Large-scale remote working entered the legal sector as a reactionary response to a global pandemic and is now part of a new normal that is redefining the professional landscape. According to the Thomson Reuters and Georgetown Law report on the state of the legal market in 2021, the number of lawyers and employees willing to work remotely for at least one day a week has doubled over the past year.
Many executives are pleased to come to terms with the fact that a hybrid workforce is being credited with new efficiency gains in terms of staff structure, office and administrative space, business travel and other areas. In a year when demand has declined and costs have increased, a hybrid workforce is a welcome relief.
At the same time, a hybrid workforce brings new risks and potential pitfalls that executives need to address. Because of this, 81% of senior risk managers believe remote working will remain an integral part of their company’s business. Indeed, having a hybrid workforce makes compliance requirements, cybersecurity threats, and productivity metrics a real problem for law firms.
In response, many companies have turned to employee monitoring software to monitor this transition. However, in the legal industry, adoption has been less universal as companies rely on human relationships, product performance, and other indicators to help address critical remote working priorities.
However, when moving to a long-term hybrid work model, insights are critical. For CEOs, CTOs, and cybersecurity workers looking to help transition to remote work, attorney monitoring enables employees to demonstrate compliance, protect sensitive information, and measure productivity.
Client confidentiality and personal data protection are more than just altruistic pursuits for law firms. Its effectiveness is based on privacy and discretion, and various state and federal data protection regulations make it a top priority for law firms.
Employee monitoring initiatives support regulatory compliance efforts in a number of ways, including:
- privileged user monitoring. Receive real-time notifications when users attempt to tamper with systems, databases or content.
- Session mining. Capture and evaluate information that is being accessed, even in complex environments.
- Policy Enforcement. Establish rules and guidelines that protect the customer / matter and other sensitive data.
- Prevent data loss from endpoints. Avoid a compliance breach by preventing data exfiltration from corporate systems.
- digital forensics. When a compliance mandate is challenged, digital forensics can determine the veracity of the complaint so organizations can implement the logs for accountability and continuous improvement.
In a digital-first environment, law firms need to reassess their compliance efforts to ensure they avoid the financial impact, reputational damage, and business disruptions associated with violating the regulations.
In today’s highly regulated business landscape, law firms cannot afford to ignore this critical priority.
Protect sensitive information
Law firms abundantly collect and store personal information and are notoriously soft targets for bad actors and casual insiders. Incredibly, nearly a third of law firms have seen a data breach in the past year, according to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Tech Report 2020.
A survey of IT executives in the legal sector found that 96% of respondents viewed insider threats as a major cybersecurity issue. Most critically, executives are concerned about employees using personal technology to access company data, intentionally or accidentally sharing intelligence with a competitor, and disclosing information to cyber criminals. Interestingly, the employees share these feelings. More than three quarters of law firm employees believe employees accidentally and maliciously compromised data.
Unfortunately, the ABA report also found that “despite ethical problems and upcoming challenges … the use of certain security tools remains with less than half of the respondents”.
As hybrid becomes a long-term solution for many organizations, they must be able to identify sensitive information, detect potential threats, protect corporate data, respond in real time, and recover quickly.
Coupled with the ability to prevent endpoint data loss, employee monitoring software can improve the defense posture of organizations in any environment.
Many law firms respond to employees’ preferences for remote working, but ultimately the law is a business and law firms need to prioritize the most effective operating model. Hence, productivity analysis will help executives evaluate the continued merits of a hybrid workforce.
For example, 20% of attorneys immediately after transitioning to remote work reported having trouble meeting billable hour goals, citing distraction and decreased opportunities as reasons for the decline in performance. While short-term productivity losses are not necessarily a cause for concern, especially at the beginning of a novel health crisis, persistent anomalies can reflect systemic problems.
Of course, lawyers familiar with long hours and heavy workloads may be more prone to overwork than to slacking off. However, when moving to remote work, many workers added three hours longer to their working days, demonstrably undermining the remaining semblance of work-life balance.
To nurture healthy, sustainable teams, law firms need to evaluate productivity metrics and continuously evaluate output for signs of decreased results or overload.
The present and future of work is indelibly digital, which allows workers more flexibility and autonomy while delivering tangible benefits for businesses. However, for this transition to be successful, executives cannot cope with the challenges of a hybrid workforce. Instead, they must address potential deficiencies with solutions that meet current requirements.
Employee monitoring software alone does not guarantee a successful transition. Still, law firms can be supported on multiple critical fronts so they can competently prioritize compliance, cybersecurity and productivity on a single platform.