How Lawyers Use Dropbox
Dropbox is an online storage vault for your files that syncs with a designated folder on your computer and across mobile devices. It’s increasingly popular with lawyers as the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report indicates, with 65.3% of lawyers downloading Dropbox in 2014, up from only 15.2% the prior year.
Here are stories from lawyers who use Dropbox.
Ben Stevens – My firm has not had a physical server since 2009. Instead, we’ve relied on Dropbox to act as our firm’s “virtual” server, which has made us incredibly more productive. Having our documents stored in the cloud makes them accessible from anywhere and its smartphone apps enable us to literally have all of our files with us all the time. Knowing that a copy of our documents is stored offsite also provides peace of mind in case the unthinkable happens. Dropbox also has many built-in features, such as versioning, sharing, and searching and its integration with numerous other apps, all of which make it invaluable to us. Suffice it to say that we love Dropbox and it’s one of those tools that we can’t imagine practicing without.
Jeff Richardson – I use Dropbox to store all of the pleadings, and other key non-confidential documents, such as exhibits and important correspondence, in all of my state and federal cases. I use the fantastic GoodReader app on my iPad to sync all of those folders. As a result, my iPad always has immediate access to these documents, which is very useful. I prefer not to use Dropbox for confidential documents — I instead use a Transporter to make work product and similar documents available to my other computers and my iOS devices — but the vast majority of the important documents in my cases are public documents such as pleadings, and Dropbox is amazingly useful for storing those documents in a way that they are available to me on all of my computers and devices. And now that Microsoft’s iOS apps, such as Word and Outlook, have built-in Dropbox access, it is even easier to get to my Dropbox documents on my iPhone and iPad.
Jeffrey Lewis – My business litigation and appellate firm has lawyers in two states and three cities. We are not often all in the same place. Dropbox allows us to share and update files seamlessly so we each are always working from the latest document. Also, when in court, Dropbox’s deep integration with Microsoft Word for the iPad allows quick, on the fly edits to documents. Another essential feature of Dropbox is its version control which allows staff to access previously saved versions of documents. Dropbox is a reliable, glitch free product that helps me focus more on the practice of the law and less on IT issues.
Lee Rosen – Back in the day we used Dropbox for everything – it’s where we stored all of our files. Now, in a time of more sophisticated document management systems, we use it sparingly and store most of our data elsewhere. We’re using Dropbox with some apps where it’s the only option plus we’re storing about 750GB of old document images from our original 1990s paperless system. Dropbox was a great product, but it failed to evolve and develop when compared with products like Box, NetDocuments and FileShare.
Martha Sperry – I really tend to use Drive more now due to Google’s integration across products/apps, upload size limits, pricing, a better sense of security with Google’s auth protocols and ease of use/familiarity with google products. I generally though tend to limit my consumer cloud use to sharing non-confidential information and collaboration, such as co-authoring, presentations, and less sensitive materials.
Scott Grossberg – Who else wants to save time and make money? Dropbox, when used correctly (activating two-step authentication, surgically applying encrypted folders, and making it a data transfer vehicle for other apps rather than simply a filing cabinet), remains one of my primary tools for doing just that. For example, I use Dropbox to sync my 1Password data. Dropbox is the way I keep Notesy and nvALT (Notational Velocity) operating in unison. And Dropbox is an indispensible part of my automated document assembly workflow because it operates so well with TextExpander. Dropbox remains one of my go-to — albeit behind the scenes — technology joyrides.
Why am I so laudatory of Dropbox? I am constantly traveling — domestically and abroad. I need to maximize my mobility and lessen my concern over having data at my fingertips. Further, I don’t want to have to go through some heroic programming or apply some esoteric hack to get the information I need and want anywhere in the world. The fact remains that most app developers create their offerings with Dropbox synchronization built into the product. That makes the decision whether to use Dropbox pretty easy to answer in my opinion. There are certain apps that I live in — GoodReader, iThoughts HD, and Notesy (to name a few) — and Dropbox indisputably takes that use to the next level of productivity, profitability, and portability.
Tom Mighell – I use Dropbox as my primary file storage and sharing application – but only for my personal files (I use Transporter for confidential client files). I like how it provides anytime, anywhere access to my files, no matter what device I’m using – I use an iPad, Mac computer, Windows tablet for work, and Android phone, and the genius of cloud products is their ability to provide seamless service regardless of platform. I like that Dropbox integrates with IFTTT, so I can automatically send photos, documents, or other items directly to a Dropbox folder without me having to lift a finger. I have also recently started to use Dropbox’s Carousel app, which provides a nice photo storage utility; any time I take a photo on my phone, they are immediately uploaded to my Carousel where I can share them with others, without taking up space on my phone.
This has been an interesting exercise. Unlike a similar piece we did on how lawyers use Evernote, the second most downloaded app by lawyers, the response was not uniformly positive. I received a few replies from attorneys (who’ve written on the subject) who say they no longer use Dropbox. Others have moved to Google Drive (as noted above) or Box, and some have security concerns like the possibility of sharing permissions going awry.
This small sample shows that unlike the ABA Survey, less, not more lawyers are using Dropbox. Perhaps if the ABA swapped “downloaded” for “use,” we’d get a better picture of how many lawyers use the app. That said, many lawyers still use Dropbox, and as most indicated on this page, use it effectively and extensively for personal use and in their practice.
Join the conversation. Tell us how you use Dropbox in the comments below. And check out Lawyerist’s excellent primer on Dropbox for Lawyers and Law Firms.