have on file before responding.

#3 Outgoing Email

Email automation can also lead to problems. The associate allows Outlook to auto-populate the recipient’s email address from the address book. Too busy typing a quick note, he doesn’t confirm that he’s sending it to the right person. But Smith, John is a divorce attorney and Smithson, John is a client at a dental firm. They should not be getting each other’s filings!

The law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, and Dorr sent files detailing a history of whistle-blower claims at PepsiCo to the wrong person, a Wall Street Journal reporter. So much for client privilege.

Verification tip: Check and double-check your email address list. Set up your firm’s email program to disallow any auto-populating of email addresses.

#4 Multi-Factor Authentication

One other area where you want to verify identity is when staff access your systems and software. Relying on username and password credentials only isn’t strict enough. Humans make mistakes. They share information that makes their access credentials easy to guess. Your people may not pick complicated passwords or change their access credentials. Data breaches can put professional accounts at risk when people reuse passwords.

Verification tip: Adding multi-factor authentication makes it more difficult for the cyber-criminal. Even two-factor authentication adds another important level of security. Having the access credentials alone isn’t enough. The hacker also needs to get their hands on the personal device where the authentication code is sent.

Need help establishing robust digital practices to confirm client and employee identities? A managed service provider can help. Our IT experts can review risks and suggest simple, affordable solutions. Improve your identity experience. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2021-03-03T12:00:53-06:00March 30th, 2021|Security|0 Comments

7 Things Lawyers Gain from Workflow Automation

7 Things Lawyers Gain from Workflow Automation

Workflow Automation

There is always information being collected and shared at a law firm. Files go between employees and back and forth among clients, too, and these can contain critical data. One mistake could cost the firm money – and reputation. Workflow automation technology tackles document sharing and data collection to offer several benefits.

#1 Improved accuracy

Collecting information using workflow automation saves a menial task. The client entering the data saves the paralegal manually, keying it in from a paper form. This also cuts the back and forth over email or time spent on phone calls confirming intake details. Plus, there is less risk of a mistake in the data entry.

#2 Greater productivity

Some software notifies the lawyer or associate a document is ready for review. The firm can even set up reminders to ensure timely document processing. The software may integrate with billable hours tracking to enhance time-spent analysis.

#3 Enhanced customer satisfaction

We’re in a digital age, no matter how old-school your firm, and clients want to take advantage of digital signing options. For example, Adobe Sign and DocuSign integrate with many different software packages. They appreciate uploading documents to cloud storage (such as Dropbox or OneDrive) from the comfort of their own homes.

#4 Freedom from the humdrum

No one becomes a lawyer to push paper. With the right automation tools, lawyers can use technology to:

  • start document requests;
  • obtain internal approval;
  • document dates, signatures, and other information receipt;
  • organize finalized documents.

Workflow software configurations set conditions to trigger the next action. For example, if the firm is trying to collect prospective client details or if someone signs up for the firm’s newsletter, their email address is automatically added to an Excel spreadsheet.

#5 Collaboration and Mobility

Moving document workflow to the cloud supports improved collaboration. With more people working remotely, sharing information online is beneficial. With many tools, people can work together in real-time online. Even those back in the office enjoy keeping up with case documents and communications on the go. With cloud software, staff and clients can stay involved from any mobile device.

#6 Added security

A law firm relying on paper documents risks all its institutional history going up in flames, or being destroyed in flooding or another extreme weather event. Workflow automation digitizes documents and provides an online backup of the information. It’s still a good idea to have another backup, though, and we recommend keeping a current data backup in three different places.

#7 Cost savings

Workflow software handles administrative tasks more accurately and efficiently, which can mean hiring fewer admin personnel. Plus, with digital documentation, think of the file storage space you’ll no longer need. You might be able to add some offices or meeting rooms, or cut your real estate and off-site document storage budget.

Conclusion

Workflow automation is available to any law firm. You can start out with Microsoft Forms or Google Forms, and DocuSign or Dropbox. Intermediate automation tools such as Zapier and IFTTT take it up a notch. Or you can invest in the workflow automation software targeting law firm management.

Need help selecting the best automation options for your office? We can help. We’re here to set up, secure, and keep your software and systems running smoothly. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2021-03-03T11:57:46-06:00March 23rd, 2021|Productivity|0 Comments

Five Tips to Get the Right Printer for You

Five Tips to Get the Right Printer for You

Right Printer for You

Buying a printer can be overwhelming. There are so many options available from different brands, and buying guides galore. Yet we still often see people with printers that aren’t the best ones for their needs. That said, we’re offering five tips to help you find the right one for you.

#1 Identify Your Needs

What are you going to use that printer for? Is it for family use? Home office use? Just as a backup for occasional documents you need to print and sign? For printing photos? For printing graphic designs? Your needs for quality, efficiency, speed, and color or black-and-white prints will influence your choice.

Different printers offer distinct perks. You may want one that prints quickly or one that is compact. Or perhaps you want one that holds a lot of paper. If your priority is photos, you may need a printer that can handle many types and sizes of paper.

If you are running your office from home, you may want to invest in a multi-function printer. These not only print but also scan and copy.

You may not even need a home printer. If you’re using your printer for photographs, you’re better off going to an actual photo printer. It’s about five times cheaper to get photos professionally printed than to color print at home. Plus, you’ll get top-quality copy every time.

#2 Don’t Settle for Cheap

Yes, it’s usually very cheap to buy an inkjet printer from the local big-box store. You may even get a free or dramatically reduced price on a printer with the purchase of your computer. That’s because they’re getting you to buy the printer so that you’ll need to take on the high cost of ink. You’ll also need high-quality printing paper if you want to avoid the ink bleed that can happen on normal office paper.

Another issue with inkjet printers? If you don’t use the color cartridges for a long while, they can dry up, which will leave partial lines on your prints, or the printer won’t work at all until you pay for a fresh, more expensive color cartridge.

#3 Consider Laser Printers

If you’ve decided you do need a home printer, consider a laser printer. Whether you want a printer that works fast or you plan to use it all the time, a laser printer is quick to start up and print. Plus, it offers high-quality results. There is a higher cost upfront, but in the long-term you could save on ink. These printers use a fine powder that doesn’t dry out due to inactivity.

Color laser printing is expensive, yes, but black-and-white printing on a laser printer can be quite cheap and effective.

#4 Read the Reviews

The manufacturer specifications will help you learn:

  • monthly page volume;
  • estimated annual print costs;
  • printing speed;
  • maximum resolution;
  • Wi-Fi functionality;
  • card reader and media plug-in capability;
  • added benefits (e.g. automation features such as collating or stapling).

Still, customer and online reviews can help you find out about durability and productivity. Read both positive and negative reviews to get a full sense of how the printer will suit your needs.

#5 Let Us Help

Inkjet, laser, all-in-one, and photo printers each have their pros and cons, and there is a lot to consider. We can help you choose the right model, set it up in your home, and help you keep it going strong for the long term. Contact us today by calling us at 319-227-7000.

2021-03-03T11:45:28-06:00March 16th, 2021|Printers|0 Comments

Boss Level: Keeping Your Gaming PCs at Their Best

Boss Level: Keeping Your Gaming PCs at Their Best

Keeping Your Gaming PCs at Their Best

Video gaming is an entertainment for all ages. The main demographic is 18-34 years, but those 34-54 are another big segment – even larger than the under-18 group – although the youngest group may spend the most hours gaming, especially during a pandemic. Regardless, PC gamers of any age want the most powerful, fastest computer they can get.

It’s difficult to beat the Boss Level of that favorite game if your computer is lagging. The horror! If you’re serious about gaming, consider the ideas in this article to achieve your next personal best.

The gaming industry is moving to Triple-A titles. Think Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. These AAA video games are the equivalent of blockbuster movies. They take months to years for massive teams of people to develop, everything about such games is ambitious (even the price!). The graphics and animation are more immersive, the storylines offer hours of content and encourage open exploration, and the games have a grander scale and improved sound design, too.

All that requires more from your computer. Depending on the age of your computer, you may not need to replace it to power the latest, greatest games. Or you could upgrade to a more powerful video card. Adding more random access memory (RAM) might also take a computer up to the Triple-A level.

Troubleshooting the Home-Gaming PC

Whether you’re trying the Triple A game or not, you may run into other problems. A screen locks up, a system crashes, or you see weird graphics or wonky textures in a game. You shoot an opponent with a direct hit, and he takes the win. Any of these problems can ruin your gaming experience.

Various issues cause these headaches for home gamers. Regrettably, they can be difficult to diagnose. The problems might be tied to:

  • overheating – modify your power settings, and make sure the computer is getting enough air flow;
  • driver issues – games crashing could mean the latest video drivers aren’t installed;
  • file corruption – reinstalling the game could help;
  • an unstable internet connection – consider moving to a wired Ethernet connection.

Running too many programs on your PC can also cause games to run less smoothly. Close out other programs. Free up disk space if you can. Also, putting the game’s graphics on a lower setting can make them less resource-intensive.

Build Your Own Gaming PC

If you decide it’s time to get a new gaming PC, a popular option now is to custom-build your own. Our experts can do that for you! When you customize your own gaming PC, you get a computer that matches exactly what you’re trying to do.

Don’t settle for a sale computer using lower-quality parts and offering limited upgradability. Avoid buying a brand-name computer pre-loaded with bloatware. Instead, our technician can help you pick the processing and other parts to personalize your system, even down to the color of the fans or console lights.

Our IT experts can bring your PC up to speed, get you back in the game at full power, and build you the perfect customized PC. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2021-03-03T11:20:13-06:00March 9th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Outsourced Help Desk for Accountants

Outsourced Help Desk for Accountants

Outsourced Help Desk for Accountants

Accountants are experts at surviving the “busy season.” Tax accountants, for instance, are slammed as annual deadlines draw near. There are slow times, too, but during crazy times, the last thing an accountant wants is essential tech going down.

A broken computer or server downtime can be devastating. Say it’s a few days before a tax deadline, and the accountant logs into an essential tax preparation application and sees a blank screen: the system is down, and they can’t get in. It’s the kind of crisis that more cups of coffee can’t handle.

In the United States in 2018, the Internal Revenue Service’s website crashed on April 17, Tax Day. Since many people had waited until the last minute to submit their tax returns, this single day of downtime is estimated to have cost millions. It’s a clear example of the damage even a day of server downtime or other type of outage can cost a business and, in this case, one that business accountants can relate to!

If the firm takes a break-fix approach to its technology needs, the answer will be to call in an expert. This could mean hours on the phone with an IT helpline only to find out the problem is with another service provider. Or it could mean trying to reach someone to come out and check the network only to get on their calendar in the next available spot.

Deadlines are looming, and you are spending time on IT woes? It’s a disaster.

A proactive approach is to outsource IT help to a managed service provider (MSP) instead. Rather than waste valuable time trying to solve the problem yourself, turn to an IT technician to get to work.

Outsourcing Your IT Help Desk

With managed services, when you need help, the experts are readily available to tackle your concerns. Many solutions are remote.

Better yet, the MSP will use your slow times to set up systems to cut the risk of downtime during crunch season.

The MSP gets to know your business objectives and your technology infrastructure, which can help them react more efficiently and effectively. They can also track your IT to detect issues or security vulnerabilities early. Plus, they will help create business continuity plans to get your firm up and running again fast.

If the worst does happen, the MSP is only a help ticket or phone call away. Their experts are familiar not only with your technology but also with how you use it. Plus, as a consistent customer, you are a priority, not just another name on a list of people needing help who all see their needs as an emergency.

One other advantage to outsourcing your IT help is that it can reduce costs. The break-fix approach can be an expensive one. Instead, you’ll pay an MSP a set, monthly fee for the peace of mind that your IT needs are being looked after. The MSP can also help you identify opportunities to reduce IT-related operational costs.

2021-03-03T11:16:51-06:00March 3rd, 2021|Productivity|0 Comments

Less Common Cyber-attacks for Accountants

Less Common Cyber-attacks for Accountants

Cyber-attacks for Accountants

Check the news any given day and you might see a report about hackers accomplishing a data breach, or of a ransomware attack encrypting all company data until it pays up. These are the well-known types of cyber-attack, but there are less common cyber-threats accountants should be aware of, as well.

There is almost a malware malaise now. You’ve heard so much about the threat of a virus invading your networks or systems. Someone clicks on a perfectly innocent looking email, and the result is computing chaos? It’s not fair!

You also know to put a firewall around your technology; it’s as if you’re in a military movie. You have to “protect the perimeter.” Ensure no one can breach your cyber protections to secure personal data and intellectual property.

Still, a watchful eye for phishing emails and social engineering attempts isn’t enough. Installing security tools and upgrading anti-virus software also won’t cover everything.

Knowing where less common cyber-attacks are coming from could help, though.

Less Common Modes of Cyber-attack

You may not believe it possible of the people you work with, but they are a real vulnerability.

One problem is that we’re eager to help, especially when it comes to clients. There is a pre-established relationship, as your business has visibility into their financials. People are less likely to think twice about providing information to a client.

Yet cyber-criminals do their homework and have enough information to be credible. Then they play on urgency and emotional appeal. They might call or email someone at your firm pretending to be an admin assistant for someone at the client. They might spin a tale of the CEO needing emergency cash in a far-flung location. Can’t you please help get it to them? Or they send a malicious file asking you to look at this complicated tax document for them (posing as the client). By the time you realize it wasn’t actually the client, it’s too late.

Insider attacks are a problem, too. Employees know your company’s infrastructure and are familiar with your cyber-security tools. They also know where the sensitive data or confidential information is kept. Additionally, they may not act maliciously all the time. If a disgruntled worker is patient, rather than going out in a blaze of glory, it can be harder to detect the breach.

According to the Ponemon Institute, insider-related incidents cost $11.45 million in 2019. Establishing role-based access credentials can help limit exposure. With this approach, people can get only to the information they need to do their jobs.

Other Forms of Insider Threats

Humans also lose things. This is unintentional insider vulnerability. Perhaps they use their personal device to log into the business systems. Laptops, external drives, and mobile devices allow mobility and simplify data access, but what if that mobile device is lost or stolen? If you’re not protecting remote access, you could end up having to tell clients their data is in unknown hands. Encryption can help.

Then, there are the simple mistakes. It’s a good idea to review how you share and publish information. Information goes back and forth regularly between team members, the business, and clients. Don’t lose track of the information or where it is stored. You need to be sure that location is compliant with financial regulations.

If you’ve ever “replied all” when you meant to send to one person, you know how easy it is to mistake sharing privileges. You may intend to share only data with a client, yet you send it out with permissions where everyone can see it. Major oops!

Conclusion

Accountants can prevent, detect, and react effectively to these less common attacks. Don’t be complacent. Thinking it won’t happen to your firm can lead to disaster.

Partner with a managed service provider (MSP) to enhance your user activity monitoring and access management practices. These IT experts can set up alerts and incident response plans, too. Avoid the worst happening to your business. Be proactive. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2021-03-03T11:14:23-06:00March 3rd, 2021|Security|0 Comments

7 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Accountants

7 Benefits of Cloud Computing for AccountantsCloud Computing for Accountants

The public cloud services market has grown dramatically, and, according to Gartner, migrating to the cloud is a top priority for a third of companies. Analysts predicted the market would reach $266 billion in 2020. Accountants enjoy cloud computing, too. This article rounds up the advantages of available cloud services.

Cloud computing can help accountants:

  • improve productivity;
  • empower employees;
  • optimize operations;
  • reduce operating costs;
  • backup better;
  • scale effectively;
  • add security.

Let’s talk about each of these in greater detail.

#1 Improve productivity

Cloud computing centralizes access. Files are available on any c