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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Michael Aginsky, CTO Of Gibbons P.C. (Part 7)

Posted on Sunday, Aug 29th 2010

By guest author Shaloo Shalini and Bhavana Sharma

Almost 81% of legal respondents in a survey indicated that they are planning to adopt cloud computing in some form. In this part of the interview, Michael brings up some game-changing opportunities in legal sector where entrepreneurs can provide solutions and address law firm requirements for cloud computing–based solutions. Law firms are waiting for solutions that address end to end record and legal information management, tighter controls, better ability to manage stuff and more insights from the vendors.

SM: We have discussed a variety of topics. We have a very large readership in the entrepreneur audience. Listening to you, I realize that the legal vertical has been slow to adopt the cloud because a lot of the specific requirements for security and even the customization of private clouds have not been met. From your perspective, do you think there are entrepreneurial opportunities for vendors who want to get into the cloud?

MA: Yes, the legal industry is traditionally is slow to adopt, not only the cloud but in general as far as new technology technology is concerned. Not more than 10% of law firms are quick to adopt certain technologies. But we do try and limit our risk and exposure by waiting for new technologies to stabilize and hit the mainstream market. There have been concerns voiced, because are lawyers and are trying to protect our clients. As soon as clients hear “the Internet,” they think of viruses, malware, and bank account numbers and credit card numbers being stolen. The lawyers think that if I put my client information out there it may get stolen.

We are waiting for tighter controls, better ability to manage data, and more insights from vendors. We need the full details of what cloud vendors are doing with our data once we give it to them, where is it stored, where is it backed up, and for how long. What if someone uses an old backup tape containing our data to keep his desk from wobbling, or someone forgets to archive it? All of these things could negatively impact our business and affect our clients, and we are just not ready to give up control so quickly.

SM: Interesting!

MA: Even though there are substantial costs savings in and benefits from clouds, we are going to continue to be slow to adopt in order to protect our client and ourselves.

SM: If a cloud solution provider is looking for entrepreneurship opportunities in the cloud and comes to you with a good solution to understand if there is a market in the legal vertical, give me an example of one or two cloud service applications that you would be ready to adopt now from such newcomers.

MA: I think one would be in our records management, where traditionally paper files are stored offsite. Some firms have taken a lead and started scanning and imaging these files. We do not necessarily have the infrastructure to support imaging all of our records and keep them online.

SM: You could get that done as an outsourced service. Many different ways are there, and many vendors are available who would be happy to scan and digitize everything and give it to you.

MA: Yes, there are. What I mean by digitizing is more than that. We require storing of client matter databases in a virtual structure similar to the way documents are tied, red-roped, and organized in the warehouse. So that people can retrieve stuff by client and matter and search the content within a case. That is a level higher than simply digitizing and scanning it. Once a case has been closed for so many years, with our system we know where all the documents are located, and we know we can destroy them right away, vacate all boxes, and shred all the paper.

We need to scan it all, we need to know that we have access to every single document pertaining to that case, and we need to ensure that we can permanently destroy it and get it off the disk. If we do all this in the cloud, then we need to know if a cloud vendor is keeping a copy somewhere in a data center under all those layers – there is an entire management layer if this process of destroying old case files moves to the cloud.

SM: There is a workflow attached to your record management archival and destroying process that you follow. If a vendor provides it, would that be an interesting opportunity?

MA: Yes, that would be big one for us. That would remove the tie that binds an attorney physically to his or her office right now. There is so much of the process that is dependent even today on a paper trail and paper documents in an office or in a warehouse. Attorneys have to go to the office or warehouse and get the file; they can take document or copies home but in small quantities. If all of the information required by attorneys as part of their working on a case is all available electronically through some sort of secure delivery method, then they have the freedom to work from home or anywhere outside the office, in the same productive way in which they can work from the office.

SM: In addition, there is a tremendous possibility of and scope for storage and information retrieval solution in the legal domain, right?

MA: Savings on the price that goes in to storing all legal paperwork is going to be astronomical when it all adds up.

[Note to readers: With respect to data storage in the cloud, Forrester says that respondents in all regions and of all company sizes appear to have little interest in moving their data to the cloud any time soon owing to concerns such as guaranteed service levels, security, chain of custody, shared tenancy, and long-term pricing. More details here.]

SM: So, is that something which is a problem that you see broadly in legal industry? Does such a solution have a big market in the legal industry?

MA: Yes, I do think record management solutions that are more cloud-based will be a game changer for law firms.

SM: We have covered a lot of ground today. Is there anything else that comes to mind that you would like to share with us?

MA: I do not think so. I think we have covered everything we wanted to.

SM: Thanks for your time. I enjoyed listening to you. It opens up a window onto a different industry, the legal industry, for us. It is most interesting for the entrepreneurs to listen to you and think about ways they can serve some of the underserved opportunities in legal sector that you are talking about.

MA: I appreciate it, thanks for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Michael Aginsky, CTO Of Gibbons P.C.
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