Today, to get done a couple of things that I needed to get done, I relied on technology — no cutting-edge stuff, but stuff that nowadays is run of the mill. The accomplishment of both tasks got me thinking about how much change has occurred where technology intersects with the practice of law.
This morning at home, between breakfast and showering, I checked my office e-mail via the Web and my home computer (in itself, something unheard of in 1990). A team of lawyers was collaborating on putting together a document that needed to be finished by mid-morning. Among other things needed to finish the document were insertions of quotations from and citations to some caselaw. So I ran down those quotations and citations on my home computer via Westlaw web access, cut and pasted them into an e-mail, and sent them to the lawyer who was putting everything together. Then the writing lawyer needed a quotation from a court decision in our case. I thought the decision could probably be found on a legal blog. So I visited the blog, searched for and found the decision, downloaded it, and located the quotation that the writing lawyer needed.
When I started practicing law in 1990, I couldn't have done any of this from home. To help the team, I would have needed to be physically present in the office, running to the law library and the file room to pull what was needed. But in 2006, technology made it easy to do all this at home, between breakfast and showering.
Toward the end of the day, I was looking for some forms to use in drafting something. When I started practicing in 1990, this would have meant looking at my own form file (paper), and maybe asking some folks in nearby offices, "Do you have a form for ...?" Instead, in 2006, I just ran a search in our document-management system, and immediately located a dozen examples of what I needed to draft. Again, run-of-the-mill stuff in 2006, but miraculous by 1990 standards.
Two concluding thoughts: First, technology really does make practicing law easier in 2006 than it was in 1990. Second, I'll bet that in another 16 years, we'll be doing things with technology that, today, we can't imagine.