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2012: The year of the mobile lawyer?

Legal technology predictions for 2013

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Legal technology predictions for 2013."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Legal technology predictions for 2013

Each year, I take a stab at predicting the legal profession’s reaction and implementation of 21st century technologies. And this year is no different. I’m not always correct, but I often have a good sense of the pulse of the legal profession when it comes to its perception and adoption of technology into the practice of law.

So let’s start with mobile devices. Last year I predicted that lawyers’ use of tablets would increase dramatically and that iPads would be the tablet of choice. According to the American Bar Association’s Annual Legal Technology survey, my predictions were correct. The percentage of lawyers using tablets for law-related tasks in 2012 nearly doubled to 33 percent and 91 percent of those lawyers who use tablet devices preferred the iPad.

I believe that trend will continue in 2013, with the percentage of lawyers using tablets nearly tripling, with iPads leading the way. And, at least 15 percent of new iPads purchased will be iPad minis. Eventually, at least half of lawyers who choose to buy iPads will prefer the iPad mini, in large part because its lighter weight and smaller size make it more easily transportable in a handbag, briefcase or suit pocket.

Last year I also predicted that smartphone use would continue to increase in 2012, with iPhones in the lead, Androids coming in at a close second, and that BlackBerrys would quickly fall into disfavor.

Again, my predictions were borne out, with the ABA’s survey indicating that BlackBerry use declined significantly, dropping from 46 percent of smart phone users in 2011 to just 31 percent this year. Additionally, most lawyers who stopped using the BlackBerry switched to the iPhone, with iPhone use increasing from 31 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2012. My prediction regarding Android use was a bit off, with Android use increasing only 1 percentage point, from 15 to 16 percent.

I expect that these trends will continue in 2013, with BlackBerry use continuing to decline.  During that same time, Android use will increase by at least 10 percent, as will iPhone use.

Next up, social media. Last year I predicted that the percentage of lawyers using of social media would remain relatively stagnant, with some lawyers abandoning their accounts and others jumping into social media for the first time. The ABA survey’s results supported this, with the percentage of lawyers using Facebook increasing to 38 percent, which is only a 4 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. Similarly, the percentage of lawyers reporting that they had a LinkedIn presence was 96 percent, representing only a 1 percentage point increase from 2011.

Once again, I predict that social media use will largely plateau in 2013. The only wild card is Google Plus. Last year I predicted that lawyers’ use of this social network would begin to increase in late 2012 and it’s unclear to me whether that is actually happening. That being said, Google Plus appears to be gaining traction and it will be interesting to see how it develops in 2013 and whether it will be of any benefit to lawyers.

Finally, as I’d expected, cloud computing use by lawyers increased slowly in 2012, with 21 percent of respondents to the ABA’s survey indicating that they used cloud-based software — an increase of only 5 percent from last year. Similarly, the cloud computing backlash from ethics committees that I’d expected also occurred, with the issuance of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Ethics Opinion 12-03, which requires Massachusetts lawyers to obtain client consent prior to using cloud computing platforms to store confidential client information.

That being said, I also predicted last year that in mid-2013 cloud computing use in law firms will begin to show a marked increase and I stand by that prediction. The reason for the increase is simple: lawyers are becoming more familiar with cloud computing technology. Their concerns regarding security risks are slowly dissipating, while the many benefits offered by cloud computing — affordability, convenience, flexibility, secure client communications portals, and built-in back up and disaster plans — are beginning to outweigh any perceived security risks. As this shift in perception occurs, lawyers will increasingly take advantage of cloud computing services and the many benefits that they offer.

So, those are my legal technology predictions for 2013. Only time will tell if I’m right or if I’m wrong. But either way, it’ll be interesting to see what the next year brings.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is 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 and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at [email protected].