This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. Any legal information provided in this post should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is not intended to create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship and readers should not act upon the information presented without first seeking legal counsel.
Following Superstorm Sandy in October, 2012, many lawyers in Downtown Manhattan found that they could not get to their offices. Those attorneys with paper-based practices, or those whose IT was housed within the four walls of their law offices, were, in many cases, unable to provide billable services to their clients for several days or even weeks. Those firms with data in the cloud, though, were able to work unimpeded (that is, if they had an Internet connection) and sustained far less loss of revenue in the days and weeks after Sandy moved on.
There are many benefits to moving a legal industry cloud computing solution for a law firm’s client and office data to the cloud. In this post, we focus on five main benefits.
Lower Cost, Better Service
Traditionally, law firms have relied on in-house IT solutions for their practices. This included purchasing computers, servers, software, and hiring someone to manage all of it, either part-time or full-time. From a security standpoint, most of these items were placed in a closet with a closed door and called “physically secure” and monitored from time to time for cyber security. Moving firm data to the cloud can allow the law firm to lower its costs while enjoying better service. The cloud provider supplies infrastructure and security, as well as technical and administrative personnel. In addition to costs savings, because physical and technical security safeguards are a core competency of most cloud providers, which is not the case with lawyers and law firm administrators, law firm data may be more secure with a cloud provider than with the law firm’s in-house system.
Increased Data and Analytics and Better Management
Use of cloud architecture and services can allow the firm to efficiently collect data about its practice and its staff, enabling the firm to better devise ways to increase its productivity and profits. For instance, a cloud-based practice can more easily and accurately track and analyze metrics such as utilization of software applications and platforms and an attorney’s time. These metrics can, in turn, be used to make firm-wide overhead decisions such as staffing, and whether or not to offer alternative billing for certain tasks.
Disaster Readiness and Recovery
Natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, when some attorneys in Downtown Manhattan were shut out of their offices for weeks, brought the advantages of cloud-based solutions into sharp relief. Yet, where a law firm’s IT solutions are based in-house, even a standard building closure or power outage due to a summer thunderstorm can bring the law firm’s productivity to a halt. A fire or flood could destroy all of a law firm’s files, leaving the firm unable to continue business if the files destroyed were the only available copies. Using a cloud-based practice solution often prevents the risk of a natural disaster causing an economic disaster for a law practice. Files saved in the cloud are physically outside of the law firm’s office and therefore not subject to the same threats. In addition, the files are usually backed up in at least one other location, ensuring that, even if a site managed by the cloud-provider is rendered unusable or destroyed, the law firm’s files will still be accessible.
Accessibility and Mobility
Working from outside of the firm’s base office has become an essential tool for productivity and attracting employees. An attorney’s ability to review documents on the road and to retrieve information while in court or at a client meeting is an important aspect of running a profitable practice. With a cloud-based system, all of a firm’s data is saved, cataloged, and indexed in a centralized location and maintained securely, so long as the firm has done its due diligence as to security requirements for industries with such regulations, such as finance and healthcare.
Each law firm works a little bit differently. Therefore, there are no one-size-fits all solutions with regard to increasing productivity and profits at a firm. However, by moving to the cloud, a firm can build a custom solution that allows it to optimize the productivity of its attorneys and staff, generating higher profits. Customization also means that the firm will not have to buy new software or worry about interoperability every time it needs to add a new feature to its practice. Rather, the firm can engage the cloud provider in a discussion about what solution works best for their firm and can make the necessary changes to its existing platform if the need arises.
Ethics Fine Print
No column written by lawyers would be complete without caveats. The cloud is not for every law firm, nor is it appropriate for all data of all clients. Cloud solutions for law firms may implicate ethical requirements in certain jurisdictions, and firms must consult those regulations before moving their information to the cloud. Examples of these requirements include completing due diligence about the provider and the location of its data centers; levels of security for the firm’s information; confidentiality of client data; return or destruction of the data at the end of the contract; access to data (“up time”); notifications in the event the provider is breached or served with a subpoena or court order for the firm’s data; level of encryption for data sent and stored; and backup and disaster recovery. With these concerns in mind, the move to the cloud can create efficiencies and cost savings and enhance contingency planning for many law firms.
By Kenneth N Rashbaum Esq. and Jason M. Tenenbaum of Barton, LLP.