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Research: Law Firms Warming Up to the Cloud

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What is a tipping point?

A tipping point is “the point at which an issue, idea, product, etc., crosses a certain threshold and gains significant momentum, triggered by some minor factor or change.”

The legal cloud seems to be reaching that point, according to the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey.

Here are seven key findings from that survey about the use of cloud software in the legal profession.

1. Cloud adoption is up.  Thirty-one percent of respondents reported using cloud-based or SaaS software.  That’s up 11 percent from four years ago and nearly double from three years ago, after a dip between 2010 and 2011.

2. Resistance is futile. It might sound a bit like the Borg from Star Trek, but the cloud is certainly assimilating both users and data and from our perspective, in a good way! Thirty-one percent of law firms say they have adopted the law cloud, which represents, in the theory of samples, one-third of the market.  It’s a wide enough adoption to reasonably conclude it includes both the early adopters and a bit of the early majority. What’s also interesting is that those reporting they do not use the cloud dropped 22 points to 58 percent from 80 percent four years ago.

3.  Solos are leading the way. Here the data is pretty amazing – it’s like walking down a set of steps.  Solo firms lead with way with 40 percent reporting using the cloud.  Firms with 2-9 attorneys followed with 36 percent and firms with 10-49 attorneys ranked third with 30 percent. The rest of the data trails off and then plateaus with 19 percent adoption.

Solos in the lead? A visual look at the percent of law firms using the cloud by size. (Data source: ABA 2013 Technology Survey).

Solos in the lead? A visual look at the percent of law firms using the cloud by size. (Data source: ABA 2013 Technology Survey).

4.  The most obvious users, aren’t.  Young lawyers using the cloud the most, right? Nope. The most cloud-enabled attorneys, 37 percent, were admitted to the bar between 20 and 29 years ago. Attorneys admitted between 10 and 19 years ago were next with 35 percent and those with less than 10 years in the bar came in at 32 percent. There does however appear to be a grandfather clause of sorts:  those admitted to the bar over 30 years ago are the least likely to be using the cloud with just 24 percent. Who’s game to take Casey Flatherty’s technology audit?

5.  Convenience, cost most important. Among those respondents that do use the cloud, the top three benefits cited were a) access from anywhere (74 percent), b) always on access or 24/7 access (63 percent) and the low cost of entry or the predictability of the monthly expense (56 percent). The first two are related – access from anywhere, at any time, and from any device with an internet connection – but the predictability of cost stands out as growing steadily in popularity as the cloud has gained market traction in the cloud.

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6.  There are still lingering doubts, however.  Among those who use the cloud, confidentiality or security is the top concern with 72 percent (it’s also the top concern for those who do not use the cloud).  A related issue – control over data hosted on what is essentially a rented server – was the second most significant concern with 58 percent.  Forty-eight percent cited ownership of the data for the same reason.  In aggregate, these top three concerns, although treated separately in the survey, stem from the very same challenge: Do law firms trust their technology partners to be good stewards of their data?  Here’s a sound checklist for evaluating cloud or SaaS vendors.

Interestingly, this question also comes into view later when the survey asks how important the reputation of the technology partner.

Respondents who report that they have used SaaS/cloud computing for law-related tasks were asked how important the name and reputation of the SaaS provider/vendor is in their decision about a SaaS/cloud computing solution for law-related tasks. Seventy percent of respondents to the question report the name and reputation are very important

7. The cloud is replacing old ways of working. What are the top three uses for the law cloud? First, is time and billing with 46 percent followed by document management with 44 percent.  Third in line was case or matter management with 44 percent reporting this feature as a primary use.

How about these numbers? Do they match what you see in the market?

Photo credit:  Flickr 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Five Answers to the Question, “What Is the Law Cloud?”

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.