Now, more than ever, businesses are relying on strong continuity plans to keep their organization operational. The legal market is no exception. Hundreds of law firms across the country have transitioned to working remotely which has presented a series of unprecedented challenges. Law firm leaders and management have been propelled into re-evaluating their existing practice operations, business continuity and technology investments, all while still serving their clients and running their firms.
A primary example of this is deciding whether to continue to work through an on-premises data server or adopt a cloud-based solution. While on-prem hardware may work for its intended purpose, it may not be the right solution for the future of your practice. The challenges of being unable to access critical data and information, the inability to continue operations, and the disruption to client service while working remotely can impede productivity and responsiveness.
So, why is the legal industry so slow to adopt this trend?
For starters, attorneys are trained to be inherently risk adverse. According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2019 Legal Technology Survey, confidentiality, security and fear surrounding the loss of control over data are the leading concerns for lawyers when it comes to utilizing cloud-based technology. The notion of having all firm and client information stored within a system that is not physically present may make some shudder; however, the advanced layers of security built into a true cloud solution far surpasses that of any on-premises IT server. Cloud technology allows for extensive, automated security testing to occur without interrupting the workflow and productivity of your law firm, as well as provides users with a stabilized virtual private network (VPN) and specialized data encryptions to guarantee the protection of all firm and client information.
A second misconception regarding cloud technology is that it comes with a high price tag when, in reality, footing the bill for an IT server to be stored on-site is significantly more expensive. Think about it: a law firm decides to adopt an on-premises ERP and the first thing they receive is a high invoice to cover the upfront cost of the hardware and installation. Once the server is installed, the firm must continue to cover the cost of IT maintenance and system upgrades or enhancements for the duration that the ERP is in use, or, as Squints from The Sandlot says, “FOR-EV-ER.” As a result, several on-prem customers find themselves using outdated software – sometimes for years – to cut back on direct costs for the firm.
Implementing a cloud-based ERP directly addresses each of these challenges. Cloud technology is entirely web-based which eliminates the need to fund expensive hardware and upfront installation fees. Cloud solution providers can set your law firm up on its new cloud-based ERP from a remote location, significantly reducing downtime for your attorneys and staff. In addition, the cloud allows for automated system enhancement and software upgrades during non-business hours, ensuring your firm is always operating through the most sophisticated technology
A strong business continuity plan is 100 percent dependent on the ability of your law firm to continue its operations regardless unforeseen circumstances. This may include a server crash, a fire, natural disasters and more. In the event of an emergency, how well will your practice be able to continue to serve its clients as your ERP stands today?
Law firms utilizing an on-prem server will experience significant obstacles in order to maintain their practice while those operating through the cloud can continue business as usual. Cloud technology provides legal professionals the ability to work from anywhere at any time by allowing users to access important documents and client information from their fingertips, all while increasing communication and collaboration. For example, an attorney may be visiting a client in another state but needs to submit documentation to his or her paralegal to review. Through the cloud, documents can be uploaded and submitted, reviewed and re-submitted within minutes from single platform. Cloud solutions set law firms up to succeed, regardless of attorney and staff locations.
The 2019 Tech Survey released by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) posed questions to more than 116-thousand attorneys at 537 law firms regarding their opinions on the future of legal tech. One question asked, “For the upcoming year, how do you predict your firm’s adoption of cloud-based solutions will change?” Of the 116K+ subjects, 72 percent anticipated they would see an increase in the adoption of cloud-based technology within their firm – a 10 percent increase from just four years prior in 2015. Another question asked, “Thinking about the next three-to-five-years, is there a technology or trend you believe will create significant change or be a major factor in the legal technology profession?” Leading responses include the cloud at 39 percent and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at 37 percent.
Although the legal industry has taken some time to warm up to cloud technology, it is apparent that more and more legal professionals are embracing it as a smart solution to practice operations. We will continue to witness the growth of cloud adoption in law firms across the globe and, in turn, and increase in legal performance and continuity.
Editorial note: this article was originally published as an educational piece for the New Jersey Association of Legal Administrators (NJALA) as featured in the March 2020 Jer-Z-Journal.