Reap the benefits of taking the first steps and educating yourself about the tech tools to make you a more effective family lawyer.
By Nicole Black, Lawyer
Over the last 7 years, technology–mobile and cloud computing in particular–has transformed our personal and professional lives. The rate of change has been mind-boggling and unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and yet most lawyers continue to practice law as if it were 1912 rather than 2012.
For some perspective, consider this timeline:
- February 2004–Facebook launched as student-only site
- April 2005–Gmail launched in private beta
- June 2006–Google Spreadsheets, Google’s first non-email cloud product, launched
- July 2006–Twitter launched
- August 2006–Amazon EC2 cloud product released in private beta
- September 2006–Facebook opens to the public; users increase from 12 million in 12/06 to 50 mil. in 10/07
- June 2007–iPhone released in US
- November 2007–Kindle released in US
- July 2008–Apple launches the App Store
- April 2010–iPad released in US
Now, cloud computing is ubiquitous and just 7 years after Facebook and Twitter were launched and 6 years after the first iPhone was released, social media and mobile devices are commonplace. More than 40 million iPads have been sold since the iPad’s launch 2 years ago. Mobile apps, a concept that didn’t even exist until 4 years ago, brought in more than $8.5 billion last year. And, although the first Kindle wasn’t released until the end of 2007, Amazon’s eBook earnings were $13.18 million during the first quarter of 2012, and at least 15% of Simon and Schuster’s revenue now comes from eBooks.
Like it or not, the times they are a changin’–and they’re changing faster than ever. Mobile and cloud computing are becoming the norm and as a result, are infiltrating every aspect of our culture.
The legal field is not immune. The results of the 2012 ABA Legal Tech Survey illustrate how these changes are indeed having an effect on the legal profession. According to the survey, 89 percent of lawyers used smart phones and the number of lawyers using tablets nearly doubled.15 percent reported using tablet use for law-related tasks in 2011, with that number increasing to 33 percent in 2012. Likewise, cloud computing use by law firms also continued to rise, especially among solos and small firms, with 29 percent of solos and small firms reporting that they used cloud computing, and small firms of two to nine lawyers coming in close behind at 26 percent.
There’s no doubt about it–it’s a digital and mobile world and lawyers can no longer ignore the vast societal changes that are occurring. So, while some lawyers remain firmly entrenched in a 20th century mindset and refuse to acknowledge that the rest of the world is operating in the 21st century, smart lawyers are acknowledging these structural alterations and are figuring out how to practice law, and profit, in the midst of this massive change.
How are these lawyers moving their law firms into the 21st century? They’re learning about the effects of emerging technologies on our culture, including cloud computing, social media, and mobile computing. They’re figuring out how to ethically and effectively use these tools in their law practices. They’re educating themselves about new ways to deliver legal services and increasing efficiency by automating aspects of their law practices. They are effectively using smart phones and tablets in their law firms and taking advantage of the flexibility and affordability of mobile and cloud computing.
Some forward-thinking lawyers are even adding client portals to their brick and mortar law practice. Clients log-in at the outset of their case and use the portal for a wide range of activities including communicating with their attorney, accessing and collaborating on documents, and obtaining information about the status of their case, such as the next court date. These portals offer their clients convenient, 24/7 access to information about their cases. By providing this service, these innovative lawyers are being responsive to their clients’ needs and empowering them by giving them choices.
If you’re interested in joining them and moving your practice forward, it’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s simply a matter of learning as much as you can about new technologies and processes and selectively implementing them into your law firm. You can do it, and these resources can help:
The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (Richard Susskind, Oxford University Press, 2009)
Avoid Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century (Mitchell Kowalski, ABA 2012)
Solo by Choice: How to be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be (Carolyn Elefant, Lawyer Avenue, 2011)
LImited Scope Legal Services: Unbundling and the Self-Help Client (Stephanie Kimbro, ABA 2012)
Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online (Stephanie Kimbro, ABA 2010)
Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier (Carolyn Elefant & Nicole Black, ABA 2010)
Cloud Computing for Lawyers (Nicole Black, ABA 2012)
iPad in One Hour for Lawyers (Tom Mighell, ABA 2011)
LinkedIn For Lawyers (Allison Shields & Dennis Kennedy, ABA 2012)
So go ahead. Take the first step by educating yourself about the changing legal landscape, and then reap the benefits of your newfound knowledge. Good luck!
Nicole Black is Director of Business Development at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, coauthored the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, and co-authored “Criminal Law in New York,” a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology.