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Firm Administrators: Follow the “due process” of IT, security, and AI integration

“Due process” is an old legal standard, but it’s in the 2024 presidential election headlines and as relevant as ever.

In December, the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified former President Donald Trump from their state ballot, citing that he was ineligible under the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause.

Trump’s lawyers claimed, however, that the court was wrong in their decision because they had not followed the proper due process of law.

Regardless of who was correct in this particular instance, we can recognize that built into the concept of “due process” is an understanding that, in order for justice to be served, legal actions must be taken in the proper order.

Wise firm administrators take the same focus on proper ordering when it comes to technology planning 

Getting the order right and having the proper foundations in place before implementing emerging technologies makes all the difference.  

However, amidst the hype and pressure for law firms to implement AI solutions and other emerging technologies, many firm administrators are in danger of focusing all of their technology planning attention on AI and, as a result, getting their IT due process way out of order. 

Step 1: Build your IT foundation first, with solid infrastructure and great support 

AI and other emerging technologies are incredibly powerful, but ask yourself: 

  • Uptime: What good is building efficiency tools that will save you minutes of time when your IT infrastructure is putting you at risk for hours of downtime? 
  • Kind, helpful, personalized, and consistent user support: What good is supplying your team with advanced tools to improve their experience when they’re constantly frustrated by their experience with slow, impersonal, and inconsistent IT support? 
  • Proactive, sophisticated IT strategic planning: What good is working with your IT provider on plans for AI integration when you’re not even sure they’re proactively leading you to technology and security sophistication that’s been accessible for years?  

Action plan: If you’re not 100% confident that you have a rock-solid infrastructure, a clear, forward-thinking IT strategic plan, and tech support that your team enjoys, start here. 

Step 2: Ensure your firm has a comprehensive Information Security Program 

Sometimes terms become used so much that they turn into white noise you can’t even hear.  

The terms “cybersecurity” and “Information Security” have been used so often in recent years that we are in serious danger of thinking of them as being concerns of the past. However, with the rise of AI, security is now more important than ever. 

  • Phishing emails: You thought these were effective before? They will now be able to almost perfectly mimic the voice and tone of your co-workers, bankers, clients, and vendors because of AI’s natural language capabilities. 
  • Financial loss: You thought fraud and theft was bad before? AI-generated deepfakes and voice cloning will more easily trick your finance team and others that they are communicating and following the directions of trusted contacts. 

Action plan: Firm administrators have to be more diligent than ever to work with Information Security specialists (a different skillset than traditional IT) to build a comprehensive Information Security Program, which includes the customized security policies, user training, technical controls, physical security, and compliance governance. 

Step 3: Leverage the AI you already are paying for (but may not be using) 

AI started getting major buzz in 2023 following the release ChatGPT-3, but many AI tools have already been integrated with the applications law firms have been using for years. AI tools already exist within widely used practice management software, including Clio, Smokeball, and others. 

AI tools embedded in these applications include: 

  • E-Discovery: AI can significantly speed up this process by scanning documents to find non-privileged information relevant to a case.  
  • Legal Research: AI can quickly scan and search large databases of regulations, statutes, case laws, and more, making the research process faster and more comprehensive. 
  • Document Management and Automation: AI-driven document automation tools can create documents using intelligent templates, as well as utilizing language from your firm’s existing contracts and case files, saving time and effort in producing legal documents. 

Action plan: Work with your practice management software vendor (or 3rd party consultant) to discover what AI tools are already available, and ask for what training is already provided in your support costs.  

Step 4: Now you’re ready to explore new AI-enabled workflows and tools 

Once steps 1 – 3 are taken, then you can start diving into the deep end of the AI pool, reviewing options, such as: 

  • Marketing: ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can be used as a thinking partner when writing digital marketing content, and AI image tools, such as Midjourney and DALL-E can be used for creating beautiful, custom images for social media posts and ads. 
  • Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: AI-driven chatbots can provide first-level support to clients, answer basic queries, schedule appointments, and even guide them through initial legal processes. This can improve client response times, and save time for your administrators and attorneys. 
  • Workflow Automation: AI can streamline various administrative tasks such as time tracking, billing, and case management, freeing up time for lawyers to focus on more complex, higher billable legal work. 
  • Predictive Analytics: AI can analyze past legal outcomes and trends to predict future outcomes of cases. This can aid in legal strategy, helping lawyers make informed decisions about whether to settle or proceed to trial. 
  • Contract Analysis: AI can review and analyze contracts, identifying potential risks, inconsistencies, and non-compliance with legal standards. This automation can significantly speed up the due diligence process in mergers, acquisitions, and other transactions. 

Action Plan: Work with a technology services consultant with deep knowledge of AI to ensure that you know what your key AI integration options are, and ensure that your marketing team is proficient in AI writing and image tools, many of which are free or low cost. 

In conclusion, the power of AI cannot be overstated, but due process and following the steps in the right order matters, not just in the court.  

It doesn’t make any more sense to implement AI tools on weak, insecure IT any more than to build a multi-million-dollar mansion on a crumbling foundation. 

Ryan Robinson is a Senior Director at Mainstay Technologies, the largest independently owned IT and Information Security services firm in New Hampshire.  

Anyone interested in a free, highly valuable IT, Security, and AI Assessment for their organization can reach Ryan on LinkedIn or at rrobinson@mstech.com. Visit Mainstay online at www.mstech.com