When I was first introduced to the concept and structure of a virtual law practice, also known as cloud computing, it was love at first sight. I did my homework: researched and investigated the concerns and issues, and how they were being addressed in the evolution of SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms specifically designed for law firm use. Now it was love at second sight.
Then I read Legal Implications of Cloud Computing – Part One (The Basics and Framing the Issues) and realized that the outcry of concerns against practicing law in the cloud is based on a tradition of equating cloud computing with overseas data storage. At this stage, nothing can be further from the truth.
I practice on a virtual platform, and this is how it works. When a client wants to contact me, they either call me (what a concept!) or email me by using my encrypted contact form. There are several email services that provide encrypted/secured email services. I use Hushmail, and have found them easy, affordable and helpful.
My website includes a link called Client File Access. This link brings me to a program called Clio, an online legal practice management program using bank-grade 256-bit SSL encryption where data is stored in an enterprise-class, secured hosting environment. From then on, all communications are generated through Clio, which also stores all the information related to the case. My client receives their own username and password that gives them access to their own file, which includes all communications, documents, invoices and any other information related to their legal matter. The bottom line: you can practice law online with the same security as paying your bills.
Now, should you operate your online practice using unsecured web applications? No, although many attorneys have been doing so inadvertently for years (think about all those unsecured emails you been sending and receiving, all those google docs that have gone back and forth). Moreover, in her article Lawyers Should Not be Wary of SaaS and Cloud Computing, Niki Black makes the argument that paper documents are far more prone to confidentiality violations than online documents.
For more information, read Infrastructure: In the Cloud, which includes a long list of SaaS Platform providers for law firms and a great discussion of the topic, and the product information at VLOTech.com. In additional, there are many articles published on the website of the American Bar Association related to this issue.
The key to this, as with any emerging industry practice, is to stay informed. The benefits of a virtual practice (and cost is not the least of them) are too important for the future of your law practice to be ignored or dismissed for lack of adequate research.
If in your search you come across information that raises new or contradictory information, please include it in a comment here so together we can address it. That’s the power of this thing we call social networking!
Freelance Attorney/Business & Real Estate Law
Donna Seyle on the American Legal Forum: http://bit.ly/Cmux1