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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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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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