By Emilee Boyle Gehling, Partner, Goosmann Law Firm
Improving efficiency has been the keystone in legal developments in recent years. Legal conferences and national associations are focused on this area, as the legal landscape is changing shape. Gone are the days when “Big Law” counted on associates grinding out hour after hour of billable work, regardless of the final product. Clients have become more conscious of realizing value for their legal fees. To top-quality law firms on the cutting edge, whether big or small, a focus on efficiency has been an ongoing agenda item to provide quality services while remaining competitive. Cloud computing is one way law firms are able to stay on top of the market.
What is Cloud Computing
The Cloud is internet-based software. Instead of each user buying a User’s License and downloading it on a computer, an organization can purchase a service plan from a Cloud-based provider who hosts the software on its server which is then accessed by users using the internet.
Silver Lining: How the Cloud Can Improve Efficiency
Cloud computing can cut down on initial costs, improve flexibility and adaptability. It can allow law firms to work with off-site lawyers. File-sharing through the Cloud allows attorneys employed at firms to work from home or off-site and independent contractors to work with firms far from their location. The Cloud also opens up an additional set of resources for firms; cloud-based software is a tool which can be accessed over the internet. This can range from file-sharing to accounting/billing functions. The beauty of cloud-based software is it may be accessed on a variety of devices, which speaks to its efficiency. Many consider it more secure than traditional client data security measures (but see discussion regarding confidentiality below). In addition, cloud computing software often has robust customer service and support to help lawyers troubleshoot.
Cloud-based computing is available for lawyers to use in many facets of a law firm’s administration. Case management, practice management, time and billing software are all available. Case management and practice management provides firms the ability to manage information, including calendaring and managing documents. Because this information is sharable throughout the firm, this valuable information facilitates efficiency in the law firm. Some platforms additionally manage client contacts, including correspondence logs and reminders. Time tracking is a key feature to law practice management software. Providing attorneys an easy and accurate tool to record time which links to billing and tracking platforms can help ease the administrative burden as well as improve efficiency for firms.
The Thunderhead: Why Some Attorneys are Hesitant to Use the Cloud
The biggest hurdle to wider-spread use of cloud technology in law firms is a lawyer’s fundamental duty to keep client information confidential and be able to retrieve it. Cloud computing requires client information to be placed on remote servers. Lawyers are subject to their state bar’s ethical rules. Approximately 19 state bars have weighed in on the use of cloud computing by lawyers. All such opinions allow its use provided the attorney uses reasonable care to ensure client information is secure. However, attorneys are required to carefully vet the service to ensure ethical duties are met.
Just as technology is in constant flux for other businesses, so it is for law firms, who must keep up to move at a pace to provide the services needed by clients.Lawyers are service-providers. Savvy lawyers and law firms look at every available option to improve efficiency to concentrate on its service and providing quality legal services for clients. Nothing is a substitute for a highly skilled lawyer who understands and proactively anticipates a client’s legal needs. A lawyer in the Cloud is utilizing technology to take administrative tasks off his plate and improving accessibility to more efficiently provide those services to clients.