THE CHAIR’S CORNER
Looking Back, Going Forward

By James M. Durant III

Technology defines the how—that is, how we serve our clients. Through the effective use of current technology, we are able to work faster, smarter, and with an overall enhanced efficiency. The benefit is evident in our ability to conduct legal research in a fraction of the time it used to take with printed books, our ability to depose key witnesses across the globe from the comforts of our home, our ability to view and manipulate a three-dimensional crime scene at our desktop, and our ability to flawlessly manage client accounts. Technology is expanding around us and is improving exponentially.

The ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is using new technology to better serve you, our constituent membership, with our newly revised web page, our e-newsletters (Law Trends, Solo, Technology eReport, and The Buzz), and our e-mail discussion lists (Solosez and Militarysez). This edition of GPSolo magazine is dedicated to existing and emerging technology and how it benefits the Main Street Lawyer. Moreover, we would like to acknowledge our sponsors, who have brought you technological support and practical and practice advantages with their incredible products.

The evolution of technology has impacted each of us in our personal as well as our professional life. Today we take for granted things that 30 years ago would have served as the basis of a good science fiction novel. Think about the word processor in your office today and remember that 30 years ago lawyers worked with magnetic card devices that did not even have screens. Think about the plasma or LCD flat-screen, high-definition, surround-sound stereo television system in your den and compare it to the 21-inch, 5x4 ratio, low-definition CRT color televisions popular 30 years ago (heck, we still had black-and-white TV in those days). Think about the massive stereo systems we once used and compare them to the pocketable iPods and portable docking speakers popular today. Thirty years ago, the relatively small number of lawyers who had portable telephone capabilities only had them in their car, had a party line that they shared with all other mobile phone users (who could listen in on their conversations), and gave up a good portion of their trunk space to the radio transmitter that the portable phones required. Compare that to the pocketable cell phones that virtually everyone has and uses heavily today. Today’s desktop computers (and many laptops) outperform the supercomputers of the past. We prepare food faster, get cars tuned better, have medical tests conducted more accurately, and work more efficiently than ever before thanks to technology and its advances.

Technology has come farther in most of our lifetimes than in hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years of history in the past. A basic axiom of technological growth has become that the more technology grows, the faster it improves. Undoubtedly, technological growth over the next 20 years will outpace that of the last 30 or 40 years. There can be no doubt that it will impact our practices greatly. As I write this, we feel the impact of the growth of technology in the burgeoning field of discovery of electronic files (“e-discovery”). Thirty years ago, nobody ever heard of e-discovery. Today, courts are in the process of institutionalizing procedures that assume the necessity of having to address e-discovery in virtually all litigation. Thirty years ago, nobody conceived of the idea that a lawyer would not have a brick-and-mortar office; today, we have virtual offices and lawyers communicating electronically. Recently, I encountered a young lawyer who had moved with her spouse from California to New York and continued to work for her Southern California law firm out of her New York apartment, using a telephone and her computer as her office.

Just as technology has changed our world and our practices, it has impacted and will impact the way in which bar associations and our Division in particular function and how we service our members. Technology has enabled us to get more information to and better serve our members at a lower cost (adjusted for inflation) than ever before. We expect that trend to continue, and, as a result, membership in the ABA and the GPSolo Division will become a better value than ever before.

At the same time that technological growth has accelerated, we have learned as a society to become more concerned about the health and well-being of the world in which we live. Most of us have developed a social conscience that demands that we take better care of our planet and our environment to prevent and reverse the rapidly deteriorating conditions that have developed. Just as technology has endangered the environment, we are now turning technology toward helping to protect and restore the environment and to minimize the damage that we do to it for our convenience. Thirty years ago, a car that got 15 miles to the gallon was exceptionally good. Today we consider it a “gas guzzler”—cars regularly get 30 miles to the gallon and better.

The operation of our Division has also changed out of concern for ecology. Fortunately for us, the same technology that enables us to get more information to our members faster and cheaper than ever before also allows us to get it there with a smaller carbon footprint. You may have noticed that more and more of what you receive from the ABA and from the GPSolo Division has come to you in electronic format. We can transmit more information to you electronically faster and for less money than we could ever do by printing and mailing the same information. You will soon see more of the Division’s publications available with an electronic option.

The Division has decided to devote substantial resources to the creation of an online “Solo Center” website that will offer you a tremendous member benefit. The Solo Center will provide solos and small firm lawyers with legal articles, technology guidance, important links, and a vast array of other useful information for your practice. Once we get the Solo Center online, we will let you know. We hope you will find it helpful and that you will consider making it your home page to ensure that you get up-to-date information on new developments in the law, new information about practice management, tips on technology, and special offers from vendors and sponsors that will save you money in your practice.

One of the reasons behind the conversion of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section into a Division was to make the Division the ABA’s entry portal for solos and small firm lawyers. In keeping with that concept, the Solo Center will collect substantive and practical information available from the publications of other Divisions and Sections of the ABA and reproduce it for you or provide you with a link to it, making the Solo Center an even more valuable resource for solo and small firm lawyers as well as for the general practitioner, whether involved in a solo or small firm setting, a medium or large firm setting, the government or the military. We owe a great deal to the architects of the Solo Center. Stephen Beam began the journey leading to the design of the Solo Center, and Jeffrey Allen, the Special Issue Editor of GPSolo magazine’s Technology & Practice Guide and the Technology eReport, will lead others to make this dream a reality. The Division is very thankful to these two leaders and the numerous others who have moved us in the positive direction to offer yet another phenomenal member benefit: the Solo Center!

If you have thoughts, comments, concerns, or suggestions about what we are doing or how we can better serve our members, we would love to hear from you about them. Please contact me at james.durant@usafa.edu.
The views expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force.

Copyright 2009

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