Posts By: Nicole Black
Some cloud computing proponents speak of cloud computing as if it's the ideal solution to all your IT problems. However, as we all know, nothing is perfect and cloud computing is no exception. While it offers many benefits, as with anything else, flip the “benefits” on their head you’ll find corresponding drawbacks that are also worthy of careful consideration.
However, a brief comparison of the benefits and risks may be useful to law firms seeking to incorporate cloud computing services into their practice. This week, let’s consider some of the benefits and next week we’ll address some of the drawbacks.
First, there are cost-saving benefits. With cloud computing, there’s no need to purchase servers and software; no need to pay expensive annual licensing fees or software upgrade fees; no need to hire IT staff to maintain the servers, address concerns regarding the security of the environment and stay on top of software updates.
Second, cloud computing can simplify computing for many law offices. For firms with an existing IT infrastructure, cloud-based software programs can reduce IT complexity, especially where IT departments are heavily taxed.
In 2009, the American Bar Association established the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20. The stated purpose of the Commission is to “perform a thorough review of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the U.S. system of lawyer regulation in the context of advances in technology and global legal practice developments.”
Last week, the Commission issued a letter calling for comments on the issue of client confidentiality and lawyers’ use of technology, with a focus on cloud computing technologies.
In it, the Commission focused on discerning how much guidance was needed by lawyers in regard to their use of technology, including cloud computing. The Commission asserted that more guidance was likely needed because:
“When data was strictly in hard copy form, lawyers could easily discern how to satisfy their professional obligations and did not need elaborate ethical guidance. Now that data is predominantly in electronic form, however, the necessary precautions are more difficult to identify. One of the Commission’s goals is to identify the precautions that are either ethically necessary or professionally advisable.”
The Commission also suggested that amendments to the Model Rules of Professional conduct might be needed to regulate attorneys’ use of cloud computing in their practices.
In recent weeks, much has been said about the future of legal blogging. In early September, Bob Ambrogi kicked off the discussion by proclaiming that legal blogging is far from dead. Scott Greenfield then chimed in, noting that although legal blogging isn’t dead, there are few quality legal blogs out there. Eric Lipman at Legal Blog Watch then continued the conversation, asking its readers if legal blogging was a dead or dying species.
As far as I’m concerned, legal blogging is not dead, but it’s definitely changing. The change is occurring in large part due to the increasing use of social media platforms as a means of networking and communication.
In the “old days,” starting a legal blog was an easy way for attorneys to showcase their legal expertise while quickly optimizing a law firm’s online presence.
You hear a lot about iPhone apps for lawyers, but what about Blackberry apps? After all, the vast majority of lawyers use Blackberrys, so apps available for this device should certainly not be overlooked.
Fortunately, there are a number of useful Blackberry apps for attorneys.
First, there are a number of apps consisting of databases of federal and state laws, which allow lawyers to carry relevant laws and rules in their pockets in an easily accessible format.
“The Law Pod” offers lawyers access to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence and the U.S. Constitution. The price of each app ranges from $2.99 to $4.99.
There is a legal dictionary app available to lawyers as well —Beiks Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, for $19.95.
One of the benefits of using a cloud computing platform in your law practice is offsite data back up and business continuity. It’s a convenient and simple solution for data back up, it happens automatically and gives you one less thing to worry about.
Not only that--it can sometimes be a lifesaver. If your files are stored in the cloud, they are safe from inadvertent data loss caused by, for example, a local computer or server failure or a natural disaster.
For example, this article from The Telegram, describes how, in June 2010, a Canadian law firm’s office building caught on fire and the offices of the law firm, Roebothan McKay Marshall were completely destroyed.
Lately, it seems like everyone is raving about social media's potential as a business tool. But can it really work for lawyers, who provide professional services, as opposed to companies that sell products or consumer-oriented services, like a hair salon?
The short answer: yes, social media can work for lawyers--because its more than just a marketing tool. In fact, it can be used to benefit lawyers and their practices in a number of useful ways.
However, as I’ve oft-repeated, social media is useless without goals. In fact, in our recently released book, “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” my co-author, Carolyn Elefant and I devote an entire section of the book to the various ways that lawyers can use social media.
One of the most common benefits touted by cloud computing proponents is the economic benefit of switching to the Cloud. With SaaS, there’s no need to purchase servers and software; no need to pay expensive annual licensing fees or software upgrade fees; no need to hire IT staff to maintain the servers and stay on top of software updates.
The software upgrade and installation song and dance with which most law firms are familiar becomes a thing of the past with SaaS-based services. Before cloud computing, law firms purchased and installed desktop or server-based legal software. In many cases, with traditional legal software, software updates are provided free of charge for a specified period of time after the initial installation of the software, but an additional annual licensing fee must be paid for access to updates after that time period expires.
With cloud-based services, you simply pay a monthly fee and the SaaS provider hosts the software for you, at no additional cost. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of and installing software updates. The provider automatically updates the software for you on their end. After the update is complete, the next time you log into your account, the changes to the software system will be in place, ready for you to use.
Sometimes, in this new Web 2.0 world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with information. Organizing the flow of information, for both work and personal uses, is one way to manage the constant stream of information and reduce information overload.
In recent years, the Internet has spawned all sorts of innovative web applications that can make your life and your law practice simpler and more manageable. Note-taking and information capturing applications are a great way to accomplish this and can help you have seamless control over your busy practice and your life.
There are an assortment of note-taking web applications for everyone, no matter what your preference. Here are two of my favorites, both of which are:
accessible on the Web, and
offer iPhone and Android apps.
As I’ve discussed in the past, online collaboration platforms generally allow for far more secure communication than email and offer attorneys a secure online location for collaboration.
But what types of specific transactions can be handled in online collaboration platforms such as virtual data rooms? Well, the answer depends on the type of law that you practice.
If you’re a corporate attorney, you can use a virtual data room for mergers and acquisitions transactions, ranging from due diligence with a single buyer to a staged sell side auction.
Likewise, online document repositories can be very useful for real estate matters, allowing lawyers to more easily manage sales and leases, in addition to restructuring asset backed loans & mortgages.
Restructuring and Insolvency transactions are also well suited for virtual deal rooms. Lawyers can use virtual data rooms to organize files in multiple structures within the same project to control access to files and functionality and create additional deal rooms to buy and sell assets, close financings, or raise additional capital.
One of the more annoying tasks that many of us encounter on a nearly daily basis is attempting to coordinate a meeting or phone conference amongst a group of people. Generally, an agreed upon date and time is arrived upon only after a flurry of emails have gone back and forth between participants.
Scheduling a meeting can sometimes feel more complicated than the actual meeting itself. Many times I’ve found myself thinking, “There must be another way to do this.”
The good news: there is; actually, there are many. With the growing popularity of cloud computing, a number of creative Web 2.0 scheduling applications have been released that help to streamline and simplify the process of determining a mutually agreeable date and time for a meeting.
MeetWith.Me is a web based scheduling application that allows you to share your calendar and make public only the free blocks of time. No sign up is required -- you simply email a link to your pre-assigned MeetWith.Me page to meeting participants and allow them to choose a time to meet.