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Bring Your Own Device on the Rise at Law Firms

By itopia Team

Cloud computing has spawned a rise in companies encouraging employees to bring  your  own  device (BYOD) to work, and its a trend on the rise at law firms. According to a 2012 American  Bar Association survey, 29% of solo practitioners have already  adopted cloud  computing. Small  firms  with  two to  nine  lawyers  came  in  close  behind, at  26%. So what exactly  is it?

REMOTE DESKTOPS

BYOD  is  an   offshoot  of   cloud computing and  the  use  of  remote desktops. If company data  is in the cloud  and  the  device  used  to access it is secure, then it makes  little  difference what  device  employees use. A  recent  Gartner  research  report suggests  that   by  2017,  half  of  all employers may impose a mandatory BYOD policy  җ requiring staffs  to bring  their  own  laptop, tablet  and smartphone  to  work.   Despite the legal   industrys   notoriety  for  late adoption of  new  workplace trends and  technological innovations, law- years should welcome cloud  computing  and  embrace BYOD with  open arms. Switching  to the cloud will not only simplify firm IT maintenance, it will enable attorneys to work  more efficiently,   develop  more   intimate client relationships and  significantly reduces IT and  office space  costs.

MAKING IT SIMPLE

Perhaps the biggest  draw  to cloud computing and  BYOD is its simplification  of  IT  operations.  Logging into a private  cloud  platform is little different from logging  into a web browser such as Yahoo! or Google. The  cloud   is  also device   agnostic.

This means any device  (desktop computer, tablet,  smartphone, etc.) and any operating system  (Mac, Windows, etc.) can access  the cloud seamlessly. Attorneys and firm employees can choose to work  on a device  they  are most accustomed to working with, and without facing incompatibility issues.  Software up- dates  are  installed automatically in the  cloud  so  everyone will  always work  with  the  safest,  latest  versions of software applications such  as Microsoft   Office   and   Adobe   Reader. And   my  personal  favorite   benefit of working on the cloud: No more backing up. Ever. Chances are youҒre probably not backing everything up as  often  as  you  should (you  know who   you  are), but  now   you  dont have  to feel guilty about  it.

Not  only  is  a  private   cloud  plat- form  simple  to  access  and  use,  itҒs also  much  more  secure than  saving information onto  a desktop, third- party device  or flash drive (especially when saving  confidential client documents). Automatic  software updates  allow  the  cloud  to keep  pace with  malicious computer viruses, malware and  scamming software. Due  to  the  fact  that  all firm  data is automatically saved  in a remote location accessed online, attorneys wont lose information in case of a computer crash,  power  outage, or lost or stolen  device.

WHAT ABOUT DATA LOSS?

A recent  Omnibus survey  reported that  40% of desktop owners and 31% of laptop owners have  experienced data  loss, most  often  because their  devices crashed. Forty-one percent of  adults  lost  photographs due  to a device  crash or stolen  hard drive,  and  one  in  six  adults   (16%) have lost information that was embarrassing and  potentially some- thing  they  wouldnҒt want  others seeing   when their   device   crashed, was stolen or was lost. Centralized company data in one location is also easier   to  protect from  harm.  Password   protection,  data   encryption and even a two-step verification all hedge against   unauthorized  access to  classified   company  information. If an attorney accidentally loses  his laptop in  an  airport, he  or  she  no longer needs to worry  about  losing and exposing confidential information. Without the  password and verification code  to a private  cloud, all law firm documents and  files remain  out of reach.

CLIENT SERVICES

Cloud   computing  and   BYOD doesnt   make   lawyers   better   lawyers,  but it  can  help  them  provide better  legal  services  to  ever-demanding clients.   It  enables  attorneys  to  work   more   efficiently   and to be more responsive to client  concerns.   Attorneys  are   connected  to the office 24 hours a day, seven  days a week. They can access client information from the office to the airport to the  courthouse. And they  no longer  need   to  go  to the  office  every day. With cloud  computing, they can do most of their legal work in cyberspace from home  or just about anywhere else  they  choose. In fact, a growing number of civil attorneys no  longer work  from  a physical office. They  are  ғvirtual  lawyers  and law  firms,  and   represent a  booming sector  of the  legal industry. This technology driven  evolution is not unlike that  seen  in  online   banking and  insurance. The conversion to BYOD and cloud  computing is a by- product of evolving  expectations of information easily accessed at any time by both lawyer and client. As society  gravitates toward mobile technology, lawyers  must  continue finding  new channels to work  and communicate on the  move.

Cloud  computing brings  the  lawyer  and   the   client   closer   together in  a more  immediate way.  Lawyers and clients can view the same documents in cyberspace at the same time. That information also can be accessed any time by client and lawyer, no  longer just from  9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday  through Friday. More attorneys are also using  FaceTime, Skype,  cell phones and  iPads  to interact  with  clients.  All of  these  devices  can  access  client  information and  connect to case  work  stored in a cloud, thus, client communication immediately becomes more  productive and  efficient.

Storing  all law firm data  on  a private  cloud  platform isnԒt  just  safer and more  efficient  than  traditional data storage, its also more  economically sound. A BYOD employee  work   policy  further lowers   the costs involved with  IT maintenance. Because  all information is stored online,  firms   no   longer need    to own,  operate and  maintain IT infra- structure such as servers, software, switches and routers (no more  high- powered  laptops  or   PCs,  and  no more  bulky  outdated servers  in the closet  sucking up A/C and  potential workspace).  BYOD  policies   mean law  firms  no  longer need   to  purchase state-of-the-art desktop PCs, laptops and  smart  phones for  each new employee. As a result,  employees can enjoy more flexibility in determining workstations at the office.

Some  employees enjoy  working at   a  traditional  desk,   while   others  might prefer  a couch  or  coffee bar.  Online   data   storage  also  enables  law  firms to  take  advantage of the infinite size of the Internet. Cloud   computing provides  virtually unlimited storage space.  A private  cloud  platform is customized to  the  size  of  the  data.  Law  firms donҒt need  to pay for storage space they dont need, but they also donҒt need   to  worry   about  running out of storage space  for new client in- formation and project  work. Cost savings in IT infrastructure maintenance can  be  returned to  clients in more  competitive legal fees or reinvested  in  the  firm.  This  more cost-effective data solution again reflects todays client expectations. Clients  want to  pay  for  the  benefit of legal  experience, but  not  necessarily  for ғbricks and  mortar.  Now, those  seeking lawyers  can  pay  for the specific expertise of an attorney and not for large buildings, support staff and  other  expenses.

CONCLUSION

Cloud computing, and ultimately BYOD  workplace  environments, will undoubtedly comprise an instrumental role in the future  land- scape  of the typical  law firm. There is a societal  expectation of 24/7  access to information. All of us are looking for quicker access  to information. This must  include legal services. Many expect the technology evolution will increase as younger lawyers,   many   of  whom   grew   up with   technology, enter the profession. How fast the entire legal industry adopts cloud computing is the real question.

 

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