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Forget automation, artificial intelligence, and nano-lawyering. Technology's effect on the legal industry isn't something for the future; it's happening right now. And while tech's impact on the law might not be as "disruptive" as it has been on, say, the cab industry, it is making its mark every day.
Here are the legal technologies that have changed the way lawyers work in 2015.
1. Bring Your Own Device Policies
"Bring Your Own Device," or BYOD, policies allow attorneys to bring their own mobile devices to the workplace. And BYOD policies are blowing up all over the legal industry, according to the International Legal Technology Association's 2015 legal tech survey. This year, 52 percent of firms have BYOD policies in place, a 5 percent increase from 2014.* That's a reassuring sign that firms are coming around to the benefits -- and risks -- of BYOD.
2. Mobile and Passive Timekeeping Tools
The less time you have to spend worrying about tracking billable hours, the more time you can spend actually billing. Mobile and passive timekeeping tools make tracking hours much easier, and they're quickly becoming common, if not standard. Almost half of attorneys have taken to mobile tracking (41 percent, according to ILTA) and 25 percent have started using passive or automated time capture tools.
3. Social Networking for the Office
If you can't beat them, join them. Where once offices banned using Facebook and Twitter on company time, now many firms are turning to social networking for actual working. Almost half of respondents are using social media tools like chat and instant messaging to communicate internally and with clients.
4. Serious Security Systems
Lawyers are starting to get serious about cybersecurity. That's great news -- even if it comes a little late. Bloomberg reported in March that 80 percent of big law firms have had data breaches. Hopefully new tech can help stem the security-breach tide. In 2015, 54 percent of respondents had started using intrusion prevention systems, up from 14 percent last year. About the same amount, 52 percent, set up intrusion detection systems, up from just six percent last year.
5. The Surface Pro
This one came as a bit of a surprise. Lawyers, it seems, are jumping on the Surface Pro bandwagon. Microsoft's tablet-cum-laptop is one of the better mobile devices around, and 27 percent of attorneys are testing it out in their firm or IT department. Now if we could just get people to update their operating systems. Most lawyers are still working off Windows 7.
Editor's Note: This post has been corrected to indicate that BYOD policies have increased five percent over the past year, not from five percent in 2014.