The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and InsideLegal recently released the findings of the 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey focused on feedback from ILTA member law firms with 50 or more attorneys. The 33 question web-based survey was distributed to approximately 684 law firms, ranging from 50 to 3,000 attorneys, and yielded 118 unique firm responses. The survey, in its eighth year, provides detailed legal technology budget questions; updated information on firms’ social media preferences; an in-depth analysis of cloud computing; and sections on technology outsourcing and favorite legal applications.
Although the survey is frequently referenced by legal technologists and IT, it is increasingly of interest to law firm administrators and attorneys with firms of all sizes. Technology budgeting and procurement are vital administrative and increasingly strategic tasks. In fact, according to 2011 survey findings, 82 percent of technology purchase requests come directly from firm attorneys, an impressive percentage undoubtedly accelerated by the popularity of iPads and other general consumer tech devices and gadgets. Of course, in a small firm and solo environment, this number is most likely even higher.
As with any piece of market research or survey, results need to be taken in context. Although findings might be used to aid in setting strategy and new directions, they should not serve as the be all and end all. With that said, though the results of the 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey are admittedly medium to large firm-biased, there are several findings and observations that should equally enlighten solos and small firm practitioners.
Fifty-seven percent of surveyed firms spend between two and four percent of total firm revenue on technology. Forty-six percent spend $8K–$17K per attorney on technology purchases. How do you measure up in terms of percentages and allocations? Do you have a separate technology budget or tech line items earmarked in your budget?
Purchasing and Tech Trends
The top five technology implementations within the last 12 months included desktop hardware, laptops/notebooks, network/server upgrades, storage area networks, and virtualization. When is the last time you upgraded your hardware and office equipment? Beyond meat and potatoes tech buys, 34 percent of survey respondents are planning to upgrade Microsoft Office within the next 12 months while 26 percent indicated planning disaster recovery-related systems. What version of Office are you running, and, speaking of disaster recovery, do you have an actionable plan (and the technology to support it) in place?
- Tablet mania: 25 percent of surveyed firms are planning to purchase tablets (i.e., iPads) within the next 12 months. Fifty-five percent provide IT support for employees that purchase and use their personal tablet devices. Would you do the same in your firm?
- The Internet is alive and well. It may come as a surprise that internet research was cited as the second most popular influence in terms of helping legal IT make purchasing decisions. This is also true of potential law firm clients so take time sooner than later to update your website and its content.
Thirty-three percent of survey respondents are implementing a cloud strategy, a 24 percent increase from when the question was first added in 2009. If large firms are making strong moves toward the cloud, what is holding back solos? Take a look at Google Apps, Dropbox, or even Salesforce.com for popular cloud apps. The top three cloud applications/services firms are looking to utilize are disaster recovery/business continuity, storage/backup and email while respondents look to benefit from cloud-specific scalability, reduced hardware costs, and more storage capacity. Security is by far the biggest concern regarding cloud computing, followed by data confidentiality and accessibility.
Third-Party Consultants and Subject-Matter Experts
Fourty-four percent of survey respondents use outside technology consultants, primarily to assist with implementations, making hardware/software selections, strategic planning and internal process review. The bottom-line decision you need to make when deciding to outsource anything should be based on core competence. Is there anyone out there who can do what you need to have done better than you? Attorneys should be lawyering, not setting up the firm network. Of course, there are exceptions, but you get the idea.
Ninety percent indicated using LinkedIn for professional purposes followed by Twitter (19%) and Facebook (17%). Of the 52 pecent who indicated using Twitter (actively or passively, privately or professionally), 27 percent have an account but don’t actively use it. Only four percent mentioned tweeting frequently. We know for a fact that on the social media front, smaller firms and solos have the leg up on the big boys, proving that bigger is not always better. Social media lawyers are turning to the likes of twitter to not only share their domain expertise but also connect with potential clients and partners virtually with the intention of then converting online relationships into ‘real’ face-to-face encounters.