ABA Survey Results: Lawyers and Cloud Computing in 2020
Statistics from the ABA Survey Results Report.
Every year the American Bar Association releases The Legal Technology Survey Report. The Report offers timely statistics regarding the technologies that lawyers are using and how they are being implemented in law firms. Topics covered in the Report include cybersecurity, basic office software, legal-specific software, cloud computing and mobile usage trends, and marketing tools used by law firms.
The 2020 Report was released a few weeks ago and its results reflect responses obtained from members of the legal profession during the timeframe of March through May 2020. The Report includes data collected form firms of all sizes, with solo and small firms making more than half of those who responded to the survey: Solo firms (28%), firms of 2 to 9 attorneys (31%), firms of 10-49 attorneys (16%), firms of 50-99 attorneys (4%), firms of 100-499 attorneys (8%), and at firms of 500 or more attorneys (13%).
In today’s post, I’ll be focusing on some of the more interesting cloud-based software statistics from the Report. Of note is that the survey was conducted during the early stages of the pandemic and thus does not necessarily reflect current attitudes and cloud usage. This is important because the pandemic had the effect of accelerating the technology and cloud adoption of the legal profession by many years, perhaps by even as much as a decade. The rate of adoption was so dramatic that I would argue that the rate of cloud-based software adoption by lawyers since the survey concluded is most likely much higher than that reflected in the Report. Even so, it nevertheless provides useful information regarding the numbers at the start of this acceleration trend and likewise offers a good benchmark as to lawyers’ adoption of cloud computing software.
Cloud computing adoption
Lawyers were already adopting cloud computing at higher rates than ever before prior to the pandemic and the rise in remote working only accelerated that trend. That being said, in my experience, lawyers are not always aware that they’re using cloud computing, so these self-reported numbers from the Report are undoubtedly lower than the actual usage numbers.
According to the Report, nearly two thirds of lawyers (59%) reported using cloud computing for work-related purposes. The larger the firm they worked at, the more likely lawyers were to report using cloud-based software, with 63% of lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys using cloud computing for work-related tasks (compared with 51% in 2019, 44% in 2018, and 42% in 2017), followed by 62% of respondents from firms of 2-9 attorneys (compared to 61% in 2019, 58% in 2018, and 56% in 2017), 57% from firms of 10-49 attorneys (compared with 60% in 2019, 56% in 2018, and 52% in 2017), and 52% of solo respondents (compared to 59% in 2019 and 2018, and 56% in 2017).
When lawyers were asked which cloud-based software they personally used for law-related tasks, they reported use of general consumer software most often. For example of the top ten responses, seven fell into that category, with Dropbox leading that way (67%), followed by Microsoft 365 (49%). There were, however, three legal cloud software tools in the top ten, and we’re proud to report that one of them was MyCase!
Client Portals in the Cloud
The lawyers surveyed were also asked about their use of client portals to communicate and collaborate with clients. The larger the firm, the more likely it was to use client portals, with lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys being the most likely to report offering clients access to a secure client portal (65%), in contrast to 11% from solo firms, 14% from firms of 2-9 attorneys, and 23% from firms of 10-49 attorneys.
I fully expect that will change over the next year and that in next year’s Report we’ll see increasingly more smaller firms using portals as well. My prediction is based on the fact that the pandemic has caused there to be an increased demand for online communication and collaboration, and online portals are the perfect solution.
Another reason for the increase is the release of two recent ethics opinions from Michigan and Pennsylvania, wherein both ethics committees adopted the ABA’s revised standard for secure communication that was handed down in 2017, as I discuss more fully in this post. In all three opinions, the ethics committees announced that they now require lawyers to avoid unencrypted email and use a more secure method of communication for particularly sensitive matters. And because client portals are an ideal solution for encrypted communication, the number of firms using them will undoubtedly increase.
As of now, 26% of lawyers reported that their firms offer clients access to a secure client portal. When asked which technologies/services power the portal(s), we’re proud to report that MyCase was one of the seven products with built-in client portals that lawyers reported that their firms use.
Related: [Blog Post] Cybersecurity Tips for Lawyers Working Remotely
Document Assembly in the Cloud
Finally, lawyers were asked about the document assembly software that their firms used. Overall, 36% reported that they personally used document assembly software for law-related tasks. One again, large firm lawyers were the most likely to do so with 40% of lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys using document assembly software, followed by 39% from firms of 2-9 attorneys, 35% of solos and 29% from firms of 10-49. The lawyers surveyed reported that their firms made available to them one of three kinds of document assembly software, and once again we’re proud to share that MyCase was one of them!