Application Service Providers
Ready for Prime Time?

by
Andrew Z. Adkins, III
Legal Technology Institute
at the University of Florida College of Law


Application Service Providers, better known as ASPs (NOT the "snake"), are making headway into the computer industry, including the legal profession. Some ASPs have been around a while, and others are just starting up. What are the definitions and what are the differences? That's the purpose of this series of articles – to give you a better understanding of what an ASP is, what types of technologies are used, and what questions to ask when evaluating ASPs.

First of all, let's define an ASP in general terms. Lots of definitions are floating around, but it basically boils down to this: An ASP is a service-oriented technology, allowing you to rent the use of software applications over a high-speed Internet connection. Instead of buying the software and installing it on your desktop computer or LAN file server, you rent the application and run it over the Internet – the software application is actually installed on a remote computer, somewhere other than your firm. This could be your word processing, your time & billing, your calendar, your litigation support application or your case management system.

The Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida Levin College of Law (LTI) recently published a major study on the use of ASPs. Commissioned by some of the major players in the ASP industry, LTI randomly surveyed the legal profession (attorneys, paralegals, MIS, administrators) on their use of technology, including ASPs.

The results of the ASP Study showed some surprising results: the legal profession is not yet familiar with ASPs, the model, or the players. Two thirds of the survey respondents indicate they are not very familiar with ASPs. The most recognized ASPs in the legal profession are Elite.com, ELF Technologies, and IKON Virtual Filing Room; yet, these are recognized by less than 15% of the profession.

Of the 9% law firms and law departments currently using ASPs, Legal Research (71%) is the overwhelming function provided by ASPs. Time, Billing & Invoicing follows a distant second at 46%. Satisfaction levels vary, but about 85% of those currently using ASPs indicated they were reasonably satisfied.

In almost every ASP discussion there are concerns and issues that relate to law firms or law departments using an ASP. In most cases, it has been reported in the past that Security and Reliability are the top issues. The Study agrees with those assumptions, indicating survey respondents perceive Security (44%) and Reliability (36%) as the primary barriers regarding use of ASPs.

Survey respondents indicated the main benefits of using an ASP include a Low Technology Investment for the Firm (19%) and Low Initial Cost of an ASP (13%). Those law firms and law departments currently using ASPs also reported that the best aspect of using ASPs is the Low Technology Investment for the Firm (31%). When considering costs, law firms and law departments typically consider the Return on Investment (ROI). Almost half of the survey respondents expected the ASP ROI to be one year or less.

What would it take to get the legal profession to move to an ASP? Access to the ASP Anytime & Anywhere was the overwhelming decision driver. The Study shows about 50% of the legal profession currently has remote access to the office network. Having remote access is one step closer for law firms and law departments to move to an ASP.

Application Service Providers : An In-Depth Look into the Future Use of ASPs in the Legal Profession
The ASP Study was conducted by the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law. The Final Report is 350 pages, includes data, tables, charts, and graphs, and is available for $995. The Executive Summary is available for free, as well as additional information about ASPs. Visit the Legal Technology Institute Internet site: http://www.law.ufl.edu/lti.


Andrew Z. Adkins III is a nationally recognized expert in law office technology.  He is the director of the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He is a founding member of The Legal Consulting Group, an association of independent computer consulting firms working with the legal profession.  He is also the co-founder of The Internet Lawyer (www.internetlawyer.com), a monthly publication focusing on the practical use of the Internet by the legal profession.