Cloud technology is a network of hosted resources that are accessible through the internet. Cloud software is hosted on the servers of the company that develops and owns it. As a user, you access the software through a web browser or dedicated app. It’s likely you’re already familiar with cloud-based technology if you’ve ever used Amazon, Facebook, Gmail, Dropbox, or any other internet-related services from modern tech companies. Cloud technology makes it easy to access and share information while offering a seamless user experience—without having to install or update any software on local systems.
Is the cloud secure?
The security of cloud technology often comes into question as many argue that, if it’s accessible through the internet, wouldn’t anybody be able to access the stored information? This is actually a common misconception about cloud technology. Cloud technology vendors have invested aggressively in security infrastructure that is much more secure than what a typical law firm would be able to invest in to protect on-premise servers.
Legal-specific technology vendors like Clio spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on security, penetration testing, a dedicated security team, and much more to make sure all client data is secure. In fact, for many firms, cloud technology is more secure than on-premise solutions. A firm running its own on-premises servers is fully responsible for maintaining its own security. This includes setting user access policies, ensuring security patches are installed properly and guarding against cyberattacks.
With cloud technology, these security updates are automatically pushed out to the users and installed seamlessly. In comparison, it takes more time to coordinate a security update for an on-premises solution for all users and may involve potential outages during working hours. Also, if the security patch isn’t promptly or properly installed, the firm may be at risk of a cyberattack. As cloud technology vendors service hundreds—sometimes thousands— of clients, they’ve invested much more time, effort, and dollars into their processes. Therefore the installation, updating, and maintenance go smoothly to prevent time-consuming issues.
Legal Specific Cloud Technology
While your firm may already be using common cloud technology software such as Gmail or Microsoft Office, the importance of having legal-specific cloud technology cannot be understated. Legal industry rules and regulations set clear parameters for lawyer conduct— specifically around safeguarding client information and managing funds held in trust. Using software developed in close consultation with industry regulators is the only way to ensure ongoing compliance.
Legal-specific software also offers other unique features designed for law firms, such as automated court calendaring and document automation, management, and e-signature capabilities. Clio’s legal practice management software (LPM) is another example of a complete system that helps law firms manage day-to-day workflows and business operations within their law practice. This type of law firm software helps manage a law firm’s cases, contacts, calendars, documents, tasks, time tracking, billing, payments, accounting, and more in one single place. Many firms start out small, with one solution, such as a standalone legal payment processing solution. But the 2021 Legal Trends Report has shown that when firms use multiple technologies, they collect 40% more revenue per lawyer. The good news is, “multiple technologies” doesn’t necessarily mean buying multiple solutions from multiple vendors. A comprehensive legal practice management system, such as Clio, brings together every aspect of your law firm, allowing everyone to coordinate resources and collaborate for better efficiency and productivity.
Why should Law firms care about Cloud Technology?
The legal industry is shifting, largely due to the new client expectations that technological advances bring. In addition to a vast majority of states adopting a duty of technology competence into their rules of professional conduct, clients are also expecting firms to have certain technologies in place. According to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, 40% of consumers would never hire a lawyer who didn’t take debit or credit cards. Other benefits of cloud technology for law firm include:
Work from anywhere
Finding and retrieving information should never be a bottleneck for productivity, and all firm staff should have quick access to information relevant to their work. But not all legal work is done in the office. Legal work is increasingly being done at home, in client offices, on the road, and in court. If your firm still works with paper files, think of all the time wasted if a lawyer needs to run into the office to retrieve a potentially forgotten file before running back to court. Even if they get an assistant to scan the file and send it to them through email, the process is inefficient, wastes time, and creates more work for everybody involved.
Increased access to information
If you store firm documents on an in-house server, you need to set up a virtual private network (VPN) to access that information when out of office, which can be cumbersome and inefficient. The alternative is to print what you need beforehand or store it on a local hard drive, but this takes preparation and forethought—and can cause problems if these resources aren’t kept up-to-date with what’s stored in-house.
Working in the cloud gives attorneys and other firm staff access to the most up-to-date information from wherever they need it. This means lawyers don’t need specific remote login credentials to access firm data. Instead, everyone gets their own access to what they need, even after regular working hours.
Access to information is a major benefit for firms but being able to coordinate the right information with the right people (on time and efficiently) keeps everyone on track. Teams that work together with clear tasks and deadlines are also less prone to mistakes. Giving firm staff access to cloud technology helps them be more efficient and collaborate better.
Cloud-based legal practice management software like Clio, has built-in features that promote stronger collaboration between staff to reduce these types of errors. legal practice management software also helps coordinate tasks and deadlines, while offering powerful automation features that help eliminate the risk of human error.
Streamlined workflows that improve efficiency and productivity
The benefits of cloud technologies also extend to the client. A traditional intake process typically includes multiple back-and-forth communications with the client to understand their matter, obtain the necessary information for a pre-screen and consultation, as well as scheduling a meeting time. Legal practice management software helps streamline this process by eliminating the need for paper or PDF intake forms, allowing you to quickly check for a conflict of interest, schedule consultations, get e-signatures, and accept payment all from one platform.
More secure, reliable data infrastructure
While keeping firm data under local lock and key may seem the most secure solution, it’s worth noting the risk of keeping all firm data in a single location. If something were to damage an in-house server—a fire, flood, or another catastrophic event—that data disappears forever. And while a watertight insurance policy may cover the cost of damages, no policy will ever fully repair the damage done to client satisfaction or even a firm’s reputation.
However, storing firm information in the cloud often provides the benefit of secure data back-ups—protected by state-of-the-art security systems—in multiple, geographically distinct locations. If something were to happen to a data server, your firm’s information would remain intact in another location.
Moving your practice management system to cloud
It’s ideal and a wise decision to move your legal practice management system to the cloud. Clients get better service experience, leading to improved working relationships and higher client confidence in your firm. It’s also ideal for staff as cloud-based software makes it easy to automate manual, time-consuming tasks. Lastly, it’s beneficial for your law firm as it’ll help drive growth, save time and money, and enhance your reputation.
However, if you’ve only ever used an on-premise legal practice management software—or never used one at all—it can be hard to know where to start and what to look for.
Core features of cloud-based law practice management software
CASE MANAGEMENT – A good case management will help you stay organized and access s the information you need— when and where you need it.
LEGAL DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT Make sure you can edit, store, and organize your legal documents securely. Systems like Clio even have unlimited document storage included.
BILLING Bill your clients in a way that’s easy for them— and effective for you. Good legal billing software automates time-consuming tasks and helps you get paid faster—as Clio does.
TIME AND EXPENSE TRACKING A good time and expense tracking system allows you to spend less time tracking your hours and more time billing for them.
CONTACT MANAGEMENT Reliable contact management software should allow you to manage all your clients and contacts— ensuring you never miss a client interaction.
ACCOUNTING Ensure you can simplify reconciliations and comply with trust accounting regulations. You’ll want to be able to sync to third-party accounting systems like QuickBooks Online.
CALENDARING An optimal calendaring system will help you stay on top of deadlines. Even on the go, you’ll be connected to your cases, clients, and work.
TASK MANAGEMENT Make sure you can organize to-do lists, see task progress, manage your team’s workload and productivity, and enable your team to work together effectively. ONLINE PAYMENTS Can you accept online credit card payments? Doing so will make it easier for clients to pay you— ultimately, it will help you get paid faster.
LAW FIRM INSIGHTS Utilization, realization, and collection rates are important for making informed business decisions. Getting a bird’s eye view of your firm’s performance will help management identify opportunities to improve productivity, efficiency, and revenue.
How can firms switch to Cloud?
With cloud-based legal practice management software, administrative tasks can be completed more efficiently with less chance of error— ensuring nothing gets missed. Cloud-based legal practice management software can simplify and streamline key processes for every staff member—whether you’re a managing partner, paralegal, office manager, or anything in between.
Here’s how law firms can switch to the cloud as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Get buy-in from key decision-makers
The first step is to make sure key decision-makers are on board—they’re the ones who have the final say in the matter. Although pitching this idea might seem daunting, it’s your opportunity to educate and excite key stakeholders on the benefits of moving to the cloud.
Your firm’s executives should understand the value of a cloud phone and practice management system—how it simplifies management, makes it easier to work from anywhere, increases productivity, provides a client-centered experience, improves collaboration and access to information, and is more secure and reliable.
Find the right provider
Not all cloud solutions are the same. There are different providers, each with unique features, tools, integrations, quality, and prices. Based on the core features as discussed above, you need to choose the right one for your firm. Apart from these, a firm like LawKPIs that will give you security, integration and support is always the right choice.
Ensure firm-wide adoption
Adoption begins with training, which most providers will offer. Make sure your firm understands what your new technology can accomplish, so your team can take advantage of all its benefits. As you’re trying different options, pay close attention to the setup processes. How easy is it to add phone numbers and users (including porting over old numbers if necessary), along with call forwarding numbers? How easy is it to migrate from your existing software in terms of bringing over matters, calendars, tasks, unbilled time entries and expenses, and more?
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