In the legal world, the potential risks of cloud computing outweigh the benefits, at least for now.
In a panel this afternoon at LegalTech, experts on the conversion of technology and law discussed the implications of using clouds to save and search for information. There wasn’t much of a consensus, save that law firms and data storage companies are just not there yet.
Cloud computing*, which is essentially renting server space from a third-party and using the internet to access the data (or as one panelist defined it, “outsourcing on steroids”), has some obvious dangers. There are intrinsic complications over who owns the documents, who can access them, how they are preserved or disposed of, how they can be cataloged or searched, and what happens if, god forbid, the company that owns the server goes bankrupt.
The major argument for the further development in using cloud computing? Money.
Law firms stand to save millions of dollars on research if the same documents can be shared and searched by multiple parties. Karla Wehbe, the information resources manager at Bechtel, said she felt that cloud computing is a process that “allows for flexibility and collaboration…that’s needed for transparency and neutrality.”
“This is a question of scale. There are some serious search issues,” said Jason R. Baron, the National Archives director of litigation. “If there’s any opaqueness…that is just going to complicate the task and maybe make it less defensible in court.”
But, Baron said he envisions it as a Field of Dreams scenario. “If the CIO builds it, the lawyers will come,” he quipped.
“I strongly believe we’re letting the tail wag the dog in e-discovery,” said Wayne Matus, a partner at Pillsbury, continuing that cloud computing is a clear opportunity for change in the future. He later joked that for the moment, for every new online security measure established, “[T]here’s someone really smart sitting in Kazakhstan figuring out how to break through it.”
It was interesting to hear the experts briefly touch on the implications of social media and the law, as the morning’s keynote address by Facebook’s counsel still ruminating. DLA Piper Senior Counsel Browning E. Marean had the best observation on the matter, saying, “50 year-olds shouldn’t be setting the policies for the 20 and 30-year-olds of the organisation.”
Earlier in the panel only about 30 of the maybe 300 audience members volunteered that they were Twitter users via a raised-hand poll.
“In the playground of litigation, we litigators are in desperate need of adult supervision,” said Marean.
*For a better definition of cloud computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has a more complete and complicated explanation here.
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