How Legal is Embracing the Cloud
How Legal is Embracing the Cloud
Recorded on March 30, 2017 @ 3:00 p.m. MST with Jared Correia
Attorney and Law Practice Advisor Jared Correia discusses the use of cloud technology in the legal arena. He explains why more legal professionals are embracing cloud–based software — the pros and cons, the cost savings, how vendors (like process servers) are impacted, and the efficiencies that are created.
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal–facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional, and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications like the Lawyerist, and he is the host of the podcast "The Legal Toolkit" which is produced by Legal Talk Network.
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Resources and Summary
The technology changes in legal in the past ten years have been striking. There are people now using Macintosh computers, people who are willing to use cloud software, and even people going paperless.
What is “The Cloud” and How Do Legal Professionals Use It?
Many process servers, private investigators, lawyers, and other legal professionals are hesitant to use the cloud, but are often doing so already. If you use Gmail for sending emails or send documents using Dropbox, you are already in the cloud. So what is it?
If you have a server in your office, you host all of your data locally, but if you use cloud services, you are simply renting space on someone else’s server. So using the renter versus owner metaphor, if you own your own server, you have to continue to update it and fix things as they break. But when you rent (or use the cloud) that is taken care of by others.
There are two online services regularly being used by small and large businesses, SaaS and DaaS.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?
SaaS is software that lives online, but which you access from your computer (think ServeManager if you use it). You use the software on a subscription basis and you don’t need to download it to your desktop in order to use it; you only need an internet connection. SaaS products are updated and managed by the vendors.
Note: You may need to download an app to use SaaSs products on your mobile devices.
What is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?
Still a cloud service, DaaS is an entire desktop hosted by the provider. This means you only need the hardware and an internet connection to access it. There are no physical applications on your computer and you can access everything with a single login.
Advantages of the Cloud: Flexibility and Mobility
Device Agnostic: Using an internet based software allows you to be device agnostic. You can access your information via tablet, smartphone, laptop, desktop, or any other device that comes along.
Work Wherever You’re Online: You can work on the road, on vacation, or anywhere your devices can be online. You don’t have to take time off to pick your kids up from school.
Software Integrations: Cloud-based softwares can integrate with each other. Using a program called Zapier, process servers can use the cloud-based ServeManager with law practice management softwares and forms can be autocompleted for clients. This is just one example of the vast uses of software integrations.
Online Processes, Workflows: A lot of small businesses have problems with things that are being done by assistant staff in bigger businesses. With cloud-based software, it’s easier to use online products to do what used to be done by a person. You can use this software to communicate with and follow up on projects with the people you work with.
eCommerce: People taking payment online get 30% more money actually paid to them. Getting paid upfront with Electronic Payment Processing is a game changer for small businesses. Using the cloud, it’s so much easier and faster to get paid, that once you start doing it you’ll never go back.
Advantages of the Cloud: Data Management
Archive: Using a cloud-based system allows you to archive everything in one place and access it as necessary. You can gather all the client information you need right when they call you!
Redundancy: Sync cloud databases and backup your archives. If there happens to be a disaster that affects your practice, you have a backup of your information.
Relational Databases: Navigate your structured information easily.
Collaboration: Delegate your work appropriately and have yourself doing the high-level work. Share information with your clients and co-workers.
Security: Security is built into the cloud-based software. When you have access to secure client information including social security numbers, addresses, payment info, etc., encryption and other security measures are legally required. Many SaaS programs are already encrypting all of this info and contain secure client portals.
Advantages of the Cloud: Access Control
Keep these access security best practices in mind when using cloud-based software to ensure your information is as safe as possible.
Passwords: Having secure, strong passwords is incredibly important for your digital security.
Multiple Factors of Authentication: Anyone who hacks your information will need a separate form of authentication (text or call to your personal number).
User Controls: If you lose your device (think smartphone or laptop), make sure it is password protected, the password is encrypted, and be able to remotely wipe your info.
Access Controls: Everyone who signs into your account has their own unique login and password. Certain people need to be screened or given less access to certain things. You basically get to choose who can see what within your system.
Third Party Portals: If you’re using the right software, it can become a hub for anyone who wants to use it.
Advantages of the Cloud: Usability
Modern Interface: The interface in softwares now is much easier to use than 30, 20, even 10 years ago. New UXs save everyone time and people are using on average 40% of their software.
Ease of Sharing: Customize your cloud-based software using Zapier to add the applications you want. By customizing your own software it’s way cheaper than hiring an expert and it’s simple enough for the layperson to learn.
Automated, Automatic Updates: Cloud-based vendors are more sensitive to client needs because their clients are on monthly or yearly subscriptions. Updates are automated and more likely to happen. When people pay a monthly fee, there’s more incentive for the software creators to deliver bug fixes, feature requests, and more.
Robust Support Options: There are more channels to access support. Most software has knowledge bases and you can call, instant message, or email with customer service.
Advantages of the Cloud: Cost Savings
Efficiency: Get more work done faster with the software and mobile opportunities available to you.
Effective Delegation: Delegate and automate your simple business tasks and focus on doing more high-level work.
Reduction in Hardware: You only need a computer, not complicated and expensive servers on-site. You don’t have to pay an IT employee to maintain anything.
Subscription Pricing: You pay on a monthly or annual basis for most cloud-based software. When you can pull the plug at any time, the vendors are motivated to make updates and efficiency improvements on a monthly basis.
Data Storage: You don’t have to store paper which can alone cut costs at a significant portion.
The Cloud In Legal: Is Its Use Within The Rules? (Spoiler Alert: Yes!)
State Laws: There are state laws respecting data protection and privacy. The trick is to encrypt sensitive data.
Ethics Rules: About thirty states’ Bar associations have put ethics opinions in place about cloud-based programs.
Ethics Opinions: The topic of secure technology is appearing in ethics opinions. The fact that lawyers have adopted the cloud is a big deal.
If lawyers are comfortable with it, process servers should be too!
Is the Software Safe? Yes. Why?
- Ability to add strong passwords.
- The software is encrypted online. (Note: ensure the specific cloud-based program you use does implement encryption practices).
- Add second-factor authentication.
- Data backup in case something happens.
Additional Things You Can Do To Make The Cloud Safer:
Pre-encryption: In addition to uploading information that is then encrypted, you can also use something like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat to apply encryption before you put the information online. There are other encryption tools that make this process even easier but you need to weigh the balance between security and convenience.
Avoid Email: Not everyone uses the same email system so emails can sometimes go through fifteen different servers. Using the right cloud based tools can help you have internal communications within the office. Programs like Slack are an invite-only private messaging system. Using client portals, you don’t have to figure out how to use encryption.