Why law firms are now adopting cloud technology more than ever

New Law Journal

7 December 2020

Damian Donovan describes why the COVID-19 pandemic is moving law firms to the cloud

For law firms, the decision to move to cloud-based practice management and productivity software is rarely taken lightly. There are many change management, business disruption and cost considerations to consider. Finding the elusive “right time” to switch to new systems can mean decisions get put on the back burner for months if not years. However, now that so many of us are facing enforced remote working due to COVID-19, firms are having to make quick decisions to get cloud-based software in place that helps them get up and running remotely, and fast. Why is now the right time for a move to the cloud?
Actionstep has been helping law firms transition to the cloud with our all-in-one practice management system for over 16 years. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a disruption of the fundamentals of the legal sector. Law firms are adopting a virtual organisation model, accelerating the shift to the cloud as many firms adapt to enforced remote working conditions.
“In September we saw Slater & Gordon end their London tenancy and announce that remote working for its entire UK staff will become the norm” says Damian Donovan, UK Sales Director at Actionstep.
For the majority of firms that are not already in the cloud it can be a real struggle to get up and running remotely. Some firms may have had “work-arounds” like VPNs or hybrid-cloud logins which allowed them to access their data in the short-term. However, legal technology has evolved rapidly over the last 10 years. Many of the “work- around” systems that firms have in place are not fit for today’s standards of security and connectivity. Cloud-based systems offer much more security and allow people the full breadth of functionality they need to do their jobs well. We know technology is not the only aspect firms are struggling with. People are working from home indefinitely, sometimes in less-than-ideal environments. For many, this is a completely different way of working – adopted overnight. Team collaboration, information sharing, and morale can suffer unless you are used to operating this way. So, for these firms, it might not feel like an ideal time to change IT infrastructure with so much other change occurring. But when is the right time? How are you going to keep managing through this crisis without making a change? Is your goal to just get through it, or to use the time wisely and position your firm well for the future? We don’t know how long it will last. And when it’s over, being ready for the next unpredicted crisis will be even more valuable. 58% Cloud usage was at 58% in 2019 amongst law firms.
Solos and small firms continue to lead the way. #1 A recent report by the International Legal Technology Association which surveyed 537 law firms, representing 116,000 lawyers, ranked cloud as the number one technology trend they believe will create significant change in the legal technology profession.
Is it really in the cloud? If you are looking at cloud-based software for your law firm, you have no doubt researched and found many options and providers for managing your law firm.
But how can you be sure the systems you are considering are fully cloud-based? (And does it really matter?) The word “cloud” can be used loosely by some software providers. Combined with lots of images of clouds, web-screens, laptops and wi-fi – you could easily assume the software you are considering is a fully cloud-based solution. However, not all cloud providers are the same. Some “cloud” providers simply host your local on-premise server for you and allow you to access it via Terminal Services (aka Citrix). Others provide a “Hybrid-Cloud” or “Smart Client” solution where you still need to install Windows software to use the application. A true cloud application is accessible to users through any browser on any device (Mac, PC, iPad, Android tabled, etc) from any location without requiring any browser plugins or local software to be installed. In addition, a fully cloud-based application will receive automatic security and system updates with zero downtime ensuring your firm is compatible with the latest versions of Office365 and other online tools with no disruption to your firm’s daily operations. Ask providers to be crystal clear about whether they are truly in the cloud or not so you can make informed comparisons and understand the real benefits to your business.

Damian Donovan, UK Sales Director for Actionstep stated that “In today’s environment, the flexibility to be able to access your full systems and work effectively with your team from anywhere on any device is the difference between surviving and thriving. This is why Actionstep has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer a 100% cloud-based practice management system for law firms with workflow, automation and custom reporting at its core, that brings industry leading security and scalability for our client’s peace of mind and long-term growth plans”.


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