Practice management systems in the cloud

The phrase “in the cloud” has only been in common use for two or three years. Previously, phrases like “hosted systems”, “outsourced systems” and “software as a service” (SaaS) were used instead, and meant much the same thing, but the take-up of such systems was rather slow.

Now, nearly all the major suppliers of legal software have hosted systems of one sort or another. I asked them to provide a short contribution for this article along the following lines:

  • What hosted (or cloud) system do you offer and how long have you been offering this?
  • Do you call your system outsourced, hosted, Software as a Service (SaaS), or cloud? What are the issues related to the way in which these different words are used?
  • Are you finding the hosted approach is successful? What proportion of your current user base run your software in this way?
  • How will legal software develop over the next few years?

Here are the first five contributions, in alphabetical order, with more to follow in the next issue.

DPS Software was established in 1984 and supplies a range of legal IT solutions including case management, legal accounting and digital dictation. They have established a strong client base and currently serve more than 450 legal practices with over 14,000 individual users.

In 2001 they invested in their own head office data centre and began to offer fully-managed hosted solutions through which their software can be deployed. The investment in their own data centre, rather than working with an existing hosting provider, was motivated by two factors.

First, the nature of law firms as custodians of sensitive data meant DPS saw no way they could work with a ”˜true cloud’ solution due to security and regulatory concerns. Secondly, by offering a “private cloud” solution from their own data centre DPS can provide a full-service solution which includes hosting, legal software, MS office applications and email management as a single package.

In 2011 this full-service solution was launched as DPSCloud. The “private cloud” model and various constituent parts of the service mean the term that best describes the solution is probably “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) but use of the word cloud in the product name was deliberate. Cloud has become an instantly recognisable term and one that law firms are attracted to exploring. The fact that it also brings with it certain misconceptions, mostly surrounding security, is something that can be disproved by making clear exactly how the DPS service is provided.

It’s a strategy that seems to be working as close to 100 firms are now using a DPSCloud solution. DPS has seen a definite shift in interest from on-premise to hosted IT, whether on a piecemeal or wholesale level, and there are no signs that this trend is set to change.

Jonathan Seaton,

Eclipse Legal Systems provides the Proclaim integrated Case Management Solution which is in use by over 16,000 professionals in a vast range of sectors, incorporating legal, Alternative Business Structures, commercial and charitable.

Eclipse employs over 120 staff at its Yorkshire HQ and provides a “full service” offering, from initial needs analysis through to implementation and aftercare support.

Proclaim is available on an “installed” or a “hosted” model – the product is the same regardless of access method. Proclaim Hosted is not a stripped down or “lite” version and has been available for over 2 years.

Proclaim Hosted is ideally suited to firms operating from multiple locations that want to centralise data access but do not wish to get involved with Terminal Server, Citrix, etc.

Eclipse’s ethos is a concise and unambiguous one – to provide software solutions which enable its clients to be more effective. This direct focus has resulted in Eclipse and its Proclaim solution being awarded numerous accolades over the years.

Clients range from household name commercial organisations and heavyweight law firms, through to niche market operators and sole practitioners and include Eversheds, DLA Piper, Hodge Jones & Allen and The Howard League for Penal Reform.

Darren Gower,

Iris Legal Solutions has 30 years of experience in supporting law firms, barristers’ chambers and coroners’ offices and is a leading supplier of practice and case management systems and IT services to legal professionals in the UK and Ireland.

Iris Legal Hosted Services () has been available since 2005 and offers a complete managed server, software and desktop replacement solution; core applications such as Microsoft Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Digital Dictation and Iris Law Business Practice and Case Management System are hosted on powerful servers in a highly secure, scalable data centre which are delivered to customers via the Internet. The service is charged on a simple subscription basis with all upgrades to the hosted software applications, server hardware and off-site infrastructure included within the price, making budgeting extremely simple.

We refer to our offering as “hosted”, to aid simplicity and customer understanding; we are the “host” who manages and maintains software applications and infrastructure on behalf of our customers.

We have found the hosted delivery model to be extremely successful and a growing element of the business, now in use by around 150 firms and supporting over 2,600 individual users. As law firms increasingly look to remove the headaches associated with running an in-house network, along with an increased desire for the flexibility and scalability that goes with today’s landscape of new start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, there is growing demand for a solution which eliminates the worries of upgrades and licence costs; maintenance and support of business-critical applications and infrastructure; and enables firm control of IT budgets.

Phil Murray,

LawCloud is a new generation in Practice Management Software for law firms in the UK, from the developers at LawWare Ltd (). Established in 1998 and now serving more than 200 law firms from its HQ in Edinburgh, LawWare has established a strong reputation for an innovative and forward looking approach to the business of running a Law Firm

Since its launch in March 2010, LawCloud now hosts over 65 law firms on its platform representing almost a third of the LawWare user base. Many small law firms lack the IT infrastructure to support the latest systems and find the upfront costs of new IT prohibitive. Over the last 18 months, 95 per cent of our new systems have been LawCloud.

You may hear this kind of technology referred to as “hosted”, “SaaS”, “outsourced”, “cloud” and more. To a large extent, the terminology is simply stylistic. Our preference is “cloud”. Confidential information is backed up and protected with a level of security that is often out of reach for smaller organisations. All data is stored in one of the foremost data centres in the UK which falls under data protection laws.

Users can access their systems from anywhere they have an internet connection.

This new technology allows smaller firms to compete with bigger firms in new ways. The legal technology market has seen a great deal of consolidation over the last few years and the legal services industry is also consolidating – and fragmenting. This presents an opportunity for lawyers and smaller technology suppliers to offer a level of personal service to their clients that some of the bigger firms may have lost sight of.

Warren Wander,

LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions technology is used by over 50 per cent of the UK’s top 250 law firms. We cover the technology requirements of law firms of all sizes and ABSs. We will shortly launch our Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 ERP platform.

We started offering hosted solutions in 2004. Today, all our solutions are available via this model. The terms hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS), on-demand and cloud are used interchangeably. The differences are based on the licensing, pricing and support arrangements. A solution is hosted when an organisation has its core IT infrastructure maintained and supported outside the company’s premises. The pricing is per user and the support and maintenance provided by the hosted solutions provider is for the hardware and the core Microsoft products.

On-demand and SaaS are similar – the arrangement includes hardware and software and the customer receives a higher level of support than in a hosted solution. The Cloud is based on the provisioning of virtual machines – the cost is per user as opposed to per machine. Customers only pay for actual usage.

Legal technology vendors must provide solutions that work across the legal and non-legal environments. Underpinning solutions with workflow and business process management is crucial to enabling legal services providers to add value for customers and so enable organisations to differentiate their offering while ensuring efficiency.

The existing functionality of traditional practice management systems will soon become inadequate, as legal services providers demand enterprise-level capability to operate as commercial entities. Our Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 platform provides a foundation to expand the capabilities of practice management systems and incorporate other business systems to facilitate an ERP approach to legal business. Initially the platform will be provided as a hosted offering through private cloud providers and we will look at further cloud enablement with subsequent releases.

Fraser Mayfield,

Note. This article will continue in the next issue with contributions from Linetime, Pracctice, Professional Technology and Quill.

One thought on “Practice management systems in the cloud”

Comments are closed.