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By Carl G. Roberts
We are surrounded by technology. But do we know what to do with it? Do we understand it well enough to ask the right questions? Let’s take electronic discovery as an example.
An article by Michael Clark in the February 2006 issue of Digital Discovery & e-Evidence discussed a survey of corporate counsel regarding tools and processes their companies have in place to support e-discovery. Of the 269 corporate counsel offices in the survey, 62 percent said their companies have an e-mail archive system in place. But Clark referred to other studies that put the penetration of e-mail archive systems at under 30 percent. His conclusion was that “at least 30 percent of our respondents are confusing the auto archive feature of Microsoft Outlook with a full-blown e-mail archiving system.”
At a recent CLE program, one of the panelists—a federal judge—commented that e-discovery was not figuring very large in the cases coming before him, even though he would have expected such evidence in many of the cases. His belief was that a lot of lawyers—perhaps most—still haven’t grasped what can be done with modern technology, the kinds of pertinent information buried in computer files, the impact such information can have on cases, and the tools computers make available to courtroom lawyers.
There are excellent tools to assist lawyers in collecting, processing, producing and analyzing electronic data. And there are many excellent tools to help lawyers in nearly every other area of practicing law and running their offices as well. Of course, there are also plenty of dogs (and, borrowing from the famous New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog”). So how do we know what to look for and what to expect in our technology choices?
The software we build our practices on is constantly being upgraded. New features are being added. Old features are being modified or “improved.” How many of us are taking the time—before we are confronted with the dire necessity and no time—to gain the knowledge we need to use technology effectively? The heavy-lifter programs we rely on typically have dozens of shortcuts for everyday tasks. Knowing even a moderate number would improve efficiency, enhance effectiveness, remove a barrier. But even among the computer-savvy, how many of us have the time, inclination and assistance to learn these tricks?
There is always new territory to visit and, yes, it is always a challenge to find the time to make the journey. But if we want to serve our clients and run our practices in the best way possible, we must make the effort to increase our skills and knowledge levels about technology as it factors into the practice of law. Among the many resources to help are the excellent sessions presented annually at ABA TECHSHOW®. Many of you will be in attendance at this year’s show. For those who cannot attend, there is a great amount of helpful information in the conference materials, available on CD-ROM at www.techshow.com.
Technology can help you be a better lawyer, if you know how to use it well.
It is up to you.