The Merlin Foundation was launched in October 2019. We are excited to see this idea take shape. You can read the Press Release launching the Foundation here.
Welcome to the Merlin Legal Open Source Foundation Blog. For years, we have been watching the evolution of the open source movement and the rise of secure cloud computing. At first skeptical, companies eventually began to see the value of both.
Most started with experiments and “off the books” projects. As those efforts mostly succeeded, they ramped up things by the year. Today, most companies use open source software for a variety of purposes, many of which go to the core of company business. Many are also moving to cloud computing, particularly those organizations who don’t have the size or funding to build and run their own data centers.
What about legal? With few exceptions, legal has been more cautious and often for good reason. After all, lawyers and legal departments deal in trade secrets and confidential information day by day. Information business lawyers maintain can be of great value in the marketplace, providing competitive advantages and even trading opportunities. Information held by litigation departments can skew settlement results or waive the protections of attorney client privilege. It would be a violation just to let those documents out of the office, right?
That was yesterday. Today, those same firms and law departments are placing data in colocation facilities that often run on open source software. While most are still using proprietary applications for email and document creation, open source software can likely be found in almost every system, whether the servers run on Linux or Apache or the workflow applications being used are programmed in python, java or any of the many open source programming languages.
And this is good. Open source software has matured and provides equal or better features than many of its proprietary counterparts. Cloud computing has become the standard means by which software is delivered around the world. While many companies rely on third party data centers for “private cloud” computing, an increasing number are turning to public cloud providers like Microsoft to manage their email, word processing and file storage needs. Google and Amazon are similarly providing public cloud services for millions of users around the world?
Why is this? There are several reasons:
- Collaboration: Open source software is developed by many thousands of programmers around the world. Over 16,000 individuals have participated in the creation of Linux, which literally powers the Internet. Collaboration has become the key to developing great software
- Full Featured: Open source software has become mature and full featured. Take the Apache web server, for example. It is far more widely-used than Microsoft’s proprietary Internet Information Server as are several other open source Internet web server products.
- Cost Effective: This obvious point cannot be emphasized enough. Open source software is free to license. Updates are free as well. After a year of paying monthly subscription costs for proprietary software, you will find reasons to check out open source alternatives that will do the same job. Millions have moved to alternative email and office software with a goal of saving costs for equivalent software.
Cloud computing is step forward as well. My law firm used to keep servers in a closet back in the early nineties. Soon enough we realized that this was both dangerous and non-productive We couldn’t begin to provide the kind of security, redundancy and Internet connectivity we could find down the street in a colocation facility. So we put our servers in cabinets and later in cages, relying on the third party provider to watch over then.
Today the move is on for public cloud computing. Amazon, Microsoft and Google have build hundreds of high-security data centers around the world and are offering virtually unlimited computing power and storage for a fraction of the cost of maintaining it yourself. Indeed, most of the SaaS companies we deal with every day, e.g. Netflix, Facebook, e-discovery and legal hold, are renting servers from one of the big three. Are they secure? Of course, even the government stores data in these Fedramp, SOC, SCI and Hipaa certified facilities. And the software we run there is just as safe as if it were stored in a closet or another colocation facility.
This blog will chart the rise of open source software and secure cloud computing in the legal industry. At present this is a new phenomenon but things are starting to pop. We are seeing open source applications for legal starting to hit the scene. And the move to the public cloud is on. People are starting to realize the cost savings and increased savings already. And besides, who wants to manage servers, firewalls, storage devices and other computing stuff.
The mission of the Merlin Legal Open Source Foundation is to improve access to justice and make legal and regulatory compliance more efficient through the use of open source software. This blog is dedicated to furthering that mission. As we make our start, it feels like open source legal collaboration projects are starting to take off. We will report on new entrants, existing projects and any other efforts we think you will find interesting. We will also open our posts up to comments so we can hear what you think, good or bad. And, we will be featuring a number of commentators from all parts of the world. If you have something to say and want to contribute a blog post, just drop us a line.
All points of view are welcome, so long as they are polite and respectful. Challenges and new points of view are particularly welcome. Thanks for your support.