Smartphones and tablets are everywhere, and the discussion about the need to embrace mobile is similarly ubiquitous. However, in our experience, law firms are still in the early stages of embracing mobile devices as an essential work device. There are many reasons to stay away from mobile devices – the security risks inherent in a device that is easily lost or stolen; the conflation of personal and corporate data on a single device; and, perhaps most damningly, the feeling that the mobile device is out of IT’s control. However, it would be a mistake to miss the forest through the trees.
In an increasingly competitive legal landscape, law firms should place a premium on client satisfaction. Ultimately, law is a service industry, and as is evident across the service sector, satisfaction is a function of more than just price. As a frequent consumer of legal services throughout my career, I would rate responsiveness and accuracy as the two most important characteristics I seek in a law firm. Price is a close, but distinct, third, and I would guess that I am not alone in that prioritization.
As a technologist building products for the legal industry, a question I often ask is how my products could improve my own experience working with attorneys. In my opinion, enabling my attorneys to fully embrace mobile technology is a good start. One of the most striking benefits of mobile technology is the responsiveness that it enables, and responsiveness is at the very top of my attorney satisfaction list.
The right mobile technology enables a non-linear improvement in response time. To understand why, let’s start with a simple experiment. For me to unlock my iPad Air, synchronize my email using LINK (the app my company builds), find a recent email with an attachment, and open that attachment in Office for iOS requires less than 90 seconds end-to-end (including a 2-factor authentication sequence with Office 365). On my Surface Pro 4, after 90 seconds, I was still waiting for Outlook to synchronize. And, to be clear, my Outlook has 0 extra plugins or add-ins, and I am running all software locally on my laptop (VDI would only slow down the laptop experience even further …).
Attorneys’ are packed with meetings, calls, and interruptions from clients and colleagues. It is in the small windows of time in between these interactions that attorneys can respond to client communication, review documents, edit documents, and otherwise interact with work product. The most mundane, but perhaps most revolutionary advantage of mobile devices is that the responsiveness of the device and its software has enabled windows of work that did not exist before. Without my iPad, I would simply decide to revisit my work when I had the time, and that might not be for several hours until the end of my next block of meetings.
Startup time is just one obvious way that mobile devices open new windows for work. Others include the fact that I can use a tablet while standing (or a smart phone while walking), but my laptop is very hard to use without a seat. My tablet’s battery also lasts easily for a full work day, while my laptop can only make it through the day if I diligently turn it off when I am not using it. Finally, my tablet and phone work well in intermittent network conditions, whereas VPN and VDI will not.
The combined effect of these advantages is clear: with my mobile devices, I can accomplish work in windows of time throughout my day that were unusable without them. Attorneys have come to this same conclusion, albeit perhaps more intuitively than intentionally. I recently visited a customer, and learned that a senior attorney who steadfastly refuses to use DMS is an active user of LINK. While this individual’s refusal to use DMS might brand her a luddite, she is more likely an opportunist. DMS is not an innovation in her work practice, but mobile is.
IT can make a tangible dent in client satisfaction simply by embracing mobile devices as a work device. And with the right tools, it is eminently possible to do so without compromising security in any way. In fact, as I will outline in my next blog post, ditching laptops in favor of iOS devices may be the best security decision that your firm could make in 2018.
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