Your client calls you in the middle of the night. He was in a terrible car accident, he says. The driver of the other car appears not to be breathing, gasoline is spilling everywhere, and he has been drinking. Crying and distraught, he begs for your help. After you get him to calm down, he assures you that he will call the police but will not say anything to anyone; you tell him that you will be there momentarily.
Lawyers have been getting phone calls like these for many years, but technology has completely altered what happens next.
Your client does not know where he is, but his phone lets you know his precise location. You get directions quickly from your car’s GPS. In fact, you beat the police to the scene. You immediately preserve evidence by taking photos and making notes on your phone. You have everything you need—including the ability to do legal research—literally at your fingertips. You do what you can, go home, and begin to prepare for dealing with the rest of the case and a possible trial.
The differences between yesterday’s and today’s litigation practice could not be starker—and that includes the courtroom. State courts are rapidly adopting technology to make their paper-based and face-to-face systems more efficient, and it is not hard to imagine the tipping point where virtual courts will be the venue for most civil cases and even some criminal cases. How did we get here?
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