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Exchange • Spring 2015 > Leverage Business Development Premier

The Mobile (R)evolution

By Bob Schukai, Head of Advanced Product Innovation, Thomson Reuters
Bob Schukai, Head of Advanced Product Innovation, Thomson Reuters

In the legal software space, there’s been a lot of talk over recent years about integrating solutions into the “workflow” of today’s legal practitioners. However, time moves on, and I believe the conversation should evolve as well. As has always been the case, lawyers and other legal professionals seldom clock in an eight- or even ten-hour day in the office… Work-related activities and concerns spill out into the hours before the office and after. The difference now is that more of the work is being done out of the office rather than behind a desk.

Part of what has made this possible to such a large extent is the explosive growth and technology evolution of mobile devices—laptops, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology (think Apple Watch, the Motorola Moto 360, and the Samsung Gear)— cloud technology, and the software that now makes it possible to work from any location and at any time. Coupled with this upsurge of techno-innovation is new capabilities in our cars and the introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—technologies that bring “non-distracting” mobile phone functionality to the display in your vehicle. In fact, the conversation isn’t just about workflow on desktops anymore, but a progression towards what I refer to as “day flow.”

Getting into the (Day) Flow

What is day flow in the mobile world? It’s waking up in the morning, and turning to your mobile device to check the weather, the traffic, and the stock reports before getting out of bed. It’s rechecking over breakfast to see if the train is on time, if the subways are on track, if the freeways are moving. It’s opening the laptop on the train to check email and see if anything has developed in your firm’s international offices that might impact your tasks and plans for the day. It’s jumping into a taxi to get to a client meeting, and—in the fifteen minute ride to the client office—opening your tablet to check out the latest docketing dates and relevant information that your associate just texted to you that he finished uploading to the matter folder. Then, at the end of the day, it’s having the option to take that after-hours call from a client while cheering on your daughter and her soccer team from the stands. In summary, it’s using any screen that conveys information—phone, tablet, watch, computer, or car—to guide you in every aspect of your day, from the time you wake until you head to sleep.

Most likely, at least part of this screen/mobile-heavy “day flow” will resonate with your own experiences, but even if it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that it reflects the daily lives of many of your colleagues and clients. In the most recent American Bar Association legal technology survey, 94% of the lawyers who responded report regularly or occasionally using a mobile device for law-related tasks at home, following by 78% using mobile devices in hotels, and 70% using them in transit (2014 ABA Mobile Lawyers, Volume 6).

Obviously mobile is “on the move” in the legal profession and already a natural part of the day flow of a vast majority of lawyers.

Designing for the Experience

But, just how “user friendly” are the mobile versions of the legal apps you turn to throughout the day?

I bet that, at some point in your mobile life, you have been faced with the uncomfortable experience of squinting at a text-heavy app on your smartphone, trying to read dozens of lines of text that were never designed to be read on a 4-inch screen. It’s not fun or productive.

At Thomson Reuters, when we design our software products, we take into account not just the desktop experience but also the mobile environments most preferred by our users and “design to the environment.”

For lawyers, Elite Mobile provides access to personal financial performance indicators and data about clients, contacts, matters, documents, docketing events, marketing activities, and work experience. In addition, immediate remote access to time entry from all devices allows lawyers to enter their time on the go. Elite Mobile also provides client intelligence that shows key relationships and highlights firm experience, and draws on additional client and market intelligence provided by Thomson Reuters data to create a powerful tool for growing a firm’s business.

And that’s just the start. Mobile is only going to evolve faster and become more sophisticated over time. Now, we have watches that bring all the power of smartphones to us with the shake of a wrist. It’s going to be exciting to see how mobile technology grows and how we, as users, incorporate it into our day flows.

Next up: Making the Flow “Personal”

Beyond smartwatches and the other wearable technology devices, the next big evolution I see for mobility in the workplace is “contextual personalization,” or as Google says, delivering the “right information at the right time.” The challenge for us at Thomson Reuters is to find ways to proactively provide legal information and data that you can use in your mobile worklife, to personalize the information we offer to you, and to offer up the data you need to make a decision, even before you’ve decided what that data might be. For an intellectual property lawyer, for example, that data might be the latest information on a specific “flavor” of patent suits, information that could be useful at a client meeting you have scheduled later that day. Or it could be a breaking news feed on a prospect your firm is pitching, market trending information for business development, or proactive budget alerts for matter management plans. The possibilities are endless.

I might go a step beyond Google, and offer that we would want to “provide information you need before you know you need it.” That’s a worthy challenge to evolve to meet!

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