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Before 2020, the majority of legal work was carried out face-to-face within the confines of offices, where lawyers worked five (or more) days a week. This was largely due to the significant amount of confidential data that each law office held about clients and cases. In order to ensure this data was secure and protected, it was stored in on-premises servers protected by additional security and authentication so only those in the office could access it.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, the legal sector was forced to adapt quickly. As work-from-home orders were declared across the UK, law firms had to adopt a new method of data storage to provide their staff access to the information they needed to continue working from their homes. The answer to their dilemma was the cloud.
Moving to the cloud was a particular challenge for the legal sector, though, compared to other industries that turned to cloud adoption amidst the COVID pandemic. The legal sector is renowned for being cautious and reluctant to adopt any new technology, but the matter was urgent and time was of the essence.
The legal sector, arguably more than any other industry, has strict responsibilities to safeguard clients’ data and ensure that it remains confidential. Therefore, whilst law firms could see the advantages of cloud adoption - lower costs, easier to manage, improved collaboration opportunities and flexibility - they had to move cautiously.
Due to the importance of confidentiality and the need to avoid any unauthorised access to data, most law firms - and every big law firm - has its own IT security team. When law firms decide to move to the cloud, the cloud suppliers undergo a rigorous process, presenting to both the partners and the security team in order to win the contract and reassure the business that their data will be in safe hands.
Advocates of the cloud
Implementing a new cloud system provides the IT team, who make up a very small percentage of employees within a law firm, with the opportunity to educate their colleagues. To be supportive of the move to the cloud, lawyers will want to understand the process completely so that they are comfortable with using it once it is complete. Hearing the advice and the benefits of the new technology for their own IT team is likely to put their minds at ease and get them on board with the change.
Obviously, trying to find time in a busy senior partner’s schedule for a tech discussion can be difficult, but a quick chat or a brief meeting can be enough for IT teams to begin the process for change and innovation.
Law firms require a cloud vendor that not only provides them with the solution but also acts as their technology partner. This means that the law firm gets ongoing support to help assist their small IT teams, is kept updated on product developments that could assist their processes further and receives the full benefits of cloud adoption - efficiency, competitive advantage, cost-effective - as it is safely and accurately implemented.
Data protection starts with data discovery
However, before moving to the cloud, it is essential that law firms know what data and how much of it they hold. They do not have to do this alone though - many cloud providers will offer tools to help with data discovery and classification. These tools locate and identify all the data held by a firm and highlight what could be classed as ‘sensitive’ data. This is important because this data is usually critical and confidential and requires more protection than other held information.
Once this data has been identified, the cloud provider can then assist on how best to manage and secure it. For example, it may suggest that the most sensitive data remains on the in-house data servers whilst the less critical data can be transferred to the cloud.
Data discovery is also valuable because it identifies data that law firms may have forgotten about if it hasn’t been accessed for a long period of time. Data discovery solutions will then assist the firm in rationalising this data before it is moved to the cloud. This is essential because a significant amount of data could be deduplicated and stored on a primary server. This has multiple benefits as it lowers the cost of cloud adoption, makes it easier to find required data, simplifies analysing case data and keeps unstructured data categorised and controlled.
Count on the cloud
Law firms can’t take chances with data protection due to the large amounts of sensitive data they hold owing to the nature of their business. They need a clear and planned approach to move to the cloud and a strong partner that can assist them through every step - management, storage and access.
When implemented correctly, cloud adoption can be very cost-effective as it deduplicates and archives any unnecessary data, saving money on storage space. In addition, data discovery ensures that no information is missed, archived or exposed to unauthorised access in the process of moving to the cloud.
Within the legal sector, this change in approach to data management is a huge transformation, but so long as they take the time to do the important preparation work, law firms can move to the cloud with the confidence that their data is easy to access and secure.