Does the concept of “cloud computing” elicit fear and confusion? If so, you’re not alone!
Using information technology (IT) can be one of the most difficult parts of legal practice management, especially when you are the IT department. Identifying the right cloud-based services for your practice can be especially tough – many lawyers simply don’t speak the same language as software providers.
To address this, the Law Office Management Standards Committee started a Technology Subgroup to look at the existing Cloud Computing Standard and its supporting resources. This group set out to develop a tool to help smaller practices manage the risks of the cloud and engage in a meaningful dialogue with providers. Introducing, the new Cloud Computing Checklist.
But first…what is “cloud computing”?
Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computer services (such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence) over the internet. Providing these services over the internet (metaphorically represented by “the cloud”) allows for faster, more flexible access to resources and information. It also helps lower operating costs, since you only pay for the services you use.
A few examples of cloud services used widely today include social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), email, Microsoft 365, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more.
Why is it used in legal practice and what are the risks?
Cloud computing can be a safe and effective way to manage and maintain client files and reduce operational costs.
Lawyers throughout the province are increasingly using cloud-based software solutions to maintain their practices and store sensitive client information. While they offer cost-effective alternatives to local IT infrastructure and dedicated support staff, they do raise significant issues of confidentiality, security and privacy of client data.
Lawyers need to know and understand what data is stored, what data is sensitive, and when the data requires client permission to retain or be removed. You also need to comply with federal and provincial privacy laws. Review the Summary of Privacy Laws in Canada to get started.
Additionally, firms should consider the impact of consumer expectations and individual interpretations of privacy. What’s acceptable to one client may not be acceptable to another, regardless of specific regulatory requirements. In all cases, it is best to speak with the client about their preferences before working with them through cloud computing technology.
What is the Cloud Computing Checklist?
It’s a tool for NS lawyers and firms to use when assessing a cloud-based service from a provider. It asks the questions you need answers to and explains the value of that information so you can use your professional judgment in assessing cloud-based services.
The checklist was developed in consultation with practicing lawyers at firms of various sizes, Society staff, cloud computing experts, IT department directors, IT and managed service providers, and several cloud-computing providers.
Portions of the checklist have been adapted from various other publicly available resources including the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s Cloud Computing Guide.
The checklist is organized into five sections starting with more technical topics such as Infrastructure, Legal Compliance and Industry Best Practices, and Internal Policies and Processes, and ending with topics lawyers would be more comfortable with including Support and Agreement Terms.
There are two versions of the checklist:
- For cloud-based service providers – This is a non-annotated version intended to be sent directly to a service provider where all 52 questions are requested to be answered as’ Yes’ or ‘No’, with ‘No’ answers requiring an explanation in a comment box.
- Annotated version for lawyers – This is for you to use after receiving back the completed checklist from the service provider. It offers commentary on how to interpret the service provider’s answers.
Please note that these documents will download as Word documents.
Will the checklist answer everything I need to know?
Some cloud-based services might bring up additional questions and it can help to chat with other lawyers, colleagues or IT professionals with experience using those services.
The reality is that there is no way to completely mitigate the risks of the cloud or fully bridge the knowledge gap between providers and law practices. However, the hope is that this new tool will provide further support to law practices across the province as they move to cloud-based services.
Where can I find more information?
The Society’s new Practice Resource Search Tool has a category dedicated to IT and Information Management. You’ll find websites, articles, webinars, podcasts, videos and more to support you in your legal practice. We’re updating this search often, so that you can find relevant, updated and useful resources.
For more information on the basics of cloud computing, watch our recent Cloud Computing Checklist webinar with Paul Saunders, chair of the LOMSC Technology Subgroup.
Connect with us
The Society’s Legal Services Support (LSS) team and Technology Sub-Group are here to help members navigate cloud computing and other areas of technology in practice. Connect with the LSS team at [email protected].
You’re also encouraged to ask any questions by completing the comment box at the end of this blog. All comments and questions will be directed to the LSS team.