Login | March 05, 2021

As predicted, the pandemic has moved lawyers toward the cloud

Technology for Lawyers

Published: January 22, 2021

I have tended to look at the impact of this pandemic on the law office as a time machine that is bringing the future crashing into the present like a seven-hundred-foot tidal wave.
A primary driver of this future-as-right-now experience is the necessity of work sharing in cyberspace. Where we once had The Office, we now have The Virtual Office. And that takes place in “the cloud.” Many law office futurists (well, there really aren’t that many of us, but…) have been predicting a slow, steady move to the cloud. Well, that move has accelerated, as shown by the latest, post-pandemic ABA/ILTA survey from October 2020.
We are talking about transitioning a law firm to the cloud—not just working remotely, but having all data functions off-premises.
More than half of the surveyed firms were primarily or partially in the cloud—21 percent were “mostly” in the cloud, 35 percent were transitioning to the cloud with every software upgrade, and 35 percent were considering it. That totals more than 90 percent, where not very long ago far less than 50 percent would have even considered it.
In terms of percentage of use, large firms reported that 63 percent of their lawyers use cloud computing for work, up more than 20 percent in three years. The percentages gradually decline as firm size decreases, but never go below half.
The remote law office is here to stay. Firms use the cloud for document management (37 percent); time and billing (23 percent); and in a surprise to me, only nine percent of firms use it for case management. I think that latter will greatly expand after a year in quarantine.
Another not-surprising trend during the lockdown is the increase in smaller online tools like videoconferencing. Last year, for instance, 24 percent of attorneys used videoconferencing platforms. In 2020, nearly half of the ABA respondents used that tool, while nearly all (94 percent) of the ILTA respondents used it.
And even smaller—nearly half of attorneys surveyed said that they use texting (SMS) to communicate with clients. Some, not many, also use online chats.
So that’s it. The future of cloud computing in the law office is the present of cloud computing in the law office. And we are not going back.