2020 cloud update—acceleration to platform

Originally published on Legal Insights Europe.

By Joseph Raczynski

Cloud adoption has increased steadily over the last several years since we last forecast an Increasingly Cloudy outlook for law firms in 2017. The most recent industry data, ILTA’s 2019 Technology Survey finds that 72 percent of those surveyed across the law firm landscape will expand their use of Cloud based technologies in 2020. That is up from 62 percent in 2016. Based on my own observances, sentiment around the technology has clearly changed over the last decade from skepticism to general adoption.

ILTA Annual Technology Survey – 2019

The once thunderous clap of resistance has subsided, but according to the ILTA survey, a few subtle headwinds persist. The two areas of concern have grown for some law firms despite the overall uptick in adoption; cost and performance. The infrastructural easing for technology professionals moving to the Cloud and not having to maintain hardware and software, including the pesky but massively important patches, is an enormous benefit. The primary issue, the cost of converting that IT function to the Cloud has created some consternation, the survey finding cost concerns up to 50 percent from 37 percent four years ago. I will dive into the likely rationale for concern and the promise ahead in a moment. Performance anxiety is up slightly year over year, but still hovers around 30 performance historically. What has improved in overall sentiment is security and reliability. Both progressed as people understand the intrinsic positive benefit related to Cloud acceptance.

ILTA Annual Technology Survey – 2019

A deeper dive in the Cloud

The Cloud is a nebulous term. To fully understand what the ILTA survey captured, let’s dive a bit deeper into the technology. Most often people think of the Cloud as a place to store files. This is certainly true and is likely the dominate use case for most law firms. Having secure, universally accessible files in the office or remotely is imperative, now more than ever. The tools and services enabling files everywhere has proliferated, which may have exacerbated the concern surrounding cost. Based on my experience, multiple factors are at play. Increasingly, legal technology vendors are offering their version of their particular service ‘in the cloud’. If a firm has 30 products, all offering a Cloud solution, frequently add-on fees for additional storage can accumulate, generating trepidation in the Chief Information Officer.

One new solution to this cost dilemma is starting to emerge. The standard rule is to choose trusted, very well-established providers. In the Business of Law, operations space, Elite 3E would be an example. Storing information off-site can create agita on face value for anyone, but storing it with a lesser known, cheaper alternative, could prove risky. In addition, another baseline perspective states that it behooves a firm to mirror data with at least two different Cloud hosting companies for redundancy.

With that as a backdrop, the proposed emerging solution, still in its infancy, leverages a Legal Platform. Platforms have existed for ages and in many forms. Simply put, they create an ecosystem or environment that allow people and business to participate if they abide by rules, meet standards, and ultimately this confluence creates a network effect for the community. These platforms are new and developing in legal. In theory, law firm applications downloaded from a ‘Legal App Store’ would sit inside this platform and be able to use the same datastore. This could reduce the number of data Cloud providers and the implicit cost associated with them. The concept here is that a law firm would have a Platform where all practitioners and administrators would work. With Single Sign-on (SSO) each user would have access to all permitted applications and tools, as well as the underlining data. The ability to drive workflow and share data securely, all leveraging various components of Cloud technology would simplify and decrease overall Cloud cost.

Beyond merely storing files, several other areas of Cloud use will increase in the future. As more firms start to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, the ability to use processing power hosted in the Cloud should proliferate. Instead of having massive computing power, as with a large numbers of expensive computers inside the organization, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) could be leveraged in the Cloud. What this means is that an IT professional could spin up and command access to X number of computers processing power capacity in seconds—meaning they could rent processors in the Cloud to crush large volumes of data (what AI does) very quickly and inexpensively.

The irony of IaaS and moving to the Cloud is that in-house or contractor-based System Integrators (SIs) are increasingly important. These are individuals who oversee the vast array of Cloud infrastructure that will only grow over time. Whilst an initial benefit of Cloud was fewer IT employees, the complexity of the web of Cloud connections is buoying specialty positions to support this new frontier.

The shift to Cloud technologies has happened. Law firms will increasingly adopt a more robust utilization of these services. With expanding integration across the Legal Platform, applications driven by interoperability will likely enable streamlining of some Cloud based datastores, increasing security, flexibility, scale, and hopefully making legal services easier to use.

Part 2: Legal Geek’s Uncertain Decade: Can ALSPs provide what their clients want & need?

Originally published on AnswersOn.

By Joseph Raczynski

General counsel (GCs) across the United States and the United Kingdom have varied approaches to the current market conditions, according to recent surveys. Interestingly, at the center of the debate is how alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) are utilized and perceived compared to traditional law firms.

Not surprisingly, many GCs felt that individual client needs ultimately superseded the ALSP v. law firm rift when looking at the legal landscape beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the second of a four-part global webinar series, The Uncertain DecadeLegal Geek again brought Mark Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic, and Prof. Richard Susskind to dissect what clients want and need now and breakdown the hope and hype of ALSPs. (You can read about the first webinar here.)

The survey responses from GCs about how they’re managing their own in-house legal teams caused some eyebrow rising. While the “worry of people, cashflow, and uncertainty persist; the newness of remotely running the team, advising the business, and getting law firms responses, have been quite successful,” said Susskind.


Survey results saw general counsel in both the US and the UK in ominous accord — a majority on both sides of the Atlantic described the level of change from this current crisis as “significant or massive.”


In another revelation from the survey, UK GCs noted that ALSPs fell short of expectations during the crisis, which contrasted Cohen’s findings of GCs in the United States where law firms fared poorly and ALSPs flourished. The two panelist grappled to find just rationale for the variance, eventually settling on possible cultural differences. “Maybe the US is more pragmatical about the relationships,” Cohen suggested, adding that ALSPs in the UK can be subcontractors of law firms where in the US they are often more organic, outside of the Big Four.

Finally, the survey results left the GCs on both continents in ominous accord — a majority on both sides of the Atlantic described the level of change from this current crisis as “significant or massive.”

More for less

The idea of getting more quality legal service for less spend is a central theme repeated by Susskind and Cohen, underscoring their overarching thesis for the webinar: Legal operations are paramount. Cost cutting has become table stakes; and now it falls upon the chief operating officers (COOs), to devise new business models, direct and enable innovation, and reluctantly, ruminate about the next calamity. “Legal expertise used to be the primary focus,” Cohen explained. “Now business acumen and technological tools used by operations can help clients.”

Indeed, legal organizations have to reimagine the art of the possible and transform, he added. While the end goal is an elated client, there are far more fluid paths combining “less expensive people using better technology” to achieve that, said Cohen.

A polling of webinar attendees on desired topics of discussion, pivoted Susskind to deliberate on the impact of start-ups on the legal landscape. A few years ago, a few hundred emerged, now there are a few thousand legal technology businesses. Bluntly, he stated that most of these companies will not last as each try to be the next Amazon.

What did surprise him, was the primary focus for these embryonic upstarts, as the majority of these companies endeavor to solve law firm back office functions, Susskind said, adding that the amount of effort focused on helping the client is actually pretty low.

Legal Geek

Cohen agreed, saying much can be done in this space to focus on helping those in need of legal services. “There is far too much law for those who can afford it, and far too little for those who can’t.”

Both panelists spent a significant amount of time on the question of whether most ALSPs were more hype or hope. For example, Cohen sees the outgrowth of ALSPs as a byproduct of unmet market need. Since the 2008 crisis, ALSPs have led with a different DNA. More business than law firm, they breathe process design, project management, and technology to help their clients. This corporate model, which has “come of age” in the last few years, is providing legal services which are better, faster, cheaper, and more customer-centric, explained Cohen.

Project managers utilize data-centric analysis, to oversee risk management; and what was once thought of as a junior varsity, ALSPs should no longer be seen this way. In fact, based on Net Promoter Scores, these organizations can often prove their value empirically in serving their customer. UnitedLex and Axiom, for example, are poster children for this data-centric service model. Highly competitive, Axiom only engages with one out of every 20 lawyer applicants it receives, and practices law in more than 90 countries, though not in the US. Both companies leverage their corporate structures, allowing flexibility and reinvestment while dismissing the partnership model of law firms, said Susskind.

As they concluded their discussions, both Cohen and Susskind surmised that the focus will always be on the client of course, but how those clients are serviced has changed. Cohen reminisced that once “lawyers had to practice or leave,” but now they need to meld many different components together, such as technology, operations, and analytics.

Susskind ended with his impassioned beliefs on mindset shifts, suggesting that lawyers have to be open to new things, be entrepreneurs, musicians, and artisans. They should not assume that everything will look like it looks today.

Tomorrow’s lawyers must try to avoid their traditional mindset trap — that “the best is the enemy of the good,” said Susskind, adding that perfection at the cost of agility and creativity is no longer sustainable.