In our increasingly mobile world, it should come as no surprise that the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report confirmed that 80% of attorneys now use iPhones “for law-related tasks.” Looking deeper into typical applications of mobile devices, the survey found that lawyers still tend to predominantly focus on basic personal productivity tasks such as checking emails, calendaring, and expense tracking.
The profound disruptions impacting the practice of law necessitate the value of fully leveraging the utility of smartphones. Imagine running your law practice from the palm of your hands. On the go, your mobile device can become your virtual office. The trend is also shifting away from working in a physical office to virtual law practice, as confirmed by the ABA TECHREPORT, which showed that 55% of respondents now work remotely.
Smartphones deliver immense computing power; they process 3.36 billion instructions per second. In fact, smartphones are now more powerful than laptops. Whether you are a litigation or transactional attorney, smartphones can serve as an indispensable tool to help you streamline your document-intensive and administrative tasks, while in court or meeting with your clients off-site, thereby improve utilization and realization rates.
So, what are some of the high-value applications of smartphones that are proven to benefit your law practice? Let’s start with digitizing your incoming documents. Using your smartphone, you may scan any document, including hand-written paper, and easily turn it into a searchable PDF, so you can quickly find documents and access the information within them using advanced OCR (optical character recognition) technology available right on your smartphone.
Once your incoming documents are transformed into machine-readable text, you are empowered to increase your productivity. You can mark up and annotate any part of a PDF (text, images, or a chart); redact privileged, confidential, and sensitive information; forward documents for approval; email, print, or save to Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, Google Drive or to your matter management application.
Your smartphone can serve as a virtual law library to access cases and find citations available from Lexis Nexis, or Fast Case. Such research can then be easily merged into a single PDF from several files in any format, even in different formats.
Capturing visual and written depositions is another practical application of smartphones whereby client testimony–what is said and witness demeanor may be efficiently evaluated and then integrated into your case file and briefs.
Finally, AI technologies powered by natural language processing (often abbreviated as NLP) are accessible from your smartphone that helps you identify, extract, and analyze textual information within large volumes of legal documents and streamline highly labor-intensive and tedious linear contact review.
While there are pundits who argue that advances in AI technologies that are now accessible from smartphones will displace the work of lawyers, it is useful to remind ourselves of Moravec’s paradox: “Activities which are hard for humans are easy for machines, and activities which are easy for humans are hard for machines.” What that means, in a practical sense for those of us without CompSci Ph.Ds., is that robots are still a long ways away from being able to counsel clients, negotiate a contract, or argue a motion. Machines just aren’t ready, and won’t be a for a while, to replace the things that you bring genuine value to your clients.
Yet, at the same time, according to studies, most lawyers (75%) work outside of regular business hours which may negatively impact work and personal life balance. Much of the work you have to bring home at night (or at least when you worked anywhere else but from home) is not the value-creating work, but the kinds of things like handling and managing documents, moving content from one document to the next, or the like. Turning over those mundane tasks to your mobile apps gives you more time for the responsibilities that create client value. And, perhaps, they can help you recapture just a little bit of your sense of work-life balance in these troubling times.