2012: The year of the mobile lawyer?

In November 2012 the American Lawyer released its annual technology survey results. The Am Law Tech Survey 2012 compiled the responses of 83 Am Law 200 CIOs and technology chiefs regarding their law firms’ use of technology over the past year. The end result was clear — large law firms were no more capable of resisting the tidal wave of consumer-driven demand for cloud and mobile computing than any other industry.

For example, the most interesting trend from this year’s results was that law firms were giving in to the inevitable, shifting away from typical enterprise-friendly devices and toward those more suited for consumers, especially when it came to mobile devices.

When it comes to smartphones, BlackBerry, once the preferred mobile device for lawyers, fell out of favor dropping from 46 percent of smart phone users in 2011 to just 31 percent this year. Meanwhile, the number of lawyers using iPhones went up in 2012, with that number increasing from 31 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2012. The number of lawyers using Android phones was the smallest, with Android use increasing only 1 percentage point in 2012, from 15 to 16 percent.

Tablet use was also on the rise in 2012. The iPad was released in the United States less than three years ago in April 2010. Since that time, lawyers have quickly acclimated to tablet use and the number of lawyers using tablets has risen dramatically every year. For example, according to the ABA’s survey, in 2011, 15 percent of lawyers reported using tablets for law-related tasks, but in 2012, that number increased to 33 percent.

Not surprisingly, as lawyers’ use of mobile tools increased, so too did lawyers’ use of mobile apps. One of the most popular types of apps used by lawyers are PDF annotations tools, which facilitate the storage and organization of PDFs and also allow the user to fill out PDF forms and annotate PDF documents by striking text, adding text, highlighting text and more. Some of the most-used PDF annotation apps for iPads include PDF Expert (my preferred app), Good Reader and iAnnotate.

And, of course, with the rise in the number of lawyers using mobile devices, the number of apps developed specifically for lawyers has increased rapidly, with new ones being rolled out all the time. These apps aid lawyers at every stage of the litigation process, including legal research, depositions, jury selection and trial presentation. The list of iPad apps for lawyer includes, but is not limited to: TranscriptPad, TrialPad, JuryStar, ExhibitView, Jury Duty, Mobile Transcript, The Deponent App, Exhibit A, iJuror, iPleading, iJury, iTestimony, MobiLit, JuryPad, TouchTax, FastCase and LawStack.

So, it seems that lawyers and mobile commuting were made for each other. Although traditionally the legal profession has sometimes been hesitant to embrace new technologies, mobile computing appears to be an exception to this pattern. Lawyers understand that mobile technologies make their jobs easier and provide a level of convenience and flexibility never before seen, while simultaneously offering innovative and affordable ways to better serve their clients. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what lawyering is all about?

Editor's note: this article was first published in The Daily Record ©2012 and in Sui Generis--a New York law blog. Reprinted here with permission.