Data loss: How do law firms keep up to date yet stay protected?

    Legal professionals are committed to providing their valued clients with the best advice and service possible.

    To do this, it’s widely recognised that time does not stop for anyone in the legal world – contract deadlines, court dates and client meetings are all a given, writes Tim Walker, MD, Aura Technology.

    Any type of power outage presents a threat to law firms that will inevitably cost money but could also be detrimental to the outcome of a case, particularly if an outage happens in those vital final days and hours before a case is heard. This isn’t just going to cost a law firm financially, but reputationally it will have a negative impact that is much harder to recover from.

    In the legal profession, downtime can be detrimental to your ability to do your job. Nowadays, downtime threats are not only weather related. Entire systems can fall victim to ransomware. Individual identities can be stolen. In these instances, your clients will turn to you for reassurance. Being able to deliver that reassurance is crucial to your reputation and livelihood.

    Many organisations are now starting to move towards cloud-based and paperless operations and law firms are no exception. In recent years more law firms are going paperless, investing in practice management software, and moving to the cloud.

    While going paperless is an absolute must for firms if they want to stay competitive now and into the future, in a highly regulated profession, there are significant challenges around compliance and data security. In addition to this, law firms, like any other organisation are vulnerable to data breach or loss due to either natural disasters, power surges, accidental deletions, security breaches or loss of connectivity.

    Global data backup specialist Datto, data partner to Aura Technology, says: “There is often a misconception that data is safe if backed up once a day, but for several reasons this isn’t the best way of doing it. For example, if the backup process fails or is forgotten for that day, protection is lost. If data is backed up once a day there is still a risk a whole day’s worth of work will be lost.”

    Experts at Datto warn that:

    If backup files are not properly validated, there could be a very unpleasant surprise when a data loss occurs, and the files don’t restore as expected. Datto is able to check the health of a backup as soon as it has completed, and will immediately flag up an alert on the appliance if there is a problem.

    If files are only backed up on site and something happens on site, this could leave a firm with a complete loss of data.

    If only raw data is backed up, rather than application and server configuration files, it could take several days to restore a firm to a full operational condition—because servers, operating systems and applications would need to be rebuilt.

    Business Interruption Insurance can be a false economy as the cost of a damaged server, lost time or damaged equipment won’t protect a firm from the potential damage to client relationships and ultimately reputation, which carries a greater cost in the long run. 

    Tim Walker

    Calculating the cost of data loss

    A study by the department for digital, culture, media and sport in 2018 found that nearly half the businesses in the UK have fallen victim to cyber attacks or security breaches in the past year, costing them each thousands of pounds. In the world of law, this could amount to a significant financial loss. Even a series of short downtimes added up over the course of a year will have a cumulative impact on how much a lawyer is billing. For example, if a firm has 25 employees who bill at £200 per hour and they each lose one hour of billing time per month, that’s a £60,000 a year loss.”

    How can firms avoid costly downtime?

    Outsource IT to a specialist IT firm that understands billable hours and the specific challenges law firms face.

    When it comes to purchasing hardware don’t sacrifice quality in order to save money. Having strong technology will carry long-term benefits.

    Establish, review and maintain system security of all practice technology.

    Perform timely hardware and software updates, maintenance and backups.

    Regularly review business continuity and disaster plans – ensuring industry standard best practices are met.

    Set recovery time objectives and work towards achieving them – specialist consultancy can help firms work out what these should be.

    Ensure staff and partners are fully briefed on what to do in the event of a disaster.

    Understand that data can extend much further than just documents and client details. Documents and data are obvious, but what about databases? From document creation, to case files storage, to scheduling, to accounting, to time tracking and billing, firms need protection against all threats.

    Law firms have an obligation, both legally and ethically, to protect confidential information in their computer systems – firms may want to consider employing a team member to take on the role of data protection officer.

    Aura Technology works closely in partnership with Datto to provide law firms with bespoke hybrid or cloud-based data backup solutions. These tailored solutions provide the security and compliance peace of mind that law firms need, while the agility of being hybrid or cloud-based gives them the potential to grow into the future and beyond. One example of a firm that enlisted the expertise of Aura Technology and Datto is Humphries Kerstetter, a specialist litigation practice in the commercial disputes market.

    The team at Humphries Kerstetter are now working with an IT system that is fit-for-purpose, resilient to the needs of legal work in the 21st century and have a dedicated IT team available for support 24/7.  

    Whatever the threat may be, a strong data backup solution will have a firm and all its devices protected and up and running in just minutes or seconds in the event of a disaster.

    Redefining the relationship between business and IT

    Aura works at senior level with businesses with mainly between 50 and 500 IT users to develop and implement IT strategies that are aligned to business plans and goals.

    Backed by a team of technology professionals with decades of experience, Aura, based at Ocean Village, Southampton, works with clients including Vail Williams, Spinlock, Inspiration Marine Group, VFS and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

    Aura’s approach is built on its Strategic Review process, developed in house, that would normally form the first engagement with a new client. This benchmarks the performance of the existing infrastructure, identifies issues or opportunities for improvement and recommends a bespoke solution.

    Aura IT specialists at work

    Aura Technology

    03333 208601