The talk around the Internet these days is all about how times are changing and how someone actually found a use for Twitter. Technology has already changed the legal profession, but we have just barely taken full advantage of the gains that the legal profession can obtain. I believe we are on the cusp of a major revolution in the legal field, and here are my predictions about how technology will change the legal profession within the next ten years:
- Courts will have RSS feeds for new case opinions. Sound far fetched? The Ninth Circuit’s website was recently redesigned to offer RSS feeds for new opinions, cases of interest, and announcements.
- New complaints will be published on the Internet, and companies (and individuals) can establish RSS feeds to allow them if they have been sued.
- Google will index all case law. This will directly compete with LexisNexis and Westlaw, allowing attorneys to conduct research at a fraction of the costs charged by these two companies. People will post comments about the opinions within the opinions themselves on the Internet. I am sure this would be more helpful than Westlaw’s Keycite.
- Parties will be able to serve papers via email or through the Internet. Sound far fetched? A court in Australlia recently allowed a party to perform substitute service via Facebook. Service by email is probably more secure than traditional mail anyway.
- Attorneys will make routine court appearances via the Internet.
- Most court proceedings will have a live feed via the Internet making them truly public hearings (there may be some push back from the courts on this). These will be recorded and available at any time to anyone interested via the Internet.
- Voice recognition software will instantaneously transcribe court proceedings and depositions. This would eliminate a huge litigation cost – court reporters. I have nothing against court reporters, but they need to change their business model just like the music industry.
- Attorneys will utilize technology in trials to make multi-media presentations to keep jurors’ attention and more persuasive cases for their clients. Trials, however, will not be conducted remotely over the Internet – attorneys need to be in the same room when presenting to the jurors.
- The court system will become a paperless system. Parties will be required to file documents electronically. Courts will issue orders via email or posting on the Internet (attorneys will be able to subscribe via RSS feeds). Courts will not issue a single piece of paper, nor will they store a single piece of paper – saving a huge amount of money in terms of storage and labor in maintaining the files.
- Law firms will also move to paperless offices. It is necessary that the courts make this move first to give the lawyers opportunities to file documents electronically.
- Law firms will make files available on-line for clients.
- Lawyers will conduct webinars to train clients.
- Law firms will provide regular clients with the capability to electronically sign documents. I envision something like the electronic signature capturing devise used at the grocery store.
- Small firms with specialized attorneys will come to dominate the legal field. Small firms can collaborate through the internet, and have equal (if not more) resources than large law firms. Large law firms are simply a group of various attorneys with different specializations using the same letterhead – and carrying a lot of overhead.
- Will demand that their attorneys have a blog (or the newest way of publishing content on the Internet) in order to truly see that the lawyer understands the particular area of law the case involves and to see how the lawyer thinks.
- Clients will demand that their lawyers understand how to use the internet to conduct background research on the opposition.
- Clients will demand that their lawyers are utilizing technology to provide legal services more efficiently.
UPDATE: The Complex Litigator just blogged about Alameda Court streaming a live feed for a jury trial in a complex personal injury case. The case will be available through www.courtroomlive.com, and of course will be indexed for viewing at any time. This leads me to another bullet point under how lawyers could use technology to improve their litigation skills: to review and improve their courtroom skills after a trial.