The Evolution of Law Firm Data in the Cloud: What Has Changed in the Past Decade?
This article was originally published by Law.com’s Mid-Market Report. Read the original piece here: https://www.law.com/mid-market-report/2019/07/08/the-evolution-of-law-firm-data-in-the-cloud-what-has-changed-in-the-past-decade/
As a 24-year veteran of the legal IT space, I have witnessed technology evolve and become crucial to the success of modern-day law firms. Over the years, it’s become clear that the wholesale movement of data and services to the cloud has seemingly taken the longest to propagate throughout the industry.
With the ubiquity of services in the cloud today, it is hard to imagine just a decade ago when the concept of “cloud computing” was still new. In the past, many IT administrators and consultants advised law firms against wholesale migration to the cloud because of vendor stability questions, security and privacy concerns, bandwidth issues and economics. In many cases, some of those early adopters were sold a “bill of goods” wrapped up as “the cloud” and were faced with increased costs, increased frustration, and less efficient access to their data and services.
A mindset developed that the data-intensive functions of a law firm and the confidential nature of that data did not correlate well with the cloud model. Growth and maturity in cloud infrastructure and services have caused that mindset to melt away in the face of overwhelming advantages, both strategic and economic, for cloud adoption. I’ve witnessed many attorneys have this change of heart for the following reasons:
Widespread access to powerful mobile devices along with easy access to high-speed broadband combine to make cloud applications not only appealing but borderline mandatory. The days of going into the office or connecting to a slow VPN to work on a client matter are a thing of the past. The availability of data and applications in the cloud means legal professionals can work virtually anywhere and on any platform without sacrificing speed or efficiency.
Increased Security and Privacy
Security and privacy concerns from the cloud’s early days have been quelled by reputable technology vendors who must meet rigid security and privacy standards to be competitive in today’s regulated environment. The far-reaching impact of GDPR, the EU’s sweeping data protection law, means that any cloud company with hopes of transacting business with parties located in the EU must be compliant with the new law’s tough regulations.
Today, given this increased regulatory environment, it is more probable that cloud data storage and application services for law firms are much more secure than data residing on a law firm’s on-premise server. Market forces have caused cloud vendors to appropriate tight security and privacy protocols. As a result, law firm administrators should have greater worries about the security of data that remains on legacy in-house law firm systems.
Cloud technology began to take hold in law firms with the roll-out of highly interactive cloud-based practice and document management systems, where attorneys could query their firm’s client database and files on remote devices from any location with internet access. One of the most significant drivers of cloud adoption over the past few years has been the widespread growth in popularity of Microsoft’s Office 365 service. Unlike the days of old when firms had to strategically plan when and how they would upgrade their e-mail server and office productivity software, Microsoft’s subscription-based service allows firms to offload the capital expense and burdensome maintenance of e-mail and office software systems to the cloud vendor.
Cost Savings and Predictable Pricing
Economics have always been the lynchpin in persuading law firms of the advantages of moving to the cloud. Many firms took a “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, which led to forced upgrades when aging systems would fail, exasperating the situation by increased costs and frustrated users. Now, when law firms relinquish their legacy in-house systems, they relegate the maintenance and upgrades of those systems to the cloud provider. This is usually offered on a monthly subscription cost structure, eliminating the three- to five-year capital expenditure explosion prevalent in the pre-cloud law firm days. Moreover, law firms do not need to maintain extensive (and expensive) IT staff to keep watch over legacy systems, creating even more cost savings for firms.
Certainly, early skepticism of the cloud for law firm data was warranted; and some early cloud implementations in the legal space left much to be desired. Today, however, law firms must be prudent in reviewing their entire technology ecosystem and leveraging cloud technology to alleviate both costs and risks for the firm.
Phillip Hampton is the founder and chairman of LOGICFORCE, a leading legal IT consultancy focusing on servicing midsize law firms across the country.
Reprinted with permission from the July 2019 issue of The Mid-Market Report. © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.