Defining the Cloud: Access to Everything Everywhere
“What does he look like?” This is the question somebody asks you when they want to know what another person looks like. The problem is, it is nearly impossible to describe a person’s physical attributes in a way that the listener creates an accurate picture in their mind. In order to successfully create an accurate mental picture, you need to use visuals from some Rosetta-Stone of known visuals—like celebrities. You respond, “He is like a Danny DeVito meets Joe Pesci, but he has a Vince Vaughn sense of humor.”
By using celebrities that people are familiar with, you have a better chance of creating the right understanding about the person you’re trying to describe. You may be way off, but, in theory, you’ll get closer than if you were to just say, “He is mid-to-late-forties, with brown hair, a bit on the short side, he can get angry, but he is still a little funny.”
Describing how technology works, especially its innovations, challenges, and shortcomings, can be as slippery and elusive as describing a random stranger. However, it is important to thoroughly understand the legal technology landscape as it stands today in order for you to make important decisions which impact how you practice law.
One of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around now is the cloud. People use this phrase to describe many different things. Instead of trying to give exhaustive definitions of what people mean when they say “the cloud,” let us take a moment to explore the future of how technology will assist you in practicing law.
The future of legal technology will allow you to do everything you normally do in the practice of law everywhere you normally are while practicing law. What does “everything everywhere” look like? People who are totally devoted to Apple products are the closest to experiencing everything everywhere. The picture taken on the iPhone can be viewed almost instantly on your Macintosh, iPad, and even your Apple TV. The same is true for the song downloaded, the email sent, or the appointment scheduled. The things you use in Apple’s world transcend the device and can travel without boundaries.
The legal community does not have the luxury of operating in one closed system like the world of Apple products, and therefore experience challenges integrating with each other. Your programs and objects operate in different systems and on different devices, and therefore they do not coexist as well as they do in the Apple world.
Achieving an “everything everywhere” environment can still be achieved in a legal environment; I have spent the last 33 years of my life getting things to talk to each other. The platform I built has my billing talking to my practice management system, which simultaneously talks to my document management system. The contacts that live in my practice management system are the same people that I bill, the same people that show up in my phone, and the same people that I communicate with via email. The emails exchanged need to be tied to matters in practice management, and billed through my billing system. These same contacts need to be marketed to, wished happy birthday, and congratulated on special occasions—all while being tied to their respective matters.
Interactivity and interconnectivity between all of these functions, pieces of information, and tasks are the cornerstone of any infrastructure. Without it, we spend all of our time manually tying these things together.
How am I able to have everything everywhere if I demand integration? Simple: I give these programs a place where they can integrate and then I park that space itself in the cloud. I am referring to a thin client remote desktop.
Remote desktops allow you to park your desktop on a server farm somewhere in the proverbial cloud, and they allow you to access this desktop from iPad, offsite locations, and even from the computer that still sits on your desk. Having your remote desktop serve as your hub for all of your programs alleviates most of the integration challenges faced in the world of legal technology.
The same desktop that I work with when I am sitting at my desk is the same desktop I see standing on the street just seconds before I walk into a building for a meeting. Thirty-seven seconds after I leave the meeting, I’m using the same desktop to record my notes in my practice management system, send an email to follow up with the person I just met, profile the email and my document management system, and bill for my time.
I’ve heard a lot of invalid reasons why this won’t work: speed, keyboard, no mouse, and many others. However, these are not valid problems, they are just problems that remain unresolved. Nerds, like me, love to find solutions to these types of challenges, and you will absolutely see some innovative solutions coming to market in the next three to five years.
There are some who say that we will never be able to practice law in a totally untethered environment, but I say that the day is coming. It is coming much faster than we realize.
As you evaluate the technology at your firm, please remember the cloud is just a term people use to mean they are storing your stuff somewhere other than your desktop—it does not mean it can connect and interact with the other elements of your technological infrastructure. It does not mean you will have access to “everything everywhere.”
Instead of spending your time trying to learn all of the technology, just picture yourself doing all of the things you do throughout the day and doing them from wherever you find yourself at the present moment. This is where we are headed, and this visual can be your guide to building the best infrastructure for yourself and those who depend on you.
Originally appeared in: GPSolo eReport
Published: November 2013
Paul Purdue is what most people would call a nerd and formed Attorney Computer Systems in 1980 with one mission. To help attorneys “Worry Less and Practice More.” Today, Paul and his team do this by selling, implementing, and customizing the technology systems law firms use to run their practice and training the staff on this infrastructure. When Paul is not out saving the world from porous infrastructure, he is tinkering in the recording studio or spending time with his wife, Barb. He also likes playing backgammon on his phone, reading a good book, or otherwise enjoying his empty nest while occasionally inviting his adult children (Katie and Spencer) over to see how quickly they can get on his nerves.