In 2018, your law firm has likely been hearing a lot about cloud computing.
And you’ve probably heard about all of the benefits that cloud computing can bring: From enhanced security, to better mobility to a generally more streamlined law practice.
But perhaps, being a lawyer and not a technology expert, you suspect there’s some benefit to your firm in the cloud, but you’re not sure where to start, or where to go for advice. Naturally (or so it may seem), you go to your IT consultant for guidance on how your firm might leverage the cloud.
Maybe your firm needs better mobility. Perhaps your server is end-of life.So, who better than your trusted IT consultant to advise you on whether or not to move to the cloud, and how… right?
Not so fast.
Here’s the problem: Chances are that your IT consultant or Managed Service Provider (MSP) has a clear and direct adverse interest in your law firm moving to the cloud, or an adverse interest in your firm moving to the cloud in the best way for your firm.
How is that?
It’s simple really: Moving to the cloud (especially an all-inclusive private cloud) eliminates the need for on-premise servers and complex IT infrastructures, which in turn eliminates the need for those very IT consultants, MSP’s and the support they provide you. And how many professionals do you know that will recommend themselves out of a job?
Most people are very aware of the reality that technology evolves quickly. As a result, major changes in the industry or technology can render a specific business model obsolete or diminished (case in point: IT consultants and Managed IT providers.) Unfortunately for some of these organizations’ clients (which may include law firms like yours), these IT Consultants, when faced with a client that is considering a move to the cloud, take off their consultant hat and replace with their self-preservation hat.
It’s unfortunate and disingenuous, but I’ve seen it happen many times:
A law firm begins exploring cloud-based solutions to replace their servers and to streamline their technology. Perhaps they wish to move their practice management software (such as Tabs3, ProLaw, Time Matters or PCLaw) to a fully-managed private cloud.
Realizing they’re about to lose business if your firm moves to the cloud (and likely on the heels of already having lost clients to the cloud), the IT consultant or firm engages in creating FUD, or Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the mind of the law firm. This practice, in my experience, falls into two categories.
First, the IT consultant may play on this fear of change and convince you to stay with the status quo. They may advise their law firm client that the cloud is generally “bad,” or “not ready for prime-time. ”They may describe the cloud as “insecure,” and try to establish that your data is more secure if it’s within your physical building (as if sheetrock were the best firewall around).Or they may apply other scare tactics about allowing your firm to move its data and applications to the cloud. The problem with this, of course, is that it precludes your firm from ever enjoying the many benefits of moving your law firm to the cloud.
If that fails, or in the alternative, your IT firm may push your firm to move to the cloud in a very piecemeal, disjointed fashion. They may advise you (for instance) to move some aspects of your firm to the cloud, such as to a web-based case management app (allowing you to scratch your cloud itch)… but leave other components on-premise… which (naturally) necessitate an on-premise server infrastructure… which they can manage and continue to charge you for.
I see this especially when an IT consultant tries to advocate for one web-based case management system or another (advising you to abandon the practice management software your firm is committed to) as an “easy button” for them that doesn’t encroach on their territory.
The problem with this is that it can create a disjointed “Cloud Hell,” where your apps are in one cloud, your docs in another, your email in another… none of which will work together anymore, and none of which are provided or supported by single, central team of experts.
Related: Piecemeal the Cloud At Your Own Risk
Some IT consultants will perpetuate all kinds of myths and misinformation to keep hold of their shrinking client base. They’ll tell you that “the cloud is insecure.” (Less secure than a server sitting unmanned in a coat closet?) That “it’s better to own the equipment”. (Like answering machines are better than voicemail.) They’ll tell you to buy servers and implement online backups, citing: “Now you’re in the cloud… kind of.” They’ll tell you to setup onsite virtual servers and call it a “hybrid cloud”. Anything they can do to keep you in the business of owning servers, so they have something to manage.
If a conversation with your IT consultant leads down the path of buying new servers again (and naturally–paying them to manage and support your new servers) you owe it to yourself and your firm to ask some tough questions.
- Do you want to make the capital investment and commitment in server hardware?
- Do you really want to stay in the business of owning and managing IT infrastructure?
- Are you prepared to deal with a lack of centralization and mobility, indefinitely?
- Are you letting your IT consultant play to your fear of the unknown?
- Is your IT consultant advising you on what’s best for your firm, or what’s best for them?
I’m afraid to say I’ve seen this practice many, many times. (And often times the law firm doesn’t quite realize the adverse interest their IT firm has in a proper, complete move to the cloud.)
In fairness, however, I have seen IT consultants and companies that truly have their client’s bets interest at heart. IT consultants that analyze and understand the law firm’s needs, and advocate for the right solution and the right path, even when it means they will lose revenue or a client. True consultants.
I only wish this type was more prevalent.
In the end, it is incumbent on you to look out for your law firm, its stakeholders and, most of all, your clients. In reality, for just about every small and midsize law firm: the cloud–with the right cloud solution and provider is a more reliable, more secure and more accessible way to practice than the on-premise servers and local IT consultants.
So, if you go down this path: Ask questions. Get multiple opinions. I encourage you to talk to your peers, other law firms, local bar representatives and legal technology professionals. In the end, it’s in your best interest, and that of your firm and its clients to do your homework and ask tough questions.
Do what’s best for your law firm—even if it’s not what’s best for your IT firm.