You run a busy law firm. In addition to managing clients, cases, employees, documents, and deadlines… you also have to manage your law firm.
The latter alone could be a full-time job: from the business to the administrative aspects of managing a law firm. It’s a lot to keep your arms around.
And then there’s managing the IT and technology for your firm. Technology can either be a significant competitive edge for your law firm… or a productivity-killing liability to your firm. It depends on how it’s managed and what technology decisions you ultimately make.
As a leader within a law firm, whether you’re a managing partner, the business administrator, or the law firm admin, you are in charge of keeping everything together. This includes technology. It’s the obligation of every law firm leader to have at least a basic understanding of technology, especially as it pertains to the firm’s needs and challenges.
Which brings me to the world of the cloud.
Perhaps you’re already well-versed in cloud computing, and how it can be leveraged by law firms. Maybe you’re using some cloud-based services now. Maybe you’re considering moving more aspects of your law practice to the cloud.
But maybe you still have some reservations about going all-in on cloud computing.
Perhaps you’re worried about cybersecurity. Or maybe you’re worried about a perceived lack of control in the cloud. Or, maybe it’s simply the fear of the unknown that keeps you up at night. (After all, you don’t know what you don’t know!)
In my role here at Uptime Legal Systems, I work with a lot of law firms, big and small, all of which have their own reasons for moving to the cloud.
So, in this article, I’ll share and explore the main reasons law firms, like yours, move to a private cloud, and the reasons that, in all likelihood, your firm should probably move to a private cloud.
Let’s get started.
Why Your Law Firm Should (Probably) Move to a Private Cloud
1. You’re Tired of Dealing with Servers & IT Headaches.
They don’t teach you how to manage IT in law school. Yet, your firm needs an IT infrastructure that keeps your firm up and running and productive.
Server downtime or issues hinder your firm’s ability to get work done for clients and bill. So, you will need the right infrastructure, tools, and software to run a productive law practice.
All of this translates to the need for procuring a server, the foundation of your IT platform. And that server requires a lot of maintenance, both proactive (to keep it up and running) and reactive (fixing things when they break). You’ll need to manage the server’s proactive maintenance.
And virus protection.
And the operating system.
And… the list goes on.
Being that you presumably have better things to do, you’ll need to retain an IT consultant to proactively maintain your server infrastructure as well as reactively address problems after-the-fact.
Despite all of your best efforts and resources spent, there will still be IT problems. Systems that go down. Software that’s not compatible. Printers or scanners that don’t work. User’s that run into snags and roadblocks.
And even your otherwise-capable IT consultant is likely not an expert in the legal software that your firm uses, be it practice management software, billing software or document management software.
The solution: A Private Cloud.
A law firm private cloud eliminates all of these problems. With the right private cloud solution, you’ll never need to buy, manage, maintain, or replace servers again. Most robust legal applications require a server (in one form or fashion), and in this case, the private cloud is the server and includes all necessary server maintenance, monitoring, backups, and protection.
Add to that, with a legal-centric private cloud, the support team will also provide support on your chosen legal software (such as Time Matters, PCLaw, Tabs3, Needles, QuickBooks, or Timeslips). Now, all of your firm’s technology—from server hardware to case management software—is hosted and supported by a single, central team.
Related: “Private Cloud—A Primer for Law Firms”
2. You Need the Ability to Work Anytime, Anywhere (on Any Device)
Being tied down to a single desktop or laptop is a significant problem for today’s modern law firm. When your law firm technology is based around an on-premise server, all of your firm’s software applications, documents, and data resides on the server, which usually means you can only access it from the office. (Yes, there are remote log-in tools out there that let you access your work computer from another, offsite computer… but these are usually clunky and slow).
With a private cloud, you can work anytime, anywhere, on any device. All of your firm’s software applications (including case management, time/billing/accounting, and productivity software) are installed on the private cloud, and everyone in your law firm logs into and works with your applications/documents/data from within a virtual desktop.
Every employee in your firm logs into their own, personalized virtual desktop (and can do so from anywhere, on any device). Within this virtual desktop, they’ll find the software they use, their documents, their Outlook/email—everything they need to do their job.
Related: “Virtual Desktops for Law Firms”
3. You’re Concerned About the Security of Your Data (and Your Clients’ Data)
And you should be.
You can barely open a news site today without learning about some new cybersecurity breach. And, law firms are prime targets for hackers and other cyber-criminals. (Don’t fool yourself that your law firm is small and therefore uninteresting to a hacker). Law firms guard their clients’ confidential information—everything from business trade secrets to finances and personal details. Yet, many businesses have strong security measures. Not so for these businesses’ law firms. Because of their security vulnerabilities, law firms have been called the “soft underbelly of American cybersecurity.”
Sometimes, when I’m talking with a law firm that is considering the cloud, they’ll tell me that they believe (for no particular reason) that their data may be more secure by keeping it on-premise, on a server in their office. They share with me, on occasion, that they feel moving their data to the cloud might make their data more susceptible to hackers or other security breaches.
Thankfully, this misconception is becoming less prevalent, and more and more law firms are realizing that keeping a server on-premise doesn’t keep their data more secure (in fact, just the opposite).
The truth is that if a) you have a server and b) have internet connectivity in the same office, your firm and data are already on the cloud.
Your server, and the data within it, are connected to the internet and just as accessible to hackers and other internet perpetrators as a law firm cloud platform or hosted service. The only difference is, how secure is that network, and who’s in charge of maintaining that security?
“But I have a firewall!” you may argue. “My IT guy set it up, and he’s super smart!”
That’s better than nothing, for certain. But a private cloud made for law firms will be built from the ground up with security in mind. A legal-centric private cloud company is in the business of one thing—building and managing the most secure network possible. And, they’ll have the resources and the drive to maintain security that a law firm just won’t, being that a law firm is fundamentally not in the business of IT and cybersecurity.
A capable private cloud vendor will have, at a minimum:
- Enterprise-grade firewalls
- Real-time intrusion detection/Prevention technology
- 24/7/365 security monitoring (hack attempts, failed logins)
- Military-grade encryption
- Support for 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication)
- Strict password and access policy enforcement (NIST standards)
- Server and client (desktop) endpoint security
- Data center physical access controls
- SSAE16/SOC annual audits
Related: “The Law Firm Cybersecurity Survival Guide”
4. You’re Tired of Disjointed Technology
Managing the technology of a small law firm with a single location is fairly straightforward.
But, once you add that second office or a few remote employees, things get complicated and clunky.
If your law firm has an on-premise server (and that’s where your critical applications and data live), giving any outside employees (including a satellite office) the same level of access to the same systems and documents that your “main” office has can be very difficult.
Expanding into a second city? Acquire or merge with another law office? Get ready for things to get considerably more difficult.
Perhaps you’ve already tried to deal with this. Maybe you’ve implemented LogMeIn or GoToMyPC. Or maybe your IT consultant has set up a VPN between your multiple offices. With all of these “solutions,” the problems are often the same.
The main office has a relatively smooth, responsive working environment. But, any satellite offices or remote employees have a very different experience. They may have a slow remote-access tool that makes working a nightmare. Or, they may simply not have access to all the same tools, software, and databases that your main office has.
Or, even worse—your law firm has two offices, and each has their own local server. This not only means twice the IT to manage (and twice the cost and headaches) but a disjointed system that functions more like two separate law firms, as opposed to one cohesive organization.
The solution? You guessed it. A private cloud.
With a private cloud, all of your law firm’s technology (software, documents, email, and other data) becomes centralized. Everything lives in one single, central platform. Everyone in your firm, regardless of location, logs into the same system, has the same access to the same tools, and enjoys the same working experience.
A private cloud brings your firm from disjointed to centralized.
5. You’re Already in a Cloud—but a Bad One
Perhaps you’ve already come to these realizations on your own. Maybe you’ve already ditched your last server and made the leap to a private cloud. But, maybe, this didn’t go well.
Another law firm technology reality is that not all clouds are created equal.
As cloud-based solutions are being more and more mainstream, more companies are looking to cash in (or stay relevant) and throw together their own “private cloud” offering.
I’ve seen software companies, local IT companies, even telecom companies throw their hat in the ring and declare, “We do the cloud too!”
But, cloud hosting isn’t for amateurs. It’s taken us nearly a decade to perfect ours. Many other cloud services providers:
- Aren’t exclusively focused on serving law firms
- Lack expertise in hosting and supporting your firm’s legal software
- Aren’t well-known or well-regarded in the legal and technology communities (read: avoid fly-by-night companies)
- May store or back up your data outside of the US, creating data sovereignty issues
- Simply resell another big, “public cloud” service (like Amazon or Azure), which seriously limits their ability to support or control the environment
- Don’t provide IT support beyond their own cloud platform (what about your computers, printers, scanners—and the rest of your network?)
- Cut corners on the help desk and support staff (in an effort to offer discount-pricing)
- Require long-term contracts
The takeaway: If this article has motivated you to explore a private cloud for your law firm, great!
But, be sure to do your homework and your due diligence when evaluating providers.
Related: “25 Things to Ask Your Legal Private Cloud Provider”
Learn More About Private Cloud for Law Firms
We’ve covered five reasons why your law firm should probably move to a private cloud. But, there are more!
And, there are many factors to consider when evaluating if you should, and how to move to a private cloud. What legal software does your firm use? How much data do you have? How many locations do you have?
I encourage you to reach out and contact us to explore and evaluate the cloud for your practice.
Click here to learn more about Uptime Practice, our private cloud built exclusively for law firms.
Or contact us to talk to an Uptime Legal practice advisor today.
Whatever direction you chart, I wish you the best of luck.
Onward and Upward!