Significantly more lawyers using cloud computing in 2017

Cloud computing, where data is stored offsite on servers owned by third parties and accessed via an internet connection-has been around for more than a decade now. At first, lawyers were slow to adopt to the concept even though it offers a host of benefits, including 24/7 access to law firm data, the convenience and flexibility of being able to enter billable time on the go, communicate and collaborate with clients in a secure online environment, and easily manage calendaring and tasks from any internet-enabled device-all at an affordable price.

Despite these benefits, lawyers' use of cloud computing initially remained fairly steady at a little over 30 percent, according to the American Bar Association's annual Legal Technology Survey Report. However, in 2016 those numbers began to increase, and in the 2017 Report that was just released, that percentage increased substantially. These statistics comport with a prediction that I made in one of my Daily Record columns in December 2015:

"Cloud computing will be a different story in 2016. I predict that 2016 is the year that self-reported cloud computing use starts to increase. I make this distinction because over the past two years, according to a number of surveys, self-reported cloud computing use by solo and small firm lawyers has remained somewhat stagnant at around 30 percent. .But as the concept becomes more familiar over time and lawyers have a better grasp of what cloud computing is and which software platforms and apps are built upon it, more lawyers will begin to report that they use it and/or realize that they're using it already."

As I predicted, after remaining stagnant at around 30 percent from 2013 to 2015, that percentage increased to 38 percent in 2016. Interestingly, this year's survey results showed a marked increase in the number of lawyers using cloud computing, with the percentage jumping to a whopping 52 percent for all lawyers in 2017.

Solo and small firm lawyers lead the way in cloud computing use, according to the 2017 report. The survey results indicate that 56 percent of lawyers from firms of two to nine attorneys used cloud computing (compared to 46 percent in 2016, 40 percent in 2015 and 35 percent in 2014), as did 56 percent of solo lawyers (compared to 42 percent in 2016, 37 percent in 2015 and 35 percent in 2014), 52 percent of lawyers from firms of 10 to 49 attorneys (compared with 33 percent in 2016, 23 percent in 2015 and 29 percent in 2014), and 42 percent from firms of 100 or more attorneys (compared with 20 percent in 2016, 17 percent in 2015 and 19 percent in 2014).

Lawyers were also asked to share which cloud computing programs they used in their firms. The three most popular legal cloud computing software programs used by lawyers were MyCase, NetDocs, and Clio. The three most popular non-legal cloud computing programs used by lawyers were Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Docs.

When asked why they chose to use cloud computing software in their law firms, respondents provided a vast array of reasons. The most popular benefit cited was easy browser access from anywhere (73 percent), followed by 24/7 availability (64 percent), low cost of entry and predictable monthly expense (48 percent), robust data backup and recovery (45 percent), quick to get up and running (39 percent), eliminates IT and software management requirements (30 percent) and better security than can be provided in-office (25 percent).

It's clear that we've reached the tipping point now that more than half of all lawyers use cloud computing in their law firms. For lawyers who have not yet made the leap to the cloud, the good news is that there are now more legal cloud computing software choices than ever before.

The trick is to choose a well-funded, reliable vendor with staying power, so make sure to carefully vet each software provider that you're considering. You can find a list of questions to ask third party vendors here: https://tinyurl. com/Questions4LegalVendors. It's also important to check online for reviews from current customers. Finally, reputable vendors will also offer free trial access to their software, so make sure to take advantage of that option and then test drive a few different software programs before committing.

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Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book "Cloud Computing for Lawyers," coauthors the ABA book "Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier," and co-authors "Criminal Law in New York," a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.

Published: Wed, Oct 25, 2017

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