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‘Worrying gap’ in IT spend as small law firms struggle to keep up

08 Feb 2019 / technology Print

Small law firms struggle to keep up the pace on IT

A worrying gap in IT infrastructure development is revealed in this year’s Smith & Williamson Annual Survey of Irish Law.

The big firms are pulling ahead of their smaller competitors and creating a significant IT investment gap, the survey shows.

This could eventually play out to the detriment of the smaller players’ efficiency, commentators believe.

Spike

IT investment has been on an upward trend since first surveyed by Smith & Williamson in 2014 with a notable spike in 2016. 

This year researchers were surprised to see that reported investment as a percentage of turnover in 2018 is well below trend. Only 13% of firms report that IT investment is an immediate priority in the next 12 months.

Top 20 firms continue to out-invest the rest with 33% of those firms reporting an immediate need to update and improve their technology infrastructure.

They are committing an average of 5.3% of turnover to IT investment versus 5% for all firms.

This significantly higher commitment on the part of large firms may create a worrying gap, with small firms struggling to catch up after years of under-investment, commentators believe. 

Lag

The survey also shows a meaningful lag between firms in the regions and those in the capital. 

A full 51% of Dublin firms updated or improved their IT systems in the last 12 months or see this as an immediate priority, compared to 43% of regional firms. 

And cyber security is a pressing issue for managing partners, as well as monitoring key innovations in document management.

However, while disruptive technologies are increasingly in focus there has yet to be significant investment by many law firms.

One in five regional firms don’t see this type of investment as a priority.

Taking the long view, a continued lag in strategic IT investment by regional firms will impact on efficiency and the ability to innovate and differentiate in an increasingly competitive market, the survey concludes.

Security

Cyber-attacks on law firms are also accelerating as 79% of firms cite tech security as a key issue for their businesses.

This figure sits at 73% for top twenty firms.

Two thirds of top twenty firms were subject to an attack in the last year while one third of all law firms had a cyber breach.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland