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COVID-19 and the Cloud

How Cloud Based Legal Software Keeps Your Business Running

The novel coronavirus came on gradually and then suddenly. In recent days and weeks, as conditions worsened nationwide, many marquee activities and signature events were cancelled in an effort of social distancing.

Pursuant to the World Health Organization’s categorization of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the White House declared a national emergency. Along with the extension of emergency authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the declaration frees up certain public health funds for use. These funds are used to accomplish objectives like distributing testing kits and medicine or supporting state and local emergency measures.

In the legal space, courts — including the Supreme Court — have altered or suspended operations as concerns about the virus mount. The High Court acted out of concern for the health and safety of the public and Supreme Court employees.

Where court proceedings do continue, unusual steps have been activated. For instance, in many places, detainees are being screened before court appearances to determine body temperature. Those with an elevated body temperature are not permitted to enter the courthouse.

The March of Business

Despite the multiple disruptions, legal business has certainly not come to a halt. But how well can business be conducted from quarantine? Enter: cloud computing and cloud based legal software.

Cloud computing in the legal industry is sometimes understood as simply web-based case management. When thought of like this, it generally means a lightweight suite of basic case management features, accessed online. While this can be just the right match for some firms, many firms typically need a more complete array of practice and document management features even while they have no interest in maintaining and protecting the necessary server themselves. That’s where third parties fit into the picture.

Not sure what the difference is between document management, case management and practice management? Find out more here.

Cloud Flexibility

We’ve previously discussed how the cloud provides several advantages you don’t want to do without. But beyond benefits like decreased cost and enhanced security, there’s the flexibility of the cloud. Features like remote access are now virtually mandatory. Honestly, a firm still engaged in the debate of on prem v. remote is on borrowed time it really is about increasing the principal’s comfort with a remote workforce and showing (objectively) the remote experience/production is the same as in-office. You may consider our recent additions and further reading on productivity tools to gain insight.

While the rate of technological adoption in the legal world has inexorably increased as technology continues to evolve, the contingent of old school devotees has still remained high. Fundamental change for the long term is hardly anyone’s idea of a good time. Workarounds in software and workflows are annoying but not world ending. Meanwhile, just choosing legal software can be daunting, let alone learning the new system. And your bottom line is already nothing to sneeze at.

But what happens when the world closes off old standbys of success? For better and worse, the world just changed. Coronavirus has clarified, as the joke goes these days, that that meeting really could have been an email. What’s more, with social distancing in full effect and no end in sight, an email or call is now the only option. How is your firm handling the public health disruption? And what will your workflows look like when the crisis has abated?

The Proverbial Straw

Speaking to this matter, prominent blogger Bob Ambrogi just published an article asking, “Will Coronavirus Be The Tipping Point For Tech Competence In Law?” Note the low bar set by Ambrogi: bare competence is still an aspiration. Nevertheless, the urgency and necessity of the coronavirus situation means growth might become exponential. Can firms that buck the adoption trend, even now, hope to survive?

Virtual collaboration and reliance on the cloud are the new norms. For some, this is no big deal while, for others, it’s practically an insurmountable obstacle. As Ambrogi wonders, are the present circumstances an inconvenience or complete interruption for your firm?

Everybody could read the tea leaves of cloud based legal software before the current crisis, just as new articles come out every few months now warning of the looming industry takeover by artificial intelligence. And most decision makers probably had vague notions in the back of their minds to get new case management software, or more secure software, or more accessible software in the near future in order to keep pace with trends. But what happens when everything changes in an instant?

According to Ambrogi: “For firms that have lagged in their adoption of technology, for lawyers who have lagged in learning technology, the coming weeks and months could be an acid test. Sad to say, but if the situation persists, it could force the shutdown of some firms.” In the legal tech space, then, COVID-19 and the cloud are likely to be permanently linked.

Safety Over Software

All in all, it would be great if your firm is cloud competent and you and your staff can remain productive despite the pandemic. In the big picture, however, don’t forget your responsibility to yourself and your family to make smart choices through the present plight. So, in between e-signing, teleconferencing, and accessing your files remotely, don’t forget to rest up and stay healthy for whatever’s next.

March 17, 2020