Our clients want/deserve/need/demand faster, better, and less expensive legal services.
Acknowledging this, in 2010, Bradford & Barthel, with 200+ users and 12 offices throughout California began a multi-year implementation of taking the firm to the cloud. The senior management team led the charge leaping to a collaborative cloud computing model. Since that time, the firm has realized tremendous cost savings (via reduced software license agreements, and less required IT and technology infrastructure costs), forced its staff to collaborate on work product (which many now swear they can’t live without), and extended the ability to review documents and expedite responses to client requests.
And this is just the beginning.
Still, and as one might expect, the firm’s “first-to-market” move has been met with pessimism, rumblings about confidentiality, security concerns, and doubts that collaborative cloud solutions such as Google Apps are ready for prime time in the finicky legal space.
It Might Not Be Perfect, But…
What is the current state of collaborative cloud computing? It seems there may have never been a better time to ask that question, especially with another major outage (this time Amazon was so lucky) dominating the technology pages and increasing debate over cloud computing’s future (particularly, the notions that the cloud is too dangerous and not enterprise-worthy).
Don’t believe it! Amazon’s outage scenario reminds me of a recent flight I took on April 1, 2011: a Southwest Airlines (SWA) aircraft suffered fuselage rupture at 36,000 feet, resulting in loss of cabin pressure and requiring an emergency landing. As I sat six rows from the five foot-long, two foot-wide gaping hole, I came to believe I would never see my children again. I eventually passed out when my air mask failed to deliver oxygen. On that same day, a Delta flight struck a flock of large cranes and an American Airlines plane failed to properly pressurize, requiring an emergency landing when passengers became ill—quite a tough day for an industry that is statistically far safer than auto travel!
Did the SWA, Delta, and American Airlines incidents give rise to a debate over air transportation’s future?
Of course not!
Did I stop flying?
Of course not!
Is cloud computing perfect?
Of course not!
But unless you refuse to fly until all fuselage ruptures, losses of cabin pressure, and in-flight crane run-ins have been eliminated, common sense, client demands, and maintaining profit margins during lean times dictate that the cloud—with all its imperfections— be judiciously employed by every legal practice that hopes to become and/or remain relevant.
Lessons Learned by a Non-Techie
As a “non-techie,” transitioning to the cloud has been remarkably painless. In fact, as each phase is implemented, I’m repeatedly reminded of Pogo’s observation: “We have met the enemy and he is us,” or, more accurately, the enemies are ME and MY FEAR of CHANGE and the UNKNOWN.
We’re all the same, aren’t we? Remember back (way back) to a simpler time when you faced the daunting task of riding a two-wheeler without training wheels? Or moving out of your parents’ home to your own apartment or dorm room? While my children believe these events occurred at least a hundred years ago, I certainly recall how the mix of excitement and dread gave me pause just prior to plunging forward into the great unknown.
Feelings of dread were repeated within the last two years as our entire law firm (all 12 offices—GASP!!) prepared to plunge (soar?) into the cloud. Much like my experiences from (not) so long ago, I haven’t stopped pedaling and I have never regretted the move.
Nervous about taking the plunge? The beauty of cloud computing is that it need not be an all-or-nothing proposition.
While the Luddites of the nineteenth century certainly had compelling arguments against automation, and would no doubt point to my SWA flight as “proof” that man should leave flying to the birds, Moore’s law has shown little respect for those proponents of the “good ol’ days.” Our clients want/deserve/need/demand faster, better, and less-expensive legal services. Cloud computing allows our firm to meet these stringent standards… while maintaining a solid profit margin.
This article was first published in ILTA’s June 2011 issue of Peer to Peer titled “Law2020TM: One Year In.” For more information about ILTA, visit their website at http://www.iltanet.org.
Donald R. Barthel is a founding partner of Bradford & Barthel, LLP, as well as B&B’s Rating & File Consultation Services. Mr. Barthel is an acknowledged expert regarding the AMA Guides (5th) and the 2005 PDRS. Much of his time is dedicated to teaching these topics to adjusters, human resource directors, employer representatives, attorneys, and physicians throughout California and the United States. Have a PDRS or AMA Guides question? Call Don Barthel at (916) 996-1263 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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