Anyone working within or for the legal sector know that legal professionals today are under a lot of pressure to be more responsive, more efficient and more cost-effective. This is all set against a backdrop of rising security threats and more technology options than ever before.
To understand what the legal sector needs from their Technology, Microsoft surveyed 300 legal professionals with the aim of discovering how the industry could benefit from an upgrade to their day-to-day work – from making notes, to conducting research, examining witnesses and presenting arguments in court. The report reveals the very real threats facing legal professionals today, and the solutions that can give legal firms an advantage in an ever-changing market.
Where are we now?
Today, lawyers have never had it better when it comes to technology. Slim LED screens, long life batteries and solid-state storage have helped turn laptops into ultra-light devices capable of a huge array of tasks. Modern laptops allow for the capture of a full range of data file types: pen input of handwriting and drawings, voice recordings, video, still images, as well as data from external devices like SD cards and USB drives.
All of this mobile convenience equals risk for legal teams. It’s now possible to carry around decades of case notes and client records in a single laptop, pushing security and privacy issues right to the fore when acquiring technology. In 2014 over 2.5 million incidents of cyber-crime were reported in the UK. In the same year it was reported that more than 317 million pieces of malware were created. The Law Society recommends that organisations should develop company-wide policies, processes and guidance to prevent such incidents from occurring.
Technology on trial
Identifying people who should not be given access to the data is vital too. For example, contractors may not be in the direct employ of the legal firm and thus have different contractual responsibilities regarding data. One way of ensuring only authorised people get to business-critical data is to use passwords in conjunction with biometrics-based authentication: facial, iris or fingerprint recognition.
As more technology is used on the move, the risk of lost or stolen data and devices increases. The survey shows that legal firms could be doing more to protect themselves from risks: only 56 of the 265 people who use passwords for computers strengthen them with two-factor authentication (a security process that requires two means of identification, e.g. a password and a pin). Biometrics have not yet risen to the radar. Fingerprint, facial and iris recognition usage levels are still low.
85% of legal professionals use desktop computers in their day-to-day work. 44% use laptops on a daily basis, and 20% regularly use tablets. Despite the obvious IT costs of providing multiple devices, there is also an inherent security risk in carrying more than one device if security policies are not properly implemented or managed. When asked what they do and don’t like about their laptops, almost half of the respondents (44%) stressed the importance of having a device with a full-sized keyboard. Over a third (35%) like being able to use a trackpad or mouse. However, around a quarter complain that their current laptops take too long to boot and weigh too much.
Despite access to all of this technology – desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phones – 82% of legal professionals surveyed still use pen and paper several times a day. Though that may seem like a surprising amount, given the nature of the work and technology to hand, it currently seems to be judged the most effective solution by respondents. 43% of respondents do like the tactility of writing with a pen, and find it easier to draw diagrams by hand. However, 28% felt that notes are too easily misplaced. 24% felt that notes are too difficult to read. 23% felt that handwritten notes take too long to type up digitally.
Surface book in the legal profession
Would better tech help? Though there’s no shortage of technology in legal firms, most revert to pen and paper for a number of key tasks, such as note-taking and presenting arguments in court. This comes with its own set of issues, from the increased likelihood of losing notes, to the increased time and effort required to digitise, share and annotate paper documents.
Surface Book frees up time for legal professionals to spend on higher value work. Legal professionals use multiple devices to complete a number of tasks in their day-to-day work. They often revert to pen and paper for those tasks that need to be completed quickly, often creating more work for their firms in the long run, taking time away from new opportunities and new clients. A Surface Book allows for pen and paper-like features for notetaking which mitigates this significantly. Based on the requirements of legal professionals, as identified in Microsoft’s research, a Surface Book can relieve firms from inefficient ways of working, whilst providing protection from modern security threats.
By avoiding tasks such as copying notes from paper to PC, a Surface from Microsoft users maximise time at work, between meetings or during commutes – adding up to over £700 per user per year in improvements in employee productivity.