The Jury’s Still Out on the Utility of Emerging Technology for Lawyers

Technology and lawyers: sometimes, this particular combination mixes no better than oil and water, which isn’t necessarily surprising. After all, the legal profession is grounded in tradition and for years, lawyers practiced law quite well without the benefits of technology, thank you very much.

Even so, the legal profession is a business  and its clients live in a world enmeshed with technology, so practicing law in a vacuum simply isn’t an option. In fact, the American Bar Association recently amended Model Rule 1.1 to require that lawyers stay abreast of technological changes. For that reason, lawyers have slowly, but surely, adapted to emerging technologies like social media, cloud computing and mobile computing. You need look no further than the results from this year’s ABA Legal Technology Survey for proof of that.

But do lawyers necessarily need to use the latest and greatest technology toys in their law practices and will doing so necessarily make them better lawyers? Of course not. As Leo Mulvihill, Jr. pointed out in a recent Lawyerist post, sometimes, compared to the iPad, good ol’ pen and paper oftentimes performs just as well, if not better, than the latest tech gadgets.

But for those lawyers who have an interest in emerging technology tools, there’s certainly no harm in experimenting with the latest releases and envisioning their potential use in the practice of law. For example, Google Glass and Leap Motion are two really interesting new technology releases that, at first glance, have little bearing on the practice of law. But that’s not to say that curiosity combined with a touch of imagination won’t uncover potential ways that lawyers can use these devices in their practices.

And guess what? Two enterprising lawyers have already done just that: tested out these new technologies and/or envisioned how they could–or could not–improve their ability to represent their clients effectively.

In this post, California trial attorney Mitch Jackson envisions how Google Glass–Google’s wearable, interactive technology–could be used to facilitate a smoother, more streamlined and less intrusive jury selection process than traditional methods, including pen and paper. According to Mitch, the potential of Google Glass is that “the entire jury selection process (will take) less time while providing a more meaningful dialog.”

In comparison, South Carolina attorney Bill Latham reviewed the Leap Motion device (which allows you to interact with your computer without a mouse or keyboard by moving your hands through the air)  and concluded that currently, it’s not a very practical tool for lawyers, but has the potential to be useful down the road: “For now, it is simply much more efficient to control your computer using a mouse or touch screen than using the Leap and currently available software. No doubt that will change as clever developers and the Leap Team continue to refine what is now still a beta quality device.”

I also tested out the Leap Motion device and agree with  his assessment. While interesting, I don’t think if offers much to lawyers in its current form, but who knows what the future will bring?

The bottom line: exploring the possibilities offered by new technologies isn’t a bad thing–it’s a positive step that can help lawyers improve their day-to-day lives. These new devices don’t have to replace traditional tools like pen and paper. Instead they simply supplement them and help to streamline the practice of law.

So while the iPad didn’t replace pen and paper for Leo, he explained that he continues to use it in his practice, but only for certain functions. Because, like everything, technology has a time and a place. Some lawyers will use it more than others, but all lawyers  need to use it in order to provide the best service to their clients. Because, after all, that’s our goal at the end of the day, isn’t it?


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