Terms of Service for Cloud Software Are Negotiable

One of the tidbits I picked up at the Clio Cloud Conference is that terms of service for cloud software are not necessarily take-it-or-leave-it. The UNC School of Law’s IT director, Doug Edmunds, talked about negotiating the terms of service for his school’s Clio account. That’s a big account, so maybe that is not surprising. But small-firm lawyer, Chad Burton, convinced Box to add specific terms regarding who at Box could access his firm’s information.

I will be speaking at the 2014 Clio Cloud Conference, September 22–23 in Chicago. Use the code Lawyerist-CCC14 to get $100 off when you register.

Full disclosure: Clio wanted me to come to its conference so badly that it flew me to Chicago, put me up at a swanky hotel, and gave me an umbrella and a pair of gloves that work with my iPhone (although in fairness, everyone got the umbrella and gloves in their conference swag bag).

Sooner or later, anyone who tries to do business with lawyers eventually finds out that the legal “vertical” is actually a large bundle of really small verticals. Family lawyers don’t have the same needs as criminal defense lawyers, who don’t have the same needs as small business lawyers, and so on. Size, geography, years in practice, and more characteristics than probably ought to matter, all factor in. Different states’ ethics boards require different things. Different kinds of clients require different assurances (if I were a criminal defense lawyer, for example, I would want to make extra-sure that my software provider would tell me about any government “requests” for my clients’ data) that need to be reflected in the terms.

Plus, many many lawyers want special treatment, and that may be reflected in the terms they want, too.

That means it is really hard to draft a single, universal agreement that will work for every law firm, from international BigLaw firms to solos. It is impossible, in fact. There is no point trying.

Apparently only 41% of lawyers even claim to read terms of service, but if you happen to be one of those who do, and if you don’t like what you read, call up a sales representative and ask for a change.

(Confidential to cloud software providers: Offering cloud software to lawyers under terms of service is best viewed as a sort of crowd-sourced contract drafting exercise.)


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