Lawyers’ Use of Cloud Computing on the Rise in 2012

English: Cloud Computing visual diagram

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cloud computing, where your data and software are stored on servers owned and maintained by a third party, has been around for years now and offers law firms, both big and small, many benefits, including affordability, flexibility and agility.

Because of the increasing prevalence of cloud computing, most lawyers are now familiar with the concept and are warming up to it. This is because the cost/benefits balance has shifted in favor of cloud computing as it becomes a more recognized and accepted technology and as legal cloud computing providers have responded to consumer worries by implementing procedures and mechanisms to reduce perceived risks.

But, please, don’t take my word on it. That lawyers are increasingly using cloud computing services is borne out by the results of 3 different legal technology surveys conducted over the past year.

First, there’s the 2012 ABA Legal Tech Survey, which indicates that cloud computing use continues to increase, especially among solos and small firms. According to this survey, 29 percent of solos and small firms reported using cloud computing, with small firms of two to nine lawyers close behind at 26 percent.

For firms with 500 or more attorneys, nearly 15 percent have utilized some form of cloud computing, with that percentage dropping to 8 percent for firms with 100-499 lawyers. In other words, the use of cloud computing products by large law firms is becoming more commonplace, but we’ve got some ways to go before cloud computing becomes the norm in BigLaw.

The results of the  2012 Am Law Tech Survey, which compiled the responses of 83 Am Law 200 CIOs and technology chiefs regarding their law firms’ use of technology over the past year, were similar: the use of cloud computing by large law firms is increasing, albeit at a slower rate than that of solos of small firms.

Nevertheless, there has been an uptick of cloud computing use, with 74 percent reporting using hosted computing services, a marked increase from the 65 percent that reported using these services in last year’s survey. And, 50 percent of respondents reported an increase in the use of cloud services compared to the prior year.

Also, according to the report, responding firms used cloud computing in varying ways. 63 percent used it for e-discovery and litigation support, over 37 percent used the cloud for human resource matters, 38 percent used it for email management, 13 percent reported using cloud services for data storage, 7 percent used it for billing and 8 percent used cloud-based platforms for document management.

The main cloud computing benefits cited by respondents were simplified support and maintenance (83 percent) and the reduced need for in-house servers and other hardware (44 percent).

Finally, let’s consider international attitudes regarding the use of cloud computing by lawyers compliments of the recently published Legal IT Professionals 2012 Global Cloud Survey Report, which was completed by 427 respondents from across the globe who held varying roles in the legal services industry.

The results of this report showed strong indications of an acceptance and inevitability regarding the mass adoption of cloud computing tools and their use in the legal services industry. 52 percent of those surveyed reported that their opinion about cloud computing had improved over the last year,  just 9 percent reported that their opinion had declined, and nearly 38 percent reported no change in their attitude about cloud computing.

Most importantly, nearly all respondents acknowledged that cloud computing would ultimately overtake on-premise computing in the legal industry, with only 16 percent claiming that this would never occur. And of those who made this assertion, 49 percent consisted of those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of on-premise computing: CIOs and CTOs.

In comparison, less than 14 percent of those who believed that cloud computing would never overtake on-premise computing were external IT consultants. And, the majority of respondents, nearly 57 percent, predicted that cloud computing would prevail in 5 years, with nearly 19 percent of that group believing that it would occur in just 3 years.

So, overall the forecast for the use of cloud computing by lawyers is a good one and the scales are now tipping in favor of this 21st century technology. Although the legal profession was initially hesitant to embrace the benefits of cloud computing, it is perceived by many businesses, both legal and non-legal alike, to be a viable and appealing alternative to traditional server-based computing. Lawyers now realize that legal cloud computing services make their job easier and provide a level of convenience and flexibility never before seen, thus offering them an innovative and affordable way to better serve their clients.

–Niki Black

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