Whenever a hot new technology comes out, a few things happen in a more-or-less predictable sequence. First, everyone talks about how it will make life ridiculously more awesome.

Then, lots of people try it, including law bloggers, and start talking about it. Law bloggers generally fall into one of two camps with any new technology: (1) it is The Future of Law, and if you don’t use it, you are probably committing malpractice; or (2) all you need to practice law are a few pieces of birch bark and some charcoal.

Enter the consultants

Regardless what the law bloggers say, consultants and CLE providers soon start selling admission to webinars on how to move your entire law practice onto an iPod Nano or whatever. Apparently, some lawyers actually sign up, which just encourages them to do more vapid seminars.

I recently got a press release from a lawyer-who-has-never-practiced who very conspicuously puts JD after her name (real lawyers never put JD or Esq. after their own names) even though her ten years of experience do not include even one year of actually practicing law, as far as I can tell. She promises to teach lawyers how to use an iPad to practice law for 1 CLE credit.

Please do not go to this CLE or any other seminar or webinar or whatever that promises to teach you how to revolutionize your law practice using a shiny new gadget. Your RSVP just encourages these scammers. And your law practice will not be revolutionized.

Technology is changing; law practice isn’t (much)

Many lawyers seem to take it as a given that technology is changing everything about the practice of law, and fight about whether or not that is a good thing. In reality, technology isn’t changing much about how we practice law. That is, technology is changing plenty about how we do things, but not about what we actually do.

The reason so many lawyers think technology is changing law is that the use of technology in the law is drastically increasing, and most lawyers have no idea what technology is, does, or means. So they assume that all this technology must signify some tectonic shifts in, well, something. It does. In technology.

The thing is, if you can stop being distracted by shiny gadgets, the practice of law today looks a lot like it did 50 years ago. The fact that you can check your email from your car’s dashboard doesn’t mean a contract is suddenly valid without consideration.

Technology is not made of silver bullets

This is a problem, because shiny gadgets can be a distraction from practicing law, which doesn’t actually require any shiny gadgets. They are a distraction from the fundamentals: serving clients and doing legal work. Just because you get a copy of Microsoft Word doesn’t mean your briefs will be more persuasive. That takes years of honing your writing skills. Just because you use an iPad in client meetings doesn’t mean you will have an easier time spotting a client’s potential issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some shiny gadgets. I’ve got plenty, and I wouldn’t want to practice law without them. I just don’t kid myself about their impact on my ability to be a good lawyer. They help me get things done, sometimes cheaper and more efficiently, but they don’t make me a better lawyer.

In law practice, there is no substitute for hard work and experience.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jidnet/2147279266/)