The effects of COVID-19 have been widespread and well documented. For many businesses, the sudden and unexpected transition over to remote working solutions out of necessity has seen a wide range of both benefits and challenges. While remote working has long seemed inevitable, this massively accelerated transition has seen industries scrambling to find workable solutions and to remain fully operational during the pandemic.
Back in April 2020 in the UK, around 49.2% of the entire adult workforce still in employment were working from home. As we come out of lockdown and more of us return to the office, this number is dropping – but this overall change will be felt in the long term. The necessary change in working behaviour and culture towards remote working becoming commonplace has only sped up.
For those in the legal sector, transitioning into remote working offers its own unique challenges and hurdles to overcome. Law firms have a serious responsibility when it comes to protection of sensitive information and private data. Unfortunately, for many businesses, remote working brings with it an increased threat to cybersecurity.
Experts are predicting that by the end of 2021, around 25-30% of the global workforce will be working from home multiple days per week. With experts predicting that the threat of cybersecurity attacks will increase as the volume of remote workers increases, how can law firms stay abreast of the competition by embracing working from home while remaining secure and flexible. Here we are going to look at how this transition will affect the legal sector – and what can potentially be done to meet these unique challenges.
Remote working and hybrid working is an inevitable future for law firms
The effects of COVID-19 have seen an enormous and unexpected leap along the path towards remote working. Now, experts predict that the number of permanent remote workers globally will jump by 733% by the end of 2021. While remote working has long been seen as an inevitable future, this acceleration has caught many businesses off guard, scrambling to find the right solutions to implement remote working during the pandemic.
With over 74% of the workforce now saying that they would quit a job in place of one that offers a remote working position, we are undergoing a fundamental shift in attitude and behaviour – one that the legal sector won’t be able to avoid.
Of course, for most law firms, hybrid solutions are much more appealing than a move to full remote working – but this still requires an investment into remote working functionality. In fact, around 60% of legal workers think that their firm should already be doing more than they are to help facilitate remote working. It is becoming a more appealing prospect to a workforce that is becoming more mobile and more flexible each year.
Why is cybersecurity a threat to law firms when implementing remote working?
Cyberattacks are likely to become more prevalent as remote working increases globally
The legal sector faces a wide range of challenges when it comes to embracing working from home in a post COVID-19 world. Chief among these is the threat of cybersecurity. With experts predicting that cyberattacks exploiting endpoints (a remote computing device such as a desktop, laptop or smartphone) will rise as remote working becomes more commonplace, the threat of cybersecurity is ever-present and is an increasing concern for businesses across industries and across the world.
In fact, some experts are predicting that cyberattacks exploiting endpoints could rise by around 30-40% across the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people working from home and on unprotected devices, it is easier than ever for individuals to be targeted with phishing emails, ransomware and other online scams – and this, in turn, opens up business networks to be exploited.
This is a huge concern for law firms, which have a unique responsibility over the protection of their data. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires that in the UK legal sector, a high standard of data protection is met. With clients potentially disclosing confidential information such as financial reports, healthcare information, personal sensitive information, trade secrets and more, law firms need to be ready to protect themselves against an increase in cybersecurity attacks.
Too many law firms are leaving themselves unprotected
It’s fair to say that the legal sector has never been the most technology-embracing industry. It is a traditional industry that still maintains old fashioned values and, for many law firms, maintaining a rooted and personal approach to the work and to clients is still the way to go. But with many law firms having closed their offices due to COVID-19 and with staff working from home, it’s important to look at how the industry has dealt with the threat of cybersecurity so far.
In one study published in May 2020, it was shown that across the UK legal sector over 63% of legal workers working from home were using their own devices to store sensitive data and files. This obviously raises a huge security concern – and that’s before you learn that three per cent of those asked conceded that the device they were using was not even password protected.
With this in mind it is little surprise that the majority of cyber incidents that law firms face are directly caused by employees, whether it be through ransomware and phishing attacks, accidental data breaches, social engineering scams or anything else. There is a clear need for the legal sector to begin implementing both short term and long term solutions to protect their remote workers from cyber attacks – protecting sensitive client data at the same time.
Is managed cloud computing the answer to the legal sector’s remote working challenges?
Cloud computing is quickly coming to the forefront of remote and hybrid working solutions for most law firms. Here in the UK, the Ministry of Justice has even been working on plans for courts to begin migration to a cloud video platform. This accelerated transition brings both benefits and challenges, including an increased cybersecurity risk.
So what is managed cloud computing and how can it help law firms to unlock the potential of remote working? With the right provider, you have a fully managed service and one point of contact for a wide range of different features and services. Cloud computing can be an entirely bespoke solution that sees you paying only for what you need while boosting your flexibility and ability to work and collaborate remotely in a safe and secure environment.
When it comes to cybersecurity, managed cloud computing can see your IT infrastructure hosted in a secure and remote cloud environment with a range of security options such as two-factor authentication, email and Office 365 protection, real time data backup and more. This allows law firms to implement more expansive remote working opportunities with the knowledge that their users – and, by extension, the organisation – are protected against cyber threats. Managed cloud computing can:
- Enable full but secure access to key and sensitive information while away from the office
- Allow real time collaboration with colleagues working from a range of locations
- Keep your law firm fully operational even in exceptional circumstances
- Protect your law firm from cybersecurity threats
It’s clear to see that COVID-19 has brought a global acceleration towards the embracing of remote working. What had up until 2020 been a slow but gradual change in culture and working behaviour has now become a race to keep up that will affect every industry and business.
The legal sector won’t be able to avoid the transition, and nor should it want to. In fact, around 75% of legal workers in the UK are already saying that they believe the lockdown and enforced remote working has shown that law firms can trust their employees to work productively from home.
The legal sector faces a particular responsibility to protect its users and clients from cyber attacks when embracing the future of remote working. While it requires that law firms invest in a long term solution that keeps them protected, it is a necessary step as more workers begin to seek – and demand – working from home opportunities.
Working from home allows your law firm to stay mobile, flexible and connected throughout the day, allowing you to maximise your billable hours and the productivity of your staff. Fortunately, there are now modern solutions out there, such as managed cloud computing, that are allowing law firms to make the most of these benefits while remaining entirely protected against cyber security attacks.