Practicing law in the 21st century
June 9, 2006
Rooms full of law books have been replaced by research on the Internet, most of it for free. It used to take several months before Supreme Court opinions were published, but they are now on the Internet the same day they are announced. You can Google anything, and if you do need an actual book you can go to Amazon and have it in your hands the next day. If you can’t wait, some books and articles can be instantly downloaded for a fee. Briefs and motions and other documents can be composed and edited on any computer without the need for a secretary. All you need is access to the web, and this can be from virtually anywhere on the planet.The first thing I do when I get a new case is to check out the complaining witnesses on the Internet. A huge amount of information is readily available, and people occasionally have their own websites. You can’t hide anymore. Court dockets are posted on the Internet, so there’s no need to run over to the courthouse to make sure you didn’t forget anybody.E-mail, fax and cell phones eliminate the need to have a traditional physical office, and lawyers are often allowed to participate in the courtroom via a speakerphone on the judge’s desk. One lawyer moved to the beach in Belize, and he manages to schedule all his trials for the two months of the year when he returns to the states. He was on the speakerphone in front of a packed U. S. courtroom when the judge asked him if he was sitting there in his bathing suit, and his reply was “Actually, I just got out of the shower, so not yet.”Communication with other defense lawyers can be very beneficial. The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar has a listserve with some 300 members sending more than 100 e-mails each day with questions such as “what kind of a judge is so-and-so?” “who is a good expert witness?” for one type of case or another, and “who knows anything about this certain cop?” “where do I learn more about a particular topic?”Criminal lawyers in the Roaring Fork Valley have just started their own listserve, and there are several other national organizations that do the same. A defense lawyer is no longer alone.