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Leverage Cloud Technology for Advanced Business Continuity

By Emily McKnight

Now, more than ever, businesses are relying on strong continuity plans to keep their organization operational.  The legal market is no exception.
 
Hundreds of law firms across the country have transitioned to working remotely which has presented a series of unprecedented challenges.  Law firm leaders and management have been propelled into re-evaluating their existing practice operations, business continuity and technology investments, all while still serving their clients and running their law firms. 
 
A primary example of this is deciding whether to continue to work through an on-premises data server or adopt a cloud-based solution.  While on-premises hardware may work for its intended purpose, it may not be the right solution for the future of your practice.  The challenges of being unable to access critical data and information, the inability to continue operations and the disruption to client service while working remotely can impede productivity and responsiveness.

So, why is the legal industry so slow to adopt this trend?



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How the Latest ACA Ruling Impacts Employers

By C. Christopher Parto
 
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate was unconstitutional on December 18, 2019, leaving employers and employees feeling a little uncertain and confused about what they needed to do to remain compliant, as well as what would happen next.  
 
Some of the questions that arose included:
  • Is this the start of a complete overturning of the ACA?
  • Are health insurance plans going to get more expensive for employers?
  • Can individuals still buy health insurance through the marketplace, and will they still qualify for credits or potentially face penalties?
Here’s what employers need to know about maintaining compliance with the ACA.
 
At this point, employers shouldn’t alter what they are currently doing when it comes to ACA compliance.  They need to furnish the required forms and meet all the deadlines as outlined by the federal government.
 
Essentially, the ruling impacts individuals far more than it impacts employers.  The individual mandate that was overturned was a small component of the entire ACA that issued penalties against individuals who didn’t maintain health coverage.
 
In 2017, a bill was brought forth that eliminated the tax penalty for those who didn’t comply with the mandate.  As a result, the ACA no longer had any legal ability to impose a tax penalty, since Congress no longer had the power to enforce it.  The individual mandate couldn’t stand on its own, which caused it to go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the overturning happened.
 
Changes could still be forthcoming to the employer side of the ACA, but for now, continue with business as usual and provide all required documentation unless told otherwise.
 
How the ACA impacts employer-based plans
The ACA is still in effect, minus the individual mandate, so make sure your organization is following the requirements put onto employers:
  • Provide Form 1095 to each employee by the deadline;
  • File Forms 1094 and 1095 with the IRS by the deadline;
  • Offer health insurance to employees and their dependents (if your business qualifies as an Applicable Large Employer).
It is unlikely that any major court rulings on the ACA will occur prior to the 2020 presidential election.  
 
iSolved provides payroll, HR, time tracking and benefits, unified in one solution for a better user experience.  For more information, please contact C. Christopher Parto, HCM Strategic Account Sales Consultant, at [email protected].

GDPR Enforcement: How to Stay Out of Trouble

By John C. Montaña, J.D., FIIM, FAI, VP, Information Governance Solutions
 
The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) is about two years old, and we’re beginning to understand how it works.  So far, it’s a cautionary tale for every business with an EU presence—and, as other countries adopt the GDPR model, for any organization anywhere.  If you’re not doing anything to become GDPR compliant, don’t be surprised if they turn a spotlight on you.  Let’s look at what GDPR enforcement means.
 
Who Are They Going After?
Pretty much everybody.  If you do business in the EU, it could be you.  Enforcement targets have included British Airways, hospitals, retailers; even public schools and mom-and-pop internet cafes.  So, no matter your size or international presence, don’t imagine for a moment that you’re exempt from compliance or enforcement.  Yes, they do go after the big, obvious actors—we’ve heard about Google and Facebook—but their strategy is to target a broad sample just to keep you on your toes.  You could be next, regardless of who you are, what you do and how big or small your organization.
 
When Can They Go After You?
Citizen complaints are part and parcel of the GDPR, but no complaint is necessary to trigger an investigation.  National Data Privacy Authorities (DPAs) are actively targeting a sampling of businesses by 1) checking to see if a retention schedule is in place, and 2) auditing electronic systems to make sure the schedule is implemented.  DPAs have the right to do that—in fact, they have the right to do pretty much anything they want.  So, if they shine the spotlight on you, anything’s fair game.
 
What Constitutes a Violation?
It’s up to them.  A DPA isn’t bound by any external rules or guidelines and has plenary enforcement authority within its area of operation.  Current enforcement actions have resulted in everything from approval of a practice to fines that are quite substantial relative to the size and value of the business.  It’s worth noting, though, that the amount of the penalty is proportional—significant enough to hurt, but greater or lesser depending on whether the DPA thinks you’re trying to comply.  If the DPA likes what you’re doing, it can respond pretty much as it sees fit.
 
So, the effort you put into GDPR compliance, even if the results aren’t perfect, is certainly worth it to reduce the sting of any penalties you might be assessed.  And if you’re not doing anything to get GDPR compliant, you’ll definitely feel that sting!  Remember: what they’re auditing you against is often your own policies and retention schedule.  You have some control over your destiny here.
 
What Can You Do?
Avoid the spotlight.  GDPR compliance comes down to some very basic records management.        
  • Limit data collection to what you really need in the first place.  If you collect personally identifiable information you don’t need, you’re only creating unnecessary risk.  An information governance advisor can help you identify what is necessary to collect and when.
  • Know where data is and where it goes.  If you don’t know where information is stored, you won’t be able to manage it effectively.  Your information management policy should make it easy for end users to store information correctly.  That means implementing a document management solution that allows for automatic metadata capture and classification.
  • Promptly destroy data once you’re done with it.  No information management framework is complete without a clear, defensible disposition process.  Ensure that your retention schedules are complete and correctly followed.  They will provide a full audit trail for defensibility in case the regulators turn the spotlight on you.  The longer you retain a piece of unnecessary information, the more risk you invite.
It’s all about good data management and a rigorously enforced retention schedule.  This is something you should have been doing all along, and now you have one more compelling reason to do so.
 
Founded in 2004, Access offers the complete suite of information management solutions, addressing records and document needs across the entire lifecycle.  From file cabinets to cloud, backfile imaging projects to day forward scanning, one-time project support to software for business process automation and secure destruction purges to scheduled shredding; Access is an end to end single source provider for protecting, managing and governing information.  For more information, please contact Nicole Mustacchio at [email protected].

Transforming the Law Firm Workforce with Robotics Process Automation

By Greg Fritsky and Amanda Ammerman
 
The demand for legal finance and administrative professionals has never been stronger, and the costs of attracting, training and retaining these highly sought-after individuals continues to skyrocket.  The profession continues to evolve with increasing emphasis on regulatory matters, internal controls and data analytics—areas where professionals should focus their energy.  Yet, these expensive and highly skilled workers often perform mundane, repetitive tasks which robotics could more easily perform. 
 
The digital transformation of finance and legal operations has liberated professionals to focus on higher-value activities.  It evolves continuously as organizations introduce, test and deploy new technologies.  Introducing robotics process automation (RPA) can benefit a law firm by redirecting human capital to higher level activities and thus conserving its financial capital by having a robot perform less intellectually demanding tasks.
 
The cost-related benefits of outsourcing these services have diminished in recent years due to rising labor costs in markets such as India, Brazil and the Philippines.  Presently there is strong global demand for these skill sets, resulting in high turnover rates and, consequently, organizations spend a great deal of time and money recruiting and training new workers.  Rather than outsourcing the manual, repetitive and mundane tasks that make up a process, forward-thinking law and other professional services firms are employing robotics to automate them.  Since outsourcing lower-level tasks is no longer as cost effective as it once was, law and other professional service firms are turning to RPA. 
 
The first phase of an RPA project is to determine which activities are suitable for automation.  Where are people spending significant time on “non-value-add” activities?  Tasks that employees find tedious, yet require clear and exact manual steps, are the best tasks for RPA to perform.  RPA can be used in more facets of the day-to-day tasks than a finance department might initially anticipate.  Often, a law firm’s existing applications don’t “talk” effectively to each other.  This is a common problem that RPA can help solve.  Billing and invoicing—tedious and time-consuming tasks—can be automated by fully integrating the billing system with the time entry system.
 
A robot can quickly compile data for audits and other compliance testing, whereas it would take a human hours or days to collect the same data.  Law and other professional service firms considering a new hire should also contemplate using RPA.  Instead of hiring additional personnel, the firm may be able to redirect routine tasks from existing employees and automate them.  Importantly, the goal of RPA is to optimize the workforce and technology already in place rather than to “rip out and replace” current technology.  Users may not even be aware that their existing business applications already have embedded automation capabilities which can automate processes without significant additional investment in new software.
 
The major benefit of automating a full end-to-end business process is that companies often realize a significant return on any investment within a relatively short period of time.  The primary RPA focus has been on the elimination of manual tasks and streamlining of existing processes.  Beyond the obvious benefit of cutting costs or repurposing human capital, it is also important to ensure that you understand what you ultimately want to achieve.  For example, are you focused on:
  • Improving controls?
  • Standardizing processes across groups and locations?
  • Increasing scale and productivity?
Each of these questions factor into a law firm’s decision on which processes to choose and how quickly to automate them.  It is important to ask the right questions and, at a minimum, to work with a partner who understands your particular law firm, its clients and precisely how RPA can automate routine tasks from finance, operations and all departments, so that your professionals maximize their contributions to your law firm.    
 
Greg Fritsky is the National Director of Robotics, AI and Data Analytics within Process, Risk and Technology Solutions (PRTS) at EisnerAmper LLP.  He has over 25 years of consulting, technology and internal audit experience.  Greg serves as the robotics and intelligent automation leader internally and externally.  He works with clients to enhance their business performance, making complex and challenging business processes into reliable and efficient activities.  He may be reached at [email protected].
 
Amanda Ammerman, CPA is a Tax Manager and a member of both the Real Estate Services Group and the Law Firm Services Group at EisnerAmper LLP, with over five years of public accounting experience.  She provides tax planning, compliance, review and advisory services for clients in various industries, including law firms, real estate partnerships and closely held businesses.  She may be reached at [email protected].

Eight Key Estate-Planning Tips You Can Take to the Bank

By Joy Matak and Rocco Marotti
 
There is no time like the present to get your finances and your estate in shape.  The federal exemption from estate taxes has never been higher, and income taxes are relatively low.  Here are eight estate-planning tips you can take to the bank (or your financial advisor).
  
1. Reduce your taxes and protect your wealth
The federal estate tax exemption as of January 1, 2019 is $11.4 million.  This exemption is scheduled to be reduced by half in 2026.  If the so-called “blue wave” of 2018 continues through the 2020 elections, the federal estate tax exemption could be changed much earlier than current law requires.  Responsible planning may be structured to reduce your taxable estate, save income taxes and protect your assets from creditors—in a way that permits you to continue to have access to your assets.
 
2. Update your plan
If you have a trust that's even five years old, you may need a more up-to-date trust drafted to be more powerful, robust, tailored and flexible.  Flexibility is key, because the world keeps changing, as do the stock market and tax laws.  Trusts that were set up more than a few years ago are unlikely to provide the robust terms that up-to-date trusts provide, such as a modification provision, having trust protectors who can monitor trustees and make midcourse changes and more.  
 
3. State income tax issues
Now that federal tax reform has reduced state and local tax deductions, it may be time to consider moving that trust from a high-tax jurisdiction to a state that has reduced or eliminated state income taxes for trusts.  States such as Nevada, South Dakota and Alaska have enhanced the benefits of moving there by increasing asset protection.  
 
4. Strategic charitable giving
You may be able to achieve an estate tax benefit, and possibly reduce income taxes, through charitable trusts.  Tax reform improved these opportunities by allowing more of your charitable dollars to be deductible in the year of giving.   
 
5. SECURE Act
Republicans and Democrats came together last year—to limit your opportunities to leave your IRA to your grandchildren in a tax-deferral strategy that allows them to stretch the required minimum distributions over their lifetimes.  The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act made its way through Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
 
6. Prenuptial agreements/divorce
Prenuptial agreements should be drafted to conform with any planning that has been done, whether by the future spouses or by third parties for their benefit.  It is important to involve an estate-planning professional in the process of negotiating a prenuptial agreement so that separate property is kept from being commingled with marital property.  Under recent revisions to the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations, a surviving spouse may be able to use a deceased spouse’s unused lifetime exclusion to make gifts (a “portability election”).  This opportunity is only available if a federal estate tax return for the deceased spouse is filed.  The surviving spouse is the only person who can make the portability election and the only person with an interest in the value of portability.  Therefore, a prenuptial agreement should specify whether the surviving spouse has the right to require that a federal estate tax return be filed for a deceased spouse solely for the purposes of preserving portability.  The prenuptial agreement should also clarify who will pay for the preparation of the federal estate tax return. 
 
7. Insurance
It is important to review insurance policies regularly to ensure that your family and closely held businesses will have enough liquidity and resources available in the event of an untimely death or disability.  Several insurance companies have recently created combined life and long-term care policies that can cover the costs associated with a disability. 
 
8. Convert to a Roth IRA
Tax reform lowered federal income tax rates for many taxpayers who may be able to take advantage of converting a regular IRA to a Roth IRA.  If structured thoughtfully, you may be able to use charitable contribution deductions or harvest losses to offset some of the gain that would result from the conversion.
 
Joy Matak, JD, LLM is a principal at CohnReznick LLP and Co-Leader of the Firm’s Trusts and Estates Practice.  She has more than 20 years of diversified experience as a wealth transfer strategist with an extensive background in providing tax services to multi-generational wealth families, owners of closely held businesses and high-net-worth individuals and their trusts and estates.  She may be reached at [email protected].
 
Rocco Marotti, CPA is a partner and CohnReznick LLP's Law Firms Industry Leader.  He is also a member of the Employee Benefit Plan practice.  He has more than 20 years of variegated public accounting, consulting and tax experience.  As leader of the Law Firms Industry, Rocco focuses on servicing law practices and individual attorneys.  He has developed significant understanding of law firm management and other issues impacting the legal professional.  In addition to performing audits and reviews of law firm financial statements, Rocco audits law firm employee benefit plans.  He may be reached at [email protected].

Getting Ghosted by Candidates? Here’s How to Improve Your Interview Process

By Micki Mersky
 
You’ve started the interview process, and to your excitement, you’ve found the perfect candidate!  The only problem?  The candidate isn’t returning your telephone calls or e-mails.  In other words, you’ve just been ghosted.
 
While ghosting is a term more commonly associated with relationships, it is happening more frequently during the interview process.  Law firms are experiencing radio silence from promising candidates at all stages of recruitment.  From no-shows for scheduled interviews to prospective hires who won’t respond to job offers, this behavior can be extremely frustrating.  Not only can it lead the position to remain unfilled, but in some cases, it could even require you to start the hiring process all over again.
 
While employers have traditionally been the party most guilty of ghosting or not following up with candidates, the tables have turned in recent years.  With unemployment hovering at historic lows, job seekers will find themselves with more options.  Their growing confidence in the job market can lead them to be more non-committal about new opportunities and not fear the repercussions of participating in this ghosting behavior.
 
If ghosting has started to take a toll on your law firm, it might be time to make some changes to your interview process.  Although you can’t stop every candidate from disappearing, here are five ways you can keep ghosting in check.
 
Focus on employer branding
To help minimize your chances of getting ghosted, you need to ensure you are attracting the right candidates from the get-go.  Since most job seekers spend several minutes researching a prospective employer throughout the hiring process, your employer brand is key.
 
Between your website, social media, press and employee review sites, prospective hires should have a strong, accurate impression of your law firm before they even apply for the job.  This will help create a sense of excitement and urgency about working for the law firm, which can help prevent ghosting at both the early and late stages of the interview process. 
 
Shorten the interview process
With job seekers interviewing with multiple law firms, employers who move too slowly in the hiring process risk missing out.  If you are taking a long time to respond to applicants, schedule interviews or make a final decision, your top candidates might ghost you for an employer who has a shorter interview process.  
 
Be transparent and ask for feedback
A lack of transparency about where candidates stand or why they are being asked to complete certain tasks during the interview process might lead them to vanish without a word.  To help create a better candidate experience, be clear about next steps at all stages of the interview process.  Explain how many applicants are in the running, when a decision will be made and how the candidates can expect to hear from you.
 
At the same time, it’s important to make the effort to ensure professionals can be transparent with you.  Even if you don’t have an update, keep in touch with your candidates and encourage them to give you feedback.  Asking them how they feel about the role, whether they have any concerns or need any clarification, are easy ways to keep them engaged throughout the interview process.
 
Ensure all interviewers are on the same page
In order to decide whether to move forward with an opportunity, candidates need to feel that they received an authentic, well-rounded view of the role, as well as the law firm.  It’s impossible to do this if they are receiving mixed messages or inconsistent information at each touchpoint of the process.  As a result, all parties involved in hiring and onboarding—from talent acquisition to human resources to the hiring manager—need to be aligned on the role, the vision of the law firm and company culture.
 
Personalize job offers
With so many options in today’s market, some job seekers feel confident they can blow off an offer in order to find a “better” opportunity.  That’s why it’s critical that you make your job offer feel personal and unique to the individual candidate.  In addition to being able to emphasize why the candidate is the right person for the role, you should also be able to explain why your law firm and this role matches the candidate’s specific career needs and goals. 
 
While these tips can help you proactively combat ghosting, you can’t prevent everyone from dropping out of your interview process.  The silver lining is that candidates who do not have the decency to tell you they’re not interested are not the people you want to hire.  The right person for the role will respect your time and be enthusiastic about moving forward in the process.
 
As a Senior Managing Director at The Execu|Search Group, Micki Mersky oversees the Legal Services division in the Parsippany, New Jersey office.  Placing legal professionals in contract, contract-to-hire and direct hire roles, the division’s clients include solo practitioners, global law firms and corporate legal departments.  Micki may be reached at [email protected].

Employee Education is Key to a Law Firm’s Cyber Security Strategy

By Keith S. Crumpton, vCISO/Senior Security Architect
 
Today’s threat landscape, more than ever, is beyond the technical control of the law firm.  The human element, employees, represents an organization’s greatest weakness in the information security arsenal; yet they are also a law firm’s greatest defense and most important tool against the cybercriminal.
 
Employees need to be aware of what might be used against them, so they don’t unknowingly contribute to a security incident or breach.  Employees’ performance is dependent on how well they are educated regarding the threats they may encounter and how to respond to those threats.  If the response does not fully protect the information, it’s imperative that they understand the best way to communicate the threat, without risk of reprisal, to those that can and will help.
 
Security awareness education activities and reinforcement are low-cost methods of empowering employees.  The investment is cheaper than the cost of a potential loss if an employee clicks on the wrong link, visits the wrong website or believes a spoof e-mail to be true and subsequently transfers funds to parts unknown.
 
The days of ignoring or minimizing threats are over.  More and more law firms are being targeted and security vulnerabilities exploited as cybercriminals seek to obtain the information “payload” that many law firms possess.
 
Consider the following example of a typical client engagement.  A client might engage the law firm during the home buying process.  As part of the engagement, the law firm may obtain the client’s tax returns from the last three years, a recent paystub, credit report, social security number, listing of all assets, bank accounts with account numbers and most recent balances, credit card numbers with most recent balances (in some cases the actual statements), current address, telephone numbers and other personal information.  The information represents a “data payload”.  To security professionals, a data payload is an individual’s data elements (personal information) combined in a nice, easy-to-access package.
 
The scenario above is only one example.  The concept of a data payload exists in all organizations.  It just needs to be identified and defined.  Educating your employees to know your business, the data flows and who the responsible individuals are will help employees understand their roles and responsibilities towards security activities in order to protect the law firm’s data and, ultimately, the law firm itself.
 
To ensure the most effective training for your employees, choose the most applicable educational content.  Some security education topics may not be pertinent and could therefore be a waste of the employee’s time.  Knowing your employees, and their roles and responsibilities, provides background for tailoring security awareness education to everyone.
Employee education is key to ensuring your organization’s information is protected.  Provide them the tools they need to protect it—education, processes, procedures and software, to name a few.  However, if you can only focus on one, make it education.  Without that, nothing else matters.
 
Drawing on over three decades of experience, Micro Strategies, Inc. delivers end-to-end technology solutions that drive business results.  From advisory and design to implementation and support, solutions include business process and content services, data and analytics, hybrid IT, security and managed services.  For more information, please contact Beverly A. Geiger, VP of Solutions, at [email protected].  

Good Night, and Good Luck

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP

In a time where so much has changed, and will continue to change, in the world around us, the NJALA is changing, as well.  This edition marks the last edition of the Jer-Z-Journal for the indefinite future and, perhaps, forever.
 
No longer having the capacity to serve as editor (and being unable to secure a successor), I bid a fond farewell to a role I cherished for the past three years.  I suspect some void will be felt without the newsletter in my life, but I know it is right to step aside and embrace new opportunities.
 
In the smallest of ways, this change in routine mirrors the large-scale change in routine many of us in New Jersey (and around the world) are currently experiencing. 
 
Things familiar have been disrupted.  The comforts we once cherished may no longer be readily available.  I cannot pretend to know the ultimate outcome, but I can tell you that change is hard, no matter what the stakes. 
 
I believe that there is no time like the present to push yourself.  Try something new.  Be “up” for the challenge.  Strength can manifest most when your back is against the wall, and you will likely surprise yourself when you choose to give yourself a chance.
 
Though I am relinquishing this editorial platform, I would love to hear from you about the memories you made during this time and the fears you conquered that once seemed impossible.
 
I wish you good health and good spirits in the days ahead and hope to see you again in person very soon.
 
Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Firm Administrator of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Attracting the Right Talent with Better Rewards Designed for a Better Employee Experience

By Kevin Talbot
 
Attracting top talent and enhancing organizational wellbeing are interconnected—advancing one goal moves the other forward.  That’s because a well-earned reputation for a great workplace culture, anchored by competitive compensation and benefits, draws job candidates who strengthen wellbeing.  They’re motivated by their environment to perform at their best.
 
By taking a holistic approach to employees’ physical, emotional, career and financial wellbeing, employers can make the most of compensation and benefits.  An integrated focus on these interrelated needs helps attract a multigenerational workforce at the right cost structure.  When this happens, the odds favor an exceptional employee experience that drives higher engagement and better business results.
 
The keys to successfully attracting talent
An intentional approach to recruiting that’s well thought out and mapped in advance leads to better outcomes.  Part of this proactive effort should take place outside the talent marketplace—with a focus on the quality of the employee experience inside the organization.  That’s why the keys to attracting the right talent include not only clearly defining the employee role and candidate profile, but also offering transparent and balanced rewards, as well as creating a strong reputation for workplace culture.
 
Clearly defined employee role
Finding and hiring candidates who are a good fit for a position starts with clearly defining and documenting roles, responsibilities, goals, accountability expectations, progress metrics and rewards right from the outset.  Transparent communication on how business and performance management decisions are made also inspires trust up front.
 
The scope of available personal and professional development should be clearly outlined within the role and include regular reviews and updates.  Managers who converse openly and individually with team members about development, performance and rewards will be more attuned to these employees’ needs and priorities.  At the same time, they’ll gain instructive insights on supporting each person’s career wellbeing.  Besides these immediate benefits, there’s often an opportunity to identify shared perspectives and common preferences among employees, which helps them hone role descriptions for a better match with future candidates.
 
Clearly defined candidate profile

Success in attracting talent correlates with having a firm grasp of the qualifications needed from both the employer and candidate points of view.  Employers should understand how generational differences may influence the importance of certain workplace cultural characteristics and benefits, and keep them in mind during the recruiting, vetting and hiring processes.  For instance, a solid reputation for career path support and corporate social responsibility (CSR) often appeals strongly to workers in the earlier stages of their careers.  Yet only 14% of employers have a clearly stated CSR policy.¹

Organizational levels can also inform and alter the approach to recruiting and hiring talent.  A focus on job security and work fulfillment is important for attracting leaders and other employees with established careers, as well as ensuring they’re a good fit.  For entry-level candidates, training and development tend to be high priorities, and an inviting and energizing organizational culture ranks somewhere on the list for just about everyone.

Transparent and balanced rewards
Frequent and consistent reviews of pay structure can expose imbalances and gaps across job levels, revealing possible needs or opportunities to adjust.  Comprehensive changes may not be realistic, but intelligence that provides a comprehensive take on the current reality guides prudent decisions.
 
Incremental adjustments to rewards help set employers on the right course for offering more competitive pay, benefits and other rewards aligned more closely with employee values.  A total rewards statement can be a powerful tool for communicating the full value of the employer-employee compact to individual employees.  It should include monetary and non-monetary rewards that support career, financial, physical and emotional wellbeing.
 
Strong reputation for workplace culture
High engagement and low turnover are indicators of employee pride and a great organizational culture.  Likewise, an employee’s engagement level is a measure of how they perceive the overall quality of their workplace opportunities and experiences.  While most job candidates have no direct frame of reference for engagement potential, secondhand information is everywhere.
 
Connections to people, facts and opinions are easily and widely available across a broad conglomerate of social networks and relationship platforms.  Employees readily share—and candidates eagerly seek—insights into workplace culture.  According to a 2017 survey, the number-one reason candidates chose one job over another was company culture (23%), followed by career progression (22%) and benefits (19%).²
 
A reputation for a strong culture clearly counts in attracting as well as retaining top talent.  Yet in another recent survey, just over half of employers said they have a highly engaged workforce, and 30% reported a turnover rate of 15% or more.¹  These findings underscore the importance of investing in policies and programs that provide a better employee work experience, especially in a highly competitive labor market.
 
There’s also evidence that HR management and healthcare cost control results are linked to providing employees with interesting and challenging work.  More than twice as many employers that excel in both areas (58%) tried to provide gratifying work, compared with their peers (24%).³
 
These employers are also likelier to reinforce engagement by supporting employees’ career growth, including establishing processes to help managers communicate clear performance goals, give constructive feedback and address development needs.  And more often, they recognize contributions by communicating to employees how their work performance positively impacts the organization’s strategy, mission, vision and values—at a rate that’s 30 percentage points higher.³
 
Employers can also make inroads into an improved workplace culture by conducting an engagement survey.  Checking in with employees periodically about their perceptions and experiences gives them a voice in decisions that affect them and shows respect for their changing wants and needs.  In addition, regular employee feedback provides an avenue for competitive benchmarking and maintaining a steady flow of insights to enrich organizational wellbeing.

The value of retooling total rewards as a total experience

There’s no denying that compensation and benefits are two critical sides of the equation for attracting employees, but the value of those wages and benefits can rise or fall within the context of the overall work experience.  Truly well-rounded rewards are packaged with strong leaders who understand the importance of effective communications, clearly defined employee roles and goals, ongoing support for career development and deliberate performance management.
 
Lower employee replacement costs and increased productivity are the return on investing early in attracting the right talent—and succeeding.  When these new employees become engaged, self-motivated internal brand champions, they elevate the competitive power of their employer’s external reputation.
 
¹Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey”, November 2018
²Society for Human Resource Management, “Candidates Choose Jobs Because of Company Culture”, February 2017
³Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “Best-in-Class Benchmarking Analysis for Large Employers”, April 2019
 
Kevin Talbot, National Managing Director, Compensation & Rewards Consulting, leads a consulting group dedicated exclusively to compensation, benefits and governance.  His expertise ranges from evaluating total compensation programs and designing performance-based incentive plans to developing global compensation philosophies and educating trustees and executives on the latest regulatory issues and industry trends.  Kevin may be reached at [email protected].
 
Disclaimer:  Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc.  Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as “Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services” and in Massachusetts as “Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services”.  Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.

3i Pure Water Technology—Simplifying Your Water Drinking Needs

By Jason Scaringi
 
At first glance, the 3i Pure Water Technology is a futuristic looking machine with different buttons, lights and screens.  It looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie or television show.  Humorously, I often joke with clients that this type of machine is self-aware and can talk back.  All jokes aside, the 3i Pure Water Technology is not as complicated at it may seem.  In fact, it facilitates water-drinking needs through a smooth and efficient process.  One often begs the following questions when laying eyes upon the 3i Pure Water Technology for the first time: “What is it? Where does the water come from? Is it safe?”  Most of the answers to those questions are quite simple.
 
To begin, the water from the 3i Pure Water Technology is supplied via a water line which is connected directly to a water source located in one’s office.  The water being pulled from the tap into the machine becomes safe to drink thanks to a four-stage purification process located within the cooler.
 
The first phase of the purification process is the sediment filter.  The sediment filter removes anything visible you may see within the water, e.g., dirt or rust.  The second phase of the purification process is the carbon block filter.  The carbon block filter essentially removes any organic material like chlorine or fluoride.  The third phase of the purification process, the reverse osmosis membrane, is probably the most important phase.  Reverse osmosis purification eliminates all harmful inorganic material such as lead, mercury or arsenic.  The fourth phase of the purification process is granular activated carbon filter, otherwise known as “final polish”.  Often when water is heavily purified, helpful minerals could be lost in the process.  The “final polish” restores many of those lost minerals and gives the water that crisp, quality taste with which everyone is familiar.
 
The purified water rests within a stainless-steel holding tank.  Stainless steel reduces the ability for harmful bacteria to grow while the water is inside the holding tank.  Additionally, the water within the holding tank is sanitized through a process known as “oxygen injection”.  Essentially, oxygen is shot into the water killing off any harmful contaminants that may have been found within the holding tank.  Thus, the internal diagnostics of the machine allow for the cooler to be completely safe.
 
As far as the exterior goes, it, too, has safety and hygienic benefits.  The touchpad located on the machine is antimicrobial.  The antimicrobial touchpad reduces the percentage likelihood for bacteria to grow on the touchpad of the machine.  The nozzle of the machine is also internalized.  It is recessed to eliminate the risk of being touched by a cup and transferring germs.
 
The beauty of the 3i Pure Water Technology is that it does not need to rely on the usage of plastic bottles.  Imagine never having to store or lift those heavy bottles again!  One could even dub this cooler as “green technology” because of its ability to naturally purify water without the need for bottles.  Storing, changing and delivering bottles is a thing of the past.  Using the 3i Pure Water Technology allows offices of any caliber to reduce the amount of wasted plastic per year.  For example, a mid-sized law firm with approximately 50 employees could easily go through 20 to 25 bottles per month.  The 3i Pure Water Technology provides a solution that is both convenient and environmentally friendly.
 
For over twenty years, Document Solutions LLC’s award-winning team of sales and service professionals has helped thousands of organizations make better decisions about managed IT services, managed print services, business IT, copiers and printers and water coolers.  For more information, please contact Kevin O’Connor, Vice President of Sales, at [email protected].

Five Things to Consider When Hiring a Legal Technology Consultant

By Stew Smith, CISM
 
Law firms are dependent on technology to keep things running smoothly.  Securing confidential client data, improving workflow while minimizing downtime, implementing the best-suited software solutions—all these things require a solid technology consultant who has a strong understanding of the legal industry.
 
So, how do you find someone that can consistently keep your law firm’s computers running seamlessly or quickly fix them if something goes wrong?
 
There are many technology consultants out there, but not all are created equal.  Understanding the challenges of finding the right one is key to hiring a person or company that can add value to your law firm.  Consider these five things when hiring an IT consultant:

1.      Experience Working with Lawyers

You want a company that understands the needs associated with the legal industry.  Heightened ethics requirements, specific software systems, privacy and security is of paramount importance.  Make sure the company you select has an existing base of legal clients.





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What is a Cloud Content Platform?

By GRM Information Management
 
Forrester, a technology research and advisory firm, recently published The Forrester New Wave™: Cloud Content Platforms – Multitenant SaaS, Q3 2019 report.  The report identified and assessed the thirteen most significant cloud content platforms, evaluating each based on ten key criteria related to their current offering, overall strategy and presence in the market.
 
However, the term “cloud content platforms” may have left many—particularly those not working directly within the information management industry—scratching their heads.  So, what is a cloud content platform?  And what are the benefits of a cloud content platform for most businesses?  We’re breaking it down for you.
 
The Drive to Digital Information Management
What began as a shift from basic digital document storage to enterprise content management (ECM) systems has now evolved into a movement toward cloud-based information management solutions.  Traditional ECMs, recognizing the strengths and potential of the cloud, are redesigning their platforms to be cloud native.  At the same time, vendors who have previously offered cloud enterprise file sync and share functionality are now expanding to include content repository services as well.
 
According to Forrester, this intersection of traditional ECMs and cloud enterprise file sync and share functionality has created the cloud content platforms segment.
 
What cloud content platforms offer, then, is essentially the best of both worlds: the sweet spot of information management where the benefits and capabilities of ECM combine with the speed and agility of the cloud to deliver a broad range of powerful, flexible capabilities.
 
Cloud Content Platforms: The Best of Both Worlds
With cloud content platforms, companies gain the capabilities of a traditional ECM, as well as the power and scalability of cloud computing.  Simply by virtue of being cloud native, these platforms provide businesses a heightened level of flexibility and agility.
 
The scalability of cloud content platforms allows organizations to adjust resources to meet their business demands as necessary and in real time, without requiring additional hardware.  New features can be added, and fixes made automatically and remotely—with no need for manual or on-site maintenance.
 
And, already on the cutting edge of technology, cloud content platforms are constantly innovating and delivering new and improved capabilities to users.
 
Finding the Right Cloud Content Platform for Your Business
The Forrester New Wave™ Cloud Content Platforms – Multitenant SaaS, Q3 2019 report is intended to help companies select the right partner for their cloud content management needs.  For companies considering undergoing a digital transformation, Forrester’s report is a valuable resource that provides an introduction to the benefits of cloud platforms and an analysis of the top platforms available.
 
GRM Information Management is a leading company providing document management services, ECM systems, business process management software, document management software, and data solutions with thirty years of experience.  For more information, please contact Paul Silva at [email protected].

Up for the Challenge

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP

It is hard to believe that almost three years have passed since I was named editor of the Jer-Z-Journal.  The position was not one that I actively sought; rather former co-editors, Robbin Dolan and Doreen Marino, identified me as their successor and assured me that I was “up for the challenge”.

And it has been a challenge. 
 
During my tenure, distribution of the Jer-Z-Journal was decreased from bi-monthly to quarterly, as one by one, members dropped off the editorial committee and less article and ad submissions were received.
 
Nevertheless, I remained committed to my role, and strived to deliver electronic editions with comparable levels of quality to their hard-print predecessors.
 
Unfortunately, I now find myself at a crossroads.  I have changed law firms and job titles/responsibilities since I was named editor, taken on increasing and additional volunteer opportunities and found myself traveling more, with no immediate family living in proximity.
 
Come the final edition of the current 2019-2020 membership year in March 2020, I can no longer serve as editor of the Jer-Z-Journal
 
In anticipation of my stepping down, I have circulated several e-mails to the general membership seeking a replacement.  I have not received even one reply.
 
If you consider the Jer-Z-Journal to be a valued component of your NJALA membership, now is the time to raise your proverbial hand and volunteer to assume the editor position.  Without a new editor, the Jer-Z-Journal will cease to exist, and, in turn, a piece of our chapter’s history will cease to exist.
 
There is little to no day-to-day work serving as editor of the Jer-Z-Journal.  Someone with a high level of organization and a strong grasp of the English language can easily handle the publication of four editions per year.  I’d be more than willing to speak or meet with anyone who may be even remotely interested in the opportunity to share more detailed information.
 
In conclusion, during this period of year-end reflection and goal setting, I urge you to ask yourself, “Am I up for the challenge?”
 
Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Firm Administrator of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Strategic Planning for Cloud Adoption

By Christopher Zegers
 
Recent breakthroughs with cloud and artificial intelligence should be closely followed by law firms.  With a plethora of new players in the space, the opportunity for law firms to align their business strategies with technology is greater now than ever.  However, choosing the right suite of technologies is no simple task.  Before being told what you need by vendors, determine what you want to do better through thoughtful, guided discussions with other law firm leaders and practitioners.  This article offers strategies to engage with your colleagues and what to consider when you have their attention.
 
Evaluation
When faced with the inevitable technology upgrades that keep businesses running, we often follow the path of least resistance.  We stay with the incumbent vendor, secure in the knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, and the level to which our expectations will be met.  We upgrade, secure in avoiding data migrations, training and process changes.  Moving to the cloud requires substantial effort, even when staying with an incumbent vendor.  Because it will undoubtedly affect how your employees perform their work, it is the best time to assess and identify how to improve your business practices, as the answers and requirements that come out of this assessment will drive you towards successfully selecting the right software.
 
When evaluating and benchmarking software against functional requirements identified and gleaned from in-depth interviews with law firm constituents, it is helpful to delineate between functional requirements (business tasks and processes) and non-functional requirements that must be met by the vendor, particularly their security posture and underlying technical platform.  It’s also important to assess each vendor’s position in the marketplace to understand their financial standing, long-term viability, potential for acquisition and product roadmap.
 
Selection
A successful software selection process entails comprehensive requirements-gathering that generates a list of features, functionalities, need, and wants against which each product is benchmarked.  Those vendors closest to meeting the functional and non-functional requirements will love the opportunity to demonstrate how useful their product can be for your law firm.  You should not let them do this because they don’t know your law firm.  They know how their product works best and will present that to you, when what you need to see is if their product will do what you need it to do best.  With the knowledge you’ve developed about your law firm, you can direct the product demonstrations, focusing on what’s most important to you and saving time from superfluous information that can distract an audience and derail a demonstration.
 

Whether you take a formal RFP approach or not, the time and effort needed to prepare for and engage in software selection should not be underestimated.  Time, resources and costs should be allocated for requirements-gathering, benchmarking and negotiations.  It is critical to understand every detail of a contact to manage risk, ensure no hidden costs and ensure data ownership and portability.  Having laid the groundwork above, successful implementation is more likely because you have the details for which you can hold your vendor accountable.

Data Management
Moving to the cloud is also the best time to re-evaluate and enhance your data management practices.  There are countless ways in which proper data management will enhance your business practices and strategies.  When data is governed properly, actionable information and institutional knowledge can improve your work product and client service.
 
From a security perspective, data should be managed according to the principle of least-privileged access, by which only those who need access to data have it, and for only the amount of time necessary.  Data management practices must be enforced by policies, procedures and training.
 
Putting your data in the cloud does not preclude you from ensuring that access rights are assigned properly, and private data is not unintentionally configured for public access.  This is an ongoing effort that requires scheduled audits to ensure policy and procedure compliance and identify training and process-improvement needs.
 
Agreements and Insurances
Negotiating a cloud contract properly involves more considerations than traditional technology services.  Even with news-making outages of Microsoft, Amazon and Google, consumers often consider clouds to be fully redundant.  Purely from a risk perspective, it is best to know everything that can go wrong up front.  Vendors should be pressed to provide the instances where outages or failures may occur.
 
It is critical to ensure that you retain ownership of the data and metadata stored in the cloud service and a clearly defined method exists for migrating the data into an externally recognizable format, e.g., Structured Query Language (SQL).  If your vendor stores protected health information (PHI), it is important that you have executed a business associate agreement (BAA) with them.
 
It is also important to clarify to what, if any, extent do vendor engineers and support specialists have access to your data and under what circumstances.  Also ensure that you are indemnified of any data breaches or loss that result in vendor errors, product vulnerabilities or defects.  And, finally, your vendors should have cyber insurance, inclusive of coverage for the trending tactic of social engineering of vendor staff.
 
Conclusion
Going to the cloud has never been an easier decision.  Getting on the cloud is more complicated, but it’s the best opportunity law firms have had since Y2K to re-evaluate their business processes and develop strategies that can be achieved in part through the proper use of emerging technologies.
 
Christopher Zegers is the Director of Consulting – Legal for Ivionics.  Chris is responsible for providing Ivionics’ law firm and corporate legal department clients with legal operations management consulting, capitalizing on proven process management principles and a team of legal tech, development, infrastructure, cloud and security experts to help legal teams exceed client expectations and generate consistent, high-quality products and services.  He may be reached at [email protected].

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Evaluating a Job Offer

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD
 
In today’s job market, talented legal professionals are in high demand.  Law firms and legal departments are acting quickly to secure their top candidates—pressuring them to make fast decisions after receiving job offers.
 
But taking on a new position is an important and potentially career-changing decision, and you should be looking at more than just the starting salary.  Don’t make these five mistakes when evaluating a job offer.

 1. Accepting (or declining) the initial offer
Salary negotiation is the name of the hiring game.  In fact, when hiring staff, 70 percent of the managers polled for a recent Robert Half survey expect candidates to counter with a higher figure.  So be sure to consult reliable sources, like the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide, to see how much more you could be earning.


But pay is only one aspect of a job offer.  You could also ask for more vacation days, a hiring bonus, tuition reimbursement, telecommuting options and an enhanced healthcare plan.  Don’t hesitate to negotiate perks, especially if the hiring manager is unable to offer you a higher starting salary.

 2. Failure to consider work-life balance
In the excitement of being invited to join a new law firm, you may brush away worries about a longer commute, more travel, weekend hours and so forth.  But if the new job requires you to spend more time in traffic, out of town or at the office, it may not be worth it—especially if you have responsibilities at home.

When considering a job offer, ask the hiring manager about flexible hours, work-at-home days and amenities like on-site childcare.  If the daily commute will be farther or during peak rush hour, you may soon fall out of love with the new position no matter how interesting it is.

 3. Not inquiring about professional development

To remain on top of technological changes and the latest legal trends, you need access to continuing education.  Would your new employer help you keep learning and growing in your career?  After onboarding, does the company offer any training besides mandatory sessions on workplace discrimination and the like?  Even if the company sanctions professional development, who would foot the bill—the employer or the employee?  Is there a formal or informal mentoring program?
 
The ideal is to work for a generous organization that is eager to help develop its workforce.  Given the current unemployment rate, you don’t need to settle for less. 

4. Thinking just about the present
This new position may give you an immediate income boost, but how will it affect your long-term career?  You want a job in the legal field that moves you closer to your professional goals, not further away from them.
 
For example, is the law firm a leader in its practice area and an early adopter of new technology, or is it sedate and set in its ways?  Would this job challenge you and help you acquire valuable hard and soft skills, and possibly give you experience in a hot practice area?  Seriously consider these intangible benefits—or the lack of them.
 
5. Ignoring organizational culture
No salary hike or sign-on bonus is worth it if you dread going to the office every day.  Consider what you like and dislike about your current organization, evaluating everything from dress code to communication style.
 
Before you sign on the dotted line, try to spend some time in the would-be employer’s office environment.  Are workers happy to be there?  Do you get positive vibes from prospective colleagues?  How well do the workplace values and philosophy align with your own?  Your future job satisfaction can largely depend on an employer’s corporate culture.
 
If you’re a skilled legal professional with several years of relevant work experience, many employers will pay more to have you join their team.  You have choices and bargaining power.  So, take the time to assess a job offer, as mistakes with accepting a new role or salary can cost you in terms of both career advancement and earning potential.
 
Jamy J. Sullivan, JD is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departmentsAn author and speaker on legal employment and law practice management topics, Jamy began her career with Robert Half Legal in 2002 as an account executive in Columbus, Ohio. Over the years, she has held various sales management positions within the company and received recognition for serving on project committees, mentoring internal employees and her leadership and sales performance.  Jamy may be reached at [email protected].

Surface Care in Aging Facilities

By Lindsay Bartlett-Cupples

Flooring and architectural finishes in an aging facility might look like they need to be replaced but may only need repair and restoration to bring the surfaces back to life.  From stone to terrazzo and concrete, avoiding replacement is good for the environment and your bottom line.
 
Stone
Stone will never go out of style, and if properly maintained, this surface will last the life of the facility.  Marble, granite, travertine and limestone have been used for centuries on vertical and horizontal surfaces due to both attractive appearance and durability. 
 
Stone surfaces require different care based on material, traffic patterns and usage.  Over the years, wear and performance issues may be visible if stone requiring different maintenance needs were installed side-by-side.  For example, it is not a good idea to pair marble and granite or marble and terrazzo together for several reasons, including variations of density and hardness and care requirements.
 
Choosing stone from the same family or stone with similar maintenance needs, such as marble and limestone, combined with a tailored routine surface care plan, will help ensure your stone floors last for centuries.  In an aging facility, property and facility managers don’t always have the luxury of a redesign, so paying special attention to the maintenance needs of each type of stone is critical for aesthetics and the stone’s life cycle.
 
Terrazzo
Terrazzo originates from Italian craftsmen who learned to mix marble scraps, discarded material and mortar to make new floors.  This surface has come in and out of popularity over the years, but one thing is certain: no one considers terrazzo to be a short-term commitment.
 
Terrazzo installed decades ago often yellows and is harder to maintain than today’s modern epoxy terrazzo.  Coatings have been a popular choice to help maintain terrazzo, but as layers of coatings are applied, the floor can start to look dirty and is harder to keep clean.  If an aging facility has layers of coatings, they can be removed and replaced with a maintenance plan that includes mechanical polishing.
 
When caring for any type of terrazzo, there are many factors to take into consideration—environment, traffic patterns, usage and proper tools to name a few.  For mechanical polishing, there is a fine line between grinding, honing and polishing.  While they may sound like the same process, there are important differences.  It is common to see terrazzo cut through to the subfloor in high traffic areas due to poor “over” maintenance using improper tools and methods.  The result is usually patching or replacing the damaged area.  Patching and replacing terrazzo is never a good look because the color and finish rarely match and are highly visible.
 
Although most maintenance equipment and supplies are available to the public, a specialized craftsman understands the physics of the job and how to combine the right tools, frequency and methods for the best possible result.  Do your due diligence when hiring a consultant or maintenance provider.  Interview, check references and have them perform a test area to demonstrate their capabilities and expertise.
 
Concrete
For decades, asset management has been sold the myth that concrete is maintenance-free, resulting in dissatisfaction over appearance, performance and maintenance issues that inherently arise post-installation.  There is no such thing as a maintenance-free surface.  If floors are walked on, rolled on or simply in existence, they will need to be maintained to ensure a long life.
 
Concrete requires regular maintenance and care just as your stone, carpet or wood surfaces.  Highly polished concrete will experience appearance loss over time.  Janitorial staff often do not have the best tools to care for the aggregation of wear and tear in high traffic areas, and the frequent restoration model of care results in high costs and facility disruption.  Instead, to maintain polished concrete, invest in a proactive maintenance plan performed by a skilled specialist.
 
Concrete is a popular choice in aging facilities because it can be poured over floors that formerly had tile and grout carpet and other surfaces.  Before taking up existing flooring and replacing with concrete, be aware of common challenges such as uniformity of color, transition heights and unknown conditions under structures like planters and fountains.  Carpet tile and ceramic tile areas may look different when honed and colored.  For areas with tile and grout, testing by an experienced concrete specialist may be needed.  Tests may include a mud bed pull test, density test and material absorption testing to determine the appropriate installation and maintenance plan.
 
Thankfully, there is a solution to all surface care challenges.  A qualified consultant can provide a field assessment and offer recommendations for existing floors that may involve restoration as needed and an ongoing cleaning and maintenance plan.  If or when the flooring needs to be replaced, the same expert can provide a long-term maintenance strategy, cost analysis and surface recommendations before a flooring investment is made.
 
Depending on the flooring type, there may be environmentally friendly disposal options and recycling programs to consider.  While recycling programs are a wonderful option, the truly environmentally conscious option is to keep flooring on the floor if possible and out of the landfill.  Your budget and the earth will thank you.
 
Lindsay Bartlett-Cupples is a Solutionist at DriKlean SOLIDCARE.  SOLID Surface Care, Inc. is a unified team of surface care experts who provide the highest level of care for all hard and soft surfaces while simultaneously providing a world-class client experience.  The company is diligent about going beyond the surface to grasp the brand and culture of each client and develop a customized Consolidated Care Plan, all with an advanced data management platform that assures immediate information and transparency.  Lindsay may be reached at [email protected].

Can My Law Firm’s Office Solutions Meet Today’s Privacy Requirements?

By Paul Russo
 
The preservation of client confidentiality and the legal profession have always been synonymous.  National and international legislation have heightened security awareness and expectations in priority areas for law firms, such as medical records, personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property and prospectuses.  According to the American Bar Association[1], one out of every four law firms is a victim of a data breach.  This staggering figure highlights the need for IT administrators and senior partners to have technology in their offices that can help them protect client data.
 
Those law firms collecting or storing personal data of European Union (EU) citizens or individuals located in EU nations should also familiarize themselves with their compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).[2]  A U.S. law firm may be subject to GDPR regulatory action, including fines, for failure to comply with applicable regulations.  Law firms should investigate whether their content workflows and associated solutions are aligned with their HIPAA and GDPR compliance strategies.  Consider a secure ecosystem that authenticates and allows document access based on assigned roles and associated privileges that align with the characteristics of the content.
 
Can your office solutions assist you with your compliance efforts?  Here’s a fast Q&A to help you identify areas where your law firm can make changes to help improve workflow security:
 
Q: Does my law firm’s content workflows and associated solutions align with its HIPAA Omnibus and GDPR compliance strategy?
 
A: HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, underwent rule changes in 2013[3] broadening the law’s application to attorneys in some cases.  Law firms with access to protected health information (PHI) may be classified as business associates, so it is important that they implement processes to ensure the security and protection of the PHI they possess and transmit.  PHI includes Social Security numbers, medical records, insurance information and other data law firms may collect in the course of their practices.
 
Q: Do my clients have a secure way to send and retrieve documents?
 

A: A single data breach in the U.S. is estimated to cost an average of $7.91 million in 2018, according to The Ponemon Institute.[4]  The data lost in a breach can be enormous.  News reports about one alleged security breach that has been called the “Panama Papers” claim that 11.5 million documents affecting 214,000 organizations and individuals may have been compromised.[5]

Even as data breaches make news, there’s no denying that technology has increased the level of service clients expect from their attorneys.  This includes the ability to use file sharing or content collaboration platforms securely.  It is up to IT administrators to implement a process to give clients the access they want while preserving the security of the data and the system in place to help protect it.  Consider investing in or enhancing your existing workflow systems to solutions that can help seamlessly bridge content integration points and offer advanced security capabilities that will align with your law firm’s security and compliance policies.  Such technology can offer users the ability to securely access documents both inside and outside the law firm.  Also consider solutions that offer integrated authentication and discrete content controls that are specific to a document, file or client.

Q: Would we be able to supply information about document access and handling during a cybersecurity audit or a post-breach audit?
 
A: Concerns about the impact of a data breach are expected to cost businesses and organizations in the U.S. upwards of $2 billion in 2017 on premiums for cyber liability insurance policies helping to cover them in the event of a security breach.[6]  A workflow system that allows administrators to digitize hard-copy content can provide tools to track document access, and it can help law firms comply with security audits that may be required by the insurance companies and with the recordkeeping that may be required by HIPAA and GDPR.  Tight integration of a secure document ecosystem can permit administrators to quickly access login information, device activities, document tracking and more.  This information can be instrumental in helping with routine audits and workflow mapping for gap analysis, and it can assist with post-breach remediation efforts.
 
Q: Are there places where we can improve on security gaps in client data protection?
 
A: Law firms and offices of all types can struggle with some common security gaps, including:
  • Frequently leaving out papers and documents at printers, fax machines and other devices without an authorized person present to retrieve them;
  • Utilizing a secure content management solution to centralize data storage;
  • Preventing individuals from purchasing and using devices that don’t align with the law firm’s security and compliance policies.
Evaluate your current document workflows for their ability to provide comprehensive control and oversight throughout the entire chain of custody.  Consider enhancements that prioritize integrated content security features.  Government regulatory agencies are increasing efforts with respect to the security of the personal data that law firms possess.  Clients expect that documents and data entrusted to their attorneys will remain private and secure.  So, it is up to law firms to employ a holistic approach to their integrated document management strategies and the supporting workflow solutions to better align systems with their security and compliance policies.
 
Canon Solutions America, Inc.’s primary mission is to improve workflow efficiency and document processes in organizations of all sizes and industries, while helping them reduce waste.  This is accomplished through the strategic implementation of services, technology and support options that are unique to each customer’s operational requirements.  For more information on security solutions, please contact Paul Russo, Branch Sales Director, at [email protected].
 
Canon U.S.A. and Canon Solutions America do not provide legal counsel or regulatory compliance consultancy, including without limitation, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, GLBA, Check 21 or the USA Patriot Act.  Each customer must have its own qualified counsel determine the advisability of a particular solution as it relates to regulatory and statutory compliance.
Canon products offer certain security features, yet many variables can impact the security of your devices and data. Canon does not warrant that use of its features will prevent security issues.  Nothing herein should be construed as legal or regulatory advice concerning applicable laws; customers must have their own qualified counsel determine the feasibility of a solution as it relates to regulatory and statutory compliance.
Some security features may impact functionality/performance; you may want to test these settings in your environment.  Neither Canon Inc., Canon U.S.A., Inc. or Canon Solutions America, Inc. represents or warrant any third-party product or feature referenced hereunder.

[1] ABA 2017 Cyber Security Report
[2] EUGDPR.org, “Controversial Topics”
[3] HHS.gov, “HIPAA Guidance Materials”
[4] Ponemon Institute 2018 Cost of Data Breach Study: Services sector
[5] BBC, “Panama Papers Q&A: What is the Scandal About”, April 6, 2016
[6] Washington Post, “Cyber-insurance Becomes Popular Among Smaller, Mid-size Businesses”, Oct. 12, 2014

You Have a Choice: The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

By Sean E. Paige

(c) Prohibition on Conditions for Written or Implied Warranty; Waiver by Commission No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the Commission if—

(1)   the warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and

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President’s Message: You Don’t Read the Newsletter? Well, Read This One Article

By Elli Albert

So, what’s the big deal about the NJALA’s business partner sponsors?  My friends, they are a very big deal.

As most chapters of the ALA will attest, business partner sponsors are the lifeline of our organizations.  Our business partner sponsors provide us, among other things, with funding that allows for our monthly meetings.  That includes showcasing high-quality and high-profile speakers (such as this past year’s Managing Partners’ Night speaker, Frank Abagnale), as well as the ability to offer our dinners, social events and educational workshops throughout the year at no additional cost to you.

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What Office Administrators Need to Know About International Process Service

By Jerry Colasurdo

International service of process is one of the less common tasks attorneys need to oversee, but you can be a valuable resource for your staff if you know how the process works and have an idea of what they can expect.  From extended timelines to increased costs to nuanced rules, serving someone internationally is an entirely different process than serving someone within our own borders.  Handling it properly can be the difference between a successful case and one that leaves your clients extremely unhappy, so it’s critical to take the right approach.

How is international service of process different from serving someone in the United States?

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