Lawyers seek more tech training, ABA survey finds

January 10, 2017

computers-workplace-no-credit-istockLawyers at firms of all sizes want live training classes on technology, but this kind of instruction is often scarce at smaller law firms, according to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

The American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center recently published its findings based on about 800 completed survey responses from members in private practice and reported on trends in hardware, software, mobile, e-discovery, social media and online research.

The 700-page survey report is broken down into six volumes. The full report is offered as a PDF download through the ABA’s website for between $1,600 and $2,000. As one of the sponsors, Thomson Reuters received a complete survey for free.

The volumes focus on technology basics and security, law office hardware and software, litigation technology and e-discovery, web and communication technology, online research, and attorneys’ use of electronic devices for law-related tasks or legal subject matter.

Large firm vs. small firm resources

The survey categorized responses by firm size. The categories are solo attorneys, firms with two to nine attorneys, 10 to 49 attorneys, 50 to 99 attorneys, 100 to 499 attorneys, and 500 or more attorneys.

One of the key takeaways from the full report was the discrepancy in resources for technology purchases and training among firms of different sizes.

When it came to training and blogging, attorneys at larger law firms generally had more resources and support and could potentially delegate more tasks to other staff.

Budgeting and training

Based on 765 responses, most firms — about 53 percent —budgeted for technology, according to the technology basics and security report.

However, when the responses were categorized by firm size, the percentages varied from 37 percent of solos to about 80 percent of firms with 500 or more attorneys.

This may be because larger firms were more likely to delegate technology purchases and budgeting to a committee or board of directors while smaller firms only had one person — usually a managing partner — making these decisions.

Similarly, large firms were more likely to have technology training opportunities available, including web-based or live classes taught by vendors, manufacturers or in-house staff, the report said.

The most effective technology training tended to be the live classes, no matter who taught them, the report added.

However, 41 percent of all respondents indicated that training on courtroom technologies, such as transcription tools and evidence presentation units, was not available to them, according to the survey.

Information security

In addition to training, large firms tended to have more information security systems in place, the technology basics and security survey found.

While almost all the respondents used spam filters, anti-spyware and firewalls, only firms with more than 10 attorneys tended to have employee monitoring and file access restrictions, according to the report.

For solos and firms with fewer than nine attorneys, most respondents — 97 percent and 82 percent, for each respective category — said clients have never asked them to complete a security questionnaire, according to the survey.

This percentage decreases for the larger firms, ranging from 20 to 50 percent of respondents, the report said.

In the same survey, attorneys at firms of all sizes said their organization had never encountered a security breach or received any security certifications affirming they meet certain industry standards.

Online presence

The discrepancy at firms of different sizes seemed to hold true as well when it came to an organization’s virtual presence, including web content and other online services.

For example, most large law firms used their marketing staff to create content for their websites, the report on web and communication technology said.

Smaller firms tended to rely on attorneys to create the content or hire an outside consultant or provider, according to the report.

Firms with more than 50 attorneys were also more likely to offer clients access to a secure portal to interact or transact business online, usually using SharePoint as the platform, the report said.

About 10 percent of solo attorneys offered this service. For firms with two to nine attorneys, the number was 15 percent. For firms with 10 to 50 attorneys, about 12 percent offered this service, according to the report.

There was also a discrepancy at small and large firms when it came to blogging.

Only 12 percent of solos responded that they had blogs for their businesses, while 60 percent of respondents at firms of 500 attorneys or more said their organization published blogs, the report said.

Notably, 42.4 percent of all respondents said they had a client retain their legal services directly or via referral as a result of a blog.

Social networking

As to social networking, based on the total responses, most firms of all sizes had a presence on LinkedIn.

About 70 percent of all respondents also had a personal presence on LinkedIn for professional purposes, the web and communication report said.

Only about 25 percent of all respondents used Facebook for professional purposes, and about 15 percent personally maintained or used Martindale as a social network for such purposes, the report said.

Social networking sites usually did not lead to clients or referrals, according to the survey results.