Cloud 101: A guide for in-house lawyers

There is a significant shift to move to the cloud, but what does this mean for in-house lawyers? Read our blog to learn the key considerations when evaluating cloud-based technology solutions.


Across the legal industry at large, there is a significant shift to move technology resources to the cloud. According to the International Legal Technology Association’s 2021 Technology Survey, respondents who are “not yet comfortable” with the Cloud is down to 7 percent.

Meanwhile, a majority of respondents report migrating or planning to migrate major solutions to the cloud, including email, email security and payroll.

But what exactly is cloud computing, and what do in-house lawyers need to know about it?

Cloud 101 - what is it?

According to Microsoft, “cloud computing is the delivery of computing services – including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence – over the Internet to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.”

Simply put, it’s technology that users access through an Internet browser or app; cloud-based software or services are not installed directly on computers. Cloud-based products are typically available through subscriptions, which make them a fast and flexible way to access new technology – especially technology specific to one business function.

Consider this: An enterprise-wide, on-premises solution requires hardware, software, servers and personnel to install and maintain it. Thus, to make business sense, a given piece of technology needs to apply to as many users as possible. A common example is proprietary training software, which will apply to all team members of a single organization.

Under the traditional “on-prem” model, it can be impractical to seek niche software for a specific set of users (such as enterprise legal management software for the legal department). And it’s near impossible to consider experimenting with in-house legal software, because the initial investment of time, cost and resources is so high.

That’s why the Cloud is such a boon for legal departments. It empowers them to explore the LegalTech tools specifically built to make in-house teams more effective and efficient. And thanks to free trials and per user per month subscription models, in-house teams of one to 1,000 can experiment to find the tools right for them. (It’s far easier to hit “cancel subscription” than uninstall software from hundreds of seats - or even a few seats - systemwide)

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Cloud considerations

If you are scouting cloud-based solutions, here are some of the key considerations to evaluate:

1. Security

Keep in mind that with cloud computing, you are sharing sensitive data with a third party. Does the legal management software meet industry standards for information security, such as ISO 27001 certification? How often is the security infrastructure audited? Is your data encrypted? Will any other parties have access to your data? Does the vendor have data centers in your jurisdiction to enable you to meet your regulatory and business compliance obligations, such as GDPR? Use our information security checklist to ensure your legal software meets the appropriate standards.

2. Availability

It’s important to know that your cloud-based legal software will be available when you need it. How does the legal software provider guarantee access? How often is data backed up, and how long are backups stored?

3. Connectivity

The Cloud has sparked innovation in LegalTech – and there’s a universe of tools available to help in-house legal teams. But if these tools don’t talk to each other – or if they force lawyers to toggle between apps all day – use and ROI will soon plummet. Check that your cloud-based matter management software comes with out-of-the-box integrations to other tools in your LegalTech ecosystem. Does it connect to SharePoint, NetDocuments or iManage for document management, to your Outlook or Gmail, to automation software such as Ironclad, Checkbox or Josef or an e-billing system? Does it support “single sign-on,” so your teammates save some time and hassle?

If this is your first move to the Cloud, it’s helpful to know the “who” behind your legal software tool - here are eight ways to evaluate your LegalTech vendor’s credibility. This can provide peace of mind not only for the legal department, but for any skeptical stakeholders in IT or procurement.

Ensure your legal technology is strategic and purposeful

While the Cloud brings so many opportunities to the legal department, it is important to ensure your technology is strategic and purposeful. A legal strategic plan is the best way to ensure your legal department is positioned to handle the evolving challenges of the pandemic and be ready for what happens next.

Download the white paper and template: Eight steps to a legal department strategic plan and get started today. A smart plan will arm you with the resources, infrastructure and initiatives you need to thrive.

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