The Cloud Will Soon Overtake On-Premise Computing, Legal IT Survey Says

The future of legal technology is looking cloudy — and that’s not a bad thing. Cloud computing is on track to overtake on-premise computing within the legal services industry in the very near future, according to a recently published survey of legal IT professionals. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed predicted that this will happen within five years and 81 percent said it will be within 10 years. Only 16 percent said it would never happen.

The survey was conducted in September by the publication Legal IT Professionals and its results were published Nov. 26. The online survey of the publication’s global readership elicited 438 responses, representing law firms ranging in size from small boutiques to global megafirms. More than three-quarters of respondents work directly in legal IT, either within a firm (54 percent) or as external consultants (24 percent). Lawyers and paralegals made up 22 percent of respondents.

The inevitability of the cloud overtaking on-premise computing is driven in part by the increasing prevalence of mobile devices within the legal industry, the survey found.

As connectivity – particularly mobile connectivity – becomes ubiquitous, and lawyers, like everyone else, become culturally accustomed to accessing everything online, cloud computing is likely to become the de facto delivery model for information and applications.

But the cloud also offers inherent advantages that are driving its ever-increasing popularity. “Cloud computing transcends geographical boundaries and storage limitations,” the survey noted. “It supports business continuity and disaster recovery.”

In fact, the survey’s respondents cited business continuity as among the top benefits of cloud computing. Asked what they considered to be the main benefits of the cloud, their top answers were:

  • Flexibility/Agility, 55%.
  • More mobility, 54%.
  • Business continuity, 52%.
  • Scalability, 47%.
  • Cost savings, 40%.
  • Ease of implementation, 21%.
  • Focus on core business, 18%.
  • Going green, 13%.

Although the survey identified a clear trend towards cloud computing, it also established that both legal professionals and clients maintain reservations. For example, respondents were asked, “If your law firm’s management asked for your advice regarding moving key applications to the cloud, would you be in favor of this strategy?” Responses were an even split, with 45 percent in favor and 46 percent against moving key applications to the cloud. Smaller firms were more likely than larger firms to embrace a cloud strategy. “Law firms are notoriously risk averse and tend to be what one lawyer described as ‘proud second movers’ when it comes to technology,” the survey suggested.

In a similar vein, 60 percent of respondents believed that their clients might be concerned if key applications and services were hosted in the cloud. “The biggest concerns about this are among CIO/CTOs (67%) and general IT staff (68%), who are perhaps the most risk aware groups surveyed and have to deal directly with any security breach or outage,” the survey explained.

Shift in Attitude

Still, there is a general shift in attitude in favor of cloud computing, the survey found. More than half of respondents said they are more positive about it now than a year ago. Only 10 percent of respondents said that their opinion about cloud computing had become more negative.

As for the future, respondents overwhelmingly cited security and client confidentiality as the biggest challenges that they would have to address before moving IT resources to the cloud. Across all roles, firm sizes and locations, between 73 percent and 90 percent of respondents said that security was their top concern.

In the final analysis, the authors of the survey report conclude that the tide has turned for cloud computing and that the cloud is here to stay.

The tide has turned, particularly in the mid-markets which are facing competition from market entrants, large firms that are driven by market forces to price their services more competitively and specialist boutiques that are utilising cloud computing to access resources and offer services that drive competitive advantage. The smaller, more agile firms are leading the way in outsourcing their entire IT infrastructure to an external cloud provider.

You can download the complete Global Cloud Survey Report from the Legal IT Professionals home page or directly from this link. The full report contains additional questions and details about responses, along with selected quotes from respondents. The report includes an introduction written by Nicole Black, author of the ABA book, Cloud Computing for Lawyers, in which she offers her perspective on the results.




About Bob Ambrogi

Bob is known internationally for his expertise in the Internet and legal technology. He held the top editorial positions at the two leading national U.S. legal newspapers, the National Law Journal and Lawyers USA. A long-time advisor to Catalyst, Bob now divides his time between law practice and media consulting. He writes two blogs, LawSites and MediaLaw, co-authors's Legal Blog Watch, and co-hosts the weekly legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer. A 1980 graduate of Boston College Law School, Bob is a life member of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation and an active member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, which honored him in 1994 with its President's Award.