Turning the legal industry tanker around on cloud adoption

It seems that the days of fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding cloud adoption will soon be well and truly behind us.

The majority of industry sectors have either already implemented, or have begun investigating, cloud services. Even the most security-conscious sectors are beginning to take their first steps into cloud computing as we have seen with central government and banking.

Cloud adoption in the UK is continuing to rise, with end user satisfaction soaring due to the flexibility and cost-savings cloud services offer. But despite adoption levels growing rapidly over the past few years, it is only recently that the legal sector has begun to give cloud services serious consideration.  

Due to the very nature of law firms, the storage of sensitive information in an external environment has naturally been met with some caution. While early-movers have been experimenting with cloud services for some time now, the majority of the sector has been hesitant to adopt until recently. In order to address the security and functionality concerns some firms still had, support and advice from respected industry bodies was needed.

Last August we released a report with Frank Jennings, Chair of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) Code of Practice Board, that highlighted the key challenges and benefits to law firms embracing cloud computing. The report highlighted concerns regarding the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) lack of pro-activity in providing clear guidance to firms who were considering the adoption of a cloud service.

This was especially true when compared to our neighbours across the border, the Law Society of Scotland, who had already developed a guide offering “practical advice around the risks associated with cloud computing, and how these services are best suited to the legal industry”.

It was clear that change was needed. In November of last year, the SRA responded to the industry’s need for guidance with the introduction of the Silver Linings report.

The report recognised the impact cloud services can have on firms; namely the increase in flexibility and cost benefits. It went on to highlight the potential risks, and how firms can protect themselves against them. The report was a major breakthrough for the legal sector in its bid to find independent, industry-specific advice. In early April 2014, further advice was given as the Law Society followed in the SRA’s footsteps, with the introduction of its cloud guidance for law firms. This advice went even further with more specific guidance surrounding cloud computing and Outcome 7.10 of the SRA Code of Conduct

Much like the Silver Linings report, the guidelines from the Law Society aim to provide the legal sector with increasing clarity and reassurance and are another step forward towards increased confidence in cloud adoption.

Further to these guidelines, there are several measures firms can undertake to ensure that they remain secure when working with a cloud service provider (CSP). Comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are vital and are something firms will be far more adept at negotiating with service providers than most businesses.

Accreditations are an excellent way to identify reliable service providers. Working with CSPs that are compliant with specific regulations, including ISO 27001 for information security and the Cloud Industry Forum’s Code of Practice, for example, will help assure end-users they are working with a capable provider, who is regularly audited.

As our report highlighted, law firms have been considering cloud services for some time now. Reports like those from the SRA and the Law Society should be the reassurance any hesitant firms need to take those first steps.

Cloud computing is already having a hugely positive impact on law firms that have already made the move, and we expect it won’t be long before the rest of the industry follows.

This article is part of CloudTech's occasional series focusing on cloud computing in the legal industry. Read more here.

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