How Midsize Law Firms Can Use Cloud Technology to Compete with Larger Firms

A new type of law firm has cropped up in recent years, spurred by the advancement of modern technologies. While many conventional firms are going digital, or undergoing what’s known as a digital transformation, other firms are coming right out of the gate as digital enterprises.

It is now common to see a major firm with multiple locations spread all across the nation, using cloud-based and on-demand opportunities for its clients. Some next-gen firms have even taken that to another level, with no fixed office or brick-and-mortar locations at all, and everything is done online.

Whatever the case, it all points to an entirely new opportunity in the field of law, one that hinges on online and digital solutions as opposed to conventional in-person or face-to-face measures. A lawyer might meet with a client located halfway across the world, for example, using online conferencing tools and a computer. Another lawyer might remotely ping a contact for legal documents, distributed through a secure public ledger system.

It also means that everyone is competing on a semi-even level from the biggest firms in existence to the smallest, one-person operations. Cloud technologies — including AI and machine learning — are disrupting the field by allowing small to midsize firms the opportunity to compete directly with larger rivals, something relatively unheard of in the past.

It begs the question, how is this possible? What is the cloud provides that allows these smaller firms to hold their own?

New Technology, New Opportunities

One major benefit of moving operations to the cloud and its related systems is that smaller firms suddenly have access to tools and resources that they didn’t in the past. More specifically, those tools would have only been accessible to bigger firms with more capital.

These tools open up access to more advanced functionalities including much more sophisticated legal applications. In the past, those same opportunities would have to be maintained and managed by a proper IT team, on-site, which requires a ton of resources. Now, the solutions are managed remotely by a service provider and firms simply subscribe for access to the tools.

In this way, the cloud essentially levels the playing field in regards to what tools and solutions are available to firms across the board, regardless of size. A small firm can tap into the best technology and legal talents without expressly hiring new workers.

Remotely Managed Solutions Means Lower Costs

Because the tools, systems, and solutions are managed remotely by a capable provider, the overall costs are much lower compared to what they would be if each firm had to manage these solutions in-house. Some of the bigger firms may still prefer to manage these solutions on their own and with an internal IT and operations team.

But the biggest standout is that the option is now available to smaller firms and at an incredibly reasonable cost. Cloud expenses are also much more predictable and manageable to budget. A cloud provider will offer subscription plans on a monthly or annual basis, allowing customers to choose exactly what they need. The cloud services are most often separated into multiple tiers which even unlocks the ability to scale up or down depending on demands.

A smaller firm that doesn’t need a lot of cloud storage, for example, might be able to spring for a cheaper plan. As they grow, they can simply move up the tiers to meet their needs. More importantly, this is done on a near-instant basis and in real-time so there’s no need to prepare, plan, or upgrade the related systems and hardware.

Enhanced Security Is Available to All

Typically, an IT solution requires the appropriate security tools, teams, and measures to keep the resulting data safe. In fields such as medical and law, information security is absolutely paramount. Even the smallest breach can mean not only hefty fines but also more detrimental legal consequences — such as jail time.

That also means that any firm using data-centric technologies must manage, upgrade, and invest in its security solutions out of pocket. That’s one of the major reasons why advanced technologies have been off-limits to smaller firms in the past. Not only could they not afford to implement the necessary technology, but also they couldn’t afford to secure said solutions properly.

As a provider with cloud-based technologies handles all of this, firms have a lot less to worry about when it comes to data and security. That doesn’t mean they can be lax in terms of following the proper security protocols; it just means they’re not on the hook for managing the necessary technologies and solutions. Even better, the security tends to be much more effective and stronger with cloud solutions because the provider has the necessary resources, talent, and tools to make it so.

Suddenly, those smaller firms have access to machine learning and incredibly advanced data solutions without having to worry about the foundational security elements. It’s more about securing their internal solutions and managing who has access to the technology.

Through 2020, public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads will suffer at least 60 percent fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers. Furthermore, through 2020, about 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. In other words, cloud solutions are much more secure than legacy data solutions, by far, and it’s getting better every day.

Automating the Tedium

We still have a long way to go in terms of what can be done with these technologies in the legal field. Many cloud providers and organizations are still experimenting with ways that modern technology can be used to enrich the day-to-day operations of legal teams.

Digitizing legal documents, for example, is an ongoing and relatively slow process that still has a lot of bureaucracy behind it. What can or should we make digital? How do we secure access? What happens if and when a breach occurs and how do we mitigate damage? These are still concepts that are being ironed out, in general.

That said, there are innovative solutions taking hold in the field, particularly in how machine learning is being used to automate repetitive processes. AI systems are already being used to conduct legal research and review available documents. ROSS Intelligence offers a solution that relies on natural language processing to scan and analyze various documents.

Another similar AI might be used to research and discover background information about clients like prior offenses, relevant details, and more. Another still might be used to draw up, review, and manage contractual documents when working within the industry, be it with clients or third-party firms.

The beauty of it all is that small to midsize firms can leverage the technologies in the same way that their bigger opponents do.

It’s All About Leveling the Playing Field

Considering the many benefits that cloud computing and similar technologies offer, it’s not difficult to see why they are so lucrative for small and midsize firms. These solutions ultimately allow everyone to compete on an even playing field no matter how many resources they have at the ready. That’s crucial because smaller and midsize firms notoriously have a lot less capital and manpower to play with.

Larger firms often have a small army of well-intentioned interns and up-and-coming lawyers to do a lot of the busywork. These days, it’s possible to automate a lot of that work by shifting the duties to an advanced system run by machine learning or AI technologies.

But it also means that a lot of the conventional operations are moving to modern and digital experiences, such as reviewing legal documents and books in the cloud via a mobile device as opposed to physically scouring the shelves of a legal library. It has changed the game and created so much more opportunity in the field.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.