PracticeLeague - Legal Technology Solutions

Practicing in the Cloud

by PracticeLeague

Introduction

According to Wikipedia, Cloud Computing is Internet-based computing, where shared resources, software, and information is provided to computers and other devices on demand, like an electricity grid.

In other words, cloud computing offers software, data access, and storage services over the Internet with less need of software on your desktop computers and does not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services.

“Cloud” is no longer just a play ground for technology enthusiasts experimenting its adoption. It has now become the infrastructure backbone of individuals and companies that are looking for highly secure, reliable, scalable, remotely accessible, and professionally managed online services with dramatically reduced overhead and IT costs as compared to on-premises servers and software.

While much of the concept of practicing in the cloud may seem novel, most Web-savvy computer users have been using cloud-based technologies for a number of years via longstanding services such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail, among others.

These technologies were among the first to pioneer the idea of centralized services delivered efficiently over the Web, and they have succeeded in laying the groundwork for a software revolution that is gradually leading most applications to evolve toward a Web-based mode of delivery.

Increasingly, it will matter less and less which computer you use to do your work: your documents, e-mail messages, pictures, and all other types of information, will be stored and securely accessed online.

Cloud computing grants flexible access to high-tech applications without software having to be delivered in a box. The world has been seeing cloud applications launching for the past few years, including e.g. gmail for email, google docs for electronic document storage, professional email accounts hosted by Microsoft’s cloud program or using storage space provided by big cloud infrastructure companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.

One of the main issue with cloud-based computing is the perception of stepping outside the comfort zone. For years, firms have been installing and using client-server based systems and have grown comfortable with that environment – They can see them and they can touch them. Cloud-based computing by definition is not located inside the office and therefore cannot be seen or touched. However, the bottom line is that as the cost of maintaining existing technology continues to grow, it is worth to evaluate cloud-based computing technologies. This means that firms have to step outside the comfort zone and start adopting these new technologies.

Benefits of Cloud computing

The benefits of moving from traditional desktop and server-based applications to the cloud are numerous for firms of all sizes. By adopting cloud computing, even the smallest firm can enjoy the benefits of both extremely cheap data storage and faster, better performing IT systems.

Bullet Anywhere Accessibility - lawyers and staff have virtually 24/7 access to their application and data from anywhere in the world via the Internet. Further services are compatible with Windows, Mac or any smart phone or mobile devices.
Bullet Anytime Availability - Online services and your data is available anytime, anywhere. Lawyers don't have to deal with logging in to the office system remotely to access the documents/information required by them.
Bullet Affordability - Cloud services are offered at a low monthly subscription cost. No costly upfront capital investment for hardware or software or manpower is required.
Bullet Simplicity - Cloud Computing simplifies law office technology design - the minimum requirements are a basic network and high-speed Internet connection.
Bullet Maintainability - Cloud Computing reduces or eliminates on-premises technology personnel and lowers operating costs for hardware and software enhancements, updates, backups and routine maintenance.
Bullet Security - Considering that data theft is 10 times more likely to be physical than via a high-tech cyber attack, physical security is the number one enemy when it comes to a data breach. With responsible cloud service providers, the data is under 365 X 24 X 7 surveillance.
Bullet Ready to use - Integrated, ready to use practice management applications with time and billing, document management, contact management, emails are more quickly made part of daily work processes as compared with the learning curve associated with multiple, shrink-wrapped, on-premises software.

Myths Surrounding the cloud computing

Myth: Data is not confidential on the cloud

Client confidentiality and security are always at the top of lawyer concerns regarding any technology. "If my client data is stored in cloud, how can I ensure that my confidential client data is secure?"

When you access a cloud-based system through your Web browser, everything you type and view is transmitted over a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol. SSL is an extremely powerful technology allowing for complete secure communications over public networks including public Wi-Fi connections.

This is the same technology that protects your data when you log into your bank account. Or your credit card number when you purchase online from popular online stores.

Even though your confidential client information may reside on the physical server hard drive outside your office, it remains secure and confidential using a variety of security practices including physical security, personnel security, network security, firewall, data center security, intrusion detection 24X7 monitoring, and audit.

Myth: Our office server is more secure

In the traditional environment, the servers are physically located on the law firm premises. It also means that the confidential client data is located physically within the law firm premises and the law firm has complete control over that data and the servers. But how secure is that server room, really? Many “secure” servers found in law firms are located in un-locked closets accessible by anyone from building maintenance to house keeping and cleaning staff.

On the other hand, data centres that host cloud-based computing applications follow a significantly more stringent set of security best practices consisting of Security Systems and Equipment combined with Security Procedures and Practices and Auditing Processes, to ensure unparalleled security for all the services they provide.

Many providers also manage a unique database architecture to further protect the Clients’ valuable data. All the subscribed accounts have complete separate and unique database and tables for the user, master as well as transactional data. Hence, there is very little chance of any tampering or pilferage of Clients’ valuable data.

Myth: Cloud solutions are not reliable

To effectively use a cloud-based application, you must be connected to the Internet. So what happens when you can’t connect to the Internet? Fortunately, connectivity is becoming more reliable and consistent every day. Everyone is vulnerable to connectivity interruptions whether your data lives in a local storage or across the nation. If your Internet connection went down, how would you send or receive e-mail? Hasn’t e-mail become a critical communication tool in your practice?

Further, many cloud providers offer offline gadgets to manage your work on your laptops temporally and data get synched automatically when Internet comes up.

Cloud Services for Law firms

Online cloud based services for law firms now include complete law practice management systems, time and billing solutions, document management, assembly and storage platforms, secure document and information exchange services, secure email networks. The online platforms are ready to use, easy to setup and offer alternatives for law firms of all sizes.

Practice Management Solutions

Practice management has become one of the most popular cloud offerings due to its broad usage for all different forms of law practice, from single users to large law firms. These solutions provide complete practice management features such as client management, matter management, document storage, document assembly and form management, calendaring, time & expense recording, billing, client relationship management, dashboards etc., which the law firm can access from anywhere with any device including smart phones.

Further, solution for specific practices like litigation – to manage case diary, case status, send updates to client, Intellectual property management – for managing complete life cycle of patents, trademarks, designs and copyrights are available.

Time and Billing

These solutions use cloud computing to help streamline the time recording and billing functions. With the ability to manage various billing arrangements like hourly, fixed fee, activity based, contingency, blended etc., these solutions reduce the time spent in preparing bills manually. The collections process is tied into the time and billing component of these solutions, with many of them offering accounting and trust/advance account management features.

Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures save time for both the law firms and clients. These products provide secure, web-based electronic signatures and in some cases will store signed documents online for access by both parties. Features typically include common file format support, biometric and webcam photo authentication and document archiving.

"Since PracticeLeague is cloud based, it gives
us the advantage of using it from any PC, MAC or
Tablet running and internet browser. We also appreciate
the fexibility of being able to export data from Practice
League any time"

Document Management

Online document management services allow law firms to store and access files and documents from anywhere, create, edit, share and collaborate with clients, team members and others, Organize documents into folders based on clients or projects. Search the content of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF files, and even emails.

Virtual Law Office Services

These services facilitate the online delivery of legal services and include the use of secure client portals to provide clients with the ability to work with their law firms online. In a good Virtual Law office system, encryption tools enable lawyers to share messages and documents securely with their clients on a server accessible through the Internet, using security systems that operate much like online banking. This provides greater privacy and confidentiality than using unsecured email communications.

Essentially, these solutions combine web-based practice management with time & expense recording, document management and other law office management features, including form libraries, document assembly and automation, calendaring, invoicing and accounting features.

Project Management

Lawyers have now started recognizing that the project management skills are also important to the practice of law. After all, managing a case or a transaction is similar to managing a project; there are specific tasks/activities, milestones, deadlines and resources to be assigned to each task/activities. These solutions provide project management features for law firms to manage their transactions. These solutions are often combined with practice management tools and , discussion forums, chats for collaboration.

Online Document Storage and Backup

Online backup/Storage services are designed for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes, either as a primary backup or as a redundant backup for some other backup source. These services encrypt your data and typically back up incrementally, only backing up those files that are new or changed.

About PracticeLeague

Law firms want security, mobility and ease of use. Their Clients want lower costs and better service. The cloud fulfils both purposes. So many more law firms will make the switch to Cloud. Especially, now that the tablets like Android and iPad provide the missing device to connect the law firms with the courtroom. We believe 2012 is the year of inevitability.

PracticeLeague offers cloud based secure, Ready-To-Use, Pay-As-You-Go Practice Management Software to assist Law, Audit and Consultancy Firms to manage their Practice effectively and efficiently. This ready to use software includes Time keeping, Document management, Expense management, Automated Billing, Client Ledgers, Case Calendars, Task Management, Reminders/Alerts and intelligent Dashboards to manage and grow your professional practice. Please visit www.practiceleague.com for more details.

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