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Technology: Innovation or Challenge?

With technology beginning to take over, it’s a question of whether to embrace it, or continue without. While we all know that going paperless can speed up tasks, particularly where administration is concerned, there are a number of concerns that are raised in the ongoing use of technology. The legal profession in particular has more than usual to account for, with the use of technology beginning to replace confidential files, and even written contracts in some cases. So while technology is quick and easy to use, what are some of the major concerns targeting legal practitioners specifically?

Data: Is It Safe?

We all know that certain online platforms are not known for their privacy, but there are ways to try and mitigate the risk of private and confidential information being not so private after all. What we’re talking about is the sensitivity of information stored online.

Given the centrality of confidentiality to the legal profession, it would make sense to take extra measures to ensure information stored online is safe. However, it isn’t just a matter of having an intranet system or a program that only staff can access. The reality is that anything you put into a computer is vulnerable to being exploited in some way. That is, it has the potential to be hacked into by a third party at any point in time. If this were to occur, I’m sure you can imagine the controversy – law firms exposing client information to the public, contracts being electronically signed without the binding parties knowledge, the list can go on. It has the potential to damage a reputation built over many years.

Furthermore, with an increasing number of firms encouraging flexible work practices, there is no guarantee that an employee’s personal computer has the same security measures in place as the firm does. For employees working mobile, my tips would be to password protect everything, purchase security software, and keep the most sensitive information off the computer – no risk is better than some risk.

The Need for Little Space

We have already seen that technology can provide a means for producing output at a faster pace, but will this make some jobs obsolete? Or is it just another way to become efficient? Mobile lawyering certainly isn’t a foreign concept, but in practice, a lot of administrative and support roles are done using technology as well, such as legal research and drafting. Maybe this will see less of a need to have support staff coming in to the office?

By the same token, going mobile can be very cost-effective for law firms, with employees coming into the office only when needed – i.e. to meet with clients, or to collaborate with other team members. But is it smooth sailing otherwise? While the majority of staff are employed on a contractual basis – how do you know for sure how many hours casual staff spent doing the work they would normally be doing at the office? For those employees, perhaps firms could look at implementing an online ‘clock in’ system.

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