Since the beginning of the legal industry, a lawyer’s greatest asset continues to be an in-depth knowledge of the law and the contexts in which it applies. Being a good lawyer means being able to earn the best possible outcomes for your clients. Being a successful lawyer, however, is about doing this with efficiency and at scale.
Technology makes us more efficient in getting clients the services they need. Mobile devices have become nearly ubiquitous in our society, and consumers have come to expect on-demand attention and seamless experiences across all industries—including professional services—which has set a new standard for the rhythm and pace of client interaction.
It’s a Mobile World…You Just Live In It
According to Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends report, time spent consuming digital media more than doubled over the course of seven years—from 2.7 hours per day in 2008 to 5.6 hours in 2015. What’s most significant is that this jump occurred almost entirely on mobile devices, increasing from 0.3 hours in 2008 to 2.8 hours in 2015. Now, more than half of all digital media is accessed through a mobile device—a rate of growth that is unparalleled in modern times.
Smartphones have replaced many of our household items—alarm clocks, watches, maps, cameras, flashlights, music players, and more. Studies as far back as 2007 show that 91 percent of adults rarely keep their phones beyond arm’s reach—and this was before most people had phones that were “smart.” We use mobile devices for shopping, ordering food, and planning and booking vacations. Around the world, 69 percent of people rely on mobile banking services—and in many cases, online payment systems circumvent banking systems entirely.
Mobile technology has also changed how we work. A recent Softchoice study looked at the work habits of full-time office employees in North America. It found that 78 percent of workers value being able to remotely access their work, and 86 percent value having flexible hours. In fact, workers value flexibility so much that 70 percent of them would leave their job for more of it. Lawyers are no different, and mobility has always been essential to the practice of law.
Depending on jurisdiction and area of practice, lawyers spend much of their time out of office—and not just to appear in court. Consider this: According to the ABA 2015 Tech Report, about 75 percent of survey respondents reported working out of office—including from home (88 percent), hotels (40 percent), other offices (23 percent), vacation homes (18 percent), public places (16 percent), and coffee shops or cafes (10 percent).
The question is, are lawyers taking advantage of the resources that will help them be successful? Given that only 41 percent of ABA survey respondents have downloaded a legal-specific app, and only 17 percent have an app for time tracking, there’s likely much potential for improvement.
Here’s how mobile technology can help:
Communicate better across channels. Phones were made to help us communicate, but they’ve evolved far beyond the traditional voice call. Smartphones allow you to communicate via text and email—and a host of social media platforms. The obvious insight here is that you can be on call from anywhere, meaning you’ll never be beyond the reach of your clients. What’s less obvious is that not all standard communication channels are secure. Many can leave your transmitted messages unencrypted and visible for interception. Using a secure client portal allows you to communicate in a safer environment.
Stay organized with all of your tasks and calendar information in one place. Chances are you already use your mobile devices to keep track of your personal contacts and calendar items. If you haven’t done it already, syncing your office resources to your phone is a good idea for staying on top of appointments and assignments.
An even better idea is to use dedicated software to keep your work and private life separate. While having everything you need in one place is necessary for creating flexible workflows, having a way to How to get the most out of your mobile device distinguish work contacts and appointments helps avoid confusing your responsibilities—and helps you disconnect when you really need to.
Working from a practice management app also allows you to link all events and tasks directly to clients and matters for future reference and billing. Also, being out of office doesn’t need to mean being out of pocket. With a mobile app, you can assign and track all firm activity by individual staff members, clients, or matters.
Organize and track all of your firm data from one source. When you store your data on a cloud server, you can access and share information from any device, anywhere. Dropbox and Box are cloud storage services that many lawyers already use to store and share pertinent documents; Gmail is a popular cloud email provider that underpins the communication services for a number of law firms. Relying on cloud services accessed via mobile applications ensures that your productivity isn’t tethered to a desk.
Lawyers, for better or worse, are becoming a highly mobile workforce, able to attend to matters from the office, courthouse, coffee shop, or anywhere in between—and this number is only projected to skew higher as ‘mobile natives’ begin to graduate into the legal profession. Law firms would be best served to adapt to a mobile workflow now to prevent culture shock down the road.
To learn more about how mobile devices are transforming the legal workforce and how your firm can adapt, download your free copy of The Mobile Revolution: What Law Firms Need to Know now.