Hosting ProLaw in the Cloud

Hosting ProLaw in the Cloud – Overview, Benefits, and What You Need to Know.

Many small and midsize law firms in the US use ProLaw to manage their clients, cases, documents and accounting. ProLaw, an Elite/Thomson Reuters product, is a long-time popular and powerful practice management tool. In the era of basic, simple web-based legal practice management software, ProLaw is a robust, feature-rich, all-in-one software platform that can manage all aspects of a law firm. Though, while many law firms need the deep functionality provided by a software solution such as ProLaw, law firms today need to be able to work from anywhere, need enhanced information (cyber) security and would really like to get out of the business of owning servers and dealing with IT. Law firms today, including users of ProLaw, want the cloud, and all of the benefits that come with cloud computing. This need drives many law firms to explore hosting ProLaw in the Cloud.

In this article we’ll explore hosting ProLaw in the Cloud: why to do it and how to go about moving ProLaw to the cloud.

ProLaw – a Brief Overview

ProLaw is one of many server-based, or on-premise legal practice management suites. Unlike other software in this category, however, ProLaw has modules that cover what I call the three-legged-stool of legal software:

  • Practice Management, or front-office functionality such as client and case management, calendaring, time tracking and billing.
  • Accounting, including business accounting and trust accounting.
  • Document management, including the ability to store, organize and search documents that you save to a matter.

Having all of these components in one software suite is a huge benefit, and one of the chief reasons so many law firms are looking to host ProLaw in the Cloud.

Related: ProLaw – An Uptime Review

ProLaw – a Peek Under the Hood

ProLaw has a great, streamlined user interface and lots of tools and functionality to help you run a more efficient practice. Take a look under the hood and you’ll find that ProLaw runs on top of Microsoft SQL server, the database engine that stores and manages data you work with in ProLaw. While not as resource intensive as some other legal software we’ve worked with, ProLaw does require SQL Server, a dedicated server to host SQL as well as a little more computing power that you might otherwise need on your firm’s server. If evaluating a private cloud platform to avoid servers (and–you should), be sure that your chosen cloud provider understands these requirements and has built a platform specifically designed to host ProLaw in the cloud

ProLaw – Setup and Support

When first setting up ProLaw, whether on-premise or in a private cloud, you’ll need help, in two varieties:

  1. You’ll need an IT professional or cloud service provider that has experience installing and setting up the ProLaw software, and
  2. You’ll need assistance from the Elite/ProLaw team to initialize the software and–if moving from one platform to another–moving your ProLaw database.

You’ll need a technology team that can install and setup SQL server, install and setup the ProLaw server software and, if necessary, move your existing ProLaw database. If you plan to use ProLaw in the Cloud, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen provider not only has experience implementing, hosting and supporting ProLaw: You’ll want to ensure that your cloud service provider and Elite/ProLaw have a working relationship. This helps avoid finger-pointing between the software company and the cloud service company if you run into technical snags.

Hosting ProLaw in the Cloud

A decade or so ago, the only way to enjoy the benefits of ProLaw was to get a server, set it up and pay a local IT professional to keep it up and running. On-premise servers and costly IT support was viewed by many as a necessary evil.

Today, we live and work in the cloud era, where this is no longer the case. Law firms everywhere are hosting their ProLaw in the cloud, having their cake and eating it too. Law firms that run ProLaw in the cloud get the benefits of:

  • The robust practice management software of ProLaw, not found in other, web-based practice management apps, and
  • The mobility, security and streamlined technology of the cloud.

The specific technology that makes this all possible is, as I’ve mentioned earlier, a private cloud.

What’s a private cloud?

A private cloud is a platform that hosts all of your firm’s software–from ProLaw, to Microsoft Office and Adobe, and any other software your firm uses, as well as your firm’s documents, data and email, on a single, central system. This platform not only makes all of your software, documents and technology tools available to your firm from anywhere–it keeps you out of the business of managing IT and dealing with technology headaches. There’s no need for on-premise servers because your private cloud platform effectively becomes your server. And–with the right solution–includes Microsoft Office, Exchange Email and unlimited IT support for your whole firm… eliminating the need for not just servers, but outside IT support.

Related: Private Cloud – a Primer for Law Firms

Benefits of Hosting ProLaw in the Cloud

So now you know that hosting ProLaw in the cloud is possible. Here is why it’s also a good idea.

  1. Keep your existing software. Not only is changing legal software difficult and time-consuming: it’s not necessarily the best move. I’ve observed many law firms move from server-based software to a more basic, web-based solution only to be disappointed… and move back.
  2. Don’t sacrifice functionality. You don’t have to switch to watered-down web-based legal software to gain the accessibility, reliability and security of the cloud. A private cloud will host your ProLaw in the Cloud–along with the rest of your software, your documents and your email.
  3. Cybersecurity. As a law firm you likely store sensitive, privileged information. Hosting ProLaw in the Cloud will usually bring a level of information security that is significantly higher than owning your own server and managing security (or attempting to manage security) on your own.
  4. Mobility. When hosting ProLaw in the cloud – your entire firm can access ProLaw (and other software and documents) from anywhere, on any device. Lawyers are mobile and need access to case and client data at anytime, from anywhere.
  5. Reliability. As is the case with security, by hosting ProLaw in the Cloud, the reliability of your systems and date will be significantly better than a server sitting in your firm’s coat closet or copy room. The best cloud service providers have very reliable infrastructures and boast 99.99% uptime. And probably more importantly: any technical problems that do arise are their problem to solve: not yours.
  6. Scalability. With most private cloud solutions, you can add (and remove) resources as you need them–including staff, storage and more. This pay-as-you-go and grow-as-you-go model makes scaling your law firm easy and predictable.
  7. Economics. For most law firms hosting ProLaw in the cloud is more economical that hosting in on an onsite server. With the on-premise model you have to buy a server, pay an IT professional to manage it, pay for antivirus software, pay for backups, pay to upgrade the server as necessary, pay to fix it when it breaks… and on and on. Compare this to the flat fee per-month of most private cloud solutions. An on-premise infrastructure is not only more expensive to manage: your costs are almost certain to be difficult to predict.

Related: 7 Reasons to Move Your Law Firm to a Private Cloud

A Complete Law Office in the Cloud

As you think about ProLaw in the cloud, Its important to take a brief step back for a moment and make sure you go about moving to the cloud in the right way.

As you move your law firm to the cloud, avoid a common pitfall of taking a piecemeal approach. If you’re looking for a way to add mobility and reliability to your ProLaw software, it may be tempting to consider moving just your ProLaw to the cloud. Maybe you view that as the easy-button to give your team remote access to ProLaw, or to deal with that aging server. Maybe you’re thinking: “I just need to deal with ProLaw right now, I’ll get to my other software/documents/email later.”

Avoid this temptation. This half-in-the-cloud, half-out-of-the-cloud is what we call a piecemeal cloud, and it comes with nothing but headaches. Moving your ProLaw to the cloud but keeping other aspects of your technology on-premise creates more technology to manage, not less. It creates a disjointed patchwork of technology systems that no longer communicate with one another. Add to that: You’ve just increased the number of responsible parties that manage your technology.

Think of how your ProLaw interacts with your other software. ProLaw must be able to talk to your Microsoft Office/Word/Excel. Emails are copied from Outlook to ProLaw. Your Outlook calendar can sync with your ProLaw calendar. For these integrations to work properly, your ProLaw, documents, email and other software must be on the same system, not spread across multiple ones.

Related: Piecemeal the Cloud at Your Own Risk

Closing the Loop

And there you have it: hosting ProLaw in the Cloud. The benefits, the caveats, the right way (and the wrong way) to approach moving ProLaw to the Cloud.

I invite you to take a look at our own Uptime Practice, a private cloud just for law firms. Uptime Practice was developed from the ground up to host ProLaw and other software used by law firms.

Regardless of what direction your firm ultimately moves: I wish you the best of luck. Happy cloud computing!

About the Author: Dennis Dimka
Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Dennis is the author of Law Practice as a Service: How and Why to Move Your Law Firm to the Cloud, and was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2016. Follow Dennis on LinkedIn.

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