Every year the American Lawyer ranks the top 200 law firms based on revenue, a list called the Am Law 200. Firms on the list include megafirms with thousands of lawyers such as Skadden, Baker & McKenzie, Latham & Watkins and Jones Day, relatively smaller firms with very high profits per partner such as Wachtell and Cravath, and successful regional law firms such as Lewis and Roca and my firm, Adams and Reese.
The American Lawyer conducts a technology survey of those firms every year. The Am Law Tech Survey 2009 was just released, and I was curious how the iPhone would rank on the list. In 2008, only 5% of the firms reported having attorneys using an iPhone. While that percentage was low, I cannot say that it was surprising. Although the iPhone was released back in 2007, it wasn't until the iPhone 3G was released in mid-2008 with support for Microsoft Exchange and third party apps that most larger companies, including law firms, started to adopt the iPhone. Thus, at the time that the Am Law Tech Survey 2008 was being conducted, successful law firms were just starting to look at iPhones. The 2008 survey revealed that virtually all of the law firms had attorneys using a Blackberry (98%) while a good number of law firms had attorneys using Windows Mobile (30%) and Palm OS (14%).
The 2009 survey reports a huge jump in iPhone use. Whereas 5% of the Am Law 200 law firms reported attorneys using iPhones in 2008, 55% were supporting iPhone use in 2009. As for other smartphones, virtually all firms continued to support Blackberry (99%) and more firms reported having attorneys using either a Windows Mobile (40%) or Palm OS (26%) phone. New to the list in 2009 were Palm webOS (3%) and Android (1%).
All of the percentages increased from 2008 to 2009, reflecting that the number of attorneys at every law firm using smartphones increased from 2008 to 2009. The rising tide lifted all boats, with Windows Mobile and Palm OS seeing about 10% more users from 2008 to 2009. But the iPhone's rise from 5% of law firms reporting iPhone use to 55% of the law firms reporting iPhone use is quite dramatic.
I'm sure that at most law firms today, the main smartphone used is a Blackberry. Blackberry's manufacturer RIM has done a good job of supporting law firms for many years, and for the foreseeable future, I'm sure that we will continue to see virtually 100% of Am Law 200 law firms allowing their lawyers to use Blackberries if they want to do so. But it would be interesting to see the change in the percentage of attorneys using a Blackberry, Windows Mobile or Palm device over time, a statistic not revealed in the Am Law Tech Survey. My guess is that you would see a lot of attorneys abandoning each of those three platforms, and that the primary beneficiary of those switchers would be the iPhone. Indeed, I suspect that such a chart for lawyers would look very similar to this recent chart from ChangeWave Research of smartphone users in general (reported in this CNET article from late October):
Congratulations to Apple for making great inroads into law firms over the past twelve moths. I look forward to seeing how the iPhone fares in the 2010 Am Law Tech survey.