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Bar News - November 3, 2006


Technology ‘Mobile Lawyering,’ Court Technology Focus of ABA Study


The 2006 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report took a comprehensive look at how the legal profession uses technology. More than 2,500 ABA lawyer members in private practice in the United States returned questionnaires relating to litigation and courtroom technology, Web and communication technology, online research, practice management technology and “mobile lawyering.”

           

According to the report, lawyers are more aware of the essential security measures that help prevent other causes of electronic data loss, such as the use of firewalls, spyware prevention software, and business conduct policies on issues such as e-mail usage. Sixty-five percent of lawyers have experienced an attack by a computer virus, the effects of the attacks ranging from loss of network access, to nonfunctional computers, to the expense of paying a consultant to get the computer system running again.

           

New in the 2006 survey are questions regarding blogging, Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP), syndicated Web content/RSS feeds, and knowledge management. Questions regarding current awareness tools showed lawyers are missing the advantages of RSS and blogs.

           

Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they do not subscribe to RSS feeds, and 62 percent said they never read Web logs (blogs).

           

Lawyers’ use of personal digital assistants has steadily grown as the profession responds to the demands of an increasingly mobile society. Of those who have mobile devices, many report using them nearly everywhere they go, utilizing the contacts and calendar functions most frequently. Almost one quarter of respondents’ firms plan to purchase PDAs, SmartPhones or BlackBerrys within the next six months, an increase over last year’s figure of 15 percent.

           

For the first time this year, the survey investigated adoption of knowledge management initiatives. Only 16 percent of lawyers state that their firms have a knowledge management initiative, and more than half of those who do are in firms with 50 or more lawyers. Where firms do have a knowledge management initiative, more than a quarter reported that the chief information officer is responsible for managing the initiative, followed by the technology partner, managing partner, information systems staff and the office manager.

           

The top five sources respondents use to find legal technology information are print resources (73 percent), Web sites (59 percent), their peers (50 percent), staff (38 percent) and continuing legal education (33 percent).

           

Despite the relatively low numbers of lawyers who file electronically in state and local courts, electronic filing is becoming more prevalent, largely reflecting initiatives on the federal court level. Eleven percent of respondents say either they or their staff file court documents electronically one or more times a day, double the number in last year’s survey; 15 percent file one to four times per week; and another 14 percent file one to three times per month. Fewer than half say they never file court documents electronically, down from 80 percent in the 2002 survey.

           

Consistent with last year’s survey, 41 percent of lawyers have no technical support staff at any locations for their firm, while 17 percent have one technical support person, 8 percent have two, and 38 percent have three or more technical support staff at their firms. Although down significantly from the 2004-2005 survey, internal technical support continues to be most common type of support available to respondents.

           

Respondents to the 2006 survey represent a wide cross-section of law firm sizes. Twenty-two percent of respondents are solo practitioners, while 27 percent work in small firms of two to nine lawyers, 20 percent are in firms with 10 to 49 lawyers, 7 percent are in firms with 50 to 99 lawyers, and 23 percent are in large firms with 100 or more lawyers. This year, about 5 percent more large firms, and fewer firms of two to nine lawyers, are represented than in the 2004-2005 survey.

           

The survey is an annual project of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, a specialized unit providing lawyers, bar associations, law schools, and other legal organizations with information on technology and its use in the practice of law. The Center’s professional staff research and write on technology issues and provide continuing legal education on practice management using technology.

           

For more information about the 2006 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, go to http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/survstat.html, or call 312-988-5465. The executive summary, trend reports, and the full survey are available online through the ABA Web Store, http://www.abanet.org/abastore, or the ABA Service Center at 800-285-2221 [Product Code: 2680065P].

 

 

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