Get your law practice up to speed with today's tech

With so many mobility and cloud-based options, there are more ways than ever to get work done.

9 ipad pro keyboard

The times, they are a-changin'. And changing pretty quickly.

For many industries and professionals, such as law practices, online access and services have been improving for years. With the explosive growth of mobile devices -- first the iPhone and then the iPad a few years later -- we have seen major changes in the way we work.

Mobility devices have opened the door to more streamlined and efficient systems while allowing new and more capable cloud-based services to advance and offer more than ever before. But along with this new way of working comes new things to be aware of, such as security. Already there have been attorneys who have gotten in trouble by not using secure email services or just plain not knowing the best ways of protecting themselves in the new frontier of the cloud.

Everything, everywhere

We are in the midst of a transition away from the old tried-and-true layout of maintaining an office-based server with workstations to modern and efficient cloud-based services. Sure, there are ways of accessing your old server and working with your data remotely while you are away from the office, but it involves some setup and management that has always meant extra steps for the non-techie user to deal with.

We've all dreamed of how nice it would be to have easy and secure access to all of our data to get work done from anywhere, anytime. Whether using your laptop or tablet while on the road or from your desk at work, having everything available and consistent everywhere would be such a plus. This is where we are now.

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Today, many industries have wonderful cloud-based solutions available. For legal practices there are some excellent offerings such as Rocket Matter, Clio, MyCase and Practice Panther, just to name a few. (Disclosure: I am a Rocket Matter Certified Expert.) These tools, while having their own unique approach, generally offer a similar set of functions to run most every facet of your practice. From client intake through final invoicing, they eliminate the missing pieces in organizing and handling your client data and streamline your client's data.

But is it safe?

This is always one of the big concerns when considering using any type of cloud service. And a very valid point to consider! Keep in mind that not all web-based services are created equal, so this should be at the top of your list of questions to ask during a demo of any product.

But also consider this: Your data is being stored and backed up on industrial-grade machines that are under constant supervision. Further, many of the services meet or exceed required compliance standards (such as HIPAA), so you can rest assured you are not missing anything there.

Now, you may have invested in a pretty darn nice Mac to use as a server back in the day, but does it really compare with these types of facilities? Of course not.

Keeping your data safe goes beyond being hacked. Properly backing up and managing the integrity of these is often overlooked until it is too late. Again, these types of services offer great backup as part of their service, but this should still be on your list of questions when shopping.

Another point to give some thought to is file-sharing services such as Dropbox, Box and OneDrive. These are great ways to make your files and data available to you anywhere you are and offer generally good security.

Of course, the practice of using a unique and reasonably complex password is the front line of defense for your account. Again, your data is maintained by enterprise-level security and encryption measures.

Even though Dropbox has become the standard name in the game (and it is an excellent service), Box has a page dedicated just to attorneys that offers some good points on using the service. Other great options to be aware of include OneDrive and Google Drive.

While many users already have at least some experience with these sorts of file-sharing services, you can further enhance security by adding another level of encryption. Services such as Boxcryptor, Sookasa and Viivo (disclosure: I am a Boxcryptor affiliate) are easy to use and offer a variety of levels to lock down your files and client data even further. If you are concerned about the most protection for your data, it would never be a bad idea to be too secure, rather than the alternative.

Forget about it

Remember the days when you had to update your software every year or so? And the cost of the upgraded versions? Add in the expense of IT to come in and take care of these rituals, and it just gets more cumbersome and expensive. Of course, it is easy to miss or forget to perform crucial updates or upgrades, and suddenly your data is suffering from poor security or obsolescence has caught up and you don't have the critical functionality that you need to work.

Now, think of how nice it would be to eliminate all these back-end management tasks and just focus on your daily work. Placing the responsibility of maintaining software and services that are continually kept up to date has many advantages: Features and updates to ensure compliance and top performance are available much sooner and done for you automatically at the cloud level. Every morning when you sign on, you know that you are using the latest and greatest version of the software. And while costs vary between service providers, it is generally quite reasonable on a per-user basis.

Moving forward

Every practice and user environment has its own system for organizing and its own set of needs. But things are different than they were yesterday, and will surely be changing tomorrow. Staying aware of the best ways to integrate your work, files and processes with your Mac and iPad will do wonders in keeping you up to speed rather than constantly scrambling to catch up.

The options we have today are better than ever before and will only continue to improve. If your system is feeling a little dated and inefficient, maybe it is time to take a look at modernizing your practice with the fantastic options available today.

Copyright © 2036 IDG Communications, Inc.

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