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IBA: Double-digit growth for lawyers' use of Web 2.0 technologies, among ABA findings

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Lawyers’ use of smart phones and social networking technologies grew by double-digit percentages last year, indicating lawyers’ increasing “24/7” connectivity to their offices and clients, according to the recently released 2010 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, an annual survey of technology use within the legal profession.

The most comprehensive resource of its kind, the 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report provides more than 500 pages of detailed statistics and trend analysis on adoption of legal technology. From January through May, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center surveyed nearly 5,000 ABA lawyer members in private practice on their use of technology. Topics run the gamut from technology budgets and purchasing habits to the use of smart phones in the courtroom. The findings of the survey are released serially in six volumes: Technology Basics, Law Office Technology, Litigation and Courtroom Technology, Web and Communication Technology, Online Research, and Mobile Lawyers.

The survey concentrates on issues relating to technology use, not product use. The survey reports are segmented by technology rather than firm size, and rely on the number of lawyers in a firm as an additional metric on almost all questions.

Among other results:

When asked whether they maintain a presence in an online community or social network, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, LawLink or Legal OnRamp, 56 percent of respondents answered affirmatively, compared with 43 percent in the 2009 survey and 15 percent in the 2008 survey.

Far from being a time-waster, early efforts at social networking are yielding some fruit. Ten percent of respondents report having had a client retain their legal services as a result of using online communities or social networks.

Usage of the newly released Windows 7 (9 percent) has already surpassed that of Vista (8 percent) as the second most frequently reported operating system on respondents’ primary computers. Windows XP is respondents’ top operating system.

More than three-fourths (76 percent) of respondents personally use smart phones, up from 64 percent in the 2009 survey. The brands most often cited by survey respondents were BlackBerry/RIM (66 percent), followed by the iPhone (20 percent) and Palm (9 percent).

The percentage of respondents using smart phones in the courtroom has increased in the 2010 survey to 71 percent, from 60 percent in the 2009 survey. While in the courtroom, 64 percent of respondents use their smart phones to check for new e-mail (52 percent in the 2009 survey), 60 percent send e-mail (compared with 49 percent in the 2009 survey), and 46 percent perform calendaring functions (compared with 39 percent in 2009).

While 80% of respondents conduct legal research in their personal office, more than one-third (35 percent) of respondents report regularly conducting legal research at home (compared with 24 percent in the 2008 survey), and 12 percent at a firm library (compared with 17 percent in the 2008 survey).

When asked whether they have a virtual law office/virtual law practice (do not typically meet with clients in person, but instead primarily interact with clients using Internet-based software and other electronic communications software), 14 percent of respondents responded affirmatively. Of counsel and solo respondents were most likely to report having a virtual law office/virtual law practice (27 percent and 19 percent respectively).•

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  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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