Top 5 Trends For Lawyers In 2014
Cloud computing trends have been steadily increasing in the last several years and 2014 appears to be set to continue this trend. New cloud startups are being created on a constant basis, and existing cloud services are becoming more sophisticated. The power of cloud computing is pushing mobile trends to new heights as well, the two actually work very well together. Cloud providers are creating mobile apps that allow lawyers to access the cloud services from any mobile device. So if a lawyer creates a document database on a cloud service such as Box or Dropbox, these documents can be accessed quickly on a mobile device from any location that has internet access.
We are seeing an increase in the number of lawyers that are using cloud computing services in their practice. Some lawyers are sticking to services that are specifically made for the legal profession while others are using more general cloud services that can perform the same type of services. We are also seeing an increase in the number of lawyers who are working remotely or have legal aides and other workers who are using cloud services to work remotely. Lawyers must deal with a variety of tools including tools for time-tracking, billing, invoicing, electronic signatures, case management, client management, project management, document management, online data storage, data backup and more.
Success in the courtroom is usually based on the outcome of the case and how the attorney's client fares. But other factors can be used, such as an overall win-loss record, gross fees and other personal factors. A growing trend has shown that many of the most successful attorneys reach that level of success by using the latest technology to make their work easier, quicker and more efficient.
As iPads and other tablets have become for prevalent and widely-accepted in courtrooms everywhere, the technology-minded attorney is the most successful attorney. There are a variety of apps that have been created for the sole purpose of assisting attorneys in their work and helping them be more efficient. Rocket Matter and Clio are two of the most popular, but there are many other apps that help as well. Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, SkyDrive, SugarSync and more can be used to effectively complete tasks that are part of the standard attorney's practice.
While some attorneys get on the phone, set up meetings and make appointments, the tech-attorney is communicating with clients and legal sources through video messaging, collaborating over documents and files using Google Drive or Dropbox and setting appointments and taking notes through Evernote. While some attorneys are using multiple receptionists and legal aides to complete tasks, some attorneys are using Basecamp to handle all aspects of case management. While some attorneys are creating and printing documents, and setting up meetings with clients to sign them, other attorneys are communicating through video meetings, creating documents through Google Drive or Microsoft Office, sending the documents to the clients using Dropbox or Google Drive and having them legally sign the documents using Docusign. Can you imagine the time saved? The technology-minded attorney can. He can quickly create and complete contracts and move on to other more important aspects of the case. In many cases, time-management is critical and can severely impact the outcome of cases.
Many legal firms have even taken to creating their own apps, custom-tailored around their specific practice to more efficiently complete tasks without having to use a standard toolset. Other legal firms have recruited legal aides and allowed them to use a BYOD program, which enables them to use their personal mobile devices to accomplish tasks and do work remotely. This comes in extremely helpful when you use an employee that works on-call or as-needed.
The attorney who is more technologically sound in the courtroom usually is able to offer more persuasive presentations, illuminating evidence and is able to more clearly present facts and evidence to juries. The attorney who has the majority of his case stored in a single folder on his tablet will be able to more efficiently search and find documents and other information than an attorney with 100,000 pages of paper documents on his desk. Juries can be swayed by displays of ineptness by lawyers in the courtroom and a lawyer that is organized because of technology is more likely to avoid any such displays.
Choosing the right cloud service for your law firm is extremely important because you will be sharing confidential data with a third-party company and you must ensure that it can be trusted to provide you with quality security and confidentiality. Terms of Service (ToS) and Privacy Policies should be thoroughly examined to ensure that the cloud service can meet or exceed the minimum standards to satisfy your ethics requirements. Many law firms have already migrated to cloud computing and the number is rising at about 5% per year. Others are still wary and have not made the decision to move to the cloud just yet. But it doesn't matter if you're a full-fledged cloud user or just using it sparsely to determine if it's the right fit for you, you still need to have a complete understanding of cloud technology in order to get the most out of your cloud experience.
There are many small law firms that are not part of big business and for these firms, computer and network management can be a time-consuming, costly task. Cloud services offer workable solutions that cut costs and expedite law firm tasks by lawyers, co-workers, legal aides, receptionists and more.
Cloud services generally offer a pay-as-you-go rate with the option to pay in advance for longer terms if needed. This gives users the opportunity to cut costs as they will only pay for as much space or as many users as they need. If 100 GB is enough for you, you can buy that amount and pay a monthly rate. If you only want to pay for the exact amount that you use, you can pay that way, usually around $0.10 per GB. If you have to pay for additional users, you may want to pay for only as many users as you believe will need access to the cloud. If only 10 of your staff members need cloud access, you don't need to buy a plan allowing access for 100 users. Most cloud services are scalable as well, offering increases in services as needed.
There are a number of reasons that law firms use cloud services, especially for remote usage and management of documents. Some cloud services, such as Basecamp, are excellent for document management (or any project management) while others like Clio or Rocket Matter are specifically designed for legal practice.
There are many questions to be asked when choosing the correct cloud that will work for you. You need to determine the level of customer support the cloud service offers. You must determine the cloud provider's definition of performance and whether it meets the standards you set for the tasks you will be using the cloud service for. And of course you must determine how adequate the cloud provider's security is at protecting your client's confidential data. You should determine if the cloud provider uses encryption during both transfer and storage of files and documents and whether they offer additional security measures such as two-step authentication.
One big security factor you must determine is what the policy is for data loss. Are you protected in case such an event occurs? How fast can you restore your files? Many lawyers choose to go with a cloud service that is specifically designed to provide secure backups of all files, the most favorable being cloudHQ.
The cloudHQ service provides an automatic, continuous backup of all files and documents to a separate cloud account. Since the replication is continuous, this means when you add new files or documents to the account, or when you revise existing documents, the changes are replicated immediately. There is no daily, weekly or monthly manual backups like other cloud services offer. And the process is automated, it runs in the background completely transparent to you so you can continue your work uninterrupted as it churns along, dutifully replicating all your changes and additions. If you accidentally delete a file, or if a hacker deletes your files, or if any other reason causes data loss, you can instantly switch to the backup account and restore within seconds. If your main cloud service goes down for maintenance or other reasons, you can just switch to the backup account and continue your work uninterrupted. You will always have access to your files which is the way it should be.
For lawyers on the go, a mobile office is a necessity. Whether you're flying, riding in a vehicle, staying in a hotel or headed to the courtroom, you must have constant access to data- and lots of it. This list of tools may not cover every program you currently use and you may have your preferences. But if you need a great mobile office, you could do much worse than to grab these useful tools to take with you on the go.
The first tool you need is a mobile device. You undoubtedly already have a smartphone but for the best compatibility with apps and other software, you should have either an Android or iPhone, along with either an iPad or Android tablet. Faster is better so if you can get 4G, do it. The new Samsung S-4 has (up to this point) blown all competitors away with its unbeatable features and superior Knox security, which also separates the phone into two sections- one to keep your personal data private and one to keep your business data secured.
Contracts and other legal documents are extremely important to your law firm practice. You can use program such as HotDocs, Dealbuilder, Brightleaf and Neota Logic to automatically create contracts and other documents.
To automatically review and analyze your contracts, you can use apps such as DiligenceEngine, KIIAC, KMStandards and Seal.
You can create documents using Microsoft Office but there are competent alternatives such as Google Docs and OpenOffice. You can also create legal forms using LEXIS Practice Advisor and Practical Law Company.
Some of the best apps for sharing and storing documents are Dropbox and Box. These are cloud services that provide access to your documents at all times, from any device. While Dropbox does provide encryption for files during transfer and during storage, you may wish to have more control over the encryption of your documents. In that case, you can use encryption software such as Ensafer or Sookasa.
Your budgeting can be handled by using a Google Docs Spreadsheet or by using EditGrid, another useful tool for spreadsheet management.
The easiest way to describe CRM is that it encompasses all aspects of interaction that your law firm has with the client. There are many specialized and customized CRM programs available. A couple of the most popular apps are Salesforce, SugarCRM and Zoho.
There are many programs that claim to be project management software, but there are only a few that can stand up to the test. Basecamp and Teamwork are two extremely competent project management tools. There are others that are more specialized toward legal matters such as Clio and Rocket Matter.
One handy tool you may find useful is an outcome prediction tool such as Lex Machina. Law firms use Lex Machina to provide IP litigation and transaction solution services to clients and prepare winning business development presentations that quantify experience and compare with competitors.
Storing your data online makes it quickly accessible and makes your practice run more efficiently. But you need to use a backup service such as cloudHQ in order to ensure that you are prepared in case data loss were to occur. The cloudHQ service provides an automated and continuous backup of all your important documents and files. In the event data loss were to occur, restoring your data is simple and quick so there are no interruptions in your work.
There are certain programs that are specifically tailored towards lawyers and law practice. Some of the most popular programs include Clio and Rocket Matter.
Clio offers document management, bank-grade security, time tracking, simplified billing, task scheduling and more. Clio offers a 30 day trial period and after that, pricing for attorneys is $49 per month and $25 per month for support staff.
Rocket Matter offers a host of useful features including all aspects of practice management, documents and data, reporting and analytics, and legal billing.
Rocket Matter offers several different pricing plans, depending on how you pay. Lawyers can pay $59.99 monthly payments, $53.99 if you pay quarterly, $50.99 if you pay annually, and $47.99 per month if you pay up two years in advance.
Cloud services are ultimate tools to handle any technical project. Some tools can handle entire projects, others can be used to handle specific parts of projects
Basecamp is a tool that can handle any project, large or small. Featuring an array of useful features including advanced to-do lists, calendar, and an efficient single-page project design page for each particular project, along with the ability for users to collaborate and leave comments on every aspect of projects.
CloudHQ is a service that can work in conjunction with cloud services such as Basecamp in order to provide a backup of all your project data. Project data is important and sensitive, but with cloudHQ providing a continuous and automatic backup of all data, you are protected from any data loss. CloudHQ also works with many other cloud services including Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, Gmail, SkyDrive, Box and more.
When you start exclusively using mobile and cloud for your firm practice, you will have to change your practice somewhat. Increased mobility and flexibility are huge benefits but you must also be more security-conscious. As tablets become more prevalent in courtrooms everywhere, high availability of data is a must. It simply won't do to be in court and suddenly not have access to important files or documents. We will take a look at how you can take advantage of the mobile benefits of the cloud while taking the necessary security precautions in order to effectively secure the cloud.
Going mobile means less time spent at the office as you can access your firm data from anywhere you have mobile service. There are a number of legal apps specifically designed for law practice use. There are a number of these including the highly popular Rocket Matter and Clio. These apps bring efficiency as they provide practically an entire suite of legal software to help in all aspects of the practice.
Your law firm may even want to create your own mobile apps to better server your clients and gain exposure. With your own app, clients can contact your firm directly from the app. They can also keep up to date with your firm and learn information from the app, depending on what features you wish to incorporate into the app.
You will have to become more security-minded when dealing with the cloud but securing your data on cloud services is much easier than you may think. There are two main ways you can protect your data- using a strong password and implementing two-factor authentication. Passwords should be made as secure as possible with a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters.
Two-factor authentication is a feature that provides a secondary method to log in to your account. When you enter your password, a code is instantly sent to your mobile device. Once you enter the code, you are granted access to the account. This way, even if a hacker steals your password or your laptop, and attempts to get into the account, they will also have to have access to your mobile phone in order for the breach to be successful.
Since the majority of the data that you deal with is sensitive and confidential, you must have a solid backup plan in case anything happens and you experience data loss in the cloud. This is a rare occurrence but it can happen and you must be prepared for it. A natural disaster such as fire, flood, tornado, hurricane and lightning can destroy servers that have data on them. This is why it is important to have a cloud backup solution like cloudHQ.
CloudHQ provides an automatic backup of all data to a completely separate cloud account so if anything happens to your data on one cloud account, you have a secondary copy of all data. And the replication is instantaneous so data is synced instantly; there are no daily or weekly backups which can also cause a loss of data if something happens before the backup has been completed. Your data must be a available at all times so if your main cloud storage provider's servers go down and you suddenly don't have access to your data, you can simply switch to the backup account and continue working with the data uninterrupted. Once the main servers are back up, the data will sync between the two accounts and you can go back to working with the data in the main account.
The cloud is a mysterious environment for many lawyers, almost like an unexplored universe. As more information about the cloud is revealed, and more studies are performed determining how secure the cloud really is, more lawyers are moving their firms to the cloud. The benefits the cloud has to offer are far too attractive to ignore with features such as cost reduction, agility and flexibility.
A couple of the largest concerns lawyers generally have are security and ethical issues. When data is sent to and stored on a third-party server, it has to be clear who all has access to the data, as some data is confidential client data while other data may contain sensitive firm information.
Just last year, LexisNexis released a cloud-based platform called Firm Manager for managing law practice. As one of the most well-established and respected companies in the legal world, this release makes a statement that cloud computing is gaining reputation and popularity among lawyers and law firms.
Clio is a company that has entered into cloud computing for lawyers by developing legal practice management software that has become highly popular. The company recently announced that in the Series B round of financing, it had gained over $6 million.
Rocket Matter is similar to Clio. They also provide cloud-based legal practice management software. They recently announced an update that provided an easier way for its users to create legal documents by combining client data with legal form templates. This update shows how quickly software in the cloud can be updated, much faster and more efficient than typical applications and programs.
As cloud computing continues to improve, we will see more law firms migrating to the cloud to take advantage of the beneficial attributes of a cloud-based law firm. There have already been huge advancements in the security department and as ethics committees continue to research and develop comparisons between the benefits and the negatives of a cloud-based law firm, the answer is clear- the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Over the last several years, 'Software as a Service' (SaaS) has changed the way many businesses, including law firms, manage their business. Before the cloud technology, all practice-related work had to be created, edited and stored on a firm computer or server. All work done in the field would have to be stored on a laptop until the user got back to the law firm and could transfer the data to the firm computer, or they could upload it by email. Both of those options are very time-consuming and are not an efficient way of doing business. Documents, important notes and photographs could get lost or accidentally deleted before they could be transferred to the main computer.
SaaS applications have changed the way documents can be created, edited and stored. Now documents can be created, photographs can be taken, and case files can be collaborated on by attorneys and clients- all while in the field by simply using mobile technology. Smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the devices most commonly used in the field because documents can be created, edited and stored in the cloud and it automatically syncs to the online account and can be accessed by any authorized computers and devices (such as firm computers, tablets and smartphones).
Microsoft Office Web Apps
Using these applications can make working a case so much more efficient, as work can be done from virtually anywhere. Communication and collaboration on notes, documents, and other files can also be completed at anytime, from anywhere. This throws the doors wide open- no more restrictions for setting up meetings with clients, or collaborating with coworkers or clients- it can be done at anytime.
The organizational qualities of these programs help extend the capabilities even more, as documents can be created, photographs can be attached to documents, tags can be created for easy searching later and many of these programs have functions specifically made for organized project management. SaaS applications can practically transform an entire law firm, making it more efficient and overall more productive.
Moving company data to the cloud doesn't sound like a small task, but it's not as hard as it sounds. And the benefits are definitely worth it. With the economy in the poor state that it is currently in, everyone is looking to cut costs. The cloud offers inexpensive options that actually increase the efficiency and productivity of the company. Some of these options include extra storage space to store documents, files and other data; a reduction in in-house staff; Secure, encrypted transfers of data; and software specially designed for project and time management- such as document creation, editing and storage, secure backups of data, and accessibility on PCs, Macs, Linux, tablets and smartphones.
Cloud storage is a necessity and there are many options to choose from including Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive, and iCloud. These applications allow users to store data that can be shared with only certain people. As the data is stored in a centralized location, it can be accessed from anywhere with the proper authentication.
Online document creation, revision and editing can be performed by cloud notebook applications such as Evernote, Google Apps, and Microsoft Office Web Apps. These applications make it possible to create documents that can be shared with, edited by, and collaborated on with users in different locations and on different devices.
Third-party applications are available to pick up where many cloud applications sometimes do not go quite far enough. For instance, cloudHQ will sync all company data between different cloud applications so not only can users share, edit and collaborate on documents and files on different devices but they can also use different cloud applications. It also provides a continuous backup of all data to prevent data loss from accidental deletion or malicious hacking.
There are other cloud applications that are specially designed for use in the law firm. Rocket Matter and Clio are two of the cloud applications that can help lawyers and their staff.
Making the move to the cloud can be beneficial to a company that’s looking to increase its productivity, be more efficient at time-management and product management, but needs to cut back on costs.
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