Attorneys in the United States have embraced Smartphones, but are only scratching the surface of these devices' capabilities, because of their firms' inability to offer IT support for these devices.
According to an ALM Legal Intelligence survey of 266 lawyers at both private firms and corporations, nearly 9 in 10 of the attorneys surveyed use a smart phone for work purposes and 40 percent use tablets.
Photo credit: Ramon Vasconceles
Unfortunately, only 13 percent of the respondents are using Smartphones in lieu of their PCs. It turns out most just use them to check email when they are out of the office. This is surprising since, as mentioned previously in our blog, tablets are finding a role in the courtroom in voir dire (attorneys checking out prospective jurors' social media profiles) and exhibit management and presentation.
ALM says a major factor hindering the adoption of Smartphones and tablets for more robust use is the lack of technical support from law firms or in-house law departments.
"As a group, lawyers have not won fame as evangelists of technology," said Nigel Holloway, vice president of research at ALM Legal Intelligence. "But they have been using mobile tools long enough to know two things: don't expect miracles and any feature that can spur productivity should be leveraged for all its worth."
Surprisingly, only 18 percent listed business development as one of the three functions they use Smartphones and tablet computers. That means less than one-fifth of attorneys surveyed are using mobile devices to access social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with clients and colleagues quickly.
Security seems to be an issue surrounding lawyers' use of mobile devices. Nearly a quarter of respondents don't use a password and 17 percent couldn't state if or how their mobile device is secured. Less than 40 percent say their device can be wiped remotely, a key security measure.
The survey revealed that, although Smartphones and tablets are finding a role in the courtroom, they aren't always welcome. More than 40 percent of those surveyed said they have faced limits on smart phone or tablet use in the courtroom, including being told to turn off the devices. Attorneys say that even when rules permit use, judges sometimes discourage the use of mobile devices.
Remember in the early days of the consumer Internet when that happy America Online voice would greet you with "You've got mail?" Those were the days when that mail message was likely to be from an actual person and not a vitamin superstore. Now, imagine clicking on a message to find you've been served by a process server.
This seemingly far-fetched scenario might not be that far off in Los Angeles, County, according to an article in today's Law.com. Randal Harris, senior deputy counsel for Los Angeles County, tells Law.com that cell phones may be the best way to reach parties that do not have a consistent physical location at which to be served.
"(A) large percentage of homeless people have cell phones, smartphones, e-mail addresses -- and even blogs. As mobile phones and e-mail become less expensive and more accessible, so too must the law and policy evolve," said Harris.
"Providing proper due process notice to parties in Los Angeles Superior Court's Juvenile Dependency Court is a challenge as complex as the litigants themselves," added Harris. "By requiring service of process through mail or publication, the legislature fails to account for the high rate of poverty and homelessness prevalent among parties in dependency. It also fails to recognize that technology can help service of process be delivered in new, more efficient ways."
Harris is pushing for a change in court rules to allow the use of e-mail for notification of hearings in child dependency matters.
So, the next time you decide to "poke" someone on Facebook, keep in mind that someday they might be able to poke right back at you with service of process.
If you are interested in following how technology is impacting process serving, you should check out the blog maintained by our in-house expert on service of process, Jeff Karotkin, vice president of strategic development. You can find his blog by clicking here.
Is Apple's iPad for entertainment or is it a tool for litigation? A few of the legal technology blogs are starting to grapple with that very question.
Photo Credit: Louis Abate
Two developers recently introduced iPad applications for trial presentation. LitSoftware introduced TrialPad, which sells for $89.99, and Rosen Litigation Technology Consulting introduced Evidence, which sells for $9.99. You can see screenshots and an overview of each at Ted Brooks Trial Technology Blog.
Developers have also recently rolled out iPad applications for Jury Selection and Observation, such as JuryTracker and iJuror.
This has us wondering if the iPad has potential for our court filing and process serving customers. Could the iPad end up being a courtroom Swiss Army Knife for sole practitioners that must quickly locate information without the aid of large support staffs? Could it end up being a powerful two-way communciation and information sharing tool for a process server? It's not hard to picture a process server accessing directions and specific service instructions and then confirming service of process has been completed using an iPad. Then again, one would have to value the convenience of an iPad versus a SmartPhone in that type of situation.
It's hard to say whether the iPad will complete its attempted migration from the sofa to the bench, but it will be an interesting trial technology trend to keep an eye on in 2011.
A columnist for the Guardian in the United Kingdom recently wrote about a district judge's decision to allow journalists to use Twitter during the extradition hearing for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
David Banks' article raises some very interesting questions about the impact of a steady stream of live tweets from a court room.
One major issue is just how "fair and balanced" can an update be about a court proceeding with only 140 characters to work with? Banks notes in his article that there is a danger of "cherrypicking" only the juiciest moments when tweeting which could produce a report that is more sensational than it is accurate.
The question of tweeting in court is attracting attention at the highest levels in the U.K. During a recent lecture to the Judicial Studies Board, the Lord Chief Justice noted, "If it is possible to file a story via e-mail from a laptop in court, then why is Twitter any different? On the other hand, tape recordings are prohibited by statute. Why is Twitter in the form of text-based transmission of material from court any different?"
While this is certainly a question for the U.K. and U.S. court systems to ponder, we don't yet see Twitter having a great deal of impact in the world of court filing and process serving. Could the day be coming when you receive a tweet from a process server letting you know you've been served and to click on the shortened link to receive your documents? Probably not. While we see growing acceptance of gateways for eFiling and eService, we don't see the role of process server being reduced to a 140-character note.
Another issue Banks notes in his article is that SmartPhones capable of tweeting often also have cameras. Where does the court then draw the line when cameras are not allowed in the court? Would it be too tempting for a reporter to take just one picture of a stressed witness on the stand during testimony and tweet it?
While technology continues to bring improvements to the world of court documents filing and service of process, it's also going to continue to raise some questions regarding its expanded use.
Oh well, at least we know the next decade won't be boring.