Technology, Web 2.0, and the Practice of Law
Your old road
Is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a'changin'
Many lawyers find themselves overwhelmed with their workloads and as a result, keeping up with technological changes is relatively low on their list of priorities.
It shouldn’t be. Technology is dramatically altering the legal landscape, and if you don’t make an effort to keep up, you’ll be left behind with a dust cloud swirling around you, wondering what hit you.
While learning about emerging technologies may seem like a daunting task, it needn’t be. There will most certainly be a learning curve, but the effort spent familiarizing yourself with new technology will pay off immensely in the long run.
A great place to start is at the website my colleagues, Greg Back and Matt Lerner, and I created to complement a continuing legal education seminar recently held at the Monroe County Bar Association: Practicing Law in the 21st Century--Practice Management and Substantive Law Resources on the Internet. This website, a blog, is predictably called Practicing Law in the 21st Century.
The blog highlights readily available internet resources and tools that will allow lawyers to practice beyond the four walls of their law office and become more productive, more efficient and less stressed. It provides links to a vast assortment of cutting edge law office management tools, productivity tools, links to free legal research sites, and free substantive resources.
Many of the tools highlighted on the blog are considered to be part of the next generation of Web 2.0 applications.
Of course, after reading the previous sentence, you might be wondering: What exactly is Web 2.0?
Wikipedia describes Web 2.0 as “the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users…(t)he idea of ‘Web 2.0’ can also relate to a transition of some websites from isolated information silos to interlinked computing platforms that function like locally-available software in the perception of the user. Web 2.0 also includes a social element where users generate and distribute content, often with freedom to share and re-use. This can result in a rise in the economic value of the web to businesses, as users can perform more activities online.”
In other words, Web 2.0 is a living, breathing, evolving World Wide Web, which increasingly relies upon the participation and collaboration of its users. Websites are no longer static, information-providing pages. Rather, they are ever changing and responsive, with the content being envisioned, generated and shared by a participatory web community. Much of the content is created and stored online using web applications, as opposed software downloaded to individual computers. YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and Flickr are prime examples of Web 2.0 in action.
One of the Web 2.0 applications that was a favorite of many participants on the CLE panel was Jott, a free reminder service that, among other things, allows you to call your Jott account vis a toll-free number and dictate a note which is transcribed and sent to you via email or text message. Another very useful Web 2.0 application, Zamzar, provides free online file conversion. This web applications converts uploaded files into any number of formats, from, for example, Word to WordPerfect, and sends the converted file right to your email inbox.
Also of interest to many participants were the office suites available online at no cost, which offer the ability to create word processing documents, spreadsheets and online presentations, much like Microsoft Office. Zoho,Open Office and Google Docs are well-known and popular online platforms that provide these services.
Another tidbit that caused a stir amongst seminar attendees was the fact the entire New York Code of Rules and Regulations is newly available for free online. Also of interest was a useful and free online database containing the municipal codes of nearly every town and village in New York State.
These websites are just the tip of the iceberg. Head on over to the blog and explore it at your leisure. Embrace technology and learn how to practice law in the 21st century.
I promise--it will be relatively painless. You might even find it to be an interesting, educational and enjoyable experience!