ABA: Lawyers Tech-Friendly, If Not Tech-Savvy

October 1, 2014

Legal TechnologyEarly on in its run, the CBS legal drama “The Good Wife” established that its main character, a lawyer who took a hiatus to be a wife and mother, had been out of the game for awhile by having her struggle to find a case on a desktop computer while a younger associate quickly brought it up on his smartphone.

Judging by the 2014 American Bar Association Technology Report, that scenario is a little far-fetched, but not altogether outlandish.

To summarize the report’s findings, attorneys have embraced smartphones, tablets and the idea that productivity does not need to happen behind a desk, but use their devices for maintaining client contact and administrative/managerial tasks rather than substantive legal work.

According to the survey:

  • Ninety-one percent of attorneys use a smartphone, exactly the same percentage as those who did in 2013. In 2012 and 2011, 89 percent of attorneys reported using a smartphone. Interestingly enough, in 2014, 74 percent of attorneys reported that they use their own smartphone, rather than one provided by the law firm.
    • While we are on the topic, the smartphone of choice is an iPhone. Sixty-six percent of attorneys who have a smartphone have one. About a quarter of attorneys who use smartphones have Android phones, and the remaining 10 percent or so use a BlackBerry or Windows phone.
    • The most common use to which attorneys put their smartphones is to access the Internet, email and contacts. Seven percent said they use their smartphones to track expenses, and four percent even said they use them to generate documents.
    • Forty-nine percent of attorneys report using a tablet, like an iPad.
    • LinkedIn is the most popular professional app among smartphone-toting lawyers, with 68 percent of them saying they use it. Dropbox, Evernote and Documents To Go come in second and third, respectively. You will notice that more substantive apps, such as legal research platforms, do not crack the top three.

Most legal industry observers who have commented on these results noted that with respect to most questions, the needle did not move much between 2013 and 2014. That indicates adoption of mobile technology has leveled off. That might change as wearable technologies become more commonplace and as legal software takes more and more tasks off attorneys’ plates.