Just 38 percent of lawyers use cloud computing for law-related tasks, according to the just-released 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report by the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

That is only slightly more lawyers using the cloud than in the three prior years, when the percentage stayed at about 31 percent.

Fifty-three percent of lawyers say they have not used cloud computing and 10 percent do not know whether they have or not, according to the survey, which the LTRC conducts annually.


Of the lawyers who say they do not use cloud computing, 7 percent say they plan to use the cloud within the next 12 months, 3 percent say they plan to within the next two years, 17 percent say they will use it “sometime in future,” and 42 percent say they do not plan ever to use it.

When lawyers who do not use the cloud were asked why, the top 10 reasons they gave were:

  1. Confidentiality/security concerns, 63%.
  2. Concerns of having less control of your data because it’s
    hosted by the provider, not on your own server/computer, 54%.
  3. Unfamiliarity with the technology, 50%.
  4. Concerns of losing access to and ownership of your data, 39%.
  5. Cost/effort of switching from your current solution, 31%.
  6. Cost of services, 28%.
  7. Preference for owning software rather than paying a
    monthly subscription, 25%.
  8. Non-web-based software programs you use are sufficient
    for current needs, 24%.
  9. Lack of professional responsibility/ethics guidance, 24%.
  10. Uncertainty over longevity of vendor, 20%.

On the flip side, the lawyers who are using cloud computing for law-related tasks were asked what they see as the most important benefits. Their answers:

  1. Easy browser access from anywhere, 68%.
  2. 24 x 7 availability, 67%.
  3. Low cost of entry and predictable monthly
    expense, 59%.
  4. Quick to get up and running, 49%.
  5. Robust data back-up and recovery, 47%.
  6. Eliminates IT & software management
    requirements, 40%.
  7. Better security than I can provide in-office, 32%.

Although the security of using the cloud continues to be a top concern among lawyers, it appears that the majority of lawyers are doing little to address cloud security. Of the lawyers who say they use the cloud, 12 percent said they use no precautions or security measures of any kind.

With regard to other cloud security measures, the percentages doing them are generally low:

  • Reviewed privacy policy, 38%.
  • Make regular local data backups, 36%.
  • Use only web-based software which features
    SSL/encryption, 36%.
  • Use the software for non-confidential purposes
    only, 30%.
  • Reviewed Terms of Service, 29%.
  • Reviewed ethics rules/opinions, 29%.
  • Sought peer advice/experiences, 26%.
  • Evaluated vendor company history, 25%.
  • Use vendor-drafted service level agreement, 13%.
  • Negotiated confidentiality agreement, 8%.
  • Used security add-on (e.g. Boxcryptor), 8%.
  • Negotiated service level agreement, 2%.
  • Data escrow, 1%.

Some of those numbers are alarming. Most strikingly, of lawyers who are using cloud software in their law practices, only 29 percent bothered to read the terms of service. It’s one thing not to read the TOS for software you use in your personal lives, but when you’re using the cloud for your clients, at least read the TOS.

Which cloud services are most popular among lawyers? The survey asked which technology providers lawyers use for law-related tasks:

  • Dropbox, 57.6%.
  • Google Docs, 49.4%.
  • iCloud, 27.7%.
  • Evernote, 24.7%.
  • Clio, 16.0%.
  • Box, 12.6%.
  • MyCase, 6.9%.
  • RocketMatter, 3.9%.
  • NetDocuments, 3.5%.
  • Bill4Time, 2.2%.
  • SpiderOak, 1.7%.
  • Nextpoint, 1.3%.
  • Others, 16.5%.
  • Don’t know, 5.6%.

Note that the survey included the list of vendors’ names, so vendors not named in the survey would presumably fall under the “others” category.

The annual six-volume survey covers:

  • Vol. I: Technology Basics & Security.
  • Vol. II: Law Office Technology.
  • Vol. III: Litigation Technology & E-Discovery.
  • Vol. IV: Web and Communication Technology.
  • Vol. V: Online Research.
  • Vol. VI: Mobile Lawyers.

The survey can be purchased from the ABA. The full survey costs $1,995 and separate volumes cost $350 each.

  • Seems that lawyers would benefit from additional education about cloud computing.
    Thank you for the summary.
    Jeffrey A. Franklin, Esq.
    Principal Consultant
    BrightLine Tech Solutions, LLC
    610-314-7130 (o)

  • sgbassett

    I don’t think lawyers understand what is meant by Cloud services. The terms is much broader specific provider list. For example, how can Microsoft’s OneDrive not be on that list. It may be the most used Cloud service because it comes free with Office 365. Office 365 is used by a significant percentage of lawyers (whether they realize it or not, their firm or organization probably provides office to them through an Office 365 subscription.

    And what about services like Gmail,, etc. These email services are most definitely Cloud-based. I also don’t see on the list widely used (by solo and small firms) online backup services like Carbonite or Crashplan.

    If you add in all of the many Cloud services used by lawyers, use of the Cloud would be way over 50%. It may even be over 75%. I doubt that one could run a properly functioning law firm or have a viable solo or small firm practice today without using Cloud services. The problem is that survey respondents don’t know how to define the Cloud. It may also be that the designers of the survey used far too narrow a definition of Cloud services. That seems clear from the small group of specific providers listed. From a solo/small firm perspective (still a significant majority of law firms), a list that does not include Gmail,, OneDrive, or Carbonite is not very well thought out.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      I totally agree with you.

      • sgbassett

        Thanks. And I forgot to mention all of the hosted Exchange options available to lawyers, particularly from Microsoft itself.

    • Steve

      Your comments are a bit misleading: very few consumers have their OWN email server. So, let’s not use so-called “cloud” or “remote” access within the context of email.

      Use the “cloud” concept as it was intended: to store data and programs on remote, non-networked, storage sites which require relatively high speed internet service.

      Even for those who use Microsoft products, few, if any, actually use the “one drive” for confidential business usage. Sure, maybe a person might upload a CV or some family photos, but that is about it.

      In the final analysis, the introduction of the “cloud” technology to to mitigate against software piracy combined with requiring users to pay for a service on a continuing “subscription” basis, rather than via a one-time fixed cost – in which you install the software on your own pc or mac.

  • avon

    I agree generally with the other Commenters to date, but I think there’s another factor that may be even bigger:
    I disagree that the Cloud use percentages would be
    much higher if readers were more knowledgeable, so as to know whether or not their software
    features involve the Cloud. I think there are a huge number of folks
    like me who assume many software features do indeed use the Cloud,
    and avoid them for that reason (as I avoid Google+ and Office 365). Indeed, I suppose many assume more are Cloud-based than actually are!

    A huge number of lawyers are too busy, too traditional or too lazy to look into the perceived problems with the Cloud, and thus have declined to use Cloud
    services. In fact, all those
    reasons for non-use seem to resonate with me, though I know they all
    ought to be manageable.
    Furthermore, I think even many lawyers who have knowingly begun using Cloud services are too busy, too habitual or too lazy to really look into the true potential problems. Thus, the many whose precautions are inadequate.

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