The American Bar Association (ABA) and the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) publish technology surveys each year based on interviews with lawyers from law firms of all sizes. The results always provide a lot of interesting data on how the legal profession is using technology. This year was no exception, but the results of the surveys were all the more interesting given that both were conducted in the early months of the pandemic.
Sure, things have changed since the first few months of the pandemic, but the results of these surveys are interesting nonetheless and shed light on how companies are adopting and deploying technology in the months and years to come, particularly in terms of lawyers’ use of legal cloud -Computing software for remote work.
Introduction to cloud computing
First, let’s take a look at how the surveyed companies are handling cloud technology. Respondents to the ILTA survey were asked how they would describe their company’s cloud philosophy, and 21% said their companies are primarily in the cloud. 35% said their business philosophy was to move to the cloud with every software upgrade, and 33% said their organizations are considering the cloud.
According to the ABA survey, almost two-thirds of lawyers (59%) said they use cloud computing for work-related purposes. The larger the firm they worked for, the more likely it was that lawyers would report using cloud-based software. 63% of lawyers from law firms with 100 or more lawyers used cloud computing for work-related tasks (up from 51% in 2019, 44% in 2018 and 42% in 2017), followed by 62% of respondents from law firms with two to nine lawyers (compared to 61% in 2019, 58% in 2018 and 56% in 2017), 57% from firms with 10 employees -49 lawyers (compared to 60% in 2019, 56% in 2018 and 52% in 2017) and 52% of single respondents (compared to 59% in 2019 and 2018 and 56% in 2017).
According to the results of the ILTA survey, law firms had plans to migrate or were already using the cloud for the following types of processes at the time of the survey: document management (37%), time and billing software (23%) and case management (9%). Undoubtedly, companies that intend to migrate functionality to the cloud within the next year have accelerated their plans to ensure stability throughout the duration of the pandemic.
These findings are in line with recent trends, which indicate that business leaders increasingly see the move to the cloud as inevitable. The move to remote working due to the impact of COVID-19 only accelerated this transition, as explained in the ILTA survey summary:
(T) Here are some notable results and trends that should be highlighted. Among them was a slight acceleration in cloud adoption. Granted, the lockdown encouraged cloud mindedness – with the workforce dispersed across the landscape, we were suddenly mirroring a hybrid private / public cloud model – but the sudden spike in some numbers couldn’t happen in such a short amount of time.
Secure communication trends
The ABA survey report also has a number of interesting statistics on how lawyers communicate and collaborate online using technology. With many lawyers working remotely either full-time or part-time due to the pandemic, this data is all the more relevant.
Of particular importance are the statistics on secure communication methods as the standard for secure communication is in flux. In the legal system, lawyers must now avoid unencrypted email and use a more secure communication method such as encrypted client portals for particularly sensitive matters. I’ll discuss this trend in more detail in this post.
Due to the impact of the pandemic and the trend towards safer forms of communication, I assume that the number of lawyers using secure portals for customer communication will continue to increase during the pandemic. But as the report showed, customer portal usage increased even in the early stages of the pandemic – especially among larger companies. When solicitors were asked about using client portals to communicate and collaborate with clients, attorneys from firms with 100 or more lawyers were most likely to report giving clients access to a secure client portal (65%), compared to 23% of law firms with 10 to 49 lawyers, 14% from law firms with two to nine lawyers and 11% from sole proprietorships.
Other remote working tools
Lawyers were also interviewed about the key remote tools their law firms rely on when mandating from home. Unsurprisingly, the most popular tools were those that replaced the personal features needed to keep work going even when people were evicted from the office (i.e., video conferencing), or tools that were already in place and provided that functionality (i.e. email).
The tools reported by attorneys ranged from video conferencing and faxing to chat and text messaging. And unsurprisingly, reliance on certain communication categories increased significantly in 2020 compared to previous years, even in the spring of this year when these surveys were conducted.
According to the results of the ABA survey, the use of video conferencing tools increased dramatically in 2020. Almost half of lawyers (48%) said they use them at least occasionally, compared with 24% in 2019 and only 19% in 2018 lawyers texting clients more than ever. Almost half of the lawyers surveyed (48%) said they texted clients at least occasionally in 2020, compared to 42% in 2019. Finally, 10% of lawyers said they did at least occasionally, the online Chat used to interact with non-customers for work-related purposes and 7% said they used online chat to communicate with customers at least occasionally.
The ILTA survey results were similar in this regard. According to survey respondents, video conferencing was the most popular technology law firms relied on during the pandemic. 94% of lawyers surveyed said their law firms used them to facilitate collaboration. Next came email (68%), followed by chat (54%) and document sharing (43%).
The results of both surveys provide further evidence that law firms of all sizes see the move to cloud-based software as inevitable, and many are fast-forwarding that transition due to the pandemic. It is also noteworthy that remote working tools that companies are already using or that fill unexpected gaps in remote working are the quickest to adopt and that this trend is likely to continue throughout the pandemic.
Nicole Black is a lawyer in Rochester, New York and Director of Business and Community Relations at My case, web-based management software for law firms. she has been to blog since 2005 one has written weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007 is the author of Cloud computing for lawyers, Co-authors Social media for lawyers: the next frontierand co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She is easily distracted from the potential of bright and shiny tech, good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @ Nikiblack and she can be reached at [email protected].