Sometime in the wake of 9-11, when the Blackberry was the focus of so many stories, I asked several of my solo colleagues whether they thought they’d ever use one in their practice. At the time, Blackberrys were becoming standard for large firm and and corporate employees, but they hadn’t made their way down the ranks to solos and smalls. So most of my colleagues responded that they didn’t see much use for one.
Fast forward a decade, and a recent infographic by MyCase shows just how far we’ve come. Today, 88 percent of lawyers use a smartphone while 60 percent are using tablets. In some ways, use hasn’t changed much since the days of the Palm Pilot; the majority of lawyers use these devices for calendaring and keeping receipts. And few are yet pulling out a tablet or a smartphone for client engagement – though that certainly is coming next.
The MyCase report also examined where lawyers would like Wifi access. Not surprisingly, demand is highest in the courtroom, where technology hasn’t kept apace. In some jurisdictions, courts still require registration of laptops to enter the building and proof of bar membership to carry a phone inside.
Of course, mobile isn’t unique to lawyers – the broader business community is going mobile too. But if that conjures up images of the Starbucks Lawyer, think again – many business employees report using wifi in the office – and indeed, office design reflects this trend. For example, many offices are now built with lounges and open space where colleagues can plop down with a laptop or tablet to collaborate with others. Many also use mobile to multi-task -for example, preparing a sandwich in the company kitchen while finishing up a call. In this way, mobile is freeing even in the confines of an office.
Still, for lawyers, mobile – meaning tablets and iphones rather than laptops – still has a long way to go to before they’ll replace laptops or desktops. Most cloud based document creation tools are still not fully developed, and I still find typing on an ipad keyboard somewhat clumsy and frustrating. But a decade from now, who knows where mobile will go?