Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Is the Cloud Ready for Legal? | @CloudExpo #Cloud

If done wisely, moving to the cloud can actually be very easy for law firms

Cloud applications are well established for many activities such as CRM, HR, and billing. With the cloud paradigm proven for so many enterprise tasks, the question of cloud vs. on-premises seems like yesterday's - or even last year's - debate. But is the cloud ready to handle the unique requirements of legal work? The answer is yes, with a caveat. The cloud is ready for legal, but a legal firm must ensure its cloud vendor, cloud applications and internal processes for dealing with the vendor and applications are all in line with legal industry best practices.

According to research conducted by Hyperion Global Partners, the cloud is the third-ranked functional capability valued by legal firms. This is not surprising given the need to manage huge amounts of content across the enterprise, the desire to share this information with vendors and partners beyond the firewall, and the fact that user-created workarounds for managing and sharing content rapidly introduce points of risk into legal firms. Still, firms contemplating a move to the cloud must fully understand where and how the cloud can fit into the scope of all their legal processes. The nature of legal work is changing. Document management has evolved through matter-centric collaboration to become what is now called work product management. Today's mobile, tech-savvy new professionals expect access to their work product from anywhere, on a variety of devices. New forms of communication including text, social media, photographs of whiteboard notes, and documents scanned with mobile devices are now considered standard business practice.

These capabilities clearly require a cloud solution, but when it comes to the legal industry, the cloud presents a number of challenges. The first is a generally misplaced concern about security. With the regular success of data breaches that use phishing attacks to trick employees into compromising their networks, it's no wonder that the legal industry may be hesitant to adopt a technology that some may mistakenly see as further opening the door to cyberattacks. Within the legal industry, Hyperion notes that "privacy concerns and fears of compliance risk continue to keep the migration of sensitive or potentially sensitive information toward external servers limited." An American Bar Association (ABA) study recently reported that 15 percent of respondents acknowledged that as of 2015 their firms had experienced a security breach - a slight increase over previous years - while 23 percent admitted they did not even know if their firms had experience such a breach.

This general security concern is certainly taking a toll. Notably, 12 percent of respondents to the ABA survey reported having a client request a security audit or verification of the firm's security practices. An amazing seven sessions at last year's LegalTech New York on cyber security reflect a prevailing fear of attacks. As a result a "herd mentality" may be preventing cloud adoption in the legal industry - despite the disconnect between the common targets and methods of successful breaches and increasingly secure cloud services. Writes Michael Kemps in Legaltech News, "Firms seek assurances that other (often competitive) law firms, colleagues and industries have vetted and validated the options.... Law firms - for the most part - want to follow, not lead and let others make the missteps before they invest in something new." This is especially true of small and mid-sized firms that typically follow the lead of larger firms.

In addition to this general industry resistance, a cloud solution for work product management must address important legal requirements around stewardship and security over client information, stability of service to handle mission-critical activities, very large file sizes, and integration with other systems and applications. A cloud solution must also satisfy the needs of new legal professionals, who want more control over their hosting environment, including secure access to critical information anytime and anywhere, with seamless transitions between cloud and on-premises systems.

Innovative technology solutions are emerging that address these concerns. A key tactic that is gaining popularity in the legal industry is a hybrid approach to the cloud. A hybrid cloud architecture offers full functionality both online and offline, giving professionals the ability to seamlessly work from any location, even when Internet connectivity is nonexistent. Leading firms that have adopted hybrid cloud strategies report significant improvement in attorney productivity and governance with lower hardware and software costs.

In addition, the tide may actually be turning when it comes to legal firms using the cloud. Small and midsized firms, under constant competitive pressure, have started deploying cloud infrastructures and software as a service (SaaS) solutions.

For example, mid-sized Pryor Cashman LLP found that only about 40 percent of its attorneys ever used an on-premises content management system because it lacked the features and user experience they required. When the firm moved to a cloud-based system, however, it found that the implementation cost was over 50 percent lower than the cost of deploying an on-premises system and that the system could be delivered in less than six weeks. Most important, by providing the features and user experience their attorneys required, the firm significantly increased the number of lawyers actually using it for collaboration and document retention.

Similarly, Denver-based Hall & Evans began its cloud journey with a Microsoft Office 365 initiative, and this led to broader adoption of cloud services, including a 100 percent cloud-based content management system that offered extensive functionality. The firm has since reported reduced hardware and software costs, increases in productivity and user adoption, better email filing, and enhanced sharing among attorneys and practice groups.

As such successful use cases become well known, the adoption of cloud-based content management systems by law firms of all sizes is likely to accelerate.

Foundational Elements of Cloud Solutions for Legal
In this context, for law firms' IT departments, the discussion in 2016 shouldn't be whether or not to use the cloud, but how to best use it based on the firm's specific situation and needs, and what kind of cloud architecture, features, and deployment options make the most sense. As firms assess new technology, four foundational elements should be considered. A cloud strategy for legal should be based on security, functionality, performance, and availability.

Security
Law firms and their clients want to be certain that cloud vendors maintain the latest security standards for confidentiality and privacy. As such, data centers should be certified to the latest information security standards including ISO 27001 and SSAE16 SOC Type 2. Customer data should be encrypted in transit and also encrypted at rest in data centers. There should be no co-mingling of customer data. This can be ensured using virtual machines and segregated virtual private cloud systems.

Functionality
A hybrid approach offers full functionality and scalable, reliable performance both online and offline. This gives professionals the ability to seamlessly work from any location. Users should have a choice of a tightly integrated desktop or mobile client that can function with or without Internet connectivity. Server and client applications should integrate with key technologies that provide users with email and content production applications such as Microsoft Office 365.

Performance
Legal professionals need un-throttled connectivity for uploads and downloads of large document files that may exceed 2GB each. Data centers should have the processing power to handle billions of documents. For optimum performance, modern data centers utilize solid-state drives for rapid search, responding quickly to user actions, and caching file input/output. Wide bandwidth firewalls and VPNs can help provide the level of performance new professionals demand. To minimize latency, data centers can be located near the largest user communities.

Availability
To ensure high availability, hardware may be architected with a highly redundant design. An optimum disaster recovery site uses identical hardware with the same CPU and solid state drives as primary sites. Modern solutions also use virtual machine replication to the secondary data center for rapid disaster recovery. Disaster recovery plans should be tested regularly. If vendors deploy a virtual private cloud for each customer, failure of a component for one customer won't impact other customers.

The Future Is Within Reach
If technology vendors are attentive to today's users, they can engineer cloud solutions that are ready to handle the unique requirements of the legal industry and the demands of new professionals. Law firms and legal departments contemplating a move to the cloud should consider these questions as they evaluate technology:

  • Does it work anywhere?
  • Does it work the way professionals do?
  • Does it provide control over content location, maintenance, and upgrades?
  • Is it secure and resilient?
  • Does it map to the regulatory environment?
  • Does it have a proven track record in satisfying attorneys and staff?

If done wisely, moving to the cloud can actually be very easy for law firms - with minimal changes but with a significant impact.

More Stories By Alan Turner

Alan Turner is director of product management at iManage, a global leader in professional work product management. He has over 28 years of experience in product development and product strategy for complex software products and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
CloudEXPO New York 2018, colocated with DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named "Media Sponsor" of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.