PersonallyMaintainABlog

The number of lawyers with legal blogs is dwindling, according to the latest Legal Technology Survey Report from the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

For 2014, 24% of respondents in the annual survey said that their firms have blogs, down from 27% in 2013. Asked whether they personally maintain a legal blog, 8% said yes, down from 9% in both 2013 and 2012. Continue Reading Fewer Lawyers Have Blogs, ABA Survey Suggests

Small-firm lawyers are increasingly likely to use cloud-based services, but they remain concerned concerned about the security and confidentiality of their data in the cloud, according to a survey released today by LexisNexis Firm Manager.

LexisBenefitsCloud
Mobility was the top-cited benefit of the cloud. (Click to enlarge.)

The survey — conducted in December of lawyers in firms of no more than 20 lawyers — found that 39.4% of small-firm lawyers are already using the cloud for legal-related work. That is roughly in accord with the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, which found that 31% of lawyers overall were using the cloud, but that between 36 and 40% of solo and small-firm lawyers were using it.

Even so, a slight majority of small-firm lawyers, 50.2%, said that they are more likely to consider using a cloud service in 2014. When asked if their law firm was more likely to use a cloud service in 2014, the percentage who said “more likely” jumped to 72.4%.

As other surveys have indicated. concerns about security and confidentiality remain the greatest barrier to cloud adoption among small-firm lawyers. Even though security was the top-ranked barrier, the survey nonetheless found that 41% of small-firm lawyers believe that the cloud is secure and only 9% say it is unsecure. Roughly 36% fell in the middle — saying they were unsure whether it is secure.

Notably, when asked why they believe the cloud is not secure, a significant number of respondents cited fear of access by the government or the NSA. They also cited fear of hackers and rogue employees of the cloud vendor.

Other top barriers to using the cloud, the survey found, were:

  • Ethical concerns.
  • Uncertainty of stored data location.
  • Data ownership.
  • Cost to switch services.

Of small-firm lawyers who say they are already using the cloud, the most common purpose is for document storage and management (60%). Other common uses were:

  • Backup and disaster recovery (56.4%).
  • Email (53.6%).
  • File sharing (46.4%).
  • Practice management (23%).

Thirty-nine percent of small-firm lawyers believe that cloud-based tools will overtake premises-based applications within 3-5 years. Just 15% believe this will happen within three years.

The full survey report is available at the LexisNexis Business of Law Blog.

Here are my picks for the 10 most important legal technology developments of 2013. What am I missing? What would be on your list?

The numbers are not meant to indicate priority. They are all important, in my mind.

1. Lawyers’ use of social media became yesterday’s news.

OK, lawyers blog. They use Facebook. They’re on Tumblr and Instagram and Twitter. Big deal. We’re over it. This year marks the first year that everyone isn’t going bananas over the fact that lawyers use social media. That’s not to say that social media is not important. But it’s no longer stop-the-presses news. Participation in social media is now part of the mainstream of law practice.

2. The cloud came into its own.

Even just a year ago, lawyers remained wary about cloud computing. No doubt, some still do. For the most part, however, cloud-based platforms have become essential parts of our daily lives. And ethics opinions from 17 jurisdictions have unanimously said that cloud computing is ethical. Earlier this year, the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report said that the percentage of lawyers who say they use cloud-based software and services jumped from 21 percent in 2012 to 31 percent this year. I’m willing to bet the percentage is even higher and will continue to go nowhere but up into, well, the clouds.

3. Competence in technology turned from dalliance to necessity. 

In August 2012, the American Bar Association voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” During 2013, we saw several states follow up on the ABA’s action. Delaware became the first state to formally adopt a duty of technology competence and it created a Commission on Law and Technology to help lawyers comply. Massachusetts is considering adoption of this rule. And in Pennsylvania on Nov. 21, amendments took effect to that state’s professional conduct rules to comport with the ABA model rule.

4. Mobile became the driving force in technology development.

Mobile technology has dramatically changed the face of law practice. We are connected 24/7, able to work from anywhere, expected to respond immediately. According to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey, 90 percent of lawyers are checking work email from wherever they are. Somewhere north of 90 percent of lawyers use smartphones and increasingly greater numbers use tablets. This is driving legal vendors to create new products and adapt old ones so that they work across platforms. It was almost a year ago that I reported on the Thomson Reuters announcement that all its new product development would focus on integration across mobile and the cloud. Since then, I’ve heard vendors repeat that theme over and over again.

5. Lawyers realized that computer analytics are allies, not enemies.

The warning bell came with the 2011 New York Times article, Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software. Some lawyers started to believe that advances in artificial intelligence and computer analytics were a bad thing, threatening to displace lawyers from their hard-earned jobs. Some still believe that, but 2013 marked a turning point, from lawyers seeing “smart” computers as their enemies to understanding them as their allies. Computers cannot and will not replace lawyers. But they can make their lives much easier and help reduce the time and the cost of performing legal tasks. Nowhere is this more true than in the e-discovery arena, with predictive coding and computer-assisted review providing efficiencies that directly translate to time and cost savings.

6. Technology helped fill the shortfall in access to justice.

Over the last few years, programs that deliver legal assistance to the poor and that enhance access to justice have been hard hit by IOLTA shortfalls and slashed budgets. Increasingly, technology has come to play an important role in helping to make up for these shortfalls. Across the United States, legal services providers and have turned to technology to help fill the gap in direct legal services. Likewise, courts have increasingly turned to technology to help service dramatically increasing numbers of pro se litigants. During 2013, one of the most vocal advocates for innovations in legal technology to facilitate the delivery of legal services was Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman. Local legal aid programs all across the country have similarly pursued technology initiatives. You can get a good sense of what’s going on in this area by perusing the agenda for the LSC’s Technology Initiative Grant conference that will take place Jan. 15-17 in Florida.

7. Visual law emerged as key trend.

I just finished writing an article for the ABA Journal about one of the most significant trends to come out of 2013 — the emerging importance of “visual law,” the use of visualization tools and design concepts to help lawyers, law students, consumers and scholars make sense of the law. I’m not sure when the article will appear in print or online, but it won’t be for a couple of months at least. In the meantime, a good place to dip your toes into this stuff is via Stanford’s new Program for Legal Tech + Design, started by ABA Journal Legal Rebel Margaret Hagan and Stanford research fellow, lawyer and engineer Ron Dolin.

8. Law schools discovered legal technology.

This was the year in which a second wave of law schools began to discover the importance of teaching and studying legal technology. The first wave came years ago when some truly innovative law schools started programs focused on legal technology. They include Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, William & Mary Law School’s Center for Legal and Court TechnologySturm College of Law at the University of Denver and, of course, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. But in the decade or so since th0se programs launched, there has not been much new coming out of law schools. Until this year, when several schools took steps to recognize the undeniable importance of technology in legal education. A good example is Suffolk University Law School in Boston, which last April launched its Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation and then last month announced one of the country’s first formal law school concentrations in legal technology and innovation. This year also brought the launch of the Center for Law Practice Technology at Florida Coastal School of Law and the establishment of a joint degree program in law and technology at the University of Pennsylvania. Not to be overlooked is the ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State University College of Law, founded in the spring of 2012.

9. Practice management went mainstream.

The start of 2013 marked the fifth anniversaries of Clio and Rocket Matter, the first two cloud-based practice management platforms. The year also brought the launch of Firm Central, Thomson Reuters’ entrant in this increasingly crowded field; saw LexisNexis roll out a dramatically improved version of its Firm Manager; and brought multiple enhancements to MyCase. Sure, there have been desktop practice-management applications for years. But these cloud platforms just continue to get better and better. More importantly, they seem to have spurred greater use of practice management software among lawyers and greater understanding of why it is important to do so.

10. Security got slippery.

You’re not paranoid if someone really is spying on you, and one lesson we learned in 2013, courtesy of Edward Snowden, is that someone, indeed, is spying on us. In September, I gave a presentation at the Clio Cloud Conference on the ethics and security of cloud computing for lawyers. As I thought about the implications of the NSA revelations on client security and confidentiality, the best I could conclude was that we must carry on and keep a stiff upper lip. Ethics panels require us to take reasonable steps to protect client confidences and documents, they do not require us to be guarantors of confidentiality. We need to be careful about the systems, vendors and security measures we use, and not go to work every day assuming we are targets of the NSA. Sadly, that may be the best we can do for now, until the courts or Congress or the president shuts down the NSA’s wholesale snooping.

 

Legal professionals have lots of options for fee-based legal research services these days, but the most popular among them all is WestlawNext, according to the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Of all lawyers who use fee-based online legal research services, 28 percent say the one they use most often is WestlawNext.

And as if that wasn’t market share enough for Thomson Reuters, lawyers’ second choice is Westlaw, the “classic” version of the service that predated the 2010 launch of WestlawNext, cited by 26 percent of lawyers. Two other Thomson Reuters products also make the list, RIA Checkpoint and Practical Law Company.

Lexis comes in as third most popular, at 24 percent. Lexis Advance, its next-generation research platform launched in December 2011, is cited by only 5 percent of lawyers.

Here is how it breaks down:

Lawyers’ preferences for legal research services vary with the size of firm they are in. For example, among solos, the most popular service is Lexis, with a quarter of all solos citing it as the service they use most often. Here is the breakdown for solos:

  • Lexis, 25.6%.
  • Westlaw, 17.1%.
  • WestlawNext, 15.4%.
  • Other services, 12%.
  • Fastcase, 9.4%.
  • Lexis Advance, 8.5%.
  • Loislaw and Casemaker, 3.4% each.
  • RIA Checkpoint, 2.6%.
  • CCH, 1.7%.
  • BNA, 0.9%.
  • Bloomberg Law and PLC, 0%.

At the other end of the spectrum, at large firms of 500 or more lawyers, 31.4 percent report that Westlaw is the service they use most often, followed by Lexis at 22.1 percent. Only 3.5 percent say that they most often use Bloomberg Law.

Not only does size of firm reflect which service lawyers are most likely to use, but also a lawyers’ position within a firm. Nearly half of all associates (47 percent) say the service they use most often is WestlawNext. Among partners, the most commonly used service is Westlaw, at 32 percent.

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volume on online research.

[For my other reports from the survey, see Number of ‘Virtual’ Law Practices Shows Decline in 2013 ABA Technology SurveyThe Most Popular Apps for Lawyers, According to ABA Tech SurveyLawyers’ Use of Cloud Shows Big Jump in ABA Tech Survey, and Lawyers’ Social Media Use Grows Modestly, ABA Annual Tech Survey Shows.]

The number of lawyers who describe their practice as a “virtual” law practice declined this year to 5 percent, from 7 percent the year before, according to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. The number of virtual law practices is higher among solos, where 7 percent describe themselves as virtual, and among firms of 2-9 attorneys, where 6 percent say they are virtual.

[For my other reports from the survey, see The Most Popular Apps for Lawyers, According to ABA Tech Survey, Lawyers’ Use of Cloud Shows Big Jump in ABA Tech Survey, and Lawyers’ Social Media Use Grows Modestly, ABA Annual Tech Survey Shows.]

What makes a practice virtual? The survey asked those who describe themselves as virtual what they considered to be the defining characteristics of their virtual law practice. Not surprisingly, the most common answer, given by 58 percent of these virtual lawyers, was “lack of traditional physical office.” Other common answers were  “minimal in-person contact with clients” (52 percent),  “use of web-based tools for client interaction” (46 percent), “use of a secure client portal/extranet” (18 percent), “offering unbundled legal services” (18 percent) and “other” (3 percent).

Virtual Practice

Virtual lawyers are not the only ones who offer unbundled legal services, according to the survey. Overall, 35 of lawyers say that their firms offer unbundled legal services, which the survey described as “specific, stand-alone services like document preparation, offered as an alternative to full representation.” This number is down significantly from 2012, when 44 percent said they offered unbundled legal services, but in line with 2011, when the number was 35 percent.

Once again, smaller firms are the most likely to offer unbundled services, with 45 percent of solos and 39 percent of lawyers in 2-9 member firms saying they provide them. In firms of 100 or more attorneys, the percentage drops to 27. The practice areas where unbundled services are most common are family law (54 percent) and estates and trusts (45 percent).

The survey also asked lawyers whether they offer clients access to a secure client portal. Twenty-five percent say they do, the same number as last year. Here, large-firm lawyers are the most likely to offer a portal, with 60 percent of lawyers in firms of 100 or more lawyers saying they do this. Among solos, only 11 percent offer client portals.

Among lawyers who have client portals, the most common use is document sharing (30 percent), followed by messaging and communication (23 percent), invoicing and payments (20 percent), case updates (17 percent), scheduling and calendars (14 percent), and real-time consultation (8 percent).

TelecommuteIn addition to asking lawyers whether they consider their practices virtual, the survey also asked whether they use virtual office services, which it defined as services that provide a fixed mailing address or phone number together with on-demand use of office space and receptionists. Overall, 5 percent of lawyers say they use such services, with solos being the most likely to use them (10 percent).

While only a small percentage of lawyers describe themselves as virtual, nearly three quarters of lawyers say that they telecommute at times. Overall, 73 percent of lawyers report that they telecommute (down from 78 percent in 2012 and 77 percent in 2011). The bigger the firm, the more likely a lawyer is to telecommute, with 84 percent of lawyers at firms of 500 or more saying they telecommute.

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volumes on web and communication technology and mobile lawyers.

What are the most popular legal and business smartphone apps among lawyers? According to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, the most popular legal app by a long shot is Fastcase. The most popular business app is Dropbox.

FastcaseThe survey asked lawyers whether they had ever downloaded legal-specific smartphone apps and, if so, which ones. Of those who had, the top three apps they named were:

  • Fastcase, 26.5 percent.
  • Westlaw and Lexis, 7.7 percent each.
  • WestlawNext, 7.3 percent.

Other apps they named were ABA Journal, LawStack, American Bar Association, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, PLI and Lexis Advance.

When the lawyers were asked whether they had ever downloaded a general business app and, if so, which ones, the top three they named were:

  • Dropbox, 15.2 percent.
  • Evernote, 9.8 percent.
  • LinkedIn, 8.6 percent.

Other business apps they frequently mentioned were Dragon Dictation, Documents to Go, Wall Street Journal, PDF readers, Quickoffice, banking, and Adobe and Good Reader.

I’ve written about the Fastcase app a number of times, including having published an exclusive first look before it was officially released. The app, which is available for iOS and Android, provides direct access to a free library of cases and statutes.

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volume on mobile lawyers.

The percentage of lawyers who say they use cloud-based software and services jumped from 21 percent in 2012 to 31 percent this year, according to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Given that the percentage had held somewhat steady for three years — 20 percent in 2010, 16 percent in 2011 and 21 percent in 2012 — this year’s increase of 10 percentage points reflects a significant move into cloud computing by the legal profession.

Not surprisingly, the smaller the firm, the more likely its lawyers are to use the cloud, the survey indicates. Forty percent of solo lawyers now use the cloud, compared to 29 percent in 2012 and 23 percent in 2011. Of lawyers at firms of 2-9 members, 36 percent use the cloud, followed by 30 percent at firms of 10-49 attorneys and 19 percent at firms of 100 or more attorneys.

When asked which cloud services they had used, lawyers’ most common answer was Dropbox, cited by 58 percent of those who had used a cloud service. Of legal-specific cloud services, the most commonly mentioned was the practice-management platform Clio, cited by 13 percent of lawyers who had used a cloud service.

Cloud Services

When lawyers who had used cloud services were asked what they see as the benefits, they gave the same answers in virtually the same proportions as in past years. The most common benefit they cited was the cloud’s easy access from anywhere via a web browser (74 percent). Other benefits they mentioned include 24×7 availability (63 percent), low cost of entry and predictable monthly expense (56 percent), robust data back-up and recovery (49 percent), quick to get up and running (44 percent), and eliminates IT and software management requirments (41 percent).

A popular use of cloud computing is for practice management. The survey asked lawyers what core functionality is most important to them before subscribing to a practice and financial management platform. Forty-six percent said that time and billing capability was most important, followed by case and matter management (44 percent), document management (44 percent), contact management (39 percent), and calendaring (37.4 percent). (See chart below for other answers.)

Core Functionality

Among lawyers who use cloud computing, their biggest concern is confidentiality and security, with 72 percent saying that is a worry of theirs. Lawyers are also concerned about losing control of their data and about the possibility of the vendor disappearing.

Security was also the biggest concern among lawyers who do not use the cloud, with 58 percent citing that as a factor that has prevented them from using the cloud. Forty-seven percent say they have not used the cloud because they are simply unfamiliar with the technology.

The survey also asked lawyers who use the cloud about the precautions and security measures they take. Surprisingly, fewer than half (44 percent) say they reviewed the cloud provider’s privacy policy. Even fewer say they make regular data backups (41.1 percent), reviewed the provider’s terms of service (41.1 percent) or use SSL encryption (40 percent).

Of lawyers who have used cloud applications, only a small percentage say they do not plan to continue. Asked if they plan to continue using the cloud for law-related tasks, 70 percent answered yes, 23 percent said maybe, and just 7 percent said no.

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volume on law office technology.

Lawyers’ social media use continues to grow, but only modestly, according to just-released findings of the 2013 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report. More lawyers and law firms blog, tweet and participate in social media sites this year than last, but the growth is far from dramatic — generally just a few percentage points.

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. law firms now have blogs, according to the survey. That number is up from 22 percent last year, 15 percent in 2011, and 14 percent in 2010.

Percentage of law firms with blogs.
Percentage of law firms with blogs.

When lawyers were asked if they personally maintain a blog for professional purposes (as opposed to whether their firm does), only 9 percent answered yes. Overall, solos are the most likely to have a blog, with 12 percent saying they have one, up from 7 percent the year before. With regard to the age of legal bloggers, lawyers between 40-49 are the most likely to have professional blogs.

This year, 59 percent of lawyers said that their firms maintain a presence in a social network such as LinkedIn or Facebook. That compares with 55 percent in 2012, 42 percent in 2011 and 17 percent in 2010. Twenty-three percent of respondents said that their firms do not maintain a presence in social networks, and 18 percent had no idea whether they did or not.

Of the firms that do maintain a presence in a social network, the most common networks are LinkedIn and Facebook. Of these firms, 92 percent have a presence on LinkedIn, up from 88 percent the year before. On Facebook, 58 percent say they have a presence, up from 55 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, law firm use of legal-vertical networks remains negligible. Of the 59 percent of firms that are on social networks at all, only 1 percent are on Legal OnRamp, down from 2 percent the year before. On Avvo and Martindale-Hubbell Connected, the number remained steady from last year at 2 percent. One percent of these firms reported a presence on LawLink.

Online Networks

Among lawyers individually (as opposed to their firms), 81 percent now say that they use social networks for professional purposes, up from 78 percent in 2012, 65 percent in 2011 and 56 percent in 2010. Of the lawyers who use social networks, nearly all of them — 98 percent — say they are on LinkedIn, up from 95 percent the year before. Use of Facebook by these lawyers dropped slightly, from 38 percent in 2012 to 33 percent this year.

Use of Twitter by law firms also grew slightly over last year. Nineteen percent of respondents said that their firms maintain a presence on Twitter or similar microblog services. That is up from 13 percent last year, 7 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in 2010.

Among lawyers individually, 14 percent say they use Twitter. That is a slight increase from 11 percent in 2012, but more than double the 6 percent who said they used it in 2011. Twitter users are more likely to be in smaller firms, with 18 percent of solos and 19 percent of lawyers in 2-9 member firms saying they use it. Of those in firms of 500 or more, only 9 percent use Twitter.

New ClientsOne interesting and perhaps revealing finding of the survey is that most lawyers do not follow their own firm’s social media profiles. Asked whether they personally subscribe to or follow their firm’s social media profiles, only 32 percent said yes and 68 percent said no.

A perennial question for lawyers is whether participation in social media generates new business. The survey asked lawyers whether a client had ever retained them as a result of social media:

  • Of lawyers who blog, 39.1 percent said yes.
  • Of lawyers who participate in social networks, 19 percent said yes. Among solos, 24 percent said yes.
  • Of lawyers who use Twitter, 6 percent said yes (down from 11 percent in 2012).

The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:

A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.

The findings discussed above came from the volume on web and communication technology.

Lawyers’ use of web-based software and services has grown only slightly in recent years, a new survey indicates. Growth in use of the cloud is greatest among solos and small firms and lawyers in these firms are more likely than their larger-firm counterparts to use cloud-based applications.

These are among the findings of the recently published 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. Volume II of the report covers law office technology and includes use of web-based software and services among the topics it covers.

(I previously posted about the survey’s findings on social media and on e-discovery.)

This year, 21% of lawyers reported having used cloud-based software (also referred to as Software as a Service, or SaaS). That is an increase from last year’s 16%, but little difference from the 20% in 2010 who said they’d used the cloud. Solos were most likely to use the cloud, with 29% saying they had, up from 23% in 2011. Lawyers in firms of 2-9 were next most likely to have used the cloud, with 26% saying they had, compared to 20% in 2011. Of lawyers in firms of 100 or more, just 11% said they’d used the cloud.

Of lawyers who have used the cloud, the application they are most likely to have used is Google Docs, with 46.2% saying they had used it. The next most commonly used applications were two cloud-based practice management platforms, Clio, with 12% saying they’d used it, and RocketMatter, with 5.1% having used it. Dropbox was used by 3.8%. (The survey listed applications for respondents to choose from so it may not accurately reflect the scope of cloud applications used by lawyers.)

When lawyers who use the cloud were asked why, nearly three-quarters identified the top reason as easy browser access from anywhere. Other reasons for using the cloud included 24 x 7 availability, low cost of entry and set monthly fees, elimination of IT headaches, robust data back-up and recovery, and ease of start-up.

Asked about their biggest concerns about using the cloud, 66.9% named confidentiality and security. Other top concerns were insufficient control over their data and the possibility of losing access to data.

With regard to cloud-based practice-management platforms, lawyers who had used the cloud were asked about the features and functionality they would most want. Calendering was ranked first (49.3%), followed by centralized matter management (48%), document management (43.9%), time and billing (43.2%), contact management (41.2%) and conflict checking (37.8%).

The 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report consists of six volumes, covering a range of topics from technology basics to mobile lawyering. The cloud computing results are contained in Volume II, which covers law office technology. Volume II is available for purchase from the ABA for $350 (or $300 for ABA members). An abbreviated trend report on law office technology can be purchased for $55 (or $45 for ABA members).

News flash: More lawyers are using social media!

OK, we all knew that. But it’s always nice to see some numbers that give us a sense of where we are. The recently published 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report on web and communication technology does that.

The survey is based on invitations to participate sent to 12,500 ABA-member lawyers in private practice. Of those, 823 completed the questionnaires, from which the results were tabulated. (One has to wonder whether limiting the survey to ABA members skews the results.)

Overall, the survey showed increases in lawyers’ blogging, use of the social networks LinkedIn and Facebook, and use of the microblogging site Twitter. Here are some of the findings:

Blogs

Not surprisingly, the survey shows a continued rise in the number of lawyer blogs. Asked whether their firm has a blog, 22% said yes, up from 15% in 2011 and 14% in 2010. The attorneys most likely to say their firm has a blog are those in firms of 100 or more attorneys — 47% answered yes. By comparison, just 9% percent of solo lawyers said their firm had a blog.

The survey also asked lawyers whether they personally maintain a professional, legal-topic blog (as opposed to their firm having one). To this question, 9% of lawyers answered yes, up from 5% in both the 2011 and 2010 surveys. This time, the breakdown by firm size of lawyers who said yes was:

  • 12%, 2-9 attorneys.
  • 8%, 100 or more attorneys.
  • 8%, 10-49 attorneys.
  • 6%, solos.

A topic of ongoing debate within the legal community is whether blogs generate business. In the ABA survey, 39.1 percent of lawyers who blog answered yes to the question, “Have you ever had a client retain your legal services directly or via referral as a result of your legal topic blogging for professional purposes?” Among solo lawyers, 53.3 percent answered yes to that question. Of lawyers in firms of 2-9 members, 50 percent answered yes.

Another 7% of lawyers said that they maintain a blog, but for personal, non-professional purposes.

Twitter

Lawyers were asked whether their firms maintain a presence on Twitter. Thirteen percent said yet, up from 7 percent the year before and 5 percent in 2010. Fully half the lawyers who answered yes to this question were in firms of 100 or more attorneys. By comparison, 10 percent of solos said their firms use Twitter.

When asked whether they personally use Twitter for professional purposes, 11 percent of lawyers said yes, up from 6 percent in 2011. Here, the highest percentage of yes answers came from solos, with 13 percent saying they personally use Twitter. (I’m not sure how that squares with the number in the prior paragraph — it would seem that the number of solos who say their firms use Twitter should be the same as the number of solos who say they use Twitter.)

Social Networks

The survey asked lawyers which social networks their firms maintain a presence on. The chart below shows that 88 percent of lawyers said their firms are on LinkedIn and 55 percent are on Facebook. Meanwhile, firms reduced their presence on legal-vertical networks such as MH Connected and Legal OnRamp, the survey indicates. Use of Plaxo by firms dropped from 11 percent in 2011 to 4 percent in 2012.

Personal use of social networks for professional purposes.

Asked about their own use of social networks for professional purposes, 95 percent of lawyers said that they are on LinkedIn and 38 percent said they use Facebook. Use of the legal-vertical networks showed little change but indicates that only a fraction of lawyers use these.

When asked why they maintain a presence in these social networks, the most common reason was career development and networking, an answer given by 72 percent of lawyers. The next most-common reason was case investigation (44 percent), then client development (42 percent) and education and current awareness (15 percent).

Notably, 96 percent of lawyers answered yes to the question of whether they use a social network or online community for non-professional purposes. Ninety-seven percent of solos answered yes to that.

The 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report consists of six volumes, covering a range of topics from technology basics to mobile lawyering. The social media results are contained in Volume IV, which covers web and communication technology. Volume IV is available for purchase from the ABA for $350 (or $300 for ABA members). An abbreviated trend report on web and communication technology can be purchased for $55 (or $45 for ABA members).