For over three decades, the ABA has conducted an annual survey of lawyers to find out what legal technology they use. These results are released every year by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. The 2022 report was just released (edited by Taylor Young, and researched by Taylor Young and Joshua Poje). There are five volumes, and you can purchase a copy using this page of the ABA website.
I have been looking at these reports every year since 2010 because they have been the best source of statistics on the use of mobile technology by lawyers. (My reports on the prior ABA surveys are located here: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.) Starting in 2011, the survey asked lawyers what smartphones they use, and from 2011 to 2021, we saw an increase in iPhone use, reaching a record high of 80% in 2021. Android use started at 15% in 2011, increased to a high of 25% in 2018, and has been around 18%-19% since 2019. During those same years, we saw the fall of the once-dominant BlackBerry along with all other smartphone brands other than the iPhone and Android.
Unfortunately, we don’t have updated numbers for 2022. In 2020, the ABA changed the way that it collected data. In odd-number years, the ABA releases a volume called Life & Practice, and that volume asks about the type of smartphone that a lawyer uses. In even-number years such as this one, the ABA replaces that with a volume called Litigation Technology & E-Discovery. The 2022 volumes still contain some interesting data on smartphone and tablet use by attorneys, but not as much we saw last year.
The ABA was kind enough to provide me with a complementary copy of the 2022 volumes. Here are the survey results that relate to smartphone and tablet use that jumped out at me.
Putting the YO into BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
The 2022 ABA survey asked respondents to identify the type of hardware for which they are allowed to select their own brand, model, or type. The #1 response was the smartphone, where 81% of lawyers reported that their law firm let them select what they wanted. We have this policy at my own law firm; the overwhelming majority of attorneys at my firm decide to select an iPhone model, but a small number of attorneys select an Android phone. The #2 response was the tablet, with 55% reporting that they can select their own device. For other device types, less than half of the respondents could select what they want: monitor (43%), printer (37%), desktop (32%), portable accessories (31%), and scanner (30%).
Lawyers were also asked if their law firm allows them to use a personal mobile device such as a tablet, laptop, or smartphone to access the firm’s network. Only 5% said no. However, almost two-thirds of the lawyers said that pre-approval was required and/or restrictions are imposed. I presume that many law firms use some sort of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to protect both the law firm network and individual attorneys.
An all-time high of 91% of lawyers reported in 2022 that they do legal research when they are out of the office. That’s up from 88% in 2021, 87% in 2020, and 86% in 2019. The most popular way to do so is with a laptop or desktop computer, with 65% of lawyers saying that they do so regularly and 18% saying that they do so occasionally. But a significant number of lawyers report doing legal research using a smartphone or tablet. 22% reported using a smartphone regularly and 32% report using a smartphone occasionally to do legal research. 18% report using a tablet regularly and another 18% report using a tablet occasionally to do legal research.
One statistic that I’m trying to wrap my brain around is that 2% of lawyers report that they regularly use a smart wearable device to do legal research. I am a huge fan of the Apple Watch, and I regularly use it in my law practice for communication and reminders. But I don’t think that I use my watch for anything that I would call legal research. The only possible exception that I can think of is starting and stopping a timer to track how long I spend doing legal research. Is there something else that I’m not thinking of? If you have an idea for how a smart wearable device can be used for legal research—especially if you yourself are part of that 2% who do this—please let me know!
The iPhone and iPad in the courtroom
Speaking of legal research while out of the office, one such venue for doing so is the courtroom. But of course, there are many other reasons to use an iPhone or iPad in the courtroom, from consulting a calendar to scheduling upcoming dates to giving an appellate oral argument.
According to the survey, 81% of lawyers say that they use a smartphone in the courtroom. And since 2017, the responses to that question have been in the 80% to 84% range, so lawyers have been doing this for some time now. Lawyers at law firms with 100 or more attorneys are somewhat more likely to use a smartphone in the courtroom (87%).
Here is a chart showing what lawyers say that they are doing with their smartphone in court (click to enlarge). The most popular uses are email and calendaring. I was amused to see 25% of lawyers report that they use their smartphone in court to browse the web to kill time—something that I hope attorneys only do while waiting for the judge to enter the courtroom.
Far fewer attorneys report using a tablet device in the courtroom — about 33%. For those who do, top uses are for email, calendaring, legal research, accessing key evidence and documents, real-time communications, and delivering presentations.