Practising in the Cloud

Innovators are trailblazers. They don’t wait until technology is widely adopted. They become the first users, experimenting with new methods.

Kevin West (LLB’98) wasn’t going to follow the usual path.  After practising corporate law in Australia, New York City and Toronto, he founded Skylaw in 2010. He decided to use technology that would be flexible, cheaper and more efficient. Skylaw became one of the first law firms in Canada to use cloud computing.

“This was before iCloud and people didn’t know what it was,” says West. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to without the technology.”

This was before iCloud and people didn’t know what it was. I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to without the technology.

Cloud computing involves using software programs online including storing information through the Internet. Popular programs such as iCloud, Gmail and Dropbox didn’t exist when Skylaw started using cloud computing. Law firms in Canada are starting to use the technology, which prompted the Law Society of British Columbia to issue cloud computing guidelines in 2012. Lawyers at Skylaw manage email and document management through Microsoft Office 365 on Apple computers.

“We use it because it’s fast, efficient and there’s no technical overhead,” says West. “We looked at several different service providers and we were convinced that it was the best solution.”

Firms looking to jump into cloud computing must look at security concerns. West recommends doing an assessment of your needs. “Compare to your current privacy protections,” says West. “Carrying around your briefcase and leaving it on the subway is more likely than getting hacked in Office 365. Be smart when looking for a provider and using any kind of technology. For example, we use random password generators and change them frequently.”

After five years of being a tech leader, Skylaw’s next step involves a new custom-made open space office in downtown Toronto. “Everyone has different needs,” says West. “Figure out your own needs and what’s important to you. It’s about choosing the best solution for you and your clients.”

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