Moving to the Cloud can be a big step for a small firm or solo practitioner. But it can also mean big benefits. Some attorneys who have successfully transitioned their practices to the Cloud were part of a panel discussion at LegalTech New York last month on “Practice Management and Other Legal Cloud Services Specifically for the Solo or Small Firm.”

Saul Gruber of The Gruber Firm and Richard Gurfein of Gurfein Douglas offered up some advice for firms. Here are some of the factors they say are important to consider in adopting Cloud-based practice management.

Mobility
Gruber and Gurfein agreed that mobility is far and away the single biggest advantage. Key documents, research and other data are accessible anywhere, anytime through a secure Internet connection. Gurfein even painted a scenario where an attorney could be challenged in court by a judge as to whether such-and-such motion or brief had been filed. Without even leaving the courtroom, an attorney could use their smartphone or tablet to pull the information from the Cloud and instantly show details about the motion and when it had been filed.

Workflow/sharing
Similarly, attorneys can share documents and information with other people in their practice. Gruber and Gurfein routinely work collaboratively with support staff or other attorneys in the practice, working on documents, sharing notes, or discussing cases whether the parties involved are in the office or not.

Security
Data security is always a hot topic, but Gruber pointed out that many Cloud-based practice management platforms use 256-bit encryption – the same as used by many of the world’s largest banks. He feels security concerns are either not well understood or used as an excuse by people who are afraid of Cloud technologies. He pointed out that we all routinely rely on Cloud security at numerous points in our personal and business lives, in everything from e-commerce transactions to health care information. Gurfein made the point that in the end, security is all relative, and that if a firm relies on paper files and local servers, as he puts it, “the only security is the lock on the front door.”

Bandwidth
For firms thinking of moving their practices to the Cloud, the panelists had one major piece of advice: get bandwidth, bandwidth and more bandwidth. They said that having adequate Internet bandwidth is one of the most important considerations in adopting Cloud-based practice management, and is the factor that is most commonly overlooked. Having adequate Internet speed available from the get-go is critical to ensuring smooth implementation and operation on the Cloud.

Vendors
There are many paths leading to the Cloud. The panelists suggested that when evaluating vendors, ask for reference customers whom you can call to privately discuss how their systems are working for them. If a vendor can’t provide people to talk to, move on to a different vendor.

Don’t be afraid of the Cloud
What would the panelists say to other attorneys thinking about moving to the Cloud? “What took you so long?” was Gurfein’s reply. Both attorneys agreed that Cloud-based practice management is no longer new or novel – it is a true-and-tried technology that can help small and solo firms be more efficient, and make attorneys more productive.

Both men praised that it allows them to unshackle themselves from the office. Gruber went so far as to state, “if you value time with your family, move your practice to the Cloud.”