ROCHESTER, NY – Of all the technology trends, lawyers have adapted to mobile devices the most readily. Smartphone use has been on the rise for years now, tablets are increasingly being incorporated by lawyers and judges into their workflows, and wearable technology, such as smartwatches, will no doubt make inroads in the legal profession as well.
The results of two recent surveys confirm that lawyers continue to adopt mobile technologies into their practices, but the numbers stabilized somewhat in 2014. In other words, the meteoric rise of the use of smartphones and tablets has leveled off somewhat in the legal profession, just as it has outside of it as well.
First, according the the American Bar Association’s 2014 Legal Technology Survey, the percentage of lawyers who reported using a smartphone in their practices remained the same as last year at 91 percent. According to the survey results, lawyers in large firms were the most likely to use a smartphone and solos were the least likely: 96 percent of lawyers in firms with 100 or more lawyers reported using a smartphone, as did 95 percent of lawyers in firms with 10-20 lawyers, 89 percent in forms with 2-9 lawyers and 86 percent of solo attorneys.
Another interesting finding is that 66 percent of the lawyers who use smartphones prefer the iPhone. Of the remainder, 24 percent use an Android device, and the rest use either a BlackBerry, Windows phone or other device. Of those devices, 74 percent were owned by the attorneys and only 28 percent were purchased by their firm.
Lawyers report using their smartphones for a variety of uses, with more than half using their devices to access the Internet, email, telephone, calendars, contacts and to send texts; 7 percent track expenses on their smartphones; and 4 percent even use their smartphones to create documents.
Tablet use by lawyers increased ever so slightly, up one percent to 49 percent in 2014. The number of iPads used by lawyers declined slightly in 2014, down from 91 percent in 2013 to 84 percent in 2014. The rest of the responding attorneys use Android tablets (10 percent), Windows tablets (6 percent), or another device (3 percent). More than 50 percent of lawyers report using their tablets to access the Internet, their calendars and contacts, 17 percent report using their tablets to create documents, and 10 percent use them to track expenses.
Many of these numbers comport with the findings of the 2014 ILTA and Inside Legal Annual Technology Purchasing Survey, which is sent out to 1,400 ILTA member law firms, with 20 percent of the firms responding. 35 percent of responding firms indicated that they do not buy smartphones for their lawyers. Of those that do, iPhones are purchased by 63 percent, 39 percent buy Android, 28 percent buy BlackBerry, and 9 percent purchase Windows devices. Interestingly, according to the survey results from two years ago, 50 percent of firms refused to purchase iPhones and now nearly all do — a statistic that is most definitely a sign of the times!
When it comes to tablets, 48 percent of responding firms indicated that they purchased them for their attorneys. Of those firms that purchased tablets, iPads lead the way at 44 percent. Microsoft Surface followed at 17 percent, Android was next at 10 percent, Windows 8 tablet at 6 percent, Kindle Fire at 2 percent, and BlackBerry Playbook at 1 percent. The remaining 52 percent of firms had either no support for tablet purchases or a BYOD policy in place.
Finally, when respondents were asked about the most exciting technologies or trends, the Internet of things, which includes artificial intelligence and wearables, came in as one of the top responses.
So keep your eye out for the wearables this year, which are the next iteration of mobile technology. Given how lawyers quickly have embraced smartphones and other mobile tools, I have no doubt that wearables will be next!
So, when many of you read my report next year on the 2015 legal technology surveys, I bet quite a few of you will be wearing smartwatches and law firms will have already begun the process of supporting these devices. So stay tuned for the next exciting phase of mobile technology!
Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book “Cloud Computing for Lawyers,” coauthors the ABA book “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier,” and co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.