Helpful Cloud Computing Tools for Lawyers

Guest post outlining helpful cloud computing tools for lawyers (mainly for US law firms). For our own cloud services for law firms and for advice on legal IT for UK law firms, please visit our main website at www.lawcloud.co.uk

The continued popularity and usage of Cloud computing, especially in the paralegal industry, has led to the development of a number of reliable Cloud computing tools. These applications and software assist many lawyers in delivering exceptional service to their clientele.

Many legal firms have adopted Cloud computing technologies to power their businesses. In fact, in the 16th annual survey of The American Lawyer, the online news portal revealed that 65 percent of the 82 law firms surveyed said they use Cloud computing, and 77 percent of those who use the technology say they had a positive experience. LawCloud, a leading case management software development company, proudly supports and uses this technology to host their growing number of clients. As of June 2012, they host 83 law firms on their Cloud platform and the number is growing by the week.

This immense growth creates a great need to manage the Cloud. In this article, we will feature the best and most commonly used tools to help you make the most of your Cloud computing technology.

  1. Skype

Lawyers need to be available for their clients 24-hour a day. All firms will benefit from cutting their phone bills, so Skype is ideal your current plan for reducing outgoings is by getting a SIM only deal and controlling your phone usage. Skype allows you to call, send instant messages, video-conference, and share files with your colleagues and clients all for free. You can also download Skype on your Smartphone. For an additional fee, you can add a Skype online number which will allow you to receive calls and to call non-Skype phone numbers.

  1. LawBox

For busy attorneys on the go, having LawBox on your mobile device will be a handy tool. This mobile application offers you legal references including the United States Constitution, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 28 U.S.C – Judiciary and Judicial Procedure and more. Consider it your built-in legal library. You can browse, read and download these state and federal codes while doing your comprehensive research. Additional 2012 codes were added to the app such as complete statute sets for states of California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona.

  1. PocketJustice

Your in-depth study wouldn’t be complete without examples. If you’re away from your computer and need to review past cases, including the US Supreme Court decisions, PocketJustice is a helpful mobile app. Developed by OYEZ Inc., this award-winning app features case summaries for your to both case summaries for you to both stream or download, access to audio transcripts of cases, and live searching for a faster case summary results. The new version now comes with the updated list of cases from 2012.

  1. CloudStack

To manage your cloud computing technology, CloudStack is a very reliable open source software. It creates, manages, and deploys infrastructure cloud services. Users can easily manage their Cloud services with its user-friendly web interface and fully featured API that is compatible with S3 and Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 for firms that want to deploy hybrid clouds.

  1. eFax

Important documents, especially those that have signatures, are only accepted through fax. If you don’t want to purchase an expensive fax machine, why not use eFax. This software allows you to receive fast fax messages online. With eFax, you can receive fax documents straight to your email. It has three key features: a vast inventory of fax phone numbers, efficient internet faxing and voicemail, and secured communications network. The software is free for a 30-day trial.

With reliability and convenience, Cloud computing has become the best way for new and established law firms to act smart and to make better use of technology. To jumpstart your newly establish firm or cut down on some company expenses, the tools presented above are an economical and efficient way of managing your Cloud.

About the Author

Reese Jones is a tech and gadget lover, a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture recently and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news from the likes of O2, to tech-related DIY.

Find more about her and her work at Reese+ and tweet her @r_am_jones.

Meeting of Minds – Law Society Cloud Event

There’s nothing better than marking real change with a landmark occasion to pinpoint that moment when a new innovation comes along that changes the way we do things and on Wednesday 9th November 2011, The Law Society of Scotland hosted such an event at The Hollyrood Hotel in Edinburgh focusing on the Cloud Computing for law firms in Scotland.

The event was intended to be informative and to stimulate awareness of Cloud and around the Law Society of Scotland’s soon to be released Cloud Computing paper, a set of advisory notes for the profession and which is currently in draft form.

The event really was a meeting of minds and with over 80 delegates attending from wide ranging backgrounds (almost a third of the delegates were IT technical experts in their fields advocating Cloud), the balance of lawyers in the room had real wealth of expertise to draw from.

Paul Motion, bto & John Craske, D&W opened the event by setting the scene and attempting to define and demystify exactly what the Cloud is and what it means for lawyers in Scotland. This proved to be a challenge and it was clear that fixing a single definition proved too limiting for such an expansive and developing subject area. Craske went on to conclude that Cloud is a trend and a move from self-ownership and management of own systems, to subscribing to a set of services supplied and maintained by experts in that field. He compared this to the historical move from cottage industries to scalable services from national corporations such as the move from generating your own electricity as was not uncommon, to plugging into the national grid. Examples of current systems in the legal sector were presented and exhibitors including LawCloud had stalls set out alongside the event.

The Law Society’s own Neil Stevenson followed with an enthusiastically presentation on the main key benefits of Cloud focusing on opportunity, innovation and the future. This was followed by a more technical presentation from Iain Stevenson who presented a thought provoking variety of concerns, unintended consequences and risks surrounding the Cloud. Iain went on to quote Larry Ellison from Oracle, who in the early days stated that Cloud was the latest fashion trend and even more fashionable than women’s fashion, however, he soon “Cloudified” his own systems when the seriousness of Cloud was fully appreciated and this is now a pinnacle of his business.

A series of round table case study based participant workshops followed the morning speakers with a facilitators from technology, legal and risk backgrounds stimulated interesting discussions surrounding the legal cloud environment.

All in all, the event was informative and engaging and there was a real energy about the place. For a conservative profession, the willingness to embrace this new form of technology experience was refreshing.

The penny seems to be dropping that access to sophisticated systems needn’t involve ownership any more nor be as expensive or daunting as it used to be when. When management is delegated and compliance assurances are guaranteed by a responsible service provider, risks are minimised.

Cloud represents one of the newest turning points in the never ending mission of technology, to facilitate change and improvements in the way that we work, communicate, live and play and to me, that means happy days.

The Law Society’s guidelines are a welcomed piece of collateral for the profession at a time when guidelines are well needed and I look forward to working alongside these advisory notes to offer the comfort that practitioners need in order to make the most of emerging innovations and trusted technologies…

It is anticipated that The Law Society’s advice will be focused around a number of key areas including

  • Understanding arrangements with Cloud providers such as  SLA’s
    • System availability, accessibility, licensing
    • Provisions for your Data
      • How safe it is, where is it stored, who owns it
      • Compliance & assurances
        • Are you unknowingly breaching any laws such as data protection
        • What can go wrong and what happens if things do go wrong

Microsoft Features LawCloud as Case Study

We are pleased to announce that Microsoft has recently featured LawCloud as a case study. Demonstrating how LawCloud has grown by adopting Microsoft’s Cloud services, Microsoft has shared this case study not only with its UK operations, but also around the world in countries such as Canada and India.

In their article, “Law Software Firm in Scotland Grows by 20 Per Cent with New Cloud Service”, Microsoft describes how LawCloud was launched as a cloud-based practice-management solution for law firms looking to avoid the significant running costs of IT or lack the resources to develop their own infrastructures. As they note,

By choosing Microsoft Office 365 and Hyper-V technology, LawWare successfully developed LawCloud with help from hosting service provider Rise. Since LawCloud went live, the organisation has grown by 20 per cent as more customers adopt the service.

Business Needs

LawWare, based in Edinburgh, is a leading developer of software for the legal profession. Founded in 1995, the company provides practice-management software for more than 20 per cent of law firms in Scotland. LawWare has achieved success by designing software for a range of firms, from sole practitioners to medium-sized firms, and continues to create new solutions with its own internal team of developers.

Traditionally, LawWare implemented its practice-management software at customer sites, also providing a team to help maintain the systems. However, the company saw that small law firms often lacked the IT infrastructure to support software systems, and found the cost of new technology prohibitive—particularly in the current economic climate. It believed the answer lay in using the legal community’s familiarity with cloud technology to deliver the software as a hosted system.

LawWare looked for a cloud solution and hosting provider it could trust. It was crucial that law firms had peace of mind concerning the security of their confidential information and continual access to their data. Only when they felt certain that their information was protected would they take advantage of the management simplicity and cost effectiveness of a cloud-based solution.
Solution

LawWare evaluated a number of cloud technologies on the market. It looked for a system based on Microsoft software because of the success of its existing on-premises solution, which featured Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Office 2010. The company decided to build its service with the support of Microsoft Office 365, which would provide customers with Exchange Online for email and shared calendars and SharePoint Online as a collaboration tool.

LawWare asked Rise, an expert in hosted IT infrastructures, to create a highly reliable platform to support the new service. Warren Wander, Managing Director at LawWare, says: “Once I started talking to the people at Rise, I found their expertise, friendliness, and willingness to help to be a really good match for my business.” Rise provided LawWare with its Data Center on Demand solution, which is based on Hyper-V technology, a key feature of Windows Server 2008 R2. The solution gives LawWare a resilient environment and round-the-clock support. Furthermore, because Rise datacentres are based in the United Kingdom (U.K.), LawWare complies with data protection laws.

LawWare ran trials of its LawCloud offering for nine months before officially launching the service. By the time it went to market, 25 law firms were already using the cloud platform. LawCloud customers—which access the solution for a fixed monthly fee—can reach their data from multiple locations, including the office, home, or court buildings. For daily management, IT personnel at LawWare use a web-based control panel for completing a range of tasks such as increasing server capacity to meet demand. Because Hyper-V is at the core of the Data Center on Demand solution from Rise, LawWare can reliably deliver the LawCloud service. Indeed, thanks to the hypervisor technology’s Live Migration, Host Clustering, and Cluster Shared Volume features, availability is maximised.

Benefits

Since the launch of LawCloud, LawWare has seen 20 per cent growth. Wander says: “Customers find the low monthly price an attractive alternative to the high upfront cost of servers and software licences.” The service is helping LawWare open new markets and compete with larger practice-management software suppliers across the U.K. LawCloud customers know that their data is secure and highly available thanks to reliable disaster recovery.

LawWare grows by 20 per cent with LawCloud. Thanks to the cloud solution, LawWare is expanding at a time when many law firms find it harder to develop their own IT systems. In addition, the company expects the rate of growth to increase when it launches LawCloud across the U.K.

Firm can now compete with larger businesses. Wander says: “Rise has helped us compete effectively with other firms in the market. We expect to double our online users from 60 to 120 in a matter of months.”

Customers have peace of mind. With Hyper-V virtualisation technology, LawCloud customers know that robust disaster recovery will rapidly restore data in the event of an emergency.

LawCloud simplifies IT for customers. Instead of spending resources on planning for IT, LawCloud customers pay a monthly fee to cover all its IT needs. Wander says: “Now customers have a single point of contact at LawCloud, making the system easier to maintain and more cost effective.”

New solution exceeds customer expectations. Feedback from customers on LawCloud has been excellent. “The cloud service and working with Rise has changed us as a business,” says Wander. “It has brought us a new lease of life and made us more agile and responsive.”

For further information about how LawCloud is helping to improve legal practices across the UK, visit LawCloud’s website or contact LawCloud on 0845 2020 577 today.

LawCloud’s data centre partner is named global Microsoft Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year.


We are delighted to announce that today, Rise, LawCloud’s Data Centre Partner has been named as Microsoft’s global Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year for 2011. This acknowledges Rise as the partner of choice for demonstrating Cloud solutions, innovation and our commitment to partnering with Microsoft.

Our selection criteria for hosting LawCloud was stringent and an absolutely essential choice for the future of LawCloud. This award confirms that our choice of hosting partner was absolutely correct.
Beating strong competition from over 3000 entrants, Rises’ revolutionary DataCenter on Demand service has been recognized for providing outstanding solutions and services to the partner community.

This award is a testament to our alliance with Microsoft and Rise and we are proud to be officially recognized on the global stage as working with Microsoft’s Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year. This award reflects Rise’s commitment to its partners and their customers by offering them the most flexible, affordable and manageable platform possible, and we are delighted to reinforce that through this acknowledgment.

Get more LawCloud News here, find out more about Rise here

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