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In the late s, electronic terminals for e-filing document s first appeared in federal courts, moving online in the s, before e-filing became mandatory in many jurisdictions. All lawyers want their audience to hang on to every word of their carefully prepared statements. Unfortunately, science shows that immediately after a minute presentation, listeners forget half of what is said. But a truly effective audiovisual presentation increases retention by 45 percent. Law enforcement can now use it to track almost anyone; courts use it to resolve jurisdictional disputes, and attorneys have subpoenaed the information in countless cases.

Unreliable witnesses are certainly not a new innovation. Studies considering the reliability of child witnesses were published in the mids. Recorded interrogations finally made it less likely that police can coerce or abuse suspects during interrogations—and similarly protect police accused unjustly of misconduct. The smartphone camera , introduced in there is some debate whether it first came out in South Korea or Japan , has put law enforcement in a new and often unflattering light.

And now an ongoing movement will likely wire more police with body cameras —in addition to car-mounted police cameras—providing more protections to suspects as well as police officers. Perhaps this effort can be traced to those ride-along episodes of Cops, the reality TV series that premiered in March Over the past years, forensic evidence has been one area of law in continual flux.

Many types of evidence have come into vogue, only later to be discredited, but the field is continually evolving and improving. For example, before DNA analysis was invented, blood typing first appeared in the s to narrow the field of suspects in a matter by blood type, or to tie a child and alleged parent, which led to …More accurate genetic paternity testing in the s, providing more than 80 percent accuracy rates. Those rates have improved to As early as the s, digital forensic investigations were able to recover incriminating emails in the Iran-Contra investigations.

Today, certified forensic examiners use specialized software and tools to collect, analyze and review digital evidence in a forensically accurate format. Most famously, the BTK serial killer was caught through evidence found on a computer disk. Fire and explosion analysis has been facing court challenges, especially since the National Fire Protection Association issued a guide emphasizing scientific methods of analysis rather than relying on firefighter experience.

Firearm and tool-mark identification is one of the oldest forensic technologies, but the science came into maturity in the s when comparison microscopes and other advances made the practice more scientifically precise. As the war on drugs took off in the early s, gas chromatography with modern techniques developed in and mass spectrometry with modern techniques dating back to and were used to identify controlled substances in support of drug cases. And in , national guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made accident reconstruction into a more rigorous practice area.

The granddaddy of all forensic tools, fingerprinting , dates back to around B. But in the s, criminal investigators discovered latent prints could be left on fabrics, including the inside of gloves. Perhaps no development in criminal law has been more dramatic or transformative than DNA evidence. DNA fingerprinting is now nearly unassailable and incontrovertible as evidence in court; and thousands of Americans wrongly convicted of crimes have been set free because of new DNA analysis and matching. And since , mitochondrial DNA has provided forensic scientists with a valuable tool for determining the source of DNA recovered from damaged, degraded or very small biological samples.


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But it was expert scientific witnesses who made all of that innovative evidence admissible. The Daubert standard , formed through three s U. Supreme Court cases, established a rule of evidence to determine whether expert testimony is admissible. The days of dictating letters, using dictation devices, or relying on clerks or typing pools have given way to an individual working alone at a computer.

A Guide to the Use of Computers in the Legal Profession

Programs such as WordPerfect from gave way to Microsoft Word introduced in In the s, law firms were among the most enthusiastic users of document management software , which made it possible for legal teams to instantly view any document or email associated with a specific client, matter or project. More than 40 years ago, Mead Data Central introduced Lexis, offering digitized legal research through electronic copies of Ohio and New York legal codes and cases.

That action pushed legal research from the world of leather-bound books to clumsy computer terminals, then to CD-ROMs, and now to the Internet.

The next wave in legal research may already be here: Google Scholar went beta in , making hundreds of millions of cases, research articles and filings easily searchable and free. Followed by laptops becoming powerful and functional in the late s and smartphones gaining acceptance around … And then the iPad and similar tablet devices. According to the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, within three years of introduction, more than half of all attorneys had adopted mobile devices and tablets to supercharge their practice. The virtual law firm —an office with no mahogany-walled waiting room, no expensive downtown location and no expensive overhead?

Well, how about ditching the office altogether and using technology to communicate, share information and service clients? Many law firms claim to be paperless, but in reality paper documents remain a part of any practice.


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  • Still, in a digital age, leaving paper processes behind and creating a digital law firm is a competitive advantage. In after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans attorney and blogger Ernest Svenson quit his partnership at a law firm to start a low-overhead, paperless solo practice. Personal computers were useful tools for man-aging evidence, documents or deposition transcripts. In the s, networked databases like Concordance and Summation made it possible to index and archive complex and massive litigation matters that would have swamped earlier generations of lawyers.

    Depending on your point of view, CompStat is credited with decreasing crime and increasing quality of life in many cities, as well as making police forces less humane and less responsive to their communities. Regardless of your opinion of CompStat, the next wave of computerized policing is already here— predictive policing , first explored in by Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton—yeah, the same guy. This technology uses computer algorithms to identify patterns in criminal activity and position police to prevent and disrupt illegal activity.

    State Bar of Arizona invalidated the longtime ban on lawyer advertising on First Amendment grounds. It was also the opening shot that set off the competitive war in our profession. Following the path of most advertisers, two months later, the first television ad for a law firm was placed in …And then firms began playing their ads on video-sharing sites such as YouTube , brought online in February Web-based video outlets made online video available to anyone with a camera.

    Many lawyers still make their living off referrals, but if your firm is not on TV, social media or billboards, you may not be bringing in new clients you could have. Thanks to the blog, any law firm can easily publish commentary and research for potential clients to find via search engine. This may surprise many lawyers working today, but the billable hour has not always been the standard for charging for legal work.

    Until the U. Supreme Court decision in Goldfarb v. Goldfarb and the Federal Trade Commission killed the minimum fee schedule, and today attorneys bill between 1, and 2, hours annually. In the s, Skaddenomics became code for billing clients for expenses like long-distance calls—or even luxury hotels.

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    In , Tyco International invited law firms to craft new and different models for its litigation work. That may have been a response to questionable billing practices; it was certainly part of the business philosophy of cutting costs. And it opened the discussion of alternative billing methods —from flat fees to sliding scales to incentives and punishments—that continues today as it slowly grows in use.

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    Paralegals first appeared in the s as the ABA and other organizations pushed for more trained nonlawyers to provide cost-effective legal services. Now there are more than , in the U. A couple of states are pushing further, allowing nonlawyers to handle certain legal matters that were reserved for lawyers.

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    This year Washington state has begun a limited license legal technician program that will let paralegals with extra training handle certain family-law cases. Before the facsimile machine, courts padded all deadlines with at least a three-day delay to allow for mailing documents and contracts. Ditto image scanners attached to computers Networking law firms became necessary because computers did not originally connect to one another.

    The local area network was introduced in the s. Let the professional disruption begin. Perhaps no one knows who sent the first boilerplate email disclaimer, though its ancestor appeared in the cover sheets of legal faxes. The volume of electronic data that is discoverable for litigation is hard to comprehend. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. In part, the e-discovery solution may lie in emerging predictive coding technology , which uses statistical methods, categorization software and artificial intelligence to wade through millions of digital documents to find smoking-gun documents for litigation.

    The technology was first approved in a reported case in the matter Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe. Recent research shows machines are already as effective as humans in many cases. And since , Twitter has provided a place for lawyers to post character messages for the world. Thanks to cloud software , which may have been first mentioned in , you can now rent applications without having to manage the IT overhead.

    For much of American history, lawyers like Abraham Lincoln could succeed with little formal education.


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    • In , the ABA began approving law schools according to its standards. But as late as , 20 percent of American lawyers had not graduated from law school. Half of those had not graduated from college. By lawyer wannabes had to graduate from college, endure three years of law school and persuade a bar committee of their high moral character in order to practice law.

      In Frank H. Now the LSAT is the primary way into most law schools. Hate them or love them, the U. Diversifying the profession is obviously a moral issue, but it is also an innovation, as increased diversity of the bar and on the bench brought new insights and perspectives to the practices of law. Even after the high court declared phone calls private domain in , new technologies have made new types of eavesdrop-ping possible. Trials of the State. Jonathan Sumption. Helena Kennedy. Court Number One. Thomas Grant. Democracy Hacked. Martin Moore. The Ten Types of Human.

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