Pete has been a good friend of mine for many years. We used to go to summer camp together and we kept in touch. Now he’s an attorney in Philadelphia specializing in labor law. His practice is not large – just him and a partner – but it’s profitable and has a good reputation. We’ve both referred each other business over the years.
Pete admits he’s no expert in technology. But, like any good lawyer, he needs good systems to help run his practice – and his systems have always been very good. He uses QuickBooks for his accounting and a popular practice management system for his client data. His firm relies on Microsoft Office for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations and sending email.
But even with all this great technology, he ran into challenges. For a long time, he struggled with personal computers and a network. “We had data in different places and for some reason I could never find the information I needed when I needed,” he once complained to me. “I wish someone could figure out how to solve this.”
As it turns out, someone – actually many someones – did. A few years ago, Pete moved his systems to servers hosted by a cloud-based provider. He told me that, other than graduating law school, getting married, having kids and watching the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, this one event had the biggest impact on his life. Why?
“Quality,” he said. “The quality of my professional life is much better than it was before.” In what way?
For starters, Pete showed me how he was getting things done much faster. “Our systems better integrate with each other in the cloud and information is immediately available for me so I’m not wasting time trying to find things,” he said.
Instead of waiting to get back to the office Pete and his partner could update client files and record their activities on the go, which saved them both an enormous amount of time. No longer tethered to an office computer, Pete could do work from anywhere whenever he had the time. “Practicing law isn’t as exciting as you see on TV,” he once told me. “There’s a good amount of downtime waiting for people and the court system to slowly move forward. I can use this time to get work done, which helps me get things done faster.”
Secondly, Pete feels that his data is in a more secure place. Before he moved to the cloud he had to take responsibility for his firm’s own data security. “But we’re lawyers, not security experts,” he said.
Of course, he had an outside firm visit monthly to update files, operating systems and security software. But sometimes the schedule got pushed back or other things got in the way. Although no significant data was ever lost (luckily), his firm has still suffered malware attacks on a few occasions and was disrupted for days. Now he’s delegated all responsibility for security to his managed server provider. They’re responsible for his firm’s data security and – because they’re hosting the data – are able to keep it in a much more secure environment than Pete’s server in his office supply room that was checked monthly, at best. “I do what I do and they do what they do,” he said.
Finally, Pete was able to significantly improve his client service. Because his data is now stored in the cloud everyone in his office can update their activities, bill clients, record time, check calendars and take notes from wherever they are and from whatever device they prefer.
More importantly, the information is immediately available for everyone. “Not only do I know when a new appointment was scheduled for me, but I could check my partner’s calendar and review the most updated court filings without worrying that I was missing something,” he said. “The worst thing in my practice is not having the information I need to properly represent my clients and as long as the information was in our system I had it right away.”
I’m happy to say that Pete’s practice continues to grow – and so do his profits. Billable hours and partner productivity are the most important factors in a service business like his. Clients expect information fast and competitors are always ready to pounce. Pete’s job is to be the best lawyer he can be and not an IT expert. Moving his systems to the cloud is helping him reach that goal, quickly and securely.
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