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The Imperative of Scalability: Why Law Firms Should Migrate Document Management to the Cloud

June 24, 2024

In our previous blog, we discussed the rising operational costs associated with maintaining on-premises document management systems (DMS) in law firms. This installment will focus on another critical aspect that is compelling firms to reassess their technological infrastructures: the need for scalability.

The Limitations of On-Premises Solutions

Traditional on-premises DMS platforms are often built on infrastructures based on physical locations and were not designed — much less optimized — to handle rapid changes in demand.  

A report by NRDC stated that average on-premises server utilization is only 12-18% of capacity, suggesting a significant amount of wasted resources during non-peak periods. Meanwhile, these systems still struggle to manage workload spikes effectively.

By contrast, the cloud “just makes sense,” as Ewa Krysmann of Ploum explains:

“I don’t worry about server administration, maintenance, and energy consumption… [We] can scale as business need dictates.”  

The Demand for Scalability in Modern Law Practices

Law firms face variable workloads that can fluctuate widely due to factors like growth, onboarding new team members, and client demands. The ability to scale resources quickly and efficiently is critical for businesses that must adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and support growth. The cloud offers an elastic environment where resources can be scaled up or down instantly, ensuring that firms only pay for what they need, when they need it.

The Advantages of Cloud Scalability

Migrating to a cloud-based DMS allows law firms to benefit from scalable elasticity. This is the capability to dynamically scale computing resources to match the firm’s operational demands moment-to-moment — without the lead times and extensive planning required to scale on-premises infrastructure.  

Gartner's research further indicates that by 2025, over 85% of enterprises will embrace a cloud-first approach, primarily due to the scalability and agility offered by cloud environments.

Many times, older on-premises systems will be allowed to limp along due to the significant investment required to purchase, support, and maintain new hardware, migrating existing data to new systems. With a cloud-based DMS, your costs are spread evenly each month and predictable. You always have the latest technology and updates without having to manage that yourself, which ensures optimal performance at all times without those large extra upgrade expenses every few years.

Enhanced Performance and Client Service

With cloud solutions, law firms can scale resources and improve performance during peak operation times.  

Amazon Web Services reports that the cloud offers a 38% decrease in app latency versus on-premises deployments, which can significantly improve client service delivery and operational efficiency. This performance boost is essential for the numerous data-intensive document workflows common in legal settings, such as preparing for closings and big court filings.

A move to the cloud also enhances a firm’s ability to provide client portals to securely share documents from within their DMS with either clients, experts, or other witnesses. Those parties and others can also upload files straight to the firm’s matter workspace without clogging up email inboxes. Full audit trails can show proof of receipt and access controls ensure only relevant staff have access to sensitive content.

Supporting Collaboration for Remote Work

The growing demand for flexibility should not be discounted — an unequivocal 98% of employees would prefer to work remotely, at least part of the time. Firms should prioritize tools that support flexible work in order to attract and retain top talent.  

“Increasingly, the really smart graduates are looking for environments where they can work flexibly,” says Henry Humphreys, managing partner at Humphreys Law. “We want to recruit the best talent. Then, when you add the best tools, that’s your competitive advantage.”

Fortunately, the scalability of a cloud-based DMS caters to this need by allowing team members to access documents and collaborate in real time, regardless of their physical location, further enhancing the firm’s flexibility and responsiveness.

Conclusion: The Cloud is a Strategic Necessity

For law firms, the transition from an on-premises to a cloud-based document management system is becoming a strategic necessity. It enables law firms to handle the ebbs and flows of legal work more effectively and ensures they are agile enough to respond to future challenges and opportunities. As the legal industry continues to evolve, scalability will remain a key factor in maintaining competitiveness and delivering exceptional client value.

Law firms must look beyond the traditional confines of IT infrastructure and embrace the cloud as a means to drive not just operational agility but also long-term strategic business growth.

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