Here are some highlights from the 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey (purchasing trends of law firms with 50 or more attorneys):

1.  Internet research was cited as the 2nd most popular influence in terms of aiding IT purchasing decisions  – Internet research is becoming a standard across all sales mediums: whether its cars, houses, servers or practice management software, we’re all shopping online. Maybe this is a good reason for you to justify increasing your website’s budget (for development and SEO)

8 Must-Know Law Firm Purchasing Trends2.  46% of respondents spend $8k-$17k per attorney on technology – Seems like a lot but if you think about it, you have cell phones,  data plans, new workstations, laptops, printers, software licensing, scanners, increased security, and we all know about those compliance measures being hurled at you. Adds up quick…but remember that because of these tools, one person can now do the job that several people used to.

3.  50% of firms increased their IT budget, 15% decreased and 35% remained the same – Despite tough economic times, only 15% are REDUCING IT budgets.  Half are increasing them.  In my mind, this means most firms see the gains to be had from technology and are looking for more.  Are the other half falling behind?

4.  25% of respondents are planning to purchase a tablet in the next 12 months – Tablets are the perfect middleman between your work computer and cell phone. They’ve recently moved from toys to tools for many attorneys. Rather than just using them for consumption (reading, watching, listening), they’re being used more and more in meetings and in the courtroom.

5.  Video conferencing has become a hot ticket item, accounting for 28% of purchases and 22% of future purchases – Why pay for gas, parking and lost commuting time? Simply turn on your monitor and get things done. But that doesn’t mean Skype is always the answer.  You may not need to spend $5k on a video conference system, but a low-quality system can make you look bad in front of a potential client.  Video conferencing is here to stay, just make sure to use one that can deliver the features and quality you need.

6.  LinkedIn is the overwhelming choice for social media (at 90%) for law firms; Twitter at 19% and Facebook at 17% – So LinkedIn is top dog in social media for lawyers. It’s a simple to use platform that is text dominated instead of media dominated – a true networking platform if you ask me. Facebook still has a “friendship” element to it that forces you to walk a fine line. Look for LinkedIn to develop an abundance of ‘user group’ type associations for the legal industry.

7.  44% of respondents cited using outside technology consultants to aid in making purchasing decisions  – As technology becomes increasing sophisticated, it is the requirement for specialization increases. The more specialization needed, the higher the investment costs and the farther you get away from other service areas. In essence, goodbye GeekSquad and hello Legal IT Company, hello Medical IT Company, hello Investment IT Company. It’s no different in the legal profession – Personal Injury, Elder Law, Criminal Law, etc.

8.  When using tech consultants, the most frequently cited reasons were: to assist with implementations, to advise with hardware and software selection and to review internal processes – There is an extremely high cost associated with product selection, testing, planning, deployment, monitoring, management, and reporting. You could spend  a big chunk of revenue just reading reviews and dappling with demo databases. Law firms need IT experts that can quickly identify those products that dilute the market, and those that define the market. Learn from those that have gone before you and you’ll be able to make much better buying decisions.

References: 2011 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey