Everybody’s law practice is in the cloud but yours?

Using the cloud in your practice can provide a plethora of benefits for a law practice, including increased mobility, productivity, and even security. Once you’ve made the decision to move your practice to the cloud, you should approach the move through a series of preparatory steps. Whether you’ve only recently started your practice or have a long-standing shop, preparation is an essential component in moving your practice to the cloud in a seamless manner. If you are just starting out, you have the luxury of adopting cloud-based systems straight away without having to worry about transitioning years of data and changing the way your firm does business. Consider the following steps to help accomplish a successful transition to the cloud.

#1 Take an Inventory of Your Current Systems

First, take an inventory of your current systems (i.e. file storage, matter management, financial management, administration) to determine your firm’s needs. If you are a new firm, this information should come from your business plan or be written into your business plan. If you are an existing firm, you’ll need to compile this data.

#2 Conduct Research and Due Diligence

Next, it’s time to search for cloud platforms that can accommodate your firm’s needs. To maximize your firm’s efficiency, your goal should be to find cloud-based products that will service multiple needs or integrate well with other services to streamline your workflow and make it easier to collaborate. For example, cloud-based law practice management programs now include time and billing features as well as matter management, tasks, and calendaring. Some even include accounting/financial management features or integrate with financial management programs. You’ll also need to conduct due diligence to ensure that the cloud provider(s) meets your ethical and legal obligations.

#3 Determine What, When, and How Data will Move to the Cloud

What

In determining what and how much data to transfer to the cloud, there are a few options:

  1. All Files: This is a good option if you are starting from scratch or already maintain most of your files in electronic format.
  1. Open Matters and Frequently Accessed Information: For firms that have been in operation for a number of years and have accumulated a plethora of records and information, it may be most efficient to upload only open matters and frequently accessed information (i.e. contacts, notes, administrative files) to the cloud.
  1. When New Matters Open and New Information is Obtained: This is an ideal option for longstanding firms that don’t wish to spend the time transferring records back in time. Pick a date, and from that date forward enter all new records and data into your cloud-based system.

If you choose not to transfer all your data to a cloud system, you’ll want to maintain a legacy system and include it in your processes – for example, start with a conflict check in your cloud-based system and also check your legacy system. Over time, you’ll phase out your legacy system.

When

Set a timeline. Rather then attempting to do it all in one day, take an incremental approach, which should include alerting staff to upcoming changes.

Consider what makes the most sense for your practice. Is there a traditional lull in client intake? Do you plan to close any major cases in the upcoming months? When can your budget handle a reduction in caseload (consider reserving funds for the transition period)?

How

If your records are already electronic, you are in good shape. If not, you’ll need to first convert your paper files to paperless format (at least, for those files you plan to upload to the cloud) and back up your data. Leverage an IT professional and/or support from your cloud provider of choice to deal with technicalities and troubleshooting.

#4 Train Attorneys and Staff

Finally, training is essential to ensure a successful transition to a cloud-based system. Everyone in your office should be trained in how to upload, organize, access, use, and secure information in the system.

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This originally appeared in the Massachusetts Bar Association‘s Massachusetts Lawyer’s Journal.