For many law firms across the U.S., transitioning data from an on-premise to a cloud platform is high on the agenda. This isn’t a fringe movement: the legal industry is currently in the middle of an internal debate on how to move client and office data to the cloud in the most secure, efficient way possible. The benefits and pitfalls aren’t always clear – even to industry insiders.
“I frequently come across firms that want to move to the cloud because they’re convinced that it’s cheaper than an on-premise solution,” says Marco Maggio, Director of the U.S. Legal Practice at All Covered, IT Services from Konica Minolta. “It’s not always the case.”
So what should you consider, if you’re thinking about the Cloud and its possible benefits to your law firm’s operations? Let’s start with cost.
Is the Cloud always cheaper?
It can be, depending on the situation.
“A common concern among lawyers is that too great a share of each dollar earned is being spent on and in support of the firm’s technology infrastructure,” writes Ellen Freedman, Law Practice Manager of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “In addition, for small and solo firms, too much otherwise billable time is being diverted to the care and feeding of the firm’s technology.”
Cloud solutions address this problem by eliminating some of the more egregious costs of maintaining technology when certain conditions are met.
“It all depends on your current and desired future models. If your server hardware is coterminous and coming up for a refresh, it may be a good time to consider your options,” Maggio explains. “If you just upgraded your server infrastructure, and your technology is enabling the firm and working in the current model, you may want to evaluate simply backing up your data offsite.”
To get a clearer picture, Maggio recommends consulting an outside vendor to “help evaluate the total cost of ownership or your total cost of consumption.”
Other Stakeholders – Clients and the Government – Have Their Say
The law is not consistently clear on law firms’ obligations and responsibilities for using cloud storage providers. About a dozen state bar associations have issued opinions on the ethical considerations of storing data in the Cloud, including those of California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington.
“The opinions universally adopt ‘reasonable care’ as the standard for attorneys looking to store their data in the cloud,” writes Ashley Hallene for the American Bar Association. “Unfortunately, you will be hard pressed to find concrete guidelines of what constitutes reasonable care. It is understandably difficult, given the rapidly changing nature of technology.”
Your clients may also have other ideas about putting their sensitive data in the Cloud.
“Have your clients placed any requirements on your firm in regard to where the data is physically stored?” Maggio often asks customers. “It may be worthwhile to have a discussion with your clients early on in the process. Especially if they’re placing any restrictions on your firm and their data due to the fear of diminished security once data leaves the walls.”
Migrating Some – not all – of Your Data
Every law firm has its own individual requirements. Depending on cost, logistics and regulatory restrictions, your movement to the cloud can be customized to your firm’s needs.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” explains Maggio. “Most suitable cloud partners have hybrid and private options that you can leverage.”
A comprehensive migration plan can draw a road map for your company through the cloud adoption process.
Maggio explains what such a plan might involve: “Consider information governance, and data security at each step of your process. Determine if you can replicate your entire environment, or if you simply want to migrate specific applications. And migration plans should be very customized to meet the needs of your firm and again, your clients.”
With so much depending on a the law firm and its specific needs, Maggio believes that firms should consider the cloud at all angles before making their move.
“It takes some careful planning, expectations setting, and education for your end users that All Covered can help you with as soon as you’re ready,” he explains.
To reach Marco Maggio or an All Covered legal IT services consultant near you, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-446-1133.