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Chapter 1 - The Necessity for Automating the Practice of Law

The Necessity for Automating

The traditional method of practicing law has many limitations that impact the quality and quantity of services to your clients. For example, searching through law books can take hours, where the same search through the Internet or on a CD-ROM can take seconds. By using document assembly software, one can assemble a complex or routine legal document quickly and accurately, as compared to retyping a document or using cut and paste to modify it for a different client.

The digitization of legal information has changed the competitive nature of the legal profession and has had a corresponding impact upon the economics of practicing law. To properly service the needs of our clients and to stay competitive, we need to fully automate our practice. There are several significant factors that necessitate the completion of this task.

Competitive Technology Changes

The threshold issue that confronts firms and lawyers today is to what extent should they automate their practice. Most practitioners today were taught in law school and by their mentors to use books, paper, typewriters and pens to practice law. The billable hour was and is generally the measure of payment for the law firm. We were taught in law school that the practice is a “profession” and ignored business efficiency techniques. However, just over 10 years ago a technology revolution began that imposed and will continue to impose significant competitive, economic and social changes upon the practice of law.

              Famous Last Words

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and walked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year. – The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

But what . . . is it good for? – Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

640K ought to be enough for anybody. – Bill Gates, 1981.

When Abraham Lincoln practiced law he studied from law books, drafted his own pleadings with a quill pen and charged his clients on a “value based” system. In 1985, over 120 years later, we still studied from law books, prepared our pleadings with a pen and typewriter instead of a quill pen but now billed by the “hour”. The technological advances were not significant and generally did not give an edge to a practitioner. The use of brute force by using a lot of staff was a formidable factor to an opponent as large firms were commonplace. Typewriters were plentiful and used for only one purpose.  Most practitioners were billing by the hour, except personal injury attorneys and some others.

In 1985 the personal computer with its ability to process information at phenomenal rates moved into the mainstream. In 1995 the Internet burst into the forefront with phenomenal communication potential. Now, information could be stored, instantly retrieved, reused, and organized at the whim and control of the user. What used to take a lot of personnel to accomplish could be done with fewer people and more computer power. The last 10 years has forced the legal profession and the whole society to rethink how to use the new tools to store, locate and use legal information, now in a digitized format.

Technology and the Internet have become the great equalizer.  With technology, sole practitioners or small firms can compete against large firms.  The reason for this is that information can now be inexpensively organized, stored, retrieved and transmitted without the need for manual support.  No longer is the number of personnel working on a case a significant advantage.  Instead, the strategic use of technology can provide a definite competitive edge.

What is in store for the future practice? The future practice will bring global competition and increased communication.  We can be assured that we will be globally connected and sharing information on a worldwide basis for very little cost.  We are constantly reading and hearing about the super information highway - the Internet.  To properly understand the evolution of the Internet system is to compare it to the railroads and highways in America.  As these infrastructures were being built in America, the lifeblood of towns was determined as to where the track was being laid or the highway built.  These tracks and roads were the connecting commerce links.  It was a common occurrence for towns to die out if they were not included on the railroad companies’ or governing body’s transportation plan.  With the Internet, there will be no physical track.  Instead, anyone from anywhere who has a connection to the Internet will be part of this revolutionary infrastructure.

Timeline - The History and Role of Technology 



The "law firm" as we know it today will not exist in the future if it fails to “connect” onto the information superhighway.  The capability to link directly with your clients will create immediate connection with their problems.  The capability to quickly locate information throughout the world will impact the advice you provide to your clients.    The capability to “conference” with your clients, fellow employees, and other practitioners anytime and anywhere using video and conferencing software will change where and how one practices law.  Can we predict with 100% accuracy what the future practice of law will look like?  No.  But we can make calculated reasonable judgments based on the technology available today, with an understanding of the legal workflow and the needs of our clients.
The focus of this entire book is to lay the foundation and describe legal technology applications that will enable one to stay competitive in the new digital age.  Below are some examples of computer applications that significantly change the way law is practiced: 
  • Information from millions of computers can be instantly accessed on the Internet;
  • Cellular phones and other wireless devices can download information off the WWW immediately;
  • A phenomenal amount of legal and factual information can be accessed over the Internet;
  • Extranets provide instant and worldwide collaboration with your clients;

       “If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”   - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Intranets provide an infrastructure for the sharing of knowledge and the intellectual capital in a firm;
  • A deposition can be searched and information retrieved in seconds using full text software;
  • Trial graphics can be created and modified easily using graphics software;
  • Past pleadings and workproduct can be easily accessed electronically;
  • Case management systems can provide docketing reminders, pleading dates, witness contact list, calendars, etc.;
  • Group computing platforms such as an Intranet, Lotus Notes, etc. can provide remote group assistance on cases;
  • Video testimony of witnesses can be viewed on-line anywhere in the world within seconds following a witness testimony in a deposition or at trial;
  • Spreadsheets can automatically calculate settlement and damage proposals;
  • Legal issues can be electronically linked to the factual information to prove your cases;
  • Witness trial books can be created quickly linking vital documents and other data to a specific witness;
  • Using document assembly techniques, one can generate routine legal documents in a matter of seconds;
  • One study revealed that a manual search of 10,000 documents took 67 paralegal hours and yielded 15 relevant documents seeking information about a witness.  A computer search took seconds and yielded 20 relevant documents;
  • The digital image of your case documents can be retrieved in seconds;
  • Up to 15,000 documents images can be stored on a CD-ROM or DVD and accessed through a portable computer;
  • Legal research can be completed over the Internet or on a CD-ROM anytime and anywhere in seconds;
  • With e-mail, we can inexpensively communicate with anyone in the world in seconds;
  • A day of trial per week can be saved by using “paperless” trial techniques; and
  • Invaluable research on individuals, partnerships or companies can be completed over the WWW.

These are but a few examples of how technology is changing the competitive nature of the practice of law.


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