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Five Answers to the Question, “What Is the Law Cloud?”

Type the words “law cloud” into Google and you’ll get, as of this writing, some 395,000,000 results. Change the search up slightly to “legal cloud” and there are slightly fewer results, at around 250,000,000.

This makes it clear that there are a lot of people searching for information about cloud-based technology within the legal profession. And while the cloud isn’t new technology, it has gained a lot of traction among the legal community as of late.  As such, the topic is still new to many lawyers and legal professionals.

Clearing Up “The Cloud”

Understandably, many people naturally still have questions because, arguably, the term itself “the cloud” is a bit nebulous.  For me it conjures up an image of a mysterious voice from the sky announcing “THE LAW CLOUD!” in a thunderous voice.

Sometimes the best way to understand a new concept is to relate it to something we already know. Here are five ways to answer that burning question:  “What is the cloud?”

1. The cloud is a metaphor, says Eric Griffith in PC Magazine:

In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet.

2. The cloud is like turning on the tap, says Bob Ambrogi (citing Vivek Kundra) in his LawSites blog:

Cloud computing is like the public water supply. Once, everyone had to find and maintain their own supply of water. Now we simply turn on the tap when we need water and turn it off when we are done.


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 3.  The cloud is like a rental car business, says Erik Anderson on IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud blog:

Rental cars are available when and where you need them. When you rent a car, you pay only for the time you use it. Booking a rental car is easy to do by yourself. The rental car company has a large number of vehicles that it can rent, and can buy more cars to rent if there are consistently many requests.

4. The cloud is like an office building, says s.molinari on The Rackspace Open Cloud Community:

It is just like owning offices in a building. You can change the rooms around and add drapes, carpeting, paint the walls and put in your own furniture. You can also add more office space, as you grow. And, every “tenant” gets the same service within the building. Security, electricity, telephone, LAN cabling, water, air conditioning, etc. etc. All these things the tenants wouldn’t need to worry about and that is the same with cloud computing.

5. The cloud is like taking your shirts to the drycleaners, says Ted Ritter in Network World:

Seriously: you drop off your shirts, they put them in a bag with your name on it, and they’re processed and stored awaiting your pickup. This process meets the fundamental characteristics of cloud:

– Elastic: You can bring in one shirt or 100

– Shared: Everything is washed together

– Usage-based: You pay by the shirt

– Supports many devices: You can bring in all sorts of clothes

– Self-provisioning: Self-service dry cleaning is possible

Finally, in the process of researching good analogies to explain cloud technology, we stumbled on this Quora post asking for analogies to describe analogies, which uses clouds:

Analogies are like clouds.  When we observe them, it puts new meaning into abstract forms.  They come and go quickly.  They can be beautiful, cheery, funny, or menacing, and they are largely over my head.

Do these five examples help clear things up for you? What analogies have you heard to describe the law cloud?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Research: Law Firms Warming Up to the 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.