How law firms are innovating in the cloud

The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings.’- Charles Dickens, Bleak House

From Hamlet’s complaints about ‘the law’s delay’ to Dickens’s description of legal dinosaurs in Chancery Lane, the legal sector has long been notorious for conservatism.

But the arrival of cloud computing in the profession looks set to change that.  

It is delivering:

·       Increased flexibility and mobility for staff

·       New ways of working

·       Better alignment of business goals and fee-earner activity

·       Improved customer service

·       Greater teamwork and collaboration

This article explores the change that cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure and Enterprise Mobility Suite supported by cloud-minded IT partners like ComputerWorld, are delivering for forward-looking law firms.

Innovation from the cloud

‘Bold, tightly integrated digital strategies will be the biggest differentiator between companies that win and companies that don’t,’ says McKinsey, the firm of management consultants. ‘The biggest payouts will go to those that initiate digital disruptions. Fast-followers with operational excellence and superior organizational health won’t be far behind.’

The benefits of cloud computer in the legal profession are not so much about technology for its own sake but about technology-powered disruption, differentiation and improvement.

How the cloud is changing daily operations

The cloud provides remote access to information, changing the way that lawyers and clients communicate. This is particularly important for larger firms, due to the mobility of their partners and associates, especially as part of an international operation. However, it also offers great value to smaller organisations and solo practices, where flexibility and responsiveness are required.

The cloud provides secure and centralised data storage with powerful applications to access the data. For example, this lets everyone involved in a case to access the same information or, with CRM applications, it can firms take a holistic, joined-up view of their client interactions. Not only does this improve case communication and collaboration, it also improves client service.

The ability to collaborate remotely eradicates the need for an office for some. Mobile practice allows lawyers to take advantage of increased flexibility and reduce the costs associated with running a business.

For all companies, large or small, cost reduction is an attractive prospect. The pay-as-you-go nature of the cloud means that firms can scale their IT requirements and save money when necessary. As law firms shed expensive on-premise servers and storage, consultancies like ComputerWorld can help them migrate their systems to the cloud.

How challenger companies are innovating

As the industry becomes more aware of the cloud’s benefits, many challenger companies are taking the opportunity to push innovation within the industry. Innovation is an opportunity for firms that embrace it and a threat to those that don’t.

For example, Dentons, the world’s largest global law firm, recognised that legal organisations often lack the ability to innovate due to resource restraints. They set up NextLaw Labs to counter this and challenge the status quo.

NextLaw Labs is an incubator for law-focused tech start-ups. It encourages the development and investment of technology that ‘fundamentally changes the practice of law around the world’. It assists start-ups by providing access to cloud support, business advice and investment.

But firms can also buy in innovation from the cloud. There are a number of cloud-based services that can help them do things in new ways. They include:

·       Beagle. Beagle is a legal tech start-up that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform the process of contract reviews. To make the process more efficient, Beagle scans a contract, highlighting key points for consideration. This reduces the complexity and time involved in contract negotiations. The platform is self-service, so clients need only engage a professional for complex issues, limiting the impact of prohibitive costs. Machine learning means that the more a client uses Beagle, the smarter it will become as it adapts to the customer’s preferences.

·       ClauseMatch. CauseMatch aims to ensure that terms and conditions can become as dynamic as the business relationships that they support. The start-up delivers automated, data-fuelled contracts for business. As the platform is cloud-based, contracts can be managed and updated in real-time using APIs, analytics services and the Internet of Things.

·       Apperio. Focused on providing greater transparency within legal services, Apperio is working to track spend in real-time, standardise the legal tender process and streamline matter management. The platform is used by some of the UK’s top law firms, including Olswang and Shoosmiths.

Time to embrace the cloud?

Moving to the cloud makes good business sense for law firms, whether they want to innovate within their own business or the industry at large. Regardless of company size, cloud technology offers the opportunity for new ways of doing things within the legal sector.

It’s important for legal firms to move to the cloud to maintain a competitive edge. However, a degree of caution must be exercised and a trusted provider like ComputerWorld on hand to advise and help you get the most out of your cloud journey.