Survey shows how lawyers use technology in 2017
Technology has become part of the fabric of our lives. Its effects are inescapable and its impact on our culture has been tremendous. In the business world, technology has helped to streamline processes and improve efficiencies. Although most lawyers weren’t first in line when it came to using technology in their practices, over time the benefits of doing so became clear. That’s why today’s lawyers are increasingly incorporating the latest tools and software into their law firms.
As shown in a survey recently conducted by Above the Law in partnership with MyCase (the company for which I work) lawyers’ technology needs and decisions vary depending on a number of factors, including firm size. The goal of the survey was to determine how lawyers would use technology in the upcoming year. The focus was on learning more about the goals and challenges lawyers faced in running their practices and the types of technologies they planned to incorporate into their firms in 2017 to solve those problems.
As part of the survey, lawyers were asked: 1) What will you do in 2017 to modernize your law firm? and 2) What is the biggest challenge at your law firm?
Nearly 650 lawyers responded to the survey from firms of all sizes. The largest number of respondents (52%) were from firms of 20 or more lawyers, followed by solo lawyers (18%), firms with 2-5 lawyers (13%), firms with 5-10 lawyers (11%), and mid-sized firms with 10-20 lawyers (6%).
When lawyers were asked about the steps they would take in 2017 to modernize their firms, the most popular response was that they planned to move towards a paperless law office (21%). Other responses included revamping the firm’s website (18%), investing in legal practice management software (10%), moving to the cloud (8%), and accepting online payments from legal clients (3%).
Solo and small firm lawyers were the most likely to take steps to accept online payments in 2017(10%), while larger firm lawyers prioritized revamping their firm’s website (44%). Another area of focus for solo and small firm lawyers was investing in law practice management software, with 32% reporting that was a priority in the coming year.
The responses to the challenges faced by lawyers were particularly enlightening. By far, the biggest hurdles lawyers encounter are managing their workload (19%) and bringing in new business (16%). In some ways, these replies were counterintuitive, but the responses to these pressures clearly varied by firm size, with 26% of solos reporting difficulties obtaining clients, compared to only 13% of large firm lawyers. In comparison, 21% of large firm lawyers reported issues managing their workload, while only 14% of solos did. So it’s readily apparent that large firm lawyers and solos encounter very different challenges in their day-to-day practices.
Other common issues that lawyers reported facing in their practices included communicating with clients (8%), tracking time and billing (7%), managing case files (7%), choosing the right technology (6%), and getting paid (4%). Interestingly, getting paid was the most difficult for solo attorneys, with 8% reporting this was a hurdle they faced. Mid-sized firms with 10-20 lawyers were next at 5%, followed by firms with 5-10 lawyers at 4%. Large and small firms reported less of an issue with collecting payment, with large firms at 3% and small firms with 2-5 lawyers at 2%.
How do your plans for 2017 compare? There’s no reason to run your law firm as if it were still 1995. Technology has revolutionized the way that business is being conducted. Smart lawyers understand the realities of practicing law in the 21st century and the benefits of taking advantage of the latest tools and software. By doing so, you’re able to run your law practice more efficiently, allowing you to be a more effective lawyer. So what are you waiting for? What steps will you take in 2017 to modernize your law firm?
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at email@example.com