When Rocket Matter first appeared on the legal technology scene (I prefer the term ‘dance floor’), we emerged as the first legal specific online practice management software on the market. Almost simultaneously, we were joined by other worthy competitors (and some not so worthy – Hi Kathy!).
In the two and a half years since then, online legal practice management systems have proven records, thousands of users, and tremendously fast adoption rates.
Tomorrow morning I will meet with some of my legal cloud computing brethren to discuss a response to the ABA. Their Commission on Ethics 20/20 Working Group asks for comments on the Implications of New Technologies and we are working together to formulate a response. We are organized, passionate, and feature some of the leading thinkers in cloud in legal technology.
It’s imperative our voices are heard because it’s clear to us: the future in online legal technologies is web-based. In three years, I predict more law firms will adopt cloud solutions for practice management than traditional client-server solutions. The market is swinging wildly in our direction, and here’s why:
1) Consumers Want Online Legal Practice Management
When we first started coding Rocket Matter in early 2007, the iPhone wasn’t on the market. No one had really seen a fully functional mobile web-browser. My, how quickly have things changed. Only with web technologies can you effectively leverage mobility consumers demand. Online legal practice management allows users of any device to access their records anywhere at anytime.
2) New Client-Server Pricing Structures Penalize Consumers
Client server legal software makers are attempting to enjoy a recurring revenue stream without any of the benefits of Software as a Service. Earlier this year, Time Matters rolled out an Annual Maintenance Plan (AMP) which costs $350.00 for the first user. Without an AMP, users are unable to upgrade or receive support for their software. And it’s the same crummy old desktop software. So in addition to the up-front overhead, Time Matters consumers now have ongoing fees.
3) Cloud Software is New, Desktop Software is Old
Not only are the market leading desktop-based practice management systems Windows-based, many of them are in their tenth generation and suffer from years of feature bloat. One time (at band camp) I performed a data export on PC Law, and the file name was limited to 8 characters, a carryover from MS-DOS. There is no brand new, ground up R&D in the practice management space EXCEPT among the cloud computing providers.
4) Web Software is Easier to Adopt and Use
Since Software as a Service companies rely on month-to-month payments instead of contracts, legal cloud computing companies are constantly figuring out how to keep people on their systems and not leave them. The easiest way to keep people on board is to offer excellent software that people learn easily. Law firms can get up and running on cloud software and enjoy the same familiar experience they have with other web software, like GMail, Dropbox, or even Facebook.
5) The Rise of Macs
Go to a law school. Attend a lecture. Count how many kids are using PCs.
Macs are an increasingly attractive choice for businesses, with their native support for Exchange Server, low maintenance costs, and ease of use. Their integration into the Apple ecosystem, including the ability to work effortlessly with the iPad and iPhone, makes them increasingly attractive to law firms. And cloud software, which runs as well on a Mac as it does on a PC, not only allows the use of Macs in a law firm, it allows law firms to transition painlessly from desktop software.
So there you have it. Thoughts?