Bring your own device” programs, popularly known as BYOD, are taking the legal profession by storm. I’ve seen it firsthand at a number of legal technology conferences and gatherings, and the Am Law Tech Survey 2012, coming to the Dec. 1 issue of Law Technology News, finds legal professionals everywhere as either providing or supporting their mobile device use.

As mobile devices and applications become more prevalent in law firms, the question becomes “Who’s running the show: the IT department or the lawyers?”

The mainstay of mobile activities for lawyers in law firms includes email and messaging. But other uses include less mobile-ready activities, which are mostly done in an ad hoc fashion as mobile app technology has not caught up with lawyers’ demand to do everything on their mobile device — almost everything. The following tasks are easily accomplished on the desktop of most law firm computers, but the same tasks are not easily transferred to mobile apps.

• Document sharing, collaboration, editing and management.

• Document and PDF creation, assembly, editing and annotating.

• Docket and task management.

• Case tracking and management.

• Phone calls linked to time-tracking and billing information.

• Conflict checking and matter management.

• In-court activities such as real-time case research and mobile document printing.

The top three mobile use cases in law that I have experienced are connected with document assembly and editing, document storage and collaboration, and interestingly enough, time-and-billing entry.

Document Storage (and Collaboration)

Document storage continues to be one of the most popular use cases for mobility in the legal space, but it continues to present risks in uncontrolled and unmanaged document collaboration and sharing. Worse yet, the risks are largely ignored by many firms that still “allow” their staff to use cloud storage and collaboration services such as Dropbox, even though the firm claims it is prohibited from use.

Even though Dropbox has the reputation of being insecure, the file-sharing software continues to find its way onto most lawyers’ mobile devices, potentially exposing sensitive firm data or even confidential client data out into the wild. This reality, which appears to go against law firm policy, is a leading concern of the firms surveyed in the The Am Law Tech Survey 2012 as well as general counsel: “insiders could take intellectual property out of the data network.”

While the Am Law Tech Survey 2012 finds that two-thirds of the firms surveyed prohibit the use of cloud-based storage and file synchronization services such as Dropbox, I still find that collaboration and content management continue to be used by the mobile lawyer.

To address this, I’ve seen at least a handful of dedicated vendors present at legal conferences claiming to offer “secure Dropbox alternatives.” Here is a partial list of some of those vendors: Accellion; Aspera; Box; Biscom; Copiun; MobilEcho; and NetDocuments.

During a tablet session attended during the International Legal Technology Association’s annual conference this year in Washington, D.C., two firms described their use of Good for Enterprise and Good Dynamics for managing email while also controlling access to cloud-based document storage and collaboration sites. For example, Paul Wittekind, director of information technology at Porzio, Bromberg and Newman, uses Good to block access to iCloud and other cloud-based storage apps on mobile devices. Jon Kenton, chief operating officer at Australian-based Corrs, Chambers and Westgarth, on the other hand, uses Good Dynamics to control the use of all of the apps on the device.

“The growth of BYOD and the proliferation of mobile apps, many with cloud-based backup and synchronization features, have created a new challenge for legal IT departments,” said Cheryl Tang, senior product marketing manager at Good Technology. “The fundamental challenge is balancing user demands with convenient access to files and data on any mobile device with the need to protect firm and client data from potential loss or theft. Many firms not only look for security, but also solutions, which improve employee productivity and satisfaction without compromising the security or personal device usage,” Tang added.

Document Editing

The latest predictions from Gartner’s report “Application Development Software, Worldwide, 2012-2016,” state that the cloud, mobility and social computing are major factors shaping and directing the software application market. We are in the midst of a new mobile application revolution where mobile customers are expecting access to their work environment directly from their tablets and mobile phones. As it relates to enterprise content management, users want more than just viewing documents — they want editing, annotating, sharing and doing as much as they can on their mobile device as they do on the desktop computer.

One document management solution, as was presented by Leonard Johnson, vice president of marketing at NetDocuments, is the NetDocuments for Good offering, which is an enterprise-grade cloud service that enables professionals, such as lawyers, who work with sensitive, client-related documents to securely create, edit and collaborate on content from anywhere using iPhone and iPad devices. The Good-enabled offering implements technologies that can prevent data leakage and even control outgoing email, copying and pasting, and limiting document downloads to FIPS-certified AES file encryption provided by Good.

As an alternative to building a custom mobile application for some of those legacy or hard-to-replicate business processes, Mark Manoukian, information systems director at Kegler, Brown, Hill and Rutter, uses Citrix for some of the more obscure back office applications. In addition to Citrix, the firm uses NetDocuments for Good as a native app on their firm’s iPad as it provides full audit trails of who did what to which documents at what time. This remains true for any NetDocuments for Good application extensions that connect to the NetDocuments document repository.

“A Cloud document management system offers anytime, anywhere access,” said Johnson, “so extending the service by providing access from a mobile device is simply a natural extension, without requiring additional on-premise servers to connect the DMS to the mobile device.”

Time Capture and Entry

Time capture, time entry and billing functions seem to be a hot space, and rightfully so. Every law firm tries to capture as much time as possible while making sure that time entries are allocated properly to each client. With only 21.6 percent of firms responding to the Am Law Tech Survey claiming to use e-billing software, there is room for improvement in this area.

Moving to end-to-end electronic time-keeping and billing software has proven a difficult task for many firms, as lawyers are now using their own mobile devices to conduct research, take calls, read case matter and more. The firm’s business conducted on personal mobile devices can go unrecorded and forgotten, e.g., when the lawyer works from home on a weekend or holiday, or travels for the firm. Billable time falls through the cracks and the firm misses out on billing for it.

Collecting money is a priority for most businesses and law firms are no exceptions to the rule. Time capture software represents a new and streamlined approach to time management. And it’s easy to see why so many options are cropping up — there’s real return on investment with mobile time and billing applications, particularly given the ability to catch billable activity that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

When evaluating time capture software, some key questions to ask are:

• Does the time manager app monitor all the software used by lawyers?

• Is it able to capture the information from multiple channels, including email, phone and web browser?

• Does it provide exact durations for tracked activities?

• Does it cross-reference information to produce a consolidated, validated diary of activities?

• Does it roll up related activities such as an email thread sent to one client over the course of a day?

• Does it have the capability to provide real-time validation of time entries against the firm’s e-billing guidelines?

• Does it provide security controls and integration with external ethical screening and information security tools?

• Is the software automatic, or does it rely on manual efforts that will require lawyer “training”?

I’ve seen a number of stand-alone mobile apps as well as some vendors integrating time capture and time entry into their existing systems, a few of which have made the capabilities available in a mobile app. Here is a short list of those vendors: IntApp; Aderant; Advanced Productivity Software; Bellefield Systems’ iTimeKeep; Element 55; LexisNexis; Tikit Carpe Diem; and Thompson Reuters.

“Having worked with over 80 firms on time capture over the last seven years, there are two key factors we typically see motivating these projects,” noted Eldean Ward, head of IntApp’s Revenue Practice Group. “The first is a desire to boost revenue by capturing overlooked billable activity. The second is to address a task that lawyers almost universally hate so they can focus more on serving clients.”

Regardless of the use case, I see a discord between a law firms’ IT department and its legal staff. The IT department recognizes data at risk and wants to put controls on document collaboration to mitigate those risks. The lawyers, on the other hand, want minimal controls on their document sharing and the freedom to use their own devices without limitation. This discord will need to be harmonized before a secure, mobile-enabled law firm can effectively operate. •