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A Lawyer and an iPad Walk onto a Plane...

Jacque Flaherty

We recently partnered with Ari Kaplan of Ari Kaplan Advisors to understand how law firms are adopting mobile technology within their organizations and hear their predictions for the future. Over two months, Ari spoke with 25 of the most experienced partners in the Am Law 200 and six directors of litigation support at similar-sized firms to get their perspectives.

We were fortunate to have Ari join us for our sixth-annual Relativity Fest to give attendees a sneak peek at the results. The session not only delivered the results of the study, but polled the audience for their take on the questions it poses—confirming suspicions and igniting debates about whether law firms are prepared for a portable future.

We had a chance to catch up with Ari after the show to gather his take on the experience.

Jacque: I was particularly interested to see that the majority of attorneys (67 percent) believed that a paperless future will soon be the norm in law firms. What were some of the most surprising results for you?

Ari: It was interesting to see that while 18 percent of the respondents find it difficult to work when they are away from the office, 27 percent actually prefer to work remotely. In addition, while 77 percent believe that their firms have security concerns associated with performing work on mobile devices, only 46 percent have personal concerns about such usage. Finally, that 75 percent believe the use of mobile devices in the courtroom will soon become the norm signals a meaningful shift in the way lawyers practice.

A major theme from your presentation at Relativity Fest was that your research produced a great deal of contradictions with what mobility means to attorneys. What were those, and why do you suspect that is?

I found it interesting that while many of the survey respondents highlighted how mobility empowered them to practice from anywhere, there was still a general interest in mirroring the experience of actually sitting at one's desk. Although mobile technology offers more freedom, the emphasis on simulating a traditional brick-and-mortar environment seems to limit its effectiveness.

The adoption of mobile technology is often seen as a necessity and also something of a burden. None of the partners or directors of litigation support with whom I spoke are digital natives. They all had experience before technology became a common feature of practicing law and continue to adjust to its impact.

What was your biggest takeaway from the study?

In a very short period of time, probably within the next five years, we are likely to see a dramatic shift in the configuration of law firms, law offices, and the way in which legal professionals interact on a daily basis. The traditional office space, desk, and means of communication are likely to change significantly.

For example, in an effort to reduce costs associated with large filing systems, storage, and paper records managers, 67 percent believe that paperless will be the norm in law firms, particularly as the leadership generation continues to shift. Others predict an increase in the use of artificial intelligence, outsourced document review, voice activation, projectors the size of a pen, and wearable technology, among other items.

The results of the study made it clear that mobility is essential in law firms, but it’s not everything to everyone. While 16 percent are concerned about changes in their workflow, 60 percent noted that increased efficiency is the most exciting benefit of going mobile.

We were excited to have you participate in Relativity Fest this year. What was your favorite part about the conference?

The breadth of programming was impressive. In particular, I enjoyed the Judicial Panel moderated by David Horrigan and Andrew’s keynote.

On November 12, you’re hosting a webinar to discuss the study with Mary Novacheck of Bowman & Brooke and Mike Quartararo of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. What should we look forward to in that conversation?

I am looking forward to a dynamic conversation with two respected industry leaders, who will share their experience, offer best practices, and provide perspective on the impact of mobile technology on the legal profession.

Ari Kaplan is an attorney, author, and legal industry analyst. He is the principal researcher for a variety of widely distributed benchmarking reports and has been the keynote speaker for events in Australia, Canada, the UK, and throughout the U.S. Kaplan is also the founder of the popular Lawcountability business development software platform and iPhone app.

Jacque Flaherty is a senior marketing manager at Relativity, focusing on advocating for our user communities in EMEA and APAC.