There are new technologies coming out every year that help make our work more streamlined and efficient, and although practicing law predates even the most ancient of empires, there are new technologies that allow lawyers to do their job effectively being implemented nearly every day. That said, exactly what kind of technology do lawyers use?
Today’s lawyers implement a variety of new technologies, such as document and filing services, dictation devices, secure communication methods, research tools, and cloud based organizational software.
A dictation device can be a lawyer’s best friend when it comes to recording and organizing spoken information. There are a host of dictation technologies that have been publicly available for years now, and they have become a staple in many a lawyer’s toolkit. Dictation devices aid lawyers in doing a variety of tasks, such as taking notes, recording legal briefings, and organizing thoughts.
There are really two broad uses for dictation devices, the first being voice recording, and the second being voice recognition technology that transcribes what was spoken in real time. This second type allows law professionals to quickly refer to conversations and notes without having to go back and listen to the full recording. Lawyers will often use a professional grade voice recording device for this, but some may implement the tech built right into their smartphone for this task.
Both options seem to work well, and the implementation of either of these methods really depends on a layer’s personal preference. Lawyers may, however, use a specialized voice recording/dictation device if the lawyer does not use separate cell phones for their work and personal life, simply to protect that data.
Practice Management Software
Practice management software is used by law firms of all sizes, and is extremely common. This sort of software allows lawyers to organize and manage court dates, automate cases, calendar events, templates, case files, etc. Lawyers who implement this technology are able to organize the substantial amount of data they have to work with into an easy to access virtual filing cabinet.
Although this primarily helps with organizational issues, it should also be noted that this software would also save a significant amount of time in the long run, because it allows lawyers to spend less time on menial tasks and focus on their top priorities.
A very prominent practice management solution known as “Clio” seeks to integrate these tools into an easy to use program with a simple user interface. One reason that Clio is so popular is that it uses this simple and easy to use software on a variety of platforms, and even has a mobile app for when lawyers need to access critical information without having the luxury of being able to sit down at the computer.
There are several new research tools available for lawyers that allow them to quickly access relevant information about their case. The various different kinds of research tools have tend to be highly specialized in one particular area of law. “Casetext” is one of these research tools that has a feature which allows lawyers to upload a legal document and the Casetext service will find the relevant case law for the lawyer. This alone cuts out a significant amount of research time and allows lawyers to focus their attention to more important things than just sorting through documents for hours, like actually reading those documents.
“Ravel Law” is another one of these research tools, but it serves a different purpose entirely. Ravel Law allows lawyers to see how judges have ruled on cases in the past, so that they are better able to assess the effectiveness of their own arguments. Having any given judges track record and ruling patterns at one’s fingertips can certainly be a useful insight before one sets foot into the courtroom.
Cloud Based Office Suites
Being a lawyer in the modern world would seem to be unimaginable without implementing some sort of cloud based office suite. Cloud based office suite platforms allow lawyers to access, share and edit important documents, files, and other forms of data from anywhere in the world, so long as there is an internet connection. This technology operates by allowing lawyers to add a document to their online cloud profile from one computer, which securely stores it on a remote server that can be accessed from any other computer with a web browser. Most people are familiar with this sort of technology nowadays, but this is an essential daily tool for most lawyers.
Perhaps the most well known office suite platform is Microsoft Office Suite. This well established platform is probably the most recognizable and iconic of the cloud based office suites. It seems to set the standard for other platforms, but that isn’t to suggest that alternatives aren’t sometimes the best choice. Google suite (sometimes referred to as ‘G Suite’) is a free alternative to Microsoft Office Suite and has seen significantly widespread adoption in recent years.
Secure Communication Methods
Cybersecurity is an ever growing threat that many of us are becoming painfully aware of. According to the Washington Post, the global economy is projected to have taken a loss of over $1 trillion in 2020 alone. The threat of hackers getting ahold of private information shared between a lawyer and his/her client is a very serious matter, but it is also a risk that can be mitigated with relative ease. Law firms the world over have taken this ever present digital security risk into account in implementing more privacy oriented technologies into how they communicate with their clients, even for mundane things. Fortunately, the digital privacy front has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years with the advent and widespread adoption of ‘end to end’ encrypted messaging services. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of ‘end to end encryption’, perhaps it’s best to think of it as a company putting a lock on your private data and throwing away the key.
There are several services offering encrypted communication methods, but it may be helpful to break them down into three categories:
- Encrypted Email: Well known encrypted emailing services, such as Gmail, Tutanota, and ProtonMail are widely used for their security benefits over other emailing platforms. These services all provide encryption, but cyber security and privacy advocates argue that both parties using either ProtonMail or Tutanota tends to be most secure, as only one email provider is involved in securing the metadata involved in sending an Email, such as the computer’s IP address, etc.
- Encrypted Text Messaging: Whatsapp and Signal are two very prominent and widely used messaging services that offer end to end encryption. Apple iMessaging is a worthy mention here as well, and has even come under fire in a high profile legal case for being so secure that the US government couldn’t even access the contents of certain iMessages. These messaging platforms are recognized as being significantly more secure than traditional SMS text messaging.
- Encrypted Phone Calls: Although there are several services, such as Whatsapp, lawyers can use to communicate with their clients through encrypted phone calls, most prefer using traditional phone calls as the security risk there is relatively minimal compared to other forms of “hackable communication”.
Virtual Private Networks
A virtual private network, or VPN, is used to secure one’s computer anonymity. Contrary to popular belief, a VPN is not the end all solution to digital privacy, but they can help with operational security and make it much more difficult for hackers to get a hold of sensitive data. A VPN does this by disguising a computer’s IP address by running the internet connection through a remote computer. It can sound a bit complicated, but as far as the user is concerned it’s as simple as downloading some software from one of the many VPN providers out there, and clicking a button when you want to establish a private and secure connection.
Conclusion – What Kind of Technology Do Lawyers Use?
While we certainly covered several useful tools that lawyers often implement, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of technologies used by those in the law profession. There are always new technological solutions for problems both old and new in nearly every industry, and that does not exclude the practice of law.
Lawyers in the twenty-first century need to use the latest technology to allow their practice to thrive in an ever changing world, and they do that by taking into account what can save them time, protect their client’s privacy, and help them stay organized. When these things are taken care of, the lawyer is left to focus on what really matters, representing their client and making sure they have the most well researched and best legal representation possible.