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Is 2014 the ‘Year of the Cloud’ for lawyers?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Is 2014 the ‘Year of the Cloud’ for lawyers?

Read more: " My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Is 2014 the ‘Year of the Cloud’ for lawyers?

I’ve been writing about cloud computing since 2008, but more often than not my claims that it was the future of computing were met with skepticism — especially from legal professionals. Even so, I maintained this view and have long believed that mid-2013 would be the tipping point and that from then on an increasing number of lawyers would, slowly but surely, begin to use Web-based tools in their law practices.

So I was excited to learn of a LexisNexis report on cloud computing which was released in January. The results of this survey indicate that 2014 may very well shape up to be the year that solo and small firm lawyers (with 20 lawyers or less) began to embrace cloud computing as a viable option for their law firms. Based on last year’s trends, gleaned from surveys and anecdotal evidence, I didn’t find the conclusions of the LexisNexis survey to be all that surprising — but they certainly were encouraging.

For starters, the survey results showed that cloud computing is no longer a foreign concept and that lawyers are increasingly amenable to the idea of using Web-based tools in their day-to-day practice, with 50.2 percent indicating that they are more likely to use the cloud this year. Just as interesting, a full 40 percent confirmed that they already used cloud-based tools in their law practices.

Especially notable was that  72.4 percent expected that their law firms would use cloud computing services in 2014.

Why are lawyers using cloud computing services more frequently? Because they’re convenient and offer peace of mind. Study results indicated that mobility and/or freedom of access were cited as a popular benefit by 45.2 percent of respondents while 40.5 percent cited disaster recovery/data backup.

The most popular uses for the cloud were: 1) document storage or management (56.4 percent), 2) disaster backup (slightly over 50 percent), 3) hosted Exchange/email (53.6 percent), 4) file sharing (46.4 percent), and 5) practice management (nearly 25 percent).

Of course, lawyers tend to be a cautious bunch so it’s no surprise that not all lawyers are on board and some still have reservations about the security of their data stored in the cloud.  This hesitation was borne out by the survey results.

The top 5 concerns of respondents regarding the use of cloud computing in their law offices were: 1) maintaining the security and confidentiality of data, 2) concerns regarding ethical issues, 3) uncertainly about where their data is stored, 4) concerns about data ownership, and 5) the possibility of incurring additional costs in the event that the firm decides to switch to another cloud provider.

Finally, the report showed that lawyers are beginning to realize how beneficial cloud computing can truly be. In fact, according to the report, one lawyer described cloud computing as follows: “Less equipment, hassle, maintenance, tech knowledge to use and it allows ability to have toes in the sand and still get work done.”

Music to my ears and a strong sign that, at long last, lawyers are finally beginning to acknowledge and embrace the tremendous benefits that cloud computing can offer their law practices. Given the many benefits that cloud computing offers lawyers — 24/7 access, convenience, flexibility, mobility, security, disaster back up, and more — it’s no wonder lawyers are finally beginning to see the light. And, it’s about time!

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.