I have been “in the cloud” since adopting Onebox for my company’s virtual pbx a dozen or so years ago. In fact, I found the “cloud” to have so many advantages over hosting my own solutions, I took LegalTypist 100% digital after finding a secure tech I could configure and use with attorney client work product<- that was about 2004.
Jump forward a decade (can you believe it!) and there’s cloud-based any and everything! The problem with that is – for lawyers and their work product especially - are all those cloud solutions aware of your ethical obligations to maintain confidentiality? What about your duty not to inadvertently disclose <-do they even KNOW about that one?!
You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve spoken with CEO’s who think that by putting the word “legal” in front of “project management” you somehow end up with a “solution” that is secure enough for attorney client work product or that will actually work for lawyers and law firms. Certainly over the past decade, I’ve beta’d enough tech to spot when users are not the focus and marketing and sales are far ahead of a reliable and stable product.
So let me share with you now my top 5 Don’ts For Any Cloud Based Player:
- Don’t listen to any tech company looking to help you become independent of your obligation to understand the most basic information about the location, access and use of your client’s data, and the files you need to run your practice. At a minimum, ask where the servers physically reside; who has access to them and who is available to help you when there is an issue.
- Don’t listen to any tech company looking to help you outsource your IT. They are no more “IT” guys than they are legal project managers (or even remotely familiar with how things get done in a law firm). Having a relative who works for a law firm is not really the standard I want to see from a company entrusted with my clients’ practices. If an attorney who has had a successful practice is not somewhere on the corporate team, be especially wary and up your BS meter when the IT *cough* sales people start “helping” you.
- Don’t click “OK” or “I Agree” until you READ the FULL Terms of Service. Period. Don’t “skim” them. I don’t care who you know who is an attorney who says s/he uses it. Doesn’t matter what anyone else does – you have to read (and understand) the full TOS for yourself. If and when you do hit “I Agree” – make sure to print the TOS to pdf or paper and put in a folder for future reference. Many companies change their “on line” TOS, so you really do need a physical copy of what you actually agreed to.
- Don’t sign up for a whole year because it is cheaper and you think you’ll be more committed. You won’t! You’ll just be out more money for a product you may or may not use (or which may or may not work for you and your firm). The reality is that these are all legal tech start-ups and may not be here in a year! They also may not do what you are lead to believe when you sign up. Or perhaps it can, but you have to pay for and populate a third party add on or hire a consultant first. The point is, always get a 30 or 60 day free trial before you buy into anything and actually test it during the free period to see what YOU can get it to do without investing more than a few hours of your time.
- Don’t have only one way to connect to the internet. When your data, files and client information ONLY RESIDE in the cloud – and you can’t get a connection – then what? Sit around and do nothing until you get service back? No! Use an alternate method to connect to the web - even a dial up or your cell phone is better than nothing.
Does the above mean that a cloud application is NOT for you. No. But you do need to be aware of your options and the risks involved when migrating business functions and/or client data to the cloud.
You also need to be aware of when you are being sold – and it is just as true for attorneys as anyone else – if it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it is.
No piece of technology or shiny object will magically give you back hours every week or get the paying work done and out the door. The fact is, many make simple processes far more complex and time consuming than the average solo needs; and a few require you to pay and incorporate third party products or hire on consultants in order to make their tech actually do that which you were told it would when you were sold.
For a more comprehensive review, here is a link to the most downloaded report on LegalTypist.com: The Sorry State of Legal Practice Management Software and here’s a link to the latest, independent and credible review by Oklahoma attorney Jeffrey Taylor (aka The Droid Lawyer) : Cloud-based Practice Management: A Comparative Review <-and Jeffrey’s not old either!
If you want to hear what I have to say about a specific product, join me in New York City for my workshop: Putting Efficiency Into Practice – Organizing Any Law Firm in Under 4 Hours or as my favorite curmudgeon calls it: How To Manage Your Practice (And Not To Be A Major Screw Up) http://t.co/1ab7uACAey