It has been a challenging couple of years for the legal industry, requiring law firms to make unprecedented administrative shifts.

For many firms, business interruptions resulted in financial challenges that left leaders hesitant to invest in additional technologies. Far too many uncertainties remain and leaders recognize a need to be cautious with spending decisions.

Even with this reluctance, you can leverage legal technologies to your advantage by taking a critical look at your current usage and assessing what will be needed in the foreseeable future.

Every firm, regardless of size, can maximize its current technologies, but it takes strategy and analysis to make that happen. With evaluation, training, identification, and planning, you can get the most out of your current systems.


The first step for maximizing your current law firm technology is an evaluation of existing systems and how they are benefitting your firm.

Many firms implement technologies with a “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality without an ongoing evaluation of utilization, but important questions need to be asked on a regular basis, such as:

Technologies like legal practice management and legal billing software offer users a variety of features related to various aspects of law firm management. They also routinely introduce new features as innovations develop. One legal practice management software may include more than 20 features relating to everything from timekeeping to document management. With so many options, it's quite possible that many law firms only use a portion of what these platforms have to offer.

You should review each of your current technologies and their individual features. That information should then be compared with your firm’s needs to ensure that each technology is being utilized to its fullest potential. Upon doing so, administrators may ultimately find no use for additional technologies.

Another boundary to maximizing current legal technologies is a lack of usage among law firm personnel. There can be any number of reasons behind these discrepancies, including a lack of proper training, discomfort with new technologies, or an unwillingness to change traditional processes. Whatever the cause, firms can maximize current technologies by identifying usage obstacles and addressing them.

A technology analysis may reveal that some platforms are no longer vital to a law firm’s success. For instance, a recently implemented software may offer a feature that law firms once relied upon another platform to provide, making the older software no longer necessary.

Analysis may also reveal that a firm is still paying for technology acquired years ago even though it is no longer being utilized by firm members. This may occur because payments are automated or the firm administrator may routinely approve payment with no knowledge that staff members have stopped using the system.

Under both of these circumstances, firms may be able to find substantial financial savings by leveraging the most useful software and ending subscriptions for unnecessary platforms.


Inadequate training creates another impediment to maximizing legal technologies. Employees cannot effectively use technologies if they do not understand how to navigate them. Law firms need systems to evaluate the employee skill base for each of its technologies. When deficiencies are identified, a training strategy should be implemented that addresses the need in a way that empowers employees to leverage technologies.

One of the first determinations that a firm administrator should make is from what source the training will commence. That includes who will conduct the training, the time commitment, and how much money will be allocated. The most cost-effective and timely resources for employee training are often found with the technology provider, where employee training programs may be included within the subscription packages. This is a useful resource for training staff members on a specific technology platform.

Training takes time and, especially in a law firm setting, time is a precious commodity. Administrators need to determine how much time will be set aside for necessary training, as well as how it will be managed among employees. Firms must be cognizant of their members’ already-full plates and develop a training schedule that does not overwhelm employees. Details such as training techniques and rollout methods should also be considered under the training umbrella.

The final consideration for the training piece is the cost of the training. Firms must recognize this expenditure as a necessary expense for maximizing current technologies. It is an investment in the firm’s growth that pays off with greater efficiency and increased productivity.


Part of assessing current technologies is identifying trouble spots that may be getting in the way of full maximization. The problem may lie in employee training, but the following impediments may also be at play:

Firm administrators should acknowledge these concerns and find ways to address them. Messaging is key when dealing with this type of pushback. Leaders need to understand the benefits of legal technology and how it can better position the firm for financial success.

Planning for Future Needs

After completing a detailed assessment of current technologies, you will have a more accurate view of your firm’s needs moving forward. You may determine that weaknesses identified during the analysis are best handled through new technologies, or law firm forecasting may demonstrate a future need that will require a different tech specialty.

Armed with the information gathered from evaluation, training, and identification, you can thoughtfully plan and make decisions about moving forward while also maximizing the firm’s current technical resources.

Centerbase, a legal practice management software company that provides mid-sized law firms with a cloud-based platform to streamline legal operations, has acquired Family Law Software, the leading workflow software for family law legal practices.

Used by thousands of family law professionals, Family Law Software automates financial forms and calculations related to divorce proceedings. With this acquisition, Centerbase expands its already robust practice management, billing, and accounting product to better serve the complex workflow of family practice attorneys.

“Our aim has always been to provide mid-size law firms with a completely configurable tool they can use to streamline operations, touching on everything from billing and accounting to timekeeping, document management, client communication and reporting,” says John Forbes, CEO and Founder of Centerbase.

“Currently, 40% of our customers have a family law practice, so we are acutely aware of the demands and complexities of the practice. Because of this, we know Family Law Software is the perfect complement and enhancement to Centerbase. It enables us to deliver more value to our combined client base of 5,000.”

Family Law Software was created in 1996 by Wendell Smith and Dan Caine, founders who also developed the income tax software purchased by H&R Block in 1993 that is still used by millions today.

“When we started Family Law Software, we wanted to combine our tax knowledge and software skills to build a platform that could simplify the family law case management workflow,” says Family Law Software President and Co-Founder Dan Caine. “For almost 25 years, we have expanded and refined that product, and we now offer robust planning and negotiation tools, as well as the financial documents family lawyers need. Now with Centerbase, we will be able to expand the footprint of who we serve, which, for a mission-based company like ours, is the ultimate measure of success.”

This acquisition comes at a time of accelerated growth for Centerbase. Following a banner year in 2020 and continued momentum year-to-date, Centerbase has invested heavily in its core product while exploring feature and practice area specific integrations.

“As part of our initiative to modernize the Firm’s infrastructure, we teamed up with Centerbase in 2019 and Family Law Software in 2020,” says Paul Kanjorski of Sessums Black Caballero Ficarrotta Family Law PA. Kanjorski continued, “We’re over a year on both platforms, and I can say that Centerbase and Family Law Software have helped us gain efficiency, capture more billable hours, and reach new levels of profitability. Most importantly, we were able to continue to service our clients at a high level despite the massive challenges of the last 18 months.”

This announcement follows Centerbase’s recent growth equity investment from Mainsail Partners and underpins the company’s commitment to aggressive growth and strategic expansion.


About Centerbase
Centerbase is a cloud-based legal operations system that empowers midsize law firms to run their practice with confidence. It’s a highly scalable and configurable system that liberates legal teams from manual work by automating routine tasks and connecting them in a single collaborative work space. Boasting a comprehensive feature set of billing, accounting, and practice management tools plus the ability to offer full-history data migrations, Centerbase has become the go-to solution for midsize law firms. For more visit

About Family Law Software
Family Law Software is the leading workflow software for divorce professionals. Thousands of divorce professionals and individuals facing divorce use Family Law Software to automate financial forms and calculations related to divorce proceedings. With FLS, clients may calculate and negotiate child and spousal support payments based on state-specific rules and tax rates; complete robust scenario planning; divide assets; and conduct financial projections. For more information, visit

The cloud has become a standard part of our lives. From streaming video platforms to smartphones and smart home devices, we rely on cloud computing to make our days exponentially more convenient. But individuals are not the only benefactors of cloud computing. Over the last 10 years, business leaders around the world have incorporated cloud-based technologies, recognizing their greater efficiency and cost savings potential. Though it has taken a little longer, the legal industry has also started embracing the cloud.

As reported by the American Bar Association’s 2018 Legal Technology Survey Report, less than 55% of all surveyed law firms utilized some aspect of cloud computing. The hesitation among law firms typically stems from three main reasons: worries about security, limited understanding about how the cloud operates, and ties to traditional methods of practice management. Many of these law firms still rely on filing cabinets and in-office servers, but the disruption of service that took place over the last couple of years made the drawbacks of this decision painfully clear.

Legal Practice Management Meets the Cloud

Legal practice management software helps law firms keep all aspects of their practice organized and running efficiently. Firms have been using them for years to handle such needs as document storage, contact management, calendaring, and task management. They become the backbone of a practice, and when they are not available – whether due to a server crash or office inaccessibility - firms can experience debilitating process failures. After all, practice management software is only beneficial if a law firm can actually use it.

With in-office options, the practice management software is installed on a local computer or server located within the physical office space. Those servers are usually only accessible from computers also located within the same space, which limits the capabilities of the practice management software.

Cloud-based legal practice management software is not installed locally on your office server. Instead, it is web-based, using a remote server maintained by the software provider. Access occurs through the internet, which makes the software convenient and virtually 100% available for use.

If you are a law firm leader or administrator who is frustrated with the inconvenience of premise-based software, this post is for you. It will explore 4 reasons why your law firm needs cloud-based legal practice management.

1. Consistent Availability

With cloud-based legal practice management software, law firms can access all of their data at any time and on any device. This includes everything from documents and emails to time tracking tools and invoices. It eliminates the need to be located within the physical office because all data is stored in the cloud, which can be accessed remotely with the right credentials.

Even when a firm member makes changes to a client file or administrative document, other firm members maintain access to the most recent version. Working with a cloud-based legal practice management software gives attorneys and legal support staff the ability to retrieve case data and work on matters in a secure environment without the need for those antiquated network connections that confine them to the four walls of the office. Remote work becomes easier, with greater efficiency, productivity, and accountability.

2. Decreased Downtime and IT Issues

Law firms need an IT infrastructure that they can consistently rely on to meet their practice management needs. Recurring problems and excessive downtime limit productivity. They can also threaten a firm’s ability to maintain confidential client data in an adequately secure environment.

In-office servers are notorious for their unreliability. They break down often, especially without regular maintenance and updates. They are also known to be extremely glitchy which frustrates firm members as they try to complete time-sensitive tasks.

Firm administrators that choose an on-premise legal practice management software must prepare for continuous maintenance needs and repairs. Many firms find these tasks so challenging that they either keep an IT expert on staff to address server problems, or they contract with an outside IT consultant. Yet, even with the most proactive measures in place, servers can still go down, leaving firm members unable to use them.

Cloud-based practice management platforms obviate all of these headaches. There is no requirement to manage expensive servers because the software provider automatically performs all necessary updates, regular maintenance, and backups. They also quickly address any repair needs, often before firm members even recognize that a problem occurred. Every technical task related to cloud-based practice management software is supported by one centralized team solely dedicated to its performance.

3. The Right Tools for Internal Changes

Changes within a law firm require a practice management system that is flexible and quick to adapt. Whether you are the administrator of a mid-sized firm that is scaling up or you are downsizing your firm’s physical office space, cloud-based legal practice management software adjusts with the changing landscape of your law firm.

Cloud-based practice management software offers a variety of modules and features, and many providers allow administrators to choose which options best meet the needs of the firm. This means that as the firm grows, so can its practice management software. There is no need to start from scratch with a new system when you can easily make adjustments to what already works.

It’s no secret that office relocation can be a pain in the neck. But it’s even more challenging with an on-premise server. Moving the server from one location to the next will likely require the assistance of an IT technician. It can also result in a period of inaccessibility to important firm and client data.

With a cloud-based system, your firm’s practice management software remains intact and ready to access throughout the entire move. Unlimited storage capabilities alleviate the need for heavy file cabinets and multiple servers. With everything stored in the cloud, firm members can settle into their new digs and get right to work without costly interruption.

4. Improved Security

Many lawyers still doubt that cloud technologies can offer the level of security that they are ethically obligated to provide their clients. Yet, the real dangers of theft and security breaches are much more prevalent with in-office systems. A single fire or natural disaster can decimate physical documents in a matter of seconds. In addition, the responsibility to protect an on-premise server from cyberattacks falls on the firm, and that can prove very expensive. Cyber experts and server updates cost money, but law firms must take on these costs to keep their physical servers secure.

When using cloud-based legal practice management, data is continuously saved and stored within the cloud, protecting it from physical threats like fire or natural disasters. Law firm leaders also control which members of the firm have access to the software. Some systems even offer security measures that limit the accessibility of induvial cases or firm records.

Cloud providers maintain a team of security experts who are on constant guard against cyber threats and attacks. They take on this expensive responsibility so that law firm administrators feel comfortable trusting them with their law firm data.

Law Firms Need the Power of the Cloud

Law firm administrators that understand the power of cloud-based legal project management provide their firms with a valuable resource that streamlines and protects numerous aspects of legal practice. When choosing the right cloud-based option, look for features like:

As your law firm evolves, cloud-based legal practice management software can provide the continuous support and stability that your firm needs.

Staying current with technology can be an expensive undertaking. Software is constantly improving, and firms that continue to use server-based software are finding it impossible to keep up with advancing technology. If a firm wants to take advantage of the latest and greatest, it must be willing to adopt a cloud-based system. By asking the right questions on the front end, your firm can rest assured that a cloud-based system is a safe and viable option.

Advantages of Cloud-Based Systems

There are innumerable advantages to a cloud-based system that goes above and beyond the fact that you will always have the most updated version of the software you select. It is impossible to list all of the advantages here, but below are a few:


The use of a cloud-based system allows the firm to pay-per-user fees in a monthly fashion – there is no longer the need to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in order to purchase a server-based software that will soon be outdated. There is also no need to pay for IT support to maintain servers, address security concerns, and stay on top of software updates.

Low Risk

With server-based software, the firm spends an enormous amount of financial resources to put the software in place. While it certainly performs its due diligence before making a software selection, firms are still faced with holding their breath and hoping for the best, sometimes finding that once the software is in place it does not perform as the firm had hoped. While no one wants to make a change once a decision has been made, with a cloud-based system where the firm is paying for the system in small monthly increments, if the software does not meet the firm’s needs as expected or the firm outgrows the software sooner than expected, there is the ability to pivot if necessary.


Cloud-based systems can expand as the demand increases, so as the firm grows, it only has to pay for an additional user license. There is no need for the firm to purchase additional servers, etc. to accommodate growth.

Increased Flexibility

As we all learned this past year, the ability to access our files from any location is imperative to today’s practice. By having all file information hosted in the cloud, firm attorneys and staff can access the files from any location. Firms that were paperless before the pandemic were able to continue their practices without missing a beat. This advantage is valuable even outside of a pandemic, though. The mobility of your case files allows your attorneys to access the entire file wherever they are – in court, in a client’s office, etc. In addition, multiple individuals can be working on a client file at the same time. In the old practice of paper files, only one person could have access to the file at one time.

Increased Efficiency and Productivity

One of the most valuable advantages of using current technology is your ability to perform some tasks faster. Good case management software can lay out the steps of certain types of cases, provide you with the status of a case at a glance, and provide a list of follow-up items and checklists. The billing side of your software can make it easy for your attorneys to enter their time, encouraging concurrent timekeeping, which will always be more accurate and prevent lost time.

Asking the Right Questions

It was not that long ago that many law firms were leery of taking their technology to the cloud. Despite Ethics Opinions of the American Bar Association and many state bars that approved the use of SaaS systems in law firms, firms were hesitant to move in this direction. There were many concerns that contributed to this hesitation to jump on board with other industries, but with the appropriate due diligence on the front end, firm partners can rest assured that they can take advantage of cloud-based systems and their many advantages. Here are some questions you should ask:

Who Owns the Servers that Will House Your Data?

Does the provider own or lease the servers? The more companies that are involved in the storage of your data, the greater the risk that security may be compromised.

Where Will Your Data Be Located?

It is important that your data does not leave the United States. Otherwise, you run the potential risk of your data being held “hostage” in the EU.

How Is Your Data Backed Up?

What is the frequency of backups? Where are the backups stored? Are there multiple locations? (If a natural disaster occurs at the location of a backup supply, is it geographically distant from another location so that the data is not lost?) Are there redundant power supplies?

How Is Your Data Encrypted?

The provider should use SSL encryption to ensure that communications between your computer and the cloud server are secure.

Who Owns the Data?

Your agreement should clearly state that the firm owns the data. You will want to know how the data can be extracted should you decide to change services in the future. In what format will the data be provided? Will it be readable by other programs?

The Takeaway

It is not as foreign for law firms to use cloud-based software today as it was even five years ago. By asking the right questions, you can ensure that you are confident in the security of the software you choose and take advantage of the many benefits of having a cloud-based system.

Because of its prevalence, most people already know what this is, but put simply, the cloud allows an internet user to access a third-party computing resource located in almost an endless network of interconnected servers that allow you to run your computer’s applications over the internet without having to buy, install or manage your own servers. 

What this means is you could run your firm’s IT operations with nothing more than a browser and internet connection. By using the cloud, firms of all sizes can reduce IT costs, manage data storage needs more effectively, and improve staff flexibility. In a short amount of time, the cloud has emerged as one of the most meaningful innovations in technology.   

The cloud symbol was first used to represent the public telephone systems on our dial-ups and since the original basis of the internet was through dial-up modems, that symbol has been used and now represents what we know of today as “the cloud.” Before we go on, it is important to note that when we say “client-server,” the word “client” does not refer to your customer. Depending on your role, this word means two different things (depending on if you’re on the IT team or an attorney.) The word “client” to an IT person means a device used by one person at a time to access the internet. Essentially it is just an access point, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, PC, you name it. These access points (or clients), and central servers which supply applications and data, are shared amongst several clients and can be accessed at any one time. So when you sign in to Gmail, or anywhere on the internet, you’re not the only person at that exact moment who can gain access. Thousands, if not millions of people could access their Gmail account at the same time through their own client-server. 

Characteristics of the Cloud

Let’s take a look at the five essential characteristics of the cloud:

  1. On-demand self-service
  2. Broad network access
  3. Resource pooling
  4. Rapid elasticity
  5. Measured service 

On-demand self-service

On-demand service essentially means you order what you want when you want it. You can unilaterally make such provisions either regarding server settings or network storage without the need for any interaction from the provider’s IT administrator. Further examples of such resources include storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth, and virtual machines.

Broad network access

Broad network access means you have access to your data over the standard network through client platforms such as your smartphone, PC, or laptop. 

Resource pooling

Resource pooling simply means that providers serve multiple customers, with provisional and scalable services. These services can be adjusted to suit each customer’s needs without any changes being apparent to the customer or end-user. When you access a server on the internet, it’s not only your information on that server, there is other people’s information as well. Sometimes there may just be one server for 50 different people and sometimes it could even be located overseas. As attorneys, this is incredibly important to be aware of. Many firms will just sign up or pay for cloud services and have no idea where their actual data is being stored, or who it’s being stored with. Sometimes it’s because they don’t care, and other times it’s because they don’t know to ask. So make sure you ask your vendor this question! 

Rapid elasticity

Rapid elasticity allows users to automatically request additional space in the cloud or other types of services. ... In a sense, cloud resources appear to be infinite or automatically available. That's very different from older systems, where the limits of storage or memory were immediately visible to a user. Compared to on-premise servers, this process is significantly easier and more convenient. 

Measured service 

Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported. This provides transparency for both the provider and the consumer of the service. Your firm can actually get insight into the performance of your network with statistics that monitor your usage. 

Will the Cloud Save my Firm Money?

The first question that many firms ask cloud providers is, “how much will it cost?” This is a logical question, but the price range varies so drastically, that it makes more sense to narrow down specific goals and aspects of your firm. Let’s take a look.

Take a look at the chart below. The first thing you need to consider is the upfront expenditure. Let’s look at the on-premise category first. A good quality single server with no redundancy can run anywhere from $3,500-$8,000 if you’re going low end. A decent, middle-of-the-road server will land you north of $10,000. With that, you will need a backup system, which incorporates both software and hardware which could easily tack on another $2,000+. Next, you will want a quality APC battery or locate your system in a colo-data center to protect all of this valuable equipment. Following that line item is your server licensing. This is not per physical server, but per virtual server which typically runs inside of one box. Traditionally, you will be running an active directory, a file server, and a database server. Best practices dictate you separate these roles into multiple servers, but you could combine some of these roles into two servers, which is where you get the $1,900. Next are your user licenses or your client access licenses. This is required for each person who needs access to the server. If they run slightly over $40, and you have 15 people at your firm, you’re looking at about $840. Another expense is your Microsoft SQL licenses which almost every on-premise case management system requires. You can pay for this by the processing core, or by the user, but either way, it comes out to about the same. Finally, There will definitely be implementation fees to get this all together and have your firm up and running. With the going IT rate, you’re looking at about $5,000 of total labor.  

The next two columns are much more simplistic. All the listed services are either included in a private cloud or are not applicable. With the cloud, you will still have a labor fee that will either be due upfront or spread out with payments over a designated period of time. For web applications, if you’re considering a change, this will oftentimes require the assistance of a third-party consulting firm.             

ExpensesOn-Premise ServersCloudWeb Applications
Server(s) Hardware$5,500IncludedN/A
Backup Solution$2,000IncludedN/A
APC Battery$1,500IncludedN/A
Microsoft Server Licensing ($950/ea.)$1,900IncludedN/A
Microsoft User Licenses ($42/ea.)$840IncludedN/A
Microsoft SQL Licenses ($209/ea.)$4,180IncludedN/A
Terminal Server Licenses ($133/ea.)N/AIncludedN/A
Setup Fee$5,000$4,425$7,500
Total Up-Front Cost$20,920$4,425$7,500

Now that we have talked about the upfront costs, let’s look at some of the common monthly expenditures:

ExpensesOn-Premise ServersCloudWeb Applications
Server Maintenance ($200-$350/ea.)$5,500IncludedN/A
User Support + Anti-Virus ($49/user)$735Included$735
Offsite Backup (25-75 cents/gig)$100IncludedN/A
Remote Access (GoToMyPC: $30/user)$450N/AN/A
Cloud Storage ($0-$50/user)N/AIncluded$105
Total Monthly Costs$6,785$2,085$840

The first line item is your server maintenance. If you have a server, you will want to make sure that it is properly maintained, monitored, secured, and audited on a routine basis. This is especially critical with the security threats we face today. Assuming you’re running 2-3 virtual servers, you’re looking at about $500. 

User support entails the support for each computer, anti-virus work, print capabilities, and general network support. The average spend for this is about $49 per user, per month. Some firms will have an in-house IT team, others will outsource the help. The former is quite costly as you’re salarying these additional team members, but outsourcing your support can be tricky if you need immediate assistance. For web applications, keep in mind that if you can eliminate all of your servers, this cost will remain, and in some cases, this cost may increase as computer management becomes increasingly difficult with no server to help automate management. 

Next is the offsite backup category, this is native to almost all cloud solutions, whereas on-premise servers need to be backed up nightly. Be warned that if you are not backing up your data, you risk losing it in a crash. Paying for such solutions varies drastically in price, if you’re looking for a full backup and disaster recovery solution, you could be looking at thousands per month. For the sake of our example, we took the very basic backup system which typically charges between 25-75 cents/gig.

Now, looking at remote access, this also runs natively to any cloud-based solution. If you have an on-premise option, you can get a dedicated terminal or Citrix server. This would add significant spending to the upfront and server maintenance columns. Since we’re considering a 15-user law office, chances are, they’re using RDP over VPN directly to their desktop, or more commonly, a GoToMyPC or log me in a type of solution.        

For storage, most firms with on-premise servers are using their file server which could be your S drive or your T drive (for example). Additional costs here come from when your file server runs out of space or there’s a server malfunction or breach.    

Everything we just mentioned encompasses the average base cost for each solution. Each service provider is different, and fees will vary depending on what your firm chooses to adopt vs. waive.   

Ready to see how cloud-based Centerbase cuts costs and raises your revenues?

Get a demo today!

The Takeaway 

The chart below looks at some features that cannot be quantified mathematically, but they hold immense value. 

Each firm has to evaluate which of these intangible assets are most critical, and which are considered to be more of a luxury. Consider things like mobile access and liability. Do you have plans to geographically expand your firm? Do you want your staff to be connected with centralized access to the same data? Do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line.

Ultimately, all of these intangibles should help you evaluate whether your firm should pursue cloud, on-prem, or web application services, so don’t take them lightly! 

IntangiblesOn-Premise ServersCloudWeb Applications
Software RobustnessRobustRobustLimited