Every year, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center conducts a survey to gauge attorney use of legal technology. I don't know whether the results are scientifically valid, but they do provide some interesting insight into the technology used by lawyers.
The 2010 survey is now out and it includes several details that might be of interest to iPhone-using lawyers. Note that the survey did not ask about iPhone use specifically. In the mobile category the survey simply asked about "PDAs/Smarphones/BlackBerrys." The term "PDA" seems somewhat outdated, and mentioning "BlackBerrys" without mentioning other smartphones seems a little odd, but I suppose it reflects the BlackBerry's traditional stronghold in the legal market. Despite these limitations, the report reveals a few things about how lawyers use smartphones, and I'm sure that many of the lawyers talking about "PDAs/Smarphones/Blackberrys" were talking about their iPhone. (I'll refer to the entire category as "mobile devices" in this post.)
Mobile device use
Around 80% of lawyers responding to the survey report using a mobile device, an increase from prior years. Interestingly, that number is almost 100% for large law firms with over 100 attorneys, but only 65% for solo practitioners and 80% for people in firms with less than 10 people. At first, I assumed that the high number for large law firms was because large law firms might be more likely to give away smartphones to all attorneys, but the survey reveals otherwise. In firms with more than 100 attorneys, respondents reported that around half used a personally owned mobile device and around half used a device permanently assigned by the law firm.
The numbers for smaller law firms surprised me because I thought that they would be higher. The lawyers I know who work for themselves or in small law firms tend to be some of the most tech-savvy attorneys I know, mostly because they see more direct benefits from the efficiencies that can be achieved from using mobile technology. Perhaps I just have a lot of tech-savvy lawyer friends.
The survey also reveals that about half of all lawyers either regularly or sometimes use their mobile devices in the courtroom. Unsurprisingly, the most common spots for regular mobile device use outside of the office are at home or while traveling.
Just over a third report that their law firms support "multiple platforms" and in large firms with more than 50 lawyers that number rises to over 50%. Given the historical use of BlackBerrys in law firms, I can't help but wonder whether "multiple platforms" is in large part a reference to supporting iPhones in addition to BlackBerrys. About 40% of all law firms, and less than 20% of law firms with more than 50 lawyers, do not support multiple platforms.
Top uses for mobile devices
The survey asked about what mobile device features are used the most. The phone is the most commonly used feature of a mobile device, with 88% of respondents reporting that use. Unsurprisingly, e-mail use is right up there as well at 84%. If anything, I would have thought that more attorneys would rank e-mail use above phone use. Calendar and Contact use are very popular. About half of all respondents report using their mobile device for internet access, and about half report using their mobile device for text messaging. I suspect that if you just asked the iPhone-using lawyers, 100% would report using their device for Internet access. On BlackBerrys, especially older models, the web browser is so poor that it doesn't surprise me that few use that feature.
Other mobile device uses
Only about a third report using their mobile device for GPS/Maps functions. I use that all the time on my iPhone, and I presume that many other lawyers using iPhones do as well. Over 60% report that they never use a mobile device for expense tracking or time and billing. There are tons of these apps for the iPhone, and even though I can understand the value, I don't use them either. I probably would use a time and billing app occasionally if it directly connected to my firm's billing software (which I know is possible for many billing software programs) but the idea of using a third party product and them manually importing that time over to my firm billing system just seems like a lot of work to me.
The survey also reveals that a large percentage of mobile device owners never use their mobile device to work on spreadsheets and presentations. The survey revealed the same for documents, but here it may have turned on the wording of the question. The question asked about CREATING documents on a mobile device, something that even I do very rarely. However, I frequently use my iPhone to review and revise documents while on the go, and I suspect that if the question had been worded differently — asking how many attorneys READ documents on their mobile device — the survey would have revealed much more use.
About 65% of respondents report using password protection on their mobile device. I realize that a resourceful and dedicated hacker can probably bypass many forms of password protection, but even so I encourage lawyers using an iPhone to create a password lock. It is too easy to leave an iPhone in a restaurant, taxi, etc. and that one simple form of protection is likely to prevent someone who finds your iPhone from reading your confidential e-mails.