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Lawyers’ use of cloud computing on the rise in 2013

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers’ use of cloud computing on the rise in 2013." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers’ use of cloud computing on the rise in 2013

The latest survey results are in: Lawyers are using cloud computing legal software products in record numbers. At least, those were the results of two recent surveys conducted to determine lawyers’ technology preferences.

First, there are the results from the American Bar Association’s latest Legal Technology Survey Report, a multi-volume report issued annually, which focuses on technology trends in the legal industry.

According to the results of the ABA’s survey, the number of lawyers using cloud computing products increased dramatically in 2013. In 2011, only 16 percent of lawyers reported using cloud computing in their law practices, with that number increasing only slightly in 2012 to 21 percent. But this year, 31 percent — nearly one third of all lawyers — now use cloud computing software to manage their law firms. Not surprisingly, innovative solo practitioners lead the way, with 40 percent reporting use of cloud computing in their law practices. And, of those who reported using cloud computing tools for law-related tasks, 70 percent said they would continue using them in the future.

So, why are lawyers using cloud computing to run their law practices? According to survey respondents, it’s because cloud computing is affordable, accessible from anywhere and convenient. So, when lawyers were asked which cloud computing features were most beneficial to the law practices, convenient access lead the way, with 74 percent of respondents citing this as the most valuable feature offered by cloud computing services.

The next most popular feature was 24/7 access, according to 63 percent of lawyers. Affordability was cited as an important by 56 percent, data backup was cited by 49 percent, ease of use and reduced learning time cited by 44 percent, and reduced need for IT staff came in last, with 41 percent citing that benefit.

And, last but not least, although lawyers use cloud computing products to manage all aspects of their law practices, cloud-based law practice management systems are one of the more popular uses. And lawyers who use cloud-based law practice management systems have strong preferences regarding the most important features, with 46 percent indicating that time and billing functions were the most important.

Case and matter management and document coming in tied at second place, with 44 percent of respondents citing each function as important. Other important law practice management functions cited by responding attorneys included: contact management, cited by 39 percent; calendaring, cited by 37 percent; conflict checking, cited by 34 percent; expense management, cited by 27 percent; accounting, cited by 27 percent; client intake, cited by 25 percent; document assembly, cited by 24 percent; court docketing, cited by19 percent; and financial reporting, cited by 19 percent.

Next up, the recently released 2103 International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and Inside Legal Technology Purchasing Survey results, which included responses from more than 1,200 ILTA member firms.

According to the survey results, 34 percent of responding firms reported actively using cloud computing products in the past year and 36 percent reported that they were actively researching cloud computing products or that cloud computing tools were on their IT roadmap.

The survey results also indicated that the top five ways that responding firms were using cloud computing were: 1) storage/backup, cited by 55 percent, 2) disaster recovery, cited by 50 percent, 3) email, cited by 35 percent, 4) document management, cited by 29 percent, and 5) case management, cited by 18 percent.

So, it seems that the verdict is in. Cloud computing is no longer a foreign concept, and as lawyers become more familiar with it and its many benefits, lawyers are increasingly taking advantage of all that cloud computing offers their busy law practices. But, the question remains: Will the number of lawyers using cloud computing level off or will law firms continue to flock to the cloud in record numbers? Tune in next year and see!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.