LawCloud releases new Website

LawCloud’s New Website

As a complement to this blog, LawCloud now has its own official website at http://www.lawcloud.co.uk.

We hope that this site will provide clear and relevant information on our LawCloud product, in addition to all appropriate contact details should you wish to get in touch with our team.

LawCloud Website Screenshot

LawCloud Website Screenshot

LawCloud Prepares for Launch

LawCloud Official Launch

We are pleased to advise that we are holding an official launch event for LawCloud in conjunction with Microsoft and the Law Society of Scotland next week on Wednesday 2nd February 2011.

Our Managing Director, Warren, will be hosting the event at Microsoft’s Edinburgh office and a variety of guest speakers are supporting this. These include James Ness of the Law Society of Scotland, Professor Stewart Brymer of Brymer Legal, Catherine O’Day of The Cashroom LLP, and others, with the keynote address being presented by Microsoft’s Regional Director for Scotland, Derrick McCourt. Take a look, for instance, at Derrick’s address to the Scottish Technology Showcase to get an idea of Microsoft’s position on cloud computing in 2010:-

This date has been in the diary for a while and the initial take-up of LawCloud sees us with 20+ firms already using it live, which is way beyond our expectations. Nevertheless, this will raise our profile and further establish us as a major supplier of legal software and office productivity tools to law firms throughout Scotland and into the UK as a whole.

LawCloud Moves to New Offices

As promised through LawCloud’s Twitter account, there are some significant announcements to be made.

New Offices for LawWare

The first of these announcements is that LawWare, which is the legal practice management company powering LawCloud, is now operating from new offices. We were have left St Andrew Square but we finally ran havout of room. We have moved just around the corner to Raeburn House in York Place in Edinburgh. The building is a Georgian town house spread over 4 floors (including the basement) and we have secured the top floor for ourselves. It is the former home of Sir Henry Raeburn, the acclaimed portrait artist. We still operate under the same telephone number and email addresses. However, our address has changed to:-

LawWare Ltd
Raeburn House
32 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3HU

With LawCloud’s official launch next week on Wednesday 2 February 2010, we hope that this new office move complements some even greater steps for LawWare.

Business Continuity, Lawyers and the Cloud

With our official LawCloud website due to launch very soon in mid-January and LawCloud itself launching officially on 2 February 2010 at Microsoft’s office in Edinburgh, we thought it may be appropriate to share a rather poetic introduction to the subject of cloud computing in the UK legal market with a focus on business continuity. This piece is shared as a guest article by Paul Humphreys, Technical Director of The Law-Writer Partnership Oxford UK. We hope you enjoy it.

“BC for Lawyers: it’s like Alice in Wonderland but without the Mad Hatter

“Backup onsite offsite. Backup onsite offsite. Remember to backup onsite offsite,” the Hatter dashed to tell us at every tea party until we all submitted. Time was forever stuck at 6:00 and the Queen of Hearts awaited every opportunity to decapitate us if we broke the law.

And then arose The Cloud. The Mad Hatter momentarily fell silent as he stared up at the sky. Time moved, the clock ticked, The Red Queen seemed to have disappeared. In an instant we were all going to live happily ever after. But the moment passed and the Mad Hatter quickly started up again. “Backup offsite onsite. Backup offsite onsite. Remember to backup offsite onsite,” he exclaimed.

Now, back down to earth, the question is whether or not we should trust entirely to The Cloud to be always present with its applications and our data. Yes, we agree that it’s all in the hands of experts; and yes, we can get at it from anywhere while the going’s good. Indeed we can copy back our own data whenever we like. But we can’t always copy back the application that runs our data, yet our data is not fully alive without the application that gives life to it. Cloud-based software described as multitenant is highly complex software, by no means is this software simple or standalone which you can run equally on your own PC. Yes, we can have our data back, but, unless we also have a means to run the same data identically as we have processed it within The Cloud, we remain potentially snookered should we become disconnected, however caused, from the parent application.

So, on the face of it, it might seem ideal if we could grow a kind of software that primarily processed our data while it was hosted in The Cloud; but, at the same time, software that would enable the same application to run locally if we could not get to it online, or perhaps did not need to get to it online. So we envisage a twinned system that is both Tweedledum and Tweedledee. In our mind’s eye we construct a network that is simultaneously on the outside and on the inside at the same time. Is such an arrangement possible outside of Wonderland? What further benefits might flow in addition to those obvious for Business Continuity? We know that the cost of local storage of data is, probably, at least one order of magnitude less that the cost of the same volume of data stored in The Cloud.

Let’s apply this idea for concurrent offsite and onsite data to a real-life example. A typical High-Street law firm might have accumulated, say, two thousand clients in and around its local neighbourhood in its home town. All case-data must of course be retained, and let us suppose that up to half a dozen individuals, lawyers and administrators, could possibly be involved in the progress of any one case for any one client. So a Cloud-based application appears to offer an ideal platform in a world where expert opinion and administrative action might be required from a number of different geographic locations at different times. We could then further extend this image by taking into account some limited yet helpful access to some designate client-data by lawyers from the other side. This scenario provides for consideration of many of the major elements of Cloud concern including client-confidentiality, risk exposure of private data, logging and monitoring and availability of access tempered with permissions that should govern all online activity, and so on.

The legal system is often considered by its consumers to be ‘slow’. But if your own Solicitor – let’s call her Alice – is about to complete the conveyance of your new house while you are parked outside the Estate Agent’s office waiting to collect the key, but with heavy snow piling deeper about you, and with your hungry, tired, children jumping around on the back seat of your car, then time really does crawl down to near Mad Hatter time: the hands of your watch seem not to move at all, and your own hands are freezing cold. Alice has just lost her connection to The Cloud because of a local BT fault affecting the ADSL line to her office, but your legal data remains very safely protected in The Cloud. Alice knows that she could easily get to your document using her Internet connection at her home, but the snow is very much worse today than it was yesterday, and it would take her hours even to get out of the car park. Tweedledum is simply not available to Alice. So Alice surfs instead to Tweedledee sited within the four walls of her office. Tweedledee has been updated automatically by Tweedledum while the ADSL connection was present. Alice then telephone’s your Agent with the vital reference she needed to get from your file, and you get the key.

The above is one client in two thousand. But Alice’s Cloud need only hold her current cases. Closed cases need not remain in The Cloud so are off-lined and stored locally on Tweedledee but can be moved back onto Tweedledum for resurrection online if needed. Let us say that Alice and her colleagues at her firm manage 20 cases concurrent at any one time; this implies a case-to-client activity ratio of 20:2000 which translates to 1:100 in terms of necessary online data storage space to hold current work. The model lends itself to Business Continuity, low cost of online data storage through better consideration and management of data, and the advantage of having identically replicated applications with their data held in tune both offsite and onsite. So: offsite is used for daily routine primary access; onsite is there for data archive and application backup accessible offline.

Given the emergence of The Cloud, if such a computing model were available it would seem to hold out multiple advantages, made even more attractive at very low cost by utilizing old (Windows) lamps as new (Linux) lamps to meet the changed onsite requirement. In the end, it seems there is no single place outside of Wonderland where we can entrust the whole of our systems for all of the time, not even to the security of The Cloud. From wherever we routinely work we should be able to continue operating on a copy of our applications and our data: always on standby, ever-present, at hand, held safe for us in a familiar place, friendly and warm, right there in front of us in local view through the looking glass at the office.

Paul Humphreys is Technical Director of The Law-Writer Partnership Oxford UK.
Paul can be contacted via www.law-writer.com.

Cloud computing for lawyers: a lawyer looks at LawCloud

We’ve had some great positive feedback from clients over the past fifteen years on our flagship legal technology product, LawWare Enterprise. Gavin Ward, consultant to LawCloud and Scottish lawyer joined us in September 2010 and, four months on, he shares his views on an important technical aspect of LawWare, together with his views on LawCloud, which houses the LawWare product in the cloud. Specific reference is made to key performance indicitors within the practice management software, benefits such as flexible working and scalability and also discussion of some of the current buzz from corners of the UK legal market on cloud computing generally looking towards 2011 :-

“Having joined LawWare four months ago, I thought it would be instructive and constructive to examine parts of the LawWare product, particularly as it stands within the new technology of LawCloud, as I see it from a legal perspective and to give my opinions on why I think it has performed well, particularly in the Scottish legal market, having retained around 180 law firm clients.

KPIs within LawWare: Key Performance Indicators

LawWare is one of the most flexible legal technology providers in the UK. Enterprise, for instance, can automatically monitor any number of the 81 KPIs with which it has been programmed. Each lawyer who uses this has the ability to select those about which they want to be kept informed. They can also select the “warning” and “critical” thresholds that they want Enterprise to apply in such a way that risk is managed well for their practice. However, risk management is not confined to just fee earners; partners and managers can set KPIs that monitor either the firm-wide position, or members of their team or themselves only.

When Managing Director Warren Wander announced this creation several years ago, he noted that “The idea of this automatic monitoring service came from our client base. Initially we were getting requests from different clients for reports and enquiry screens that they could use to check particular items (what we have termed as Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s). We realised that these were all variants of common themes and that we could put these altogether in a configurable fashion and let various members of staff choose what they wanted Enterprise to monitor for them. The result is amazingly simple – yet astonishingly powerful, whether you are Managing Partner, Practice Manager, Secretary or Cashier – there is something for everyone. The result is that Enterprise genuinely supports staff in their need to be informed about the KPI’s that affect them, without having to trawl the system themselves looking at various Enquiry Screens and running any number of Reports”.

Partners and other fee earners can be confident knowing that, when a threshold or trigger is breached, they will be alerted. This can prove to be a useful tool for client care purposes: clients will or, perhaps more accurately, should be happier knowing that their lawyers are in full command of deadlines and obligations. Afterall, an issue nipped in the bud early is far easier to deal with than one not picked up until several weeks later

Firms as a whole can be confident that exposure to risk is dramatically reduced; firms’ clients can be just as confident.

Three of the main benefits of using LawCloud

LawWare sits as an essential element of the LawCloud package. I thought it would, therefore, be beneficial to readers for me to summarise the main benefits of the LawCloud product itself as I see them.

1. Protecting the law firm

Risk management and practice management are two of the main considerations for practice managers of law firms. Given that LawCloud is hosted by a dedicated, green, UK-based server, practice managers can be assured of first class data protection, high availability storage and secure backup. Indeed, data protection is one of the hot topics at the moment in terms of legal issues of the cloud. In the Guardian’s article, “Keeping your legal head above the cloud”, published on 10 January 2010, Graham Hann, partner at Taylor Wessing, a law firm that works with both providers and clients of cloud services, notes that data protection is one of the biggest areas of concern: “the primary issues are security, access and location. Data protection laws are very strong in the EU”. Ahead of the game with legal technology, LawCloud is based in the UK and complies with its obligations under the Data Protection 1998. Indeed, it has to comply with its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 or may face enforcement from the Information Commissioner. At the same time, it is recognised that law firms have an obligation to protect their own clients’ data under data protection legislation. In light of this, law firms should be confident that LawCloud can provide protection against some of the most signficant risks facing them; if a law firm gets it wrong it may end up like ACS Law and its catastrophic data protection failings in 2010.

2. Saving on cost

Cloud computing grants flexible access to high-tech applications without software having to be delivered in a box. The world has been seeing cloud applications launching for the past few years, including e.g. gmail for email, dropbox for electronic document storage, or Amazon Web Services as a public cloud provider, which recently hosted then removed Wikileaks. Now, legal practice management software is available in the cloud for a low fixed monthly subscription fee. This is a particularly big benefit for start-up legal practices. For the associate or partner or indeed team of associates or partners looking to break away from their current law firm in the recession, LawCloud is ideal as it lets them acquire their own legal IT infrastructure within a day without a large upfront payment. Nevertheless, growing practices and traditional law firms will also feel the benefits.

3. Working remotely

Whether at home, office, court (if the judge agrees), meeting or travelling, cloud computing lets lawyers access their legal IT securely from their desktops, laptops, iPhone or BlackBerries provided they have a working Internet connection. In addition to benefitting lawyers on the move across the country, or countries, remote access to the legal IT infrastructure provided by LawCloud means that law firms looking to expand into new offices can do so without having to worry about completely new IT systems; an Internet connection will suffice.

Cloud computing growth as a legal IT prediction for 2011

I thought it would be pertinent to finish by taking a look at what some of the top legal commentators and practitioners are saying about cloud computing, looking forward to 2011.

Cloud Computer

Cloud Computer

As part of Professor Richard Susskind’s law firm technology predictions for 2011, the cloud is discussed as follows with more emphasis on the need to allay security concerns:-

“Many firms will move their data and processing to the cloud. Confidentiality concerns are being addressed and, in any event, it is probable that a first-rate outsource provider will offer better security than many firms can provide for themselves. This applies to litigation as much as to other things – much litigation data is either price-sensitive or very personal; how many firms can say in a post-WikiLeaks world that they are truly confident of their own security?”

Similarly, Brian Inkster discusses cloud computing in his new blawg on legal practice, past, present and future, The Time Blawg, where, at item 5, he states that:-

“I must agree with Nicole Black on the topic of Cloud Computing:-

Cloud computing – where data and platforms are stored on servers located outside of a law office – is on the rise. For many lawyers, cloud computing is an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional server or desktop-based software platforms. In 2010, legal ethics committees across the country issued opinions offering guidelines for lawyers hoping to use cloud computing platforms in their practice. The issuance of guidelines was encouraging and offered lawyers a useful road map that ensured the ethical deployment of cloud computing platforms in their practices. Accordingly, as the comfort level for cloud computing increases along with demand, more innovative legal cloud computing platforms will be developed and the vendors will become increasingly responsive to the ethical concerns raised by lawyers.

In the UK we will I believe see a greater take up amongst lawyers of cloud computing in 2011.

In Scotland we now have cloud computing offerings tailored for the legal profession…”

Any queries?

If you’d like more information on any of this, I, or any of my colleagues at LawCloud, would be happy to discuss. Call us on 0845 2020 577 or find us on Twitter or our new open group on Linkedin, “Cloud for Lawyers”.

Best wishes
Gavin Ward”

LawCloud: Cloud for Lawyers UK