“How has legal technology affected you?” This is the first perspective in a three part series.1982 - some of you were not born yet in the year I began my legal career as an Assistant Professor at Western University.You will likely have difficulty imagining that all legal research was done manually with books and loose-leaf research services, and that proximity to a physical law library was essential. One law librarian at Western told me a few years ago that they think there are law students who graduate now without ever having set foot in the library. Imagine that!
[caption id=“attachment_791” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] “Yes, this is the loose-leaf I am referring to”. Image by Addedentry via Wikipedia.[/caption]
You would also have difficulty imagining that all documents were typed manually, or photocopied and cut and pasted together and re-photocopied, and that we used gallons of ‘white-out’ in the drafting process. Document comparison was a nightmare. Everything was done manually - no blackline comparisons with 5 clicks of a mouse! In 1983 I was only the second Faculty member to own a personal computer. We had to boot up manually in DOS, and insert the floppy drive - and there was no automatic ‘save’ to backup!
[caption id=“attachment_792” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] “Going through 20-page documents on this was a nightmare”. Image by Ruben de Rijcke via Wikipedia.[/caption]
Those of you who are ‘experienced’ enough to remember those times know how much times have changed! Today we have a world of research available at our fingertips. Word processing software and online drafting tools (such as Clausehound,which I am helping to build) have revolutionized the drafting process. Innovative services (such as Clausehound’s Small Business Law Library) have made it possible to mechanize document comparison, saving hours of labour. Other software packages have created efficiencies for everything from accounting to file management.Fast forward 30 years… After a decade as a full-time member of Western’s Law Faculty, I resigned to raise our family, and pursue other business interests. When I resumed my legal career, technology - and the legal profession - had changed to permit me to work from home. This is what has excited me the most about legal technology innovation. Colleagues at work now know me affectionately as the “techno-dino”, and have generously transitioned me into the 21st century. If I can do this, anyone can! In fact, if you are serious about starting your own or growing a legal services business, you must consider the “new law environment” and think about how to use technology opportunistically. With teleconferencing, video conferencing, chat messaging, cloud document and file storage, and of course email, legal professionals can work in a virtual office environment. It makes no difference if our colleague is in the next office, on the floor above us, or in a city 2 hours away - we are all in “e-contact” at all times. This enables the right talent mix to come together, even if that talent does not all live in the same city. This is true for building a firm, or for putting a team together for a particular transaction. Clients are also following this pattern. They are saving time and money by ‘e-meeting’ with their legal advisors when possible, and by staying in contact even when they are out of the country.To survive and thrive in this changing legal landscape, lawyers need to ‘think outside the box’ and use technology to support their efforts to deliver quality legal services to their clients. While nothing replaces top notch legal talent (I too find it hard to believe that robots will replace lawyers anytime soon), mechanized drafting and document comparison tools, along with quality research tools can save labour, freeing up talent for more customized client needs. These tools can also help the smaller firms compete with larger firms.Do you remember 1982? If you don’t, you still need cutting edge legal tools to be competitive. If you do remember 1982, do not be afraid of the changing technology - embrace and use it to your advantage. By following this advice, I now find myself in the exciting position of working on the cutting edge of legal innovation!My colleagues who have affectionately anointed me as the techo-dino have also written the second and third blogs in this series. Take a quick peek and see how they, as articling students, have capitalized on some of the latest legal technology.