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Technology in the Law

 

It seems like each day a new technology is being released. With each new technological advance, the legal landscape continues to change.  In turn, the role of a lawyer changes as well.  It is imperative for a lawyer to know how to manage the new technologies in today’s world or risk falling behind their peers and failing to give your client the best possible representation they deserve.  Legal processes that have historically been done on paper are now becoming automated.  Lawyers, paralegals, secretaries, and other legal professionals have to become proficient in a wide variety of new technologies such as word processing and legal research software.

Both law firm and corporate technologies are rapidly changing due to technological advances.  Most law firms have adopted electronic billing (e-billing) as an alternative to traditional paper invoices.  Additionally, technology has become an important part of legal marketing.  Most large law firms have begun creating Facebook pages as a way of connecting with potential clients.  The Facebook page allows potential clients to see what attorneys are in the law firm and what areas they specialize in.  The Facebook page also lets potential clients see awards that the firm has won.  This can be very assuring to a potential client.  Electronic case management is another example how law firms are adapting to the digital world.  Most firms now store all of their cases electronically and employ databases to track, edit, search, distribute and archive documents.  One law firm in Dallas electronically images every piece of paper that comes into the office including notes and sends those images to India.  This ensures that nothing will ever be lost and all their documents will be readily available.

Technology is also changing corporate legal structures as well.  According to Outside Counsel’s 2007 In-House tech survey, more companies are leveraging technology as a key strategic asset.  Corporations are implementing technology that allows them to patent and file trademarks faster than ever before.  They are also able to use this technology to easily monitor and enforce their patents and trademarks.  Before technology, a company may have never known if someone was using their product without permission.  Technology, however, has made finding patent infringers much easier.  Technology has also made it easier for corporations to prepare budgets, track director’s stock holdings, track subsidiary data, create organizational charts, and monitor outside counsel fees.

Technology has also had an impact on how courtrooms do business.  E-filing with the court has become commonplace and federal and state courts are posting court filings so that attorneys may access the documents remotely.  My first year interning with the prosecutor’s office I did a lot of e-filing.  I could not imagine fixing some of the problems that other attorneys were having if I did not have access to e-filing.  The ability to look up a case number and find important details was crucial to efficiently doing my job.  Courtrooms are also updating their rooms to have state of the art technology inside the courtroom.  Most courts now have built in monitors and other presentation software for the litigation process.

Attorney’s lives are constantly changing due to technology.  While in the past, attorneys would spend hours or even days trying to find cases on point, today sites such as WestLaw and Lexis have made the process much faster and much easier.  This is beneficial to both the lawyer and the client because there will be less wasted time.  Technology has also changed the Rules of Civil Procedure with the advent of E-Discovery.  E-Discovery has become incredibly important in the digital age because it allows law firms to access the millions of files a law firm has in a reasonable fashion.  E-Discovery has even created a new profession: litigation support professional.  A litigation support professional implements and manages the new tools that come along with E-Discovery.

All in all, technology is rapidly changing the landscape of the legal community and lawyers can no longer pretend their way is better than the new way.  In order to become a competent attorney in today’s legal world, a lawyer must learn to embrace technology.

-James Barbiere