In these unprecedented times, law firms that have been reluctant to embrace cloud computing should be giving it serious consideration. [Note: if you are already convinced that the Cloud is safe and secure, skip to “Welcome to the Cloud” below] For anyone that has lingering doubts about the ethics or security of storing parts, or all, of your practice in the Cloud, you needn’t worry. More than 20 US jurisdictions have considered the issue and have concluded that lawyers can ethically use the Cloud to store confidential client documents and information.
These opinions emphasize that merely putting your practice in the Cloud is not enough; you must secure access to the data as well. Thankfully, most cloud providers have features to enhance secure access, such as two-factor authentications. If you still think that your local server is more secure than the Cloud, I have news for you; it isn’t. Unless of course, you have a dedicated team of IT professionals who are always (24-7) on guard against intrusion attempts and have constant synchronized off-site back-ups of your server. This is what you get with Cloud computing. As an example, the Microsoft Azure Cloud provides encryption of your data both at rest (on the cloud server) and in transit (when transferring data to your local computer). They also have a dedicated team of over 3500 security professionals and spending almost $1 Billion to test and secure their Azure Cloud regularly.
Welcome the Cloud
Using the tools you likely have already; you and your entire firm can leverage the Cloud to work from any computer anywhere (or just work from home). Microsoft Office 365 is one such tool. Unlike older Office products, Office 365 is entirely in the Cloud, so you no longer need to be at your desk or in your office to access your files and get work done. Office 365, out of the box, is a Document and Note Management System, a communications workhorse, and a Project/Matter Management system. The applications discussed below are just a small sample of the applications included in the Business Premium version of Office 365.
With OneDrive®, your documents are securely stored in the Cloud, allowing you to access them from anywhere. The built-in collaboration tools of OneDrive® allow for both simultaneous editing of documents as well as built-in version control. Everyone in your firm will be on the same page (or document) regardless of where they are working. OneDrive® also allows you to share document or folders with people outside your organization, allowing for secure sharing of documents and collaboration with your clients.
OneNote® is an extremely versatile note-taking application that can replace any written notes for phone calls, meetings, or any Note to File. With the built-in Section and Page organization, you can organize and sort your notes by Matter, topic, or any system that works. Because OneNote® is synched to the Cloud, everyone’s Notes will be accessible to all members of your firm, keeping everyone in the loop.
Like it or not, email is not going anywhere. Email management is critical for any legal practice, but the organization of your emails is vital. You can create Outlook® “Groups” which will be shared inboxes for your team. Groups can be organized by Matters, Practice Groups, Teams so that you can organize your emails and calendars.
Microsoft Planner® is a KanBan style project management board that will allow you to plan and organize the Phases, Tasks and Subtasks for the entire lifespan of a matter. Matter management is key to ensure the consistency of your legal processes and will keep everyone working on a file on task (each task also has deadlines with email reminders). By keeping track of tasks assigned to everyone working on the Matter, Planner® allows for the management of workloads and task status to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
All of the Office 365® applications mentioned above also have apps for your phone or tablet. These apps will allow you to work seamlessly across devices from anywhere. While these features of Office 365® are ready “out of the box”, to maximize your use of Office 365® in your legal practice, some background organization of the various applications is required. Matter365 will take care of the organization of your Office 365® applications so that you can focus on billable work. Matter365 is a complete Legal Practice Management solution that will create a matter centric organization to your Office 365®. Matter365’s proprietary features include Matter Dashboards, Time Tracking, Reporting, Office Add-Ins, QuickBooks Online® integration for easy invoicing and management of Trust accounts. Using Matter365 to create a Matter Centric organization to your practice can save you between 5-10 hours per month in automating the organization of your documents, emails, and time tracking, as well as other routine administrative tasks. Allowing you to focus on what really matters.
To learn more about Matter365 and receive a FREE print and PDF copy of Microsoft Office 365 for Lawyers, Second Edition, by Ben M. Schorr, click here. (Value of $37.50 for ABA members)