Is Law Firm Data Safer in the Cloud?

is-law-firm-data-safer-in-the-cloudLumen Legal features the benefits of using the cloud in the post below with insight from our founder and CEO Joe Kelly.

The benefits of law firms using the cloud—including increased mobility, access, and functionality—often stand in contrast to fears surrounding security and ethics. However, increasing acceptance of the new technology seems to indicate that cloud-based solutions will soon become commonplace for law firms.

Why worry?

The ABA says on its website that “…the [ethics/security] issue extends beyond just confidentiality: attorneys [considering a cloud-based solution] must be sure that the files will be secure from destruction or degradation…and they must be able to retrieve the data in a form that’s usable outside of the vendor’s product.”

Jonathan I. Ezor, in his January article in Law Practice Today, worries that “an attorney has no easy way to independently verify” software company claims of “security and confidentiality” and has misgivings that “relying on cloud storage as the primary location for client files may put the attorney at risk of breaching record retention requirements” should something go wrong with the business hosting the data.

Despite those types of concerns, research shows that law firms are moving toward embracing the technology. Erin E. Harrison in Inside Counsel cites a recent LexisNexis study, which reveals that “about 40 percent of practicing attorneys in independent U.S. law firms are already using cloud-based tools.”

Is the cloud actually safer?

Joe Kelly, CEO of Legal Workspace, a “cloud-based work environment designed specifically for law firms,” says a cloud solution can actually be safer than the way law firms store their data on-site. In comparison to most law firms’ technology set-ups, “We have enterprise-grade firewalls. Our data centers are ultra-secure with multiple barriers to pass to get physical access to servers. And, all of our clients’ data is encrypted while in transit and at rest.” Legal Workspace is also backed by “a larger IT company and more than 30 engineers.”

The ABA website backs up Kelly’s point: “a legitimate argument can be made that files stored on the vendor’s servers are more secure than those located on a typical attorney’s PC, as the vendors often employ elaborate security measures and multiple redundant backups in their data centers.”

Solo and small firms adopting first

Solo and small law firms seem to be most eager to embrace the trend. According to the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, 40 percent of solo firms are already using the cloud; 36 percent of firms with 2-9 attorneys are using it, too.

Why might small firms be especially eager to accept the new technology? According to Ellen Freedman, author of “Moving to the Cloud,” issues such as tight finances but “necessary infrastructure upgrades” and “a need to provide remote access on a secure basis” have pushed smaller firms toward the cloud, whereas “[l]arge firms definitely have the advantage in remote access options without having to move to the cloud.”

Kelly says that’s in line with Legal Workspace’s experience: Most of the firms that adopt their system are in the 2-40 employee range. “We can eliminate a lot of headaches for smaller firms. They don’t need to have a local IT guy or manage IT; they gain mobility because they can work anywhere from any device, and they save money because they don’t need to buy all the servers and software,” he says.

And, he emphasizes that because the employees at Legal Workspace have prior legal expertise, they understand workflow and the applications for different types of legal practices.  From the beginning, they have been able to quickly deliver to firms a “clean solution that’s easy right out of the gate. Most conversions can happen over a weekend.”

What does the future hold?

“Firms that have multiple applications they need to integrate (which can be as basic as integrating practice management with their accounting system) or firms that have documents they need to collaborate on—it makes sense to go with a cloud-based solution,” Kelly says.

Ethics opinions continue to emerge permitting cloud computing as long as reasonable care is taken, and LexisNexis results show that 72 percent of those surveyed are “more likely…to consider a cloud service in 2014.” As law firms learn more about cloud-based solutions, it seems they are finding that the benefits outweigh the fears.

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