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Large Law Firms and Cloud Computing In 2017

Nicole BlackCloud computing has been around for more than a decade now. At first, law firms were slow to adopt to the concept despite the fact that it offers a host of benefits, including 24/7 access to law firm data, the convenience and flexibility of being able to enter billable time using mobile devices, the ability to communicate and collaborate with clients and others in a secure online environment, and being able to easily manage calendaring and tasks from any internet-enabled device.

It would seem that, according to the American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Survey report, the many benefits of cloud computing have finally convinced the majority of lawyers to make the move to the cloud. This year’s survey shows that after remaining stagnant at ~30%  from 2013-15, and then increasing to 38% in 2016, there was a marked increase in the number of lawyers using cloud computing in 2017. That percentage jumped to a whopping 52%! 

Solo and small firm lawyers were the most likely to be using cloud computing software, but larger firms’ use increased as well. According to the survey results, 42% of lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys reported that they’ve use cloud computing for work-related tasks (compared with 20% in 2016, 17% in 2015, and 19% in 2014). Specifically 44% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 attorneys have worked in the cloud and 39% of lawyers from firms of 500 attorneys or more have done so.

Lawyers were also asked to share which cloud computing programs they used in their firms. According to the report, the only 3 legal cloud computing software programs that had been used by large firm lawyers were NetDocuments, MyCase, and Nextpoint. 7% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 and 5% of lawyers from firms of 500 and more had used NetDocuments. 4% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 and 5% of lawyers from firms of 500 or more had used MyCase. And, 4% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 had used Nextpoint.

The 3 most popular non-legal cloud computing programs used by lawyers were Dropbox, Google Docs, and iCloud. 54% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 lawyers and 47% of lawyers from firms of 500 and more had used Dropbox. 25% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 and 32% of lawyers from firms of 500 and more had  used Google Docs. And, 18% of lawyers from firms of 100-499 and 32% of lawyer from firms of 500 and more had used iCloud.

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When asked why they chose to use cloud computing software in their law firms, the most popular response was easy browser access from anywhere (73%), followed by 24/7 availability (64%), low cost of entry and predictable monthly expense (48%), robust data back-up and recovery(45%), quick to get up and running (39%), eliminates IT & software management requirements (30%), and better security than can be provided in-office (25%).

Finally, some larger firms also indicated that here were plans  in place to replace traditional software with a cloud-based alternative. The largest firms with 500 and more lawyers were the most likely to be planning to do so at 14%, while only 2% of firms with 100-499 attorneys planned to do so.

With more than half of all lawyers using cloud computing software, it’s clear that we’ve reached a tipping point for cloud adoption. Although large firm lawyers are currently less likely to use cloud computing software compared to smaller firms, that will no doubt change over time. So tune in next year for the results of the 2018 survey. I have no doubt the percentage of large law firms in the cloud will have increased. The only question is, by how much.

Nicole Black is the Legal technology Evangelist at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

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