YourABA September 2012 Masthead

Measuring up: Highlights from the 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report

Technology is the motor that keeps the modern law firm running. Applied carefully, technology can make a firm run more efficiently and effectively, allowing the talent and legal expertise of the firm’s lawyers to shine. In a competitive market, however, poorly implemented or missing technology can bring a firm to a standstill.

The challenge with technology is striking the right balance between cost, utility and innovation. Firms that invest in the latest and greatest are often disappointed by the return on their investment, while firms that prioritize cost above all else may find themselves lagging behind their competitors in more ways than one.

For more than 20 years, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center has collected data from lawyers in private practice to help provide practitioners with guidance on difficult technology issues. The 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report was recently published, and we’ve pulled out 10 interesting facts and figures for you to consider:

  • iPhone moves into the lead. In terms of the “big three” smartphone platforms — BlackBerry, iPhone and Android — BlackBerry devices have consistently come out on top in our annual surveys. The iPhone has made gains in each year since its launch, though, and this year it finally broke through: Forty-nine percent of respondents overall reported using the iPhone versus 31 percent who used BlackBerry and 18 percent who used Android. The numbers looked quite different at the biggest firms (500-plus lawyers): Just 39 percent of those respondents reported using the iPhone versus 57 percent who used BlackBerry and 6 percent who used Android. (Percentages don’t add up to 100 because the poll allowed for several responses.)

  • 3 percent is 3 percent too many. Three percent of respondents in 2012 reported that they don’t back up firm computers, while 27 percent didn’t know if their firm backed up. To put the danger of failing to back up into context, 15 percent of respondents reported that their firm has experienced a natural or manmade disaster, and 40 percent reported having experienced a hard-drive failure.

  • Preferred tablet: iPad. Tablet use grew in 2012, with 33 percent of respondents overall reporting that they use a tablet for work outside of the office. Large-firm lawyers (100 to 499 lawyers) were the most likely to report using a tablet, at 40 percent, while solo practitioners were the least likely, at 24 percent. It might be more accurate, however, to replace the word “tablet” with “iPad”: 91 percent of respondents reported that their tablet device was powered by Apple’s iOS.

  • Landing a client in the Twitter era. According to our respondents, blogging was the most effective social media tool for client development in 2012. Of those who blogged, 39 percent reported retaining a client directly or via referral as a result. The number dropped to 17 percent for online communities/social-networking sites and 11 percent for Twitter.

  • Budgets heading up? In 2012, 39 percent reported that their technology budget increased, 27 percent said it stayed the same, and 8 percent said it decreased. The remaining 26 percent didn’t know if their firm’s budget had changed. Compare that with 2011, when 34 percent said budgets increased, 28 percent said they stayed the same, 11 percent said they decreased, and 27 percent weren’t sure if there was a change.

  • Fee-based software generates more satisfactory results. In general, respondents in 2012 reported higher satisfaction with their research results when using fee-based online resources versus free resources. For example, when asked about depth of coverage, 13 percent were very satisfied with free resources, while 64 percent were very satisfied with fee-based resources.

  • The cloud has room to grow. Despite the hype, the adoption of cloud computing remains fairly low: Just 21 percent of respondents overall reported ever using the cloud. The No. 1 reason cited by those who have yet to use the cloud? Unfamiliarity with the technology (55 percent).

  • Litigation support focuses on fundamentals. Not surprisingly, the most useful features in litigation-support software, according to our respondents, are the most basic: full-text search (35 percent), document review (27 percent) and Bates stamping (22 percent). Least popular of the options offered? Conceptual grouping or clustering, at 5 percent.

  • Email security habits improving? While respondents continued to report that they rely on confidentiality statements for email security (75 percent overall), the number reporting that they use encryption jumped substantially, from 23 percent in 2011 to 33 percent in 2012.

  • Connecting to clients via secure portals. The 2012 results saw a growing number of respondents report that they offer clients access to a secure client portal: 25 percent versus 20 percent in 2011. Solo and small firm practitioners (two to nine lawyers) drove much of that growth, jumping from 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2011 to 11 percent for both groups in 2012.

Learn more about the 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

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