After a slow start to embrace the idea of using a “hosted” model for managing software applications and client data, law firms have accelerated their adoption of this model in recent years. More than 54% of lawyers reported using a cloud platform last year to host client data, according to the American Bar Association’s 2018 Technology Survey.
The leading edge of this slow migration was the document-intensive area of litigation. The idea behind the hosted litigation solutions model is that a law firm contracts with an expert provider to obtain an environment for securely hosting e-discovery data, other relevant electronic case files and necessary litigation software applications. The hosting services provider takes responsibility for providing 24/7 access to all client data and software tools through the law firm’s preferred cloud delivery system.
Now that the hosted litigation model has become more common in the industry, law firms are increasingly looking for the next step in the evolution of how IT service providers can help them improve client service and enhance the firm’s profitability. Some of the most innovative firms are finding the answer to this search with the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model for law firm IT.
IaaS is an IT service model that delivers a law firm’s computing infrastructure via the internet. The maintenance of the technology infrastructure is provided and managed by an expert provider, which eliminates the need for law firms to acquire their own servers and data centers. The law firm’s IT team just focuses on the installation, configuration and management of software applications that are most appropriate for their lawyers’ needs.
The early adopters of the IaaS model for law firm IT are discovering five key benefits to this approach:
- Security. Data security is typically the number-one priority for every law firm CIO. The IaaS model allows law firms to access their computing infrastructure from dedicated servers at secure, state-of-the-art data centers that meet the strictest certification standards. The data centers are also managed around-the-clock by trained data security professionals.
- Risk management. The most experienced IaaS providers will mitigate risks to law firms by delivering IT services in a private cloud environment. This allows firms to control access for all employees and authorized users. Moreover, an external provider can conduct ongoing systems back-up, which gives law firm IT teams the confidence of knowing that business continuity will be maintained in the event of the need for disaster recovery.
- Expertise. The core competency of a law firm is to deliver legal services, they are not in the IT business and shouldn’t need to hire a broad team of technology, security and data management professionals. With the IaaS model, law firms benefit from instant access to outside experts who specialize in these narrow areas. There is no pressure on firms to recruit, train and retain the right people to keep the technology infrastructure up and running.
- Cost savings. For many law firms, the annual capital expenditures required to purchase and maintain hardware and other IT infrastructure is substantial. The IaaS model helps firms redirect some of that CapEx into OpEx by eliminating the costs of acquiring more powerful servers, more accessible data centers and more up-to-date cybersecurity defense systems.
- Flexibility. There is something to be said for convenience and the ability to stay nimble when it comes to the law firm IT function. With the IaaS model, end users are able to work with their preferred technology environment — delivered by the outside service provider — and yet law firm IT executives have the flexibility of scaling up quickly if the need arises by just reaching out to the provider and asking them to spin up more capacity right away.
Law firms have been slow to embrace migration of their IT systems to any sort of cloud platform, but hosted litigation solutions may have cleared a path for the industry to follow. Now more firms are beginning to embrace the innovation opportunity presented by the IaaS model and realizing the benefits of this approach to IT service delivery.
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