2020 was the great catalyst for law firm digital transformation. In a matter of a few weeks, lawyers needed instant and seamless access to their data as they worked from home. As we return to “normal” many law firms will continue to accelerate their digital transformation and cloud adoption as:
- Many lawyers prefer having a hybrid work-home office environment, and;
- Many firms are able to save substantial real estate expenses by subleasing or not renewing office leases.
Much of the focus of cloud adoption has been on the cloud strategy, SaaS or PaaS technology itself, and the new cloud IT titles and roles. What is often overlooked is the different attributes IT professionals need to drive the business objectives of any legal digitalization. Mastering certain attributes can catapult IT professionals to become trusted IT-business partners who not only lead the firm’s digital transformation, but also directly contributes to its long-term growth plans.
Achieve closer alignment with key end users — lawyers
Most lawyers are interested in eliminating laborious manual processes and gaining a deeper insight into their clients’ data. In an on-premise IT environment, IT professionals worked with lawyers on evaluating software, on providing user support, and, many times, in helping with system training. With exceptions, many IT roles did not dig deep into the lawyer’s day-to-day workflow.
In an on-premise IT environment, IT may not have known where lawyers look for information they need or where they store their data for reuse. They may not have known all the systems the lawyer touches in obtaining information, in document creation, in collaborating with the parties, or in finalizing the contract.
In a cloud environment, by understanding lawyer workflows, the IT professionals can better meet the lawyer’s technical needs — such as identifying the manual processes that can be automated. IT professionals can work with the lawyer to decide which SaaS solutions have the requisite configurations to meet the lawyers’ demands and determine how to best integrate any data with existing systems.
Become a data detective
It is no secret that most firms have experienced data problems. Many times, the data was unstructured, missing, or had integrity issues. In these cases, data integration was always somewhat of a nightmare. Another major issue is that many firms are not aware of the potential insights their data can provide because it is unstructured.
With cloud adoption, the IT professional at your firm can help determine how to manage the data, how to identify the needed data integrations, and how to perform big data analysis. The IT professional will need to be a data detective and help the firm realize the full value of its data.
Manage your SaaS vendor relationships
The greatest change to the IT professional’s role will be to shift its mindset from primary maintenance of all the firm’s systems to overseeing and managing a third-party SaaS vendor. For law firms with primarily on-premise systems, IT roles traditionally involved the purchase and maintenance (upgrades, capacity, security) of the hardware. The IT professional would contact the third-party system vendor as needed for items like system troubleshooting or upgrade assistance.
For law firms accelerating to the cloud, what is different is that the third-party system vendor has significant responsibilities of feature and functionality updates, of maintaining the SaaS solution, and most of the security. In this environment, the IT professional must manage the relationship more closely to ensure the Service Level Agreement is being followed.
During the SaaS subscription, the IT professional should create a strong, collaborative relationship with the SaaS vendor. The IT professional often has negotiation leverage as the one- to three-year subscription is ending. Looking at system usage and circling back with the end-users will help determine whether an alternative SaaS solution better fits the end users’ needs. This is much different from the on-premise application which is a one-time purchase and maintenance for life until the firm decides to retire the system.
Adopt a learning mindset
IT professionals already have deep skills for managing on-premise servers, applications, storage, security, and upgrades. As more and more legal applications shift to the cloud, IT professionals will work more closely with the SaaS vendors and also one particular end-user, the lawyers.
Digital transformation requires IT professionals to adopt a learning mindset on how they interact with lawyers and lead the firm towards its future goals. Lawyer tech adoption is still a struggle, but it’s getting better. Lawyers embrace technology when they become aware of how new legal solutions can help streamline some of the grunt work and augment their lawyering. Who better to help lead the lawyers through this cloud era than their IT colleagues?
To learn more about cloud-based technology, the difference it can make at your firm, and the role of IT professionals at every stage, watch our on-demand webcast series in partnership with Microsoft Azure. Registration is free for all sessions.