5 Benefits of Cloud-Based Software for Law Firms

Actionstep

22 December 2021

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Cloud technology has existed for a few decades, but some law firms are still hesitant to move to the cloud for a variety of reasons, including security concerns, downtime, and lack of control. Here, we define what it means for software to truly be based in the cloud, along with outlining five specific benefits of cloud technology for law firms.

What does “cloud-based software” mean?
What does it mean for a legal practice management platform to be based in the cloud? A true cloud-based software application is accessible to users through any browser on any device (Mac, PC, iPad, Android tablet, etc.) and from any location without requiring a browser plugin or local software to be installed.

That said, you might find that the term “cloud-based” is used loosely by various software providers. For example, some providers simply host your local on-premises server for you and allow you to access it via terminal services, such as Citrix. Others provide a “Hybrid-Cloud” or “Smart Client” solution in which you still need to install Windows software to use the application.

When evaluating software options, ask providers to be crystal clear about whether they are truly in the cloud so you can make informed comparisons and understand the real benefits to your business.

Advantages of Cloud-Based Legal Practice Management Software

Now that we have a clear definition of what it means for software to be cloud-based, let’s explore why this technology is particularly beneficial for law firms.

1. Future-Ready Technology
Law firms should not have to deal with any business disruptions just to stay on the most up-to-date technology. A major advantage of cloud-based legal practice management systems is that they routinely and automatically update themselves rather than requiring a manual update, allowing your firm to seamlessly adapt in tandem with the latest technological developments. As new features are rolled out in cloud-based systems, your firm automatically receives them, sparing the need to schedule a designated “upgrade” with associated downtime. These automatic updates also ensure that you always have a system that is compatible with the latest versions of all the other online tools your firm regularly uses, including Microsoft Office 365.

2. Attracting Legal Talent and Staff
Most law firms say that their people are their most valuable asset. Whether you are a smaller firm thinking about succession planning or a growing firm that needs to build your team, attracting and retaining talent is crucial. With that in mind, younger lawyers and staff have grown up being online and using mobile devices—they expect to be able to access their work and information systems online via their phone any Wi-Fi enabled device. The concept of having to use a designated Windows machine with special software installed is alien to younger generations.

This factor has become even more critical as a result of the pandemic, which forced the need for remote access and flexibility. Furthermore, the current legal job market has become very competitive; Bloomberg recently surveyed 649 attorneys and found that nearly half of the respondents are currently open to new opportunities. In general, younger legal professionals want to work for progressive firms who have up-to-date technology and offer the efficiency and flexibility of remote access. If your firm does not offer the ease of cloud-based tech, you are a competitive disadvantage when recruiting talent.

3. Cost Savings
Cloud-based software solutions typically offer a predictable and relatively low monthly cost. In contrast, the upkeep cost for on-premises solutions, including an Annual Maintenance Plan, hardware upgrades, and general maintenance, can actually end up being much more expensive than a cloud-based practice legal practice management system in the long run. Your firm may be concerned about the cost to implement cloud technology, but it’s important to consider ROI factors beyond the initial price tag. Once implementation is complete, the efficiency and time savings of working from the cloud will immediately begin to offset the initial investment.

4. Compatibility with Microsoft Office 365®
If, like most lawyers, you spend a lot of time in Microsoft Office, you need a system that can stay in step with Microsoft’s cloud strategy. Think about your typical day: the calendar sets the daily schedule, and communications are mostly done through email, and the output of nearly all legal work ends up in documents. Microsoft Office is the conduit of these processes, with Outlook providing email, calendar, and contacts, and Word providing document drafting. Your legal practice management software should integrate with Office and Outlook so that everything you do works across all systems. However, if your practice management system is not fully cloud-based, it won’t stay integrated for long.

This is because Microsoft’s strategic direction has shifted to the cloud with Office Online. By adopting Office 365, lawyers and staff automatically stay up to date with the latest versions of Outlook and Word and can use the online versions of those applications. To stay in step with these Microsoft products, you need a practice management system that is already in the cloud and integrated with Microsoft Office 365 Online.

5. Data Security and Disaster Recovery
Sometimes people feel that if the data is saved nearby, it is more secure. In reality, data saved to the cloud is more secure than on a local server because reputable providers will have bank-grade data encryption and regular independent security audits in place to prevent unauthorized access or alteration. (Learn more about Actionstep’s data security features here.). Encryption makes information much less vulnerable to hackers or anyone else who is not authorized to access it.

With on-premises or “Hybrid-Cloud” systems, you (hopefully) routinely back up your data to a nearby external hard drive or server. The risk is that your PC, local backup drive, or server could be lost to theft, cyber crimes such as ransomware attacks, floods, fires, or natural disasters. With a fully cloud-based system, your data and information are automatically backed up to an offsite repository that never goes offline and is available from anywhere, preventing catastrophe.

Ready to Move to the Cloud?
This is just a sampling of the reasons that a cloud-based legal practice management software system could be a smart business decision for your firm.

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