September 22, 2011

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Law firms go high-tech with eyes on cost, security, rivals

This article was originally published in the
Phoenix Business Journal, September 2011

Copywright 2011 - Posted by Permission

By Mike Sunnucks  

Law firms are in a technology race to set themselves apart from the
competition, outfitting attorneys with smartphones, high-tech gadgets
and applications to help them work better on the fly and communicate
with clients.
   Still, they are cognizant of hacking and other security issues, and
they're having to curb their tech spending during these times of economic
uncertainty. The goal now isboost attorneys' productivity and efficiency,
helping them do more work off-site.
   "All of our shareholders (i.e., partners) have iPads with a variety of
applications to make the practice of law more simply," said Paul Ward,
policy adviser for the Phoenix law office of Ryley Carlock &; Applewhite PC.
"These are paid for by the firm."
   Ward said Ryley also Is creating mobile applications aimed at helping
counsel and clients access information remotely.
   "We are in the final development of a couple of mobile applications, one
of which calculates the review of electronically stored information," he said.
   "The user puts in the number of gigabytes of raw data. The app asks a
few questions and, depending on the answers, it provides an estimated cost
to review."
   Such information would be of particular interest to corporate clients taking
advantage of Ryley's national document review and retention practice.
   Gary Berger, director of Information technology for employment law firm
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC, said his firm provides its
attorneys with "laptops, Mobile devices (Including smartphones and tablets),
desktops and remote access capabilities."
   Ogletree is based In Atlanta and has an office in Phoenix, where it has
handled some work related to cases involving the Maricopa County Sheriff's
   "In most cases, devices are provided free, with the exception of some
mobile devices," Berger said.
   Like a number of other firms, Ogletree is adding technical support
and software enabling attorneys to access internal systems with Apple iPads
and Android devices.
   "We are currently In the process of working to make mobile computing
even more attractive to our attorneys," said Berger.
   Law was one of the last white-collar sectors to adopt high-tech systems
and gadgets as part of everyday business practices. Now, more attorneys
are able to work from home or other remote locations because their firms
are embracing technology.
   Law firms are sensitive to security issues, including possible exposure
involving wireless access to confidential and privileged information.
   Gary Peet, chief Information officer or Lewis and Roca LLP, said his
Phoenix-based law firm uses a network security measure called a key fob to
keep unauthorized users out of Its databases and networks.
   "This is an additional layer of authentication used in combination with
other network log-in credentials," said Peet." Every 60 seconds, the key fob
generates a new random six-digit pass code. An individual accessing our
network must log In with their network ID and password, but they must also
enter the current pass code from the key fob.

   "With the pass code changing every 60 seconds, it makes unauthorized
access virtually impossible," he said. ''A skilled hacker might be able to
crack a password in a relatively short time, but it's highly unlikely that
they will be able to do it within 60seconds."
   Peet said Lewis does not provide smartphones or wireless devices for
its lawyers. The firm does, however, offer support capabilities for iPhones,
iPads, Android devices and BlackBerrys; gives them a $50 monthly stipend
for smartphone use; and pays for attorneys linking their smartphones to the
firm's computer networks.
   Peet acknowledged that the focus on frugal spending impacts his firm's
technology purchases and use.
   "The economy certainly has had an impact on our technology budgets,
but that is probably the case with other firms our size. Funds for technology
spending have been tight, so we have placed greater emphasis on exploiting
what we do have," he said.
   Peet said that results In helping attorneys access the firm's networks from
home and their cellphones, and improving computer networks in case of a
disaster or other business disruption.