Saturday, June 14, 2008

ABA Indicates Move Forward In Outsourcing Of Legal Technology And Software As A Service

In this article from the New York Law Journal, republished by, the author goes on to describe the legal outsourcing of work product services and the ramifications of foreign outsourcing of services, specifically to places such as India.

The ABA's Ethics Opinion 08-451 also provides insight into the outsourcing of computer services giving legal professionals the ability to capitalize on the growing "software as a service" offerings for legal practice management and other software types provided over the Internet.

The opinion provides language such as,
"A lawyer may outsource legal or nonlegal support services provided the lawyer remains ultimately responsible for rendering competent legal services to the client....."
"Outsourced tasks range from the use of a local photocopy shop for the reproduction of documents, to the retention of a document management company for the creation and maintenance of a database for complex litigation, to the use of a third-party vendor to provide and maintain a law firm’s computer system...."

This indicates a direction for the legal community to be able to take advantage of the same value provided to current consumers of "software as a service", as long as the service provider is allowing you to meet your ethical obligations to your client.

"Software as a service" is a phenomenon in the software industry today. Leading technology analysts predict more and more market share for this type of business software delivery model to the point where it will eclipse the traditional "local computer installation" software. The leading business software provider in this area today is Salesforce and it's business model and results prove the direction of the industry is more than a viable one.

    From Wikipedia: Software as a service (SaaS, typically pronounced 'Sass') is a model of software deployment where a web based application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer's own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer's burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support. Conversely, customers relinquish responsibility from having to manage software versions or changing requirements; moreover, costs to use the service become a continuous expense, rather than a single expense at time of purchase. Using SaaS also can conceivably reduce the up-front expense of software purchases, through less costly, on-demand pricing.

As a result of all these factors, legal "software as a service" offerings and adoption will too no doubt spiral upwards. Legal practice management, email, calendaring and others are here today. Even your word processor, spreadsheet program and data file storage can now be provided over the Internet through a web browser and will be common place soon.

The value to the legal industry moving towards and adopting this type of software is enormous. There are several key factors which make this a natural for adoption by lawyers.

First, just a few years ago the ABA reported over 95% of all lawyers worked in firms of 20 lawyers or fewer, 90% in firms of 10 lawyers or fewer. This makes most of the the law firms in this country considered "small businesses". From my experience, most companies do not even think about hiring technical or IT staff members until they are at least a 20-30 person company.

What this means is that legal professionals have to either manage their technology themselves or they have go to outside services managing and implementing server and software systems for them. I don't know how many $300 an hour attorneys I've heard of spending hours trying to solve computer problems and doing their own backups. Either that, or they are waiting on the technology service provider to firstly arrive and then to fix their problems, always with hours wasted.

This is where "Software as a Service" is a natural for the legal industry. What SaaS does is give you access to all the technology services you need to manage your business software systems. Live phone and/or email support is almost always included in your subscription price. Because it is a subscription to software and services, you always can predict your technology costs. You almost always get to evaluate SaaS software for free trial period. Because subscribers are "pooled" at a SaaS vendor's web system, they are provided some of the BEST technology money can buy, that they would NEVER otherwise be able to practically afford. The best servers, the best security, the best industrial fire and disaster protection, the best backup systems, the fastest internet connections and usually guaranteed to be up and operational over 99% of the time .....Web based software today is likely going to be just as good or better, in function and performance, than you currently are using.

All you have to provide is any type of computer with a web browser, an Internet connection, and optionally a printer. This is something even the least computer savvy are familiar with and have today. You will be able to access your data, files, email and other information anywhere, anytime..... and in most cases these days, that includes the courtroom or the courthouse library.