If you’ve had a look at our website, you know that Thread Legal is a cloud product – we’ve made our decision that the future for legal software is in the cloud.
However, in parallel with our clients we made the move from being a server-based software company (www.expd8.com) to a cloud technology company. During this process we ourselves had to look at the opportunities and the risks that come with the cloud and we wanted to share some of our thinking processes with lawyers who are also looking to make this change.
Is Cloud Software for Everyone?
There are good reasons for some lawyers globally to stay away from the cloud. There have been recent examples of several countries shutting down their country’s internet during political unrest. There have also been several (admittedly rare) examples of smaller countries losing their internet connection due to accidental cutting of critical cables. Mauritania lost internet access for 48 hours in 2018 due to a trawler cutting critical undersea cables.
Cloud software makes lawyers less vulnerable to localised system failure (e.g. your office internet connection going down). However, it does make lawyers more vulnerable if regional internet disruption takes place. If lawyers are worried about this, then server-based software may make more sense.
Is Cloud Software Right for My Company?
The global cloud computing market was worth $180bn in 2018 and is predicted to grow to $411bn by 2020 – a huge growth curve. This growth is facilitated by multiple industries, including legal, moving towards the cloud. So, what are the reasons for this?
In a survey by Legal Cheek, “9-5 working hours” was the most hated office tradition for lawyers, with 56.3% voting for this.
The ability to work outside of the office is one of the key advantages of cloud technology. It benefits both equity partners and employees alike.
A survey by Virgin in the UK found that 87% either worked flexibly or wanted to work flexibly – 92% for 18-34, 88% for 35-54 and 72% for 55+ years old. The most common reasons cited were gaining more control over work-life balance (57%), general usefulness (50%) and cutting down on commuting times (33%). Whilst 29% still cited caring for children or dependents, this shift shows that flexible working is no longer seen as primarily for those with family responsibilities. It is desired by the majority of the workforce for a variety of reasons.
Virgin also make the point that top candidates with multiple options are likely to be part of the majority that desire flexible working – so law firms who want to retain the best talent are wise to make flexible working a part of their office policy.
In addition to talent retention, flexibility offers a range of benefits on a company level. Meeting clients, being in court, attending events – there are many work-related reasons for lawyers to be out of the office. With a cloud case management system, lawyers do not have to wait until they get back to the office to update their file, create documents or share information with colleagues. All they need is a laptop or smartphone and an internet connection. A coffee shop, a hotel lobby and even a car can all become spaces in which productive work can be done (although we do not recommend updating your case management system whilst driving!)
This also means that client needs can be handled in real time. When an important client rings the lead on a case, that lawyer can access all of the case information instantly. They do not have to ring their secretary in the office and ask them to check the file before they can respond. It also means that out of working hours client emergencies do not require hauling everybody back into the office. The team can access all information from home and situations can be successfully dealt with remotely.
Using cloud case management can also reduce the fear that managers can often feel when allowing staff to work remotely – the lack of accountability. With cloud case management, managers can see in real time the work that their employees are completing. They can give feedback on it and can ensure successful and timely delivery of objectives.
In terms of the bottom line, flexible working can also reduce overheads as employees who are spending more time working outside of the physical office consume less electricity, less consumables and even less tea and coffee (and biscuits). It can also reduce the recovery costs in the case of a physical disaster such as fire or flooding. Even if the office is out of action, the company does not have to be because everybody can work from home with whatever devices they have available.
At Thread Legal, as we began to move to a more flexible working model we saw the many benefits it provided – and this was one of the key reasons that we decided to create a cloud case management system for our customers. Since Thread Legal was introduced, we have had a number of clients switching to us who were otherwise happy with their server-based system but desired the flexibility that only cloud can provide.
Many lawyers cite data security as one of the reasons why they are wary of cloud software and to a certain extent this is true. Lawyers who store their data in a server or paper files have them physically in the office with them. They can see them, lock them away and have a sense of personal control. In contrast, lawyers using cloud applications allow a third party to process their data and have to trust that this third party will keep their data safe.
However, security concerns have also been raised about the safety of office-based systems. In 2014 the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released a warning for barristers and solicitors about data breaches. They specifically highlighted the use of paper files as troubling due to the lack of the encryption and because transferring papers between locations can increase the likelihood of a serious data breach.
Even when firms store data on an encrypted server, there are security concerns. Local storage is particularly vulnerable to physical disasters such as fire and flooding or a break-in. The security available is also limited by budget – small and medium firms are unlikely to afford enterprise encryption or other online protection.
In contrast, when firms choose a reputable cloud provider they receive the security protection of that provider. For example, Thread Legal is hosted within Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure protects customers’ data with:
- High barrier fencing around the entire datacentre with cameras that are monitored 24/7
- 24/7 threat management and security monitoring throughout the entire datacentre
- Two factor authentication including biometrics in order to access any part of the datacentre
- Pre-authorised access so visitors can only access areas they have been previously approved to enter
- Data encryption both in transit and at rest
- Multi-factor authentication
- Built in anti-virus and anti-spam
It is unlikely that even relatively large law firms will have the budget to implement biometric access to their data or 24/7 security monitoring.
When Thread Legal was looking for a host for our cloud software product, we looked at a number of options before deciding to build with Microsoft and host in Microsoft Azure. Just as we suggest for law firms, we did a thorough due diligence, looking at their security features and independent certifications.
Not all cloud providers are created equal – and this is where law firms need to do their own due diligence on the cloud hosting solution, rather than just trusting the claims of the platform provider. However, if law firms choose a competent software provider and cloud host, they can get enterprise level data security for SME pricing.
When lawyers are using a server-based system, updates are often pricey and installation causes business disruption.
With cloud software, good suppliers will automatically roll out regular updates without any business disruption or maintenance required. Server-based clients may get an update once a year at most and will most likely have to purchase it. Thread Legal, as an example of cloud software, releases a new update at least once a month which is deployed automatically to all users.
As technology involves, cloud users are always able to take advantage of the latest developments and updated product features. As the software provider continues to innovate, law firms do not need to fear being left behind with outdated technology.
Should I Invest in Cloud Based Legal Software?
Here at Thread Legal, we invested in building our platform because we believe that not only is it the technology for the future, it is the technology that lawyers should be using right now to provide the best experience for both their clients and their employees.
Cloud technology has the power to change the way a law firm works – it can be leveraged not only to provide more flexibility for workers, but also to serve clients better.
In addition, it can give law firms greater levels of data security and a solution that continually provides access to the latest technological innovations and new features.
Investing in cloud software is one of the best things partners can do to improve their business operations now and prepare their firm for the future.