ABA Report Spotlights Lawyers' Use of Technology

Technology is speeding past many people but ABA members are keeping up the pace. At a recent ABA Technology Council meeting in conjunction with TECHSHOW '97, Section liaisons and staff internet coordinators learned just how fast the use of technology is growing within the ABA's membership. The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) recently published a report entitled Law Firms & Technology_ A Snapshot of a Moving Target. The following information comes from that report. Hardware in Law Firms
  • In law firms, 83.2% of lawyers in large (100+) firms and 89.7% of lawyers in small (10 or less) firms use computers.
  • Large firms tend to have 16-32 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM); small firms are more likely to have only 8-12 megabytes.
  • Large firms usually have one or more gigabytes of memory on their hard drives; small firms have 250 megabytes to one gigabyte.
  • Law firms use modems for communication, with large firms having servers and small firms using 14.4 or 28.8 speed modems. Overall, when it comes to hardware, the more the better, according to the report. Trends toward ad-vanced operating systems, pro- cessor speed, increased RAM, hard disk space and communications speed are apparent in both large and small firms.

    Software Trends

    Both large and small firms rely on software primarily dedicated to the following areas: word processing, accounting, time and billing and legal research. WordPerfect for Windows and WordPerfect for DOS are the two most popular word processing software programs for both large and small firms. Microsoft Word for Windows is the third most popular program.
  • When buying software, large firms are willing to spend up to $499, whereas small firms are more apt to limit the expense to $199 or less.
  • Overall, firms are spending more and focusing on improving areas that are already automated. They are updating older versions of software with Windows programming and purchasing more software related to the Internet.

    Lawyers on the Net

    The primary activity of lawyers while on the Internet is legal research, followed by non-legal research, for both large and small firms. When using the Internet to research, lawyers access governmental information, state and federal case law, state and federal statutes and regulations and court records.
  • Among large firms, 98% have Internet access, while 68% of small firms have access to the Internet.
  • Individuals within large firms tend to have e-mail access (65%) but may not have full Internet access (45%). Individuals within small firms tend to have full Internet access (45%) as well as e-mail access, with 20% of individual in small firms having only e-mail.
  • Large firms tend to communicate with clients via e-mail more than small firms, but this is a growing area for all firms.


    Marketing on the web is an affordable and productive way for law firms to get their names out to the public. Firm information on home pages includes firm profile, firm location, links to external sites, lawyer resumes, articles and internal links.
  • Large firms lead in the area of marketing with just over half (51%) having home pages on the Internet. Only 6% of small firms have home pages, most likely because of more limited resources and time. When asked about plans for the future, most large and small firms said they intend to be on the World Wide Web within the next year.
  • Overall, there is a shift in online activities from research to marketing. Lawyers are not ready to give up printed materials, but they are ready to embrace the Internet as a marketing tool. Technology is becoming increasingly important in law practice. To learn more about the LTRC study and software designed for lawyers, contact the ABA Technology Clearinghouse at (312) 988-5465. And don't forget to surf the RPPT site at http:// www.abanet.org/rppt/home.html.


Probate & Property Magazine is published six times annually and is included in section members' annual dues.