Florida has become the latest state to opine on the legal ethics of cloud computing. The proposed opinion follows other states that have addressed the issue in concluding that lawyers may ethically use cloud computing, provided they exercise due diligence to ensure that the cloud provider maintains adequate safeguards to protect the confidentiality and security [...]
TAG | cloud computing
Lawyers’ use of web-based software and services has grown only slightly in recent years, a new survey indicates. Growth in use of the cloud is greatest among solos and small firms and lawyers in these firms are more likely than their larger-firm counterparts to use cloud-based applications.
These are among the findings of the recently published 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Volume II of the report covers law office technology and includes use of web-based software and services among the topics it covers.
This year, 21% of lawyers reported having used cloud-based software (also referred to as Software as a Service, or SaaS). That is an increase from last year’s 16%, but little difference from the 20% in 2010 who said they’d used the cloud. Solos were most likely to use the cloud, with 29% saying they had, up from 23% in 2011. Lawyers in firms of 2-9 were next most likely to have used the cloud, with 26% saying they had, compared to 20% in 2011. Of lawyers in firms of 100 or more, just 11% said they’d used the cloud.
Of lawyers who have used the cloud, the application they are most likely to have used is Google Docs, with 46.2% saying they had used it. The next most commonly used applications were two cloud-based practice management platforms, Clio, with 12% saying they’d used it, and RocketMatter, with 5.1% having used it. Dropbox was used by 3.8%. (The survey listed applications for respondents to choose from so it may not accurately reflect the scope of cloud applications used by lawyers.)
When lawyers who use the cloud were asked why, nearly three-quarters identified the top reason as easy browser access from anywhere. Other reasons for using the cloud included 24 x 7 availability, low cost of entry and set monthly fees, elimination of IT headaches, robust data back-up and recovery, and ease of start-up.
Asked about their biggest concerns about using the cloud, 66.9% named confidentiality and security. Other top concerns were insufficient control over their data and the possibility of losing access to data.
With regard to cloud-based practice-management platforms, lawyers who had used the cloud were asked about the features and functionality they would most want. Calendering was ranked first (49.3%), followed by centralized matter management (48%), document management (43.9%), time and billing (43.2%), contact management (41.2%) and conflict checking (37.8%).
The 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report consists of six volumes, covering a range of topics from technology basics to mobile lawyering. The cloud computing results are contained in Volume II, which covers law office technology. Volume II is available for purchase from the ABA for $350 (or $300 for ABA members). An abbreviated trend report on law office technology can be purchased for $55 (or $45 for ABA members).
Read a post I wrote about the ruling here: Mass. Joins Other States in Ruling that Cloud Computing is Ethical for Lawyers.
Here are the slides from the presentation I gave Friday at the annual meeting of the Rhode Island Bar Association.
The Web-based practice management application Rocket Matter today released version 2.0 of its platform. The new version adds two notable features: document assembly and custom fields.
With this release, Rocket Matter becomes the only cloud-based practice management platform to integrate document assembly, according to Larry Port, the company’s co-founder and chief software architect.
The document assembly feature allows users to create templates for legal forms or other documents and then automatically merge client and matter data into a template to create a final document. As the user creates a document, Rocket Matter can also automatically create a billing entry.
The user creates the templates on his or her desktop, using Microsoft Word’s ability to create “merge fields.” Rocket Matter provides a guide for formatting these merge fields to work with its application. For those unfamiliar with using merge fields, Rocket Matter also provides links to guides that explain how to create and use them. As an example, to insert a client name in template, you’d use the fields: “«Client.Name»«Client.LastName»”.
Once you’ve created a template on your desktop, you upload it to Rocket Matter. As you upload it, the application checks it to ensure that you’ve properly formatted the merge fields. If there is an error, the application shows you which field contains the error. If you’ve set up all the fields properly, then the document is added to your template library, available to use for any client or matter.
Then, when you go to the dashboard for a matter within Rocket Matter, you see a new link, “Create from Template.” Click that to see a list of your available templates. Select a template and Rocket Matter automatically populates its fields with information such as party names, docket numbers, opposing counsel and the like. As it displays the final document, it shows the fields in a panel to the right. Click on any field in the panel to jump to that field in the document.
With the addition of custom fields, Rocket Matter enables the user to customize these templates beyond the standard fields it already provides. Users can create an unlimited number of custom fields, both for matters and for contacts. And any custom field you create can become a merge field in a document template.
To create a custom field for a matter or contact, simply open the item. A portion of the screen is labeled “Data.” For a matter, this Data section includes the case number and county. For a contact, it includes date of birth, gender and Social Security number. Just below those data items are new horizontal columns with two headings, “Labels” and “Values.” Here is where you create a custom field. Click “add another” and simply fill in the label and value. For label, you might put “Secretary” and for value “John Jones.” You can also add custom fields when you create a new contact or matter.
As I’ve previously noted here, Rocket Matter is integrated with Dropbox, allowing you to automatically synchronize documents among Rocket Matter, your desktop and your mobile devices. More recently, the company announced its integration with Evernote. These integrations make the document assembly feature even more practical to use.
To see Rocket Matter’s Port demonstrate the new document assembly feature, view the video below.
I have published a post about them at the Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog: Two New Legal Ethics Opinions Suggest Clear Skies Ahead for Cloud Computing.
The Web-based practice-management application Clio marked its third year of business Oct. 1. Today, to mark the occasion, it announced new features and unveiled a cleaner design.
The most significant changes announced today are that Clio users can now integrate their accounts with three of the leading cloud-based document management applications: NetDocuments, Dropbox and Box.net. The integration means that the documents you have in Clio’s document management system can now be synchronized with these other applications. Besides keeping your documents synchronized, this has two other advantages: it gives you access to your documents when you are offline and it provides a back-up copy of your documents.
To integrate with Dropbox, simply go to your settings in Clio and select the setting that authorizes Clio to access your dropbox account. As with Clio’s Google Apps integration, the connection is made using the OAuth protocol, which allows access without sharing your password. You are then asked to allow the connection between Clio and Dropbox (Figure 1). Click “allow” and Clio immediately creates a Clio folder in Dropbox and populates that folder with sub-folders for every matter you have in Clio. Once the process is done, you can view your Dropbox documents directly from within your matters on Clio. (Figure 2). As you drag and drop documents into Clio, they automatically show up in Dropbox, with no further action required.
Clio has also cleaned up its user interface by redesigning its pages to highlight the search bar. Needless to say, this is the trend among a number of sites — from WestlawNext to Lexis Advance — and emulates the simple design of Google. Clio has replaced its somewhat tiny search box with a larger, more prominent one (Figure 3) and eliminated some of the clutter at the top of the page. It has added a simple notifications icon that lights up red when you have unread messages.
Also enhanced is the search function itself. It now includes autocomplete, so that as you begin to type the name of a client or matter, a drop-down list appears of matching entries (Figure 4). That makes it a bit easier and quicker to find what you are looking for.
In announcing these changes, Clio provided some figures about its growth. In three years, it has grown to nearly 50 employees and its customers number “in the thousands.” It manages over 3.5 million contacts, 750,000 matters and 1.5 million documents. All tolled, customers using Clio’s time and billing features have billed $275 million.
“As a company, we’ve exploded over the past year,” Clio co-founder and CEO Jack Newton told me in an interview earlier this week. Clio will be rolling out more enhancements over the next six months, he added.
Legal research company Fastcase will announce a new utility tomorrow that enables one-click printing of any case from any source on the Web or in any Microsoft Word document. Called Fastcase Cloud Printing, the utility lets you print or save a nicely formatted, two-column version of any case. The utility works with Google Scholar, Westlaw, LexisNexis or anywhere there is a case online.
You can also use it to create and print a list of cases. Say you are reading a case or a brief that contains many citations. With a single click, Fastcase Cloud Printing will generate a list of all the cited cases within the document and let you select the ones you want to print.
The printing utility is installed as an add-on to Internet Explorer or Word. Versions for Google Chrome and Firefox will be released later. For now, the utility works with Web pages and Word documents. Later versions will also allow one-click printing from Outlook and PDF documents.
The utility works by recognizing citations within documents and then using that information to pull the matching case or cases from Fastcase. For example, if you use it to print a case you are reading in Google Scholar, it does not somehow pull the case from Scholar and reformat it. Instead, it finds the corresponding case in Fastcase and presents it for you to print.
One obvious benefit of such an app is simply to be able to print cleaner, better-formatted versions of Web cases. Another is to be able easily to bulk print a set of cited cases.
A less-obvious benefit of this app is that it may save a firm money. In concept, the app is similar to Westlaw Find & Print. But users of Find & Print pay for it by the transaction. Law Firm Bottom Line recently estimated that the cost of Find & Print has increased 144% over five years. The Fastcase utility can eliminate the need to use Find & Print — even from within Westlaw.
Initially, Fastcase will offer the application only to enterprise subscribers, who will receive it as part of their existing subscriptions at no extra charge. Later, the app will be offered to lawyers who have access to Fastcase through their state bar associations, although they may have to pay an added fee for it.
For screencaps of Fastcase Cloud Printing, see below.
The public beta release last week of LexisNexis Firm Manager adds yet another choice for lawyers to use Software as a Service, or SaaS, to manage their law practices. Already offering law practice management in the cloud are such sites as Clio and Rocket Matter. Do SaaS applications make sense for lawyers? Is it ethical for lawyers to use them?
At a panel discussion recorded during LegalTech last week, I joined three other legal technology professionals to discuss the topic of law practice management via the cloud. Moderator of the panel was Tom Mighell, author of the blog Inter Alia and senior consultant at Contoural. Besides me, the other panelists were Carolyn Elefant, creator of MyShingle.com, and Andy Adkins, founder of the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Watch our video below. If you have any trouble seeing the video below, then you can play it by clicking on this link.
Four companies that offer legal-oriented products and services through the cloud have banded together to form the Legal Cloud Computing Association. LCCA’s purpose, according to its announcement, “is to promote standards for cloud computing that are responsive to the needs of the legal profession and to enable lawyers to become aware of the benefits of computing technology through the development and distribution of education and informational resources.”
The four companies that make up LCCA’s founding membership are:
As its first official act as an organization, the LCCA published its comments on the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 paper concerning lawyers’ use of Internet-based client-development tools (PDF).
The LCCA tells the ABA commission that it supports efforts to provide clarity to the legal profession on the ethical implications of Internet technologies. With regard to cloud computing, the LCCA proposes that the ABA endorse a minimal set of standards for cloud-computing providers along with model terms of service for cloud providers.
Those minimal standards, the LCCA says, should cover data-center security, network security, software security, data-transmission security, back-ups and redundancy, confidentiality and privacy, and data portability.