Ladies and gentlemen of the court,
The legal industry is huge. In 2007, legal services alone generated $240 billion in revenue and there were at least 191,000 legal establishments operating in the United States, and it’s only grown more since then. Along with that growth, attorneys are starting to see the benefit of IT managed services in their organizations because not only do they have little time to worry about technology, they also have very specific requirements when it comes to software, hardware, and uptime. Clearly, the legal arena is a tremendous opportunity for managed service providers, but you don’t want to run into it blindly. Law firms come with their own collection of complications.
For one thing, attorneys can’t afford to be flexible when it comes to technology because the legal industry is built on very high standards. Courts in California, for example, have literally dozens of requirements for how individual documents should look and be maintained. Requirements include everything from required formats for digital files all the way to what types of containers physical documents should be stored in.
If you’re going to branch into the legal industry, be prepared to live up to exacting standards, and it’s not just the documents. Attorneys have very specific software and other IT requirements, and they need to be able to document every minute of work they do. They also need to be able to work nearly anywhere at any time.
Putting it simply, attorneys can’t risk losing a big case because that one important email was accidentally deleted or because their VPN failed or wasn’t set up properly. They don’t have time to waste when it comes to setting up systems or troubleshooting IT-related problems. An attorney’s reputation and often a client’s fate, rest on the attorney’s ability to build a strong, effective case, which means he or she needs to be able to review and share every single shard of evidence, digital or otherwise, at a moment’s notice. And when billing time comes, they need records of all the disparate segments of work so they can be properly compensated for their efforts. These needs offer very unique challenges to an MSP.
LogicForce Consulting v. Data Loss
A 2010 CompTia research study revealed that six out of ten surveyed law firms expressed interest in managed services for their practice, which suggests that a majority of practices might be interested in services from MSPs. As we’ll see, managed services fit neatly within the framework of the legal industry because litigators don’t have time to fuss with their technology. Experienced MSPs who offer niche services to the legal industry are becoming more successful, and LogicForce Consulting is the perfect example.
Having worked with the legal industry in the Tennessee area for eighteen years, you might call LogicForce an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court). Combining years of technology expertise with tireless efforts, LogicForce knows exactly how important it is to keep IT systems running all the time, because when you’re talking about the legal industry, data is evidence and even the tiniest piece can mean a case won or a case lost.
Keith Whitaker and Jordan McQuown are just a few of the people behind LogicForce. Keith works as the business development manager and is responsible for everything from handling social media and marketing to developing relationships with clients. Jordan is the network services administrator and is responsible for delivering on the promises LogicForce makes by providing all of the services and products its clients expect. Combining over sixteen years of experience, the two handle client needs from start to finish in an industry with very particular expectations.
In the 21st century, computer systems have opened up new possibilities for legal teams, allowing them to lean on technology for everything from digital forensics to e-discovery to document dictation. As Keith explains, there’s plenty an MSP can do to make things easier for attorneys, even though the needs are complex, “The technology needs in the legal industry are very unique. There are a number of software programs from a practice billing and time management standpoint that no other industries utilize.”
Litigators need to keep track of everything from phone calls to in-person meetings to time spent doing research in order to get paid for all the tasks they perform. As soon as a phone rings, the system needs to start tracking the time spent talking, and must document which case the conversation is concerning. Everything needs to be organized and tracked.
Attorneys also constantly have tons of information coming in and going out of their computer systems, and if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that they can’t part with any of it.
“They keep everything under the sun for all eternity,” says Jordan, and Keith agrees, noting that their clients never delete anything.
“They never know what might happen with a case, [even if] they think [a case] has been put to bed, if something comes to light, they need to have access to that data.”
And not only do attorneys create a lot of data, but they also need to be able to access it 24/7, even on the road. With such heavy demand for information, downtime doesn’t cut it for those that need to get things done before the gavel falls. “Downtime is basically unacceptable,” says Keith, “If we have downtime with any of our clients then we’re in hot water. At the end of the day, attorneys expect their systems to be up and running at all times—no matter what.” Jordan agrees, also noting that if there’s an issue, they’ll find it, “[Attorneys] often work around the clock, so they’ll notice any type of issue at any time.”
So how can an IT team handle all of these needs? How can they keep track of all this data, make sure uptime is at an absolute maximum, and never delete anything? It’s actually surprisingly simple. Full backups saved locally, along with secondary backups stored in an offsite repository means they have a bunch of recovery options (especially if they’re using virtualization), and their oh-so-crucial data isn’t at risk of being corrupted, destroyed, or lost. Many courts even suggest secondary copies of files saved offsite.
Although there’s no specific law governing document creation and storage (outside of attorney/client privilege), there are certainly guidelines attorneys are expected to follow. Backing up crucial documents is essential, especially when electronic copies of court records might be the only copies. The California Trial Court Records Manual sums it up nicely:
Data Backup and Storage
The electronic copy of a court record may be the only copy that exists. Therefore, preservation of that electronic information is critical. Storage of the primary copy of an electronic record should be reliable. Duplicate copies should be stored in different locations in case of a disaster. In addition to backup and storage, courts should ensure that all electronically stored data can be retrieved today and in the future. – California Trial Court Records Manual, section 22.214.171.124.
According to LogicForce, the best way to handle these backup and storage needs is to use StorageCraft® ShadowProtect®.
“ShadowProtect is what we recommend, we’ve used it for around four years—everything from ShadowProtect Virtual to Granular Recovery for Exchange to ShadowProtect Desktop,” says Keith, but that wasn’t always the case.
As Jordan explains, they’ve used a variety of solutions from those that cater specifically to virtual machines, to those that backup tapes and disks. Not only did their techs dislike these solutions, but they often had trouble:
“We had a lot of issues making sure the backups worked. There were a lot of errors and a lot of times when [backups] would just stop and the bare metal restores weren’t very promising.”
When attorneys expect the world, an MSP can’t use a solution they can’t rely on, and that’s why LogicForce switched to StorageCraft.
ShadowProtect allows LogicForce to recover any failed machines extremely quickly and easily. As Jordan explains, “I find that [ShadowProtect] is quick and intuitive. The ability to instantly recover to a virtual machine is a nice win in our eyes. We’ve had numerous RAID failures and we’ve been able to VirtualBoot the images within an hour or so.” Jordan also praised StorageCraft for the built-in features of StorageCraft ImageManager® like intelligent FTP® (iFTP), which allows them to quickly replicate backup images to an offsite location.
“We transfer the encrypted data to an offsite facility using iFTP, it just depends on the client, some have local backups, some cloud. We have more and more that are looking at sending backups to the cloud, but right now it’s more of a hybrid.”
Keith also noted that ShadowProtect Granular Recovery for Exchange is becoming increasingly more useful, especially when email is the blood that pumps through a law firm’s veins.
“Email is so vital to attorneys so we’re getting more and more [clients using GRE]. Having that safeguard in place is crucial. Attorneys don’t delete anything so the data explodes—we’ve got clients with 10 or more GB email stores and it puts a big burden on an individual mailbox.”
And with reasonable prices, it’s a win for everyone.
“I think with the lower pricing even more of our clients are starting to get on board, the lower prices are more justifiable. Now we can say, ‘you might want to get this just in case you need it,’” says Jordan.
Order in the Court
There’s one more piece of evidence in this case and it involves compliance. Attorneys have to keep track of accounting information for tax purposes just like most businesses, and they also occasionally run into HIPAA compliance for cases that involve medical records, but the biggest thing governing their affairs are the American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Though lawyers and legal teams aren’t legally bound by these rules, they still serve as the model litigators in the United States are expected to follow. Two of the Rules of Professional Conduct affect data storage and information security.
The first states that “A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client” (rule 1.6, section C). This means any client data should be safe and secure—even in the form of backups, which makes encryption a must.
The second states that, “… complete records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of [five years] after termination of the representation” (Rule 1.15, section A). This means that the information related to client accounts (especially compensation and payment information) must be stored for an extended period of time, which makes archival copies and cloud storage of backups extremely effective for clients in the legal industry.
There are various types of compliance and security concerns attorneys should observe. HIPAA compliance, the Rules of Professional Conduct, and keeping files safe and secure are all important things, but attorneys don’t always worry about them. As Keith notes, “At the end of the day, attorneys want to focus on working rather than all of the ins and outs of compliance.” Jordan notes that these things are important, though it’s not always the client that brings it up, “My view is that we should maintain extra security, but it’s seldom mandated—it’s not that we don’t understand the importance [of security and compliance]. Despite the fact that it should be mandated, our clients sometimes don’t see it as that important.”
Regardless of what the clients need or think they need, LogicForce tries to stress the importance of having all of their data backed up, encrypted, and stored in a long-term repository. As noted, attorneys never know when new things will come to light on a closed case and if that happens, it’s important that they have access to data—even if it’s really old.
In any case, attorneys absolutely need backup copies—on and offsite—of any critical documents they’ve got. When you’re talking about legal documents, zero percent data loss is absolutely essential so the backup solution they choose must be one that takes perfectly pristine backups they can recover every time, without a doubt, and that’s precisely why LogicForce chose StorageCraft.
The defense rests.
About LogicForce Consulting
Since 1995, LogicForce has built a distinguished roster of clients, including attorneys, judges, government agencies, and law firm practices throughout the state of Tennessee and beyond. Headquartered in Nashville, the company serves litigation firms throughout the U.S with their needs handling service like specialized digital/computer forensics, e-discovery, document review, backup and disaster recovery, along with various litigation support services, solutions, and expertise.