The past five years has seen a gradual shift of mid-sized firms moving their IT to the cloud. Their reasons vary from a desire to modernize like their large firm counterparts to the need for certain cloud-only solutions, or the pursuit of the deep security afforded by public cloud providers.
Even more recently, many firms have struggled with their business operations as certain data, records, documents, and files were solely located within the firms’ physical offices and on-premises systems. The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the very nature and location of what is a law office. That shift to remote work and a dispersed workforce has accelerated the need for accessible, cloud-based legal tech solutions that serve the whole firm, in any location.
But there is a larger, more long-term driver of cloud transformation among mid-size law firms. As leadership considers the future of their business (and the expectations of their clients) the push to modernize their technology platform becomes stronger and more strategic.
Access to modern technology, like the cloud, gives mid-sized firms a distinct advantage over their same-sized peers and even some large law firms. Modernized firms can attract new and larger clients with more enticing rates than larger firms who may be facing greater challenges adopting new technology.
But change happens at the top. Mid-size law firm leaders may have come around to the cloud in recent times, but the shift in mindset hasn’t been due to any single factor. The drivers that influence a firm’s leadership to make the switch to the cloud often include a blend of the following:
Two major public cloud providers have been investing $1 billion in cloud security over the past several years. Besides cybersecurity, the big names in cloud services have automatic backups, disaster recovery, identity and access management, data encryption, host and storage security. These measures are critical to firms of any size, but out of reach for many in the mid-size segment.
Cloud solutions have scalability that allows their services (and fees) to grow or recede according to the needs of their customers. This pay-as-you-go approach helps insulate law firms from overspending on IT infrastructure that goes unused or underestimating their needs and constantly having to add to their investment.
In comparison to on-premises systems, cloud-based solutions have a much quicker, less costly initial implementation, and their ongoing performance is actively managed by their providers. Updates are automatic, periodic, and less disruptive. And since the leading cloud providers have multiple data centers in various geographies, they provide automatic redundancy for business continuity.
It’s a tired phrase, but it fits: Now more than ever, the need for lawyers and business professionals to work effectively in any location is paramount. Law firm clients have long been using cloud-based solutions for communicating and sharing information with global offices. They reasonably expect the same of their law firms. A successful legal delivery model does not stop at the firm offices’ property lines, and the spring of 2020 has drawn a stark contrast between those firms who can continue to deliver value in the new environment, and those who cannot.
Many legal tech software companies are creating innovative cloud-only solutions. While on-premises solutions were tailored towards different legal segments – small, mid-sized or global law firms or small vs. large corporate law departments – the same cloud-based solution is often available to any law firm or corporate law department no matter the size. This allows smaller law firms to have the same innovative, competitive solutions as their outsized peers.
Most law firm corporate clients have various national and global offices. These clients are used to working across business units via cloud solutions already. Whether document sharing, contract management, deal rooms, or spend management, remote access and collaboration is an old hat to their staff.
These clients expect their law firms to drive improvements in the legal service delivery model. This includes offering cloud-based solutions for collaboration and efficiency. Most requests for proposals or invitations to bid on partnering programs include a detailed analysis of the type of legal systems a firm has and some even ask whether the technology can be shared.
The global health crisis has brought accessibility and collaboration to the forefront. What used to be a marketing differentiator has become a business-critical need for law firms large, medium, and small.
For those forward-thinking firms, the benefits are already apparent: security, performance, and innovation. Many mid-sized firms stand in the enviable position of being able to publicize their cloud-based systems to attract additional clients.
For law firms that haven’t yet made the switch, it’s past time to have a candid discussion about the their business needs, and the expectations of their clients. As time wears on, and life returns to normal, the business needs met by the cloud will become a competitive advantage for those firms who face today’s challenges with an eye towards the long term.