Is remote work merely a short-term necessity or will it have legs when it is again safe to work in the law firm office? As we head into one full year of remote work, I set out to see if there were data which would substantiate the direction of remote work.
What I learned paints a compelling rationale for remote work continuing. For some people, it might be for only one or two days a week. But the preference for a hybrid work model is clear.
There are two supporting dynamics:
The economics of remote work were positive in 2020. Law firms will likely make changes, for instance in leases, to capitalize on this going forward.
Attorneys made a positive adjustment to working from home and would like to retain some of that flexibility in the future.
A key law firm financial metric is Profitability per Equity Partner. The results show that for Big Law and mid-sized law firms profitability grew significantly in the 12 months leading up to November of 2020. In part this was due to law firm rate increases established in December 2019 and to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), both on the income side.
However, on the expense side, it is also due to law firms cutting overhead expenses in all but two categories, technology and Knowledge Management.
Both of the above charts are from a terrific resource, “2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Thomson Reuters and Georgetown Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession. This report is chock full of data. I highly recommend reading it if you work in a law firm. And, as good attorneys say, “read the footnotes” for gems. You may also listen to the podcast, “Was the Pandemic a Tipping Point for Law Firms?” which is based on the report. Bob Ambrogi interviewed Jim Jones, Senior Fellow at Georgetown and Director of its Program on Trends in Law Practice. Mr. Jones is a contributor to the report. He adds interesting color to the report findings in this interview.
A funny thing happened while attorneys toiled from home. They appreciated the benefits. The greatest benefit to attorneys and staff is the time gained by not commuting. For time-keepers the extra hours per week can add up to several days per year of additional billable hours plus additional leisure time to boot.
Now 85% of attorneys want to work from home at least one day per week.
Each year I look forward to Okta’s Businesses at Work report. Okta anonymizes data from its more than 9,400 customer entities. These are customers which use the Okta Identity Network (OIN) with its over 6,500 integrations with cloud, mobile, and web apps, and with IT infrastructure providers. The report is free, not even a registration is needed. To my knowledge no other public report provides this level of data on cloud application usage.
For data lovers it’s a treasure trove of facts about cloud usage. There are over 28 charts and tables. Download it here. I’ll share a few of my favorite insights from the report.
Most Popular Apps by Number of Customers
Microsoft 365 wins. I attended a legal technology conference in 2014. In a session on SharePoint, hosted by Microsoft, the roadmap showed that Outlook, Exchange, and, yes, SharePoint were all moving to the cloud in the form of Office 365. People exited the room in fury. At that time, most law firms were adamant – No Cloud. While there will always be law firms, especially “Big Law,” which will keep Outlook, SharePoint, and the Office Suite on-premises, the adoption of Office 365 or Microsoft 365 in the legal sector has been swift over the past two years. The Okta data reflects this.
This chart shows that the gap in usage between Microsoft 365 and all other applications, including AWS and Salesforce, has only widened in the past 5 years.
Most Popular Video Conferencing Apps
This graph highlights the steep curve in Zoom usage which we all lived through in 2020. At Mobile Helix, we started using Zoom heavily in 2017. We even perform our LINK system deployments remotely over Zoom in about two hours. When the pandemic hit, we were easily able to deploy LINK with IT staff who were themselves working from home. Customers favor our over-Zoom deployment over an on-site visit as it ends up taking less of their time.
Customers Authenticating With Each Factor
Phishing has been up 220% during the pandemic per F5’s2020 Phishing and Fraud Report (an excellent report on phishing). The Okta report quotes, “F5 warns that the login page of our most popular app, Microsoft 365 (M365), is one of the most popular targets for generic phishing because attackers know that stealing Office 365 credentials can grant them access not only to email but also corporate documents, finance, HR, and many other critical business functions.”
Strong Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) should be used with M365. The chart above shows that of Okta customers authenticating with a factor in addition to, or instead of a password, 82% use Okta Verify. The good news here is that weaker factors such as SMS and security questions are on the decline.
One of the positive conclusions from Okta’s 2021 Businesses at Work report has to be that as difficult as 2020 was, with 38M people applying for unemployment, if it had happened even 10 years earlier, how many people would have been unable to work from home? The growth of web-based applications, cloud-based services, and mobile apps resulted in most office jobs successfully transitioning to work-from-home in two or three weeks.
iOS has solid encryption, there is no backdoor, hence, your firm’s data is safe under lock and key, correct? Not necessarily. Enlightening new research by cryptographers at Johns Hopkins University (1) has surfaced weaknesses in the iOS and Android encryption schemes. Ironically, in the case of iOS, part of the weakness is related to a security hierarchy which is often unused.
“Apple provides interfaces to enable encryption in both first-party and third-party software, using the iOS Data Protection API. Within this package, Apple specifies several encryption “protection classes” that application developers can select when creating new data files and objects. These classes allow developers to specify the security properties of each piece of encrypted data, including whether the keys corresponding to that data will be evicted from memory after the phone is locked (“Complete Protection” or CP) or shut down (“After First Unlock” or AFU) …
… the selection of protection class makes an enormous practical difference in the security afforded by Apple’s file encryption. Since in practice, users reboot their phones only rarely, many phones are routinely carried in a locked-but-authenticated state (AFU). This means that for protection classes other than CP, decryption keys remain available in the device’s memory. Analysis of forensic tools shows that to an attacker who obtains a phone in this state, encryption provides only a modest additional protection over the software security and authentication measures described above.” (JHU – bold is our addition)
The reality is that most of our iPhones are commonly in “After First Unlock” state because we rarely reboot our phones. To achieve maximum security, we would have to power down our iPhones and authenticate after each use. That is, scores or hundreds of times per day. Otherwise, all data in the AFU state is vulnerable to law enforcement agencies or criminals with the right forensic tools. As the Hopkins researchers noted, “Law enforcement agencies, including local departments, can unlock devices with Advanced Services for as cheap as $2,000 USD per phone, and even less in bulk, and commonly do so.”
“There’s great crypto available, but it’s not necessarily in use all the time,” says Maximilian Zinkus, Johns Hopkins University. The Hopkins researchers also extended their analysis to include the vulnerability of iCloud services and device backups:
Device owners may take actions to ensure greater security. Apple Insider cites a few user actions including: Use SOS mode; use the setting which locks iOS devices after 10 failed login attempts; and don’t use iCloud back-ups. But these user-optional mitigations are not adequate for enterprise security, and they don’t address the forensic techniques used to steal data in the AFU state. Enterprises need systematic approaches across all firm-managed devices.
Why Secure Containers Are Needed
Sophisticated attackers and government agencies have a variety of available tools at their disposable to extract sensitive data from a seized or stolen device. The preponderance of evidence shows that law enforcement is largely successful in cracking open a device and extracting sensitive information as needed. Evidence further suggests that these techniques are ported to even the latest iOS versions and devices (take a close look at https://www.grayshift.com/ – they offer the state-of-the-art in device forensics). What can you do to truly protect sensitive data? The built-in capabilities of the operating system are not sufficient.
Secure containers provide an additional layer of encryption by implementing an entirely independent encryption mechanism to protect data. To examine the protection offered by secure contain apps, we will refer to our LINK app in this discussion. LINK not only uses its own, independent encryption scheme, Link also uses its own built-in encryption technology. In other words, the LINK encryption software stands entirely independent from the operating system, regardless of whether that operating system is intact or compromised. As long as encryption keys are protected well, then secure containers can provide the kind of locked-down encryption that law firms want to protect email and documents, which encapsulate a large majority of a firm’s most sensitive data.
LINK’s data protection exceeds iOS in a few significant ways:
LINK is an app, and iOS apps are routinely removed from memory. Hence, while LINK does necessarily keep encryption keys in memory when the app is active, once the app is removed from memory its encryption keys are too. This stands in contrast to iOS’ “AFU” encryption.
LINK allows IT to identify data that is only accessible when the device is online. This makes it awfully difficult to get the encryption keys for that data, especially once the device has been identified as lost or stolen and flagged for a remote wipe.
LINK’s online encryption keys are really hard to guess. Offline keys are hard to guess too, as long as your organization uses complex A-D passwords. Online keys are not derived from a user’s passcode or even a user’s A-D password. LINK’s encryption keys are derived from randomized 32-character strings that are generated on the LINK servers using entropy available on the server. Brute-forcing the key derivation is unlikely to work, which means an attacker would have to compromise the LINK Controller that sits safely inside our customers’ networks, then break the encryption scheme protecting sensitive data stored in our Controller database. Getting LINK data is a lot more complicated than stealing or seizing a mobile device.
LINK aggressively limits the amount of data available on the device, online or offline. We do so by simply expiring away data that sits unused on the device. This is a really simple way to limit exposure without much practical impact on a user. Users can always go back to their email (via search) or to the document management system to find what they were working on. There is no practical reason to store lots of old, unused data on a device that is easy to steal and, as it turns out, compromise once stolen.
LINK’s data is useless when obtained from an iCloud backup or a local backup to a Mac device. LINK’s encryption keys are never backed up. An attacker’s best hope is to brute force both the iOS device passcode and the user’s A-D password before IT notices that the device is lost or stolen. This is incredibly difficult to accomplish given Apple’s built-in protections against brute-forcing passcode and given a reasonably complex, hard-to-guess A-D password.
The JHU research simply reminds us that Apple’s interests diverge widely from those of an individual law firm. Apple has to balance the needs of law enforcement and users to make data accessible while still providing a reasonable degree of protection. Law firms’ best interests lie in maximally protecting data against unauthorized access. In order to achieve this latter goal, Apple’s built-in technology simply won’t suffice.
Seth Hallem is the CEO, Chief Architect, and Co-Founder of Mobile Helix, makers of the LINK App. With LINK professionals can review, annotate, compare, and email files, as well as use the firm intranet, using a single secure container app. www.mobilehelix.com
We are updating the LINK App User Interface, starting with the Home, My Files, Settings, and Login screens. We are redesigning to give you a more polished and consistent appearance throughout LINK as well as to provide improved ease of use.
LINK’s new User Interface is lighter and in keeping with contemporary iOS and Android apps. LINK is now using the OS “system colors” so that features like Dark Mode will be supported in LINK.
Now users may choose their preferred home screen layout, per device. In Settings, select the familiar Grid mode with rows, or the new List mode. List mode is especially useful on a phone so that you can scroll through your apps.
In the LINK Controller the LINK Administrator may setview mode defaults
Always use Grid Mode
Always use List Mode
Grid Mode on Tablets; List Mode on Phones
Users can always override the defaults by using the Settings tab on the Home screen.
Go to the Home screen Settings tab to:
Select Grid or List Mode
Select a default app in LINK. For example, to have LINK open directly to DMS or Email.
We are excited to roll out to you these new enhancements in LINK.
Here is another fantastic feature request from a LINK user.
Sometimes you need a list of every file in a folder or even in a Workspace in iManage Work or NetDocuments DMS. Search may not help as you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. Now in LINK you can create the list, annotate it, then Air Print, email, import to iManage or NetDocuments, or save in LINK to My Files.
To create the list, tap the ellipsis icon to the right of any folder or Workspace. Tap “List All Files.”
The list is displayed.
To annotate, tap the Paper & Pencil icon and mark away.
After annotating, you can use the icons in the lower right to Air Print, email, import to iManage, or save in LINK to My Files. Or, tap the X in the upper left to get a succinct menu with options to import, email, or save to My Files.
LINK now has a new rich text editor. We think that you will like the look of the new User Interface. In addition, the new editor provides a much more comprehensive set of editing tools.
The new editor has four major formatting tabs:
Font Formats, shown above
Page Formats, show above
Insert “+”, for inserting hyperlinks, tables, special characters
Also, now when Send-and-File is on, the Envelope icon is green. Tap the Envelope icon to toggle Send-and-File on and off per email.
This new editor component is used to: • Compose emails • Compose calendar event bodies • Compose Outlook notes • Compose Outlook task bodies • Create HTML notes that are saved directly in a mobilized file system (e.g., DMS or SMB shares) • Create signatures in email settings
One of the things that I like about our new editor is that its behavior feels a lot like Word. Since we have muscle memory for Word, it’s a natural feel.
We are receiving more and more requests to Send-and-File to iManage and NetDocuments. Our LINK app has done this for years.
Filing email to DMS is becoming important from a governance perspective. Not only do law firms want emails to be accessible in DMS with the Matter. But some law firms want to reduce the risk of years of email in Outlook. One of our law firm customers deletes all email at the 90-day mark. Truly. Another firm archives all email after 90 days. Retrieving email from the archive is possible but time-consuming. Therefore, filing to DMS becomes more attractive to attorneys.
Even without such law firm email policies, filing email to the Matter is increasing. The key is that is filing to DMS needs to be easy.
But Send-and-File on mobile devices is rare. It requires a tight integration of DMS and Email, as well as comprehensive security to protect confidential client data. LINK provides both the easy workflow and the security. Draft the email, tap Send, then tap a Recommended, Recent, or DMS folder to file.
LINK has predictive filing, too. LINK learns where you file a certain correspondent’s email and will show you Recommended, Recent, and DMS folders. In many cases you can file to one of these folders with a single tap.
New in LINK, the attorney can now go to the LINK email settings to turn Send-and-File on or off by default. The attorney can also toggle Send-and-File off and on, per individual email by tapping the envelope icon in draft email. When the envelope is green, Send-and-File is on.
Watch this brief video to see all of LINK’s Send-and-File features.
If you have questions, just write to us at: contact at mobilehelix.com. We’re ready to help you.
LINK’s in-app annotation is an attorney favorite. LINK has long had the feature to sign and initial documents. Now we have added stamps for time, date, and time/date. No writing. Just tap to insert a signature and date.
Here’s how to do it on either a smartphone or tablet.
From the open document, tap the Paper/Pencil icon in the upper right
The annotation menu will appear on the left
To add a signature. tap the “J” icon, then tap the signature
To add a date, tap the Stamp icon
From the Stamps, tap the date, time, or date/time
Then position it on the document
That’s literally all there is to it. Now you can email the document or save it to DMS or file storage.
Let’s face it, Email is vital to our work, but it’s also tedious and time consuming. In LINK we care about features which make Email management more efficient.
LINK’s configurable “Swipe Menus” are one of those features. Here are 3 key things to know about Swipe Menus.
I. Color-Coded: By popular demand, menus are now color-coded per the task.
– DELETE: RED
– ARCHIVE : BLUE
– FLAG: ORANGE
– REPLY/FORWARD/FILE: GREY
– VIP: RED
– READ/UNREAD: BLUE
II. More Options from Either Side
Now you can select any of these options from either Left or Right Slide: Delete, File, Flag, Unread, Forward, Reply, VIP, Archive
There are 3 swipe left options and 2 swipe right options.
From the Inbox, tap the Gear Icon, in the upper right to go to Settings. Select your options. Then Save.
Bonus: VIP Notifications
Don’t forget to use your VIP features. You can make any correspondent a VIP by swiping and tapping on VIP. Then in Settings, select a distinct sound for VIP notifications. Learn all about VIP notifications in this video.
I hope that these swipe menus make your life easier!