The practice of law has changed significantly over the past decade, in large part due to technological innovation. One major factor contributing to the rapid pace of change has been the rise of mobile computing. With the iPhone’s release in 2007, it was suddenly possible for lawyers to practice law and access important case-related information from anywhere at anytime.
Since then, lawyers have embraced the convenience and flexibility of mobile law offices, using their devices to track billable time, access documents, view contact and calendar information, and securely communicate with clients. Because the ability to telecommute and practice law from anywhere offers solo and small firm lawyers so many benefits, it’s no surprise that the number of lawyers incorporating mobile tools into their practices has increased significantly year over year.
The mobile lawyer
According to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, the vast majority of lawyers – 94% – regularly or occasionally use mobile devices for law-related purposes from home. 91% have used mobile devices while in transit, followed by 89% who have used mobile devices for work while in airports, and 78% who have used a mobile device in a hotel. The types of lawyers most likely to work while on the go are employment/labor attorneys (87%), followed by intellectual property (81%) and litigation lawyers (80%).
Lawyers use their smartphones to accomplish an assortment of law practice management tasks while away from their offices, including reading and responding to emails (89%) and accessing calendars and contacts (75% and 73%). Other popular functions include time and billing and expense tracking, with small firm lawyers being the most likely to report using their smartphones for time and billing (21%) and expense tracking (22%). Solo lawyers were close behind with 18% using their smartphones for time and billing and 20% using their smartphones for time tracking.
Lawyers are also very fond of apps, since they streamline the process of working while mobile. That’s why 40% of lawyers reported downloading a legal-specific app to their smartphone with legal research apps being the most popular. And, that same percentage of lawyers – 40% – reported that they’d downloaded a general business app to their smartphone as well, with document storage apps being the most popular.
Of course, there are lots of apps to choose from and it’s not always easy to figure out which ones will work for your needs. For help sorting through your options, make sure to watch the recording of our recent webinar with Brett Burney, “Top 10 Apps For Lawyers.” And for even more app recommendations, read this blog post, in which Brett provides even more information and advice on mobile apps for lawyers.
The telecommuting lawyer
With the rise of mobile lawyering came the predictable increase in the number of lawyers who telecommute. That’s why in 2017 telecommuting lawyers have become quite common. In fact, according to the Report, the vast majority of lawyers – 78% – report that they telecommuted in the past year. Solo and small firm lawyers regularly took advantage of using mobile tools to telecommute with 76% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 attorneys doing so, along with 70% of solo respondents.
Lawyers who telecommute do so on a regular basis, reporting that they spend 24% of their time working on law-related tasks while not in the office. And, of the 78% of lawyers who reported that they did telecommute, 33% reported that on average they did so 3-11 times each year.
How does that compare to your telecommuting frequency? Do you work away from the office more or less often?
The virtual lawyer
Technology advancements and cloud computing not only allow lawyers to be more mobile – some lawyers now have virtual law practices. This means that they’ve foregone the traditional brick and mortar law office and are running their law firms solely online. Of course, virtual law firms are a better fit for lawyers with transactional practices rather than litigators. Only 7% of lawyers reported having virtual law offices, with solo and small firm lawyers leading the way. Solos were the most likely to report using virtual office services at 12%, followed by 9% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 attorneys.
Certainly virtual law firms aren’t for everyone. But for lawyers seeking flexibility, reduced overhead, and mobility, virtual law offices can be a great option. You can read about two different virtual law practices here and here.
And if you’re interested in learning more about setting up a virtual practice of your own, check out this Ms. JD blog post, which offers lots of practical advice and tips: “Going Virtual: An Option to Achieve Balance.”