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From iPhones to networks, law firm spending on systems ticks up

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

If your firm hasn’t bought you a new smartphone, provided better remote access options, or replaced an aging monitor lately, you might nudge the purchasing department.

Among large law firms, 52 percent spent more on technology last year, compared with 50 percent in 2011, according to an annual survey released by the International Legal Technology Association in August.

il-technology05-15col.jpg Hall Render attorney Kendra Conover displays her company-issued iPhone. The firm bought iPhones for all 185 of its lawyers about a year ago.(IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The numbers represent a slow but steady recovery after a slump in tech spending that began after the economic downturn in 2008. Firms are investing most in hardware and desktop upgrades; laptops; notebooks; wireless devices; and network, server and storage upgrades.

At Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman P.C., an Indianapolis firm that took part in the survey, the biggest recent technology investment went right into the hands of 185 attorneys.

“About a year ago we distributed iPhones to everyone,” said Jeff Short, a Hall Render shareholder and chair of the firm’s IT committee. “We were due for an upgrade.”

Hall Render’s big purchase replaced a former network of BlackBerry devices after Short said the firm reviewed wireless solutions, a process it does every couple of years.

The switch reflects a trend that’s been expedited in recent years. The once-venerable BlackBerry is now virtually even in market share with the Apple iPhone among large-firm attorneys, according to the survey.

“People love them, and it’s an almost weekly occurrence, someone calling me up and telling me about some new app they found that helps them,” Short said.

At Benesch, the focus on tech spending has shifted toward mobile devices, said Jeff Kosc, partner in charge of the technology group for the Indianapolis office that employs 29 attorneys.

“We still have the standard-issue laptops, and we offer full support for mobile devices,” Kosc said. The firm takes a different approach on smartphones, though. Attorneys get allowances to choose the kind of mobile device that meets their preference and to pay for data plans and maintenance. Most prefer iPhones, Kosc said.

Benesch also is considering providing an allowance for tablet support and has given its staff remote desktop access from any number of platforms, Kosc explained. “The force behind it is really making sure we can empower folks to get work done as easily and efficiently as possible. That’s the goal.”

Hall Render, which focuses its practice on health law, had explored iPhones previously and had the infrastructure in place to support them, Short said. There had been concerns about security that were resolved in subsequent Apple operating systems.

“It’s been great as a firm to give everyone that freedom that you can still attend to what you need to do because you’re away from your desk,” Hall Render shareholder Regan Tankersley said.

“I don’t so much use the iPhone for productivity,” she said. “I and a lot of people in the firm are also using iPads, and everything works so well together.” She’s found apps useful for annotating digital documents, for instance.

“The iPhone for work has been great for purposes of keeping in touch and email,” she said. “I think everybody’s come to an understanding now that they’re going to be reachable by email all the time.”

That might be the prevailing view, but there still are places where such accessibility is patently rejected – the patent law firm Woodard Emhardt Moriarty McNett & Henry LLP among them.

Given the firm’s practice niche, few time-sensitive matters come through the doors, said senior associate Bill McKenna. “Most of our work is handled on defined windows – 30 days, 60 days, 90 days – and it’s a little more amenable to planning ahead. … We don’t have urgent general rush business.”

“We have quite a few attorneys who by choice don’t receive email on their phones,” McKenna said. “Certainly some of our more senior partners fit that category. Some literally believe email causes more harm than good. Some choose to have email accessible on the phone but not automatically forwarded.”

Nevertheless, McKenna said the overwhelming majority of the firm’s 30 or so attorneys carry iPhones they purchased for themselves. The firm supports any and all mobile devices its attorneys might use, he said, including tablets.

And while Woodard is a smaller firm compared with those surveyed, its tech support reflects trends among bigger firms. In 2012, 74 percent of firms in the ILTA survey reported their IT departments support their attorneys’ tablet use regardless of who purchases the device.

While tech budgets increasingly embrace smartphones and tablets, firms last year also recommitted to hardware in the office. A whopping 75 percent of firms surveyed reported spending on desktop hardware in 2012, an increase from the 59 percent of firms that did so a year earlier.

Woodard also reflected that trend. “In the last three years, everyone at the firm has gotten at least a 24-inch monitor,” McKenna said, including his own 30-inch monitor. It sits between two vertically oriented monitors he uses for work and for legal research.

McKenna said he strives for a paperless office, and files from his desktop computer are updated daily and synched to his iPad and iPhone.

Such a commitment to letting attorneys work anywhere is one that Harrison & Moberly LLP also takes seriously. Partner A. Barclay Wong chaired the firm’s IT committee a couple of years back when the decision was made to install VMware, giving the full-service firm’s 26 lawyers a virtual computing model.

The system allows attorneys to sign in from their home computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone, Wong said. Once logged in, an attorney has his office computer desktop at his fingertips.

Wong said such arrangements were more common for other businesses, but law firms were slower to adopt. Security was a chief concern. “We have access to internal document servers, so we can access internal documents everywhere.

“I think we were kind of on the forefront of this movement,” he said. “It’s really helped us have people be able to be more productive remotely.”

The investment up front also has meant that Harrison & Moberly hasn’t had to allocate as much for technology purchases in the years since, Wong said. It’s meant less wear on office machines, for example.

“We used to be on a three- to four-year machine rotation where everyone would get a new computer,” he said. “Now we basically use them till they break.”

Among other findings, the ILTA survey also revealed:

• 63 percent of firms responding reported 2 to 4 percent of firm revenue is invested in technology.

• 32 percent of firms indicated they are using or implementing a cloud solution, but security, reliability, performance, cost and speed are concerns.

• 35 percent of firms have a tablet security policy.•
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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