Change is the Status Quo

In honor of the 25th annual ABA Techshow last week, the ABA Journal posed the question “What was your first computer?” The question made me smile because my first law office didn’t have a computer. It had a Dictaphone and a secretary at a typewriter. We didn’t have voice mail, either; if the telephone rang outside of regular business hours, no one answered.

When I went solo a couple of years later, I put a computer in my office. The monitor was ugly beige and weighed about as much as a toddler and featured orange characters on a black screen. I stored my data on 5.25” floppy disks and did my billing in Lotus123.

If you’ve entered the practice of law in the past 5-10 years, this probably sounds like one of those stories your great-grandmother used to tell about walking miles to school, barefoot in the snow.

But if you’re “old” like me (I’m 44), then you undoubtedly remember the days when attorneys viewed fax machines with suspicion, when the first among our colleagues got “mobile” phones that had to be plugged in to their vehicles and only worked within a 50-100 mile radius and when we didn’t think email was a very good way to communicate. Voice mail was also implemented with caution—what if we for some reason didn’t receive a critical message and were somehow still responsible for its content?

But progress happened, whether we liked it or not. And in the end, most of us did like it. The technology that was built to increase efficiency went ahead and increased efficiency, and we were able to exchange information more quickly and more cost-effectively.

Most of us couldn’t imagine operating without voice mail or email today—any more than we could have imagined operating WITH those things a couple of decades ago.

As a profession, we’re slow to embrace change and slow to believe that technological advances are beneficial or are here to stay. Historically, though, most of us ultimately come around. And sometimes, we have no choice to but come around—electronic filing has evolved over the past decade from unheard of to optional to the norm in many courts.

When we do come around, voluntarily or not, we’re generally glad that we did. Our practices run more efficiently and our bottom lines improve, and in time we don’t remember how we ever operated any other way.

How long do you think it will be before cloud-based law practice management is a norm we can’t remember having resisted?