What are the advantages of a lawyer starting up their own legal practice utilising cloud computing?

Law Cloud UK
Law Cloud UK

Our LinkedIn group, Cloud for Lawyers, recently hosted a discussion on cloud computing for law firms and the legal profession. The question posed was framed as follows:-

What are the advantages of a lawyer starting up their own legal practice utilising cloud computing?

There has been a lot of discussion and buzz in the UK about lawyers and indeed legal practices breaking away from the traditional law practice model and starting up business for themselves. One major hurdle is cost and proficiency of legal software, for which many are looking up to cloud computing. With this in mind, does anyone identified benefits in turning to cloud computing to provide the legal IT such lawyers and law firms need to provide their practice with 21st century look and feel?

The response quantity and quality was strong:-

Stephen Vallance • I wonder if there is a slightly conflicting message here. Open and shareable resources are very different from ‘Cloud’ computing. At the moment true clouds don’t exist, it’s still basically server driven ie Google docs where third parties still hold your information all be it possibly in an encrypted form.

Is the question not more about how open legal firms are to outsourcing and what the issues are regarding control, access and client confidentiality?

6 days ago
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Warren
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Warren Wander • I was at a Microsoft event last week called “Transitioning the Cloud” where Microsoft confirmed their commitment to the Cloud, announcing that 70% of their current software development team are working on Cloud projects and that this figure would reach 90% by the end of the year.

There is much more out there than open and shareable resources, and full SaaS (Software as a Service) systems are proven, accessible and available today. In this scenario, the software provider hosts, manages and updates their own applications, delivered via the web, alongside looking after all associated data, which is managed and backuped up, so I would suggest that true clouds do exist and have existing for quite some time.

Outsourcing services such as IT, cashroom, compliance, typing etc… is a very cost effective route enabling flexible working and if the right provider is chosen, this de-risks law firm administration, freeing the lawyer’s time to “Just Do Law”. Controls, access and client confidentiality is then down to SLA’s and service provider’s procedures and quality standards.

I accept that SaaS, Cloud and Outsourcing isn’t for everyone but for some, it will be the only way forward and I would suggest for them, their time is their own and the world is their oyster…

6 days ago
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Gavin
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Gavin Ward • @Stephen, Having only been involved in cloud computing for a short while, it does appear to me that the distinction between cloud computing in its narrow sense and shared or outsourced IT is somewhat cloudy; excuse the pun.

It is right that it is up to lawyers and law firms to determine whether they can trust programs like Citrex, Microsoft Cloud or, indeed, Law Cloud itself. What is becoming more clear is that having your client’s documentation stored in an encrypted Fort Knox-like electronic storage facility with stateoftheart backup is certainly safer than having all your electronic files stored within your firm’s premises, even if backed-up. If your premises burn down, fair enough you’ve got your insurance including the Master Policy, but those essential business files are lost. Granted, that happens very rarely, but it’s still a question of practice and risk management.

6 days ago
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Stephen Vallance • All accepted. I suppose as I’m currently involved with an IT startup I understand what ‘the cloud’ is meant be, a truly distributed network and what most large companies offer which is simply offsite server use running proprietary third party software.

But yes, any progress is good and developments, particularly outsourcing of IT and other assets should be embraced by the profession

6 days ago
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Raymond McLennan • Security of data is one of the major issues, but I know that Onyx for example, have got that sorted, so have LawCloud an Edinburgh based software company.

5 days ago
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Aydin Kurt-Elli • On public cloud infrastructure it can certainly be a concern, mainly because you can’t actually audit the public cloud infrastructure. Managed providers like us (plug for Lumison coming up!) however are used to allowing our customers to properly diligence the network, systems, and datacentres, as well as our processes. We have people like Accenture and Deloittes run the ruler over us at least every 6 months for some of our customers. It’s the difference between a managed provider and a commodity “compute on demand” public cloud operator.

We have a neat whitepaper on private cloud at Lumison if you’re interesting – take a quick visit to http://www.privatevirtualclouds.net for some light bedtime reading!

5 days ago
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Stephen Vallance • I think what this thread seems to tell us is that there isn’t really a clear understanding among the general non IT public (of which I’m one) of what ‘the cloud’ is. I still believe that what we currently have in most solutions is remote access to our info., programmes and data held on a third party server/servers. As such there are a number of issues that will always theoretically exist.

Matters such as security rely on encryption and history tells us that this will always be broken. Most people believe that their emails are still private! Most current systems even with public and private keys still depend on transmitting passwords to a server where they can be intercepted/stolen.

I wonder of the starting point to this thread should be ‘Do lawyers understand what cloud computing is and where the benefits for them may be’.

But hey, the thread worked, it sparked some debate.

4 days ago
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Gavin
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Gavin Ward • @Stephen Good point re email privacy. Those questions you ask are indeed worthy of a standalone thread.

@Aydin Thanks for the link re private cloud computing; I’ll have a look tomorrow.

@raymond Good point re security. Personally I believe having a localised server on the premises is more dangerous than a professional secure remote one.

New thread to come soon. @Stephen. Feel free to start it yourself within this group

Best wishes
Gavin

4 days ago
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Rod Mitchell • Some interesting comments and discussion here.

I have a client who is looking to do this and I have discovered that this is a very real and sensible option for them now.

Two big issues for any Lawyer setting up a new practice are Case Management software and daily cashroom operation/reconcilation in order to meet Law Society regs.

A decent broadband connection now allows virtual access to both a personal case management and cash management system with real cashiers performing the cashroom function offsite.

The real benefits are therefore zero capital investment required in people or hardware/software and the ability to get up and running quickly.

3 days ago
• Reply privately• Delete • Flag as promotion . Law Cloud • Out of all the advantages, cost is probably the most relevant, with or without recession. Thoughts?

2 days ago
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Warren
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Warren Wander • Agreed, but is cost not value?
Can real value not be achieved by empowering the user in the way that cloud technology does?:-

(1) enabling flexible working [work from anywhere technology]

(2) providing peace of mind (Business continuity, disaster recovery planning – Backups taken care of, systems are robust and secure and always kept up to date)

(3) Joining a community of like minded individuals who share know how on up to date technology and industry information …

(4) Simplifying technology (staff buy in, culture change, easy access to key management information, compliance, productivity tools)…

Should we be looking at this as a cost saving alongside as an investment in the future of the “business”?

The debate continues over at LinkedIn, but please post your own thoughts here:-

http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=3415186&type=member&item=30410942&qid=5c9b2172-a016-41a7-8c7f-f9889f712b54&goback=%2Egmp_3415186

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