Whenever I mention “The Cloud” to my IT/KM friends, I usually see the hairs on the back of their necks stand up and a flash of anger cross their faces. Up until yesterday I assumed that the general dislike of “The Cloud” was one born out of instability and lack of security issues. In fact, here is basically the arguments I get when I ask about law firms using Cloud based applications:

  • law firms don’t like, nor trust storing their data on the “cloud”… with good reason
  • “cloud” based apps are difficult to manipulate and configure to the firm’s individual needs
  • firms will never put confidential data on the “cloud”
  • firms will never put items that have high integrity needs on the “cloud”
  • data that need high availability and flexibility to access that data will never be put on the “cloud”
Usually I can get the IT/KM people to say that it is possible that data that doesn’t fit any of the needs listed above can go on the cloud and can be a cost savings to the firm.
But, when I attended the Virtual LegalTech presentation called “The Challenge of Preserving and Collecting Evidence in a Cloud”, I heard one of the presenters say something that made me think that my IT/KM friends may have other fears of the cloud. Craig Ball, Jeff Fehrman and Tom Morrissey mentioned that many firms are already using “cloud” apps (think Web Mail) and that it isn’t a matter of if the cloud will host more applications and information, but “when and who will hold that information.”
It was the “who” in that statement that made me realize that when applications like email servers and CRM applications go to the cloud, a fundamental structuring change will need to happen with our technology departments. No longer will application support personnel be needed. Instead, we will need high-level contract negotiators to craft the contracts between the firm and the companies providing the services. The “Cloud” may outsource an entire level of IT jobs currently held at law firms.
Just think of the effect that jettisoning your Outlook email system in favor of a web based application like a hosted GMail service. If you don’t need employees to monitor the email, update the software, and service the hardware because all of that is being maintained by the host provider, then why keep these employees? If I’m a Partner at a firm or a Chief Information Officer in charge of budgeting, I’m going to look at this option to see if it will save me money. And, on the surface it seems that if I can get rid of Outlook, my Exchange Server, the hardware to support the system, possibly the Blackberry Exchange Server, plus one or two employees?? I’d do it in a minute… if there were no security or availability issues.
The ‘Devil’ on my right shoulder starts to put two and two together and wonder if my IT/KM friends are also seeing this effect of the “cloud” and playing on the basic fears that the law firm leadership has about putting any information or resources outside the physical reaches of the firm?? Meanwhile the “Angel” on my left shoulder shouts that I’d better listen to my IT/KM folks and not be such a ‘greedy bastard’ (he’s a little foul mouthed angel) in trying to save money while exposing my firm and its information to all kinds of access, security and ethical risks.
I’m probably being over simplistic in my example, but this type of argument is probably going on right now. Cost versus Security… Cost versus Access… Cost versus Risk…. Over time, it seems that the cloud based infrastructure is going to close these holes and create a much harder argument for technology departments to win.