When You're Snowed In, It's Business As Usual In The Cloud
In past columns, I’ve discussed the many benefits of cloud computing, including convenience and flexibility, 24/7 access to client data from anywhere, affordability, simplicity, and the ability to eliminate IT staff and software management requirements. Another important benefit of cloud computing is that it provides offline back up for your law firm’s files—something that comes in handy when your firm faces a disaster like the law office fire that I wrote about in November.
But offline back up can also be a lifesaver in the face of less disastrous events, such as the snowstorm that shut down many East Coast states in January. The storm hit on a Friday and deposited nearly two feet of snow in some areas, causing businesses to close as all activity ground to a halt. Not surprisingly, legal institutions were affected by the storm, with many courts, law libraries, government offices, and law firms closing their doors early on the Friday that the storm hit.
But just because the courts were closed due to inclement weather didn’t mean legal clients were on the same page. After all, for many clients, a snow day means lots of time on their hands. And what better to do with downtime than play catch up and figure out the status of their legal cases?
For some of these clients, that wasn’t an option. Their lawyers were either unresponsive or simply didn’t have the answers to their questions, since all of their physical case files were located in their inaccessible offices. Similarly, their computers and all of the case-related information found on them were inaccessible as well, since their lawyers used premise-based legal software and as a result, all of their law firm’s digital data could only be accessed using computers located in the office.
Other legal clients were more fortunate. Their lawyers used cloud computing software to run their law practices. Because their law firms’ data was stored off premises in the cloud, the lawyers were able to access all of their law firm’s cases and data from any Internet-enabled device, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The lawyers had web-based access to case files, contact information, calendars, billing and invoicing, documents, and more. For each question their clients had, they had an answer.
Other legal clients were even luckier–their lawyers used web-based practice management software with built-in client portals. All they had to do was login to their portal using any Internet-enabled device and they had instant access to information about their case. They could read updates from their lawyer about the status of their case, review and download documents, see their next court date, instantly view invoices and pay a bill via e-Check or credit card, leave a message for their lawyer, and much, much more. These clients didn’t even need to call their lawyers for case-related information–they could simply login and use the client portal to obtain all the information they needed.
In today’s competitive legal marketplace, what type of lawyer do you want to be? Just because you’re snowed in at home, doesn’t mean your law office should be out of commission. Your clients should always come first, and like the postal service, it should be business as usual during working hours, whether sleet or snow or hail. With web-based software, that’s exactly what you provide your clients: the ability to securely access information about their case at their convenience at anytime, day or night–even in the middle of one of the biggest East Coast snowstorms in history.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.