Law by the Numb#rs

Should firms move to the cloud? Legal IT professionals are split

Posted Feb 1, 2013 3:20 AM CDT

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Legal IT Professionals’ online survey of its readership presented a split decision on whether key technology functions should become Internet-based–a process commonly known as moving to the cloud.

The online news publication covering international legal information technology asked readers: “If your law firm’s management asked for your advice regarding moving key applications to the cloud, would you be in favor of this strategy?” The 438 responses from legal information technology staff, lawyers and paralegals was nearly split down the middle, with 46% opposing and 45% in favor, while 9% had no opinion.

The report also provides some interesting analysis: Small and midsize firms were more in favor of movement to the cloud, The report notes that law firm IT leaders and staff opposed the strategy, while external consultants favored it. “with 57% of respondents from firms with over 1,000 fee earners against the proposal.” The report notes that large firms have already invested in IT and gain tax benefits, while smaller firms may not be able to afford such investments and see “cloud services level[ing] the playing field. ... This is reflected in the fact that over 50% of firms with fewer than 100 fee earners were in favor.”

Professional position may also have affected the results. The report notes that law firm IT leaders and staff opposed the strategy, while external consultants favored it. Moving to cloud services could reduce law firms’ IT staff, the report says, and would require new skills in transitioning, managing and supporting the services. Meanwhile, 47% of lawyers favored the strategy to 40% opposed, reflecting one group’s attraction to the convenience of mobile and remote access and the other’s concerns about security and privacy.

Despite the differences of opinion on cloud services as strategy, the survey found 81% of respondents expect the cloud will overtake “on-premise computing in the legal services industry” sometime within the next 10 years. Only 16% said that would never happen.

■ Data excerpts from Legal IT Professionals’ 2012 Global Cloud Survey Report (PDF)

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