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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 great deal of discussion in recent years over integrating solutions into the workflow of today’s legal practitioners. However, time moves on, and that conversation needs to 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 have long invaded the hours before the office and after. The difference now is that work is increasingly being conducted outside the office rather than behind a desk.

Part of the impetus for this comes from today’s legal clients: It’s an accepted part of the legal landscape that more and more clients are expecting lawyers and their firms to be accessible and available 24/7. Part of what has made this expectation possible to such a large extent is the explosive growth and technology evolution of mobile devices—laptops, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology—cloud technology, and the software that now makes it possible to work from any location and at any time. Coupled with this upsurge of technoinnovation are new capabilities in automobiles and the introduction of technologies that bring “non-distracting” mobile phone functionality to the display in our vehicles.

As a result, the conversation isn’t just about workflow on desktops anymore, but a progression towards what we can think of as “day flow.”


Percentage of time spent working on law-related tasks away from primary workplace
According to the 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey, more than a third of the responding lawyers spend upwards of a quarter or more of their time working on law-related tasks outside of the workplace. (2015 ABA Mobile Lawyers, Vol. 6, pg. 18)

Getting into the (Day) Flow

What is day flow in the mobile world?

It’s waking up in the morning, and turning to a 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 the firm’s international offices that might impact tasks and plans for the day. It’s jumping into a taxi to get to a client meeting, and—in the 15-minute ride to the client's office—opening a tablet to check out the most recent invoice to the client, the latest docketing dates and relevant information that an associate just texted 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 participating in a child’s school function. In summary, it’s using any screen that conveys information—phone, tablet, watch, computer, or car—to guide the user in every aspect of a day, from waking to sleeping.

Most likely, at least part of this screen/mobile-heavy “day flow” will resonate with personal experience, but even if it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that it reflects the daily lives of many colleagues and clients. In the most recent American Bar Association legal technology survey, 91% of the lawyers who responded report regularly or occasionally using a mobile device for law-related tasks at home, followed by 74% using mobile devices in hotels and 68% using them in transit.1 In addition, when asked what was the most exciting technology or trend, respondents to the most recent ILTA Purchasing Survey said mobility, specifically, the “use of tablets as desktop replacements; mobile device management; virtual mobile computing; ability for attorneys to connect remotely and perform work without issues.”2 The firms surveyed are not just giving lip service to mobility but backing it up with their purchases. According to the survey results, laptops/notebooks were the top purchase (67%), with cloud storage and smartphones both coming in at 33%. Additionally, 55% of survey respondents saying they plan purchases of laptops/notebooks in the coming year.

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, with legal work no longer conducted just in the workplace.

The Rise of the Ubiquitous Smartphone

Interval between waking up and looking at smartphones and between preparing to sleep and looking at smartphones



In the UK, smartphone owners are just as "bound" to their devices as in the US, with about a third of all adults checking in with their devices 5 minutes upon waking and more than a quarter doing so before sleeping. Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May–Jun 2015.

The demand and desire for immediate information and connectedness extends far beyond the legal sphere to permeate the world that legal providers, their clients, and future workforce live in. Deloitte’s most recent global mobile consumer survey for the US examined the obsession of respondents with their mobile devices. When asked how soon after waking up they checked their mobile phones—aside from the alarm clock function—93% wait no longer than 3 hours, with 50% checking their phones for the last time within 15 minutes of preparing to sleep.3 The rest of the world is hardly immune. According to the 2015 Communications Market Report published by UK’s Ofcom (the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries), the UK is now officially a “smartphone society.” Two-thirds of adults in the UK own a smartphone, using it upwards of two hours a day, with half of smartphone users say they are hooked on their mobile phone. As for those people who are at the forefront of tomorrow’s workforce (age 16 – 24), the number who are hooked rises to three-fifths (61%). Finally, the 2015 Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, UK edition (titled, appropriately, “Game of phones”) clearly shows that, just like their counterparts in the US, many UK adults check their phones within the first 5 minutes upon waking (35%), with half of the younger spectrum of the workforce doing so.4

This, then, is the world the legal community must integrate with, work with, and hire from. We ignore the tremendous vitality and influence of the mobile world—its devices, applications, and potential—at our peril.

Usage of smartphones while doing other activities

Question: How often, if at all, do you use your smartphone while doing the following?

Smartphones are part of daily life, with many users turning to them at every opportunity. Source: UK edition, Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, May–Jun 2015

Search Out Mobile-friendly Products

When researching what legal software to purchase, look for those products that are designed not just for the desktop experience but also for the mobile environments most preferred by users.

Some suggestions:

  • Choose software products that work with existing systems. Nothing is more frustrating than having a mobile contact management product that is a “standalone” and unconnected to, for instance, the existing customer relationship management software.
  • Even better—choose products that reduce the number of mobile applications the user must access to get the job done. Providing everything a lawyer needs in a single, integrated user experience will encourage adoption and boost personal productivity.

When looking for software applications for lawyers, look for those packages that provide access to personal financial performance indicators and data about clients, contacts, matters, documents, docketing events, marketing activities, and work experience in both desktop and mobile environments. In addition, a law firm and its attorneys can benefit from applications that provide immediate remote access to time entry from all devices, allowing lawyers to enter their time on the go.

Mobile applications that can provide client intelligence showing key relationships and highlighting firm experience, and that can draw on additional client and market intelligence, can be a powerful tool for growing a firm’s business.

And this is just the start. Mobile is only going to evolve faster and become more sophisticated over time. Mobile technology is here to stay and will become ever more ingrained as it is further incorporated into the day flows of legal firms and their clients.

Security in an Ever-changing Mobile World

Even though the road ahead is full of exciting mobile possibilities, it pays to be aware of the security challenges inherent in a mobile environment. Cybersecurity is high on many businesses' lists of concerns when it comes to incorporating mobile platforms into their organizational computing environments.

No less an organization than the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), which is part of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has stepped up to provide guidance in the form of NIST Cybersecurity Practice Guide, Special Publication 1800-4: Mobile Device Security: Cloud & Hybrid Builds. The publication offers how-to guides and briefings developed by NIST and other expert parties, as well as other resources that may prove useful to a firm's IT organization. (As of this writing, the guide is open for public comment. A more in-depth report from NIST is expected sometime in 2016.)

In particular, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement—in which employees use their own personal mobile devices for work-related tasks—gives many organizations pause. In the 2015 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey, almost a quarter of respondents listed BYOD and cloud-related security risks as their biggest challenge.

Yet, these concerns aren’t stopping firms from moving in the BYOD direction: an ILTA survey released earlier in 2015 shows that 32% of firms were completely BYOD, with another 62% offering some type of BYOD policy for a portion of their workforce. When faced with the inevitable tidal wave of mobile use for work—both inside and outside the office—it’s best to be proactive and prepared with a well-thoughtout policy and specific and clear guidelines. Below are some topics to consider for firms that are creating a mobile security policy, gleaned from the NIST guide and from Thomson Reuters’ own Mobile Security Policy. Such a policy should include:

  • A statement as to whether all or only “some” employees are eligible to participate in a BYOD. There may be employees working in highly sensitive areas who are exempt from participating. For example, employees who deal with high-value M&A transactions or with projects that require specific tracking by the Security and Exchange Commission should probably not be part of a BYOD program.
  • Definitions that clearly state what type of devices are allowed and not allowed, and what information and software can be accessed and not accessed. For example:
    • Is email allowed?
    • Can the camera on the device be accessed?
    • Can the user download any type of application to the device?
    • Will the device need to be partitioned to separate the personal from the corporate? (There are some interesting tools for segregating the corporate ”sandbox” from the personal ”sandbox,” and apps that can be configured to run on the corporate but not the personal side.)
    • A process for de-provisioning of a mobile device that should no longer have enterprise access (e.g., a device that is lost or stolen, or the device of an employee who leaves the company).

Next Up: Making the Flow “Personal”

Beyond smartwatches and the other wearable technology devices, the next big evolution for mobility in the workplace will most likely be “contextual personalization,” or as Google says, delivering the “right information at the right time.” This contextualization already has a toehold in the world of the general consumer, from the Facebook ads that are tailored to an individual’s browsing history to Google Now which offers up information based on the user’s past search history on the search engine.

Information providers in the legal arena are focusing on contextual personalization as well, looking at ways to proactively provide legal information and data that lawyers can use in their mobile work lives. Such applications would personalize the information and deliver the data a lawyer needs to make a decision, even before the user has 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 scheduled later that day. Or it could be a breaking news feed on a prospect the firm is pitching, market trending information for business development, or proactive budget alerts for matter management plans. The possibilities are endless.

However, if too much information is displayed that is not in context with the situation and needs of the lawyer at that specific moment in time, then the lawyer will not be able to act upon the data. Data must be transformed into intuitive, actionable intelligence: This is the difference between improving personal productivity and simply introducing more “noise” into the daily flow. This actionable intelligence also needs to be tailored not just to the user but to the device type as well. For example, smart watches are the perfect tools for alerts. However, to view the actual data associated with such an alert, a lawyer may intuitively turn to an application on his or her smart phone. This movement is one of the natural experiences that users adapt within the context of their daily flow as they become comfortable with having information delivered that is contextualized specifically to them and their needs.

Bring the Legal World to the Mobile Environment

It’s truly a “brave, new world” out there, and that world—which is mobile driven—has moved into the workplace, the home place, and everywhere in between, from waking moment to preparing for rest. For today, a universe of applications and databases are available to the mobile user with the swipe or tap of a finger on a screen. For tomorrow, the search is on to bring an ever more responsive and proactive experience to the mobile user, including users in the legal arena.


1 American Bar Association (Joshua Poje, ed.), 2015 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report. Volume VI: Mobile Lawyers.

2 International Legal Technology Association/Inside Legal, 2015 ILTA/ InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey.

3 Deloitte, 2015 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US edition—The rise of the always-connnected consumer (Executive Summary).

4 Ofcom, The Communications Market Report, August 2015.


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