7 Reasons to Move Your Law Firm to a Private Cloud

Law Firm Cloud – Why You Should Move to a Private Cloud Now

You’re a busy law firm. You manage clients, cases, employees, documents, deadlines… and you mange your firm. The business and administrative aspects of a law firm. It’s a lot to keep your arms around, especially as your practice grows. Within that, technology and IT can be a competitive edge… or a liability. In this article we’ll explore how a law firm cloud platform will ensure that, for your firm’s technology, the situation is the former.

You’ve heard a lot about cloud computing. Maybe you’re using some cloud-based services now. Maybe you’re considering moving more of your practice to a law firm cloud solution. But maybe you still have some reservations about going all-in on cloud computing.

Perhaps you’re worried about security. Or about lack of control. Or simply the fear of the unknown.

In my role at Uptime Legal I talk to a lot of law firms, both pre and post-move to the cloud. I can share the reasons they moved to a law firm cloud solution in the first place, and the reasons that keep them in the cloud and keep them from ever even thinking about buying an on-premise server again.

In this article I’ll dive into the reasons your firm should not just use cloud-based technologies but should go all-in and move their practice to a private cloud.

So, let’s get started.

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Why should you move to a law firm cloud platform?

1. Because you’re tired of dealing with servers, IT headaches and downtime.

Managing IT is something they don’t teach you in law school. Yet you or your firm is charged with setting up and managing a solid IT infrastructure. Even as a small firm, you need a server to host your practice management software and your documents. You’re charged with implementing a server infrastructure that is reliable, so your staff can stay productive; and secure, so your client and firm data is secure.

That server requires a lot of maintenance, both proactive (to keep it up and running) and reactive (fixing things when they break). You need to by and manage server hardware. And Windows Server. And backup hardware and software. And a battery backup.

And you need to pay an IT consultant or firm to keep everything up and running. Proactive maintenance (you don’t subscribe to plug-and-pray, do you?)

And despite all of your best efforts and money spent… there’s still IT problems. Servers that go down. Software that becomes corrupted. Printers that don’t work. Users that can’t log in.

And perhaps you have a great IT guy. But is he an expert in your law firm’s software? Is he or she an expert in supporting Time Matters, PCLaw, ProLaw, Tabs3, Worldox, or your chosen legal software? Many perfectly cable IT professionals just aren’t experts in legal software (IT is a big enough world already.)

A law firm cloud platform such as a private cloud eliminates all of these problems. With a private cloud (and the right private cloud solution), you’ll never need to buy or manage servers again. The private cloud is the server, and includes all necessary updates, maintenance, repair, backups and other management.

In addition, with the right, legal-centric private cloud platform, the private cloud support team will take point on supporting and updating your chosen legal software, including Time Matters, PCLaw, ProLaw, Tabs3 or Worldox. All things technology and IT are hosted and supported by a single, centralized team.

Life becomes exponentially simpler when you have one platform that hosts your software, documents and email, one support team to contact when you need help, for one fixed fee provided universally by one company.

Related: Private Cloud – A Primer for Law Firms

2. Because you need to able to work anywhere, on any device.

Being tethered to a single desktop or laptop computer is a real problem for a modern law firm. When you work in the traditional on-premise server model, all of your data (such as your firm’s documents or case management database) resides on the server, which limits your access to in-the-office only.

And, your software (such as Microsoft Office or your practice management system) is installed on your office desktop or laptop, further limiting when, where and how you can work.

With a law firm cloud solution such as a private cloud, you can work anytime, anywhere, on any device. All of your firm’s software, documents and data are installed and reside on the private cloud (remember: the private cloud is the server); and everyone in your firm logs into and works from a virtual desktop.

Each employee of your firm can log into their personalized virtual desktop from any device or any location. Within their virtual desktop they’ll find their practice management software, their other apps, their files and folders and their email.

Its as if the entire law firm, and all software, files and email, go with them, wherever they go. Being able to work anytime, anywhere on any device will give your law firm a significant advantage and enable you to manage your cases and clients better and faster.

Related: Virtual Desktops for Law Firms

3. Because you’re worried about cybersecurity.

And you should be. Cybersecurity breaches make headlines almost daily. And hackers and other cyber-criminals are only becoming more active, not less.

On occasion, when talking to a law firm that currently has on-premise IT, they tell me that they think that their data is more secure because their server is in their office building.

They believe that by putting their data in the cloud, its somehow more susceptible to being compromised… and that their sheetrock walls somehow keeps their data safe.

It’s a common misconception (albeit one that’s less prevalent over time). The truth is, if (a) you have a server, and (b) have Internet connectivity in the same office, your firm and data is already on the cloud. Your server, and the data within it, is connected to the Internet and just as accessible to hackers and other internet perpetrators as a law firm cloud platform or hosted service.

The only difference is: who’s in charge of maintaining security?

Sure, as a law firm with an on-premise server in the coat closet or copy room, you probably have a basic firewall that your IT person setup for you. And maybe your IT support group spot-checks security every so often.

But a law firm cloud system, such as a private cloud, will be built from the ground up with security in mind. Law-firm centric private cloud companies are in the business of one thing: building and managing a secure environment to store sensitive data. As a result, a (good) law firm cloud platform will include:

  • Enterprise-grade firewalls
  • Realtime Intrusion Detection / Prevention technology
  • 24 x 7 x 365 security monitoring (hack attempts, failed logins)
  • Military-grade encryption
  • Support for 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication)
  • Strict password and access policy enforcement (NIST standards)
  • Server and client (desktop) endpoint security
  • Data center physical access controls
  • SSAE16 / SOC annual audits

It’s fair to say that a reputable, legal-centric private cloud provider is better suited to keep your data secure from hackers and other threats than your firm is, even with a good local IT guy. Which is why I encourage all law firms to keep their privileged client data in the most secure system possible.

Related: Law Firm Cybersecurity Survival Guide

4. Because you’re tired of a de-centralized law firm

Life is simple when your small law firm is just a handful of people in a single location. (At least, simpler.) But once you add a satellite or second office, or employees who work from home or elsewhere—things get complex quick.

If you use an on-premise server to host your law firm’s applications and data, giving your “outside” employees (including a satellite office) the same level of access to the same tools as your main office is difficult and full of problems.

You may find yourself implementing a VPN, LogMeIn, GoToMyPC or some other slow, clunky technology. (Are you doing this now? I can assure you: those employees hate using this system.)

An acquisition, merger, expansion into another city or any number of similar events will create this problem. And the problem it creates is that the main office has a (mostly) fast, reliable easy-to-use system of accessing the firm’s practice management software and S: drive (client and firm data). But the other employees have a very different experience; their working experience is often slow, clunky and unreliable.

Or worse: Your law firm has two offices, and each has their own local server. Which not only means twice the IT to manage (and twice the cost and headaches), but a disjointed system that functions more like two separate law firms than one.

With the right law firm cloud solution in place, such as a private cloud, everything becomes centralized.

Your law firm’s case management software, accounting software, documents, data, email—all lives in one, single, central system. Every employee in your firm, regardless of their location, logs into the same system, and has the same working experience when using your firms ProLaw, or Time Matters, or working on documents in the G: drive, or working in Outlook.

A law firm cloud platform brings you from disjointed to centralized.

Related: Piecemeal the Cloud at Your Own Risk

5. Because you’re ready to graduate from web apps

Sometimes when a law firm wants to move to the cloud (to realize all of the benefits I’ve outlined here), their first inclination is to change software, and move to web-based practice management solutions.

Web-based legal practice management solutions like our friends at Clio, Rocket Matter, CosmoLex, MyCase and Practice Panther are good, easy-to-use, affordable ways for solos and small practices to implement practice management without having to make a large IT infrastructure investment.

But even after 10+ years of development, these web-based applications still aren’t quite as sophisticated, and simply don’t do as much as their server-based/desktop-based counterparts do. Applications like Tabs3, Time Matters, ProLaw, PCLaw and Worldox have had a multi-decade head-start, and as a result their functions are more robust and more nuanced.

For example, server-based or hosted practice management often does a lot more than their web-based counterparts in areas including:

  • Full-fledged business accounting
  • Trust / IOLTA accounting
  • Form Assembly / Document Assembly
  • Docketing / Rules-based Calendaring
  • Matter Screens by Practice Area
  • Flexible billing (such as split-billing)
  • Financial reporting

So, server-based practice management software is more robust and sophisticated.But the newer, web-based legal practice management apps are cloud-based, and offer mobility, reliability and accessibility.

A law firm cloud platform such as a private cloud enables a law firm to have the best of both worlds: the functionally of server-based software and the freedom, security and streamlined practice of the cloud.

Related: Hosted vs. Web-based Legal Practice Management

6. Because you use Mac computers

This one will not apply to everyone. Mac computers are becoming more prevalent in the business world, including small law firms.

Macs are great for simple web-based apps such as the Google G Suite or the web-based practice management apps I talked about above. But they cannot run Windows-based software, which is what the more robust, mature legal software tends to be.

If your law firm uses desktop-based, Windows-based legal software including ProLaw, Tabs3, Worldox, Time Matters, PCLaw, Needles, Juris or others—you already know that you can’t run those apps on a Mac computer.

Once again, the cloud saves the day. Whether your whole firm is Mac-based, or your firm has or two die-hard Apple fans, a law firm cloud system will allow you to have your cake and eat it too. With a private cloud, which (to review) your firm logs into and works in via a virtual desktop, you can work from a Mac, and log into your virtual desktop… where your Windows-based software lives and runs.

This allows your firm to use Mac computers without having to sacrifice the legal software that your firm is committed to.

7. Because you’re already in a bad cloud

Maybe you’ve come to these realizations already. Maybe you use server-based legal practice management, wanted to get out of the business of managing servers and IT, didn’t want to downgrade to web-based apps, and moved to a private cloud already.

And maybe that didn’t go well.

Unfortunately, not all clouds are created equal. With the advent of the cloud, many IT firms and software companies announced “me too!” and launched their own cloud offering. The problem: They’re often not suited to the task.

Cloud hosting isn’t for amateurs.

Many other cloud service providers:

  • Aren’t exclusively legal-focused, and lack expertise in your firm’s software.
  • Aren’t well-known, or well-regarded in the technical or legal communities.
  • Will store or back up data outside of the US (creating serious data sovereignty issues).
  • Simply resell another big-box, public cloud service like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure.
  • Don’t employ suitable cybersecurity systems and processes.
  • Don’t provide any IT support beyond their own cloud (IE: if you can log into the cloud, everything else is your problem).
  • Cut corners on help desk staff / support levels to offer discount pricing.
  • Require long-term contracts.

So, if you’re sold on a private cloud—good for you! But be sure to do your due diligence as you evaluate providers.

Related: 25 Things to Ask Your Private Cloud Provider

From the Perspective of a Small Law firm

These are the reasons your firm should move to a law firm cloud.And these are the reasons that the hundreds of law firms I talk to say why they made the move to a private cloud, and why they haven’t looked back.

One such firm, Shasta Legacy Law Center, recently made the move to the cloud with Uptime Legal.As they describe it:

“We were using portable hard drives when we were with clients and syncing data back to our physical server.It was a nightmare.Because the physical server lived in the firm’s office, working from home wasn’t possible.Add to that, IT challenges were a lot of stress. Lawyers have time constraints; sometimes there are tech issues, and if it was beyond my ability, I had to hunt someone down who could help.”

Moving to a law firm cloud solution, as the firm describes, made life immeasurably easier.

“With the cloud, server headaches are a distant memory for the firm. Productivity is up. No more time spent brawling with IT problems. No firm-wide shut-downs like we had before. And most importantly: Stress is down.”

— Brian Whitehurst, Shasta Legacy Law Center

Epilogue: Your IT Consultant May Resist

Unfortunately, your IT Consultant may not support your move to a private cloud.

Why?

Because they have a direct, adverse interest in your law firm moving to the cloud. Moving to a private cloud eliminates the need for servers and complex IT infrastructure… which eliminates the need for an IT consultant to manage it. When faced with this, unfortunately, many IT consultants take off their consultant hat and replace with with their self-preservation hat.

Learn more in our article: Does Your IT Consultant Really Have Your Back?

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