takes law firm management to cloud

The practice management software used to run law firms is, in the words of Olivier Taillieu, cumbersome, hardware-intensive, and expensive. That’s why his law firm, Zuber & Taillieu, decided to build its own cloud-based software to handle document management, time-and-billing, eDiscovery, even email for small law firms and in-house counsel.
Analysts have predicted that more custom-tailored software will be delivered via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, and offerings like this are proof of that trend. In the past, companies in various vertical industries bought on-premises software to meet their needs but only used a small fraction of the features and functions — paying for what they didn’t need or use. And they often had to devote in-house resources to tailor that monolithic software to their needs and link it to other software. Vertically oriented SaaS can address those issues.
The result of Zuber & Taillieu’s work is, SaaS that claims to bring most practice management functions to law firms in an affordable and secure manner. will be introduced Monday at the LegalTech trade show in New York City.
The problems with legacy practice management software were that various components came from different companies; integration was tough; and the price was high, Tailleau said in an interview last week. Zuber & Tailleau started out running iManage (now part of HP(s hpq)) for document management and ProLaw for back office work, along with Microsoft Exchange Server (s msft) for mail. All that software soaked up a ton of hardware, and the move to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 led to massive incompatibility issues with the rest of the firm’s software. The whole thing left a bad taste in their mouths.
“We couldn’t find a configuration that ran with less than five servers for 60 people. These are massive programs that don’t speak to each other well, so you inherently have to add layers to connect them. The cost is out of proportion to what you get,” Tailleau said.
Lawloop works with Microsoft Office — Tailleau said all lawyers use Word — but will eventually add its own email backend and client to the mix, replacing Exchange Server and Outlook.  Outlook has no facility to scrub out sensitive meta data in documents that have to be sent to opposing counsel. Lawloop will address that issue, he said.
The beauty of the service is that it tracks all work for time-and-billing. “If I edit a document in our system a thousand times, I make changes, associates make changes, the system knows where the document is, which client it’s associated with — all useful data. When I want to bill my client for all this work, all that data is in there,” Tailleau said.
Law firm Co-Founder Tom Zuber scoped out the initial system and designed the user interface before turning the project over to a team of programmers. Tailleau said security is a top priority and most concerns people have about cloud security are more a perception than reality.  Lawloop lets the law firm set up secure “loops” that enable  authorized users to access the documents they have rights to.
Price per user is $39 per user per month. Lawloop will target inside counsel in businesses as well as law firms with up to 25 attorneys.
It will be interesting to see what traction cloud-based offerings like this will get in law firms, given the sensitive nature of client data and interactions.  Last September, the Iowa State Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Practice Guidelines recommended lawyers perform due diligence before using SaaS-based services. More on those guidelines here.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user umjanedoan