android-6.0-marshmallow.jpg_min1Mobile working has reached a crossroads in the legal profession. For many firms, the trusted, secure and highly managed environment of BlackBerry BBOS and BB10 is no longer the de facto standard.

The launch of the BlackBerry Priv, and now the DTEK50, which combines the BlackBerry form factor with the Android operating system, has been welcomed by many die-hard BlackBerry fans within the profession.

But Steve Whiter, director of secure mobility specialists Appurity, reports that the IT teams at many practices are far more cautious.

“As a consumer-driven operating system, Android has not previously commanded the trust of IT people working in highly regulated environments,” he says.

Then, of course, there are the iOS devotees who want to use iPhones and iPads, rather than Android or BlackBerry devices. They too are presenting headaches to IT teams, who value the management and control that BlackBerry has given them.

Jonathan Whiteman, IT services and infrastructure manager for Clarke Willmott, explains that the issue is more than simply a matter of technical challenges.

“Mobility is now a vital part of any legal practice,” he says. “Clients expect easy access to the team working on their matters, and prompt resolution.”

This is where the pressure on legal IT teams is coming from. Clients are increasingly taking it for granted that they will be able to contact their lawyers via email, text, telephone or messaging service, whether they are in the office or on the move. But until now, only BlackBerry has provided the kind of mobile security appropriate for legal matters.

“When we’re discussing Android for Work, it doesn’t always help that Android releases have somewhat frivolous names,” says Steve Whiter. “We’re avoiding talking about ‘Marshmallow’ to our clients, and telling them about Android for Work 6.0. But Google have really taken on board the needs of the business world, and the highly confidential work undertaken by legal professionals. Marshmallow is, in fact, genuinely hardened for law firms.”

Android for Work devices can be managed through a standard Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) console, with some enhancements when utilising BES12 with BlackBerry device. It allows IT managers and administrators to accept updates and push out or remove apps without user intervention.

Apps can be provisioned and containerised, and devices can be locked down if usage is to be restricted to limited work functions only. App data usage can be monitored in the Work Profile, or on work-managed devices, allowing real-time visibility of practice data plans.

“This is the kind of control that IT teams have been looking for,” says Steve Whiter. “Our clients have long recognised that Android has to be part of their mobility strategies. The challenge has always been how to implement it without compromising compliance and putting clients’ sensitive data at risk. We’re satisfied that Android for Work 6.0 resolves the concerns that law firms may have about Android as a professional management tool.”

Ultimately, however, the reasons for fresh investment in mobility technology must come from the needs of the practice, not just the IT team.

As specialists in secure mobility, and the Android technologies, Appurity are helping many legal firms who have committed to change because of the benefits to their firms, including higher productivity, greater efficiency and, above all, improved service to clients.

Clarke Willmott is among a number of firms that have adopted the Appurity Rubus app, a native app for BlackBerry 10, Android for Work and, soon, Windows 10. It gives users iManage integration into the device’s email client, making the experience of working with iManage on a mobile more user-friendly and obviating the need to switch between apps.

Appurity has also introduced Oriel, a mobile-first service that provides each user within a practice with the information they need to do their job. It provides a mobile dashboard view of client and matter data from key internal systems in the practice. The user can drill in for more detailed reports, action the item or open the relevant app to go further.

“These examples demonstrate how IT teams can take a lead in enabling change within the practice,” says Steve Whiter. “The rise of mobility as a key source of competitive advantage has created great opportunities for the IT specialists within law firms. With client expectations as the key driver, IT teams can show senior decision-makers within their practices that investing in mobility technologies is a low-risk strategy, with major benefits in terms of service to clients and user experience.”

The new capabilities built-in to Android for Work 6.0 are just one example of the security and management functions that are now being designed into mainstream mobile devices and operating systems from first principles.

With the launch of Marshmallow, Android for Work appears ready to replace BlackBerry BBOS and BB10 as the platform of choice for mobility within regulated environments. Perhaps the clearest indication of this shift is that BlackBerry itself is using Android for Work to secure and manage Android devices on BES servers

The paradox at the heart of any security system is that the stronger the security, the more freedoms it enables. That, at least is the theory. As legal professionals know only too well, it can get a lot more nuanced in practice.

But in the rapidly-changing world of business mobility, the issues are more cut and dried. With strong security, and IT specialists maintaining an effective but unobtrusive scrutiny, lawyers can work where they like, when they like and how they like, using the devices that they choose.

Even if they are powered by Marshmallow.