A friend of mine and I were talking recently about the move to cloud computing and storage (also known as SaaS for “software as a service”) and how often lawyers are slow to adopt new technologies. He’s not a lawyer, but quite experienced in technology, and frankly he’s amazed that lawyers would even question whether the move to the cloud is a good thing. My friend points to an article by Rhonda Abrams that says businesses of all types should move to the cloud. What’s most interesting in that article is her comment:
“One day, I’m sure I’ll look back at this column as quaint, just as I smile as I look back on my 1997 column telling people to get email. When it comes to the cloud, we’re certain to say, “How did I ever live without it?”
But as lawyers we need to go through the paces. This includes thorough analysis of the risks presented by cloud computing, followed by the inevitable ethical opinions and then ultimately we’ll move to the cloud like other businesses. It just takes a little more time and a few more disclaimers than your ordinary business.
As described in Abrams’ article, cloud computing changes the world. Some of the benefits include decreased software costs, greater flexibility for employees and staff and the ability to provide clients fingertip access to their documents. But as the article points out, it is often tough to know which service providers to trust. For example, there are a number of “virtual law” platforms in our industry. How do you know which service is best for you? After all, we’re lawyers and most of us are far from experts in cloud computing. So many lawyers choose to do nothing and conduct business the same old way. Besides, who wants to be a test case for ethics’ opinions, right? Plus, it’s dangerous to have someone else with potential access to your data and documents you say? You need to have complete control, correct?
The problem with conducting business the same old way is that many law firms are woefully prepared to deal with potential data breaches. Cyber-crime is on the rise and law firms are an interesting target for cyber-criminals. Most of us have probably heard about email scams that have trapped even savvy lawyers. However, a potentially bigger problem looms with the data on your servers. According to an article from Law Technology News, Chinese hackers infiltrated the networks of at least seven Canadian law firms in 2010. Have you investigated what you can do to protect yourself against a data breach? If you are like most law firms, you probably haven’t done much. We’re not alone though. Even large social media companies such as Linkedin (link to: www.linkedin.com) apparently need to strengthen their defenses against data security breaches.
Plus, just how secure are your files at your physical office? In many ways, SaaS application providers could actually argue files are safer in the cloud than files in the filing cabinets of law offices throughout the country. After all, how many lawyers have locks on their file cabinets? How many lawyers leave files on their desks every night and on the weekends? How many offices have security systems in place? What if a flood occurs or other natural disaster?
Ultimately, my point here is that cloud computing could potentially be safer and provide better security than the way we conduct business now, not the opposite. Cloud computing companies likely have stronger security measures in place than most law firms and also are constantly monitoring the security of their networks. That’s what they do. We practice law. Are we as lawyers really naïve enough to believe that we don’t have serious security issues on our own networks and in our own offices? Don’t get me wrong; I understand the need to discuss the ethics’ and security issues presented with moving our practices to the cloud. But standing still isn’t an option either.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.