How Your Law Firm Can Thrive Using Cloud-Based Technology

How Your Law Firm Can Thrive Using Cloud-Based Technology

The Estateably Team
April 30, 2024

In today’s evolving landscape, law firms are increasingly embracing cloud-based technology to streamline operations, better serve their clients, and stay competitive in the digital age. The American Bar Association’s Tech Report for 2022 found that the percentage of firms using cloud computing went up significantly, from 60% to 70%, over the course of just one year.

We’ve rounded up everything you need to know if you consider adopting this transformative technology. We’ll show you what makes a cloud-based law firm, the benefits of moving your law firm to the cloud, and how you can implement a cloud-based solution while maintaining the security of your data.

What is a Cloud-Based Law Firm?: The Basics

Simply put, a cloud-based law firm is a legal practice that uses cloud computing services to help run its business. These services include data storage, as well as applications that help a practice run more smoothly. Law firms that embrace cloud technology can store, manage, and process client information and case files hosted in the cloud, as well as leveraging applications such as attorney accounting software, client communication systems, and more.

Historically, these law firms used in-house servers and computers. Today, however, legal professionals can access everything online by moving to a third-party service hosted in the cloud.

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud

Making the switch from on-premise hardware to cloud-based services brings a variety of benefits. Let’s explore some key advantages.

Enhanced Security and Compliance

Privacy and security are paramount in the legal industry, and many law firms are wary of entrusting their data to a third-party provider. The ABA tech report found that 62% of respondents worried about confidentiality/security around cloud-based technology. However, new technologies and security standards mean that cloud-based legal software has become more secure than on-premise solutions. Encryption (where data is transformed into an unreadable format) keeps data safe and secure in the cloud, while backup systems ensure that your law practice gets up and running again quickly in the event of a disaster. As a result, adopting cloud-based technology for lawyers can help mitigate against data breaches and keep you compliant with industry regulations, such as GDPR.

Scalability and Flexibility

In today’s dynamic landscape, it’s important for law firms to be able to scale up or down quickly—taking on more attorneys to handle a big case, for example, or contracting during leaner periods. Because cloud-based applications are typically offered on a subscription basis, cloud technology is a scalable solution that can adapt to the evolving needs of your practice. Whether it’s onboarding new or temporary hires, or expanding storage to accommodate a sudden influx of client data, cloud-based technology is endlessly flexible.

Cost Savings on IT Infrastructure

On-premise IT infrastructure creates a significant financial burden for law firms. It requires software licenses, maintenance, hardware costs, and an in-house IT support team. Cloud services, on the other hand, don’t require any upfront investment in either hardware or software and typically operate on a pay-as-you-go model, which means you only pay for the services you use. Migrating to the cloud, therefore, reduces both capital expenditure and ongoing operational costs.

Improved Accessibility and Collaboration

One of the main advantages of using cloud-based services is the ability to access data and applications remotely. This allows lawyers to work from anywhere, whether it's the office, courtroom, or home, enhancing law firm productivity and improving work-life balance. Cloud-based tools also facilitate seamless collaboration between colleagues, clients, and external stakeholders. A document management platform, for example, allows all the relevant stakeholders to draft, edit, approve, and even sign a legal document without having to exchange a single email. As well as streamlining in-house workflows, this also improves communication between attorneys and clients, enhancing law firm client relationships.

Automated Updates and Maintenance

Given the importance of keeping client data secure, it’s essential for law firm technology to stay up to date with new developments and advancements. Cloud-based law firms benefit from automatic updates and maintenance provided by their service providers, eliminating the need for manual intervention by in-house IT staff. This means law firms always have access to the latest features, enhancements, and security patches without disrupting their operations or productivity. In addition, industry leaders, such as Estateably, offer online tools with compliance baked in, so any regulatory changes are automatically updated.

7 Steps to Become a Cloud-Based Law Firm

If your law firm is considering migrating to the cloud, here’s our step-by-step guide to making the technology work for you.

Assess Your Firm’s Needs and Goals

Your first step is to think about what you’re aiming to achieve. Identify pain points, inefficiencies, and areas where cloud solutions can offer tangible benefits. Are you looking to streamline your workflows, or is your priority to improve communication with clients? Would attorney accountancy software transform your practice? Once you have defined your goals, you can identify the best solution.

Choose the Right Cloud Services Provider

Selecting the right provider is crucial for the overall success of the project, and price is not the only factor to consider. Choose a reputable cloud services provider that offers dedicated solutions for legal practices and adheres to industry best practices regarding cybersecurity. It’s also important to ensure that your chosen solution integrates with any systems you currently use (and intend to continue using) in your law firm.

Plan and Execute Data Migration

Before you implement your new system, you’ll need to develop a comprehensive plan for migrating data and applications to the cloud with minimal disruption to your day-to-day operations. Test the migration process thoroughly and implement contingency plans to address any unforeseen issues or challenges.

Implement Cloud-Based Management Software

Next, it’s time to implement your chosen software. If you’re implementing a suite of solutions, it’s a good idea to introduce them one at a time so that your team can get used to each new system or workflow before moving on to the next. For example, if using Estateably’s dedicated trust and estates platform, you might want to get your attorneys familiar with streamlining probate administration first, and then introduce tools for trust or power of attorney administration. In addition, think about the support you’ll need during the implementation phase, both from your in-house IT team and from your vendor. Estateably’s support team will be on hand for smooth onboarding and provide comprehensive video guides to get your cloud-based law firm up and running.

Train Your Team on Cloud Security and Best Practices

When it comes to ensuring the security of your cloud-based solution, assessing your provider’s credentials is just half the battle. You’ll also have to foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness and accountability within your law firm. Make sure all employees know how to access and share data securely and can recognize potential security threats. Provide regular, comprehensive training on cloud security best practices, data protection protocols, and compliance requirements.

Establish Remote Work Policies and Procedures

When you can access sensitive data from any location, it’s crucial to understand how to do so safely and responsibly. So, it’s good practice to develop policies and procedures that govern remote working. These could include policies on device security (such as requiring a fingerprint to access a mobile device) and home Wi-Fi security standards.

Monitor, Evaluate, and Adapt Your Cloud Strategy

Adopting cloud-based technology for your law firm is not a one-and-done exercise. Monitor your cloud strategy on an ongoing basis and evaluate the performance of your software to ensure that you’re hitting your targets. Ask for (and act on) feedback from your team, stay up to date with emerging technologies and regulatory changes, and continually look for ways to improve to maintain a competitive edge.

Safety Tips to Consider

While cloud-based technology is more secure than on-premise systems, it's essential for law firms to prioritize data security and privacy when migrating to the cloud. Here are some safety tips to consider for a secure transition:

Evaluate Cloud Service Provider Security Credentials

Security should be top of your list when evaluating potential cloud service providers. Check potential providers’ security credentials and certifications when conducting due diligence, and choose one that adheres to industry best practices and regulatory requirements, such as encryption protocols and access controls.

Ensure Data Encryption During Transfer and Storage

Data encryption transforms your data into an unreadable format in order to mitigate data breaches or cyber-attacks. When choosing a provider, make sure they encrypt sensitive data during transfer and storage to prevent unauthorized access.

Implement Strong Access Control Measures

Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean every employee should suddenly get access to every document. Protect your data by using robust access control measures, such as role-based access control (RBAC), which restricts a user’s access based on their role within your firm.

Regularly Back up Data to a Secure Location

Loss of data can slow productivity and damage your firm’s reputation, so make sure to schedule regular automated backups to a secure location. That way, you’ll be able to pick up again quickly in the event of a hardware failure or if data is corrupted.

Choose Providers With Reliable Uptime Records

Reliability is crucial for the smooth running of your law firm, and you don’t want to fall victim to service interruptions. Evaluate providers based on their service level agreements (SLAs), uptime guarantees, and historical performance.

Understand and Comply With Data Privacy Laws

Make sure you’re familiar with regulations such as GDPR, and remember that data privacy laws may vary from state to state. It’s an area that is constantly evolving, so stay up to date with regulatory changes to ensure compliance and protect client confidentiality.

Use Two-Factor Authentication for All Accounts

To ensure the security of your data, you’ll need to go beyond the single password sign-in process. Establish two-factor authentication so that users have to provide an additional form of authentication, such as a one-time passcode or a fingerprint, to access their account.

Are Cloud-Based Legal Services Secure?

Yes, cloud-based legal services are secure; in fact, they can offer better cybersecurity for law firms than on-premise computer services or traditional paper documents and files. Cloud-based services use technologies, including data encryption, to keep sensitive information safe and secure, and are hosted on multiple servers to provide backup if disaster strikes.

Check that your service provider adheres to industry standards in terms of security infrastructure and holds the required compliance certifications. It’s also important to adopt protocols such as multi-factor authentication and permission controls in your practice and ensure that your team is trained in data security.

Can Cloud Technology Improve Client-Lawyer Communication?

Cloud technology can greatly improve client-lawyer communication by providing secure and convenient channels for interaction. By using collaboration tools such as document-sharing platforms, secure messaging, and client portals, lawyers and clients can review files or respond to queries anytime and anywhere. Cloud technology makes case updates accessible to clients at the click of a button, fostering trust and enhancing communication.

What Are the Cost Implications of Moving a Law Firm to the Cloud?

The cost implications of moving a law firm to the cloud can vary depending on a number of different factors, such as the size of your legal practice, your IT infrastructure, and your software requirements. In the short term, you’ll need to consider costs such as subscription fees and data transfer costs. However, cloud-based services offer longer-term savings through reduced capital expenditure and maintenance costs, as well as ultimately driving productivity and boosting efficiency in your practice.

How Does Cloud Storage Comply With Legal Industry Regulations?

Cloud storage is more secure than on-premise storage since it uses data encryption to keep confidential data safe from prying eyes. In addition, leading cloud storage providers invest heavily in cybersecurity and include features such as access controls and audit trails to ensure compliance. The legal industry, however, has additional regulatory and ethical considerations, so it’s important to choose a provider that specializes in this area and can handle requirements such as data residency options.

How Do Cloud-Based Law Firms Handle Data Backup and Recovery?

Data security is critical to every law firm, and the consequences of data loss—whether through hardware failure, cyber attack, or human error—can be disastrous. Not only can the loss of legal documents and client information interrupt productivity, but it can also wreak irreparable damage on your firm’s reputation.

Modern law firms are increasingly turning to cloud-based solutions, which securely store data on multiple servers so that it can be retrieved quickly and easily in the event of a disaster. While reputable service providers include features such as automatic backups, it’s good practice for law firms to develop their own disaster recovery plan too, and to test data recovery procedures regularly.

The Bottom Line

Cloud-based services offer significant opportunities to boost productivity and efficiency, producing measurable results that you can see in your law firm's key performance indicators. By enhancing security, minimizing IT costs, and boosting flexibility and scalability, cloud-based technology can give your legal practice a competitive edge in the digital age.

Estateably is a cloud-based platform designed especially for trust and estate professionals. Our legal software streamlines the trust and estate administration process through tools such as document automation, report generation, and robust accounting tools—and it can all be accessed securely online anytime and anywhere you happen to be. Get in touch with us and schedule a free demo to find out how you can transform your practice into a cloud-based law firm that’s ready for the future.

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