ILTA 2011: Macs, iPads & Apps … and the “Consumerization of IT” at Law Firms

ILTA 2011 Macs iPads Consumerization of IT

Last week I attended the annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) down in Nashville, where I had the honor of co-presenting “iPad: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes” (presentation below) with Finis Price. We had an absolute blast with a completely packed room.

I was pleasantly surprised to observe more Macs and iPads than what I expected at ILTA this year. I’ve been going to the ILTA conference for nine years now and it’s an absolute must-attend for just about any IT professional in a law firm.

ILTA has always been tilted a bit more towards the larger law firms (i.e. over 100 lawyers), while the ABA TECHSHOW is better designed to address the needs of the solos and smaller firms (full disclaimer: I serve on the Planning Board for the ABA TECHSHOW and oversee the “Mac Track”).

I’ve always expected to see more Macs and iPads at the ABA TECHSHOW because folks from smaller firms usually have more flexibility to choose their own technology – they don’t have the same enterprise-grade restrictions on mobile devices, security and technical uniformity that is necessary at larger law firms.

Most of the attendees at ILTA maintain costly enterprise licenses for Microsoft software, are fully grounded with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and roll-out standard “images” to all desktops and laptops. This is not a welcome environment for consumer-grade “toys.”

So as anticipated, I didn’t see a lot of Macs at the conference save for a few that were being used by the marketing and sales folks from the exhibitors.

But I DID see a veritable SLEW of iPads! I was blown away. There were only two iPad sessions for the whole week, although there was a “Tablet Shootout” as well. My 60 iPad Apps session was on the last day (Thursday), but I attended the introductory iPad session held on Monday to gauge the interest level. It was standing room only. One of the exhibitors had rented about 50 iPads so that folks could use them in the session (and then rented them out to attendees for the week for $50), but they were snapped up immediately. I sat in the back and watched many folks fumbling around the iPad as they had literally never had the opportunity to work with one before. David Neesen did a great job covering all the basics of the iPad in his presentation, and I was grateful that he let me mention my 60 Apps session for folks that wanted more.

ILTA2011 iPads for Lawyers Session

My observations on iPads at ILTA match up with the 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey (Purchasing Trends of Law Firms with 50+ Attorneys) that Jeff Richardson and Monica Bay discuss in more detail. I spoke with both JoAnna and Jobst at the conference who authored the Survey, and they were very excited to include “tablets” in this year’s Survey. They also verified both Jeff’s and Monica’s assumption that we’re really talking about iPads here.

The “Tablet Shootout” session did an admirable job of discussing the RIM Playbook and the various Android tablets, but I got the sense that most folks were there to hear about iPads. The moderator of that session, however, asked the audience at one point how many were comfortable with the “consumerization of IT” and only about two people raised their hand. It’s safe to say this is the majority opinion from ILTA attendees – they are NOT happy with having to juggle support for the consumer toys that make their way into the firm.

In my opinion, no where is this more evident than with the iPad. The iPad’s price point is easy for lawyers, and they buy them. And they want to use them in their practice. And that usually causes friction between them and the firm’s IT professionals.

The ILTA/InsideLegal Survey stated that 25% of the responding law firms reported they bought tablets over the last year, and 55% of those respondents stated that employees were allowed to buy their own and the IT department supported them. The trend will continue, and I don’t see how anyone is going to be able to stop it, unless they want to royally upset their users.

One of the best quotes on the consumerization topic that I’ve found came from the CIO at Hyatt Hotels, who “embraced the iPad from day one, helping to get the product out into as many people’s hands as possible.”

That’s where [the] consumerization of IT really comes into play. It is IT recognizing the power of a consumer product, cultivating it, and giving it a fair chance to succeed. We have shed our arrogance, but we keep a little bit of our skepticism and our conservative approach to make sure the enterprise systems are still secure and our help desks are not overwhelmed.

IT’s acceptance of consumerized technologies in the enterprise has led us to enable a more agile organization with users empowered with choice in selecting their computing platform preference. In fact, IT’s embracing of these technologies has helped to propel a more positive view of IT. Where IT was previously considered to be rigid and dictatorial, it is now viewed as a true partner who proactively works with the business and uses consumer technologies to help solve critical business issues.

To further add fuel to the trend, the “iPad: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes” session that Finis and I presented was absolutely packed. It seemed like everyone was interested in the apps we discussed and we left a few minutes at the end for audience members to mention their own favorite apps.

I’ve included our presentation below for those that were not able to attend the presentation in person, although the slides aren’t worth much without our awesome commentary to go along with it. And you don’t get to hear me play the Chicken Dance on the Accordéon App at the end either. But please feel free to download and let me know if you have any questions.

ILTA 2011-60 iPad Apps in 60 Minutes