To some attorneys, nothing could be scarier than talk of “the Cloud” in their law practice. These attorneys use their well-honed issue spotting skills to list every possible doomsday scenario applicable to remote computing and data storage (the Cloud), and they convince themselves that it is better to do things the old-fashioned way. But the [...]
To some attorneys, nothing could be scarier than talk of “the Cloud” in their law practice. These attorneys use their well-honed issue spotting skills to list every possible doomsday scenario applicable to remote computing and data storage (the Cloud), and they convince themselves that it is better to do things the old-fashioned way. But the traditional way of doing things can be just as scary. Here are some actual examples.
In anticipation of a follow-on visit from a legal consultant, one attorney had everyone in the firm work over the weekend to purge old files and do some general clean-up. When the legal consultant arrived, on a Wednesday, the attorney was proud as could be of the heroic overhaul of their archived file storage area. (By the way, the files were stored in an outbuilding used solely by the owner’s wife for her investment business.) As he related the story of their weekend of hard work, the legal consultant congratulated him and asked, “Did you hire an outside concern to do your shredding for you, or did you handle it in-house?” He said, “What do you mean?” The consultant said, “Who shredded your old files?” He said, “We didn’t shred them, we put them out for the recycler.” “What recycler?” asked the consultant, and he replied, “The city’s, of course.” When asked when they put the files on the curbside, he said, “Saturday.” Apparently the trucks came for pickup only on Tuesdays. This means years’ worth of criminal client files sat on the curb in front of this law office from Saturday to Tuesday, and then went off to a government-controlled entity for disposal. There is hardly any difference between this and publishing your client files in a newspaper for all to see. Had this office been storing its files electronically, “shredding” them would not have involved a weekend worth of work nor would there have been any risk of divulging privileged communications. Electronic files can be backed-up automatically, and in the case of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, they can quickly be restored to any new location. If the firm were using online firm management software, the files, contacts, calendars, emails and everything else related to a matter could be accessed from any computer anywhere. And deleting case files would involve a mere mouse click .
In another example, one attorney routinely carted client files home to work on them in the evening and over the weekend (which the attorney admitted was hopeful thinking). The attorney left the files in the car for days. When someone pointed out to him the danger of leaving client files in his car, he said, “Oh, no one will break in anyway.” When asked how he could be so sure of this, he replied, “I leave the car unlocked and the keys on the front seat. They have no need to break in.” Talk about scary! Not only would moving to an online environment for managing client matters help this attorney actually get some work done out of the office, his files would be infinitely more secure if stored by a service provider following best practices. It would be harder for a would-be thief to hack into a well-fortified, redundantly secure computer system than for someone to enter an unlocked car. When the stakes are so high, why accept the risks that technology can so ably reduce or eliminate?
The hesitation many feel at moving from a traditional paper environment to an online environment is often based only in perception–that fear of the unknown. We’ve been through waves of technological advances in how we provide legal services and the current move to a completely online environment will be viewed in hindsight by ethics boards as no different that the advent of the facsimile or email. The move from traditional computing to an online (or cloud) computing environment is comparable to making the move from a traditional answering machine to networked or server-based voicemail system. Both can be used safely and ethically in the practice of law, but the later is more accessible, has many more features, and is actually more secure.
Attorneys making decisions out of fear should be far more fearful of the dangers of a paper-based law practice, as evidenced by the few examples given here. There are many more such examples. The efficiency and security of online computing for your law practice will ensure you never encounter these nightmare scenarios.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ann Guinn is a practice management consultant to solo and small firm lawyers and the author of “Minding Your Own Business: The Solo and Small Firm Lawyer’s Guide to a Profitable Practice” (ABA 2010). To receive Ann’s complimentary newsletter, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her at (253) 946-1896. Her new website is debuting in early 2013.
David Cox is a solo practitioner in St Louis, Missouri. You can read other articles by David at http://www.coxesq.us/