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The New Cyber-Esq. 2012

Change Is A Good Thing

According to a number of very well-respected blog editors, writers and other “how-to” gurus, I am about to do the unthinkable.  This morning, I began in earnest making fundamental changes to the scope and content of my blog, Cyber-Esq, which I have been authoring since August 2009.  At the outset, I suppose I should apologize for this blogging “faux pas.”  These changes are not meant to alienate or irritate any of you; in fact, some have noticed subtle changes already happening on a post-by-post basis for a few months.  And, I appreciate the kind and encouraging comments.

In The Beginning, Not So Long Ago

When Cyber-Esq was just a kernel of an idea in early 2009, it resided in the head of someone who didn’t even know what a blog really was or how to write one.  I imagined Cyber-Esq. as a tech blog for the tech-hating lawyer.  Even two years ago, this group of lawyers was larger and more obstinate than it is today.  Back then, for example, I was just warming up to tech myself.  Many attorneys around mescoffed, openly.

…Fast forward 2 years, plus or minus…

Lawyers who are resistant to new and emerging legal technologies – as a group – has consistently dwindled.  That’s not to say they are not still out there.  They are, to be sure.  However, the relatively universal acceptance of legal technology as a fact of lawyering life is a testament to those among us who kept hammering the point home about what we could do with tech, why it was good that we do it, and what the circumstances would be if we dallied.

Suffice it to say, if you still count yourself among the tech-hating ranks, honestly, you might want to ask yourself if changes of your own might not be in store – open yourself up to learning something new or move on in a different direction.  Tech has taken a “byte,” as it were, out of the traditional world of lawyering in a way that few of us thought would happen this quickly.  Technological savvy is no longer just within the marketing purview of biotech or patent firms.  Today’s friendly, neighborhood criminal defense lawyer may even find himself facing complex “forensics” at trial in murder cases such as the Casey Anthony matter, which gripped the U.S. for months.  Family lawyers in small towns are finding themselves issuing subpoenas to ISPs in far-flung lands, not even sure how to word them or where they go.

Lawyering has become fluid and ever-changing in terms of how we go about doing it.  Technology has made possible an enormous growth in the paralegal profession, a group that, frankly, got out in front of technological issues much earlier than lawyers did.  No surprise there, as lawyers have relied on the “front office” for years to be part-IT person, part-office manager, part-marketing consultant, and oh yeah, legal assistant as well.  Smart lawyers realize, however, that technology has advanced more quickly than we thought it would, and it has become far more complex than we imagined.  Paralegals or other legal assistants now must have proper training in order to work with legal technology, or it is the proverbial “blind leading the blind.”

Legal Technology Outpaces And Outsmarts Legal Technology Instruction

Not surprisingly, the speed with which new technologies have been marketed to lawyers has far outpaced law or paralegal schools’ instruction.  Many schools still offer no coursework at all in legal technology – of any kind.  Together with the lack of appropriate oversight for those vendors who are providing “certification” in such areas as “e-discovery,” and the like, this is a serious issue.  More technologically skilled lawyers should consider giving back by way of educating legal professionals.

After 13 years as a civil rights litigator, I now focus solely on teaching legal professionals.  I do this with liberated pleasure.  Gone are the 8:30 a.m. trial calendar calls in front of recalcitrant judges.  No more nasty phone calls from opposing counsel at 9:55 p.m….on Christmas Eve.   Even more thrilling on a personal level, the time I have spent learning about legal technology has allowed me to expand the scope of my teaching.  I now teach coursework in traditional and e-discovery, Internet legal research, and using technology to represent clients.

Cyber-Esq. will, hopefully, become a teaching tool, one of the many tech tools I intend to expose my students to during their instruction.  As a result, you will likely see more articles categorized with tags like “legal education,” “paralegal education,” and the like.  These will remain practical in their focus, however, and should continue to benefit even the die-hard practitioner.

Isn’t Everything Virtual In One Way Or Another?

For those who joined up in the very beginning, a lot of the articles focused on “going virtual.”  The phrase “cloud computing” was not yet rolling off everyone’s lips with ease, as it does today.  Frankly, in one way or another, we are all acting as virtual lawyers, even if only at certain times or occasions.  Therefore, I will also no longer be emphasizing “how to become a virtual lawyer” as a discrete topic.  For this particular topic, I recommend Stephanie Kimbro’s blog here.  Her work and writing on the subject is nationally recognized, always current and top-notch.  She practices virtual law every day.

Other tech issues, particularly in the field of ethics, touch on the topic of “virtual lawyering.”  Because these issues are of greater interest substantively, I will continue to cover them.  I simply won’t be writing much about how to set up a virtual law office.

Later today, for example, I will be putting a proposed California Ethics Opinion in my “Box.net” account for readers to download.  This proposed opinion is open to public comment, and I encourage all California stakeholders to comment.  I will be following its developments closely.

Summation…

OK, so let’s see where we are…boy, one of those note-taking thingies would be awesome right now…let’s see…

Modified focus to include broader topics of interest to legal professionals, √

Including issues and topics of concern in legal/paralegal education, 

Legal technology/ethics, 

What else?  Ah yes, I almost forgot about the widgets, gadgets and apps…oh my!

Where Would We Be Without The Widgets & Gadgets?

When I first conceived of Cyber-Esq., I wanted to include informational reviews about all the gadgets, widgets and other bits and bytes that are out there – many of which really are wonderful.  Of course, I had no idea just how many such things existed – then or now!  I remember distinctly the day that my trusty, techy paralegal, Lori Paul and I, had gone through about 250 different “GTD” tools for “productivity.”  Productivity, you say?!?!?  We had got nothing done, produced nothing, and our eyes were bleary looking at yet another “savior” such-and-thus for the over-worked and disorganized.

Frustrated, and realizing that tech reviews abound on the Internet, we abandoned large-scale reviews here at Cyber-Esq.  From time to time, I have done a few of special significance.  I hope to resurrect this part of the blog, emphasizing the gadgetry and widgetry, search engines and software, apps and plug ins you never read about.  It has been my experience, with notable exceptions, that tech reviewers often do not appreciate that the rest of the world still has a job to do that isn’t – primarily – researching and reading about tech stuff.  Yet, how many times have you come across an article with a title that goes something like, “101 Twitter Apps To Make Your Day?”  Really?  Are you kidding me??  Even if you are sincerely interested in learning Twitter, do you have the time or inclination to learn about 101 apps that, most assuredly, will not make your day when you are done?  Probably not.  Would you be interested in the 5 most innovative or unusual ones that have special application for law, busy office work or, perhaps, students in the classroom?  Maybe.  That’s what I hope to bring in terms of tech reviews from here on out.

And Maybe…A Blog Design Makeover?

In addition to these content changes, and being an arm chair graphics designer enthusiast, I would also like to make some design changes to facilitate a better organization and presentation of the content.  As with the content changes, I welcome any and all comments and suggestions regarding the designs we come up with.  There may be some advertisements that come with this, but I will keep this to a minimum.  Cyber-Esq. is not primarily an e-commerce venture.  It’s more of an e-education venture.

Finally, About Me

It’s time for a cup of Joe here, so I will make this brief.  You can read all you could ever possibly want to about me either at my Google+ profile page or my About.me splash page.  I do a reasonably good job at keeping these up to date, so if you’re interested to know more, please check those pages out (and any links you fancy).  I would love to communicate outside of the blog, particularly if we share similar, non-law interests.

To a bold and exciting, techy New Year!  Thanks for being a part of Cyber-Esq.!

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