Why do some law firms have an easier transition to the cloud than others? If you were to talk to enough firms, you would likely see a pattern emerge, particularly when it comes to how they start the transition process.
Some firms start with their cloud implementation plan — sometimes called a cloud roadmap — which essentially codifies details of system inventory, architecture constraints, the type of cloud environment needed, performance baselines and KPIs, security needs, migration strategy, resource responsibilities, timelines, and costs/expenses.
However, the more successful migrating firms develop a well thought out firm business-cloud strategy before they ever construct their cloud implementation plan. Indeed, the number one mistake law firms make when migrating to the cloud is that they do not take the time to develop a firm business-cloud strategy.
Start in the right place — develop a firm business-cloud strategy
Business-cloud strategy begins with your analysis of what an ideal future state of your firm would look like. Migrating your firm to the cloud is one of the largest initiatives your firm will undertake. A business-cloud strategy is the justification of why your firm is spending financial resources, altering business and lawyer workflows, changing the tech direction, and generally making this transformative change that impacts all aspects of your firm.
To develop this, it might be helpful to think about: What are your firm’s biggest pain points? What is holding your firm back from achieving better growth, revenue, and profitability?
Think of this in terms of both today and what will hold you back in the next 5–10 years. Imagine what your firm would need to alleviate those pain points. What do you want to achieve during and after your firm has migrated to the cloud? While each firm is different in size, geography, growth, practice areas, and especially culture, here are some common business-cloud migration success factors:
- Adopt a cloud-first position to free up IT so there is more partnering with the business/practice groups on innovative solutions
- Position firm to take advantage of new legal technology for law firm growth needs — especially AI/automation for manual processes
- Achieve better quality data at both matter and firm level to feed advanced analytics tools for better decision-making
- Modernize the law firm to attract and retain top legal and business professional talent
- Have collaborative remote solutions with secure cloud security for an upcoming hybrid home/office workforce
- Increase transparency and collaboration with clients
- Develop a more efficient legal service delivery model
Build a plan that supports your firm’s long-term goals
The next phase of the analysis is to examine your current IT applications and determine how well they will support your future success goals. Regardless of your level of comfort with IT systems and applications, this should not be difficult to do.
This is not a formal IT review that you would do within a cloud implementation plan. Rather it is a high-level business operational analysis of identifying the major systems your law firm currently has and determining what are the pros and cons of how they are helping your law firm solve its firm and customer problems. Think of it as an informal business operational gap analysis.
Take an inventory of all your major workflow systems: financial management, document management, time keeping, CRM, HR. How well do they support your vision? Assign a small group to go to your practice leads and solicit feedback on what other SaaS technologies are out there that your lawyers have talked about that might be more helpful. Talk to other law firms like yours about what they are using. Have discussions with various vendors to see how these tools are differentiators and what their roadmap looks like. As a leader of the firm, practice group, or regional office, you need an awareness to identify your best legal tech solutions before your firm makes its migration.
Implementing your firm’s cloud migration plan
By identifying your law firm’s business-cloud migration success factors and taking an inventory and business operational gap analysis of your current application and learning all of your options, you have laid the path to what a successful cloud migration will look like for your firm. Creating a firm business-cloud strategy in advance will help facilitate the creation of the cloud implementation plan by solidifying the business reasons and expectations for advancing to the cloud.
While working through this process, think back to the question of whether your third-party software vendors created SaaS technologies for your key business and lawyer workflow processes. If the answer on some of your vendors is no, go to those vendors and ask them if they have any plans to transition the applications you are using to the cloud. Ask to see their high-level roadmap commitments to ensure their cloud advancement is real-ware and not vaporware.
More and more law product companies are working with data scientists to analyze the big data capable of coming out of SaaS systems to enable artificial intelligence technologies. It should be a key warning sign to your firm if your vendors are not making their products in or transitioning them to the cloud.
Reliance on legal tech is rising
Law firms are more dependent upon having the best legal technology in 2021 than they were five years ago. Imagine how this dependency will grow in 2025 or 2030. If your third-party vendors are not investing in the future of legal technology, why would your law firm continue to invest in them?
To learn more about the cloud, why it should matter to you, and how it can help your firm’s business, watch our on-demand webcast series in partnership with Microsoft Azure. Registration is free for all sessions.