Safe and Ethical Cloud Computing for Lawyers

The Ontario Bar Association put on a technology-oriented CLE (TechXpo) and I spoke on cloud computing with Russell Alexander, a family lawyer from Ontario.  We covered typical ground – what is “cloud computing”, what sorts of software-as-a-service applications might lawyers want to use in the cloud, and how do they meet their professional obligations while doing so.

My paper was less about the professional rules – Russell did a good job covering that – and, in any event, I work for a lawyer regulator but not for the discipline side of the shop.  Since my comments and views on the cloud do not reflect the opinion of my employer, I stayed with more general topic areas.  My paper is below but the primary ideas are:

  • the cloud is now a well-defined thing.  If you decide to have your law practice systems hosted outside your office, be sure you understand whether you are in the cloud or in a hosted environment;
  • there are lots of consumer-oriented cloud services that solo and small firm lawyers might want to use.  The most fundamental one for me is Microsoft Office 365, using an option that gives the lawyer the full desktop suite of applications.  You can definitely opt for Google Apps but I think that the document-centric nature of law practice matched with the less feature rich online apps from Google and Microsoft make them something you’ll have to work harder to use;
  • for all the talk about server locations and encryption, we often seem to gloss over the lawyer’s own responsibility to use strong passwords and manage their staff (think professional rules on supervision)  to ensure that they are helping to protect their information.

Mostly, I continue to be positive about the impact the cloud can have on a law practice.  It enables lawyers to spend more time doing the things they know how to do and less worrying about the technology of the tools they use to do it.



David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.