Cloud computing allows software and services to be accessed through a browser or mobile app. Also known as web services or hosted services, they are common even for small businesses these days. There are more options than ever for conducting business through cloud computing, but one industry that is just now catching up to using the cloud is the legal field.
For a long time, lawyers have been understandably wary of adopting new technologies, due to privacy risks. But most cloud services offer robust cybersecurity and data back-ups as a standard part of their service agreements. And with personal use of products like Google Drive and Dropbox becoming more common, more law offices than ever are seeing the benefits of using the cloud for productivity.
Let’s take a look at some common questions and specific benefits of cloud computing for your law firm.
1. Is Cloud Computing Scalable?
Using the cloud is a fast and scalable way to use advanced legal technology. Most cloud services offer a variety of packages, meaning a law firm of any size can select a personalized suite of products to fit their needs. These scalable services mean that a single software company can offer services to a solo practitioner and then help them scale up if they choose to expand to a partnership.
Whether you need more storage space or want to include a new service in your subscription, cloud computing can meet your needs. You’ll never have to worry about replacing a broken piece of technology or outgrowing a service. Cloud computing scales with you.
2. Is Cloud Computing Cost-Effective?
Cloud services are incredibly cost effective. Rather than investing in expensive servers and addition hardware that will eventually become obsolete, cloud services are usually available as a monthly or annual subscription.
Servers aren’t just an expensive upfront cost, there can be ongoing maintenance issues that can be costly and they will also have to be replaced at some point. With a cloud service, there is no need for a substantial investment in capital or ongoing upkeep. If you have a laptop, you can hit the ground running relatively quickly once you’ve signed on with a cloud computing service.
We all know the saying, time is money. But so many solo practitioners and small firms are spending a disproportionate amount of time in the busy work of running a business, when their time should rightfully be spent supporting their clients. When a firm doesn’t make use of efficiency tools, it turns into a lose-lose situation. They spend less time with their clients because they are doing the busy work of filing, running payroll, and managing all the physical paperwork of their caseload. This leaves less time for the clients they have and may even reduce the number of clients they can take on at once. That ultimately means a loss of money for their firm. This needs to be considered as part of a cost-benefit analysis for cloud computing.
3. Is Cloud Computing Secure?
Cloud computing safely and efficiently stores your data and provides enhanced security measures to protect it. Cloud computing services offer offsite backup storage that is often replicated across multiple servers. This means that even if a natural disaster strikes one area where your cloud company has servers, they will have other locations where your data is also stored and easily accessible.
Advanced security through the cloud doesn’t just provide an array of failsafes and back-ups. Cloud service providers are constantly working to improve security and reduce the risk of cyber attack. They are in the business of protecting sensitive data, so they put an incredible amount of resources toward cybersecurity for their clients.
4.Does Cloud Computing Improve Efficiency?
With cloud computing, all your essential business and legal functions are centralized. This allows you to be efficient in running your law firm. Case management software can take a time-consuming but necessary task and automate it with the push of a button. Document automation means that you don’t have to manually fill in every single field of a file or form. Business tools allow you to run financial reports, automatically manage your bill pay, provide accurate time tracking, and even process your income faster. There are tools that can simplify your marketing and help you attract more clients. Above all, cloud computing gives you a faster and safer way to process and collaborate on almost any task, improving workflow and providing more time to actually practice law.
The fact is, clients are also expecting legal firms to keep up with emerging technology. A firm that is making use of tools and software that makes the client’s life easier is a firm that is going to attract more business by word of mouth.
When data is stored in the cloud, it is accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection. Remote access allows you to work from any location and even on the go, something that has become vital for small businesses during the pandemic. Cloud computing gives you the ability to access your files and even meet virtually with clients from any location. This also adds to the overall efficiency of your day-to-day work.
5. Is Cloud Computing Ethical?
You may be thinking, “All of those benefits are great, but what if they’re worthless to my firm if cloud technology is deemed unethical due to privacy concerns?” And that is a point well taken. It brings us back to one of the major concerns that the legal field has with cloud-based technology; how can we ensure that donor data is kept safe and confidential when it is floating about in this invisible “cloud?”
It is important to note that this hurdle isn’t unique to the practice of law. Banks and hospitals have similar commitments to their client and patient security. In fact, hospitals are legally required to protect privacy standards like HIPAA. Banking and medicine have already paved the way and proven that cloud computing is safe, ethical, and puts the safety and needs of individuals first.
Cloud computing providers are starting to realize that, even with the adoption of their services by the medical and banking industries, attracting legal clients is going to take more than a commitment to security. The Legal Cloud Computing Association, which is a group of legal technology vendors, published their first “Cloud Security Doctrine” in 2016. It was a draft of standards designed to help legal providers and the legal technology sector work together to address security concerns with transparency. The LCCA recognized that the legal profession had unique security concerns that either weren’t met or weren’t being addressed transparently by legal technology providers. This security doctrine provides the legal field with guidelines of what to look for in a cloud service, for the benefit of their clients. The guidelines include geographic data and disclosure requirements, encryption, data integrity best practices and data loss prevention, and more key areas that a law firm can look for when researching cloud companies.
The legal response to ethics in cloud computing actually goes all the way back to 2010 when the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics submitted an opinion that green lit the use of cloud computing by New York lawyers. Other states quickly followed suit and while not all have published opinions on this, the state of Washington has published an opinion affirming that it is ethical to use cloud computing in legal cases.
Washington State law firms can achieve an incredible amount of efficiency and scale their needs at an affordable price, with assurance that cloud computing companies are now working to perfect their services with the legal field in mind.
If your law office is ready to take the leap and implement cloud technology, Tech Masters offers a free IT assessment that includes recommendations for the best value improvements for your firm.
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