New Technology and Its Impact on the Practice of Law

There is no doubt that technology has had a significant impact on work life across industries and practice areas. The practice of law is no exception. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative methods of practicing law have proven invaluable.

Jacalyn Crecelius, J.D.

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— Updated on April 11, 2022

New Technology and Its Impact on the Practice of Law

Despite concerns, these alternatives are not only working, but they are also thriving. As we contemplate post-pandemic realities, we cannot help but wonder if these changes will continue to dominate. We now know what a different world looks like and have seen how it works.  Momentum gained over the past two decades seems unlikely to end any time soon.

Virtual Hearings

In late 2020, a Florida jury experienced a trial conducted virtually via Zoom. They returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff $411 million, the largest compensatory reward to date. It is clear that virtual proceedings do not negatively impact juries’ ability to understand evidence and make decisions accordingly.

Such proceedings have also aided courts in working through their hefty, pandemic-induced backlog of cases. Courts have never been known as speedy but wait times became unbearable for many parties over the past 18 months. Switching to virtual platforms has therefore been a big help in tackling these scheduling delays.

Of course, virtual hearings are not without obstacle. Judges, juries, attorneys, and other court staff have been diligently working out the kinks as they go. They experience how things that work well in-person may not hold up quite as well online. For instance, jurors may have a harder time observing witness’ nonverbal cues, making credibility determinations a bit trickier. One judge even suggested virtual juries should have more time for ‘virtual chitchat.’

Enhanced Research on Expert Witnesses

Many attorneys unknowingly put more time and effort into conducting background checks on their retained expert witnesses than they need to. Even with all the research attorneys and paralegals conduct on experts, it’s possible to miss a detail about the expert that could impact their case. Expert’s credibility, credentials, or even history can change over the course of a case. If the attorney misses one important update, important testimony could be lost. Keeping up with this information is a detailed, arduous task that many firms simply cannot manage.

Thankfully, technology has become so advanced that this upkeep can be done automatically. One such software is the Expert Institute’s Expert iQ platform. The platform’s Expert Radar product is particularly impressive. With it, counsel can access expanded information on any expert’s professional standing, legal involvement, and media presence. Also included are real-time updates throughout the duration of the case regarding new developments that could impact credibility. With Expert Radar, attorneys can access data information exclusive to Expert iQ. Through the monitoring service, attorneys receive real-time alerts on new developments that could impact an expert’s credibility.  With this kind of technology, constant updates and ease of information replace an onerous task.

File-Sharing Tools

File sharing is inevitable in the practice of law. Yet sometimes the most common ways of sharing (think email) are not always the most secure. With the remote office boom has come an increased need for alternate file sharing solutions. Solutions to cover activities such as client communications, passing off case-related documents, or circulating a contract for signatures. Many companies have come forward with options such as Dropbox, IBM Aspera, and Citrix ShareFile.

When sifting through these options, there are several things to keep in mind in finding the best fit. In order to know what to look for, you must first understand the fundamentals of encryption. Then, be sure to sift through reviews and experiences offered by former and current consumers of each product. Next, flexibility in giving and revoking access permissions is crucial. Finally, determine if the service provider conducts regular security checks via third parties.

Artificial Intelligence in the Courtroom

Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is on the rise and may change how legal teams conduct their research. Recently, ROSS Intelligence started using IBM Watson in order to perform legal research. Watson can learn legal terminology in order to conduct legal research automatically. The amount of caselaw and statutes the service can sift through is unmatched by standard legal search engines.

People are also using AI in contract creation and review. These developments give attorneys the ability to regain their time. Soon, anything that can be done by a computer, will be handed off to AI programs. As such, lawyers can focus their attention on tasks that cannot be delegated.

Computer Simulations

Simulations help to determine the potential scope and impact of a particular scenario. Such scenarios include car accident reconstructions, ballistics determinations, and crime scene reenactments. This is possible because of software running countless mathematical and logistical scenarios.

Computer-generated evidence is increasingly common in modern courtrooms (and yes, even court Zooms). Nearly every state and federal circuit has addressed its use in some way or another. It saves time and money otherwise invested in expert witnesses that would otherwise take much longer to determine. As with any form of evidence, one must always determine when it would and wouldn’t be beneficial to their case. When would a simulation be helpful and when would it be distracting?

Not-so-new Tech to the Rescue

Working remotely has been trending upward for years now. Virtual offices tend to save firms on overhead costs, while allowing flexibility to their employees. Lawyers used to need brick-and-mortar offices in order to conduct their business. Now, entire cases can be done without ever having to set foot in an office or courtroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a major surge in the remote work trend. Telework was once an uncommon, but coveted, option provided by a handful of employers. 2020 changed all of that. Suddenly, employers sent home employees that did not have to be in the office to perform their duties. This move saved countless firm ledgers and employee salaries.

Technology will no doubt continue to change the legal landscape and all it touches. To keep ahead of the game, you must also keep abreast of new applications and services. After all, the past two years have proven that we have to be ready to adjust at a moment’s notice.

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