Asking for an Applicant’s Previous Salary is About to Be History

The Salary History Question: Is it History?

A change to the hiring process has been developing across America within the last 12 months. Currently, 8 states, 6 cities, 2 New York counties, and Puerto Rico have banned employers from asking for a candidate’s salary history, and bills are up for debate in several more states. What has spurred this development? After all, it is certainly understandable that employers have wanted to know this information in order to make informed hiring decisions and minimize costs. But lawmakers and advocates have argued that this common practice traps certain individuals in a cycle of underpayment, especially women, minorities, and people moving from places with lower costs of living. Even if your law firm is not located in a state affected by the recent flurry of laws banning the salary history question, we suggest you consider revisiting your hiring process and eliminate such questions. Here are a few reasons why:

A Unified Policy

If you do business across state lines, including places that have already banned the salary history question, or are near states that have, it will be easiest to have a single policy in place for all of your offices. These laws are quickly being debated and added by more and more states and cities (see complete list at the end of this article), so simply adhering to the stricter laws will help ensure that all of your offices are in compliance, and you will save yourself the headache of having to adjust your policies multiple times. After all, complying with these laws does not simply mean that you can no longer ask for a candidate’s salary history. Violations do carry repercussions, so you will need to train your HR staff and recruiters on what kinds of questions are appropriate and legal for compensation discussions. This approach has already been followed by Google, Facebook, Cisco, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.

A More Accurate Valuation

Asking for someone’s salary history may cause you to undervalue certain candidates due to conditions that have nothing to do with their abilities. As a result, you might lose out on qualified candidates who receive a more competitive offer elsewhere. The goal of these laws is to narrow the pay gaps for women and minorities—if they were underpaid in the past, revealing their salary history puts them at risk for getting underpaid again. Even if their new job actually increases their pay, it will likely still lag behind the standard due to starting from a lower point to begin with. By avoiding the salary history question, law firms can instead focus on paying a candidate a wage determined by their skills and the requirements of the job.

What To Do Instead

Perhaps you’re considering abandoning the salary history question, but are still looking for a way to determine an appropriate salary for a candidate. One option is to simply set a range for the position beforehand and be upfront with the candidate about it. Your scale can account for experience, education, and performance, in order to pay what’s fair. Most of the laws being passed do allow you to discuss salary expectations, which can serve a similar purpose to the salary history question, but leaves the candidate feeling more respected and fairly treated. These strategies will improve your relationship with the candidate and encourage a smooth hiring process.

There are many benefits to complying with the new standards created by these laws, including increased clarity and efficiency for your team during the hiring process, a widened candidate pool, and better candidate relations. In addition, it could help you increase diversity at your law firm, which in turn can improve the bottom line. By adhering to these laws—even if they don’t apply in your state—you make your firm more appealing by empowering your HR department to pay appropriate wages for the position, regardless of an individual’s past pay.

If you’re not sure how to determine fair pay, we’d love to use our knowledge of the legal hiring market to help you out:

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Current statewide bans (date of effect): California (1/1/18), Connecticut (1/1/19), Delaware (12/14/17), Hawaii (1/1/19), Massachusetts (7/1/18), NJ (2/1/18 [public only; but senate passed bill this year for all employers]), Oregon (10/6/17), Vermont (7/1/18), Puerto Rico (3/1/17)

In process:  Florida, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island

Current citywide or county bans (date of effect): Albany County, NY (12/17/17), New York City, NY(10/31/17), Philadelphia, PA (on hold), Westchester County, NY (07/09/18)

Note: additional cities have bans for city offices only.

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Our Top 7 Recommendations To Help You Hire And Retain Legal Professionals

Tips for hiring and retaining legal pros in 2018As you plan for the year ahead you might be aiming to make your hiring process more efficient, hoping to implement new employee retention initiatives, or analyzing your upcoming projects to identify your hiring needs. Whatever particular challenges you might be facing, 2018 is brimming with opportunities, and our team of experts at ESP Legal has put together these recommendations so you’ll be primed to take advantage of them.

Our Best Advice for Law Firm Hiring Managers in 2018:

1. Make or Promote A Remote Work Policy:

To recruit and maintain the best possible legal talent, make 2018 the year you evaluate your remote work policies. One of the major factors considered by candidates looking to make a career change is their ability to do their work remotely, either regularly or occasionally. If you already have a flexible policy, promote it with prospective hires. If you don’t, consider offering it as a perk to your new hires after they’ve proven themselves and as a reward to employees you are looking to retain. While not all positions allow for frequent remote work, with a structure in place to measure performance, many roles can be successfully executed through telecommuting.

2. Know the Legal Hiring Market:

It’s tight. Unemployment for educated legal professionals and technologists with legal experience is exceptionally low. If you’re looking to hire in the new year, it’s essential that you make yourself aware of what’s realistic to expect from both a skill set and compensation standpoint and draw up your job requirements accordingly.

3. Give Feedback:

If you’re working with a staffing firm, providing feedback in a timely manner is essential. It will help you get the best fit possible by helping your recruiter address concerns, adjust search efforts, and keep your favorite candidate warm while you work through your process. If you’re not working with a firm, feedback is just as important. Acknowledging a thank you note or informing a candidate of your next steps can keep them from losing interest or developing negative feelings about you or your firm.

4. Research Compensation:

The Association of Legal Administrators and the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) are great resources for detailed compensation guidelines, and ESP Legal also publishes a free annual salary guide for technology, litigation support, and attorney compensation trends. If you are not able to offer a competitive salary as compared to your peers, think strategically about how you can offset this with better benefits, opportunity to grow and learn, and some flexibility in work schedule, and be prepared to sell these advantages to prospective hires.

5. Share Medical Benefits During the Process:

The cost of medical coverage can vary drastically from one firm to the next and can be a big factor for job seekers. If you’re working with a recruitment firm, share medical cost information with your recruiters. We have seen far too many candidates turn down an offer at the last minute because they’ve realized their out of pocket medical expense combined with the salary offered resulted in a decrease in their total compensation. By providing these medical costs in advance, or at least during negotiations, you’ll save yourself time and get the candidate you want.

6. Outsource your Hiring:

We know this may sound self-serving, but many of our clients historically hadn’t used recruiters before 2017 or tried to fill a position without help before sending it to us first, and after working with us have shared their regrets over the time they wasted. By engaging a trusted recruitment firm immediately when a need arises, you’ll get a great candidate on board fast, and minimize effort on your part.

7. Interview Efficiently:

In every area of legal hiring, candidates are in high demand and usually have several irons in the fire. When there are delays in the process, your internal hiring team can become forgetful or distracted and worse, your top candidate may lose interest in you or accept another opportunity before you’ve even prepared to make an offer. Line up all your qualified candidates and interview them in blocks of time over a few days or a week vs. one by one over several weeks. Then schedule internal debriefs with your team so you can compare candidates and make an offer to your top choice as soon as possible. Streamlining and expediting your interview process in these ways can help you make the best hire.

If you’re a hiring manager or department head at a law firm, we hope these recommendations have given you some good ideas and will help make 2018 your most successful year yet. If you’re looking for more personalized advice, our account managers would be thrilled to discuss your unique challenges and help you find the best solutions.

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Law Firms & Cyber Security: 11 Tasks for Prevention & Response

Cyber Security Tasks for your CSOIs worrying about a security breach keeping you up at night? What will your clients think if it happens? Will you lose business? Are you prepared to stop the breach quickly? Can you afford to invest in information security? Can you afford not to?

Since 2011, 80 percent of the largest 100 law firms (by revenue) have been victims of cybercrime, according to an ABA report. The same survey revealed that 26% of law firms with 500 or more attorneys experienced a security breach in 2016. If this issue wasn’t keeping you up at night already, those statistics seem to be cause for some tossing and turning.

While in the past the legal industry had a reputation for being slow to adopt, a recent study found that on all security ratings measured, legal was the second highest performing. This is great news. Security initiatives are starting to come to fruition. But, many executives at law firms are now accepting that it is less about if a breach will happen, and more about what they are going to do when it happens.

While putting prevention measures in place is still essential, creating a breach response plan is of equal importance. In both cases, having a trusted Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Chief Security Officer (CSO) on board who can work well with your executive team is essential for big law firms. If you don’t have a CISO or CSO on your team, we suggest you consider adding one. While outsourced solutions can be sufficient for preventative measures, an internal leader of information security will be much more effective at putting a response plan in place.

Here are 11 tasks to give your leader of information security:

1. Set Up Perimeter Defenses

Most law firms know that setting up perimeter defenses is an essential first step for preventing cyber attacks. Firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), application proxies, and virtual private network (VPN) servers are all important implementations for protecting your data from outside attacks.

2. Take Specific Access Security Measures

One of the next steps is to ensure that security measures are taken to only grant access to files and programs on an “as needed” basis. The fewer end users with access to confidential information the lower risk of that data being breached.

3. Create Clear & Concise Security Policies

A security policy should be written and distributed law firm wide. The key here is to make sure it’s usable – you want your attorneys and administrative professionals to actually read it and be able to easily understand and retain the information in it.

4. Invest in Rapid Detection of Breaches

The faster you can identify a breach and kick hackers out of the system the better. Investing in technology to rapidly detect a breach, be it in the form of in-house security engineers under the supervision of a CISO or an outsourced solution, is well worthwhile.

5. Keep Your Data Off Your Premises

Cloud storage companies are highly effective in keeping your data secure. It’s their job. So if you haven’t already moved your data offsite, it might be worth considering in 2018.

6. Use a Layered Defense System

You want your security engineers to make it as difficult as possible for a hacker to break in to your data, which makes a multi-level defense highly valuable. Some of the ways you can layer your defense system are: two-step encryption, consistent web and network monitoring, implementing a data-loss prevention system, and installing anti-virus and spam filtering software.

7. Educate Your IT Team

Whenever possible, your IT team should be building security measures into your applications and software systems. Have your CISO train your developers to do this and keep your IT team up to date on your various cyber security implementations and changes, so they can train others effectively, and stay on top of the latest cyber risks.

8. Check Your 3rd Parties

One of the more common areas of security breach is actually through one of your third party connections. As more clients are coming to law firms with security requirements, it’s essential that law firms do the same with their own 3rd party resources. You should have a well-documented policy for internal use that you can ask your 3rd parties to adhere to as well. Or request to see their security policies to ensure your data is protected from breaches.

9. Make a Response Plan

Having a system in place to detect and respond to breaches quickly is of equal importance to having effective preventive measures. Cyber threats don’t belong only in IT’s domain. If a breach happens, it will impact everyone in your firm, including your clients. As such, your entire executive team must be aware of cyber risks, prevention and response plans, and ideally be involved in their development in collaboration with your CISO or CSO.

10. Practice That Response Plan

Once you’ve created a response plan, practice it. Yes, we know that isn’t billable time, but when a breach happens, you’ll be thankful it is not the first time you’re figuring out who is responsible for what and seeing if your plan actually works.

11. Train Your Attorneys & Administrators

Phishing attacks are highly effective for breaching your law firm’s security. That’s why training your employees is so important for preventing attacks. While classes can be helpful as an overview, technology simulations that give them practice recognizing and reporting phishing emails are even more effective for employee’s retention of their training. It’s also essential that you get your employees to agree to encrypt emails and files and understand why it’s important. Give frequent reminders emphasizing the value and necessity of your securities policies to help prevent attorneys and administrators from falling back into old habits.

 

Equally critical to having your leader of security take these tasks in hand is making sure that you are always testing and staying up to date on the latest security practices. Just like you’d hold a fire drill to practice getting your employees safely out of the building, testing your systems to make sure they are secure will ensure you’re ready to handle a breach when it occurs. To ensure the safety of your data and your client’s data, use “white hat” hackers and penetration testing systems on a regular basis (perhaps quarterly) to test your security system and find areas of vulnerability. In addition, from the top down, build a culture at your law firm where everyone takes responsibility for preventing breaches and responding to them if they occur.

The above list may seem like a lot to take on, but breach prevention and response is now a critical priority for all law firms. Implement some or all of the above suggestions, and you’ll start sleeping more soundly knowing that your law firm and your clients’ data are secure.

Start Your Executive searchA strong CISO, CSO, or CIO can be invaluable for your cyber security risk and response measures. If you’re currently without this essential role on your team, we’re here to help.

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7 Questions to Ask Your CIO To Ensure Technology ROI

Return on Investment for Legal TechnologyIn the current buyer’s market, it’s more essential than ever that law firms differentiate when it comes to client service. One of the key ways this can be done is through the implementation of technologies that monitor progress and budgets, improve your knowledge management system, use predictive coding to review documents, help you better manage projects or provide e-learning, and/or allow clients to “self-help” on tasks traditionally executed by their lawyers. Of course, all these investments come with a cost, and as the executive leader in your firm it’s up to you and your technology leader to determine if the return on investment is worth it.

In a September 2015 Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor survey, data was collected on specific operational changes that law firms had made in response to client demands for efficiency, predictability, and cost effectiveness. That data was then measured against the overall financial performance of the firm. According to the 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market, “The analysis showed that, while lower-tier firms had not implemented any changes with significantly more frequency than the upper-tier firms, the firms with better overall financial performance had outpaced the lower-tier firms in several important categories, including [technology.]” The study suggests that investing in technology and other operational changes in order to meet client demands resulted in better financial performance for the law firms that made those changes.

The ability to make a strong business case for legal technology investments is a key skill for technology leaders. But that’s only half the equation—as the executive leader, you also need to know what questions to ask in order to get at the less tangible aspects of ROI. Here are a few questions to get you started:

1. What can we use to measure quantitative ROI?
The nature of quantitative ROI is that it is fairly straightforward to measure, as long as you know the formula. In asking this question, you’re essentially assessing whether or not your CIO is taking ROI seriously. If they can tell you they’ll be measuring it based on the cost of the investment over the monetary value of the benefits during the number of years they believe the technology will be effective, taking into consideration the probability of success, then you’re probably being pitched an investment with good quantitative ROI. If they can “show their work” quantitatively, you can be assured that you have a technology leader who has the best interests of the law firm in mind and has thoughtfully considered the return on investment before coming to you with the request.

2. How will we measure qualitative ROI?
Qualitative or soft ROI are the benefits of technology that can be more challenging to quantify but have high impact on your law firm. They can include:

  • Improving operations
  • Boosting employee morale
  • Enhancing employee retention
  • Serving as a recruiting tool
  • Making your attorneys or IT team more effective
  • Enhancing your customer or client experience
  • Making you more competitive in the marketplace

The more boxes you check when running through the list, the better ROI you’re likely to get from the technology investment. However, if your CIO is claiming the technology will benefit one or more of these areas, it’s a good idea to ask them how they plan on measuring that benefit. How will effectiveness be measured? How will the client experience be improved, and is there a way to prove it via surveys or other methods? What is the data or evidence your CIO is using to assert that these qualitative measurements of ROI will likely be achieved through this technology investment?

3. How much time will it save us?
As the executive leader of a law firm, we know you’ll never underestimate the value of time. A technology might be able to make your files more accessible or increase download speeds from the cloud. It could protect you from server downtime or help your litigation support team search files faster. Whatever the technology implementation may be, asking your technology leader how much time it will save your lawyers or other team members is a great way to identify ROI upfront. For best practice, actually measure the time savings of the technology investment. That way, if a partner or member from the executive committee questions the value of that technology, you and your technology leader have data to back you up.

4. How much money will it save us?
Of equal importance is whether or not it will save your law firm money, and if so, when. Technology always costs money, especially if you are doing a firm-wide implementation. You’ll want to know the cost versus benefit upfront, but you’re also asking your technology leader if it will save the firm money in the long term, and if so, how much money over how long of a term. With efficiency at top value at law firms, time is money for your lawyers, so be sure to include any time they save in your cost analysis.

5. When would you anticipate seeing ROI? or How long can I expect it to be before we see ROI on this technology?
Some ROI might be evident immediately, but most often it will take some time before the effects of the technology implementation are realized. Asking this question simply gets you and your technology leader on the same page and may give you an outline of the project timeline as well. By gaining at least a vague picture of the kind of ROI your technology leader expects, you are able to make a more informed decision. Agreeing on a timeline for results has the added of benefit of being able to set expectations for the whole executive committee, and if necessary, gives you a message to communicate to lawyers who might complain that it seems like a waste of money.

6. What’s the risk associated with this technology implementation?
Any new technology comes with some amount of risk associated with it, but planning well can significantly help mitigate the risk. If you’re hit with a crisis unexpectedly, you’ll lose dollars and time trying to fix it. Asking this question helps you be aware of the risks up front and plan for ways to avoid them. It also provides you with an appropriate counterbalance to the benefits of the suggested technology investment, which you can calculate into your ROI analysis.

7. Are there other technology investments that are a higher priority?
While this question doesn’t have direct bearing on ROI, technology moves at such a fast pace that it’s important to evaluate which technologies need to be implemented when. Most likely your technology leader has a whole string of technologies they want to implement, with strong cases for the benefits of each for the law firm. A good technology leader will be able to prioritize effectively to make the most of your resources. Hearing about the other technologies on the docket also helps you speak to the priorities of the law firm, if your technology leader has not already been a part of those discussions.

 

Whether your technology leader is pitching an investment in AI, security, or knowledge management, their ability to explain the value of the proposed technology is essential. Asking these tangible questions about the return on investment is your first step toward your decision on implementing a new technology for your firm. With these 7 questions in mind, you’re bound to make the right choice, and because you’re meeting client demand, you’ll benefit from the efficiency, cost savings, and soft ROI that legal technology can bring to your law firm.

If you’d like more advice on analyzing the ROI of technology or are looking for a new CIO, CKO, or IT Director to join your team, contact us today.

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How to Align Your Technology Department to Your Law Firm’s Strategic Plan

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How to Align Your Technology Department to Your Law Firm’s Strategic Plan

Aligning Technology to Your Strategic PlanIn a survey of mostly AM LAW ranked firms, 97% of law firms claim to have a written strategic plan, and 70.4% of firms invest at least 3 months in creating that plan. However, only 3.2% reported achieving almost all of their strategic objectives. The reporters of the survey estimate that larger law firms invest approximately a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of partner time when creating strategic plans, yet so few of these plans actually get implemented fully. So how can you be one of the 3% achieving their strategic goals? One part of the equation is ensuring your technology efforts are aligned to your strategic plan.

As technology has become integral to every area of a law firm’s function, the responsibilities of a CIO have evolved. Gone are the days when CIOs were responsible solely for managing their law firms’ technology teams and implementing and upgrading technologies. CIOs are now additionally responsible for focusing on helping firms deliver strategic value and competitive advantage through technology. It was always important for a law firm’s technology plans to be aligned to business objectives, but it has never been more essential to a law firm’s success than it is today.

How do you align your technology function to your partners’ strategic plan and avoid the pitfalls of misalignment? It is simpler than you might think:

Do You Have The Right Technology Leader?

Puts the Firm’s Needs First

Whether your firm has a CIO, a Director of IT, or a CKO leading your technology efforts, you want leaders who make technology decisions based on what’s best for the firm. Your leader of technology should have a proven track record of learning a firm’s strategy and helping the firm achieve their objectives through technology. You’re looking for a leader who, when talking about their accomplishments, demonstrates the ways in which their work helped the firm meet their goals, increased revenue, improved the client experience, or improved efficiency for lawyers. If they’re only talking about how great their technology implementations were, they might be more interested in their own career trajectory than in meeting the needs of the firm.

Strategically Selects Trends

Your CIO should be aware of trends in technology and strategically think about how these trends might apply to your law firm to help attorneys grow their revenue and win cases. This means that they evaluate upgrades and technological advancements in the context of what it will bring to the partnership. For example, will it save attorneys time and effort so they can focus on more important aspects of the case? Will it mitigate risk for file security or help you deliver information to your clients in the way they want? They should be proactive in their recommendations and clearly demonstrate the value tech changes would bring to the partnership.

Communicates Clearly and Effectively

It’s also essential that you have a strong communicator in your technology leadership role who can clearly explain the strategy and objectives of the firm to their technology team. A skilled CIO is capable of explaining the various needs of the attorneys to their technology team and in addition, can clearly communicate any strategic goals associated with an implementation of new technology, as well as the specific value of the work they are doing. Conversely, your technology leader’s communication skills should include the ability to demonstrate to the executive committee how the work that the technology department is doing contributes to the success of the firm and aligns with the law firm’s goals.

Do They Get A Seat At the Table?

Understands the Strategy

Partners can ensure their technology leadership is aligned to the firm’s strategic plan by inviting them to participate in executive committee meetings. This doesn’t mean the individual necessarily gets a vote, but involving them in conversations around the law firm’s strategic plan and the needs of the practice is a great way for firms to improve the alignment of technology with the firm’s objectives. When they hear about your goals firsthand, they are more likely to buy-in to those goals and fully understand what your firm is trying to achieve. CIOs who truly comprehend the needs of the partners will be motivated to examine their technology options more carefully and only implement what will truly benefit the law firm.

Impacts the Strategy

When you invite them into conversations about the law firm’s strategy and business objectives, you also give them the opportunity to make recommendations based on the needs of the firm. Perhaps one of your objectives for the year is to improve efficiency. Your CIO might suggest a new AI solution that could cut document retrieval time in half, or an upgrade to your email server and storage system that would minimize downtime and increase download speed. If your CIO isn’t in the room, it’s less likely that your technology team will be able to help you achieve your objectives, and more likely that they’ll take on technology advancement projects simply for technology’s sake. In addition, technology now impacts every area of your practice, from client interactions to how discovery is handled. With the right CIO in the room when you’re discussing strategy or issues to overcome, you’re likely to find better solutions based on their knowledge of current and upcoming technologies.

Executes the Strategy

Finally, giving your CIO, Director of IT, or CKO a seat at the table helps demonstrate to your firm the importance of technology to the practice’s success, which will allow them to better execute the technology requirements connected with your law firm’s strategic plan. Many law firms fail to make it clear that leadership and attorneys recognize that the work the technology department is doing is important and valuable. This can leave a technology team feeling unappreciated, which can lead to retention problems. When given a seat at the table, your technology leader has the opportunity to help that value be understood. Even more importantly, the leader can share with the technology team stories of their efforts being commended by the executive committee. In addition, because they’ve had a voice in the law firm’s strategic planning, your CIO will be invested in that strategy and eager to get buy-in from their managers and individual contributors. With everyone working towards the same goal and understanding the meaning of their work for the firm (which is highly important to millennials), your chances of strategy success soar.

The Right Technology Leader in the Right Seat (At the Table)

A lot can go wrong if your technology plans are misaligned with your law firm’s strategy. For example, you might incur unnecessary expense with an upgrade that doesn’t add value to your attorneys. Or your technology department might spend time and resources on projects that do not do anything to help you meet your strategic goals.

It may sound simple, but the best things you can do to align your technology department with your law firm’s strategic plan is to have good technology leadership involved in the strategy conversations. In fact, you’ll get much more than alignment: your business strategy will benefit from having the right technology leader, who thinks strategically, puts the law firm’s needs first, and communicates clearly with the CEO, COO, other department leaders, and their team.

The right CIO on your team can help you implement your strategic plan. Don’t wait to find the right technology leader for your firm.

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