6 Legal Technologies That Should Be Obsolete


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Legal innovation is a popular topic this month, but it’s worth noting that most law offices are still weighed down by obsolete technology — or technology that ought to be obsolete, at least. Sure, we don’t use quills or mimeographs anymore, but there is a pretty good chance you still have a fax machine taking up space in your office.

Here are 5 legal technologies you can — and should — get rid of, and what to use instead.

Featured image: “Engraving of dodo surrounded by parrots and ducks” from Shutterstock.

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    Done and done on all counts.

  • Kelly

    Oh, gee, I do hate fax machines, BUT they are less trouble than certified mail, which is still, in some courts, the only other valid means of service. And, as my firm’s office administrator pointed out to me recently, a physical fax machine is sometimes legally required for human resource-related communication. Who knew!

    • In what circumstances is a physical fax machine a requirement?

      • William

        Banks and some other institutions will only do faxes because it is more secure than emails. In light of the PRISM/MUSCULAR disclosures, the fact that emails sit on third-party servers that courts have ruled are not protected by the Fourth Amendment means that fax machines, as a direct point to point communication, is more secure from espionage than emails.

      • Kelly

        I believe it had something to do with health insurance and protected health information.

        • Austin B.

          Hmm PHI and HIPAA shouldn’t influence whether you use a physical or virtual fax setup. I’ve set up fax servers (mostly RightFax) at hundreds of physician offices. We also use Sfax (sfaxme.com) ourselves for transmitting PHI; it’s a nice web-based HIPAA compliant option.

  • The only thing on the list I have is the e-fax service. Not because I want it, but it’s handy for the local courts and sometimes clients.

  • Combining a smart phone voice recorder with a cloud service like Dropbbox lets an attorney dictate a letter from anywhere and it can immediately be on the assistant’s computer to type. Paying for a dictaphone, that has to be local to one’s office, makes no sense whatsoever for the last several years.

    Copiers are still necessary though in jurisdictions that don’t have efiling (we have several in Nevada) and require courtesy copies, service by mail, etc. Kind of goes to the point Kelly makes – the profession is being held up by Courts being slow to adopt technological change.

    • If you are scanning the final document (which you should be doing), a good printer works as well or better than a copier for courtesy copies.

      • Good point – agreed.

      • Bill

        Copiers are still more efficient at reducing and piecing together large surveys to small surveys for ease of scanning to all. Of course one COULD scan in sections and try to reduce and splice them on line but copier and scissors and tape still much more efficient at this time (unless you have a graphic artist skill set perhaps)

    • legalofficeguru

      “Smart” phone voice recorders would have the ability to easily back up and re-record/playback portions of the current recording. That’s what separates a bona fide dictation app from a mere voice recording app.

      • True that a smart phone isn’t as full featured as a dedicated dicta phone. The big benefits are the mobility/cloud connectivity and cost. Since I didn’t dictate lengthy letters, just the shorter ones, it was perfect for my purposes.

        • legalofficeguru

          The major dictation vendors – Olympus, Phillips, etc. – do have smartphone dictation apps with these features. It’s not just “voice recorder” versus “dictaphone” anymore.

  • William

    Photocopiers are still useful though not necessary because courts still require courtesy copies, even for electronic filing. Printing works most of the time, but for huge files, you’re better off using the ancient photocopier left in your office by the previous attorney. Even my sturdy Brother MFC-8860DN would go bonkers if I print out 100 pages in one shot. Or when you have multiple parties to serve with papers in a regular case, then you’re going to be photocopying and not using your printer.

    As for typewriters, I inherited one and use them for stuff like checks (because it looks cool and Quickbooks ate all my data) and carbon paper forms.

  • Win XP has the distinction in this list of being dangerous because of it’s high vulnerability to malware, and impending end-of-security support from MS.

    Though I suppose copiers could also be considered dangerous as well. They generally have hard drives which store everything ever copied, thus exposing a law firm to liability if they eventually sell or discard said copier without knowing to wipe the drive.

  • Gus M

    The reason for faxes is because, for some reason, opposing counsel sometimes is fax obsessed. I had one case where, even though I would email him documents (and he never complained, so he obviously received them), he would only fax documents to me, despite me asking him to send them via email.

    • Faxes, fine. But you don’t really need a fax machine (except apparently in this extremely-rare-for-most-lawyers situation).

  • Avram E. Frisch

    As much as I hate faxing, I don’t think I could get rid of it yet. Realtors in NJ still love to fax, as do judges.

    • You don’t need a fax machine to send and receive faxes.

      • Avif

        Obviously not. I use RingCentral for my faxing.

  • Edward Wiest

    I regret to say (at least in Massachusetts) the only form of some documents the Courts will accept (the literally “original” summons and other writs bearing a court seal to be placed in court or other government files) is the form the Court supplies (or should I say sells) in blank. Yes, you can handwrite the appropriate information on such documents–but I think its better “form” to pull out a typewriter if you’ve got access to one. I still do.

  • Modred189

    Add carbon copy paper to the mix. SO many orders all over the country are being written in carbon paper in hundreds of courtrooms. Wasteful, illegible and absolutely horrible.

  • 47YearBroncoFan

    When I joined a firm sixteen years ago, it was using typewriters to fill out Workers’ Comp forms. As a paralegal who took pride in his work product, I found that practice to be backwards and inefficient, especially if I made mistakes while typing and had to start over. So I decided to take the time and compile the forms in WP. I ensured my compilations were precise copies of the standard forms – even down to the font and spacing of the verbiage. This was long before standard forms were available in WP, Word, etc. online.

    It really worked out for me. By preparing the initial Application for Hearing and Notice to Set for a claim, I had created data that I could cut and paste into subsequent forms for that claim. As a result of compiling the forms in WP I worked smarter and, to boot, produced higher quality work product. The attorney never cared.

  • Blackberry is coming back! No, seriously. :-) Blackberry Priv slider, running Android, that is coming out later this year. I know MANY QWERTY lovers who are waiting with bated breath for it.

  • John Strohmeyer

    You say “let go of Windows XP” as though it weren’t good enough for Britain to still use in all of their nuclear submarines.