Every year, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center conducts a survey to gauge the use of legal technology by attorneys in the United States. My thoughts on the prior reports are located here: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010. No survey is perfect, but the ABA tries hard to ensure that its survey has statistical significance, and every year this is one of the best sources of information on how attorneys use technology. Yesterday, the ABA released Volume VI of the report titled Mobile Lawyers. This year's report once again shows that a large number of attorneys are using iPhones and iPads.
Six out of ten attorneys now use an iPhone
In both 2014 and 2013, the survey revealed that 91% of attorneys use a smartphone. (In 2012 the number was 89% and in 2011 the number was 88%.) For the past four years, there has been a slight correlation between law firm size and smartphone use. In 2014, for example, 86% of solo attorneys reported using a smartphone, 89% in firms of 2 to 9 attorneys, 95% in firms of 10 to 49 attorneys, and for firms with 100 or more attorneys, 96% use a smartphone. As a whole, though, it is fair to say that the survey consistently shows around nine out of every ten attorneys use a smartphone.
For those nine out of every ten attorneys who are using smartphones, 74% reported in 2014 that they were using a personally owned smartphone, and 28% used a smartphone permanently assigned by their law firm. Those numbers were closer to 66% and 36% in the prior three years, so it seems that in 2014, fewer law firms are buying smartphones for their attorneys and more attorneys are buying their own smartphones.
Whether they buy it themselves or it is purchased by their law firm, what smartphones are those nine out of ten attorneys using in 2014? Last year, the big news was that over half of all attorneys were using an iPhone. This year, that number increases even more: 60.8% of all attorneys are using an iPhone (66.8% of the 91% of attorneys who use a smartphone). So if you can imagine a row of ten attorneys, this year one of them doesn't use a smartphone at all, and six of them use an iPhone. What about the other three? Two of them are likely using an Android phone (24.5% of the 91% of attorneys who use a smartphone report using an Android phone in 2014, a small increase from 22% in 2013.) and that last attorney is probably using a BlackBerry or maybe a Windows phone. Specifically, the 2014 numbers for the 91% of attorneys who use a smartphone are: 66.8% iPhone, 24.5% Android, 6.8% BlackBerry, 1.9% Windows and 1.5% other. That adds to 101.5% because some attorneys use multiple smartphones. The following pie chart is somewhat imprecise because the numbers add up to just over 100%, but nevertheless it shows you graphically the relative use:
It is interesting to look at how smartphone preferences have changed over the last four years that the ABA has been collecting this data. Clearly, iPhone use has increased:
BlackBerry use among attorneys has plummeted, from 40% in 2010 to almost 6% in 2014. Almost all of those attorneys who had been using a BlackBerry seem to have switched to an iPhone, with attorney iPhone use increasing from 31% to almost 61% in the same period, while a few BlackBerry users switched to Android, with attorney Android use increasing less dramatically over the same period from 15% to just over 22%.
What are these attorneys doing with their iPhones and other smartphones? Over half of all attorneys using a smartphone say that they are using it for email, telephone, calendars, contacts, internet access and text messaging. Other popular uses are GPS/maps and the camera. Only 7% use a smartphone to track expenses, and only 4% use a smartphone to create documents.
The survey reveals that attorneys are becoming more conscious of the need for smartphone security. In 2011, 23% of respondents were not using any security on their smartphone. That dropped to 15% in 2012, 11% in 2013, and this year only 8% report that they don't use any security. The most popular security measure is to use a password to lock the device, and in 2014 90% of attorneys using a smartphone say that they do so. That number really ought to be 100%, and hopefully all attorneys who read iPhone J.D. now use a passcode. 21% of attorneys report that they use the Find My iPhone feature or something similar so that they can use GPS to track a lost or stolen phone.
Over 400,000 attorneys use an iPad
Last year, based on the 2013 survey, I concluded that over 400,000 attorneys were using an iPad based on the survey numbers and the assumption that there are about one million attorneys in the U.S. This year, I still believe that there are over 400,000 attorneys using an iPad, but the 2014 survey results on lawyer tablet use were surprising to me in two respects.
First, lawyer tablet use is not growing nearly as much as I had expected. In 2011, 15% of attorneys reported that they used a tablet device. In 2012, that more than doubled to 33%. In 2013, it increased to 48%. Thus, I would have guessed that more than half of attorneys would be using tablets in 2014. But that didn't happen. The number instead increased only from 48% to 49%. Have we reached the point where most attorneys who want to use a tablet already have one? After all, as useful as an iPad is, I often hear attorneys tell me that laptops such as the MacBook Air are so thin and light that they carry theirs almost everywhere, and when you always have a laptop with you there is less of a need for an iPad. Is it possible that even though almost half of all attorneys now use a tablet, the other half will never see the need to do so? I don't know, and I will be very interested to see what happens to this number next year.
The other surprise to me was the percentage of tablet-using attorneys using an iPad. From 2011 to 2013, while the number of attorneys using a tablet increased every year, the percentage of those attorneys using an iPad remained steady at about nine out of ten. It was 89% in 2011, 91% in 2012, and 91% in 2013. In 2014, there was a dip, with 84% of attorneys who use a tablet reporting that they use an iPad. What are the other tablet-using attorneys using? 10% are using Android tablets (up from 7% last year), almost 6% are using Windows tablets (up from 1% last year), and another 3% are either using something else or report that they do not know what they are using. Again, this adds up to slightly more than 100%, I presume because some people have more than one tablet.
Looking at the past four years on a chart shows visually how the percentage of attorneys not using a tablet had been declining rapidly but then has held steady over the past year, and the percentage of attorneys using an iPad had been rising steady but then essentially held steady over the past year.
What are these attorneys doing with their iPads and other tablets? Pretty much the same thing that they are doing with their smartphones (other than the phone function), with over half of attorneys reporting that they are using their tablets for internet access, calendars and contacts. While only 4% report using a smartphone to create documents, that number rises to 17% with tablets. Expense tracking is slightly higher: 10% on tablets versus 7% on smartphones.
The survey also asked attorneys to identify apps that they use. Popular legal-specific apps include Fastcase, apps to access Westlaw and Lexis services, legal dictionaries, TrialPad and TranscriptPad. Popular general business apps that attorneys said that they downloaded include:
- LinkedIn: 68%
- Dropbox: 65%
- Evernote: 38%
- Documents to Go: 21%
- GoodReader: 20%
- Quickoffice: 18%
- LogMeIn: 15%
- Box: 9%
- Notability: 7%
A huge market
One thing clear from the 2014 ABA survey is that iOS is a huge platform for attorneys. If you assume that there are a million attorneys in the U.S. (which I believe is roughly accurate), that means that there are around 600,000 attorneys using an iPhone and over 400,000 attorneys using an iPad. For any developers considering making great apps for attorneys, there seems to be lots of potential customers.