legal-vertical-managed-servicesLaw firms, over the years, have been somewhat reluctant to shell out for technology. I seem to remember Wang VS machines -- once a staple for law firm billing and document chores -- holding out in legal a bit longer than other industry sectors. The same cautious view has applied to services. But adversity is proving the mother of adoption. Law firms perhaps hit harder by the current downturn than previous recessions now look to outsourcing to trim costs. This has created an opening for MSPs and cloud-based offerings in the legal market.

Consider the following announcements from the past two weeks:
  • Servecentric, a Dublin-based data center managed services company, captured a $1 million  Euro ($1.36 million USD) managed hosting deal with a U.S. law firm, according to the IrishDev, an Irish software news Web site.
  • Clearpath Solutions Group showed its cloud computing service at a recent litigation support conference. The Reston, Va. company targets Mid-Atlantic law offices with data storage and virtualization solutions for e-discovery, document management, and archiving.
  • Legal Cloud, a Sausalito, Calif. company, cited several international law firms as beta tester of its virtual data center services for the legal sector. Legal Cloud said it will allocate virtual servers for each of the participants in the closed beta and replicate core applications from the firms’ primary facilities for business continuity testing.
Current market conditions seem ripe for industry-specific services. But horizontally oriented MSPs see activity as well.

Azaleos, which offers managed Exchange and SharePoint services, lacked any legal market representation just a few months ago. But the situation began to change during the fourth quarter of last year, noted Scott Gode, vice president of product management at Azaleos. The company has gained ground among the larger mid-sized law firms up to “mega firms” with 1,000-plus attorneys, he added.

Gode said mega firms are trying to get more aggressive about outsourcing e-mail. Firms in that category also show interest in “single sourcing,” he noted. That is, seeking out one service provider for e-mail and associated functions such as archiving as opposed to working with multiple vendors.

Some mid-sized and smaller law firms, meanwhile, look to use their e-mail systems for document management to cut the cost of operating separate systems.

Microsoft, Gode explained, is contributing to the ability to single source e-mail and document management. He said Exchange Server 2010 specifically focuses on the legal vertical with features including built-in archiving and improved e-discovery support for larger mailbox sizes.

A beta version of Exchange 2010 is available with general availability slated for the second half of this year.

In summary, the legal sector may be more motivated to consider an MSPs services than ever before. And law firms interest in e-mail extends beyond the messaging function to ancillary areas such as archiving and e-discovery. If you haven’t added legal to your list of target markets, this could be the time to do so.

Contributing blogger John Moore covers Master MSPs and Web hosts, and has written about the IT channel for two decades. MSPmentor is updated multiple times daily. Follow us via RSS, Facebook and Twitter. And subscribe to our enewsletter, webcasts and Resource Center.