Large scale remote work entered the legal sector as a reactionary response to a global pandemic, and it’s now part of a new normal that’s redefining the professional landscape. According to the 2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market by Thomson Reuters and Georgetown Law, the number of lawyers and staff wanting to work remotely at least one day a week has doubled in the past year.
Many leaders are happy to acquiesce as a hybrid workforce is credited with driving new efficiencies related to staffing patterns, office and administrative space, business travel, and other areas. In a year when demand diminished and expenses increased, a hybrid workforce offers a welcome cost reprieve.
At the same time, a hybrid workforce introduces new risks and potential pitfalls that leaders will need to address. That’s why 81% of senior risk managers believe that remote work will remain a permanent feature of their firm’s operations. Indeed, a hybrid workforce makes compliance requirements, cybersecurity threats, and productivity metrics a real concern for law firms.
In response, many companies have turned to employee monitoring software to oversee this transition. However, in the legal industry, adoption has been less universal as firms rely on interpersonal relationships, product output, and other indicators to accommodate critical remote work priorities.
However, when transitioning to a long-term hybrid work model, insights are critical. For CEOs, CTOs, and cybersecurity personnel looking to support a transition to remote work, here’s how employee monitoring can help law firms demonstrate compliance, protect sensitive information, and measure productivity.
Client confidentiality and personal data protection are more than just altruistic endeavors for law firms. Their efficacy is predicated on privacy and discretion and various state and federal data privacy regulations make it a top priority for law firms.
Employee monitoring initiatives support regulatory compliance efforts in several ways, including:
- privileged user monitoring. Receive real-time notifications when users try to tamper with systems, databases, or content.
- session mining. Capture and assess accessed information, even in complicated environments.
- policy enforcement. Establish rules and policies that protect client/matter and other sensitive data.
- endpoint data loss prevention. Avoid a compliance violation by preventing data exfiltration from company systems.
- digital forensics. If a compliance mandate is questioned, digital forensics can identify the veracity of the complaint, allowing firms to implement accountability and ongoing improvement protocols.
In a digital-first environment, law firms need to reassess their compliance measures, ensuring that they avoid the financial implications, reputational damage, and operational disruption associated with a regulatory compliance violation.
In today’s highly regulated business landscape, law firms can’t afford to ignore this critical priority.
Protect Sensitive Information
Law firms collect and store copious amounts of personal information, and they are notoriously soft targets for bad actors and accidental insiders. Incredibly, nearly a third of law firms experienced a data breach in the past year, according to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Tech Report 2020.
A survey of IT leaders in the legal sector found that 96% of respondents saw insider threats as a significant cybersecurity concern. Most critically, leaders are concerned about employees using personal technology to access company data, intentionally or accidentally sharing insights with a competitor, and leaking information to cybercriminals. Interestingly, employees share these sentiments. More than three-quarters of law firm staff believe employees have accidentally and maliciously put data at risk.
Unfortunately, the ABA’s report also found that “despite the ethical issues and pending challenges…the use of certain security tools remains at less than half of respondents.”
As hybrid becomes a long-term solution for many firms, they need the capacity to identify sensitive information, detect potential threats, protect company data, respond in real-time, and recover quickly.
When coupled with endpoint data loss prevention capacity, employee monitoring software can improve firms’ defensive posture in any environment.
Account for Productivity
Many law firms are responding to employee preferences for remote work, but ultimately, law is a bottom-line business, and firms have to prioritize the most effective operational model. Therefore, productivity analysis will help leaders evaluate the continued merits of a hybrid workforce.
For instance, immediately after transition to remote work, 20% of lawyers reported challenges meeting billable hour goals, citing distraction and diminished opportunities as reasons for the decreased output. While short-term productivity blips are not necessarily a cause of concern, especially at the onset of a novel health crisis, continued irregularities can reflect systemic issues.
Of course, legal professionals, well-acquainted with long hours and heavy workloads, are perhaps more vulnerable to overwork than they are to slacking off. However, in the transition to remote work, many workers added three hours to their workdays, veritably obliterating any remaining semblance of work-life balance.
Fostering healthy, sustainable teams will require law firms to assess productivity metrics, continually evaluating output for signs of diminished results or overwork.
The present and future of work is indelibly digital, allowing workers more flexibility and autonomy while also providing tangible benefits for firms. However, for this transition to be successful, leaders will can’t mitigate the challenges of a hybrid workforce. Instead, they must address potential shortcomings with solutions that meet the moment.
Employee monitoring software alone doesn’t guarantee a successful transition. Still, it can support law firms on several critical fronts, allowing them to competently prioritize compliance, cybersecurity, and productivity from a single platform.