Still Debating on Moving eDiscovery to the Cloud?

By Jim Gill, Guest Blogger

I recently moderated a webinar sponsored by ACEDS and IPRO where we unpacked the 2021 Snapshot Law Firm Survey. One statistic showed where firms are putting their priorities when it comes to updating technology, and only 7% of respondents said they were focused on moving their eDiscovery software from an on-prem deployment to a cloud-based deployment.

A few years ago, one might read this figure as showing resistance in the legal world to move data to the cloud. There was a great concern then about security when it came to clients’ data (there still is), and keeping that data behind a firewall gave firms the peace of mind that the data was safe. I’m sure there are still some firms that keep data on-prem. But times have changed.

The low number of respondents focused on a move to the cloud is more indicative of the fact that most have already done so. The fears about cloud security have passed for legal (and even some government agencies, who were notorious for hanging onto old-fashioned computer technology, because it was almost impossible to hack.

Many law firms started making the move to cloud-based eDiscovery, because the burden of maintaining on-prem systems is heavy: conducting all upgrades to both software and hardware, maintaining an IT team that understands both data security and the needs of the litigation department, scaling in the face of ever-growing datasets, trying to recover costs, and shouldering the liability of hacks and data breaches. Operating from the cloud just makes sense.

But if those arguments weren’t enough, two other factors should finalize the pro-cloud argument.

The first is the fact that most, if not all, organizations at this point are already using enterprise data from multiple sources in the cloud every day, which is what today’s eDiscovery Blues cartoon touches on. As a law firm, you may have your eDiscovery software on-prem, but all of the firm’s data — email, collaboration tools, video chat, etc. — are in the cloud. What’s more, so is your clients’ data. With new tools allowing law firms to connect directly to a client’s data for smarter collections, this could be a real opportunity to not only reduce review costs, but lower the risk that comes from making copies and handing off that data across multiple stakeholders. Operating from the cloud allows legal teams more direct access to the data.

The second factor is revealed by the global pandemic, which has been going on for a year now. Before 2020, law firms were pretty entrenched in the notion that remote operations weren’t feasible. Then COVID-19 hit, and within weeks, most people had made the transition to working from home, including attorneys and paralegals. Many eDiscovery professionals I have spoken to over the past year said they were busier than ever while working from home. And the thing that made this agile response possible was the cloud. Data could be accessed from anywhere. Communications were more seamless than ever, regardless of location. And continuing forward, most people are expecting at least some operations to remain remote, even after the pandemic recedes.

So if you’re still a law firm holding on to your on-prem eDiscovery platform, I’m sure there are good reasons. Then again, with all of the challenges that come with managing things that way, you may want to consider joining that 7% who are prioritizing a move to the cloud in 2021.