Survey Results:
How Solo And Small Firm Lawyers Are Using Technology

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.43.52 PMThe annual ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey was released 2 weeks ago at the ILTA conference and the results show that technology is on every lawyer’s mind these days. No matter the size of the law firm, according to the survey results, one of the top priorities for 2016 is choosing and implementing legal technology and software into law firms, with 53% of respondents indicating that their firms would be increasing their technology spend in 2016, representing a 12% growth rate from 2015.

While the survey included responses from members of firms of all sizes, the solo and small firm trends were particularly interesting. For starters, when it came to technology spend, 39% of small firm lawyers reported that they planned to increase spending on technology in 2016. And one of the main focuses of their spending? Cloud computing software.

As described in the survey summary:

Cloud computing continues to be one of the hottest topics in legal IT. Law firms of all sizes are embracing the cloud, some on an application-by-application basis others with a ‘cloud first’ approach…More firms are moving to a ‘cloud-first’ approach and investing in technologies such as analytics, AI, virtualization, mobility solutions and other SaaS applications, turning increased productivity, efficiency and automation into profits.

The reason cloud computing software is so popular with lawyers in 2016 is because of its many benefits. According to the survey results, the tops reasons firms were moving to the cloud included the versatility and mobility of cloud solutions (62%), flexibility (53%), overall efficiencies and cost savings (34%), and security (25%). For 43% of medium-sized firms, one of the top benefits of cloud computing that was cited was that it offered business continuity, flexibility, and mobility.

But it was small law firms that were the most likely to embrace cloud computing in 2016. According to the report, the results showed that the small law firms surveyed were “the most aggressive regarding cloud adoption,” with 61% of of small firm lawyers indicating that more than 51% of their firm’s software/service offerings would be cloud-based within the next 1-3 years.

For all respondents, cloud storage was a top priority. 34% of those surveyed reported that they had purchased cloud storage for their law firm within the last 12 months and 25% planned to invest in a cloud storage solution over the next 12 months (compared to just 16% in 2015).

Another top legal software category for cloud computing reported by lawyers surveyed was case management software. 12% reported that their firms had purchased case management software for their firms within last 12 months and 10% planned to invest in case management software over the next 12 months (compared to 8% in 2015). Billing software was also a priority for law firms of all sizes, with 16% reporting that they had incorporated remote time entry into their law firms within the past year and 18% reporting that they planned to do so within the next year.

Going paperless continued to be a top priority for law firms, especially smaller firms. Accordingly, the survey results showed that 47% of all purchases made by small firms over the past year were for imaging/scanning OCR technology perhaps signaling a paperless trend. Next on the list was antivirus/antispam software, which accounted for 45% of all small firm purchases made within the last 12 months.

A new trend in legal technology that emerged this year was AI. When respondents were asked for their perspectives on AI and its effect on the legal industry, 71% predicted it would have the biggest impact on electronic discovery in the areas of case assessment and predictive coding (TAR), coming in next at 41% was document automation, followed by legal research (40%), contract analysis/automation (34%), and case/outcome prediction (24%).

And, last but not least, according to the survey some of the biggest challenges reported by small firms included security, email management and user adoption.

All in all, the survey results included lots of interesting information and predictions about how solo and small firm lawyers incorporated legal technology into their law practices. Whether it’s cloud computing, case management, or AI, there are lots of exciting new tools available to help streamline and increase the efficiency of solo and small law firms. Which ones will you be using in your law firm?

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