The significant financial benefits of adopting cloud applications, software and infrastructure are encouraging more and more law firms to move to the cloud.Cloud computing is a non-traditional, cutting edge technology. At first glance, it’s not a perfect strategy for the legal industry. Law firms a reputation for being traditional and risk averse. But now many are embracing cloud computing.
The internet is the cloud
So, what is cloud computing? The definition is fairly changeable and hazy. Basically, it means storing your digital data on the internet, somewhere separate from your physical organisational headquarters.
For example, a small law firm wants a customer management system (CMS). They can’t afford to have their own developed. No problem – they can hire access to an industry standard, first-class CMS through the cloud. They only have to pay for the small amount of customer data they store there, instead of a whole application. The firm’s customer data is stored securely and privately, somewhere on a server in California, and retrieved by the CMS when needed.
Flexibility, scalability, profitability
Cloud computing has big benefits. It’s more flexible and scalable than more traditional data storage services. It’s cheaper as well. There are risks and unknowns to using any new technology, but the big up-sides of cloud computing are selling it to many legal professionals.
Some of the many reasons that storage in the cloud is attractive to the legal community are that it:
Offers powerful software at an affordable price
With cloud applications, smaller firms don’t have to pay a large amount to develop on-site customised applications. Instead, they can pay to access a cloud application. This business model is known as ‘Software-As-A-Service’ or SAAS.
Gives law firms a chance against online competitors
Cloud software gives law firms a chance to compete against internet legal service providers that have recently entered the market, taking market share from current law firms. Law firms can keep their physical base, while taking advantage of internet-enabled services that improve productivity.
Meets the new generation’s customer needs
Generation Y wants to access legal services over the internet. Providing for this demographic will allow law firms to keep their business.
Provides reliable backup services
Cloud services have automatic backup facilities. Some experts consider web backups to be more reliable than traditional onsite backup. Internet data backup also manages risk of data loss if onsite backup is destroyed or lost.
Gives environmental benefits
Cloud storage is environmentally friendly. A specialist cloud service provider can make use of economies of scale to get the most energy-efficient servers.For smaller organisations, a study showed there can be up to 90% reduction in energy use and emissions.
A strategy that uses cloud computing can significantly lower overhead costs. This is particularly relevant for small law firms that don’t have enough business to fully utilise IT infrastructure. Cloud computing allows them to hire services only as and when they need them. It also reduces that need to hire staff to manage infrastructure.
Law firm reaps cloud benefits
The UK medical specialist law firm Patient Claim Line is a good example of a firm that has embraced cloud computing. As with other legal specialists, information security and privacy was a key concern. The firm selected a private and secure hosted desktop environment. A cloud strategy has allowed them to implement more agile working practices, as well as enhancing the firm’s disaster recovery planning.
The firm’s leadership were positive about cloud computing. They believe it “allows the in-house team to focus on innovation and create solutions which further improve customer experience and productivity (…), provide a more robust platform, and optimise processes for our customers and for colleagues.”
Clear regulations and guidance will make the move to the legal cloud easier
Because cloud computing is a new strategy for most law firms, regulatory guidance has yet to catch up with current practice. A recent whitepaper on challenges and benefits of cloud computing for law firms notes a “distinct absence of any conclusive guidance” from the UK Solicitors Regulatory Authority. Thankfully, the Law Society of Scotland has more practical guidance available. It’s important that clear guidance is out there.
The cloud is here to stay
The benefits are so compelling that it’s inevitable that more law firms will move in this direction. Some of them are already seeing the upside, and many will follow as cloud computing enters the legal mainstream.