ABA Survey Results: How Lawyers Are Communicating Online in 2020

If you’re interested in learning about how lawyers are using technology, then the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report is exactly what you’re looking for. In this Report you’ll find 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%).

Included in the Report are a variety of interesting sets of statistics regarding how lawyers are using technology to communicate and collaborate online. Now that many lawyers are working remotely either full-time or part-time due to the pandemic, this data is all the more relevant.

Of particular import are the statistics on secure communication methods, since the standard for secure communication is in flux and some jurisdictions are now requiring lawyers to avoid unencrypted email and use a more secure method of communication, such as encrypted client portals, for particularly sensitive matters. I discuss this trend more fully in this post.

Secure Portals for Client Communication

Because of the effects of the pandemic and the move to more secure communication trends discussed above, I fully expect that the number of lawyers using secure portals for client communication will continue to go up throughout the pandemic. But as the Report showed, even during the early stages of the pandemic, use of client portals was increasing – especially with larger firms. When lawyers were asked about their use of client portals to communicate and collaborate with clients,  lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys were the most likely to report offering clients access to a secure client portal (65%), in contrast to 23% from firms of 10-49 attorneys, 14% from firms of 2-9 attorneys, and 11% from solo firms.

Overall, 26% of all lawyers surveyed reported that their firms offered 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 top seven products with built-in client portals that lawyers reported that their firms use.

Communicating Via Unencrypted Email

Next up, email. Many lawyers continue to use unencrypted email for confidential client communication despite the fact that the ABA Ethics Committee determined in Opinion 477 that due to “cyber-threats and (the fact that) the proliferation of electronic communications devices have changed the landscape…it is not always reasonable to rely on the use of unencrypted email.”

Despite the lack of encryption, according to the Report,  a whopping 92% of lawyers reported that they had sent confidential or privileged communications/ documents via email. And, nearly half of those lawyers (49%), shared that they did so at least once every day.

Small firm lawyers were the most likely to report that they shared confidential client information via unencrypted email, with nearly all lawyers from firms of 10-49 attorneys acknowledging that they did so (98%). Next were attorneys from firms of 100 or more attorneys (97%), followed by 93% of lawyers from firms with 2-9 attorneys, and 82% of solos.

Texting, Chatting, and Videoconferencing

Of course, lawyers use many other methods for communicating with clients, especially now that working from home has become commonplace. The tools lawyers reported using ran the gamut, from videoconferencing and fax to chat and text messaging. And not surprisingly, reliance on certain categories of communication increased quite a bit in 2020 compared to prior years, even as early as the spring of this year when this survey was conducted.

For example, usage of videoconferencing tools increased dramatically in 2020, with nearly half of lawyers (48%) reporting that they used it at least occasionally compared to 24% in 2019 and only 19% in 2018. Lawyers are also texting with clients more than ever before, with nearly half of lawyers surveyed (48%) sharing that they at least occasionally texted with clients in 2020, compared to 42% in 2019. Finally, 10% of lawyers reported that they at least occasionally used online chat to interact with non-clients for work-related purposes and 7% reported that they at least occasionally used online chat to communicate with clients.

Related: [Webinar] 5 Virtual Collaboration Tools Law Firms Need in 2021

The great news for MyCase customers is that we’ve got you covered when it comes communication tools. Whether it’s secure client portals, 2-way texting, internal chat, internal messaging, or MyCase’s native email tool, Mailbox, you have a variety options available to allow you to securely communicate with clients and your team members all in one centralized location. Sound interesting? You can learn more here.

And don’t forget to sign up for our FREE upcoming live virtual workshop for a deep dive into our latest features: 5 Game-Changing Features MyCase Released in 2020.