Law Life: 2011 tech trends for lawyers

By Nicole Black
The Daily Record Newswire

In 2011, there will be rapid technological changes for everyone, not just lawyers. Internet-based technologies will continue to shape the technological landscape as never before.

The rapid increase in the use of mobile computing via smart phones and tablet computers will drastically alter the way that people interact and work. Social media and cloud computing will dominate the scene, with each shaping and affecting our lives and workplaces in ways never before imagined.

Lawyers are, however, a unique demographic and because of their particular needs and goals, will use these technologies differently than the general population.

First, lawyers will begin to purchase tools that will provide them with greater mobility and flexibility. I predict that by the end of 2011, most lawyers will own a smart phone. Those in large firms will continue to use BlackBerrys, at the mandate of their IT department. However, as iPhones and Androids continue to dominate the smart phone market, solos and small firms attorneys will undoubtedly move toward adopting these more flexible and user-friendly smart phones over BlackBerrys.

Tablet computer use will also increase in popularity with attorneys. The iPad will lead the way, although many lawyers will also choose to use PC-based tablets. Lawyers will use tablet computers primarily for the consumption of content, including newspapers, books and other media.

As more user-friendly applications are developed, lawyers will also increasingly use tablet computers to review and annotate PDF documents. That way, instead of lugging around huge files, lawyers will have the ability to read and edit large files right on their tablet, from virtually any location.

Two other trends to watch are the increasing use of two Internet-based technologies by lawyers: Cloud computing and social media.

Cloud computing — where data and platforms are stored on servers located outside of a law office — is on the rise. For many lawyers, cloud computing is an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional server or desktop-based software platforms.

In 2010, legal ethics committees across the country issued opinions offering guidelines for lawyers hoping to use cloud computing platforms in their practice. The issuance of guidelines was encouraging and offered lawyers a useful road map to ensure the ethical deployment of cloud computing platforms in their practices.

Accordingly, as the comfort level for cloud computing increases along with demand, more innovative legal cloud computing platforms will be developed and the vendors will become increasingly responsive to the ethical concerns raised by lawyers.

Social media use will continue to increase as well. Recent studies have indicated that blogging by the general population is on the decline, replaced instead by micro-blogging using sites like Twitter and Tumblr and status updates on Facebook.

For lawyers, professionals who stand to benefit from blogging, I predict that the use of blogs by law firms will increase only slightly. Blogs serve the dual purpose of increasing a law firm’s search engine rankings while showcasing the firm’s legal expertise. However, legal blogging will not be as popular as was in years past and rate of the deployment of new law blogs will slowly begin to decline in 2011.

Twitter use by attorneys will either remain steady or decline, while their participation on Facebook and LinkedIn will increase drastically. This is because the functionality of Twitter is changing and is used to share information rather than interact. I predict that lawyers will flock toward sites that allow them to interact and network.

2011 will no doubt be the year of the mobile attorney. Lawyers will increasingly work and network from mobile devices. Internet-based technologies, including cloud computing, will be used more frequently in law practices. It will be exciting to watch these changes take place and re-shape the practice of law as we now know it.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at