Walk into the office of any busy attorney and you will find a room awash in paper. Dozens of Redwells, swollen with documents, line the window sills or sit in a pile on a couch or even on the floor. Blue-backed contracts or depositions lay on a table in stacks, each pile representing a different client or case matter. The paper documents compete for space on the lawyer’s desk with his PC or laptop, his oversized monitor for easier viewing, and VOIP-operated phone. Chances are, however, the one thing you won’t see in the office is the lawyer herself, as new technologies make it easier than ever to work remotely or on the go.
“So, how do law firms provide the benefits of mobile computing while ensuring that their lawyers not only stay in touch with each other but also protect confidential information?”
According to a 2015 Robert Half International survey of 350 US and Canadian lawyers, 69% say that the opportunity to work remotely/work flexible hours is the most important perk law firms offer when it comes to successfully recruiting and retaining talented legal professionals. And Mobility Metrics, a recent report by Ari Kaplan Advisors and kCura, found that 100% of the law firm partners surveyed cited business travel and client service as the primary reasons remote access has become such a critical aspect of modern practice. That same survey also revealed that:
- Over a quarter of respondents prefer to work remotely
- A majority of respondents believe that firms will be paperless by 2020, though many still prefer reviewing a document on paper rather than a screen
- 83 percent of respondents are comfortable or very comfortable using mobile devices in the courtroom.
At the same time, states like California, Colorado and Delaware have made the electronic filing of court documents mandatory, which not only helps drive the reality of the paperless law office forward, but also accounts for why more and more mobile devices are being used in the courtroom to present evidence or advance arguments. And as law firms continue to look for ways to remain competitive or reduce costs, in 2016 more and more are expected to scale back on the amount of office space or jettison office spaces entirely in favor of “virtual” firms, according to Law Technology News.
At the same time, concerns about privacy and cybersecurity raise tough questions for firms about how to keep mobile data safe and ensure no breaches in confidential client communications or data. Indeed, the Mobility Metrics survey found that 77 percent of respondents’ firms have security concerns associated with working on mobile devices.
So how do law firms provide the benefits of mobile computing while at the same time ensuring that their lawyers not only stay in touch with each other but also protect confidential information?
We think about these issues a lot at MetaJure. Cloud computing tools and applications like Google Docs or Office to Go provide firms the benefits of the mobile office while helping to keep lawyers connected to one another but raise questions about security. Next Gen technologies, including document management solutions like MetaJure, however, are built with security in mind. (That’s why our software is deployed behind the firewall at many firms with which we work, or in a secure, private cloud at others.)
Given the number of documents that lawyers review each day and the amount of stress and strain online reading places on the eyes, it is unlikely that law firms will embrace a truly paperless law office any time soon, despite the predictions of the Mobility Metrics authors. And the most effective legal teams are those that work together cohesively and collaboratively, which is why all the latest studies indicate that the majority of lawyers still favor working together at a common office at least several days a week. Nonetheless, the advances made in mobile devices and tools clearly demonstrate that the portable future has arrived. Our technologies need to meet the challenges that mobility now raises.