Technology Illiterate Lawyers Begin Case at Disadvantage

Article excerpt

The electronic marvels of the 1990s are reshaping people's primary means of interacting with the world. For the first time in history people from all over the globe may easily and inexpensively exchange ideas, conduct business and have virtually unlimited access to information and resources relative to every conceivable subject.

The practice of law is staggering from the effects of law office technology. There is vast array of proprietary software available to deal with all aspects of legal practice, from billing to appellate procedure. More important is the almost inconceivable amount of informational and legal research materials available, free, to anyone who can access the Internet. For example, state and federal statutes and case law are readily available on-line for little or no cost. U.S. Supreme Court opinions are placed on-line and made available to the public within minutes of being issued by the court. There are services that provide reviews and reports on state and federal regulations. There are free daily updates on CFR and USC. The Internet allows easy and immediate access to the Library of Congress and numerous large law libraries such as Cornell University. The busy practitioner can even take accredited CLE courses on-line.

Resistant to change and emergent technologies, a large number of attorneys remain, and intend to remain, technologically illiterate. This cannot continue. The ability to employ technological advancements is quickly becoming essential to the competent practice of law. Being conversant with new technology is as important a skill for a practicing attorney as is the ability to research and comprehend the law. Attorneys who do not have the skills necessary to utilize law office technology place themselves and the client at a marked disadvantage. Some commentators have even suggested that a lawyer who is technologically incompetent may be committing malpractice. Of all technological advancements, the personal computer and the Internet have had the most dramatic effect on the practice of law. …