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September, 2022
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September, 2022 | Article

TLOMA 2022 Conference Sponsors

Don’t Forget to Register for Conference!

If you still haven’t registered for TLOMA’s 2022 Conference & Trade Show on September 21-23, this is your last chance. Don’t miss out on top educational content and amazing networking opportunities including Hollywood night.

You’ll also have a chance to meet our generous Business Partners and learn about new products and trends at our tradeshow!  Registration Closes September 9!

TLOMA would like to thank our 2022 Sponsors for helping us make our first in-person conference since 2019 a reality!

ELITE SPONSORS




PREMIUM SPONSORS

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DIAMOND SPONSORS

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Armour Cybersecurity
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HUB International
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Imperial Coffee and Services Inc.
Interior Care
ION Group of Companies
Korbitec Inc.
LexCloud.ca

MARANT Construction
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CONTRIBUTORS

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Golden Ticket - Facility Plus - Handyman - March 14/22 - March 14/23 Leaderboard
September, 2022 | Presidents Message

Presidents Message

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Hunter, Mark 10may19
Author Mark Hunter

After a summer hiatus, it’s great to have TLOMAToday back in your inbox. Over the summer, your board spent a great deal of time looking at priorities for the Association and how we can improve our members’ experience. Over the next few months we will be sharing some of these actions with you.

August was also a time for a little fun. On August 18 we held a summer bowling social at The Ballroom. It was so much fun seeing our group together reconnecting. A special shout out to team Who Gives A Split (Rand Bilal, Kathryn Buchan, Karen Gerhardt, Jo-Anne Hebert, Petra Paul, and Chuck White) for the top average score.

This year we have spent more time sharing content on social. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to follow TLOMA on LinkedIn and Instagram.

The 2022 TLOMA Conference & Trade Show is now only a few weeks way. If you are still on the fence to attend or not, rest assured you won’t be disappointed in coming. We have a great group of speakers and group activities, and our business partners will be there to share everything new they are working on. I am really looking forward to our first in-person conference since 2019 and hope to see you there!

Mark has over 20 years marketing and communications experience delivering strategic advice and operational expertise that guides and supports organizations. He has helped lawyers, engineers, scientists and planners understand where clients come from, why they get selected over other professionals and what they need to do to keep a busy book.

Mark has helped a number of organizations appreciate what differentiates them, how foundational awareness guides good decision making, and how to build a high performing cultures.

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September, 2022 | Article

Getting More for What You Already Pay: Maximize Microsoft Office 365

Get More for What you already Pay - Sept 2022
Colin_Pearce
Author Colin Pearce

With the pressures of working at a law office, it can be hard to take the time to step back and make sure all the right tools are in place.

My goal with this article is to provide you some tips to get the most out of something your office is likely already using: Office 365. You might also know it as Microsoft, or Microsoft Office. Software names can change frequently.

Most of us know Outlook, Word, and Excel, and those programs have lots of great features to learn more about too. But what else is out there that can make your work life easier, and is already included in your Office 365 package?

Remember that technology takes practice. What seems daunting at first may save you time in the long run.

Here’s how to start: head to portal.office.com and click on the dots on the top left, and then go to “All apps.” You will notice there are more than 25 different programs. While I don’t know anyone who uses all of them, here are four that could be useful to you:

1. Teams

You may already see the purple Teams program open daily, because it automatically launches on computers running Microsoft. Think of Teams as a possible Zoom alternative. It can do video and phone meetings, and anyone can join. An easy way to create a Teams meeting is to create an event in your Outlook calendar and click on the purple “Teams Meeting” button on the top left. That will insert all log in details directly into your calendar event.

You can also run webinars on Teams. When you open Teams and you go to create a meeting, there is an option in the drop-down menu to create a webinar instead. Once you have created a webinar, you can upload slides and do a presentation for an audience, with an option for audience participation/Q&As. Plus, you can make a registration page which allows you to track who has registered to attend the webinar. The webinar feature takes some getting used to – for instance, do not click “Join” the webinar unless you are ready to start it! (Or else it may create errors with the registration page.) Additionally, you will need to make sure all your dates and times are correct on both the registration page and on the calendar itself.

If you are already using Teams and SharePoint/OneDrive quite a lot, it’s possible to fold your files into Teams itself so they are available there for you as well. Talk to your IT team about this if this is a feature that could be useful to you.

2. Bookings

I have noticed more people are using services such as Calendly to allow others to book a service or meeting. Microsoft Bookings does this, and it syncs with your Outlook calendar. You can use it for staff or clients. Personalize your page or create a shared team page. It will generate a link to send out for people to pick a service/meeting and time. I use it for my meetings, and I find it works great.

3. SharePoint/OneDrive

SharePoint is great for sharing files with outside parties. We know many law firms that don’t use it for storing all their files but do use it for sharing with outside parties. When you upload a document to SharePoint, you will see a sharing option. You can securely share, requiring people to log in and authenticate their identity. You can also publicly share documents from there.

The program OneDrive is for storing your own personal work files. A lesser-known feature of this program: you can also request documents from OneDrive. Right-click on a folder icon or click the three dotes to the right of the folder name, and a “Request documents” option will appear. This process generates a link you can send to someone. They then click on the link and upload the requested files. If people are sending you USB keys or other types of information via courier that could be fully handled digitally, try this feature out. Once your requested file gets uploaded to your OneDrive, you can move it to your shared drive or any other place you want to store the file.

4. Power Automate

If you are doing something on a repeated basis, there is a good chance you can create a Power Automate Flow to do it for you. Power Automate is a powerful automation engine you can use to tie together data. By that I mean, there are hundreds of free templates for “Flows,” which can automate some things you are currently doing manually. For example, you can set a Flow to download email attachments into a specified folder, or to email someone when a file is added. Or, say you want to put some employee data into a spreadsheet, or download a timesheet report once a week: you can use Power Automate to do that. Any regular reporting or repetitive, manual work you are doing on a computer is a good candidate for Power Automate Flows.

If you want to check out the four programs I wrote about in this article or any of the other 25+ apps included in your Office 365 account, you can access them at portal.office.com. Contact your IT team for help: technology should make your work life easier.

Feel free to download my notes from the webinar we held on this topic, or watch the 5-minute recap of my presentation.

Colin is an IT and business expert from Hamilton, Ontario. In 2017 he launched his IT support company Inderly, a boutique firm local to Hamilton and Toronto, serving clients across Ontario. Colin enjoys figuring out how to make business technology work best for each unique situation.
September, 2022 | Article

Top 5 Things to Consider When Budgeting for Your New Hybrid Workplace

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Michelle Berry - Photo
Author Michelle Berry DID Hons, NCIDQ, LEED AP, ARIDO, IDC

Check out this quarterly Industry Insight  where we explore budgeting for your new hybrid workplace. Learn more about the top 5 things to consider and how Vestacon can be of help to your new space. Contact us for more information and to receive the full Industry Insight directly to your inbox.

AV & Technology Systems Support


In order for Hybrid office models to thrive, they will need to support the increased demand and dependency on technology for a variety of activities for in-office, mobile and remote workers. This increased communication will continue to leverage technology platforms and the Hybrid office will need to provide appropriate room settings for things such as touch down, dedicated desking, focus rooms, plug & play or enclosed meeting/'zoom rooms. In addition to increasing their IT allowance for hardware & software devices clients will need to consider electrical and communications infrastructure components including additional costs associated with conduits, back boxes and cabling distribution for the additional AV screens and connection points.

Data will be critical for companies to understand the success of their Hybrid workplace. Recent surveys completed by Microsoft Canada have explored whether business leaders are effectively leveraging data to drive growth and innovation, stay competitive and improve customer and employee experiences. Innovative smart building systems with connected tech/building apps, touchless technology, space utilization trackers, room booking devices, AI technologies, occupancy sensors and hot-desking devices will be essential for gathering data for a measurable flexible hybrid workplace. The resulting impact on the budget is these smart technologies will require additional budget considerations for items such as power, cabling, or Wi-Fi components.

Audiovisual components for high-use meeting rooms and conference centres may require separate AV closets/ server rooms for equipment. This may result in a dedicated space with specialized cooling to accommodate equipment heat loads.

Office Collaboration Demands


Organizations will be tailoring their workplaces by providing more collaborative spaces and neighbourhoods where employees can come together in the same environment to engage with one another in a variety of dynamic social settings.

Square footage allocations are shifting from dedicated offices and open area assigned workstations to a more flexible environment including more Zoom rooms, individual focus spaces, or enclosed team meeting spaces. Unfortunately, this shift does not mean a reduction in construction costs.

TLOMA Hybrid Workplace _ Photo1

Collaborative spaces are becoming even 'harder working' spaces. The increased demand to convert offices, conference & meeting spaces into various types of settings rooms is resulting in the introduction of adaptable architecture including demountable partitions, folding partitions, telescopic meeting fronts, and products such as Skyfold walls. The cost to invest in these flexible walls has a wide variety of price points determined by the selected manufacturer, model type, flexible features, manual versus electric operation, function, acoustic properties, materials, and sizes. In addition to the wall system themselves, there is also a blocking or structural steel component required to stabilize and accommodate the weight of the systems.

Focus on Hospitality


There is a heightened sense of what the employee experience will be when returning to the office. Corporate clients are seeking to incorporate a hospitality-focused atmosphere to make staff feel welcome and comfortable and create a memorable experience that they will enjoy and want to return to frequently.

Many staff members that are coming into the office for a variety of meetings or engagements will be seeking break-out or lounge spaces for the 'in between' meeting times. This will allow them to socialize with their colleagues in a more casual setting or provide a touch-down space to simply catch up on emails.

This translates into workspaces that are being designed to accommodate more employee/ member lounge areas complete with on-site food & beverage amenities. These high-touch bespoke spaces are being designed with elevated fit and finishes including all the conveniences for food and refreshment services.

TLOMA Hybrid Workplace _ Photo2

Acoustical Treatments Will Play a Large Role


Noise in workplaces can come from all kinds of sources: including people speaking with work colleagues, on the phone, video conferences, open office collaboration areas, and outdoor environmental sounds such as road traffic or construction. These noisy environments will inevitably increase in the new hybrid office as employees will be leveraging more technology for virtual communication with colleagues and clients thus having a direct impact on the overall office acoustics. Not to mention all the newly integrated hospitality and social spaces.

The direct result is the hybrid workplace will become noisier and consequently, people will start speaking louder, making it unpleasant for some staff members to focus or enjoy being in the space. Therefore, acoustics will play a large role in the future hybrid office.

TLOMA Hybrid Workplace _ Photo3

Including an Acoustic Consultant early in the design and engineering of the project delivery team will help to mitigate some of these potential acoustical risks. The fee for this service should be considered in the overall project costs.

Health & Wellness


Coming out of the pandemic most organizations will continue to look at the steps they need to take to provide improved health and wellness support for their employees. A company's investment in its employees' health and wellness will ultimately translate to higher levels of performance, attraction and retention, and overarching success in the new hybrid workplace.

TLOMA Hybrid Workplace _ Photo4

With the increased desire for these amenities comes the need for additional budgeting considerations. In some cases, these will be considered wish list items and may need to be budgeted early in the process to understand the cost implications and help clients prioritize the components to be included in their on-site health and wellness program

Michelle Berry, VP of Business Development & Client Relationship Manager, has over 25 years of experience working with a broad range of clients and projects. With an extensive background as a designer, Michelle provides unique insights into our daily processes and perspectives to our team.

Contact Michelle to learn more about how she, and Vestacon, can help your space.

Michelle Berry, VP Business Development & Client Relationship Manager
E: mberry@vestacon.ca
P: 416 910 5972

www.vestacon.ca

September, 2022 | Article

Ransomware – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Chernitzky, David
Author David Chernitzky

Armour Cybersecurity Small & Medium Enterprises Cybersecurity Series

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of software designed to encrypt files on a device or computer, and it is often called malware. Systems relying on these files become unusable. Malicious actors then demand payment, usually in bitcoins, to decrypt the files. In some cases, the files are stolen and removed from the device, and then additional payment is demanded to retrieve the files back.

Ransomware is the most common cyber-attack, usually initiated by using phishing tactics or leveraging unprotected or unpatched networks. Small to Medium Enterprises and Businesses (SMEs/SMBs) are the most convenient targets because they lack big organizations' protection and have the means to pay the ransom.

"The bad…

There are many different types of ransomware. Unfortunately, they are evolving rapidly in the general cybersecurity industry, playing a "catchup" game with the "innovation" of attackers around what can be exploited and how it can be exploited to deliver successful ransomware attacks. Below are a few samples of the dominant types of ransomware, each with its uniqueness. The list below shows ransomware that targets especially SME and SMB segments:

1. Ryuk

Ryuk is very targeted ransomware. It is usually delivered through Spear Phishing emails or using compromised credentials to log into the enterprise's systems using Remote Desktop Protocol. Ryuk encrypts files and then demands ransom for their release. This kind of ransomware is the most expensive; the ransom demand will usually exceed $1 million. Criminals behind Ryuk will target enterprises that can pay this kind of money.

2. Maze

Maze ransomware combines file encryption as well as file theft. When the target refuses to pay the ransom, Maze collects sensitive data from the victim's computer before it encrypts it; once the ransom demand is not paid, this sensitive data will be publicly exposed or sold to the highest bidder. This threat and the potential of an expensive data breach usually pressure the victim to pay the ransom.

3. REvil

The REvil group targets large organizations as well. They compete with Ryuk for the most expensive ransom demanded. They demanded $800,000 as a ransom payment.

Like Maze, they use double extortion. They encrypt the files and steal the files. They demand ransom to decrypt the files and also demand a second payment not to expose the stolen files.

4. Lockbit

This ransomware was developed to encrypt organizations rapidly to prevent ransomware detection by their security appliances and IT teams.

5. DearCry

DearCry takes advantage of disclosed Microsoft vulnerabilities within their exchange servers. They encrypt specific files and then ask the victim to send an email requesting instructions to decrypt their files back.

6. Lapsus$

Lapsus$ is a South American gang targeting targets across different industries.

They are known for extortion, releasing sensitive data threats when demands do not meet. They use stolen source code to disguise their malware as a trustworthy one.

Typical Ransomware Attack Stages


Each ransomware tactic might be a bit different, but they all have the same 3 stages of execution.

Stage 1 - Infection & distribution vectors

There are many ways you can get infected with ransomware. But there are some specific vectors that hackers prefer; here are the most popular ones:

· Phishing Emails

A malicious email that contains a link to a fraudulent website, where you might click on a link containing the malicious software, or an email with the malicious software attached. If you or one of the employees in your organization fall for this trick, the software will be downloaded automatically without confirmation.

· Remote Desktop Protocol

Another popular infection vector is the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) takeover. In this scenario, the attacker has the employee's credentials, which he can use to access their computer remotely, access the organization's network, and have this computer under their complete control.

Stage 2 - Data Encryption

After the ransomware is installed and access to the personal computer or one of the organizational systems, they try to perform "lateral movement" – Propagate the malware to other machines in the network. Also, they target your backups; they are usually deleted. Once the spread of malware is complete and you don't have backup anymore, the file encryption begins. The files are encrypted with the attacker's code, and the original files are removed and replaced by the encrypted version. The hackers are very cautious of which files to encrypt so they won't damage the operating system.

Stage 3 – Ransom Demand

Once the encryption is complete, the attacker will prepare the ransom demand. If the ransom is fully paid, the hacker will provide the key to decrypt the files and restore the device's access, with about a 61% success rate here. Only 4% of those who paid the ransom in 2021 got all their data back. Ransom demands are usually time-bound. If you don't pay within the ransom demand timeframe, the demand usually doubles. And after some time, you will not be able to obtain any description key at all. More than that, you can get pressured by the fact that the data will go public if payment is not made.

These ransomware tactics are the most popular, but there are many ways to ransom an organization and individuals, so we must always be vigilant and know how to recognize the threat. Knowledge is power.

"The ugly…"

 The situation out there is really "ugly"; since the COVID-19 pandemic started, ransomware attacks intensified, and damage caused by those more than doubled.

Here are some statistics from the field:

 - 66% Of companies were hit by ransomware in 2021
 - 58% of companies recovered in longer than one month
 - One month is the average time to recover from a ransom attack
 - 90% of ransomware attacks impaired the ability to operate
 - $812,360 Is the average ransom paid
 - 46% of companies paid the ransom
 - $1.4M is the average cost of remediation after a ransomware attack
 - 61% of encrypted data restored
 - 4% of those who paid ransom got ALL the data back

Source: Sophos

Ransomware attacks' last stage (the encryption) is the most visible one, usually occurring at the least convenient time. Many organizations report that attacks struck on Friday at 7 pm when people had already started to unwind for the weekend; this is intentional, attackers don't want to make it easy for you. They don't care if you are heading on vacation or having your daughter's birthday party. They want you to be stressed and pressured. Most humans naturally avoid confrontation and want to resolve such situations as fast as possible and do whatever it takes. Cybercriminals build their tactics with you in mind being one of those humans.

What to do if your organization is impacted by ransomware

Once an attack happens, you are on the clock and have to deal with the dilemma of "Pay or not to pay." Each organization chooses its route, yet the consideration factors most of the time boiled down to the set of the following considerations:

If You Pay
  •  You will be able to get back your business back up and running faster
  • Attackers will have an incentive to attack again. After all, you are a "paying customer" now
  • You might be subject to double extortion; after you pay, they might demand pay again, or data will be published.
  • You might not get your files even if you pay; decryption keys do not always work

If You Don't Pay
  • It might be illegal to pay ransom in your country
  • It might be a while until you can operate your company again.
  • You might lose your data forever if not backed up or backup is compromised.
  • Your sensitive data might be exposed as an act of retaliation.
  • The ransomware money could be spent on rebuilding and improving your cybersecurity.

Ransomware is an "ugly" situation that many organizations are not equipped to deal with; the Armour Cybersecurity team saw multiple times unprepared organizations scramble to handle the attack in-house. They make it worse, which means unnecessary prolonged downtime, inability to operate, and significantly higher recovery costs eventually incurred.

"The good…"

You can prepare for the next cyber attack. The proactive preparation for ransomware attacks can make a difference between a major disaster to your business and an event that happens but is handled without major impact. The good news it is within reach for SMEs/SMBs.

How can your organization prepare and deal with ransomware?

No one can have 100% proof against a cyber-attack. However, organizations that proactively prepare continuously and gradually statistically show that the impact of cyber-attacks is significantly lower. We are often asked what one thing that should be done to prevent ransomware from happening is; unfortunately, there is no "silver bullet" out there. Typically, it is a multi-layered, multi-step, organization-wide approach that connects all processes, controls, and technology into one well-orchestrated program. Another misconception that we see across many organizations is that cyber is an IT task. It was true 10-15 years ago. However, cyber defence has evolved significantly since then (just as cybercrime evolved) and should be looked at as an organizational function beyond IT. It is like a doctor's office, you go to your General Physician, but when you need expert advice, you are referred to a specialist. Find your Cyber specialist.

Demystifying Cybersecurity Affordability for SMEs/SMBs?

While it is true that, to date, cybersecurity was mainly the privilege of large enterprises, with the evolution of cybercrime, many companies cater top-notch cybersecurity services for SMEs/SMBs and can do so cost-effectively. These days, 10 employees or fewer organizations can enjoy Enterprise-grade protection without breaking the bank.

And to make it more practical, here is a typical list of activities for organizations to start preparing to reduce the risk of ransomware and its impact.

1. Hire a cyber security expert company to help assess the risk and identify gaps in your current defences. They, typically, will help you to build a plan on how to improve your cybersecurity posture.
2. Strengthen your weakest link, your employees. Conduct organization-wide cyber awareness training.
3. Establish a robust patching process for all your assets, emphasizing critical assets.
4. Perform continuous data backups for all your assets, and practice regular data restoration to validate the backups. Not every backup guarantees that it is secure; there are specific ways to do safe backups. Consult with experts on that.
5. Implement modern defence technology on your desktops, servers, mobile devices, browsers, and secure communication channels at all times. The world has changed, and people work from anywhere on multiple devices, so your old and good Firewall in the office is not enough anymore.
6. Implement Strong User Authentication; use Multi-Factor Authentication where possible. It is a little inconvenient but will save you much money in the long run.
7. Get cyber insurance.

Conclusion

Cybercrime has been on the rise for a while, but in the last couple of years, you don't wonder whether you'll ever be breached anymore, but you ask yourself, when will it be my turn? The situation now is ugly. But not everything is lost. You can prepare your business/organization to cope with it and actually strive. It requires a proactive approach. After all, it is the smart thing to do, learn from the mistakes of others, and it will cost you less. The cost of protection is a fraction of the cost of cyber attack remediation. If you feel at a loss and are unsure where to start, contact us now for a free consultation. Click here for contact info.

DON'T BE THE NEXT VICTIM. ACT NOW!

If you are under attack or were under a ransomware attack, contact us today to ensure effective recovery.

David brings 20 years of experience and dedication to Armour Cybersecurity. He served as an officer in the elite technology unit of the Israeli Defense Forces intelligence corps for 12 years, with a deep focus on cybersecurity. He has also held subsequent leadership and operational roles in Canada, Europe, and around the globe at companies like Amdocs and NCR. 
 
David’s passion and no-nonsense approach has helped him earn his clients’ respect, a black belt in Okinawan Goju-Ryu karate, and countless extra miles on his road bike. 

September, 2022 | Article

Why Law Firms Need to Get Better at Matter Mobility

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Kandace_Donovan
Author Kandace Donovan

Why is there more matter mobility now? Several factors are driving the increase. The first is that ever since 2008, corporate clients are much more cost conscious and in pursuit of the best available deal. They will now hire and fire external counsel much more frequently.

Second, lawyers are choosing to move firms more often, mainly for one of two reasons: either they’re ambitious for more challenge and reward, or their aspirations are for less. The former cohort will have found that they’re now practicing at a time when talent is well recognized and remunerated, firms are jostling to secure the best people, and there are lots of attractive opportunities to move firm.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has caused the latter cohort of lawyers to revisit their priorities and seek a better work life balance. Lockdown also demonstrated the extent to which working from home was completely possible. Many lawyers are now seeking (or demanding) more flexibility, sparking more lateral movement.

All that said, perhaps the largest driver of increased matter mobility is heightened competitiveness among law firms. Firms have learned that they can accelerate their growth via the systematic recruitment of established lawyers – or whole teams of lawyers – who can bring across a significant number of clients. Hence some large firms have appointed Chief Talent Acquisition Officers. This type of aggressive lateral hiring has become a well-recognized route to quick growth that isn’t going to go away any time soon.

The costs of matter mobility management

Next, we have to ask – “Why is more matter mobility necessarily a problem for firms?” It’s because of the tremendous time penalty that matter mobility management imposes and the risks it exposes firms to. And what’s more, the less well executed matter mobility management is, the greater the likely penalty that will be exacted and the higher the risks the firm will run in a hazard-laden environment. The answer to: “What could possibly go wrong?” is: “Plenty.”

Law firms are obligated to pass on all client materials on receipt of proper authorization from the client. But first they must find it, gather it together and screen it. All these tasks are time consuming, and unbillable. What should be transferred and when is further complicated when firms make counteroffers to would-be defector clients, causing them to reverse their decision. Or the client decides that its interests are best served by splitting matters between the old firm and the new.

Risk and cost

Screening is particularly time consuming and needs to be done by senior people – increasing the cost to the firm. The risks lie in transferring materials that could hurt the firm. Screeners must remove all content that relates to the business relationship between the firm and the departing client, including billing information, engagement letters, and anything else that is competitively sensitive.

They must remove internal emails about the client and anything else that could compromise or embarrass the firm, such as derogatory remarks about the client or bad language. They must also remove any content that could be used as evidence if the firm is sued by its former client.  Finally, the offboarding firm needs to keep records of the decisions made and actions taken in respect of all materials.

Onboarding firms are also exposed to risk and cost. There’s a risk that the would-be new client doesn’t pass conflict checks. There’s the time burden of ingesting new records, including allocating new matter numbers and authors. There’s a compliance risk if the firm has ingested records and data only for the new client to perform a U-turn; at which point the new firm must ensure it returns all the physical records and destroys all the electronic records already received. Again, all of this is unbillable effort.

It’s therefore getting critical that firms get better at matter mobility management to minimize the risks and time expended. Firms need processes, procedures and policies. They need systems that automate as much of the work as possible and streamline the rest with workflow wrappers that manage processes and authorizations, making it relatively easy for senior attorneys to review material. Increased matter mobility is here to stay, so law firms must take it seriously and seek out the solutions that will help.

To find out more join us for our free webinar ‘Hello. Goodbye…Goodbye. Hello’, where we will discuss the drivers, challenges and opportunities that matter mobility management presents and suggest some key strategies, processes, and approaches for reducing risks and costs.    

 Click here to register.

Kandace Donovan is LegalRM’s Vice President Operations, North America.

LegalRM creates market-leading software, services and solutions for records, risk and compliance management and serves some of the world largest law firms as well as blue chip organizations from other industry sectors.
September, 2022 | Article

Ways to Create a Sustainable Workspace

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TLOMA - Career Board HalfPage
Dave Turner
Author Dave Turner

One common misconception regarding environmental degradation is that we are killing our home, Planet Earth. We are not, the Earth will survive our abuse and frankly do very well without us. What we are killing is ourselves, our civilization and the world we love. There are many changes we need to make, some we can do as individuals, some as communities, countries and internationally.  Yet businesses and corporations can have a positive affect too. Some will have a negative financial impact yet many can have a positive one. According to a survey report by Economist Intelligence, corporate social responsibility plays a significant role in the stock performance of companies. Businesses contribute to sustainable living and eco-friendly lifestyles as CSR initiatives.

If you’re a business owner, creating a sustainable workspace that will be efficient for both the planet and your employees is essential. Here are some ideas to help you create a sustainable and efficient workplace.

What is a Sustainable Workspace?

About 75% of the industry’s emissions come from operational carbon, the energy consumed to operate buildings—from keeping the lights on to running air conditioning systems. The rest is embodied carbon, attributed to building materials and construction.

Embodied carbon is the “energy we use to pull materials out of the earth, turn them into products, bring those products to building sites, and turn them into buildings or interiors,” Avinash explained. It also includes the energy used to remove those products to make way for renovation or new construction and to dispose of those products—whether they go into the landfill or are recycled or reused.

A sustainable workspace is an office environment designed to be environmentally friendly and efficient. This type of workspace can help reduce your company’s carbon footprint, save money on energy costs, and improve employee productivity.

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Ways you can Create a More Sustainable Workspace

1. Invest in Biodegradable Textiles and Environmentally Sensitive Furniture

Make it a mission to decrease the carbon footprint, and one way to implement this is by using biodegradable fabrics and furniture. Because most of the design industry’s emissions are tied to embodied carbon, how products and materials are selected for projects is vital. That’s why learning to reduce, reuse, and recycle is essential.

Materials are vital to space design and function. The latest material design trends emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—the desire for cleanable, comfortable, and natural materials in our living and working spaces. Renovations are essential in design work, and embodied carbon emissions are created through them. Interior renovations include furniture, lighting, flooring, walls, ceilings, and everything else that makes up the inside of a building.

The “leave no trace” solution is utilizing biodegradable materials for the fabrics of your furniture or architectural solutions or ensuring your workspace materials do not contain hazardous chemicals such as PVC, benzidine dyes, hexavalent chromium, or other dangerous substances that are known to contribute to ozone depletion.

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2. Check for Eco-Friendly Furniture Certification

Certain Environmental features and certifications you can look for when purchasing new furniture or designing space can assure you that the new materials utilized are more sustainable. These include BIFMA Level, LEED, Greenguard, FSC,  ISO 14001, and more. Here is a quick snapshot of these programs.

BIFMA Level: To obtain a BIFMA Level certification, furniture manufacturers must present their products to a third-party evaluation process. A qualified professional will determine whether the product and the company meet BIFMA standards for promoting better health and a cleaner environment. Certification levels range from 1-3 with 3 being the highest standard.


LEED: LEED certification offers a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon, and cost-saving green buildings. To attain LEED certification, a project earns points by adhering to prerequisites and credits that address carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health, and indoor environmental quality. Projects go through a verification and review process by GBCI. They are awarded points that correspond to a level of LEED certification: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points), and Platinum (80+ points).

Green Guard & Green Guard Gold: Greenguard focuses on identifying and certifying products with low chemical emissions. Greenguard Gold goes beyond just measuring chemical emissions and assesses health-based criteria. Products that meet these stringent standards emanate less than 360 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This means they are safe for use in areas of vulnerable populations, such as schools and healthcare facilities. 

FSC: FSC works to guarantee responsible forest management. They recognize that trees are a fundamental part of manufacturing various products. Instead of trying to eliminate the use of wood, they advocate for sensible and meticulous forest management practices that ensure access to products without causing significant damage to forests and our environment.

ISO 14001: ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and waste reduction, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders.

3. Use Natural Light

If you have windows or skylights in your office, take advantage of them by not adding blinds or curtains, allowing the natural light to shine through. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, a great source of vitamin D, and can help improve employee productivity. Using sunlight will help you reduce your energy costs and improve the quality of your workspace.

Picture4

4. Implement Green Technologies

Make the switch to energy-efficient appliances such as LED lighting or solar power to energize your workplace. Solar power systems are one of the most significant and most efficient energy savers created thus far. Although you initially spend the money upfront, consider it an investment in the planet and your future energy bills. 

Making the switch will help you reduce the total fuel consumption for powering the office entirely; simultaneously, this one-time purchase incredibly returns on investment.


5. Promote Employee Wellness  

Encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle by providing incentives, such as gym memberships or healthy food options. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Promoting employee wellness will improve employee productivity and help reduce healthcare costs for your company. Hiring a stress manager and a counselor can also help reduce health risks in the workplace and build an excellent rapport with the employees.

Stress management is one of the employees’ key issues, resulting in less productivity, more negative thoughts, and more internal friction. Handling this aspect can help you create a better experience for your employees, and you will see a considerable spike in productivity.


6. Reduce Paper Consumption

Encourage employees to use digital documents and communication instead of paper. This will help reduce your company’s carbon footprint and save trees. During COVID-19, many of us became reasonably familiar with a QR code; if you have a meeting that involves passing out papers or a packet, try to email your employees a link or have QR codes on the conference table. You can also reduce paper waste by using recycled paper products. Using recycled paper products will surely help you reduce deforestation and help you save money. At the same time, using little to no paper will allow you to save money on printers, scanners, toners, and ink, all coming at a steep price. 

The goal is to create a sustainable environment; a paper saved is a tree held.

Picture5 

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7. Encourage Carpooling and Public Transit 

Encourage and educate your employees to carpool or take public transportation to work. This will help reduce traffic congestion and pollution. While some may not be ready to hop back on public transit, carpooling is a great way to save money on gas and reduce your carbon footprint. It is also a great way to get to know your teammates better.

Yet, public transportation remains an even better option for reducing your carbon footprint. It is a great way to save money on gas, parking and reduce traffic congestion. Some organizations offer subsidies to encourage you to use public transportation. Further, make it known to your team that variances from traditional “9 to 5” hours to allow them to make the best use of public transit schedules is not only accepted but encouraged. Make it easy, make it better.

8. Recycle and Compost

Encourage your employees to recycle and compost their waste by having a recycling bin near or next to the waste bin. Recycling your waste in the office will help decrease your carbon footprint and your entire organization.

Composting is also an effective way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint and help the environment. Adding a compost bin in your employee kitchen or lunchroom will save you on disposal costs and go one step further to help the environment the best you can.
Conclusion


As a business owner or employer, you can play a vital role in promoting sustainability in the workplace. There are many simple ways to do this such as making smart buying decisions, reducing paper use, promoting employee wellness, encouraging carpooling, recycling, composting, and educating your employees about sustainability.

Applying these quick and simple tricks can help make a difference in our planet’s environment and future – lets save ourselves and our bottom-line.

With three decades of experience in the industry, Dave Turner's successful track record as a corporate leader demonstrates the ability to maintain long term, mutually beneficial relationships with CTI's clients. Dave has a broad background as a consulting professional and senior-level executive on personal and organizational development, strategic planning, and change implementation at CTI.

Dave is happy to answer any questions you may have about the services or products offered by CTI Working Environments. t: 905.362.2785  I  e: dturner@ctiwe.com
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September, 2022 | Article

How to Lead in a Hybrid Environment

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Sandra Photo
Kristen Photo
Authors Sandra Scharf and Dr. Kirsten Weerda

Work has changed—and so must leaders. These four management shifts are making the biggest impact in today’s hybrid work environment.

June 27, 2022, As the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs and flows, its impact on the working world appears permanent. Our research suggests that expectations around in-office work have changed. While 99 percent of executives expected employees to spend more than 80 percent of their time in the physical office before COVID-19, that perspective is now shared by a mere 10 percent

Simultaneously, an April 2021 survey found that 29 percent of employees would consider switching employers if their company went back to a fully on-site model. But leaders face an atmosphere of ambiguity while managing in a hybrid environment. They have limited visibility into workloads and processes. They have fewer opportunities for impromptu two-way conversations. They fight the feeling of losing control as they track progress toward goals. They struggle to recreate the cohesiveness, collaboration, and comradery of the office as they encourage the freedom and flexibility of remote work. As a result, their leadership effectiveness is at risk.

Leaders must learn to effectively manage in a hybrid environment, and successful companies are taking action. In working with such companies, we’ve found that four management shifts are proving helpful for both leaders and employees amid flexible work:

1.  Managing performance through outcomes, impact, and ownership.
In successful hybrid environments, we’ve seen managers move to a stronger outcome and impact orientation, while empowering employees to determine how they get to and take full ownership of outcomes.  Prerequisites include setting clear roles and tangible goals and milestones, then checking in weekly or even daily to hear about roadblocks, offer support to clear them, and ensure that workloads are manageable. Also, they hold their employees accountable to achieve outcomes.

2.  Doing more to build trust and togetherness. Trust and togetherness are imperative to support employee innovation and creativity. However, traditional methods like walking the company floor, chatting at the coffee machine, or taking employees to lunch are less readily available. Moreover, insecurity can lead some to micromanage and exhibit controlling behaviors. Managers should proactively establish trust by role modeling and encouraging the following characteristics:

Reliability: "You can count on me to meet my commitments.” (E.g., sticking to regular check-ins, removing roadblocks, ending virtual meetings five minutes before the next one to ensure punctuality throughout the day)

Acceptance: “I accept who you are and respect your perspective.” (E.g., deliberately inviting all meeting participants to speak up, even those with divergent opinions; establishing rules for participative decision making; having familiarity with and recognizing the traditions and habits of a diverse set of employees)

Openness: “I share what I think, do, and feel, and I am open to feedback.” (E.g., starting every morning with a team check-in, holding a monthly team lunch to ask genuine questions)

Authenticity: “I walk my talk.” (E.g., sharing professional backgrounds, creating team rituals that encourage personal expression)

3.  Facilitating and engaging with teams. A variety of behaviors can erode team engagement in hybrid settings, such as failing to be mentally or emotionally present at meetings, turning the camera off, or checking emails. Beyond avoiding these pitfalls, managers should keep meetings short and use interactive tools, such as chat, polls, and informal competitions. More broadly, managers should delegate decision making and empower teams to develop a common vision and goals.

4. Encouraging team problem solving. Traditional managers may prioritize meeting their own deliverables over providing frequent team support. Successful hybrid managers adopt team problem solving as a mindset. To tackle hard problems, they engage personally, mobilize resources, and link teams up. Involving people in finding a solution creates buy-in and encourages ownership of outcomes.

In this new working world, successful organizations deliberately create a flexible culture by developing leaders who foster outcome-oriented performance, trust and togetherness, and team engagement and problem solving.

This article was originally published by McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com. Copyright (c) 2021 All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission

Kirsten helps clients in multiple industries pursue enterprise agility and flexible organization models; establishes breakthrough accountability to reduce complexity and applies change management approaches to mobilize organization-wide transformation.

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September, 2022 | Article

Overcoming Obstacles in Todays Modern Law Firms

Overcoming obstacles
Boram, Dan
Author Dan Boram

There has been significant discussion and debate surrounding what the “modern” law firm will look like. Is the floor plan open? Private corner offices? Or is it all glass? Issues such as undervalued administrative staff, attracting and retaining young talent have compelled law firms to reconsider their office design, prioritizing a meaningful space that enhances the workplace and client experience. It is imperative for law firms to make well-considered design decisions that improve the workspace while also considering their unique needs. Unlike many other industries that are facing uncertainty, lawyers have seen an increase in demand for legal services in recent years. With a surge in deals, litigation, and other business transactions, legal firms are expanding or moving to larger spaces, raising the question, “How can lawyers modernize their office to meet the increase in work demand?”  

Workplace strategy determines how to best use your workplace for better productivity, space planning, and meaningful collaboration. It is critical to figure out how your employees work best and then design a workspace that meets those specific needs. Law firms are in a unique position where trends adopted by other industries, such as an open office plan, are unlikely to work. Furthermore, because of the nature of their profession, lawyers require private spaces and quiet areas in which to concentrate on their work. However, this does not necessarily disqualify legal offices from evolving and innovating to better serve their employees and clients.

Read on to discover developments modern law firms are implementing to overcome challenges and improve the work environment. 

Challenge: Knowledge Transfer  

Law firms faced a daunting, unprecedented challenge when forced to work from home during the last few years. With the return to the office, most of the corporate world is demanding more flexibility with work styles due to the ease of hybrid and remote working. Legal professionals on the other hand, have found hybrid work as a considerable challenge. The most difficult aspect of implementing a hybrid working style is balancing flexibility and creating an informed working environment.

It is difficult for law firms to work remotely because some roles require employees to work together face-to-face. The main issue of not having employees in the office is that knowledge transfer is impeded. Knowledge transfer is “the process of imparting knowledge from one part of your business (or person) to another and it is critical to your business’s success.” Knowledge transfer is essential for improving the functions of companies and to ensure that the stock of knowledge circulates within the organization. Yes, law firms must be flexible to remain appealing as an employer; however, if people are not in the office, knowledge transfer becomes a concern.  

Solution: Mentorship and Engaging with Peers  

According to a study by Gensler, associates believe that “coming into the office is critical to their success because it catalyzes the sort of collaboration and knowledge sharing high-quality work requires.” People will be drawn in if you invest in your office space and are intentional with your planning and purpose. An inviting office with a buzz, supplies more opportunities for younger staff to receive mentorship from Partners and gain valuable exposure within the firm. Firms that offer mentorship, team connection, access to coaching and feedback, developing proficiency, and engaging with peers to young associates see an increase in knowledge transfer, resulting in a strengthened workforce. 

Challenge: Administrative Personnel Are Being Poached  

In the world of law, office size and location have always mattered. Large corner offices are reserved for season partners, smaller offices for newer partners, even smaller for associates, and non-existent for administrative and support staff. This rigid approach supports an internalized hierarchy that leads to detachment and undervalued support staff. With all the best spots going to partners and associates, administrative and support staff often are left behind. When administrative staff are undervalued and overlooked, they can be easily poached by other firms that offer better working conditions.

Solution: Rearrange Floor Plan to Accommodate All Workers  

As aforementioned, law firms need dedicated spaces and private offices. However, there are solutions that businesses can implement to create a more evenly distributed workplace that helps everyone, not just the top performers. One solution is to restructure the floor plan, placing private offices in the center and allowing workspaces and administrative staff to work on the outside. This switch in locations allows more natural light to shine through, increasing productivity and wellness. 

Challenge: Balancing Privacy with Wellness

Lawyers are coached on precedent, often extending to their physical workspace, where privacy and physical separation of space are the norm. Creating a fair and non-hierarchal space can be challenging because of the need for privacy. Some lawyers require corner offices to hold client meetings and legal discussions in private, away from the rest of the office. So, how can law firms strike a balance between privacy and better working conditions for staff found on the interior?  

Solution: Glass Walls with Glazing 

For hardworking attorneys and legal staff who work long hours, wellness is paramount. If your company is hesitant to make significant changes to your workplace structure, incorporating glass doors/walls to allow light to shine through the entire floor is a subtle way to take a step forward in wellness. A well-lit office reduces issues like headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. To allow for more privacy you can add glaze or frost to the glass. The frosting on the glass allows light to shine through while also supplying privacy. Partners can keep their private window offices, but the interior is now brighter and more open thanks to the glass walls.

Conclusion  

There is no denying that change is happening; law firms must adapt to the shifting dynamic while adhering to how their staff works best. Several factors such as company growth, evolving work styles and new demographics require law firms to shift away from traditional organizational models. This new shift creates a better workplace that improves working conditions for all, not just partners and senior associates.

Dan Boram is CEO at AURA, a leading design-build company focused on creating experiential office environments. Dan recently founded Pivvot, a workplace strategy software that assists businesses in planning for their future commercial real estate needs.

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