Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Focusing on Lawyer Mobility in 2014

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Chad E. Burton. Chad is the founding attorney of Burton Law, a virtual law firm based in Ohio and North Carolina. Chad’s practice focuses on two primary areas: Business Law and Dispute Resolution. Chad’s is the first in a series of posts sharing predictions for IT in 2014. Join the conversation on Twitter: #PredictIT

IMG_9558I love this time of year. It is an opportunity not only to reflect, but, perhaps more importantly, it is a focused time to plan and strategize for the coming year and beyond. Since I live in the legal sector, let’s focus on what 2014 holds for lawyers and the industry in general.

It is fair to say that lawyers, finally, are catching up to the rest of the business world when it comes to technology. Several innovative (and viable) startups have crept into the legal sector. There will be more. This is good news because if there is ever an industry that needs constant nudges forward, it is ours. Small steps.

My prediction for 2014: All legal services will be delivered by Amazon PrimeAir and Google robots. Okay. While that would be awesome, let’s try again. Take two.

Mobility should be the focus for 2014. Most lawyers at least own a smartphone and/or tablet (with a weird contingent of flip-phone hold outs…Breaking Bad enthusiasts?). However, it is one thing to use the shiny object to update your Facebook status on the wicked hearing you won that in reality lasted 3 minutes because the other party did not show up, it is another to use the device as an effective business productivity tool.

The focus must not only be on access to information, but also creating, editing and sharing content. For lawyers, we are talking about documents — lots and lots of documents. Accessing information on the go is key, but so is collaborating with team members, clients and opposing counsel.

That is why I tend to get along with Box and its folks so well. They have a similar core focus — the cloud, mobility and social. You need all three of these to get a true mobile experience.

Predicting the increase of mobile production for the legal work force is not earth shattering. It may seem a little obvious from me since I work exclusively off of mobile devices (the iPad and iPhone). I find that this concept increases efficiency in workflow by reducing multi-tasking and removing any kind of perceived chain from a desk. Working through mobile devices also puts a focus on stream-lined processes and simplified procedures for operating a law firm.

That perhaps is going to be the biggest hurdle for some lawyers to operate in a true mobile environment. The underlying system for a firm has to accommodate mobile needs. You must be able to access information from anywhere, which means having cloud-based, mobile friendly platforms in place, such as Clio and Box. Without an effective underlying tech ecosystem, true mobility is difficult.

Mobility is not just about the device or the platform, it also is about the mindset. For lawyers, that means being able to walk away from the old school brick and mortar presence. Does that mean that all law firms in 2014 will convert to a virtual law firm model such as ours? No, but every lawyer works away from his or her desk at some point and needs to access and create content. Adopting a mindset that legal work can be done on the go — without stacks of paper in tow — is a significant part of the battle.

Increasing the mobility of lawyers is an important step forward in the general use of technology for delivering legal services. Doing so helps lawyers serve clients by reducing barriers to quickly and effectively share information. And, that is what this is all about — improving client service. It is tough to argue against such change.