New survey results indicate that a record number of attorneys are using an iPhone in their law practice — over 70% of all attorneys in the United States. These numbers come from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, which conducts a survey every year to gauge the use of legal technology by attorneys in private practice in the United States. The 2017 report (edited by Joshua Poje) was just released, and as always, I was particularly interested in Volume VI, titled Mobile Lawyers. 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. Note that the survey was conducted from February to May of 2017, so these numbers don't reflect any changes in what attorneys are using which occurred within the last six months. This is the eighth year that I have reported on this survey, and with multiple years of data we can see some interesting trends. (My reports on prior ABA surveys are located here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.)
Over 70% of all U.S. attorneys use an iPhone
The 2017 survey revealed that a record number of attorneys in the U.S. are using a smartphone (around 95%), and of the attorneys using a smartphone, a record number are using an iPhone (around 75%).
The survey asks each attorney "Do you use a smartphone (e.g. BlackBerry, iPhone, Android) for law-related tasks while away from your primary workplace?" Back in 2010, the number of attorneys answering "no" was around 12%. It decreased over the years to 10% and then last year to 6.8%. This year, it is at an all time low of only 4.4%. I'm somewhat surprised it has taken that long to get here, but we can now say that over 95% of all attorneys use a smartphone.
In 2013, the big news was that, for the first time, over half of all attorneys were using an iPhone. In 2014 and 2015 the percentage was around 60%. In 2016, there was a big increase up to 68.4%. In 2017, the number is up to 74.9%. Taking into account that 4.4% of all attorneys are not using any smartphone, we can now say that 71.6% of all attorneys in private practice in the U.S. are using an iPhone in their law practice, which is an all-time high. According to the ABA 2017 National Lawyer Population Survey, there are 1,335,963 attorneys in the U.S., which suggests that there could be over 956,000 attorneys in the U.S. using an iPhone.
If 71.6% of all attorneys are using an iPhone, and 4.4% of attorneys are not using any smartphone, what are the others using? Most of them are using an Android smartphone, around 21.6%.
Back in 2011, 40% of all attorneys used a BlackBerry, and I'm sure all of us remember a time when it was incredibly common to see another lawyer with a BlackBerry. However, BlackBerry use by attorneys has dropped sharply since 2011. In 2017, the number reached a new low of only 2%.
Finally, there are 0.6% of attorneys using some sort of Microsoft Windows operating system on their smartphone in 2017, and another 1.3% either report using "other" or say that they don't know what kind of smartphone they are using.
If you add the numbers, you'll notice that they add up to 101.5%. But it makes sense for the number to be slightly over 100% because I know that a small number of attorneys use multiple smartphones.
The following pie chart is somewhat imprecise because, as I just noted, the actual numbers add up to just over 100%, but it gives you a general, graphical sense of the relative use:
To place these numbers in historical context, the following chart shows lawyer smartphone use over recent years. The two dramatic changes in this chart are of course the plunge in BlackBerry use and the surge in iPhone use. There has been a more gradual, but noticeable, decrease in the number of attorneys not using a smartphone at all. As for Android use, there was a slight increase from 2011 to 2015, but then a slight decrease in the last two years. The "Other" category in this chart includes Windows, something else, and those who don't know what smartphone they are using.
Why are attorneys choosing iPhone, Android or BlackBerry? Firm size might have something to do with it. Almost all of the attorneys still using a BlackBerry are at the largest law firms. On the other hand, Android use is highest among solo attorneys. And for firm sizes between the smallest and largest, it looks like those BlackBerry or Android users become iPhone users:
What are these attorneys doing with their iPhones and other smartphones? Almost all are using them to make phone calls and handle emails. Around 75% are regularly using smartphones for calendars, contacts, and accessing the Internet. Other popular uses are text messaging, GPS/maps, taking pictures and mobile-specific research apps. Only 8.2% use a smartphone to track time and expenses (which is down slightly from 10% last year).
Almost 5% of attorneys report that they are not using any security measures on their smartphone, which is unfortunate; for attorneys, that number really should be zero. If nothing else, you need to use a password to protect your device. (And if you use an iPhone, Apple is making even harder to use a device without a passcode.)
50% of survey respondents use Verizon for their smartphone. AT&T has 37.4%, Sprint has 6.2%, T-Mobile has 4.7%, US Cellular and Cricket Wireless each have 0.6%, and 1.4% said "other" or "don't know."
About 40% of U.S attorneys use an iPad
Apple introduced the original iPad in 2010, and for the first few years it resulted in a surge in lawyer tablet use. In 2011, only 15% of all attorneys responded that they use a tablet. That number more than doubled to 33% in 2012, and rose to 48% in 2013. But since then, the number has essentially held steady: 49% in 2014, 49.6% in 2015, 50.6% in 2016, and 49.8 in 2017%. Suffice it to say that about half of all U.S. attorneys in private practice currently use a tablet, and that has remained true since 2014.
It used to be that around 90% of attorneys using a tablet were using an iPad. It was 89% in 2011, 91% in 2012, and 91% in 2013. From 2014 to 2016, that number stayed around 84%. In 2017, that number is at an all-time low of 81.3%. If 81.3% of the 49.8% of attorneys use a tablet use an iPad, that means that about 40.5% of all U.S. attorneys are using an iPad in 2017.
Keep in mind, though, that this data was all collected in early 2017. As I reported yesterday, iPad sales peaked in 2014 and then decreased substantially, but for the last six months, iPad sales have started to increase again, perhaps due to the new 10.5" iPad Pro and the second generation 12.9" iPad Pro released in mid-2017. Assuming that lawyers were a part of this recent turn-around in iPad sales, my guess is that the iPad numbers will increase in the 2018 survey. We'll see.
As for the lawyers using a tablet but not using an iPad, in 2017 11.1% use a Microsoft Windows operating system (a jump from 6.6% in 2016, presumably thanks to the Windows Surface devices), 9.9% use Android (versus 10.1% in 2016), and 1.6% use something else or don't know what they use. My guess is that some portion of the increase in Windows tablet users were previously iPad users.
Looking at the past seven years on a chart shows visually how the percentage of attorneys using a tablet increased substantially from 2011 to 2013, and then has remained around 50%. For the half of U.S. attorneys using an iPad, the vast majority use an iPad. For the other half of U.S. attorneys who were not interested in a tablet device in 2013, apparently they haven't changed their minds yet.
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 regularly using their tablets for internet access, email and calendars.
The survey also asked attorneys to identify apps that they use. I want to start by making the same objection that I made for the last two years: I don't like how the ABA asks the question. The ABA first asks "Have you ever downloaded a legal-specific app for your smartphone?" In 2017, 41.8% said yes. When I see the word "smartphone" in this question, I think of my iPhone, not my iPad. Then the next question asks: "What legal specific app(s) did you download?" When I read the questions in that order, I'm thinking of the apps that I downloaded on my iPhone, not my iPad. But others must be reading the question differently because I see TrialPad and TranscriptPad in the answers, and those apps exist only on the iPad, not on the iPhone. I would have never mentioned those apps when answering the question, even though I use them on my iPad.
So while I question how much value you can put in these answers, for what it is worth, the top 13 apps listed are, in order of the percentage of attorneys mentioning them:
- Lexis Advance
- A legal dictionary app
- LexisNexis Get Cases & Shepardize
- ABA apps
- LexisNexis Legal News
- Westlaw News
The ABA then asked about general business apps, and the questions have the same ambiguity: the ABA first asked if the attorney ever downloaded a general business app to a smartphone (47.1% said yes in 2017), and then the ABA asked which apps were downloaded, without making it clear whether the question was asking about the iPhone and iPad. The answers provided were, in this order:
- Documents to Go
- MS Office/Word
It amazes me that Microsoft Word is so low on this list (only 6.4% report using it), but at least it made the list in 2017; in prior years, it wasn't even on the list. Word is one of the most useful general-purpose apps that any lawyer can have on his iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows mobile device. If you are not using it yet on your iPhone and iPad, you are missing out on an app that is incredibly useful in a law practice.