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Remote Device Usage Changing the Landscape of Practice Management

23 December 2019|Technology

By Wayne Nitti

Changes in technology are impacting the way attorneys approach practice management in a significant way.  Over the last few years, the rise of the mobile lawyer has continued to alter the traditional law office model.  As evidenced by findings in the American Bar Association Tech Report 2019’s survey of over 50,000 attorneys, laptop use and remote access, in particular, are steadily on the rise.

The use of portable devices increasingly offers attorneys an alternative to the traditional desktop set up.  Mobility, convenience, and flexibility are among the top reasons for the shift.  Laptop usage – widespread across the legal field over the last several years – continues its upward trend, offering attorneys the ability to meet client demands while on the go.

Laptop Usage On the Rise for 2019

According to the ABA Report, the steady decline of desktops as primary computing devices continues.  Fifty-seven percent of attorneys surveyed rely on their desktop as their primary computer, down 2% from last year, 3% from two years ago, and 7% from 2016.  Laptop usage has picked up the slack, with the 2019 Report noting that 41% of attorneys now consider their laptop to be their primary computer—a 3% increase from last year.  Notably, the shift in laptop use is most pronounced at larger firms, with 500+ attorney organizations experiencing a whopping year-over-year increase of 14% and 100-499 attorney organizations reporting a 6% uptick.  For smaller firms, 2019 looks a lot like 2018, with the number of solo firms utilizing laptops as their primary device remaining unchanged and firms with 2 to 49 attorneys reporting an approximate 1% increase.

Remote Access Commonplace in Practices of All Sizes

Remote usage offers limitless options in structuring – or restructuring – a practice, with greater control over scheduling, reduced overhead, and increased mobility.  Attorneys are increasingly utilizing cloud-based technology and virtual office arrangements to maximize flexibility.  Today, attorneys can often practice the way they want, whether it be working at home or setting up shop at a co-working office environment. 

Eighty-four percent of large firms offer remote access technology, according to the ABA Report.  While the availability of such technology at large organizations is relatively unchanged since 2018, the use of such resources has increased – from 68% last year to 73% this year.  Large firm attorneys weigh in as the most prolific users, with solos the least likely to embrace remote access technology.  The Report posits that the big firm uptick may stem from less pressure “to do work in the office to network and move up” or the fact that firms are “providing these remote access software opportunities to incentivize employees to work for them.”  Overall, 2019 saw an increase in remote access technology across the board – by solo practitioners, small and medium-sized organizations, and large firms.

Tablet and Smartphone Usage

Not surprisingly, tablets and ‘other computer types’ are sparingly used as primary computing devices, with only 2% and .4% of attorneys, respectively, identifying tablets and other devices as their main computing resource.  The ABA also reports a decrease of 12% in tablet availability at firms between 2018 and 2019, although this statistic may be skewed by how respondents identify the device they use (laptop or tablet).  Notably, tablet and smartphone usage in the courtroom has seen a drastic decrease over the last three years.   

Case Anywhere and Current Legal Tech Trends

As detailed by the ABA’s 2019 Report, there is a definitive shift away from the conventional desktop office set up and toward increased laptop use and remote access capabilities.  At Case Anywhere, we embrace this movement and have been working diligently on optimizing the appearance and responsiveness of our user interfaces across all device types.  These enhancements will improve the user experience on desktops, laptops, tablets, and cell phones without sacrificing the ease-of-use expected by our clients.  We look forward to sharing them with you in 2020.