The Rise of the MSP in Legal: Why Firms are Embracing the Managed Service Provider Model
Thanks to tight timelines and a never-ending supply of sensitive information, the legal industry relies more on a dependable IT support structure than many other sectors. Moreover, as a law firm grows, its IT needs often evolve beyond what the current provider can fulfill. As a result, the following issue inevitably arises: Should we use our resources to create an IT department or outsource our IT to a managed service provider (MSP) who will handle it for us?
MSPs help law firms effectively utilize the latest technology by offering advice on creative ways to build IT into the firm’s business plan. Working with an MSP can be an excellent way for firms to obtain comprehensive IT expertise without the cost, time, and issues involved in building an IT department from scratch. Even the best lawyer cannot effectively manage cases when they don’t have the proper technical support. In today’s evolving legal world, there are many reasons why law firms have begun to embrace the dedicated IT MSP model. Jeff Alluri, the CRO of Element Technologies, LLC, said this about the increased popularity of MSPs in law firms:
Law firms are increasingly under pressure from their clients to deliver high-quality, high-value services. To achieve this, law firms are embracing technology at a much faster pace than they were even just a few years ago; COVID has exacerbated the problem. While large law firms have the technical staff to meet and exceed these demands, small to mid-sized law firms are increasingly turning to MSPs. MSPs can provide a robust team of professionals covering the technology landscape from help desk to infrastructure to cloud applications to cybersecurity. Because MSPs regularly deploy new technologies for their customers, they have become a vital partner for small to mid-sized law firms to remain competitive.
What is an MSP?
An MSP is a third-party company outsourced by a law firm or legal department to deliver IT services, either on a project or ongoing basis. Pricing is usually a flat fee or hourly, and most MSPs offer services tailored to a specific firm with rates and options somewhat negotiable. According to Gartner:
A managed service provider (MSP) delivers services, such as network, application, infrastructure, and security, via ongoing and regular support and active administration on customers’ premises, in their MSP’s data center (hosting), or a third-party data center. MSPs may deliver their own native services in conjunction with other providers’ services. Pure-play MSPs focus on one vendor or technology, usually their own core offerings. Many MSPs include services from other types of providers.
When firms utilize a cloud service provider (CSP), some of them question whether they need an MSP as well. Although CSPs provide cloud-based solutions and storage, they do not necessarily integrate or support users. MSPs constantly update and upgrade network security options, assist with equipment and infrastructure setup, patch systems, provide remote support for users, and more. Many organizations have both a CSP and an MSP, and the MSP conducts most communications with the cloud service provider.
How to Choose an MSP
The best way for a firm to get the most out of a partnership with an MSP is to choose one with experience in the legal industry. An MSP that focuses on legal technology will have extensive knowledge in how a firm operates, the local, state, and federal laws it must comply with, and what it takes to run a law firm’s IT department. In addition, by reviewing your history with other service providers and software, an MSP can gain specific knowledge of past challenges or deficiencies that might need immediate or ongoing attention.
Being able to fix issues at a moment’s notice is vital. However, working with an MSP that operates with a break/fix mentality will not typically set a firm up for long-term success. Instead, an MSP should offer guidance regarding technology that makes the firm more efficient, practical, and goal-oriented, including solutions for cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity.
If your firm has an outdated IT infrastructure, it probably will be unable to keep up with critical security updates or provide the space to store your data. Additionally, suppose something goes wrong with your network, and you don’t have access to an in-house team. Under those circumstances, you’ll likely find yourself spending valuable time trying to solve the problem yourself instead of serving legal clients.
MSPs can provide small and mid-sized law firms with the technology resources, strategies, and solutions that large firms with in-house IT departments typically have access to. A system-wide failure or a significant security breach can erase years of hard work, planning, and profit. However, there is no need for a law firm to risk such a major disaster when the solution – an experienced MSP – is so readily accessible.