The majority of law firms use just five or fewer unique software products, according to a legal industry study published today by the law practice management company Smokeball.

The study, How Technology is Changing the Legal Industry in 2023, which surveyed law firms of 50 or fewer employees, finds that 77% of those firms use five or fewer unique software products.

The smaller the firm, the higher this percentage goes. Among solos, 89% use five or fewer products. In firms of 2-10 lawyers, 86% use five or fewer products. Even in firms of 26 or more lawyers, half use just five or fewer products.

Using fewer products is a good thing, the report says, because too many platforms can create disparate web of software clutter and result in different tools with overlapping functionality. Scattered systems, the report says, raises the risk of overlooked tasks or missed deadlines, and can hurt productivity and increase tech burnout.

What are the legal tech products firms are most likely to use?

According to the survey, the most popular are:

  • Legal research, 61%.
  • Video conferencing, 61%.
  • Microsoft Office suite, 53%.
  • Document management, 47%.
  • Accounting, 43%.
  • Payment processing, 36%.
  • Practice management or case management, 34%.
  • Teams or Slack, 29%.
  • Document automation, 26%.
  • Client portal, 25%.
  • Client text messaging, 23%.
  • E-discovery, 22%.
  • Google Workspace, 13%.
  • Trial tech, 11%.
  • Reputation management, 10%.

Not surprisingly, the report finds that the events of the past three years have made it the status quo for law firms to embrace technology. One result of that is that is that remote and hybrid work have become more common.

Before COVID, the study says, 70% of survey respondents worked full time in the office. Now, 50% work in the office full time. Those in solo practices are more likely to work from home than those in larger firms.

With greater tech adoption and more lawyers working remotely, does that mean lawyers spend their days buried in their computers?

Not necessarily. The study finds that roughly a third (36%) of legal professionals spend half or more of their day using technology. But 38.5% say they spend only 10% of their day using tech, and another 25.5% say they spend 25% of their day, meaning that more than half of legal professionals spend less than half of their day using tech.

The time spent on tech varies by practice area, the survey finds. Business, estate planning, and family law firms spent the most time in software, with about three in 10 spending 75% or more of their time using tech. PI and real estate firms spend the least time in software, 10% or less of their day.

The full survey has a lot more information, including descriptions of different types of legal technology and tips on selecting products for your firm. (And, yes, it is published by Smokeball, so it includes pitches for Smokeball.)

You can download the full report for free from this page.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.