Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Era of the Robo Lawyer

I was on a court house elevator  when I heard a young female attorney say hello.  Assuming she was talking to me, I answered back with a "hello" that would have made Lionel Richie proud.  She looked at me with a steeley glare.  "I wasn't talking to you."   We were the only ones on the elevator.  I smiled sheepishly and impatiently pushed my floor button a few more times. It was only then I noticed the blue glow coming from her wireless headset.

Stepping off the elevator, I  ran into a gaggle of attorneys waiting for their case to be called.  One guy was reading the NY Times on his Kindle.  Another was checking his schedule on his Android phone. A third was looking up a statute on his i Pad.  It was a row of tie clad attorneys with kricked necks looking down at one form of technology or another.  Everyone was in their own little world. 

I cannot complain.  Technology has made it possible for small law firms like mine to compete with larger ones.  Suffice to say, it has made my life easier.  For better or worse, I find that I can now take on more work.  Although I have owned my smart phone for only a few months, I cannot remember how I managed to practice law without it.  It has become my right hand.  I use it to check my schedule, the judicial docket, review documents, send emails, look up cases, and to read the news.  I have the ability to scan a document and then have it faxed or emailed from my phone. I hear you can even make phone calls on the things.   

Technology has given me flexibility.  For example, our firm occasionally prepares wills for homebound seniors.  I have a laptop and a portable printer that I use as a mobile office.  They all fit in my briefcase.  Using programs like, I can access my desktop computer from anywhere I can get on the internet.l  IT drives my wife crazy when we are on vacation.  I am now looking into purchasing a portable wand scanner.  I would love to be able to scan a police report or a motion right at the clerk's window.  I just need to check to see if the rules allow it. I know many title searchers use them.  I also need to check to see if the thing actually works.  Watching the Consumer Electronics Show,  there are a slew of new products I would love to incorporate into my practice.

Of course, as law practice becomes more convenient, there is also a danger to it.  Many courthouses have seen an increase in pro se litigants.  While I believe everyone is entitled to represent themselves, I am also reminded of the old adage.  Those who represent themselves often have a fool for a client.  If you've ever done a divorce case with a stubborn pro se litigant on the opposing end, you may know what I mean.  It can drag out cases as the court deals with errors and frivolous motions.  These days, you are bound to run into a client who thinks he knows more than you because he downloaded some lawyer app on his i Phone or he received some bad online information.  In a recent ABA Coalition of Justice survey, 62% of polled judges felt self-representation is resulting in worse outcomes for litigants.

With the country's foreclosure mess, many bank attorneys have been called on the carpet for robo signing documents.  I have heard stories of attorneys downloading forms off commercial sites only to pass them off as work product.  As cut and past becomes easier, it makes you wonder about the quality of some attorneys these days.
Could they go head to toe with the old school guys?  I bet more than a few would have trouble looking something up the old fashioned way.  I also believe that with more technology, many of us have suffered in our personal lives.  With twitter, email, facebook, cell phones, and texting, sometimes I feel like I cannot escape.  

So as we become more automated and robotic, try to remember to take time for yourself and your family. You don't have to be an attorney 24 hours a day. Unplug once in awhile.


Ryan McKeen said...

You have an android phone, right? I purchased the Scan2PDF app and it works wonderfully. I use it all of the time. With it, there's no real need for a hand scanner.

Adrian M. Baron said...

Appreciate the tip. Will look into it.

bail bonds san diego said...

We shouldn't be abusing these technologies.