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Why It's Now Time for Law Firms to Move into the Cloud

Until now many firms have been conservative in their attitude towards cloud computing. In this article Simon Elven, Commercial and Marketing Director at Tikit, argues that that now has to change. Quite simply the advantages of cloud have become so obvious that the firms which fail to engage will begin to give away competitive advantage.

Have you ever seen a 1930s television? It’s an enormous cabinet of a thing, with a tiny screen about the size of your hand. Early adopters paid virtually the equivalent of an annual salary for the doubtful privilege of watching three hours of scratchy black and white content per day. It’s quite a leap to the slick, connected, curved, hyper-high-definition TVs of the 21st century. My point is that technology generally evolves a great deal from its first incarnation. It can come in leaps and bounds. Yes, when it first appeared, cloud, like early television, was rudimentary. But here’s the thing: it has moved on and grown up. It’s really, really good now – so firms really should start to engage.

Specifically, my argument is that cloud now takes on the three biggest IT challenges typically faced by today’s law firms and fixes them. Namely, cloud dispels the burden of complexity; it lifts financial pressures, and it solves the challenge of mobility. Which is why firms now can’t afford not to get on board.

Dispelling the Burden of Complexity

Just about every firm —of every size and in every location—is dealing with an increasingly complex IT system. In truth, this is almost inevitable. As technology has developed over the last couple of decades, new capabilities have been added piecemeal, and sometimes it feels as though the bits are being held together with string.

Firms have already complicated infrastructures that can only get more complex as new requirements are added. And as you know, new requirements regularly come along. At the moment, there are growing requests around the need to increase resilience and security, as well as to introduce the capacity for mobile working—I’ll get to these later.

This leaves IT increasingly stretched and exposed. There is the headache of making it all work—which requires more and more capital expenditure and more and more specialized people—and the prospect that things will only ever get more convoluted. 

That is until you go into the cloud; at which point most of these headaches melt away. For instance, if you move to the cloud, there’s no longer any need for an extensive infrastructure because you’re now using the infrastructure of the cloud provider.

More importantly, one of cloud’s biggest strengths is that it relieves firms of the burdens of ensuring resilience of disaster recovery and contingency planning, of regular systems testing, and of arranging and maintaining off-site back-up facilities.

The fact is that cloud heightens your firm’s resilience and reliability in an instant. It’s the business of cloud providers to be robust, and as a result, their resilience is greater than that of the average law firm by an order of magnitude. cloud providers also have the resources to achieve higher system availability than can be managed in house. There will be no more long weekends when the system is down due to testing or upgrading delays.

Likewise, it’s the business of cloud providers to be secure, and they are able to commit to vastly more resources for confronting cyber security threats than the average firm would ever find possible. As a result, information will be much more secure from cyberattacks in the cloud. Plus, because data is stored remotely, it is much more protected from attacks.  

It was once the case that law firms pleaded “Our clients won’t let us” when the question of moving into the cloud came up. This stemmed from a persistent perception that cloud was less resilient and less secure than keeping data on premises. That’s simply no longer the case—in fact, the opposite is now true. What was once a barrier has since become an enabler, and a result, better informed clients may begin to insist that their firms go into the cloud.

Better for Cost

Meanwhile, as competition grows and margins tighten in the legal sector, it’s becoming the norm to ask IT to do more with less. This, on the face of it, is really hard to do unless you go into the cloud because there, multiple savings can be made.

For starters, there is no longer a need to continually add or maintain infrastructure. In fact, some of the existing infrastructure can even be relinquished, saving the costs associated with maintaining and buying equipment. This might include powering and cooling big server rooms and even the rent paid to host hardware infrastructures.

It’s likely that firms can also rationalize personnel costs when they go into the cloud. Medium term, IT probably won’t need to keep hiring more people as the infrastructure will be streamlined and easier to manage. In the long term, overall IT costs will likely be lower for firms that are in the cloud than for those of comparable size that are not.

The cloud also brings an advantage for budgeting. Instead of intermittent big hits on capital expenditure, firms in the cloud have more manageable and predictable fees. Infrastructure upgrade cycles disappear, making budget planning simpler.

Moreover, the cloud provides the flexibility needed to scale up and down. Never again will the firm have to over-provision. In the case of acquisitions and mergers, a firm can add capacity very quickly; conversely, it can subtract just as easily. Going forward the firm will only ever pay for the capacity that it actually uses.

A final note on cost is that there’s always a hit on productivity when IT rolls out capabilities—except for when it occurs in the cloud. The implementation phase of a new application takes place remotely, as do periodic software upgrades, so the cost of disruptions to the business are minimized. The benefits of the cloud all add up to make it a smarter financial option.

Tackling the Growing Requirement for Mobility

A third key challenge that IT is facing is the firm’s changing requirements. As waves of younger lawyers come through, their expectations around where and when work can be done are placing new demands on IT. What’s more, their experience of seamless IT across devices and distance does not predispose them to accept “old school” restrictions, especially ones that eat into their conception of work/life balance. IT finds itself under increasing pressure to accommodate these new ways of working. This can be hard to do with an infrastructure that is locked in the building and in the past. cloud, on the other hand, makes the provision of remote working very straightforward.

In Conclusion

At this point, firms need not, and probably should not, bring a ‘big bang’ approach to adopting cloud. It’s perfectly okay to do it in stages.

In reality, many firms have taken a step into the cloud already. Anyone using an email security and archive solution like Mimecast is already utilizing a cloud service and probably has been doing so for some time. The sensible way to proceed is through tactical adoption of individual cloud-based services, swapping out the old for something new and cloud-based.

Timekeeping makes for an ideal “entry-level” cloud application because it forms an excellent proof of concept. This is because it can quite quickly pay for itself by logging newly discovered time out of hours that otherwise wouldn’t get captured.  It’s an astute way for IT to build the case for the introduction of more cloud services that will future-proof and simplify IT, saving the firm money and making it more resilient and secure.


Tikit is one of the largest suppliers of technology solutions & services to legal & accountancy firms, and is part of BT Group. Tikit's client list totals more than 1,450 firms globally, including 90 of the UK's top 100 law firms, 250 US law firms, 12 of the top 20 European law firms and 18 of the UK's top 50 accountancy firms. Click here for more information.

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