At a county bar association meeting, the discussion turned to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision to begin instituting mandatory e-filing throughout Wisconsin. There were opinions on all sides of the matter, with people opposing it objecting to the need to learn another bit of technology or the cost. (Actually, the cost in Wisconsin is far less than that paid by lawyers and clients in other states where private vendors, not the courts, manage the e-filing.)
In a recent post in the ABA’s The New Normal blog (more technology!), Casey Flaherty said that in the mid-1990s, English lawyer Richard Susskind was being labeled “dangerous” or “possibly insane” because he suggested that email would become the principal form of communication between lawyers and clients. Detractors raised questions over the lack of security and confidentiality.
We’re long past that now, as we answer email on vacation or speak to clients on cell phones in public areas full of people. Which reminds me of a story, possibly apocryphal, that a late 19th- or early 20th-century ethics opinion said it was unethical to telephone your client; you could only ethically communicate by mail or in person.
Tell us your story about legal innovation in Wisconsin. Nominate a 2016 Wisconsin Legal Innovator, at ThatsaFineIdea.com. Deadline: June 30.
Innovation in technology as applied to the practice of law is here to stay. How many of you still dictate? I’ll bet almost nobody under age 50, and few over that. I’m over 60 and have always typed. Oops … keyboarded. If you use a fax machine, it is only occasionally, not the near hourly usage of it from a few years ago. And now, with the continuing development of IBM’s Watson and the introduction of Thomson Reuters’ Practice Point and Lexis-Nexis’s Advance, let alone Fastcase, legal fact-finding is not going to be a problem. The challenge is how lawyers will harness technology’s potential to provide better service to clients and create more successful legal careers.
This is why the State Bar is again sponsoring the That’s a Fine Idea campaign for the Legal Innovators Awards. We know many lawyers are tackling some of these issues. Have you found new and exciting ways to improve the practice of law? Or have you broken out of the hourly billing vortex and discovered a new way to both satisfy your clients and earn a living?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you are doing something, so is someone else. Think about what you are doing that’s different from what the lawyer across the street or across town is doing. And let us know.
For example, look at the changes that will come from mandatory e-filing. No more paying for multiple copies of the same brief. No more leaving the office a half hour or hour before the deadline and jumping in your car or running over to the courthouse, or paying a service to do it; you will have that time to work on the brief instead, and you save the cost of a service. And even more changes will become evident over time. What will you do differently?
Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, the State Bar is asking the legal community to help it tell the story of legal innovation. Know a Wisconsin legal innovator? Are you one? The November 2016 Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the people behind the best examples of legal innovation. Find the nomination form at ThatsaFineIdea.com. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2016.