Too many law firms live in the past with tools that require servers on-site and limit your ability to collaborate with your staff. Embracing the cloud-based law firm model will transform your team’s productivity, improve client experience, and ramp up your profitability.
But transitioning to the cloud is easier said than done if you don’t know where to start.
Follow this guide to see the benefits of cloud services for your firm and determine what areas of your business are the best fit for the transition.
A Quick Overview of Cloud-Based Legal Software
Cloud computing sometimes seems like a fresh, new thing to many attorneys. But the reality is most people use cloud-based tools every day without realizing it. You’ve used the cloud if you’ve used email clients like Gmail or Outlook.
You can think of cloud computing in contrast to traditional or on-premise software.
On-premise software requires you to install the tool on your computer or a server in your office. You and your staff access these tools directly from those computers or from an office intranet set up by an IT professional.
Cloud-based software does not require you to use your own server.
Instead, lawyers and their teams access the tools through the internet. The software company stores all of your data and the software’s codebase on their own servers.
The result is that cloud-based tools allow you to access your data from anywhere you have an internet connection. And you can use these tools from multiple devices, such as through a mobile app on your phone or a tablet.
Why Transition Your Firm to a Cloud-Based System?
Cloud-based tools offer a range of benefits for law firms over older on-premise tools.
The first is that you always have access to the latest version of the software you use. You won’t have to worry about working with or replacing outdated legal technology as often. And you won’t need manual updates from a service technician.
The second big benefit is accessibility from anywhere on different types of devices.
You can use cloud software anywhere you have internet access.
The COVID pandemic showed the world that we can’t always rely on software that’s tied to the office. Cloud technology gives law firms an easier way to work from home or operate on a hybrid model.
There are less extreme examples than a global pandemic, too. Any lawyer can think of a time when they needed to review a case document but didn’t have their work computer on hand.
And there are other benefits to switching to a cloud-based system, such as:
- Reducing costs by eliminating the need for physical hardware or IT staff
- Simplifying collaboration across legal team members
- Storing backups of your data in the cloud
- Picking from pricing tiers that allow your firm to budget based on the features you need
- Enhancing data security with features such as advanced encryption
Some legal professionals hesitate to embrace cloud software over cybersecurity concerns.
But the makers of these tools have an incentive to keep your data (and your client’s data) secure. Reputable law firm software companies make regular updates to their tech to follow cybersecurity best practices. And you can help keep your data secure by limiting which employees get access to tools with sensitive information.
Tools that allow access on the go, make way for collaboration, and are easier to maintain put you on track for improved productivity at your law firm.
And improvements in productivity have a direct impact on your law office’s profitability.
Common Applications of Cloud Legal Tech
Cloud technology fits across your entire law firm. These tools make a wide range of day-to-day tasks easier to work on from anywhere.
Here are some of the most common business applications with cloud legal tech.
Client Intake Tools
Intake tools capture the most important data from new clients so you can review it and come prepared for an initial meeting. The right law firm client intake tools offer consistent information gathering and reduce staff time on tedious input.
Cloud-based intake tools also prevent massive issues with your case pipeline.
Lawyers who have used to on-premise intake software have told us horror stories about their tools crashing. These firms end up waiting for days until a technician can fly out to fix it. This leaves the firm stuck with pen and paper intake until IT fixes the issue.
Switching to cloud-based software fixes that issue. Cloud software companies are able to fix issues remotely, leading to improved uptime and less hassle on your end.
Options like CloudLex, Lawmatics, and Interaction are popular client intake tools with cloud storage and access.
Case Management and Law Practice Management Software
Moving case files along, providing updates to clients, and storing notes take up a lot of a lawyer's time. And you’re not always in the office when you need to capture new info or make an update on a case.
That's why investing in case management software makes a lot of sense.
The right case management tools let you and your team keep up with case progress from anywhere. Anyone who needs to touch the case can make changes. And your clients benefit from features that simplify the process of sending case updates.
And investing in case or legal practice management software has other benefits for your practice. Some of these tools bundle additional features like billing and time tracking, too.
Some of the most commonly used case management tools for lawyers with cloud offerings include Filevine, Clio, and MyCase.
Legal Document Automation and Management
Cloud-based legal document automation is a game changer for many law firms.
There are a few simple benefits that make this class of tools an easy choice to invest in. This includes things like improving consistency in document creation or making document generation a breeze.
But the real benefits show themselves when you consider the use cases.
Imagine a scenario where you need to generate a new document for a case and collaborate with a co-counsel to complete it. But your colleague is out of town at a conference. Document automation tools make it easy to spin up a new document from a template, share it with the other attorney, and fill it out together from across the country.
Or think of a situation where you need to make an editable version of a paper document.
Document automation tools allow you to scan these documents into the cloud. Then the tool reads through it with optical character recognition (OCR). You'll get an editable and collaborative digital version in a matter of seconds.
Common cloud tools that offer cloud document management and automation include NetDocuments and higher-tier Clio subscriptions.
Document review makes up nearly 80% of the work in litigation. Using eDiscovery empowers lawyers to work through this process faster.
The right software for e-discovery makes your life much easier in court during difficult cases. These tools mine through all of your case documents to surface the evidence you need to settle a case or achieve a verdict in your favor.
And some of these tools have added AI functionality that makes the discovery process a cinch.
Adding cloud-based eDiscovery software is a no-brainer for lawyers who spend a lot of time sifting through evidence. Common tools in this category include Everlaw and Relativity.
Billing and Time Tracking
Upping your billable hours each day is one of the easiest ways to scale your law firm’s growth.
Cloud-based billing and time tracking tools help make that a reality. Accurate and timely client billing keeps your law firm running. These tools let you capture every minute you're working on something, even if you're not physically in the office at the time.
These tools don’t just help with invoicing, though.
They also give you a clearer picture of what types of work people spend the most time on. These tools make it easy to find inefficiencies across the business. Those insights allow you to prioritize and plan things like hiring more staff to pick up slack or discover areas of the business ripe for legal workflow automation.
Popular cloud-based legal billing tools and time tracking tools include Smokeball, Clio, and Leap.
What to Weigh When Selecting Cloud Tools
Selecting the right cloud-based tools for your law firm comes down to a few different variables. Here’s what to consider before you buy a tool.
Look at your budget to determine what makes sense. You'll need to spend on a subscription for access, and that subscription may break down by the number of “seats” or accounts you need. Balance cost-effective pricing with the expected benefits and ROI.
Look for tools that help with more than one area of your firm rather than something that offers only one or two features.
And look for integrations with existing tools you use.
Think about what features will improve your work life and provide benefits to clients. For example, something that offers a client portal improves their experience while reducing the number of emails you get from current clients about their case status.
Read through reviews from users of any software you're thinking about, too.
Take note of any challenges mentioned in these reviews. Is it hard to train team members? Are there numerous bugs that block efficient workflows? Does it fail to integrate with your basic tools like Outlook? Those are all red flags.
Ditch Legacy Tools & Join the Cloud
Lawyers should have to settle for paper files or software that relies on clunky internal servers.
Cloud-based solutions allow you to streamline your firm and tap into to work on cases even if you're traveling. Cloud connectivity makes it possible for your entire team to collaborate and get their work done no matter where they are.
That’s a huge bonus even if your firm still does most work from the office.
Move into a cloud-based practice today for better productivity, scalability, and client experience. We’ve put together a variety of guides to help lawyers choose the tools that work for them. Check out these related resources to get started: