Monday, September 30, 2013

Vermont ethical opinion on attorneys using the cloud

The Vermont bar Association, in opinion 2010-6, agreed with the national consensus regarding use of the cloud; holding that usage of SAAS (Software as a service) is ethically permissible, as long as the attorney takes reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of the data and ensure access to the materials.  

Although "reasonable" could be as vague as Justice Stewart's take on pornography, industry standards amongst legal software providers provide an attorney with the knowledge that their data is secure, such as bank-level encryption and password protected access.

Considering many attorneys fail to even have adequate off-site storage, or use unsecured portable computing (easily stolen or forgotten), the cloud can often offer a higher level of safety and security then many attorneys currently maintain.

While no legal software provider can guarantee 100% up-time, having multiple back-ups of data provides the ultimate ability to ensure an attorney's data is recoverable in the event of a primary server failure.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Flat-fee billling and time-tracking still go together

More and more attorneys are using flat-fee billing and it's easy to see why: for the client, flat-fee billing brings cost containment and certainty, while for the attorney, it makes invoicing easier and eliminates the need for detailed time-tracking

Or does it?

The problem with not tracking time in flat-fee (and contingency) matters, of course, is an analytic one.  That is, how does an attorney know if they're earning an appropriate fee from the work?

Simply put, if they don't track time, they don't.

For example - an attorney quotes a fee of $1000 to a client to handle what seems to be a routine matter.  If that matter takes the attorney an hour or two, then that is a pretty nice hourly rate.  But what if the matter takes 10 hours?  20?  What if the client calls five times a day for a month?  Before you know it, the attorney could have been better off working in Starbucks.

Maybe there are situations where the experience, or lack of other work, justify the lower rate.  More likely, though, is that the attorney could have been better off working on other, more profitable, matters.  Or networking.  Or being with friends and family.

And that's the rub.  While attorneys are traditionally known for working long hours, more and more, given the low quality of life of the average attorney, are seeking ways to work smarter, not just harder.

Legal software that allows you to track your time and bill, such as Online Legal Software, give an attorney the ability to track their time easily at the click of a button.  So with little effort, the attorney can build a database to allow them to analyze how much time goes where and the profitability of the same.  It may become obvious that certain types of cases aren't worth doing.  It will certainly give the attorney the ability to better structure their fee plans to reflect reality: hybrid flat-fee structures, perhaps, or task-based billing.

Giving attorneys the tools they need to improve their life and their practice.  That's the real benefit of technology.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Can attorneys safely use public Wi-Fi?

It's an issue that has aroused some passions amongst the cognoscenti: the appropriateness of an attorney using public Wi-Fi for legal work.  Technology has enabled an attorney to work productivity while mobile, using mobile or internet telephony, laptop computers, and the right legal software.

However, of course, this all requires an internet connection.  Some commentators have expressed the belief that using public Wi-Fi poses a security risk, as since it is generally unsecured (that is, not password protected and/or encrypted), a hacker could access potentially confidential attorney-client information.

A very informative article on Iphone J.D., by Professor Dane Ciolino analyzes a recent 9th circuit decision that directly tackles the question.  In short, Prof. Ciolino concludes that given legal safeguards against hacking and intrusion onto wireless networks, the Court held that there is reasonable presumption that these communications are secure.

One less thing for an attorney to worry about and another reason why the 21st century law office is increasingly less of a traditional office and more an "office from anywhere."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oregon opinion on online service providers for lawyers

Oregon addressed the issue of third-party vendors in Formal Opinion No. 2011-188.  

In consensus with other states, Oregon said that use of online service providers was fine, so long as reasonable steps are taken to ensure that client data is secure and confidential.  Online Legal Software understands this requirement and does take these steps.  Your data is encrypted with bank-level security, while access is limited only to those users you designate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Virginia ethics opinion on cloud computing

The Old Dominion has issued an opinion on the ethics of virtual law offices and cloud computing.

The opinion is a broad discussion, almost conversational in tone.  Cloud computing is briefly mentioned in passing as falling under the aegis of Rule 1.6, wherein, (as should be expected for anyone who follows the general trend of the ethics of cloud computing), an attorney has a duty to act reasonably in entrusting her data to the cloud and being aware of the policies and procedures of the cloud provider chosen.

One particular note of caution is for anyone planning a virtual law office in Virginia who did not take the Virginia Bar - the commonwealth has particular requirements for attorneys admitted on motion and/or with reciprocity that could prevent these attorneys from using a VLO.

Overall, however, is yet another acceptance of cloud computing - and by a state known for conservative bar regulation, to boot.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Iowa ethical opinion on cloud-computer services

Iowa specifically considered “software as a service” (Saas) in Ethics Opinion 11-01.  In holding that the attorney would need to do due diligence in using any Saas, the opinion gave “basic guidance” in the forms of questions that should be asked:

Legal issues; including, but not limited to, the track record of the company, where it is located, choice of law and venue.
Financial Obligation
Password Protection and public access
Data Encryption

Iowa attorneys can be confident in Online Legal Software.  Our contract makes clear that your data is yours.  As a US-based company, with over twenty years of providing software to attorneys, our track records speaks for itself.  Online Legal Software doesn't play games with random choice of law, or venue clauses, or impose onerous obligations to cancel or retrieve your data, in the unlikely event of cancellation.  Most importantly, we ensure your data is secured; with bank-level encryption and password-protected access.  You don’t have to worry with us.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Alabama Disciplinary Commission opinion on cloud computing

The Alabama Disciplinary Commission, in Ethics Opinions 2010-02, updated their views on the responsibilities of Alabama attorneys vis-à-vis client file retention, storage, and destruction, and in so doing, examined the use of cloud computing by attorneys in the state.

The Commission held that and maintenance for Alabama attorneys held that “a lawyer may use “cloud computing” or third‐party providers to store client data provided that the attorney exercises reasonable care in doing so.”  Id. at 16.  Reasonable care, as defined by the Commission, means the attorney has to understand how the provider will handle storage and security of the data and that the provider will maintain confidentiality.  Id.  The Commission also held that electronic data must be capable of being reproduced in paper format.  Id.

Online Legal Software uses bank-level encryption to ensure your data is safe and secure.  Our servers are located in different areas of the United States; your data never leaves the country and is never vulnerable to a local catastrophe.  Online Legal Software is committed to holding your data safe, secure, and confidential.  The data you input in Online Legal Software can always be printed; our reports allow you to create printed copies on demand and with the press of a button.