The following is an excerpt from Cloud Computing for Lawyers, Chapter 6: Privacy Laws and Security Considerations.

Implementing Cloud Computing in Your Law Practice

The process of determining which products to use, which office functions to move to the cloud, and how to implement different software options into your practice is not necessarily an easy one. There are a number of factors in play when you make the decision to use cloud-computing services in your law practice and you must carefully consider your goals and options before you dive in. Your specific choices and your roadmap for implementation will vary depending on whether you are just hanging out a shingle or already have existing software programs (“legacy systems”) in place.

First, you must assess your current systems and determine which functions you will replace with cloud-computing systems. If you are just hang- ing a shingle, building a cloud-based system from the ground up might be a feasible option for you. Alternatively, if your law firm is already well established and you have been using the same software programs for years, it may be time to upgrade to a new practice management system. In that case, replacing traditional desktop or server-based programs with cloud-based programs may be the right option for your firm. Or, you may decide to go with upgrades to your traditional software systems for case management but use cloud-computing programs for data back-up or nonessential functions.

Or, perhaps your firm is just a few years old. You have jury-rigged a workable case management system using a variety of software systems but are now ready for a more organized, tailored approach, and you have decided to consider your cloud-computing options. In that case, you might begin using cloud-computing programs for certain functions as part of your overall goal to move all functions to the cloud over period of years. Or, you may choose to replace the entire patchwork system with a cloud-based legal practice management system that can be used together with other cloud-computing programs.

Starting from Scratch

For lawyers just starting out, integrating cloud-computing platforms into your practice will likely be less of a challenge compared to more established law firms because you will have less time, energy, and money invested in preexisting software programs and processes.

If you are anything like most lawyers who have just hung a shingle, you probably are running your law practice using an assortment of generic, built-in software programs, including a word processing program such as Word, Word Perfect or Pages, a calendar, and e-mail system like Microsoft Outlook or the Apple equivalent, and one of the corresponding contact management systems. Or, you may have already graduated to the cloud for certain functions such as e-mail or data back up and are using free platforms like Gmail or Dropbox.

If this describes your current system, then transitioning to the cloud is sure to be a relatively simple matter for your law firm. First…decide how many of your law office processes you would like to move to the cloud, a decision (which) will be affected by, among other things, whether you have decided to use cloud-computing services to maintain confidential client data.

Excerpted from Cloud Computing for Lawyers by Nicole Black. Published by the American Bar Association, 2012.