The Legal Community Meets the Internet

By Bencivengo, Glen | Online, March/April 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Legal Community Meets the Internet

Bencivengo, Glen, Online

The Internet has affected many professions, even such a backward-looking and traditionbound profession as law. Lawyers as a group tend to be conservative and somewhat resistant to change. Their training in law school emphasizes precedent and authority. (For a clear and lighthearted explanation of the doctrine of stare decisis, see Ron Borlase's essay [www.] on the topic.) Change is usually incremental and made cautiously. Legal argument is replete with citations to cases, statutes, and regulations. Exceptions to established doctrine are made slowly. It is the rare lawyer who will go out on a limb, for law schools teach students the dangers of embarrassing themselves before their clients or judges.

The Internet has changed all this for most lawyers. Like it or not, many legal practitioners are altering the way they practice their profession. Indeed, they are forced to by the expectations of the marketplace and the competitive, adversarial nature of their work. Clients expect e-mail replies to their questions; other lawyers are marketing their services on the Internet; adversaries are electronically filing appeals; young associates are finding cases, statutes, regulations, and legal forms on the Internet without cost. The practice of law may be a profession, but it is also a business, and like any businessmen, lawyers must worry about their competition. In short, "If my old law school classmate is using the Internet," a lawyer may worry, "so must I."

The Internet's impact on the legal profession is enormous and constantly growing, much as legal doctrines that evolve over the years. But changes wrought by the Internet are faster than most changes to legal doctrine and in many ways more amorphous. It is difficult for the observer to grasp all the changes. Articles abound-both in the professional literature and on the Internet itself-about how this relatively new medium of communication and information has affected a centuries-old profession. In order to come to grips with this, I will concentrate on certain developments: e-mail communications, advertising and marketing, and available research materials. Ethical and malpractice issues are of vital concern to the legal community and will also be covered.


It is difficult to find reliable, current statistics concerning the number of lawyers and law firms on the Internet. A recent survey done by the Alaska Bar Association ("A Survey Says Most Lawyers Are Online," Alaska Bar Rag, v. 25 [January/February 2001]: p. 1) revealed that out of 518 respondents, only 45 attorneys were not connected to the Internet. Most (404) used the Internet for research purposes. The ABA's Legal Technology Resource Center conducted a survey in 1999 and found that 99 percent of the lawyers who responded had access to the Internet from their law firms or corporate legal departments ("Firm Internet Access Nears 100 Percent," Oregon State Bar Bulletin, v. 61 [October 2000]: p. 7). The survey further revealed that 71 percent of large law firms and 32 percent of small firms had a home page on the Web, up from 55 percent and 11 percent just a year earlier. In a Pitney Bowes Management survey of large firms done as long ago as 1996 [], 74 percent of the respondents stated that the Internet played a crucial role in the way lawyers practiced law. Over 80 percent of the larger firms surveyed had access to the Internet. Of those, 51 percent used the Internet for professional reasons and 38 percent believed that the most important benefit of the Internet was e-mail.

In 1997, the ABA conducted a survey of both large and small firms (Steven Keeva, "Law Firms Plug In: Both Large, Small Practices Catch Up with Business in Embracing Technology," American Bar Association Journal, v. 83 [July 1997]: p. 100). The large-firm survey identified trends in the 500 largest law firms in the United States, while the small-firm survey studied technology use in private firms with 20 or fewer lawyers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Legal Community Meets the Internet


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?