Fundamentally litigation and the practice of law is changing. In the 1850’s when Abraham Lincoln
practiced law he studied from law books, drafted his own pleadings with a quill pen, and had face-to-face
client meetings. Then in 1985the personal computer with its ability to process and store information at
phenomenal rates started to move into the mainstream. At the same time the most powerful communication
tool of all times – the Internet – began its rapid growth. Legal and factual information now could be stored,
instantly retrieved, reused, organized and transmitted to the client or anyone at the whim and control of the
user. W hat use to take a lot of personnel time to accomplish can now be done with less people and more
computer and bandwidth power. In that short period of time technology has changed the rules of litigation
and practicing law.
These changes will affect attorneys from the time a client walks through the front door (or the computer
monitor) to the final appellate argument. The following changes are already taking place.
Virtual law firms. Low cost private virtual Internet offices (www.hotoffice.com) will allow lawyers to
group themselves together from the same locale or different parts of the country and refer clients, share
calendars, pleadings and other work-product, discuss legal issues in chat rooms, and accumulate other
resources for the group to use without the necessity of having a physical location. These same “offices” can
be set up with a client or clients with the same functions since the entry cost of setting up an “office” is as
low as $13 dollars per month per participant.
Law offices. Physical law offices will have less paper as electronic filing, e-mail and digital litigation
collaboration drives law firms to set up digital document depositories. Users will be positioned in the office
or at any remote location with a multifunctional device – printer, fax, copier and scanner – that will be their
paper gateway into and out of the “digital” repository.
Office and client communication. With the emergence of the Internet, Extranets and Intranets office and
client communication will grow at phenomenal rates. Using a standard Internet browser you or your client
can have joint access to litigation action plans, case memos, document databases, pleadings, depositions,
calendars, case discussions, and any other material important to your case.
Digital case documents, transcripts and calendars. Documents and other case material will increasingly
be scanned into a digital format or obtained digitally from opposing counsel such as e-mail, etc. These
materials will be available to the litigator either on a CD-ROM, hard drive, DVD or through a digital
repository on the Internet.
Depositions & trial testimony. Court reporters writing real-time or court scopists using voice recognition
can translate the spoken word into computer readable text that can be instantly viewed or sent to anyone in
the world in seconds along with the audio and video of the proceeding.
Electronic interaction with the courthouse and other branches of the government. E-filing, accessing
and viewing court records and calendars, corporate and tax filings, electronic ordering of car license tags
and so on will proliferate over the next several years as government realizes that many of their functions
can be ported to the Internet.
Training and CLE courses. Many legal related courses are already offered on-line but the number and
quality of live and archived courses will see a dramatic jump in direct correlation to the integration of
higher Internet bandwidth in the attorney’s office. This type of delivery of training will be driven by cost
and timesaving, quality materials and we will see learning increase as all forms of multimedia are used for
these on-line programs.
Internet factual & legal research. The Internet provides literally millions of web sites to locate all kinds
of information relevant to your cases. Practical uses of the Internet for discovery already available include
product standards and specifications, locating fact and expert witnesses, locating businesses, products and
services, reference materials, medical information, travel information, and so on.
Legal resource portals or centers. We will begin seeing legal portals that will offer a full range of onestop
shopping for the attorney. It will provide process service, court reporters, corporate filings, e-filing
assistance, data coding, imaging, hypertext briefs, form pleadings, document and transcript depositories and
a host of other electronic legal services for the practitioner.
Litigation, settlement and damage calculations software. Litigation related software will continue to
evolve and will become more full featured as functions such as real-time and outliners become part of the
standard package. Litigation knowledge management software such as CaseMap will grow rapidly as
lawyers realize that the issues, witnesses, documents and other information can be easily entered and linked
together for use in depositions, opening statements, summary judgments, etc. Either using software on CDROM
or online through the Internet the value of cases will be instantly determined as structured
settlements, similar case comparisons, etc. will be done instantaneously.
Multimedia presentations in the courtroom. Paperless trials will become more commonplace as courts
and practitioners realize that 30 to 50% of trial time is saved by using a paperless presentation format and
are more effective in persuading the facfinder. Courtroom exhibits will be prepared on the fly in the
courtroom with computers and digital presentation systems.
Virtual appearances of counsel & witnesses. Testimony or attorney appearances by video, text and/or
audio can be sent real-time from anyplace in the world to a trial or other legal proceeding using a standard
Hypertext briefs. The use of hypertext briefs will increase as law clerks and judges begin to understand
the efficiency and portable nature of hypertext briefs.
The virtual law office will have no permanent physical location but will exist electronically wherever the
legal professional is located. Competition in this new digital age will intensify and the law practice will
lose its physical boundaries and will result in a global law practice. Driving implementation of these of
these new applications will be time, money and quality. If we are successful in transitioning to this “age of
networked intelligence” then, paraphrasing Bill Gates, we will be able to practice law @ the speed of