Over the past 30 days, I came across four articles that made me sense a shift in the air regarding online access to legal client data. Collectively, these pieces focused on a trend that’s sweeping the corporate landscape: Realizing the tremendous productivity and client service benefits—and the fact that email, laced with inefficiency and security issues, simply isn’t cutting it anymore—lawyers are finally getting comfortable with the idea of their confidential client data being stored somewhere outside the four walls of the firm.
Fortunately, it seems that this comfort level is starting to jive with available technology—and the small current is becoming a wave.
At Two Step Software, where we track online minute book information for over 150,000 client companies, virtually all of our new law firm customers over the past few years have stored their client data at our hosting facility. Why? Because our hosted solution offers better performance, greater security (i.e., biometric checks, 24/7 surveillance, and diesel generators for power outages), and vastly reduced support costs (no upgrades, no in-house servers). The hackneyed phrase "better, faster, cheaper" comes to mind.
As discussed in these articles, the objections of yesteryear regarding online client data no longer carry the day. Imagine when all of your client information is online and available to you and your clients 24/7—whether you're in the office, at a board meeting, or on a "so-called" vacation.
In March, a law firm blog posted the question What about an online minute book? The writer’s comments were:
"Don’t you think it would be nice if you could do corporation minutes online? And keep them in an online minute book? Instead of keeping them in a 3 ring notebook? Well, I do. I dream of it. Minutes in the cloud. I’d type them up, hit the upload button, and watch them magically appear, organized in chronological order, right there on the web page. The online minute book web page. It would have to be secure, of course. Only those with permission could see them. But they’d be there all the time. Whenever you needed to review them, you’d just click and down they would come from the Internet cloud onto your computer screen. Like rain. Minutes would come from the cloud like rain. Ahh. That would be nice."
Later that month, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) published their March 2009 White Paper issue, which included an article I wrote entitled: Client Intelligence: Answering the Call for Greater Productivity. It discusses the numerous productivity benefits—for both lawyers and their clients—of a centralized information repository for client information and documents.
A week later, Brett Burney wrote the article "Storing Your Firm's Data in the Cloud" in the Legal Technology section of Law.com. In it, he acknowledges lawyers’ past reluctance to store client data outside of the firm, while stating that today's online storage usually involves "a server-class machine, probably in an ultra-safe bunker." Burney notes the common acceptance of "deal room" data centers such as those offered by Intralinks, DataSite or Firmex, which have proven their superior security compared to traditional conference rooms.
A few days later, in the blog Compliance Building, Doug Cornelius wrote a post entitled "Extranets for Law Firm and Client Collaboration - Moving Beyond Email" where he discusses some of the challenges of deciding on the right extranet platform. Cornelius made the point that email no longer counts as "collaboration" in the Sharepoint, Web 2.0 world.
These are just a sampling of the growing number of articles that are discussing the topic of moving client data “to the cloud.” Where does your firm stand on the issue? If you're not doing it yet, maybe it's time to explore the brave new world—and the big benefits—of online client data ... one cap table, one minute book, one client at a time.