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The 2016 Lawyer: Pairing Traditional Formality with Technological Efficiency

June 29, 2007: I was 15-years-old. I was just about to enter into my sophomore year of high school. If I had to guess, I was either laying on the couch watching tasteless television, or playing soccer somewhere in Indianapolis. The winter before I had gotten my first cellphone: a Verizon flip phone (with texting)! But on June 29, 2007 I was not thinking that the release of the very first IPhone would have ramifications that would carry me into 2016 and throughout the remainder of my career in law.

The field of law maintains a peculiar competition: the deeply rooted historical traditions of law and its intricate, graceful formalities versus the dynamic, demanding efficiency of technology. Even though the historical player slows the technological player down, the speed and strength of the technological player cannot be overcome; the technological player changes the law game. The law field may be slower than others, but it is undoubtedly catching up. This places new lawyers, the twenty-something’s just entering the field, in a position of appeal as they apply to firms. This generation of lawyers is the first to grow up in the technological revolution; they offer profitable insights into the technological world foreign to attorneys past.

Despite all of the energy, praise, and sophistication that accompany the shift into the high-tech world, the legal practice has a number of practical concerns in the transition. Technology now extends information and documentation to ordinary citizens that have previously been available only through the consultation and hiring of an attorney. For example, Legal Zoom purports to offer a will starting at the low price of $69. Their website offers a number of tools including, but not limited to bankruptcy information, divorce forms, personal injury, bankruptcy, real estate, disability benefits, information on DUIs, trusts, immigration paperwork, and pages more.

Services like Legal Zoom “dumb down” the practice of law offering legal services in low-cost bundles that avoid the stigma oft associated with needing legal assistance, as well as, speed the process up. Time and money: two things every person wants more of.

So, where does this leave the modern lawyer? The legal practice is still dominated by the billable hour, but clearly, the efficiency that comes with the high-tech practice frustrates the traditional billing scheme. While many argue that the human element of lawyering can never be completely annihilated by technology it can certainly be cut down.

The ABA’s Law Technology Today put together the following must-have list for the 2016 law practice: First, collaboration between technologies and other lawyers. According to the ABA, the 2016 lawyer must get with comfortable becoming friends with technologies available to clients. When a client asks, “Can I just do this online?” it is crucial that the attorney is honest and transparent identifying both the pros and cons of utilizing these online forms. This displays the attorney’s knowledge and the potential risks associated with online formats. Second, the 2016 must find a legal software program that leaves room for the practice to grow. This program should include: a practice management system, a website with client portal that allows clients to interact with the firm via the web, a document drafting system with standard legal documents available to clients, and video conferencing software. (http://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2016/04/legal-technology-2016/)

The 2016 lawyer, especially those young, twenty-something’s, recognize that everybody wants more of two things: time and money. The availability of information and documents to the everyday citizen may come as no surprise, but forces legal practices rooted in historical tradition to change their game. The modern lawyer will find innovative ways to reinsert the human element into the legal framework.

-Olivia Euler