The percentage of lawyers who say they use cloud-based software and services jumped from 21 percent in 2012 to 31 percent this year, according to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Given that the percentage had held somewhat steady for three years — 20 percent in 2010, 16 percent in 2011 and 21 percent in 2012 — this year’s increase of 10 percentage points reflects a significant move into cloud computing by the legal profession.

Not surprisingly, the smaller the firm, the more likely its lawyers are to use the cloud, the survey indicates. Forty percent of solo lawyers now use the cloud, compared to 29 percent in 2012 and 23 percent in 2011. Of lawyers at firms of 2-9 members, 36 percent use the cloud, followed by 30 percent at firms of 10-49 attorneys and 19 percent at firms of 100 or more attorneys.

When asked which cloud services they had used, lawyers’ most common answer was Dropbox, cited by 58 percent of those who had used a cloud service. Of legal-specific cloud services, the most commonly mentioned was the practice-management platform Clio, cited by 13 percent of lawyers who had used a cloud service.

Cloud Services

When lawyers who had used cloud services were asked what they see as the benefits, they gave the same answers in virtually the same proportions as in past years. The most common benefit they cited was the cloud’s easy access from anywhere via a web browser (74 percent). Other benefits they mentioned include 24×7 availability (63 percent), low cost of entry and predictable monthly expense (56 percent), robust data back-up and recovery (49 percent), quick to get up and running (44 percent), and eliminates IT and software management requirments (41 percent).

A popular use of cloud computing is for practice management. The survey asked lawyers what core functionality is most important to them before subscribing to a practice and financial management platform. Forty-six percent said that time and billing capability was most important, followed by case and matter management (44 percent), document management (44 percent), contact management (39 percent), and calendaring (37.4 percent). (See chart below for other answers.)

Core Functionality

Among lawyers who use cloud computing, their biggest concern is confidentiality and security, with 72 percent saying that is a worry of theirs. Lawyers are also concerned about losing control of their data and about the possibility of the vendor disappearing.

Security was also the biggest concern among lawyers who do not use the cloud, with 58 percent citing that as a factor that has prevented them from using the cloud. Forty-seven percent say they have not used the cloud because they are simply unfamiliar with the technology.

The survey also asked lawyers who use the cloud about the precautions and security measures they take. Surprisingly, fewer than half (44 percent) say they reviewed the cloud provider’s privacy policy. Even fewer say they make regular data backups (41.1 percent), reviewed the provider’s terms of service (41.1 percent) or use SSL encryption (40 percent).

Of lawyers who have used cloud applications, only a small percentage say they do not plan to continue. Asked if they plan to continue using the cloud for law-related tasks, 70 percent answered yes, 23 percent said maybe, and just 7 percent said no.

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volume on law office technology.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.