CHICAGO, Sept. 17, 2003 – Lawyer use of technology to provide legal services in the United States is nearly universal. More than 98 percent of respondents to the ABA’s 2002 Legal Technology Survey indicated that they used a computer for work-related tasks.
The survey is a comprehensive look at how the legal profession uses technology. More than 3,000 ABA members in private practice in the U.S. returned questionnaires relating to law office computing, litigation and courtroom technology, and Web and communications. The survey covers issues including technology training, budgeting, hardware and software purchases, as well as where and how lawyers use technology.
Lawyers continue to adopt technologies common in other industries, underscoring the similar business needs lawyers have with other professions. More than 40 percent of respondents use personal digital assistants, up 10 percent from the 2001 survey. Nearly 20 percent use a laptop as their primary computer, and more than two-thirds have access to a laptop on a temporary basis.
Wireless networking is slowly gaining ground, particularly among solo lawyers, of whom 6 percent report using WiFi. Broadband access is increasingly popular, with 29 percent of respondents indicating they used DSL and 25 percent using a T1 line. Only 3 percent use ISDN for Internet access, and 2 percent use a wireless connection.
Fewer than 2 percent of lawyers use computers with a Macintosh operating system. Linux and Unix hold a similar slice of law firm network operating systems. Microsoft accounts for the majority of networks, with just over 14 percent of law firms still using Novell. There appear to be more law firms with local area networks this year, with 79 percent of firms indicating they have a LAN, up from 71 percent in 2001.
Surprisingly, fewer than half of the law firms responding to the survey had policies regarding acceptable use of internal e-mail of computers. Just over 40 percent had disaster recovery or business continuity plans, despite an increased awareness in the susceptibility of businesses to terrorism and other threats.
The legal profession remains document-centric, with word processing software available at 96 percent of law firms, although it’s only used personally by 66 percent of lawyers. E-mail software is also a staple of the modern lawyer, available at 93.5 percent of firms, and personally used by 73 percent of respondents. Microsoft Word continues as the leading word processor in law firms, in use by 72.5 percent of respondents, with 43.5 percent using Corel WordPerfect.
The survey is an annual project of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, a specialized unit providing lawyers, bar associations, law schools, and other legal organizations with information on technology and its use. The Center’s professional staff write frequently on technology issues and provide continuing legal education on practice management using technology. Their online resource center at www.lawtechnology.org provides historical survey data as well as recent technology trend information.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 405,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.