by Gregory W. Coleman
As lawyers, we generally have an inherent allergic reaction to technology. However, technology is here and has already drastically changed the way we practice law. What the future holds is another question altogether.
During my year as The Florida Bar president-elect, I spent a lot of time meeting with an incredibly diverse group of Bar members to discuss technology-related issues. These members can be categorized into three groups:
• Lawyers who will never use technology and will fight it until their death;
• Lawyers who recognize the effect of technology in our practice and are begrudgingly beginning to adapt to change;
• Lawyers who embrace technology and recognize it as a tool they can use to enhance and improve their practice.
Technology can be broken down into two basic time periods: “BC” (before computers) and “AD” (after devices).
Some of us remember the days when a client would walk into our office with absolutely no earthly idea of how to solve their legal problem.
For example, if a client had a noncompete dispute with her employer, she would not even know how to begin to determine whether she had a claim or if that claim was meritorious.
We, of course, having received a legal education and having learned how to operate the magical books, knew how to look at the facts, analyze the law, and make a reasoned recommendation. This was the era “BC.”
The “AD” era refers primarily to the Internet, which has changed and will continue to change everything about the way we practice law.
Go back to that same client who has a noncompete dispute. Today, when she walks into your office, she has, in all likelihood, already searched the Internet using a handful of relevant search terms. She will be armed with information. Whether this information is good or bad, right or wrong, is irrelevant. She has information and that means something to her.
For our members who have not already searched their area of practice, I would encourage doing so. What you will find will be enlightening, and at the same time, terrifying.
Some of the information people receive from the Internet is simply wrong. Other information is actually quite relevant and on-point. Nevertheless, this evolution in technology and the use of the Internet is only beginning.
A few more relevant facts to consider: Do you realize that by the year 2020, the average desktop computer or its equivalent will process information at the same level as the human brain? The CEO of Google recently stated, “Today, every 48 hours, we create as much information as all of the information created from the beginning of time until the year 2003.”
Amazingly, Google can predict a spike in the flu epidemic three days before the Centers for Disease Control. How? The Centers for Disease Control receive their information from doctors. When doctors receive a spike in the number of people visiting their office, they report this to the CDC and the CDC reports it as a spike in the flu epidemic.
What do we do before we see our doctor? We try to self-diagnose by going to the Internet. We Google terms like “sore throat,” “coughing,” and “sneezing.” We then go to our local grocery store and buy all of the over-the-counter products we can get our hands on.
After a couple of days, if we don’t feel better, we go to the doctor. Thus, Google sees the spike three days before our government does.
This column is the first of many columns that I intend to focus on technology. These columns are not meant to scare anyone. It is my goal to educate as many people as I can about the drastic changes that are occurring right under our noses.
Past-president Gwynne Young and recent Past-president Gene Pettis, with some contribution from me, had the foresight to create Vision 2016. For those of you who have not followed this project, it consists of a three-year analysis of four discrete areas: technology; legal education; multi-jurisdictional practice or admissions to the Bar; and access to justice and pro bono.
Technology is the one component that will be part of each and every one of these four areas. As we look at its effect on the legal practice, we will be looking at many different factors, including how technology can actually make it easier to practice law with less hassle and aggravation.
At the same time, when we are bombarded with digital information 24 hours a day, it can be distracting, annoying, and, at times, disruptive.
I look forward to exploring these areas of technology with you for the next year. I thank you so much for allowing me the privilege of serving as your president. I am truly humbled and grateful.
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