Key Takeaways From The 2019 Cloud Computing Report By The ABA

On Oct. 2, 2019, the American Bar Association released its 2019 Cloud Computing report highlighting the changing relationship between law firms and the cloud. From concerns and questions to moving towards the future, we have summarized some of the most important and surprising information obtained from the ABA 2019 Legal Technology Survey.

Cloud Technology Is Slowly But Surely Becoming The Norm For Law Firms

Some of the most promising news from the survey is more law firms are using cloud services. The number increased from 55% in 2018, to 58% in 2019. Surprisingly, this technology is being utilized more often by individual and small firms, at 60% of those surveyed, while only 44% of larger firms with 50-99 lawyers have adopted it.

Though this increase is small, it’s a move in the right direction.

Security Fears And Loss Of Control Are Holding Law Firms Back

Cloud users and nonusers had similar reservations about the still relatively new technology. The survey found that 65% of current cloud users identified “confidentiality/security concerns” as their biggest concern. Similarly, 50% of nonusers reported not having tried the cloud due to the same concern.

Considering the cloud is one of the most secure ways to store data due to its redundancy, security and safe sharing methods that Forbes outlines, these numbers come as a surprise. If law firms are not adopting the cloud, what are they using? There should always be multiple copies of important documents, ideally stored in different locations. Unlike hard drives and physical paperwork, the cloud will always store duplicates in multiple places, so even if the worst case scenario occurs, your data will most likely still be accessible.

On the same note, lawyers are also concerned about losing control of data. This was the second largest pain point for both users and nonusers. The results from this portion of the survey did not change much from the prior year, which is disappointing. There’s a long way to go when it comes to educating law firms about how beneficial cloud technology is for securing sensitive documents without losing control.

The majority of law firms have reservations about using the cloud due to cybersecurity threats_Afinety, Inc.The majority of law firms have reservations about using the cloud due to cybersecurity threats.

Law Practice Contradictory Behavior On Cloud Computing Is Alarming

One of the biggest, and most concerning, pieces of information gained from the survey is the contradiction between lawyers’ understanding of the cloud and their actual use and implementation of it.

Even though more law firms are now using the cloud, they are dropping the ball surrounding cybersecurity. Considering security and control are their top concerns, it’s odd that their behavior does not reflect this.

The ABA does not hold back with their dissatisfaction with these results, and considers the lack of effort on security to be, “a major cause for concern in the profession.” To give more context, the survey listed 13 standard precautionary security measures. The most commonly used was by only 35%, and it was using secure socket layers. Beyond that, the numbers get more dismal.

Only 28% of respondents reviewed their vendor privacy policies, down from 38% that did last year. Again, if security is a main concern, reviewing privacy policies should be the first thing law firms do with their cloud provider. Numbers for security measures were down across the board, a fact that the ABA is explicitly upset about.

Another interesting point the ABA highlights is the lack of legal formality that lawyers take with their cloud vendors. A meager 4% of respondents negotiated a confidentiality agreement with their provider, and barely 5%, arranged service legal agreements. These disappointing numbers around these actions lawyers should be well-versed in leaves the ABA questioning technology competency requirements.

Finally, the overwhelming majority of law firms (94%) consider vendor reputation to be important when selecting a cloud provider. When looking for a cloud service provider for your firm, consider the Afinety Cloud Platform.   ACP is a cloud network designed for law firms by law firm experts.  With a focus on the legal industry since 1986, Afinety understands the unique challenges law firms face when it comes to data protection and proper configuration of a cloud network.

With An Overabundance Of Digital Evidence, The Cloud Can Help Law Firms Stay Organized

With more people than ever utilizing technology in their daily lives, it is no surprise that digital crime and subsequently evidence has increased. A recent white paper by The TASA Group details the growing problem legal professionals are having with massive amounts of digital evidence. This includes everything from body camera footage and video surveillance, to the internet trail left behind by cyber-criminals. Properly storing digital evidence is crucial in conducting an effective investigation and reducing liability. If this digital evidence were to disappear or become compromised, it can derail an entire trial.

Digital Evidence Helps And Hinders Law Firms

This overabundance of digital information is a double-edged sword for law firms. Recently, law firms have seen how digital evidence can aide in their trials and have devoted time to eDiscovery. As the Association for Information and Image Management found (AIIM), eDiscovery, short for electronic discovery, is, “the process of discovery in civil litigation that is carried out in electronic formats.” For law firms, discovery is done during the initial phase of litigation where both parties are required to provide their evidence for the case. With eDiscovery, any electronically stored information – including emails, text messages and websites – is up for grabs as evidence.

There is a proper method that law firms have to abide by to proceed with eDiscovery. As AIIM outlines, data found during eDiscovery must first be identified by attorneys and placed on legal hold. Then both attorneys have to determine if it is relevant to the scope of the trial before it can be analyzed and used in court. This is obviously a simplified way of explaining a process that can be lengthy and difficult depending on the amount and type of information discovered, but it is the general eDiscovery process.

As you can imagine, eDiscovery can benefit a law firm during a trial, but it can also hurt it. Another part of eDiscovery is having policies in place to ensure records that are no longer needed are destroyed in a documented way. Holding onto unneeded data can come back to haunt a law firm or an individual if that information came up during another attorney’s eDiscovery period. Overall, digital data can be harmful and helpful for a law firm. Making sure needed documents are stored safely and correctly while unneeded information is discarded is easier said than done. Luckily, there is a digital solution to avoid this digital problem.

Securing digital evidence is crucial for protecting the integrity of a trial_Afinety, IncSecuring digital evidence is crucial for protecting the integrity of a trial.

The Cloud Solution For Law Practices

Legal professionals need to access digital evidence quickly and securely, and the cloud is the best technology to achieve this. The cloud keeps your data protected and secure. Alongside an email and document management system, like iManage, documents can be shared seamlessly within your law firm and be accessed by your employees safely from anywhere. Using a document management system in conjunction with a cloud platform adds extra levels of security to your digital evidence. Utilize this software to organize your data and continuously discard what you no longer need.

Another perk is cloud platforms can actually reduce the cost of eDiscovery for law practices. Investing in a cloud solution is the best way to cope with the massive amount of digital evidence available and protect your law firm during eDiscovery. During a trial, digital evidence can be needed in an instant. Having a strong organization system in place, with the help of quick keyword searches, is highly beneficial.

When looking for a cloud service provider for your firm, consider the Afinety Cloud Platform (ACP). Afinety deploys cloud networks specifically for law firms and understands the unique challenges they face when it comes to data protection and digital evidence.  Afinety partners with industry leading companies and ensures all applications are seamless integrated with ACP and Office 365.  Contact us today to see how you can get the most from investing in a cloud platform.