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August 10, 2023 Column

Message from the Chair: As We Approach Our Section’s 50th Anniversary

Garth B. Jacobson

Nearly 50 years ago, the ABA authorized the creation of the Science & Technology Law Section. Forty years ago, I finished law school at the University of Montana. Early on in my career I began using a clunky computer in my practice. When I obtained my LLM in taxation in 1997, at the University of Washington, I produced all my notes and papers on my laptop. That technology was unheard of during my prior law school experience. My law career and my connection to SciTech started over 15 years ago when I authored an article for The SciTech Lawyer. Thereafter, I became involved with the Section, first as a co-chair of the e-Filing Committee and later as budget officer and up the ladder to chair. That immersion into the Section taught me much about the importance of the work we do and the significance of science and technology in the practice of law.

Nearly 25 years ago, SciTech provided early information about electronic discovery and through its institute and taught lawyers the significance of e-discovery. Thereafter other Sections usurped this area of law, and we pursued the next big thing. Nearly 10 years ago, the Section became a very early presenter of the internet of things topics through its successful IoT National Institute. Additionally, five years ago, Steven Wu spearheaded SciTech’s Artificial Intelligence National Institute. This two-day program remains very strong as AI emerges as one of the hottest topics for attorneys and the world. All of this illustrates that SciTech operates on the cutting edge of the practice of law and our society.

Lawyers must stay on top of technology for their own self-preservation. Competency in the practice of law requires the understanding of cyber security, privacy and now AI. We as attorneys cannot just rely upon our legal assistants to handle those matters. The Montana Supreme Court Justice I clerked for half jokingly told me, “Never take a case your secretary can’t handle.” But that advice no longer applies when you replace your secretary with your laptop, and you now must be not only proficient with computer skills but astutely aware of how to avoid data breaches and maintain protection of communications with your client. Your practice as an attorney depends upon it.

I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the many learning opportunities the Section offers surrounding emerging issues that will become essential knowledge in the future. I also encourage you to consider joining one of our many substantive committees and to enhance your credibility through contributing articles, presenting programs, and participating in leadership opportunities. Your voices and contributions are always welcomed and appreciated.

As we reach our 50 years as a Section, we are developing a conference tentatively scheduled for May 2024 in Washington, DC, to celebrate 50 years of outstanding programing, publications, and institutes that greatly enhanced the ABA and the legal profession. We will enjoy the great fellowship of friends we have made throughout the years and make important connections for our future. I ask you to join incoming Section chair Laura Possessky and me in making this a success by assisting in planning, presentating a program, or sponsoring this wonderful event. We truly want this to be a celebration for all our members throughout the years.

As this is my last column, I want to thank all of you for all your help during my year as chair, especially Barbara Mitchell and Leonel De La Mora.

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