In law offices today, paper files have given way to paperless systems, slides and overhead projectors have been replaced by sophisticated trial presentation software and document cameras—and even phonebook ads are being supplanted by Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Through all of this change, solo practitioners have a distinct advantage. They are both their firm’s technology end-user and the primary decision maker. They have the flexibility and authority to choose what technology the firm will use—and when. It’s a freedom lawyers at larger firms no doubt envy.
But there is good news and bad news for solos in the 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Results show that while solos are leading the way in adopting newer technologies, they are falling behind in other areas.
For example, solos were more likely to use a non-Windows XP operating system than their peer group. And solo respondents reported using Mac OS on their primary computers at more than twice the rate of respondents as a whole—8 percent versus 3 percent respectively.
Likewise, approximately 11 percent of solo practitioners reported using Windows 7 versus just 8 percent of respondents overall.
Solos were also more likely to be in the cloud. When asked if they had ever used a Web-based software or service solution, 24 percent of solos responded affirmatively, compared to 20 percent overall.
Unfortunately, the differences in technology use between solo practitioners and other lawyers aren’t always to the solos’ benefit. In the 2010 survey, only 33 percent of solo practitioners reported that their firm budgets for technology, as opposed to 63 percent of respondents overall. More alarmingly, when asked if their firm had a backup strategy, 9 percent of solo practitioners responded negatively, versus just 3 percent of respondents overall.
One surprising difference between solo practitioners and lawyers in general is their use of smartphones. In the 2010 survey, 76 percent of all respondents reported using smartphones, while only 59 percent of solo practitioners reported using such devices.
And, in 2010, solos also hadn’t quite broken the paper habit. When asked how they save incoming e-mail related to a case or client matter, 59 percent reported printing out hard copies, versus just 49 percent of respondents overall.
For more about the ABA Legal Technology Survey, visit the the LTRC survey page.