Seeing the Light Through Cloud Computing

The resistance by lawyers over the adoption of cloud computing is a particular grievance for technology evangelists. Not that concerns over confidentiality and security are unwarranted, it’s just that most they often just stem from fear of the unknown.

For those lawyers who still believe the most secure place to store their client information is in their heads, there’s an inexpensive technological device being developed through the University of California and the University of Oxford in Geneva which allows users to hack directly into someone’s brain.

Of course lawyers are far more ready to embrace emerging technology when the risk of liability is considered minimal, especially by their insurer. Although no such statements have been issued, it does help when legal insurers are themselves discussing the risks of cloud computing and helping lawyers figure out how to minimize these risks.

The August 2012 issue of LAWPRO Magazine has a book review by Tim Lemieux of Nicole Black’s book, Cloud Computing For Lawyers. Lemieux starts by showing how Black explains that the functionality of cloud computing is not new, it’s just a new way of describing something that lawyers have been doing for a long time, in a more limited manner, under different names.

Lemieux then notes that although the ethical issues described in the book are based on the ABA Rules, there are Canadian rules which are applicable. Most of the principles between the jurisdictions are similar, and we frequently look to American bar associations to see how they deal with technology, so the focus on American rules shouldn’t be a concern to Canadian readers. Black presented a cloud computing session this past July in Halifax, N.S. to a Canadian audience, where she explained the applicability of Canadian rules on technology. The Canadian rules component was roughly based on a paper I did with Bob Tarantino in Internet and E-Commerce Law in Canada, Overview: The Rules of Professional Conduct And Their Application to the Legal Profession Online (and Off),” which I’ve received permission to make public and distribute.

The rest of the book presumes this decision is made, and focuses on how to execute it. Black is very clear that this text is not a technical manual and is intended to assist lawyers, mostly practicing as solos or in small firms. This is also the part, beginning at Chapter 6 about half way through the book, which is of most interest to me. Starting with cloud from scratch is easiest, so it’s best for new lawyers or those setting up a new practice. She provides options for providing or excluding confidential information from the cloud, as well as the options of supplementing existing systems or replacing them entirely.

Not all clouds are equal. There’s a lot of options out there, and Black provides a great overview of the various free and paid services. She indicates that many lawyers overlook free options because they erroneously believe they’re substandard. I’ve found Dropbox works wonderfully, and given its high level of usefulness is highly integrated into some of my favourite law-focused mobile apps like TrialPad and TranscriptPad.

The appendices include a sample privacy policy, a list cloud-based legal practice management systems, and a cute touch of a chronology of legal technology and disruptive innovations like air conditioning which have changed our lives.

The practicePRO Lending Library has a copy of the book available for free to lawyers in Ontario.





  1. Hi Omar

    Thanks for the references, I just ordered the book from ABA (and one other). In our latest issue (Sept 2012) of Le Journal du Barreau du Québec, page 36, one can find a fairly sweeping statement to the effect that free email services like gmail are not recommended with regards to confidential emails.

    I am very tempted to make a reply to the Journal about this. I think many people have higher expectations of confidentiality about emails travelling in unknown web servers than snail mail travelling in unknown mail offices.

    I do not wish to say that email services without encryption should automatically be deemed secure, I rather suggest that they should not automatically be discounted from a confidentiality assessment point of view… And I know I’m (just) slightly related to cloud computing, but my remarks would apply, I think…

  2. Hi Omar,
    The book seems really interesting and will go and order for one copy.
    And yes i think all cloud equal & there’s a lot of options out there. The latest thing i came across is the new launch by Infosys cloud ecosystem hub which provides organizations a unified gateway to build, manage and govern their hybrid cloud ecosystem.