ABA Poll Shows Increase in Tech Use

The 2007 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report shows expected increases – and some perhaps unanticipated stagnancy – in lawyers’ use of technology.
Each year, the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center surveys private practice attorneys to analyze their use of technology. This year, more than 1,800 ABA members responded, with results reported in five categories: law office technology; litigation and courtroom technology; Web and communication technology; online research; and mobile lawyers.
The 2007 survey results definitely reflect a small firm focus: More than half of respondents are either solo practitioners (24 percent) or work in firms of two to nine lawyers (28 percent). Only 18 percent are from firms of 10 to 49 attorneys, 7 percent from firms with 50 to 99 attorneys, and 23 percent of respondents are from large firms, with 100-plus attorneys.
Most respondents have a significant amount of experience: 47 percent have been admitted for more than 30 years, 14 percent for 20 to 29 years, 19 percent for 10 to 19 years, 10 percent for five to nine years and another 10 percent for less than five years.
Respondents do buy smartphones – 53 percent use a PDA outside the office, 32 percent check their e-mail. And they trust their systems: 49 percent send confidential or privileged communications to clients via e-mail one or more times a day, with 79 percent relying on a confidentiality statement accompanying the transmission, and 17 percent on using encryption.

Litigation and E-Discovery
In the wake of last year’s e-discovery revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it is not surprising that the 2007 survey documented a substantial increase in the number of lawyers who make electronic discovery requests on behalf of their clients. This year, only 26 percent of lawyers said they have never made an electronic discovery request, compared with 69 percent in the 2006 survey.
Electronic discovery efforts are escalating in firms – 28 percent of respondents report e-discovery programs are in place; with 71 percent of large firms on board. Technology partners (26 percent), IS staff (18 percent) or litigation support specialists (15 percent) are primarily responsible for EDD programs.

Policies and Planning
Despite the lessons of Hurricane Katrina, disaster recovery planning held steady at 54 percent, equal to last year’s survey. Twenty-three percent of respondents have no disaster recovery plan, and another 23 percent said they did not know if their organization has a plan in place. Surprisingly, with discovery of e-mail and other electronic documents playing an important role in high-profile cases over the last few years, fewer respondents to this year’s survey report having relevant technology policies in place – 45 percent reported that their organization has an e-mail use policy; 29 percent reported an e-mail retention policy; and 38 percent reported a document management or records management policy as opposed to 56 percent, 33 percent, and 50 percent, respectively, in the 2006 Survey.
Training programs are not available to many lawyers and law firms: 34 percent of respondents indicated that they have no technology training available, including 61 percent of solos and 46 percent of small firm attorneys.

Online Research
Almost all respondents (96 percent) rely on the Internet for news at least once a week. The top five online resources are third-party Web sites (72 percent); e-mail newsletters (58 percent); e-mail discussion lists (38 percent); e-mail case alert services (37 percent); and online advance sheet services (30 percent). Used less frequently are podcasts (2 percent), RSS feeds (5 percent) and automated clipping services (10 percent).
Just about everybody (91 percent) conducts legal research online. But don’t rule out print: 52 percent regularly use print materials, and 38 percent use print materials occasionally. For more information about the survey reports see www.lawtechnology.org/survstat.

Source: New York Law Journal, Catherine Sanders Reach, November 20, 2007