2013 In-House Tech Survey

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

, Corporate Counsel

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The emergence of "smart" mobile devices—phones and tablets that can do many of the tasks of a laptop—may only compound the challenge. While buying a smartphone is easy, figuring out how to use it most effectively—how to choose and troubleshoot and integrate all manner of law-specific apps—is another matter entirely. Centralized IT support and procurement, focused on the needs of the overall enterprise, may not be the most effective way to drive optimal use of mobile devices by lawyers.

Indeed, already there are signs that in-house counsel are not getting as much out of their mobile devices as they could be. According to the survey, the most popular mobile applications were email, document viewing (via an assortment of apps), text messaging, calendaring, and maps. More specialized programs that have gained traction within law firms—apps like Evernote (for taking notes), Citrix (for accessing core applications remotely), and FastCase (for legal research)—were far down the list (each of the apps mentioned above was used by just one survey respondent). "Adoption of mobile devices is much slower in law department than in firms," says Tom Mighell, a senior consultant with Contoural Inc. and a former chair of the American Bar Association's law practice management section. "They are still feeling their way around."

They're feeling their way around, too, on a host of platforms. More than 70 percent of responding legal departments now support Apple's iOS system, which powers both the iPhone and iPad (up from 40 percent in 2011). Nearly 40 percent support Android (up from 9 percent), and more than a quarter support one form or another of Windows (whether it is Windows Phone, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows RT).

Law departments may be missing opportunities to help guide and support their attorneys as they integrate these new devices into their work. For example, the survey reveals that at 29 percent of law departments, most lawyers use mobile devices instead of laptops while traveling. At another 24 percent, some lawyers do. Yet 0 percent of respondents—as in, zero—supply tablets in lieu of laptops. If so many lawyers are already finding mobile devices a better on-the-road solution, perhaps law departments could improve the productivity—or at least the convenience—for others by giving them the option to switch.

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?

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