2013 In-House Tech Survey

Our tech survey finds benefits—and security risks—in the BYOD movement.

, Corporate Counsel


Outside-the-office productivity might be enhanced, too, if law departments more proactively steered their users to the new generation of mobile-friendly apps and services. "With a tablet, you can access online litigation platforms via a browser that knows you are coming from a tablet and delivers its content in a format suited for it," says Brett Burney, the founder of Burney Consultants, which provides technology-related services to corporate executives and legal professionals. "We're at the beginning stages . . . but there are some tools law departments might want to look at."

Law departments might want to take a closer look, too, at their mobile security policies—or lack thereof. One of the more startling findings on our 2011 survey was that only half of responding legal departments had a formal security policy for mobile devices. After all, these are products that are a lot more likely than laptops and desktop PCs to be lost or stolen, and also more likely to be used for nonwork reasons (no one ever photographed their kid's graduation with their workplace Dell). With the surge in tablet and smartphone popularity, we expected to see movement on that number, and we did—but not as much as anticipated, or, perhaps, hoped: 23 percent of law departments said they still had no formal security policy.

Of the others, implementations varied widely. While 37 percent apply their security policy to all mobile devices in use by their lawyers—whether supplied by the company or brought in from home—another 37 percent only have a policy for company-issued hardware. (More troubling still: Nearly 3 percent of respondents didn't know if their law department had a security policy.) In the survey questionnaire, we asked those with policies to describe them, and suffice to say that there is no widely embraced standard.

Most—but not all—law departments rely on passwords, encryption, and remote wipes (purging the device when it is lost or stolen, or when legal staff take their personal tablets or phones to new employers). Some use mobile device management (MDM) software that can implement those policies and do other things like update and troubleshoot the device. "There is no consistency in how law departments approach mobile security," says Burney. "Even if they have some kind of MDM system, they often take it only so far, turning on some features but not others."

That law departments are feeling their way around on not just the use of mobile devices but the policies connected to them might be a natural consequence of the fall of the BlackBerry. Back in 2011, 89 percent of law departments supported BlackBerry devices. This year, less than 60 percent did. While the BlackBerry may lag behind iOS and Android devices in apps and admirers, it has always offered rock-solid, built-in security, easily managed by—and from—corporate IT. The new wave of devices—designed with consumers as well as business users in mind—require more effort, and often third-party software, to re-create and implement those BlackBerry-like features.

Nor is it just security that needs a close look in the mobility era. Law departments may need to rework their policies and processes for documents as well. According to the survey, 71 percent of law departments permit lawyers to bring digital files in from home on electronic devices or flash drives. That raises a crucial question: Where exactly do work-related files reside? Is everything on a mobile device replicated on a corporate server? Are there documents that reside only on an iPhone or an iPad?

"Having mobile devices and screens everywhere means more locations where corporate records could be located," says Mighell. "When an e-discovery request comes in, you might have to put a quarantine on every device or otherwise make sure the information on the device is secured. Most folks are trying to catch up on mobile devices, but they also have to think about information governance. You can't have mobile devices without having a plan."

There is also the issue of how documents are getting onto mobile devices. Does the company have its own internal process for access—for example, letting attorneys download what they need from a central repository? Or must lawyers go the DIY route, using third-party, often cloud-based solutions, like Dropbox—outside the company's reach and perhaps even its knowledge? "Lawyers want to access documents on their iPads . . . they want to annotate them, and so on," says Burney. "To me, that is one of the things that IT has to provide a way to do. Something that is seamless, secure, and under their control."

It's ironic, perhaps, that the same technology that promises to simplify life for attorneys is—for now, at least—complicating legal IT. But as the survey makes clear, mobile technology is playing both a larger and a more complex role within corporate legal departments. Coming up with the right policies to facilitate its benefits—and to mitigate its pitfalls—isn't just a wise strategy. It's essential.

Welcome to ALM. You have read 0 out of 0 free articles this month

Get 2 months of unlimited access FREE

Originally appeared in print as Goin' Mobile

What's being said

  • encodename;


  • encodename;


  • encodename;


  • encodename;


Comments are not moderated. To report offensive comments, click here.

Preparing comment abuse report for Article #1202607396918

Thank you!

This article's comments will be reviewed.