The technology revolution has irrevocably disrupted every facet of our personal and professional lives. Technology is ubiquitous and evolving at a faster pace than we could have ever imagined. Some of the more drastic examples that we are all familiar with include: the impact of the digital camera on photographic film; the printed book is threatened by e-books; cell phones are more popular than traditional telephone land lines; and the U.S. Postal Service is proposing no mail delivery on Saturdays. Although lawyers as a whole are not greatly interested in technology, the legal profession is not immune from disruption. We have to ask ourselves, what sort of services does the digital generation of individual clients expect from lawyers? What do corporate clients expect?
If we’re not keeping pace, will our services be rendered obsolete? Technology has encouraged clients to expect immediate and informative responses, 24/7. Can we rise to the challenge? Law firms will never return to the prerecession glory days. With an eye to the future and a willingness to be innovative, the lawyer who embraces technology can maximize decision-making and will be posed for success. To assist you with planning for the future, in this paper, I will discuss the future of legal research. I will then describe current legal technology trends including courtroom technology. Finally, I will conclude with a list of general technology predictions that will hopefully provide food for thought and excite you about the coming prospects of technology.
LEGAL RESEARCH TRENDS
Single Search Box–Let’s be honest…most people start an intellectual inquiry by searching Google. The single, simple search box has universal appeal and legal research information vendors are jumping on the bandwagon. For example, with the introduction of Westlaw Next and LexisNexis Advanced, the two major proprietary legal research databases have taken steps to “Google-ize” or simplify the search process. Both services offer a simple search box and allow users to refine or filter their search after running it by choose the type of materials such as case law, statutes, treatises, etc. to focus upon.
LAW OFFICE TECHNOLOGY
It is sometimes difficult to dream or fantasize about the technology of the future. Could any of us have predicted the rise of the internet? The development of the iPhone and iPad? Or the popularity of social media such as facebook? Technology is a major component of our professional lives and its rapid evolution is unstoppable. Clients expect 24 hour access and immediately responses to inquiries. It’s no longer acceptable to say, “It’s in the mail.”
Video Displays-We all learn via screens in today’s world and it is likely that displays will increase in the courtroom. The majority of jurors are likely to be visual learners. More courtrooms will provide individual monitors for juries and witness to allow attorneys to have more visual contact with individuals. Jurors have already reported that having jury instructions printed on monitors as the judge reads them has helped their understanding tremendously. Additionally, monitors will employ touchscreen technology to allow witnesses to pinpoint and mark items of interest. Video displays of the future will become more and more high definition.
You might think that social networking is limited to Facebook and is only relevant to college students. Or that social media is only about socializing rather than business. Social media cannot be ignored and the legal profession is no exception. Social media use by lawyers will extend beyond merely outreach and will focus on brand building. Reputation is a powerful tool for lawyers. Social media can give your firm a much greater reach than it can ever hope to accomplish face-to-face. You can only attend so many Rotary lunches, business events and cocktail parties. Similarly, many of your clients are using social media for enhancing their businesses.
GENERAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE PREDICTIONS
The Death of the Desktop–As discussed earlier, mobile is king. Smart phones and tablets are immensely popular while desktops and laptops are experiencing significant declines in sales. The one exception–all in one desktop models. All in one models have taken away the DIY aka build your own computer style desktop. Remember the kid down the street who built her computer with components? That tradition is winding down as more and more hardware parts are fused together thus preventing easy swapping of components.
Source: University of Georgia School of Law Library
Author: Anne Burnett