The sunny side of clouds


These days law firms are looking for ways to cut costs, without cutting their level of service and alienating clients. But there are ways for firms to better serve their client base and save money, presenters at the ABA Techshow said Friday.

In a pair of morning sessions, the panelists discussed free and low-cost services available in the “cloud” and ways to use standard PC software for document management.

Catherine Sanders Reach, the director of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, pointed out numerous services that are hosted online. The services fell into a few main areas: productivity, collaboration and practice management.

As far as the “cloud” label is concerned, though, users shouldn’t think of it as a misty thing from on high. “What’s the definition of a ‘cloud’?” Reach asked. “It doesn’t really matter.”

Reach and co-presenter Rodney S. Dowell, director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, mentioned several services that are free, but they did caution that free comes with a price. That price is users have no recourse should something go wrong with their data or lose access or the provider goes belly up.

The pair entitled their session “Hey, You, Get Off of Onto My Cloud: Tools to Run Your Practice in the Cloud,” which was one of four programs on the Practice in the Cloud track Friday at the Chicago Hilton.

Besides the free services such as Google Apps and Docs and Microsoft Live’s SkyDrive, Reach and Dowell looked at the growing software as a service field, where companies are selling a range of programs geared for small- to mid-size firms to employ powerful case-management and document-management systems once reserved for big shops with dedicated infotech departments.

Among the SaaS practice management companies mentioned in the session were —

  • Aderant — Long employed by large firms, the company launched a package for solos last month.
  • AdvologixPM — The Sugar Land, Texas-based outfit recently announced a feature to work offline.
  • Clio — This young company developed its offering with help from the Law Society of British Columbia.
  • RocketMatter — The 2-year-old operation recently added a feature to track client trust accounts.

Dowell and Reach also noted handy services for collaborating with clients or counsel that offer secure environment for sharing documents or negotiating deals. Among the services mentioned were Dialawg.com, PBWorks and Box.net.

At a separate session on document management, the two presenters laid out a do-it-yourself manual to building a logical system for storing files, starting with what most firms and sole practitioners already have: a computer.

The keys are to get everyone one in the office on board and to make sure they stay there, according to Donna Neff, a solo attorney from Ottawa, Canada, and Reid F. Trautz, director of the Practice & Professionalism Center for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Washington, D.C., and author of ReidMyBlog.com.

Neff explained how she’s moved her office in the paperless direction by building a template for folder structures on everyday PCs and ensuring that correspondence arriving via snail mail and fax is scanned quickly and saved in the appropriate folder.

This step requires, of course, a good quality scanner and OCR software to convert the image of the page into a text-based document that’s searchable later on.

~ by CDLB on March 26, 2010.

One Response to “The sunny side of clouds”

  1. […] Sessions were geared around teaching attorneys how to be accessible to clients using social media applications and collaborative tools like Google Docs. Legal professionals instructed attendees on practical and convenient ways to monitor their online reputations, how to work and thrive in a “ratings-driven economy” and ways to get “positive Google juice“. Other presentations addressed topics such as how to preserve ESI and the pros and cons of  ‘cloud’ computing. […]

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