2013 In-House Tech Survey

Our tech survey finds benefits—and security risks—in the BYOD movement.

, Corporate Counsel

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In-house counsel render legal advice and lead e-discovery and compliance efforts every day. But now, it turns out, they can also tell you where the nearest Apple store is, too. If there were any doubts that iPhones and iPads—not to mention Android- and Windows-based mobile devices—have become a force within law departments, Corporate Counsel's 2013 technology survey dispels them. Mobile is here, and it's hot.

It also may be steering law departments toward trouble.

Our survey—answered by 47 companies with an average lawyer roster of 54—raises questions, and potential red flags, about just how the current, consumer-oriented generation of tablets and smartphones is being integrated into the corporate legal environment. While 76 percent of respondents said that legal staff can bring in and use their own mobile devices, of their own choosing, the survey reveals a surprising lack of consensus on policies. Security strategies are all over the map—and in some cases, perhaps not sufficient. More troubling: Nearly a quarter of respondents—23 percent—said that their legal department had no formal security policy at all for mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the survey shows that in general, the ways in which lawyers are using their devices are fairly humdrum, largely involving messaging or document viewing. More sophisticated uses, and capabilities, are going untapped.

The news isn't all worrisome, however. Bright spots among the survey results include a healthy uptick in IT budgets for a sizable number of law departments. Fully 20 percent of respondents saw their IT capital budget rise by more than 10 percent over the prior year, while less than 3 percent saw it decrease more than 10 percent. In all, capital budgets rose for 26 percent of law departments, remained stable for 60 percent, and decreased for 14 percent (operating budgets saw a similar pattern, increasing for 34 percent of respondents, while remaining flat for 49 percent and decreasing for 17 percent).

We see upward movement, too, in law departments' embrace of the cloud—a business model that offers increased efficiencies since companies, in effect, rent applications and hardware from third-party providers, instead of buying them, updating them, and maintaining them on their own. Nearly two-thirds of respondents—63 percent—said that their legal department uses cloud-based services, up from 50 percent in 2011.

And while the cloud has traditionally sparked worries about customization, control, and security, the legal departments that have embraced it have few regrets. Fully 80 percent say the experience was "mostly positive," with the other 20 percent labeling it "somewhat positive." The survey found the main uses of the cloud (in descending order) to be e-discovery and litigation support, billing, document management, and storage.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the law department's reliance on others within the company for its IT support, and even its IT–related decision making. Less than a quarter of respondents—23 percent—say their legal department has a dedicated IT staff. And an overwhelming majority—71 percent—note that all IT requests must be processed through central corporate procurement.

Legal technology experts contend that such strategies can hinder the ability of lawyers to effectively use the tools they need to do their job. The problem, and it's a historical one, is that the systems that lawyers rely on—such as their document management systems—tend to be different than those used by other parts of the organization. "In a law firm, you would have an administrator who specifically understands this 'law' product," says Adriana Linares, the president of LawTech Partners, a training and consulting firm specializing in the legal community. "In a company, when there is not dedicated legal IT support, [it's harder to] get the required customization and attention."

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