I have recently seen a small, local firm advertising a TON on social media. I looked them up and found out that its three young lawyers who decided to start a general practice firm after law school. I visited their website and saw that they mention technology as one of the main benefits of their modern, unconventional practice.
I naturally got very excited. Law and technology are the Brangelina of our generation. Major headway has been made in the research behind the power of expressing law through code. And if you think about it, it really makes sense. How many times do we work through an analysis in a flowchart-like manner? If “x” then “y”…. You don’t have to know much about software engineering to realize the correlation between law and computer code. Think about the way a website works; say, Target’s home page. The main drop down box is the overview of what Target sells. As you click on the boxes, more choices come available. Its like the table of contents expanding with each specification. The law works similarly; we start with the biggest issue and keep on narrowing until we’ve pinpointed what we need.
Another recent area that young lawyers in startup firms should be reading about is judicial analytics. This is an area of the law that uses Big Data to determine the likelihood of judicial decisions. They can even use their data to generate graphs and models(!) And perhaps saving the best for last, Fantasy SCOTUS.
I truly could go on for longer than you want to read. Bloomberg magazine predicts that blockchain technology will transform the practice of law. And they are right.
But I digress.
It turns out, this small firm is not talking about big data, or judicial analytics. Instead, when they say technology, they mean e-signatures, file sharing, and video conferencing. The cynic in me began to roll my eyes, thinking, “you call this technology?”
Then I decided: You know what? As a profession, we have to start somewhere. Its unreasonable to think that even the greenest, most naive, eager-beaver first year lawyers would even be ballsy enough to take the risk of diving right into smart contracts their first year out of law school. Perhaps if they had a coding background, but that is more likely to be the case as the next generation of lawyers comes about. For now, we need to encourage the firms that are even “going digital.” Because even though this seems rudimentary & simple to the technologically informed, this is a step in the right direction.
The new technology is complex, dense, and makes the average lawyer feel like a bumpkin. Understandably so. Though we all have no doubt this technology will change the future of the law and eventually society as a whole, we must realize and appreciate what we have in front of us. Right now.
And right now, we should be happy that startup firms are taking advantage of the technology around us. The program this firm uses is likely ShareFile, a Citrix product. There are many software programs out there just for law firms, designed to ease the stress of office management. And maybe that’s the first implementation of the legal revolution. At least in areas where the profession is resistant to major technological change. Young lawyers take huge risk – both financially and professionally – by starting up fresh out of school. Given the nascent stage of the 2.0 revolution of the law, we must acknowledge this as one small step for lawyers, one giant leap for the future of the profession.