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Lawyers and the Cloud

Cloud storage is a type of software and computer services delivered over the Internet as opposed to a locally-installed drive on a user’s computer.[1]   Dropbox, Google Docs, and iCloud are three of the most popular forms of cloud storage, and are used daily in the United States by both individuals and professionals in the workplace.  While some industries—such as businesses and individuals outside the legal profession—in the United States are taking advantage of cloud storage technologies, lawyers and law firms are lagging behind in adopting cloud technologies.[2]  In fact, the 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report by the American Bar Association revealed that only 38% of lawyers use cloud computing and storage for law-related tasks.[3]

Perhaps even more alarming, over half of lawyers in the 2016 survey who do not use the cloud for legal use say that they have never used the cloud in any extent, and about ten percent of lawyers do not even know whether or not they have used the cloud.[4]  Lawyers who participated in the survey who do not use cloud storage for law-related activities had many reasons for not doing so. Of the respondents who do not use cloud storage, 63% expressed concerns about confidentiality and security concerns associated with the cloud.[5]  54% of those respondents believed that they would have less control of data because the data is hosted by the provider, as opposed to being stored on an internal server or computer.[6]   Half of those respondents were simply unfamiliar with the cloud technology.[7]

While many lawyers have their reservations about using cloud services, the benefits of cloud storage can greatly outweigh many concerns lawyers have about the cloud.  Cloud storage offers a variety of advantages including: (1) low upfront costs; (2) easy mobile access; (3) simple setup and configuration; and (4) built-in disaster preparedness.[8]  For a law firm, low upfront costs can eliminate current expenditures in internal hardware servers.  Mobile access to the cloud can have a wide range of benefits for lawyers who work remotely, or need access to a document outside of the office.  Simple setup and configuration ensure easy maintenance and upkeep of the cloud systems.  Finally, the built-in disaster preparedness that comes with most cloud services ensures a type of security required by lawyers to maintain a secure storage drive for confidential documents.

Overall, there is a dire need for lawyers to take advantage of the many opportunities associated with cloud storage. Cloud storage could be an easy solution for the ever-present problem of staying in tune with quickly advancing technologies.  Cloud storage—with its low upfront cost and high accessibility to its users—can increase security among its users and decrease the risk of compromising storage systems that can sometimes occur with traditional internal server systems.  Cloud storage for lawyers and law firms can reshape the way law firms secure their documents and confidential data.  Any reservations lawyers may have about using cloud services can be addressed with proper training and education.

[1] ABA Law Practice Division, Cloud Computing for Lawyers,  http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/cloud_computing.html.

[2] Dennis Kennedy, Cloud Computing, ABA Tech Report 2015, http://www.americanbar.org/publications/techreport/2015/CloudComputing.html.

[3] Robert Ambrogi, Fewer Than Four Out of 10 Lawyers Use the Cloud, Says New ABA Tech Survey, Law Sites, 6 Nov 2016, http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2016/11/fewer-four-10-lawyers-use-cloud-says-new-aba-tech-survey.html.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] See ABA Law Practice Division, Cloud Computing for Lawyers,  http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/cloud_computing.html.

Catherine Carney