As an avid Star Trek fan and self-admitted “total geek,” Nicole Black never thought she would see the technologies that are helping lawyers get through the COVID-19 pandemic available in her lifetime.
Black, the “legal technology evangelist” for MyCase, discussed the power of mobile apps and cloud computing on the recent CLE webinar, “Top Remote Technology Tools To Streamline Your Law Practice.”
In her role, Black helps technologists understand lawyers and lawyers understand the intersection of law and technology. She has seen the evolution of the Internet and mobile technology from the time she graduated law school in 1995 to now.
She recalled the game-changing 2007 debut of the iPhone for being a “computer in your hands,” much like the technology she saw on Star Trek.
When the AppleWatch debuted in 2015, she said it was uncommon for lawyers to wear them. These days, she says “the vast majority of lawyers have an Applewatch or a smartwatch that is something that is allowing lawyers to get the information they need immediately in an unobtrusive way.”
“We got to remote working through a confluence of events: improved processing power; cloud computing and mobile computing,” said Black.
She explained that the existing memory on a small phone is not large enough to power a user’s needs. “Cloud computing is how we get things done.”
“The vast majority of apps people use are in the cloud so the cloud is what makes your phone so useful,” said Black. “The cloud is what has made it possible for us to work remotely throughout this pandemic.”
In 2011, she said only 16 percent of lawyers used the cloud as it was considered a new technology. Adoption grew to 21 percent as it became “less scary.” It was 2013 that was the tipping point with 31 percent of lawyers using the cloud in some capacity. Today, she says 99 percent of lawyers use the cloud “whether they know it or not.” This includes email services, law practice management platforms and Zoom meetings.
She said when using cloud services, lawyers should ask about how the data is encrypted and stored and how frequently data is backed up.
“You want a company that has been around a while,” advised Black.
One of the many pain points that lawyers encountered was not having sufficient collaboration tools during the shutdown.
Black suggested that lawyers first experiment with free tools such as Google Docs or Slack but transition to paid services as soon as they decide on a system, such as Dropbox Pro, Glasscubes or Box.net.
“With free software, your usage of the product is going to be studied, you might be marketed to and the customer service is horrible because it’s free,” said Black, but added that it is a good way to learn up front what you want.
Emails should be sent through secure client portals, which are often included with law practice management platforms. “It makes it a lot easier when you are working remotely.”
She explained that emails alone are unsecure. Encrypted emails are more secure but forward emails lose encryption. Secure client portals are the most secure because they are encrypted, protected and confined to the platform.
She recommended that lawyers assess the sensitivity of their data. Intellectual property lawyers or family lawyers representing celebrities in divorce cases will want the most secure platform. “For one reason or another, that information is going to be more interesting to third parties than the law firm data relating to a petit larceny or inconsequential information.”
Lawyers should employ law practice management platforms for document storage specifically because they are designed for lawyers. Dropbox and Box handle encryption but are non-legal. Users handle their own encryption in Spider Oak and Boxcryptor.
Document scanning, while working remote, has presented challenges for lawyers without assistants or paralegals in the office. Mobile apps such as Scanner Pro or Genius Scan can help alleviate that problem, or hardware like Neat Scanner or Fijitsu Scanscap.
Lastly, Black advised attorneys to pay attention to emerging technology, including artificial intelligence. There are now software systems that can handle document review in mere seconds that used to take lawyers hundreds of thousands of hours to complete. It will help you make more money off of flat fee pricing, said Black.