CBA Record November-December 2021

LPMT BITS & BYTES BY ANNE HAAG Silicon Valley Mergers – And Maintaining Control of Your Data in the Cloud

The most important takeaway is that it’s essential to maintain control over your data when using the cloud. You should use the cloud, but it cannot be the only tool in your toolshed. If you rely on cloud document storage or a cloud-based practice management platform, for example, you also need to have a backup, whether on an external hard drive, or also on the cloud. I recommend both: the cloud backup for convenience, the external backup for worst- case scenarios. To that end, you should have more than one backup in more than one location. If your backup doesn’t happen automatically, you need to be diligent about backing up your data manually. You can also ensure that your cloud provider has an API that allows an external backup platform to access it and back up your data. The tech industry has become notori- ous for its ‘move fast and break things’ ethos (the actual internal motto used by Facebook until 2014). While the industry has attempted to distance itself from this mentality in recent years, it’s still wise to be wary, ask questions, and plan for the worst. The legal tech industry is more mindful and aware of the ethical considerations required by lawyers, but innovation and growth are still essential to their functioning. Technol- ogy is your friend, and it will make your life easier, but don’t make the mistake of placing all your trust in it.

T he acquisition of innovative start-ups by larger companies is a core feature of the functioning of the tech indus- try. One high-profile example was the 2020 acquisition of Slack by Salesforce for $27.7 billion. Slack opened its doors in 2009 and launched a communication platform geared towards offices and small teams that arguably set the industry standard. Sales- force is a cloud-based software company offering customer relationship manage- ment services and a suite of enterprise apps focused on customer relations and growth. This acquisition raised eyebrows for Slack users who don’t need or want the suite of services offered by Salesforce, who only want an easy (and free) way to commu- nicate with coworkers or team members. Since the acquisition, nothing has changed for those Slack users, though their eyebrows might remain raised. Whether or not you use Slack, this circumstance should cause obvious qualms in anyone who has data stored in the cloud. The cloud is an essential part of any modern law practice, and this is certainly not to imply that you should be deterred from using it. On the contrary: 2020 was a perfect illustration of why cloud functionality is essential for the modern law office. However, it’s worth planning for what might happen if a plat- form you rely on gets acquired by a larger entity and you do suddenly have to pivot. Anne Haag is the CBA’s Law Practice Management Advisor, a certified crisis intervention counselor, and a volunteer withResilience as a trauma- informed ER advocate for sexual assault survivors.

2020 and 2021 have been banner years for legal tech cloud provider acquisitions. Just this past September, Clio acquired LawYaw, a legal document automation software company. Clio seems to be con- stantly expanding. In 2018, they acquired Lexicata and transformed it into ClioGrow, their cloud-based client intake and legal client relationship management platform. MyCase was acquired by a private equity firm in September 2020, the same month ProfitSolv acquired Rocket Matter and TimeSolv. And in 2021, shortly after acquiring Zola Suite, AbacusNext was in turn acquired by a private equity firm. These all remain reputable platforms worthy of your consideration, but it is important to be aware of the trend within the industry. The spate of acquisitions is likely driven in part by the pandemic, which has made the cloud an integral component of the work-from-home environment (and an appealing investment opportunity). Most of these circumstances haven’t impacted the functionality of the platforms, but that can become a murkier issue when the acquired company is a platform geared towards data security. For example, if Lawyer Doe uses a trustworthy start-up for email encryption services, what happens if that company is acquired by, for example, ProtonMail (an email encryption provider that recently came under fire for providing European law enforcement with a climate change activ- ist customer’s IP address)? Will the new company honor the user agreements and privacy policies of the original company? Each scenario will differ, but the possibility needs to be on your radar.

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