With added pressures on attorneys to stay connected and mobile, lawyers look increasingly to technology to keep data accessible (but secure).
In a changing digital landscape, more law firms and legal departments are looking to technology to address pains in the workflow, and among these changes underway is a push for a more mobile, cloud-based workspace.
The American Bar Association’s 2015 Tech Report found that 90 percent of lawyers are connected to work at all times via a smartphone, with 79 percent regularly using a laptop for mobile computer access and 49 percent using a tablet for the same. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed reported using email as their primary activity for all their mobile use.
Legaltech News’ more recent technology survey, released in late October, found that the most popular reasoning for mobile device flexibility for attorneys were increased productivity, at 38 percent, and increased flexibility, at 27 percent.
Additionally, cloud computing across law firms jumped up to 75 percent adoption this year, according to Legaltech News’ survey, up from only 51 percent who said the same in 2015.
Human resources technology stands at the top of firms’ cloud computing investments, with 65 percent of those using cloud-based technology accessing tools like time keeping and project management through cloud-hosted systems. Rodney Harrison, shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, told Legaltech News that he finds himself accessing these types of features through his tablet device rather than his designated work computer.
For more extended tasks, Harrison said he can easily bring his laptop along and log into the firm’ mobile link through SonicWall when working remotely.
“It’s pretty much like I’m in my office,” Harrison said. “It’s no different than if I have my laptop plugged into my docking station.”
Remote access software like Citrix and SonicWall allows users to access their desktop environments securely from a mobile device. While these mobile office providers have taken steps in recent yearsto make their desktop access services available on tablet and mobile devices, most lawyers still prefer to access work product on their laptop or desktop computers (though hybrid devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro is starting to show some growth in this area).
Ryan McEnroe, director of IT operations at Reed Smith, told Legaltech News that in monitoring the firm’s Citrix environment, he finds that some attorneys do tap into their desktop environments on the small screen as needed.
“We do have some users and lawyers who will, as crazy as it may seem, will use the Citrix [software] on a device as small as an iPhone,” McEnroe said.
For the most part, however, McEnroe noted that Reed Smith’s attorneys prefer a larger interface for mobile work. “Those [attorneys] are few and far between,” he acknowledged. “Those are more to do what I would say are non-complex things,” McEnroe said, tasks like reviewing email attachments or quickly scanning documents.
While the “lawyer on the go” is starting to become a norm in the legal industry, the ideal of a “virtual law practice,” a purely mobile-based legal services operation, is still largely a pipe dream in the current landscape. The ABA’s 2015 Tech Report found that only 5 percent of attorneys would describe their work as a “virtual law practice,” as defined primarily through a lack of traditional office space or client contact.