GPSolo Magazine - January/February 2006

From the Editor
Yellow Legal Pads and the Ether

Some of today’s lawyers weren’t even born when I took a “Law and the Computer” course back in law school. Computerized legal research was the new kid on the block, featured on the cover of the ABA Journal. There was but a single computer reposing in the law librarian’s office, a monstrous machine that could be accessed only by a duly authorized legal research person. We still spoke reverently of punch cards back then. We thought of law and the computer only in abstract, theoretical terms, considering computerized legal research something only large firms and the government could access. And no, I did not go to law school in the Dark Ages. I’m only the average age of a General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division lawyer member.

When I started practice, there were lawyers in my small Iowa town still using carbon paper. The IBM Selectric was the printing tool of choice, upstaged by mag cards, and all written communication was delivered by a uniformed agent of the United States government. The clerk of court wrote docket entries with a fountain pen, and the courtroom sported a spittoon. When PCs first came out, more than a few sat in law libraries merely as a status symbol and an object of idle curiosity.

Today, there’s hardly a lawyer who doesn’t touch a computer on a daily basis, not giving it a second thought. Computers became affordable, easy to use, and accessible to solos and small firm practitioners and their clients, changing the way lawyers practice law more than any invention since the Gutenberg press. Can you imagine a practice without word processing, case and time management programs, electronic legal research, e-mail, or the web? Yet, only a decade ago some successful law firms were fueled by the same technology that could’ve been found in Abraham Lincoln’s law office.

In the oddly prophetic movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, Xixo, a tribesman in the Kalahari Desert, led a peaceful life until a Coca-Cola bottle dropped in on his world, creating marvel and finally such discord that Xixo decided to give the bottle back to the gods. Even though that was a 1980 movie, who hasn’t felt like Xixo sometimes when it comes to technology?

Technology has become more than simply a means of getting the work done—it’s spawned whole new fields of practice. Pervading intellectual property law, carving out new avenues of dispute resolution, expanding, merging, and confusing the neatly defined boundaries of yore, and creating new rights and responsibilities, the practice of a kind of law that’s neither here nor there yet everywhere is no longer the domain of a few specialists in esoteric fields. The law of cyberspace has become the inescapable part and parcel of everyone’s law practice. What has made the practice of law easier has also made it more complex.

Oakland , California , lawyer Jeffrey Allen, the special issue editor of the Technology & Practice Guide issues of this magazine and the editor of GPSolo Technology eReport, came to the fore as editor of this issue. Allen, who has worked with computers for a quarter of a century and sports more technology on his person than the average general has battle ribbons, is an amazingly normal lawyer with an uncanny ability to identify core issues. The credit for developing this issue of GPSolo belongs to him.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo , is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org.

 

 

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