Outsourcing Your Law Firm’s Information Technology
Law firm technology is not as simple as most business owners would think. There are many reasons for this. With our team’s collective years of corporate experience working with firms and departments of all sizes, we have learned that lawyers want to practice law and do not want to be a computer nerd. Lawyers did not go to law school to learn computers. Lawyers want to practice law, work with clients on solving problems, and continue to be challenged with legal issues, not technical issues.
The number one question lately is how many computer people should be employed in a law firm—that’s always a moving target. For years, most legal technology consultants indicated that there should be one full-time computer person for every 35 end users. The more technology your firm uses, the lower the ratio.
Technology is constantly changing and it costs more, there’s no doubt about that. Sure you can drop by Best Buy or Office Depot and pick up a home computer for less than $500, but it’s a totally different world when large database applications are involved, such as document management, knowledge management and practice software. Users expect every software and hardware to integrate together and firms need a lot more techno glue to hold it together and keep their technologies enterprise-based. Technology salaries have also increased over the past 5 to 7 years as law firms use more customized hardware and software. Network engineers, Exchange specialists, and practice support managers are becoming more commonplace in the legal profession.
Not often does a law firm handle 100% of their own technology 100% of the time. For example, copy machines are usually leased and maintained by outside vendors. Telephone systems are another example of technology that is outsourced. There are, however, several technologies that are often outsourced, depending upon the firm and circumstances. Here is a short list of commonly outsourced functions:
- Computer and Printer Repair. Many firms purchase name-brand systems from manufacturers such as Dell, Apple or HP with extended warranties. When a system needs to be repaired, the firm either ships it off to the manufacturer or they are repaired onsite by a service technician.
- Substantive Software System. Law firms that utilize financial management, document management, or case management systems typically have an annual support and maintenance contracts that entitle them to updates and technical support. The law firm usually handles 1st tier support, but beyond user assistance, technical support comes from the IT Service Provider.
- Data Backup & Storage. Law firms recognize that while computer system can be replaced, the intellectual property and information stored on the systems cannot be. There are alternatives to backing up your own system in house.
- Email service & Storage. For a time, email was truly a delight to use for business and personal correspondence. Now, with computer viruses, spam, spyware, and adware, it’s becoming more of a burden to law firms.
To Outsource IT or Not
The LawNet (ILTA) 2014 Technology Survey shows an upward trend of attorney firms partnering with an IT Service Provider to handle their day to day IT help needs. 64% of respondents say they plan to outsource some IT function over the next 12 months. 75% of those who do outsource do with 10% or less of their IT work. Less than 2% outsourced as much as half of their IT work.
Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP outsources their entire IT department. John Kirk, director of Administration for the sixty member law firm stated: “We used to have a full-time network manager. But as we grew, we needed more IT Staff. We’re a mid-size firm and really needed three full-time people in order to embrace our technology; one for network, one for software, and one for support. When we looked at alternatives, we decided it would be less expensive to outsource our technology.”
Another mid-size firm, Peitrantoni, Mendez and Alvares, LLC, a low firm similar in size to Manko Gold also totally outsources its IT to a local partner. James Santos, managing partner of the firm said, “We looked at the cost of having our own IT staff versus the cost of outsourcing our IT. There was really no comparison and our new IT Service provider is right down the street from our office. Any problems we have, we call and either he or one of his staff is at our office within the hour.”
More likely than not, your law firm already outsource some of your IT functions. The question is whether you should look at outsourcing additional IT functions or, in varying cases, outsource your entire IT Department. No one has an across-the-board answer to that question. Every law firm’s requirements are different.
Studies show that most solo practitioners and small firms outsource almost all of their IT simply because they cannot afford to hire an IT person. Mid-size and larger law firms often have in-house IT and only outsource a portion of their technology.
As the cost of technology increases and the technology becomes more specialized, law firms will continue to evaluate alternatives. Hildebrandt International, a professional services consulting firm for legal profession reports that law firms on the average budget about 4 to 5% of their gross revenue on technology. Where does your firm fit?
Looking to determine whether your law firm should outsource your IT functions? Give SaalexIT a call or email us today!
Saalex Information Technology, LLC (SaalexIT’s) mission is to provide our clients with the best in-class products and service. Our Experts take pride in demonstrating their passion for their work and their desire to make a difference. We are committed to providing you with the best customer service experience possible. 100% of our service and installations are performed by certified technicians with technical degrees in their field, not uncertified subcontractors. 100% of our technicians are measured on specific technical proficiencies for all of the services we provide.
Call one of our regional offices, (805) 222-4977 (California) or (321) 848-0340 (Florida) to discover why many businesses count on us for dependable IT solutions today.
SaalexIT – The IT Experts. Why Trust Anyone Else?