A few days ago Rocket Matter announced their integration with Dropbox and I wanted to share a few thoughts as to why this is significant.
I talked with Larry Port and Ariel Jatib of Rocket Matter about why Dropbox integration was important to their SaaS-based practice management service. Larry echoed the same story he wrote in his guest post on The Mac Lawyer blog in that the initial request came from conversations at the 2010 ABA TECHSHOW (kind of a good reason to consider attending TECHSHOW 2011 next April! … as a disclaimer I currently serve on the TECHSHOW Planning Board and lead the “Mac Track”).
Rocket Matter’s decision to integrate Dropbox was also heavily confirmed this past November at MILOfest where “Dropbox” was the word-of-the-day at the conference.
What makes Dropbox so special?
I’m a big fan of Dropbox. I also like SugarSync, Live Mesh, and a host of other similar services, but Dropbox is just so simple to set up and use that I find myself recommending it to everyone. At the very least, I tell folks just sign up for the free 2GB account so it’s available for easy file sharing and provides another layer for backup and access (you can use my Dropbox referral link to get an extra 250MB extra for free).
Dropbox is a “cloud” service, but when I talk about Dropbox with clients I don’t start in the clouds. In fact, I completely ignore the cloud aspect at first because Dropbox works with a LOCAL FOLDER on your computer. That LOCAL FOLDER is no different than your ~/Documents folder or any other local folder on your Mac. The only difference is that the Dropbox LOCAL FOLDER is constantly “backed-up” to the cloud. And if you have multiple computers (e.g. office/home, work/personal, etc.) that same LOCAL FOLDER can be synchronized on every machine.
Dropbox is a cloud service, just like Rocket Matter, but Dropbox works with a LOCAL FOLDER on your machine. So using the Dropbox LOCAL FOLDER to store your documents is no different than using your local ~/Documents folder to store your documents. If you’re not connected to the Internet, you’ll still have access to your files stored in the Dropbox LOCAL FOLDER.
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I was honored to author a white paper sponsored by Clio entitled “Why Go Cloud? Five Reasons Lawyers Should Adopt Cloud-Based Technology” which is available free from Clio (you don’t even have to give your name and e-mail!).
I’ve been wanting to put these thoughts down in formal fashion for a while, and I am grateful that Clio gave me the opportunity. Clio is a cloud-based practice management service, but the paper is neutral.
In fact, I concentrate on the questions that I regularly receive from clients regarding the “cloud” such as
- Is it safe?
- Is my confidential client information secure?
- What happens if I can’t get on the Internet?
I spend a good amount of time covering the recent state ethics opinions on the topic from Arizona and North Carolina (proposed) and I dutifully support my points with research and citations.
After the paper went to press, I discovered that New York recently issued Ethics Opinion 842 that addresses the question if a lawyer is allowed to use an “online data storage system to store and back up client confidential information.” The conclusion was yes, as long as the lawyer “takes reasonable care to ensure the confidentiality will be maintained.”
Please read my white paper “Why Go Cloud? Five Reasons Lawyers Should Adopt Cloud-Based Technology” located at Clio and I welcome your comments.
UPDATE #1: Niki Black has more information on NY Ethics Opinion 842 in her post “NYSBA Ethics Committee Weighs in on the Cloud.” I especially appreciate her comment “absolute security is an absolute impossibility.”
UPDATE #2: Ernie Svenson (aka “Ernie the Attorney“) posted an excellent run-down of the NY Ethics Opinion 842 entitled “Ethical considerations of online file storage.” My favorite quotes:
… services such as SugarSync and DropBox have as much interest as anyone in keeping your data private. … [but t]hey will not accept liability for compromised security that results from you (1) having an inherently insecure password system, (2) giving your password to someone you shouldn’t, or (3) accessing your account from an insecure location such as a WiFi hotspot at a coffee shop, where there is limited security. These three issues are the most likely way that your client’s data would be compromised and all three of these scenarios are things that you should be responsible for.
The New York opinion could easily be interpreted to apply to client communications such as those that are hosted by web-based email providers such as Google. After all, web-based email is stored online.