Technology, Change & the Practice of Law

technologyandlawHillary Daninhirsch’s article, Changing Tides for Law School Graduates, in this morning’s Inside Counsel brought several ideas into perspective for me.  Noting the negative impact that technology has had on legal hiring, Daninhirsch pushes through to the other side, arguing that the amount of increased information that results from automation and technology, will increase demand for tech savvy lawyers.

I graduated from law school 30 years ago in the Midwest.  A research project could easily take 2 days to complete in the local academic law library.   Today, that same project could be accomplished online in 45 minutes, using a laptop and free legal web sites.     While this approach saves time, it also reduces billing.  Whereas legal research used to be a skill that could be honed to perfection with practice, WestlawNext, LexisAdvance, Bloomberg, and Google algorithms make that less so today.  Brief banks, once accessible only in big firms, can now be found by anyone with access to the Internet.  Forms are everywhere.  In short, the playing field has been leveled, and we are all now drowning in information.

The issue is no longer the ability to uncover the right information or find the perfect case.  The issue has become wading through the massive amounts of information now available and sorting the wheat from the chaff.  As Daninhirsch notes, technology has “both helped–and hurt–new law graduates.  A major factor that has changed the job outlook for young lawyers is the sheer volume of data that is potentially subject to discovery….(T)he data revolution…has been the catalyst for a new wave of jobs in the e-discovery field.”

Dora Nevin, an attorney, states that “advances in technology have both contributed to the depletion of jobs for graduates while providing new opportunities.  Legal knowledge is becoming much more widely available, being processed faster, and as a result, the jobs are changing. We don’t need people sitting around in libraries searching through books; we need people who can very quickly deal with the consequences of that information….”  

The practice of law is changing rapidly.  Attorneys and law school graduates need to become tech savvy and understand how to manage the massive flow of data that will be encountered in today’s legal issues.  Stop by the library and check out some of our titles on this topic such as Richard Susskind’s The End of Lawyers?  Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services and Tomorrow’s Lawyers:  An Introduction to Your Future.

Hat Tip:  Inside Counsel

About Lisa Smith-Butler

Lisa is the Associate Dean for Information Services at the Charleston School of Law, Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library. She teaches Advanced Legal Research & Children & the Law.
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