According to a study by researchers at the University of East London and Birkbeck, University of London, the psychological well-being of lawyers in England and Wales is worse than that of the general population.
Out of 340 trainees and qualified solicitors, the average score was 44.3 on the Warwick-Edinburgh mental well-being scale, which is over 5 points lower than the national average of 49.9. With long working hours leading to a poor work/life balance, working in a high pressure role with copious amounts of stress, these statistics are hardly surprising. However, the increasing rate of workers within the legal sector struggling with mental health issues and stress has caused many law firms to look at improving working conditions and adopting a more flexible approach to the workplace.
As we have discovered, during the pandemic, many roles no longer have to be tied to an office in order for people to work efficiently and be productive and the legal sector is no exception. Roles within the legal profession are well suited to remote and flexible working as, apart from meetings with clients that need to be completed face-to-face, legal staff can complete their duties from anywhere. Furthermore, implementing a home working or hybrid working policy within a law firm, allows more freedom for staff to work in a place that is the most beneficial for them. It can ensure a better work/life balance, through cutting out lengthy commutes and having a quiet working environment means they can complete more work without distractions. Furthermore, offering flexible working also has fantastic benefits when it comes to finding talent, as avoiding geographical barriers offers a wider scope for recruitment.
However, the legal sector (like many other industries) can be a little behind the times, due to many firms opting for traditional office working. A lack of knowledge when it comes to technology and hybrid working, can cause many implications with cyber-security and how efficiently workers can collaborate whilst working apart. Therefore, although moving to a hybrid approach to working can bring many benefits to their staff, it can be seen as the safer option to continue working from the office. Due to advances in technology, this does not need to be the case. There are a range of solutions available that can combat issues surrounding data security and communication, but the solution we’re going to focus on today is Microsoft 365. Why? It is one solution with a range of features that can fix the problems we have outlined above. This means no juggling of multiple contracts and a comprehensive solution that can meet the needs of workers in order to facilitate hybrid working whilst keeping data secure. So, let’s see how Microsoft 365 can let your firm provide more flexibility for your workers without compromising on security. Your IT team will thank you!
The nature of the legal profession means workers are dealing with incredibly sensitive information which, if leaked or stolen, could have dire consequences for the worker, their firm and most importantly, their clients. Before the pandemic forced us all to adapt to remote working, workers could confidently work on and share data whilst relying on the measures put in place to defend their company’s network. However, in order for them to be able to take advantage of a hybrid way of working, they need the same level of access, remotely, as they do within the office. This poses the first major challenge to implementing hybrid working within law firms, as working away from the office means workers may not have the same level of protection against cyber-security threats. From weak passwords on devices and insecure Wi-Fi networks to falling victim to scams and devices either being stolen or lost – security for legal data when working away from the office can be a minefield.
The second challenge posed by working remotely is communication. Not only do legal workers need to be able to communicate with clients effectively, they also need to be able to remotely collaborate with other team members on cases. In order to effectively collaborate with colleagues and serve their clients, workers will need to share information via communication platforms and cloud storage solutions. Again, due to the nature of information that they will be working with, it is vital that it is protected from theft and loss, which can be tricky when it comes to online storage and sharing. Trust is a vital component of the relationship between a legal worker and their client. Clients being unable to receive updates on their case, gain answers to any of their queries or find out what steps need to be taken, due to a lack of effective communication, is not only frustrating, but can cause stress. Dealing with a legal issue is stressful enough without access to the legal professional responsible for their case! Angry clients aren’t exactly going to do wonders for the wellbeing of the legal team either. Sadly, if measures aren’t taken to ensure workers can communicate and share data securely, this could restrict the success of hybrid working and mean that it cannot be implemented.
Today we are seeing the biggest rise in remote and flexible working than ever before, which is great for employees, but can provide a real headache for your IT team compared with on-premise working. Before we were forced into remote working due to the health crisis posed by coronavirus, the main security priority for businesses was perimeter security. Their objective was to ensure that the business network was secure from threats, such as hackers and cyber-security issues caused by scams and employee mistakes. Now IT teams have to take into consideration all of the threats posed by data being accessed from outside of the business premises, which is a much larger environment to protect.
Utilising a hosted desktop, such as Azure Hosted Desktop, is a good starting point for workers accessing sensitive information securely, as it prevents data being stored locally. Instead it allows information to be securely stored in the cloud. Implement multi-factor authentication and you have a pretty strong initial defence against cyber-security breach. As good as these initial measures are for protecting business data whilst working remotely, they can still be vulnerable to attacks, especially when data is shared and stored on a local device or portable memory storage. A memory pen, for example, can be great for taking large quantities of files away from a premises to be worked on remotely, but how easily can you lose a memory pen? If it gets lost and someone picks it up, that leaves your information in an incredibly vulnerable position. Furthermore, information that is shared via communication platforms, may be safe whilst stored within a hosted desktop on a device with multi-factor authentication, but how many of us have app versions of these communication platforms on our phones?
This is where advanced security measures from Microsoft 365 can swoop in and save the day. Within Microsoft 365 you can have access to Azure Active Directory, which is a secure, online authentication store that allows users to securely log in to Microsoft applications from anywhere. A username and password will be assigned to the user and this is all that they will need to access the information they need from programmes such as Microsoft Office, without compromising the safety of your data. This can facilitate powerful remote and hybrid working within the legal sector, as staff can securely take their office home with them.
As we’ve already outlined, being able to communicate effectively with both colleagues and clients is massively important in any sector, but it plays a vital role within legal affairs. Obviously, it is vitally important that any private information that is disclosed within legal meetings is kept private, which can be easier within the confines of an office. Move these proceedings into a virtual setting and it can be more tricky for collaboration and also pose more risks for information security. We’ve discovered the value of unified communication platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, which is included within Microsoft 365, during the pandemic. They have been a lifesaver by enabling us to stay connected and even as we get back to normality, many businesses and organisations are still using them to communicate with each other, hold meetings and collaborate in real time whilst having the flexibility to work from anywhere.
If a team needs to work together on a case they can simply create a ‘Team’, upload and share documents in order to collaborate and send them wherever they need to go. Whenever a ‘Team’ conversation is created on Microsoft Teams a SharePoint site is created in the background in order to store information, such as documents. Whenever information is shared within this conversation it goes to the SharePoint site, so other people in the conversation have access to it in order to work collaboratively. This is great for team work, but has dire implications for data security. As soon as information is shared to another user through Teams or through cloud storage like SharePoint or OneDrive, the owner of that information loses control over it. Users are free to download this data and take it anywhere or store it on a vulnerable device, such as a memory stick. This is where Windows Information Protection could be incredibly valuable when sharing sensitive information. It can be used to apply policies that encrypt data within Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint, so that this data can only be used on the firm’s devices. Even if data was to be downloaded onto a memory stick, it will not work on a device that hasn’t been authorised by the legal firm.
At Elite, we have a wide range of solutions to help you go hybrid without compromising security, including Azure Virtual Desktop and Microsoft 365. Our expert team are able to identify what your team needs in order to work seamlessly between the office and their home whilst keeping your data secure.
Elite Group is a leading technology provider which delivers and manages unified IT and communications services to enable businesses to communicate and collaborate in a secure, productive and profitable way.
Providing unrivalled technical support and with dedication to customer service, Elite’s team is renowned for helping organisations achieve their productivity objectives and business goals.