Single Platform Seeks Smart Lawyer: The Case for the iPhone-Only Law Office, Part 1

When was the last time you checked your phone? Was it in the last hour? The last 15 minutes? The last 5? Are you reading this article on your phone right now? Chances are, if you’re a Boomer or a Millennial, you check your phone more than 20 times a day (even during meal times). In fact, according to a report based on a recent Nielsen Poll, the worst offenders aren’t teenagers, they’re people aged 25-54.

Now, I’m not here to cast aspersions, or to chastise you in front of your peers. Just the opposite, in fact. I know that none of us are likely to untether from the grid. We use our phones to respond to clients, take notes at depositions, videochat with remote business associates. We have good reasons to be on our phones, and we’re not going to stop using them. So we must create business practices that adhere to the current reality. And for this reality, I postulate that we create iPhone Only law offices. Why?

  1. Lawyers use mobile devices, and ignoring the implications of working on a smartphone is irresponsible.
  2. Using a single platform is better for almost any business, including law firms.
  3. Security, Security and … Security.

The average person puts data at risk when using a mobile device in myriad ways, from allowing location services to capture metadata, to giving bad actors a chance to see  everything sent via free wifi, to losing phones and opening the door for thieves. Modern law firms must take use into consideration and create policies that enable good work from lawyers and protect clients’ confidential information. Any device lawyers use should meet certain security requirements. I suggest starting with a security policy that limits which devices are acceptable for client communication and requires that specific security features be enabled.

The Case for a Single Platform

There are many reasons why a single platform for your law office’s phones is better than an open, bring-your-own-device policy.

  1. It’s too difficult to create a security policy when you must consider every type of phone.
  2. Buying apps for a single platform is easier.
  3. Uniform service delivery tools help ensure better quality.
Security on a Single Platform

Creating security policies for mobile phones can be difficult. New software, terrifying threats, and security features are introduced too frequently for you to stay on top of all issues for all devices. Sure, you can say:

“All mobile devices which are used in the delivery of services to our clients must use the most current operating system, have a 4 digit passcode enabled, and run an anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-tracking app.”

That covers a lot of what you’re going to need, but I contend that it’s too vague.

If you want your employees to follow a policy, they need to know what is expected of them. How should they know which virus protection to buy? How do they know which VPN apps are reputable. You hired lawyers, not technologists. Let them do their jobs, and make these technology and security decisions for them.

Further, you don’t want to have to litigate every detail of a policy when you think an associate is being irresponsible with data; you need to be specific.  We all know that ambiguity in drafting is interpreted against the drafter. If your law firm is ever sued over a data breach, having airtight, specific security requirements will be essential to your defense.

When you have only one kind of device, you can create mobile device policies that are specific, detailed, and easily enforceable.  You can, for example, mandate which version of the operating system firm members must use. You can determine which VPN app must be used. You can require TouchID. You can require FindMyPhone and Remote Wipe be enabled, etc.

Apps on a Single Platform

When you purchase software for your firm, you may also invest in apps for mobile devices. If you limit yourself to software with apps for both Android and Apple devices, you unnecessarily limit your choices.  Using a variety of platforms makes software purchases more difficult and security threats harder to spot.

While it doesn’t happen in every case, many software companies roll out an app for iPhones first.  For many of the law practice management companies I monitor, iPhone and iPad apps are the first to launch, the most frequently revised and have the most functionality. If you want your law firm to have a mobile law practice management app, you’re going to be more successful if you use iPhones.

Now, there are certainly apps for Android devices. But I caution you that apps on multiple platforms don’t always offer the same features, have the same interfaces or offer the same tools.  In one app you may have access to all your contacts, while another keeps your data siloed. If you use software with a mobile app, and are using different phones in your office, be sure to research that the iPhone and Android apps both meet your minimum requirements.

Uniform Tools for Better Delivery of Service

While the practice of law is an art, and mastering the law with all of its nuances can take decades, learning to use software shouldn’t be a lifelong endeavor. Most of us, with a little guidance, can become relatively proficient after a couple months. But as we learn, we often rely on the office administrators to tell us how to do a certain task. Imagine if everyone in your office used software that was just a little bit different. Who would be your resource? Who would know how to change a billing rate, or generate an invoice from an app?

Yes, I’m sure that you can figure out how to use the apps available on both Android and Apple devices, but learning multiple device interfaces increases your learning curve, and arguably makes it harder for your office to run efficiently.

I contend that you should spend less time struggling to learn a new system, and more time delivering services to your clients. Knowing what can be done, and how to do it on every smartphone used in your office means that you can mandate that everyone follow the best practices you lay out for your employees.

Know what you can do on your smartphone. Know the risks to which you are most vulnerable.  Know that everyone has the same tools. Create a set of best practices and security guidelines for that device and the software you’re using.  Take the guesswork out of creating smartphone policies.

While a single platform makes administration easier, it won’t help you check your phone any less frequently. And it certainly won’t end those notifications you get at the dinner table.

For more about security on the iPhone, and why it matters for your law firm, read Part 2 of The Case for the iPhone-Only Law Office. Coming Soon.


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