The legal community is increasingly embracing cloud computing. While lawyers have to be cautious when adopting new technology, cloud computing’s time has come. The technology has proven itself to be both secure and convenient for the legal community — and soon it may be nearly indispensable.
More Attorneys Using the Cloud
This past year saw a new influx of attorneys using the cloud for the first time for storage, practice management and/or other law-related activities. The trend was especially pronounced among smaller firms. While 31 percent of lawyers overall used the cloud in 2013 (a 10 percent increase from 2012), among sole practitioners the number was higher — 40 percent used the cloud in their practices this year, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey. Satisfaction levels were high. Only 7 percent of the lawyers surveyed who currently used the cloud said they didn’t plan to continue.
The trend of more lawyers starting to use the cloud is likely to grow even stronger in the near future, as lawyers become increasingly aware of the benefits, become more familiar with the technology, and find cloud-service providers that address lawyers’ needs for document confidentiality and security. Top benefits for lawyers include the ability to access documents from any device at any time in almost any location, the convenience of sharing documents from the cloud, and increased security.
1. Increased Accessibility
Cloud storage fits the way that lawyers work today. Having mobile access to documents means that lawyers are no longer chained to the office and can easily access documents 24/7 while in court, in a client’s office, at home or while traveling. Lawyers can use their smartphones and tablets to view documents, freeing them from the need to have access to a laptop or desktop computer.
2. Ease of Sharing
Accessing documents from the cloud is far more convenient when lawyers are collaborating than emailing documents back and forth. Clients also appreciate the easy access.
Contrary to some lawyers’ fears, storing documents in the cloud is actually more secure than storing them in paper files or on a computer’s hard drive. Both paper and hard drives are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods or fires. Hard drives often fail, and if back-ups have been infrequent, the lost data and documents will be irretrievable. In the cloud, encryption ensures that only authorized people can access the stored documents.
State Ethics Opinions
So far, 14 states have issued ethics opinions on cloud computing for lawyers. While different states have different specific requirements, all the states that issued opinions have ruled that cloud computing is permitted, and all have set the standard that lawyers need to follow as taking “reasonable care” to preserve client confidentiality.