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Tech Report

ABA TechReport 2023

2023 Cloud Computing TechReport

Michael D.J. Eisenberg


  • The ABA TechReport 2023 pairs data from the 2023 Legal Technology Survey Report, which surveyed practicing attorneys, with analysis, observations, and predictions from experts in the legal technology field.
  • The latest American Bar Association's Tech Reports reflect a significant increase in lawyers’ use of Cloud computing for the practice of law. 
  • The future of Cloud computing for attorneys is closely intertwined with the incorporation of artificial intelligence into practice management and legal research. 
2023 Cloud Computing TechReport

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The Status and Future of Cloud Computing for Attorneys: Harnessing Artificial Intelligence in Practice Management and Legal Research

The latest American Bar Association's Tech Reports reflect a significant increase in lawyers’ use of Cloud computing for the practice of law. According to the 2022 Report, Cloud usage increased significantly from 60% to 70%. Solos led the way (increasing from 52% to 84% in one year), followed by small- and medium-sized law firms (roughly 75%, up from roughly 65%).

Forty percent of those lawyers surveyed were concerned with a lack of control over data, while another 62% worried about confidentiality/security. I, too, have these concerns. Perhaps I’m old school, but I still house my main database (and it's pretty easy to do given my firm size as a solo and the cost of cheap external hard drives). But I also back up to the Cloud in several formats – Dropbox and Backblaze. But the way I practice should not serve as the guide for most firms (I’m a little more tech-savvy), and there are many benefits with cloud computing.

The good news is the Reports reflect that attorneys who are using Cloud computing are becoming more aware of the necessity of adopting security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA). However, this is difficult to discern as specific details were not given as to the breakdown in types of security measures being implemented by lawyers. For example, the Reports break down that 40% of those who have embraced more the usage of Cloud computing implemented changes to internal technology or security policies. But it does not identify to what degree those changes were, if they were sufficient, or if they were even needed. These same questions could be asked of the remaining 60% who made no changes whatsoever.

Although not quantified by the Reports, Cloud computing offers attorneys a range of benefits, including increased flexibility, improved collaboration capabilities, and cost efficiency. Cloud computing allows lawyers to store and access their data securely from any location with an internet connection. This accessibility enables attorneys to work remotely while providing seamless communication with clients and colleagues. Moreover, Cloud computing allows for fast and efficient recovery and business continuity should a disaster strike. Cloud-based systems also eliminate the need for expensive hardware investments or maintenance costs associated with traditional on-premises solutions like expensive software upgrades and data server purchase and maintenance. Cloud computing has firmly established itself as a pivotal technology of today and is rapidly shaping the future of digital landscapes.

In the past year, the legal industry has experienced a significant transformation due to advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). With its ability to process vast amounts of data and perform complex tasks, AI has become an invaluable tool for attorneys seeking to enhance their practice management and streamline legal research. When combined with Cloud computing, AI has the potential to further revolutionize how attorneys interact with their clients, access information, and conduct legal proceedings. 

Cloud-based Client Relation Management (CRM) and Legal Practice Management (LPM) platforms are embracing the use of AI on their platforms. Companies like Clio with Clio Duo and Filevine with SidebarAI are incorporating AI for their customers. The integration of AI into Cloud-based legal technology brings numerous advantages that can transform how attorneys manage their practices and conduct legal research. Lawyers can use AI to quickly analyze their firm’s data client by client. By leveraging AI-powered research tools, attorneys can save substantial time and effort, allowing them to focus on more strategic aspects of their work.

AI-powered practice management systems can automate routine administrative tasks such as time tracking, billing, appointment scheduling, billing, and document management. By leveraging natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, these systems can extract relevant information from vast volumes of documents efficiently. Further, AI-powered software can automatically generate standard documents like contracts or letters by analyzing existing templates and tailoring them to specific client needs. This saves attorneys valuable time but also reduces the risk of errors associated with manual document creation. Thus allowing them to focus on more critical aspects of their work.

AI can also assist in managing caseloads effectively by providing intelligent case management solutions. By analyzing historical data from previous cases and court rulings, AI algorithms can predict case outcomes or identify patterns that may influence litigation strategies. Attorneys can leverage this predictive analysis to make informed decisions about case prioritization and resource allocation. Additionally, AI-powered case management systems can streamline communication among team members by organizing case-related information in a centralized platform accessible to all authorized individuals.

The 2022 Reports reflect that the reputation of online Cloud platforms is either very important (76%) or somewhat important (20%). Any reputable CRM/LPM will have security and client confidentiality at the forefront. Reputable platforms are using closed-source platforms – the AI’s data is based on their own servers or private AI servers that keep their customer’s information “sandboxed” from the public, other customers, and individual clients.

AI-driven virtual assistants are becoming increasingly sophisticated in understanding context-specific queries related to legal research. These virtual assistants use machine learning algorithms trained on vast databases of case law and statutes to provide accurate answers quickly. Attorneys can leverage these tools during case preparation or while providing real-time advice to clients.

Cloud-based platforms also enable collaborative workflows among multiple parties involved in a legal matter. Attorneys can securely share documents or work collaboratively on projects in real-time using cloud storage services integrated with AI-enabled features like document version control and automated contract analysis. This seamless collaboration enhances efficiency, reduces errors, and promotes effective teamwork.

Legal research is another area where harnessing AI can significantly benefit practice management. Conducting comprehensive research on statutes, regulations, precedents, and relevant cases is an integral part of an attorney's work; however, it is often time-consuming and labor-intensive. With the advent of AI-based legal research tools powered by natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, attorneys can now expedite this process significantly. The “big three” legal research platforms, Westlaw with Westlaw Precision, Lexis with Lexis+ AI, and Casetext’s CoCounsel, are embracing AI on their platforms. These tools can quickly analyze vast amounts of legal data, extract relevant information, and provide concise summaries or suggested legal arguments. Remember, whether for research, CRM/LPM use, or other cloud-based services, be sure to do your due diligence in investigating these companies – don’t rely on reputation alone!

While the integration of AI in practice management offers numerous benefits, it is important to acknowledge potential challenges as well. One such challenge is ensuring the ethical use of AI in decision-making processes. Attorneys must be cautious when relying on AI predictions and recommendations and should exercise professional judgment in evaluating the output provided by AI systems.

The NY attorney who used ChatGPT to draft his brief (with citations) should have known its limitations. First, ChatGPT is known to hallucinate. (Simply put, when an AI hallucinates, it is making stuff up). Second, ChatGPT is open-sourced – meaning any private information, case-specific details, and strategies will likely be made available on the public World Wide Web. (This is a major Model Rule 1.6 and 1.8[e] concern). Lastly, while AI is a valuable tool, it does not replace a lawyer’s judgment – you don’t file a pleading drafted by a paralegal or legal assistant without checking it first. The NY attorney not only erred by not checking the work, e.g., the case citations, before filing his brief but significantly erred when the court asked him to confirm the citations. Instead of checking them himself, the lawyer just asked ChatGPT if it made up the sources – it fibbed to him – and, of course, the attorney did not report back to the court with accurate information. 

The combination of Cloud computing and AI is going to make significant changes and improvements in the practice of law. But there are some other lingering concerns. Cloud computing requires internet access. What happens when a lawyer’s internet goes down? What if a lawyer cannot access the Cloud while in court during a trial? Or is trying to meet a critical deadline while midflight and the flight’s Wi-Fi is not functioning? Worse yet, what if the Cloud provider’s data is breached or lost? It’s important that you can store a copy (preferably a working copy) of your firm’s data on local computers and hard drives and also on other Cloud backups.

In conclusion, the future of Cloud computing for attorneys is closely intertwined with the incorporation of artificial intelligence into practice management and legal research. The combination of AI's capabilities with the flexibility and accessibility provided by Cloud-based systems holds immense potential for transforming how attorneys manage their practices, conduct legal research, collaborate with colleagues, and interact with clients. However, it is crucial for attorneys to navigate potential challenges related to data privacy, security, and ethical considerations as they embrace these technologies. By harnessing AI in a responsible manner within a Cloud-based environment, attorneys can position themselves at the forefront of innovation in the legal industry while providing enhanced services to their clients.

It has been said before, and it is worth repeating: Attorneys will not be replaced by Cloud computing and its AI tools, but those who do not embrace Cloud computing and its benefits will be replaced by those who do.