My knee-jerk response to this question is an emphatic “yes.”
This year marks my 10th year at Two Step Software, and it’s amazing to see how legal software products – including our own product, Corporate Focus – have evolved during this period. Let’s take a quick look back at a few of our technology milestones over the past decade.
- 2000 – Corporate Focus transitions to a new version of the Windows Microsoft Access database system (Version 2.5 to 97). Law firms are still using Word Perfect – remember that dinosaur?
- 2001 – Corporate Focus is released in another Windows version (Access 2000).
- 2002 – Corporate Focus adds a more powerful database back-end, SQL 2000, and Two Step releases its first Web browser front-end, Corporate Focus Connect. Our law firm clients who adopted this release were able to give read-only access to their clients, although the system was still a client-server model.
- 2005 – Corporate Focus is released as a complete, browser-based system without any Windows or client installations. The system is offered either customer-installed or as a hosted system. Corporate Focus was one of the first legal software applications to be offered as a hosted system. At the time, many firms preferred to manage their own infrastructure: IIS servers, SQL database servers, and firewalls.
- 2008 – Equity Focus is released. It is used by private companies to perform their equity accounting under FAS 123R. The system is only offered as a SaaS model and companies loved it, since they didn’t have to install anything.
- 2008 – Corporate Focus is no longer offered as a self-installed application. All new law firms are using the hosted system, delivered from Two Step’s world-class hosting facility.
During this time period, Two Step released many upgrades, but only a fraction of our customers were able to keep up with the latest software release. This was largely due to the hard work required of their internal IT departments to upgrade all of their machines.
Jump to 2010, and the software applications landscape has forever changed. When I look around, I see companies like FirmEx, NetDocuments, Rocket Matter, and a host of others all offering legal “software-as-a-service.” This doesn’t even include all the cloud systems we use every day, like Facebook, Twitter, Google Apps, Salesforce.com, and many more.
All that said, I believe that a point has been reached where SaaS, hosted applications have become the gold standard. The advantages of using hosted systems are crystal-clear, the highlights being that a) internal IT departments, particularly in the recent downturn, don’t have to waste precious resources on software upgrades, b) users are always in the most recent software releases, and c) IT infrastructure budgets can be drastically reduced. Plus, if law firm clients are confident with using SaaS and cloud-based applications for their own data, why shouldn’t their law firms be comfortable with it as well? At Two Step Software we see our law firm customers, both new and existing, using our SaaS offering not only because it saves them money every day, but also because it’s faster and more secure in most cases.
So should law firms still check out their vendors carefully? Of course they should. SLAs should be checked, questions should be asked, and data confidentiality should be strictly enforced by both the customer and the vendor. But, that’s also true if the data is hosted internally.
No one can tell what tomorrow will bring. Will everyone use touchscreen computers “(a la the iPad)” Will everything be in the cloud and individual servers be obsolete? Will we all be touching some interface in thin air (a la Minority Report)” I certainly don’t know.
What I do know is that in 2020, Corporate Focus will still be here. Lawyers, stock plan administrators, and other legal professionals will be printing stock certificates, generating capitalization tables, and doing whatever other work their clients need done faster and more self-sufficiently than ever before. In 2020, we’ll all look back on the “old days” and say, “I remember SaaS and the cloud…”
Alas, the future is…well, it’s in the future. If you would like to see how Corporate Focus can work for you today, sign up to see a demo.
And of course, please feel free to add a comment about this post; all thoughts are welcome.