Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Panel Discussion: Changes in American Life

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Panel Discussion: Changes in American Life

Article excerpt

PROFESSOR THOMAS E. PATTERSON(**): Our panel will explore changes in American life and their impact on the public's perceptions and understanding of the justice system. It is a large topic. Two years [ago] at the Kennedy School, we asked the same question about the political system. Two books later and countless seminars beyond that point, we are still talking. I don't think we are going to answer a lot of questions up here this morning, but I hope that we can lend some context and definition to the problem.

Rather than introducing all the panelists at once, I'll introduce them just before their first speaking opportunity. It is a pleasure to start with our presenter, Roberta Katz. She is senior vice-president and general counsel of Netscape Communications and was recently named by the National Law Journal as one of the fifty most influential women lawyers in America. She will speak for about twenty minutes, drawing from her acclaimed work, Justice Matters, which derives from her experience as a lawyer and also her training as a cultural anthropologist. She holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Roberta.

MS. ROBERTA KATZ: It is a pleasure for me to be here this morning. This is a very illustrious group. When I came in the back, I thought, oh, this is a wonderful opportunity to speak to a lot of leaders in the bar and in our society. The issues that we are talking about at this conference really do require leaders to stand up and start acting. What I want to talk about is technological changes in American life and how they are affecting and will continue to affect the American civil justice system.

Before I start talking about those changes, I want to just set the table. I want everyone to stop and think about how extraordinary these times are. We are living in a time of very, very fundamental technological and social change. To give you a perspective on that, I would like for you to think for a minute about when you were in high school and when you opened your history books. We all learned about the Industrial Revolution. We learned about how wrenching it was for people who had to leave their farms, had to leave their extended families, to move into the cities, and had to build new institutions. Urbanization was a big process. It was a wrenching process. Speaking for myself, I remember reading these books and thinking, boy, thank goodness I don't live in times like that. Well, the reality is, we live in times like that. We don't recognize it because we are living through it. We get up every day. We get dressed. We send our kids off to school. We go to work. We make dinner. We come home. We're putting one foot in front of the other just getting through the day, and we don't stop to reflect on how fundamentally our lives are changing. It is something that is important. It is important for us to stop and recognize that we are very much in the process of building the future. So, what is happening is that, with our current transition from what is, in essence, an industrial-based society to an Information-Age-based society, we are reinventing virtually everything we do. Again, people don't stop and think about that enough.

I would say that the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society was wrenching, but the transition from an industrial to an information-based society is even more wrenching because we are dealing with globalization. We are dealing with media that are rapid. This change is happening very fast. When I tell people that Netscape, the browser, didn't exist four and a half years ago, and all that's happened with the Internet, the Web and all those websites that are out there, this is all a phenomenon that's occurred in less than five years, people just look at me and say, you're crazy. But that is, in fact, the truth. So when I say we are reinventing everything, I want to just give you a perspective.

We have started in our culture with business. Business is usually ahead of the game because they are profit and efficiency oriented. …

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