By Andy Kundin, Director of Pre-Sales at LEAP Legal Software US, winner of the Best SaaS Product for Law and Legal Services at The SaaS Awards 2022
When people picture a law firm, they often imagine a dimly lit office with manila folders, loose papers stuck in between, and dozens of file cabinets lining every space. In the background, there may be the hum of a server to support the software systems the firm is using. This is still the case for many firms that have not yet switched from their legacy on-premises software programs. However, over the past several years, legal cloud technology has revolutionized how law firms across all areas of law and jurisdictions manage their operations. Early adopters of legal cloud software are already reaping the benefits of increased productivity, efficiency, profitability, and client satisfaction.
In this article, we will discuss how cloud software is revolutionizing the way the legal industry does business and what this means for law firms moving forward.
What is the Cloud?
Let’s start by defining what cloud technology means. Simply put, the “cloud” is where information is stored online and can be public, private, or hybrid. While this might seem like a very abstract definition, most people see the cloud in use every day without even realizing it. A few examples of the cloud in practice include streaming music and movies, online shopping and banking, email, social media, and many other functions that have become part of everyday life. With these few use cases alone, it’s clear that the cloud is critical to improving how things get done.
So, how does this differ from the on-premises software programs that some law firms are using today? On-premises systems need to be implemented locally on a law firm’s servers and computers. This means that the firm now takes on the cost to store, manage, and protect the equipment, pay for any replacements or updates, bring on additional IT staff, and only work from devices connected to the server. According to an American Bar Association survey, the antiquated, on-premises model has already led to 31% of lawyers trusting the cloud over their on-premises system for increased security, lower costs, and robust data backup. However, these are only just a few of the many benefits the cloud offers law firms.
How does the Cloud Benefit Today’s Law Firms?
Now that there is an understanding of what cloud technology encompasses, let’s dive into how the cloud can benefit law firms. There are six key benefits to adopting legal cloud technology:
Cloud software modernizes an office by taking on the heavy lifting of maintaining the software. The solution provider handles data backups, software updates, and system maintenance, eliminating hundreds of IT headaches for law firms. Additionally, cloud software that runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) has extra built-in reliability with a 99.9% uptime rate.
Related to reliability, law firms need software solutions that are accessible to all their staff members. In an increasingly remote workforce, lawyers and law firm staff need the ability to work across multiple devices and locations, whether they’re in the office, in court, or on the go. On-premises software programs keep users tied to a desk and limit an attorney’s ability to access the forms, documents, or data they need when they’re away. Law professionals should also be able to access the solution and complete tasks even if they’re offline so that any updates auto-sync once they have an internet or data connection again. Additionally, software solutions need to be accessible for all firm staff members with a simple and intuitive user face that doesn’t require users to be tied up in hours, if not days, worth of training and support time.
Dealing with confidential information and forms means that whatever solutions a law firm uses need to guarantee security. Cloud solutions offer enhanced security as firms don’t risk confidential information being stolen, misplaced, or lost in a physical location. It also means that law firms can rest assured about maintaining compliance based on their state or region and area of law. Additionally, tools like LawConnect offer one place to securely share legal documents between lawyers, clients, and third parties. Instead of relying on email to share and collaborate on sensitive client information and documents, LawConnect securely stores and backs up the data on AWS for extra layers of security and encryption.
4. Stress-free IT
Lawyers need to focus on what they enjoy and do best: practicing law. Cloud platforms take out the heavy-lifting of managing an on-premises system or burdening the costs of paying an in-house IT expert or outside consulting firm and let law professionals have more time to focus on serving their clients. Additionally, law firms that bill by the hour can focus on billable tasks instead of trying to manage their IT systems.
5. Scalability & flexibility
On-premises software programs create unpredictable costs for firms to plan for business development and growth accurately. Server and system maintenance and replacement can create hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected costs for firms that severely impact a firm’s bottom line. If firms stick with on-premises software programs, they often end up over-paying to anticipate future needs that may never come, or on the flip side, they wind up under-resourced as their firm grows. Cloud solutions provide the flexibility law firms need to use resources as they need them without jeopardizing their bottom line, the quality of their work, and their clients’ and employees’ experiences.
As has been mentioned throughout this article, there are ongoing costs that come with on-premises software programs. Whether that’s the ongoing maintenance or the operational overhead expenses for things like electricity to power the hardware in a firm’s office, the costs are unpredictable and continuously impact the firm’s profitability. On the other hand, cloud solutions offer a low, fixed monthly price that law firms can budget for at the beginning of every fiscal year. Additionally, they don’t need to account for additional IT staff or resources for ongoing maintenance as the cloud provider does that automatically.
As client and employee needs continue to change, law firms need to adopt solutions that allow them to keep up while providing quality services and bolstering their bottom line. This means there has never been a better time for law firms to switch to cloud solutions and migrate from legacy, on-premises systems, or paper-based processes. Firms that hesitate will no longer be able to survive as their competitors modernize operations and offer lower costs and better customer experiences.
Interested in learning more about how the cloud can benefit your law firm’s operations, productivity, and profitability? Download the guide, “Productivity & Profitability: How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Legal Industry,” to see how the cloud is already benefiting thousands of law firms across the world.