Piecemeal the Cloud At Your Own Risk

The Perils of a Disjointed Legal Technology System

Across the world, law firms are ditching their services and eliminating IT headaches by moving their firms to the cloud.

Its a natural stage of evolution for law firms and their technology: the cloud allows law firms to get out of the business of dealing with IT, provides more security for their data and empowers them to work anytime, anywhere from any device. Everyone in the industry–from small law practices to legal technology titans–are making the cloud part of their technology roadmap.

As announced in a recent press release, LexisNexis unveiled their own Authorized Hosting program, to give users of their Time Matters and PCLaw software a clear pathway to the cloud.

Cloud computing has become such a ubiquitous buzzword that the landscape can become confusing, and full of similar terminology that can mean very different things. For law firms that use desktop or server-based legal software, such as Time Matters, PCLaw, Tabs3, Needles or ProLaw: there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to move your firm, and your software to the cloud.

Successes and Failures

As a leading legal cloud service provider and as a legal technology advisor to our many clients: We’ve seen (and been a party to) both successes and failures when law firms move to the cloud.

Lets start with the failures. When cloud computing goes wrong, the law firm must deal with downtime, loss of productivity, support difficulties, data loss and challenges with accountability. And ultimately: each of these problems and failures can be traced back to a common element: a piecemeal approach to the cloud.

What does that mean?

Piecemealing the Cloud

Here’s a scenario I see fairly often: A law firm moves one component of their practice to the cloud: maybe they move their email to Office 365, or their files to Dropbox. After that, they say: “Hey, the cloud is great! We should move some of our other things to the cloud.” So, the firm decides to move another component to the cloud… this time maybe email, or a specific piece of software. Piece by piece, the law firm’s individual technology facets are moving to one cloud system, then another to a different one. Meanwhile, the firm’s local IT company does their best to provide support for the firm’s network, computers and other devices.

Next thing you know: the firm’s software, documents, email and data are spread across many different platforms, supported by too many different companies. It becomes a disjointed mess with no central support or accountability.

This is a piecemeal cloud system. And it comes with nothing but unexpected costs and headaches.

This law firm is now sentenced to:

  • Multiple web applications to log into and work within.
  • Multiple logins/passwords to remember.
  • Multiple help desks to call when there’s a problem.
  • Multiple invoices to pay.
  • Little or no integration between systems.
  • No central accountability for the firm’s technology.
  • No trusted technology partner to turn to for advice.

I’ve personally worked with countless law firms that have found themselves here. It’s not a fun place to be.

A quick side note: Want a surefire way to agitate and frustrate everyone in your staff? Give them multiple, disjointed technology systems that don’t work together. Give them a Rolodex of support help desk numbers to call when they need help with different things (then watch the anguish build as they realize they’ve called the wrong help desk for what they need help with.) Watch them throw their hands up in disgust when they experience the heartache that comes with a disjointed technology system that lacks central support and accountability.

So when I’m talking with a law firm that is considering a variety of cloud solutions and methods, I always cringe a little when I hear the question: “Can I just move (My App) to the Cloud?”

Sometimes law firms want to move only one legal application, such as PCLaw or Time Matters, to the cloud–and leave the rest of their technology (their other software, the Microsoft Office and documents and their email) elsewhere. Maybe on-premise, maybe in another cloud.

And–I get it. I get the appeal (at first glance) of the apparent “easy button” of moving only your PCLaw (for instance) to the cloud, so your firm can access it from anywhere. But doing that will, without a doubt, put you in the disjointed cloud nightmare that so many law firms before you have found themselves in.

The right way to move your law firm to the Cloud.

Just like the failure’s I’ve seen, the successes I’ve witnessed when law firms move to the cloud also had a common element: They all moved to one single, central platform that hosted all of their technology in the cloud. One single, centralized cloud platform for the firm’s applications, documents, data and email.

The right way to move to the cloud is to an integrated, all-inclusive cloud platform. Your law firm’s own private cloud. The right private cloud solution will host and support every aspect of your firm’s technology on a single, unified platform, including:

  • Your legal software applications:
    • Practice management software
    • Billing and accounting software
    • Document management software
  • Your documents, files and folders
  • Your email
  • Support and protect your desktops, laptops and mobile devices
  • Help desk support for your team’s day-to-day needs

The private cloud provider will host, manage, and support all of these components, and serve as the single point of contact and accountability for the entirety of your firm’s IT. The right Private Cloud service will include the latest version of Microsoft Office, Exchange Email, and Microsoft SQL for your practice management applications.

I know this because that’s exactly how we provide cloud services at Uptime Legal. In order to be able to provide end-to-end support for all of your technology, its important that we provide and host it. We take accountability for and support your software, your email, your documents and all of your data. Our secret to delivering the world-class support that Uptime Legal is known for is that we host, manage and support everything, soup-to-nut (and for a simple, fixed fee.)

What’s more, your chosen legal software may interact with other components of your technology: files, documents, email and more: and for this integration to work seamlessly, all of your technology must live on the same platform so that, together, your overall systems are a well-oiled machine. Those reasons–among others–are why at Uptime Legal, we provide an end-to-end legal technology solution.

I’ll tell you a secret: We didn’t always do it that way.

Many years ago, when we were in our “anything for a buck” phase, we would let law firms subscribe to only one portion of our (now wholistic) cloud offering. Maybe they just wanted Time Matters hosted in the cloud. Or maybe they just wanted hosted Exchange email, and nothing more. While we would make the case for an all-inclusive, fully-integrated platform: some law firms resisted, so we’d sell them just a slice of our overall offering. We’d give them hosting for their PCLaw only.

The result? You guessed it: a disjointed mess. Too many systems in too many different places. Software X didn’t talk to software Y. Company A blamed company B. Users had too many different logins to too many systems. Everyone had too many different help desks to call if they needed assistance. And ultimately, those of our clients weren’t happy.

That why we made the philosophical decision to host, provide and support all of a law firm’s technology, in one place, on one platform. A platform that we built, manage and support–and therefor can be 100% accountable for.

Other technology providers and (unfortunately) law firm’s haven’t learned this lesson yet. And–I hope they don’t learn the hard way.

Closing the Loop

My hope in writing this post is to share that experience–mine and the combined experience of many law firms–to help your law firm avoid these mistakes. If your firm uses a desktop or server-based practice management software, such as Time Matters, PCLaw, ProLaw, Needles or Tabs3, and wants to move to the cloud: I urge you to move to an integrated, all-inclusive private cloud.

Piecemeal the cloud at your own risk.

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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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