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Law firms and technology post-COVID: The latest statistics

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Law firms and technology post-COVID: The latest statistics

It’s hard to believe that the pandemic has been with us for nearly 6 months now, and will likely be around for months - or even years - to come. While it’s hard to predict when the pandemic will end, one thing is for sure: COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our culture, from when and how we interact with others to how we conduct business. Many of those changes will undoubtedly be permanent.

The legal profession has not been immune from its impact. The pandemic has drastically altered the ways in which lawyers work. For example, lawyers have become increasingly reliant on remote working technologies to get the job done. Virtual meetings and court appearances have become the norm, lawyers are storing and accessing data in the cloud at rates never before seen, and many indicate that their firms are planning to invest in new software to ensure that employees can work remotely no matter what happens.

Of course, don’t take my word on it. Let’s take a look at cold, hard statistics to see what lawyers have to say about how COVID-19 has and will affect their firms. The statistics we’ll be looking at today are from the latest Legal Technology Survey conducted by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). While the survey has not yet been officially released, some results from this annual survey were shared on social media by attendees of a virtual session held during ILTA’s annual legal technology conference last month.

This year’s survey results were based on responses of attorneys from firms of all sizes. 31% were from firms with less than 50 lawyers, 37% were from firms with 50 - 149 lawyers, 18% were from firms with 150 - 349 lawyers, 8% were from firms with 350 - 699 lawyers, and 7% were from firms with more than 700 lawyers.

As reported by attendees, there were lots of interesting findings gleaned from the survey regarding how law firms are operating during the pandemic. For example, according to the survey results, more firms than ever are relying on cloud computing software to run their firms. 35% of survey respondents shared that their firms continued to move to the cloud with every software upgrade. Nearly 35% indicated that their firms were considering a move to the cloud, and more than 20% of firms were already mostly using cloud computing software. Only a little over 10% indicated that their firms were still uncomfortable with the idea of cloud-based software.

The survey results showed that the types of cloud-based software used by firms runs the gamut. The most popular was cloud-based email, with 50% of lawyers reporting that their firms used it. Other notable types of cloud computing software used by firms included: 1) document management (37%), 2) time and billing (23%), and 3) case and practice management (15%).

Another interesting set of statistics shared related to how the pandemic affected the future plans of law firms. Survey respondents were asked what their firms planned to continue to do differently once work-from-home mandates were lifted. 45% reported that their firms would continue to permit more work-from-home options, and 13% planned to provide more laptops to employees. Other notable responses that appeared to be driven by the need to ensure the ability to shift back to remote work if needed in the future included: 1) an emphasis of moving to paperless operations (9%), 2) increased usage of home offices (8%), 3) an investment in more mobile technologies (7%), 4) an increasing reliance on virtual meetings (7%), 5) the use of more online collaboration tools (4%), and 6) an increased investment in more cloud-based tools (3%).

In other words, the times they are a-changin’, with an emphasis on cloud-based tools that enable lawyers to work from anywhere. I’ve been encouraging lawyers to use cloud computing for more than a decade now, so all I have to say about this development is: It’s about time! While I wish it hadn’t required a pandemic to get us to this point, it’s nevertheless a step in the right direction. Change isn’t always easy, but I’m confident that this particular transition will benefit lawyers and their clients for many years to come.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.