VirtualCourthouse; Issue 1.8
The Internet and Lawyer
First Published in the Prince George’s County, Maryland Bar Association Journal – Newsletter
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt – November 1996
Over the last year there has been more commotion over the Internet than the Olympics. Indeed, the Olympics had its own Internet controversy. Enough print has been spent on what the Internet is and what it is going to do to the future to fill the Pentagon several times over. However, after all the fuss the skeptical bar member still asks the nagging question — How is the Internet going to make me a better more productive lawyer? How can I serve my clients better and produce better results with less expense for both my client and myself? The answer to these questions will be found through a multiple step analysis. First, there has to be a basic understanding of the concept of connectivity — this foundation has been set in previous issues. Second, there has to be knowledge of what the Internet can provide. Third, there needs to be the ability to use what the Internet can provide.
Determining what the Internet can provide requires the examination of three areas. (1) Access to information. (2) Ability to publish information. (3) Communications.
Before we take a look at these three areas let me report to you a very important development for the bar membership. The bar association has its own web page. It can be found at http://www.koolstuf.com/pgbar.htm and has been provided by Don Patterson of Patterson Video. Don is now in the web page business. By offering the bar a free web page, Don hopes to develop an Internet business to better serve the legal community. The bar leadership, headed by our fearless president Walter Laake, extends Don its thanks for keeping the Prince Georges Bar Association as a statewide and national leader by being the first local bar association in the state to take this important step. Drop them a line or an e-mail and let them know what you think.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The amount of information available on the Internet is incredible and is expanding on a daily basis. There were 1,700 businesses on the Internet in 1994. By 1995 there were 19,000 and by the end of 1996 the number will probably exceed 50,000. Remember now that the Internet in its simplest form is the connection of many, many, many different databases. You might think of it as a connection of all of the law and law-related libraries. Sitting in your office, or at home in your reading chair you can access information from the Cornell Library at www.law.cornell.edu:80\, or the United States House of Representatives at http://law.house.gov/1.htm.
ABILITY TO PUBLISH
While the Internet provides access to large databases of information it also allows for the advertising of goods, services and information. Most all major producers of goods have an advertisement (web page) on the Internet. You can find most all of the Fortune 500 companies through the Internet and discover what those companies have to offer the public. Likewise the legal profession advertises the services it provides through web pages. Of the 100 largest law firms in the United States only eight lack an Internet presence. As each day passes more lawyers are discovering that prospective clients are making attorney selection decisions on the Internet. Indeed, some law firms are aggressively taking advantage of the electronic information age and are developing software which allows clients to use common business forms and then licensing the software to their clients. Regular updates to the forms are licensed for additional fees. The benefits of publishing on the Internet are not fully known at this time. The best way to describe the benefits is that they are in a state of evolution. What is becoming clear is that those attorneys who have started web pages are further into the learning curve than those who have not yet started. As the saying goes – those who snooze lose.
To check out what your competition is doing check some of the following pages.
Venable, Baetjer & Howard, LLP:
C. Michael Bradshaw, Glen Burnie:
Linda M. Schuett, Annapolis:
While access to information and the ability to publish are important aspects of the Internet the most useful is the ability to communicate. Internet communications take the form of e-mail, voice mail and video mail. E-mail is by far the most popular and the one which has the greatest utility, particularly to information intensive professions such as the law. As time goes on clients will not pay for a letter which has to be dictated to a secretary, typed, reviewed and then sent in the U.S. mail two days later only to take another three-five days to reach the client at a cost of at least $100 per letter. Clients, especially businesses, are also demanding e-mail ability of their lawyers or they will take their business elsewhere. The bar association is building an e-mail address list on the Prince Georges Bar Association home page. You should send your e-mail address to Don Patterson at Don@pattersonvideo.com
Voice mail and video mail are in their infancy and equipment costs are high, but the evolution will come faster than you think.
Next month we will explore the Internet further to see how it can make us more productive.