Adjusting on the fly

As COVID-19 shuts down law offices, firms need to ensure connectivity and data protection are top of mind

This article was designed using resources from Freepik.com
This article was designed using resources from Freepik.com
April 2020
By John McNally
Managing editor

As the coronavirus started to take hold and companies, including law firms in Chicago and throughout the U.S., started to announce their plans to work remotely, K&L Gates partner Daniel Farris was thinking of an equation: Computing + storage.

If law firms — particularly Chicago’s big law operations — are working from remote locations, they may not be able to be fully operational because there isn’t enough availability, especially for support staff.

“There are two issues,” Farris said. “Number one is the remote infrastructure to enable connections from outside the office. Most firms use VPN or Citrix. In either case, you have a cluster of servers throughout the country and the world. (If there aren’t enough connections) what you end up getting is bottlenecks and lag times. Things don’t run as smoothly.

“It’s the difference between the Kennedy (Expressway) at 2 a.m. and at 5 p.m.”

Farris noted the second issue may strictly be a financial one for firms. For instance, he said, a typical big law firm might have 1,000 users so it must buy 1,000 licenses for remote access. Now, with the rest of the staff working from home, the firm might need to purchase a bunch of more licenses.

“It creates administration and management issues,” Farris said. “The big firms (may be) experiencing that issue. The (sole practitioner) or small boutiques, they might not even have the remote resources necessary to truly enable the resources to work from home.”

Farris adds that a firm must commit to ensuring its work flow remains consistent and all of its work collaboration tools are up to par. As a firm began to really evaluate and implement its work-from-home capabilities, Farris said it should consider the latest cloud-based solutions.

“Many of the tech and legal tech vendors are leading when it comes to both resources available and adoption of new technologies,” he said. “Your average cloud-based tools for firms, they tend to be elastic. Vendors can easily expand the resource allocation to ensure the firm and the lawyers don’t experience those lags.”

Of course, Farris noted, with the increase in firms working remotedly there must be a discussion on plans to protect that important data from cyber attacks. With everyone logging in from remote areas, firms are more susceptible to surface area risk — where instead of everyone logging on from one location (the office) employees are logging on from all over. This leaves so many routes open for cyber attacks.

“Try to have the fewest number of individuals accessing a system,” Farris said. “The more connections the more the number of vulnerabilities. Try to have people connect from one machine, not two or three. And (have them log in) from machines you control and not home machines. The ability to maintain good security (should be) stressed.”

Having normal work functions being uprooted by COVID-19 isn’t what anyone wanted, Farris said. But, it may provide some knowledge on where your firm stands on remote working, with data security and it may provide firms a pathway forward once the world recovers from this situation.

“This has been a less-than-optimal catalyst, but a catalyst nonetheless,” Farris said. “It can provide opportunities to think about ways to adopt design thinking and change the customer experiences.”

He added: “I think everyone is trying to figure this out. Now is the time to be more willing to try new things to do our best and maintain consistent work product and collaboration.”