Law in the Digital Age

When I was in law school there was this thing called the law library. It had these things in it called law books. If I wanted to go “look something up,” I would go to the “law library” and look in the “law books” for the things I needed to know or learn. That was 30-odd years ago. Now, I sit at my desk, I “log-on” to my various “online” reference materials, I can search a gazillion resources with just a “mouse-click,” and get right down to business. Holy mackerel!

When I got out of law school, on occasion I need to initiate a lawsuit against an “evil-doer” (meaning the person who had done my client wrong.) I would draft the initiating document – called a “Complaint.” (I know – very apt name, right?). Now, someone had to physically take the “Complaint” to this place called the “Courthouse.” Inside the “Courthouse,” was a room called the “filing room.” You would present the original – and a copy – of the Complaint to these very patient people at what was called the “filing window.” If everything was in order (I got it right most of the time), the very patient person at the “filing window” would stamp the Complaint as “filed,” then, getting a second stamp, would stamp the copy as a “conforming copy,” would keep the original, return the “conforming copy” to me, and I would then give the “conforming copy” to some industrious person to locate the “evil-doer” and hand-deliver the “confirming copy” to the evil-doer. Thus, the evil-doer was “served!”

Now, most Courts only allow you to file your documents “online.” In order to do so, you need to know your way around each Court’s electronic filing platform. Let me tell you, this ain’t no picnic. In order to navigate some Courts’ electronic filing platforms you almost need to be a software engineer. (Trust me, I am no software engineer). Thank goodness my paralegal is a pretty good software engineer. The way things are going, I think computer software engineering classes should be a mandatory class in law school for anyone who intends to be a litigator. Or maybe, litigation should be taught at software engineering school!! (Trying to think outside the box, you know?)

When I started my career as a lawyer in the early 1990’s, while “email” had been around for a while, it was not widely used by the public. With the advent of web browsers in the mid-1990’s, the use of email became widespread with the public. By the 2010’s “webmail” (the web-era form of email) was everywhere. So, now, we all get approximately two-kabillion emails a day. As if this was not enough, some clown invented the “text message.” We all have clients now that primarily communicate via text message. The “litigation-hold” (for you non-lawyers this is the gathering and protecting of information pending and during a lawsuit so that it does not get lost or destroyed) is now largely, if not exclusively, an “electronic event.” Which leads to “e-discovery,” which is like brain surgery or gravitational waves or something like that. (Non-lawyers – I will not even try to explain this one.) In fact, to conduct “e-discovery,” I think you need to be a licensed brain surgeon. Unless, of course, licensed brain surgeon is no longer enough …

What I am saying is that now the meeting is by Zoom, the private “aside,” is by text message, the research is conducted with a “mouse,” and the “smoking-gun” evidence is buried is somebody’s email in-box … all without ever leaving your kitchen table – I mean your law office.

Hang on folks.