A bit of news coverage from my old fave state of Arkansas, where I went to law school. The article discusses recent survey research our department at the American Bar Association performed on technology use by lawyers, as part of its broader discussion of some Arkansas lawyers who don’t use computers.
It was enjoyable talking with David Smith, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s reporter. One thing I find regularly is an assumption that older lawyers are necessarily going to comprise the majority of non-computer users. In a way it makes sense, and yet a practicing lawyer in his or her 60s and 70s is as likely to need a computer – and in fact, may be more likely since they may have exited large firm practice to work as a solo – as any other lawyer. The demands of practicing efficiently and ethically are not any different.
If the lawyer is a rainmaker, then e-mail communication can help support the necessary personal relationships and make the client contact more frequent and ensure promptness. Legal research really cannot be done well solely using print resources, any more. If the lawyer has the time to rely wholly on print, there are many other things that aren’t getting done, let alone the cost of keeping that collection up to date (note: librarians are rarely found in the smallest firms) and storing it. It is no longer optional to have online access to Thomson’s Westlaw, Reed Elsevier’s LexisNexis, and the other online databases, and the tools that allow a lawyer to ensure a case is still good law.
There are many more reasons, from reduced insurance rates for electronic docket, calendar and conflicts checking, to better work product coordination using document assembly and management tools. Everyone knows an elder who has delved into computers in order to be able to e-mail grandchildren, etc. Lawyers are the same. Give them a good reason to use technology, and they’ll make the investment in time and resources to use it. Lawyers without computers have, for whatever reason, not been given that reason yet.
For those who don’t know about the work going on at the University of Arkansas – Little Rock School of Law (UALR), you should check it out. It’s an outstanding example of what regional law schools can provide the legal profession in well-prepared attorneys for traditional and non-traditional (like me) futures.