What Are Firms Actually Using?

There are at least two aspects to legal technology.  The first and most obvious one is “What is the latest and greatest?”

While there is a certain group that gets very excited about legal technology, there are the managers and bean counters in firms who cringe when the ‘tech heads’ start talking; they only anticipate the costs and potential disruptions in workflow that could arise from introducing something new into the well-oiled and functioning office machine.  After all, change can be expensive and we are not talking about just the cost of the new stuff!

Accordingly, to satisfy both camps it is useful to have a guide – an overview of what is actually being used by law firms.  Fortunately the Legal Technology Resource Center of the American Bar Association does publish such a survey annually.  When contemplating a technology upgrade, it is a good idea to balance cost, utility and innovation.  Too little innovation can put a firm significantly behind the competition.  Too much innovation may find the partners and staff looking for life preservers.

The report is divided into 6 volumes:

The trend reports (containing a summary of each volume without the survey data) are $55.00 USD while the  Executive summary of the whole report is $300.00.

What did the 2012 report say?   Law Technology Today published 10 highlights of the Report.  Here is a bit of what they found:

  • iPhone moves into the lead. In terms of the “big three” smartphone platforms — BlackBerry, iPhone and Android — BlackBerry devices have consistently come out on top in our annual surveys. The iPhone has made gains in each year since its launch, though, and this year it finally broke through: Forty-nine percent of respondents overall reported using the iPhone versus 31% who used BlackBerry and 18% who used Android. The numbers looked quite different at the biggest firms (500-plus lawyers): Just 39% of those respondents reported using the iPhone versus 57% who used BlackBerry and 6% who used Android.
  • 3 percent is 3 percent too many. Three percent of respondents in 2012 reported that they don’t back up firm computers, while 27% didn’t know if their firm backed up. To put the danger of failing to back up into context, 15% of respondents reported that their firm has experienced a natural or manmade disaster, and 40% reported having experienced a hard-drive failure–both cases where a reliable backup could be essential.
  • Preferred tablet: iPad. Tablet use grew in 2012, with 33% of respondents overall reporting that they use a tablet for work outside of the office. Large-firm lawyers (100 to 499 lawyers) were the most likely to report using a tablet, at 40%, while solo practitioners were the least likely, at 24%. It might be more accurate, however, to replace the word “tablet” with “iPad”: 91% of respondents reported that their tablet device was powered by Apple’s iOS.
  • Landing a client in the Twitter era. According to our respondents, blogging was the most effective social media tool for client development in 2012. Of those who blogged, 39% reported retaining a client directly or via referral as a result. The number dropped to 17% for online communities/social-networking sites and 11% for Twitter.

For further details, see the Law Technology Today post.

For firms contemplating future technology decisions, obtaining copies of the trend reports or executive summary is a good way to do your due diligence on the acceptance of any proposed technology – and should help mediate the discussion between the tech heads and the bean counters in the firm!

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