Technology on the Go: Using Mobile Devices

Technology on the Go: Using Mobile Devices

Most lawyers now use some sort of mobile technology in their practice, whether it’s a cell phone to monitor emails and return calls or a tablet to make courtroom presentations. According to the ABA’s 2015 Techreport on mobile technology, 90 percent of lawyers use smartphones in their practice, 79 percent work on laptops and 49 percent use tablets.

Mobile devices allow lawyers to do their work and stay in contact with the firm and its clients from anywhere. They reduce the need to haul around heavy briefcases full of documents. Some lawyers conduct entire trials using iPads. But mobile technology also poses security risks and should be accompanied by clear policies and guidelines.

How Lawyers Are Using Mobile Technology

The ABA survey shows that lawyers are more likely to use phones or tablets for simpler tasks, like viewing and responding to email and messages. They are more likely to use laptops for more complex tasks like creating documents. Apple tablets and smartphones dominate among lawyers.

Most lawyers use mobile devices to stay in touch, whether it’s by phone, email, videoconference or text. Other common uses include time and billing, calendars, and document creation and editing.

Both laptops and tablets are popular tools for presentations, according to the ABA survey. In the tablet world, apple’s iPad is a clear favorite, although Microsoft tablets may more easily integrate with a law firm’s other computers and software. Presentations might include proposals to clients or prospective clients, or slideshows at CLEs or community speaking engagements.

In the courtroom, a lawyer may use a laptop to take notes and a tablet to organize exhibits and project them for the jury to see. Deposition transcripts and outlines of witness questions can also be loaded onto a tablet. Numerous apps and software make it easy to adapt tablets and laptops to these litigation functions, keeping things organized and easy to search and use.

Issues to Consider

Data security is an increasingly hot topic for law firms, and law firm data includes data and communications on mobile devices. Yet in the most recent ABA survey, nearly 30 percent of lawyers said they don’t use any security measures at all when accessing Wi-Fi networks. Law firms should develop and enact policies to ensure that client data remains secure when lawyers access it outside the office.

With 90 percent of lawyers doing business on cell phones, law firms must also decide whether to purchase mobile devices for lawyers, or to adopt a “bring your own device” policy that has them using their personal cell phones for client contact as well as for snapping photos of their kids.

For the bring your own device approach, it’s important to develop a policy that includes safeguards for protecting sensitive data and educates users on best practices. The policy may focus on password and malware requirements, notification requirements in the event the device is lost or stolen, and education about the potential for personal data to be viewed or deleted if the device is compromised. And lawyers should be reminded of their ethical responsibilities to keep client communications and data confidential.