As Bob Ambrogi recently reported, Box.net is making a play for the legal industry by partnering with various legal service vendors for practice management platforms, legal research, billing, courtroom information management and productivity. And that’s great news. As a long time Box user — first, on the free platform beginning in early 2009 and bumping up to the paid version a year later — I’ve always found it far more professional for client use than Dropbox or Google Docs. In fact, I was so impressed with Box’s focus on security that three years ago, I featured Box’s diagram explaining the various stages of encryption in my presentation (Slide 22) to explain best practices for ABA Ethics 2020 to adopt. And Box has continued its emphasis on security; each time I upload a document, a little message scrolls across my screen that says “encrypting….,” making me feel very responsible even though I haven’t done anything extra.
Yet as much as I like Box, it suffers from two significant drawbacks that limit its utility and convenience for my clients. First, and most annoying, if I create a workspace and invite clients to view documents I’ve placed or upload their own, clients have to sign up for a Box.net account. Frankly, that’s simply intolerable. It would be one matter if I had a free account, but I’m at the business or enterprise level and pay full freight. Yet, when I send an invite to clients to join a workspace and they have to register to use Box, it’s not only inconvenient, but it also makes me look bad because they probably think that I’m using a free account.
Sure, Box gives me the option of simply sharing a link to each separate document or folder. But that makes it difficult for me to determine which clients have reviewed the document. Moreover, with the link-share option, clients don’t get the full benefit of Box’s search tools (which collaborators can use), nor can they share comments within the workspace. Because of the nature of my practice, a single “client” for me is typically a group – either a group of 5-20 landowners or a municipal body that may have 4-5 staffers assigned to the case. Box offers a lot of potential in these situations, but I can’t take advantage of those benefits because I don’t want to saddle my clients with signing up for another service.
The second problem with Box is that it’s a pain to block user identities within a shared space. So if I want to share a group of cases common to three separate client groups, I can’t just invite the clients in because they’ll see each other which can compromise confidentiality. I’d like a system where I have the option of sharing a searchable workspace with multiple viewers without worrying if they’ll discover each other’s identities.
Perhaps Box figures that it solves these problems by integrating with practice management platforms, which allow the lawyer to assign a password to clients instead of having them sign up individually. But not all lawyers use practice management platforms — and for some (like me), Box, in combination with Google Apps and Freshbooks gives me functionality that I need for my practice.
So Box, welcome to the legal space. But as you enter into partnerships with big-name vendors and large law firms, I hope you’ll likewise be receptive to the needs of solos and smalls who’ve been using Box all along