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Cloud-based practice can give lawyers an advantage

As electronic discovery and disclosure become a more standard part of litigation, lawyers who are fluent with technology and have a cloud-based practice may have an edge, says Toronto civil litigation lawyer Patricia Virc.

Virc, a lawyer with Steinberg Morton Hope & Israel LLP, made the transition to the cloud as a sole practitioner in 2009 following parental leave, in order to work at home and while commuting. When she later moved into a firm environment, they found a way to integrate her cloud-based practice.

“Using cloud-based storage requires me to be paperless to the fullest extent possible. I have a protocol for intake of paper documents, which involves scanning them, marking them as scanned, naming the electronic version in accordance with a prescribed naming convention and keeping the paper copy until no longer needed, which will be at least until the first electronic backup is created. My data is protected with passwords, encryption, anti-virus and firewall,” she says.

Specifically, Virc stores and shares her files in Dropbox – a cloud computing service that lets you keep an online repository of files that is synchronized among several computers.

As a result, Virc says she has all of her active files with her all of the time, in searchable form, and takes a small portable printer to examinations and court proceedings.

“I can leave the office and continue my work from another location without bringing any materials with me. Version control is easy because documents are not being emailed back and forth. I am working on the same document I was working on while at the office,” she says.

“My data is secure, and if my notebook is lost or stolen my service provider can remotely erase the drive of the lost computer and deliver a new computer to me, configured exactly as the lost one, within 24 hours,” she adds.

For lawyers interested in implementing a cloud-based work environment, Virc stresses the importance of involving staff in the planning, acquiring the essential hardware and software, and establishing protocols.

“Roll it out using a reasonable number of files and expand from there,” she says, adding that it may be difficult to convert files that are already in progress.

“I recommend moving to a cloud-based paperless system with new files, on a go-forward basis. Some lawyers I work with still like to use paper and I do work on files that are stored in actual filing cabinets,” says Virc.

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