It may be hard to believe, but we already have closed the books on 2014, and we now have started making our legal way into 2015. The year 2015 at first blush sounds futuristic, and in many ways we really are living in the legal tech future we could have barely imagined not that many years ago.
When I started practicing law approximately 30 years ago, advanced technology meant that legal secretaries used mag cards in their electronic typewriters. When we conducted legal research, we actually went into the law library and cracked open real, hard-backed books. Once upon a time, it was a very, very big deal to receive a fax.
Back then, we used dictaphones to dictate letters, memoranda and briefs. When it came to document production, we actually met in conference rooms with opposing counsel and exchanged boxes of hard copy documents for in-person review. When we made telephone calls, we were tethered to the phones and phone cords at our office desks. And, of course, when we were working, we definitely were physically present at our law offices.
In what seems like a heartbeat, those days are gone.
Now, lawyers, and not just their secretaries, have all sorts of technology available to them 24/7. From our computers at work and at home, and via all sorts of portable and hand-held devices, we can perform practically every legal function in a nanosecond.
We can communicate electronically and wirelessly across various media, we can create documents and we can conduct electronic and factual research literally on the fly. No longer are we chained to our desks, which creates abundant flexibility. And we now have all sorts of creative technological ways to present evidence throughout legal proceedings and trials.
But all of these tech advances also present challenges. Just because we can perform legal functions faster than ever does not mean that we have more free time. Human nature is competitive. So, as one lawyer speeds up, so does the competition to keep apace. And work now can follow us everywhere, which creates true boundary issues between law and personal time.
We have just started with 2015. We are geared up with tech to make our legal year as productive as possible.
There will likely be more and more tech advances for lawyers. Will we be hyped up even more as a consequence? Or, can we collectively learn to use tech to work smarter in our legal practices so that we also have more satisfying personal lives?
The choice is for each lawyer to make. Choose wisely.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.