Get Your Head In the Cloud: The Future of Legal Management Solutions
The debate about the wisdom of using the cloud or online servers for business needs is finally passing. The ability for a law firm’s partners, associates, paralegals and administrative personnel to be able to access applications, reporting, data and files securely from virtually any device, anywhere in the world, at any time has changed the way many law firms operate. Cloud solutions lower IT costs, are more secure than other solutions and provide scalability for firm growth.
If your firm hasn’t embraced cloud-based solutions yet, the number of choices available to the legal industry are growing but keep in mind that not all clouds are created equal, so consider the following:
Cloud Solutions Provide Security
No matter what your firm’s practice areas are, you have an obligation to safeguard clients’ sensitive information. Concern about the potential vulnerability of client and firm information has made law firms, understandably, hesitant to implement cloud-based solutions.
In reality, true cloud-based solutions offer law firms a more secure environment for protecting sensitive client data than what firms are able to create within their own, internal servers and network systems. With cloud-based legal management solutions, firms gain the benefits of high-level data centers and dedicated professionals addressing daily security requirements. Additionally, firms are able to establish different levels of security access for different employee groups to sensitive client and firm data and applications, effectively tightening their security and lowering their risk of a security breach.
Of course, your firm must still take reasonable measures to ensure that any cloud-based legal management system you implement will protect clients’ information. Don’t be afraid to ask providers questions about their security measures — any reputable organization should be open and forthcoming.
Here are a few cloud security measures you should ask about before you choose a legal management solution:
- Is there a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for guaranteed uptime?
- Do you have secured data with “encryption at rest” solutions?
- What is the data center availability for staffing and security personnel?
- How is access to server rooms secured? Key cards, locked servers, video monitoring?
- How is power supplied and what happens in a power outage?
- Is power guaranteed at 100 percent?
- Do you have devoted resources to solving security issues? What is their availability?
- What is your data encryption method?
These questions can help you ensure your firm and client data is secure and remains secure. As stated in this 2013 ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division article, “… the benefits of cloud computing far outweigh the pain of due diligence.”
Cloud Solutions Deliver Cost Savings
There will always be an upfront cost associated with any new technology transition. Cost considerations should not include just hard costs. The savings and return your firm will begin realizing in increased productivity will also create a return on investment.
With a cloud solution, you won’t need to invest in expensive servers, equipment and desktop or laptop upgrades every few years. Cloud solutions eliminate maintenance costs associated with hardware and software licensing, and it eliminates expensive changes to your network environments. A true cloud-based system would not require any “care and feeding” on the individual user’s computer or tablet and would be independent from any operating system, allowing for both Windows and Apple-based systems to be used in the same firm without any costly IT headaches.
Maintaining servers at your law firm means necessary downtime for you and all of the firm’s personnel when software updates or server maintenance is necessary which eats into productivity. Updates happen automatically on cloud-based legal management systems, giving you that time back. For law firms of any size, automatic updates mean more time to focus on serving clients and making sure the firm is running at peak efficiency.
The cost savings add up when you switch to cloud solutions.
Cloud Solutions Supply Mobility & Flexibility
Let’s face it: law firm administrators have a lot on their plates. Among other things, you’re tasked with making sure operations run smoothly for every member of the firm. When you choose a cloud-based legal management system over housing data on internal servers, you won’t be spending time and effort on wringing usability out of outdated technology or driving into the office to access critical information when you need it.
Attorneys and staff can take their work anywhere with a cloud-based server. This enhanced mobility opens up a world of possibilities for firms when it comes to remote work situations or using contract employees. And, if a partner or attorney who is out of the office needs to access information literally anytime and anywhere, cloud-based solutions allow for systems access through desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.
Cloud Solutions Solve Disaster Recovery
Unforeseen disasters like fires, tornadoes or floods could occur at any time regardless of where your law firm is located. And then there are the unexpected technical issues like failures of internal servers, networks, software issues, power outages or the dreaded building maintenance. If your firm’s data is only stored on-site, housed on individual servers at your principal office location, any disaster could wipe out your only copy of data — a catastrophic loss for your business.
Cloud-based systems include built-in business continuance and disaster recovery by providing multiple data center locations with backups of your data to a secondary hot site. Even if your law firm and all its physical records were destroyed, the electronic data that resides in the cloud would be there waiting for you when you reconnect from a secondary internet connection. Cloud solutions provide all of the necessary business continuance and disaster recovery as built-in features that are much more affordable for firms of any size over trying to build and pay for these solutions on your own.
Cloud Solutions Offer Actionable Insights for a Competitive Edge
Cloud-based legal management systems offer law firms valuable insights into the way data is stored and used, helping administrators identify and leverage efficiencies and stay competitive. With just a few clicks of a mouse, you can quickly and easily parse data about firm clients, about documents stored and accessed and about when and how users are interacting with that data. You can take that information to build reports for firm partners to help them make staffing decisions and even choices about the types of cases the firm should focus its marketing efforts on.
In spite of all of these advantages, some law firms have still been hesitant to adopt cloud-based legal management systems, and they’re losing out on a key competitive advantage. And that advantage doesn’t just extend to acquiring and retaining clients — recruiting efforts may suffer too. Associates and support staff who are experienced with cloud-based systems may be hesitant to join a firm that still relies on local file storage.
In fact, the ABA’s Law Practice Division has dedicated a section of its website providing resources on cloud computing for attorneys and law firm administrators. The reality is that the old method — maintaining your own network, applications and data storage — simply isn’t efficient or cost-effective any longer. Law firms that want to remain competitive will need to learn about and embrace cloud-based solutions.
Ready to Learn More?
Embracing a cloud-based legal management system will help your firm realize cost and resource efficiencies, improve security, keep your firm competitive with technology, serve more clients and do a better job of it all. Are you ready?