September 23, 2008

Interrogatory: Which Invention Changed Your Practice the Most?

We asked several lawyers which single piece of technology, introduced since they were first admitted, has had the greatest impact on the way they practice law. Here's what they said:

"Unquestionably the development of computers generally. For trial lawyers in particular, electronic filing with various clerks of the Maryland courts... . [T]he existence or the development of computers has dramatically accelerated the speed with which lawyers are expected to respond to clients' expectations, and with respect to electronic filing, the old days of making sure you had your papers delivered to the clerk's office before they closed at 5 p.m. are gone. You can file almost any time 24/7 and still be considered to be meeting the court's filing expectations and deadlines."

- George Beall, Hogan & Hartson LLP, Baltimore

"The IBM Magcard typewriter, and second, I'd say e-mail. ... The typewriter was the precursor for what we had today, computerized typing. ... Prior to the Magcard, [secretaries] had to hand-type all those pages over and over and over again, and then you had to read it. ... [A]ttorneys shouldn't have to charge people to proofread the same page over and over and over again. That saved a lot of time."

- Wil Sirota, Duane Morris LLP, Baltimore

Fax machines and e-mail. Before faxes, "[I was] able to plan my day, and when faxes came along there would be a lot of unexpected things coming in. ... Now, with e-mails, it seems that there is much more volume of correspondence that comes in that way. ... Everything seems a little more urgent and intrusive, if you will, at times. Right in the middle of a client conference or working on a pleading, something comes in, all of a sudden it's like, I need to drop this and go to that. It's made things a little more frantic."

- Emma Twigg Clarke, solo practitioner, Towson

"A lot of [admiralty law] involves corresponding with people on the other side of the world with regard to things that have gone wrong in Baltimore. In the old days, we maybe would call them or maybe would send them a Telex ... and then we would tell them about the casualty. [Getting clients a surveyor's report on the damage might not happen until] two to three weeks after the accident happened. Today our clients expect a fairly detailed e-mailed report in 24 hours, and I now get the photographs from the surveyor in electronic form and the ship owners see the problem. ... It leads to more efficiency because things get sorted out much more quickly."

- Geoff Tobias, Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver P.C., Baltimore

"I would have to say, hands down, the Internet. The ability to communicate with people has been immensely enhanced because of e- mail, because of the ability to attach documents to e-mail and to send them back and forth, to be able to ... communicate with clients, to have clients assist in providing answers to interrogatories. The ability to do legal research [online] has just been phenomenal.

I thought years ago that the fax machine was something that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the Internet is so far and above, being so much more flexible and accessible than a fax machine, that I think it's the Internet that really is the bee's knees."

- Augustus F. Brown, Brown, Brown & Young P.A., Bel Air

Originally published by The Daily Record.

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