Why lawyers should be thankful in 2015

Nicole Black, The Daily Record Newswire

The legal landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. Among other things, technology, globalization, and an economic downturn have profoundly impacted the legal profession, oftentimes for the better. For those lawyers who take advantage of the changes, there's a lot to be thankful for.

For starters, lawyers in 2015 have more options than ever. Gone are the days of high overhead and being chained to your desk, a slave to the billable hour. Nowadays, lawyers have a multitude of choices when it comes to choosing both their office set up and how they will run their practices.

Traditional law offices located in prime real estate areas with imposing receptions areas and expensive furniture are no longer par for the course. Instead, technology makes it possible for lawyers to practice law more economically by operating virtual law firms, working from home or sharing office space. Cloud and mobile computing have increased flexibility while reducing costs, allowing lawyers to practice law on their own terms, no matter where they happen to be.

Of course 24/7 access can sometimes feel like a burden. When the line between work and leisure becomes blurred, lawyers can often feel overwhelmed because of the increase in connectivity. That's where wearable technology comes in. Smartwatches are the next line of defense in this arena, offering lawyers a way to untether from their smartphones by filtering out all but the most important information.

By acting as a gatekeeper and ensuring that lawyers only receive the pressing notifications from people who matter the most, smartwatches reduce the information overload - a much-needed benefit for which 21st century lawyers should be grateful. Another benefit of practicing law in 2015 is the wide array of legal research tools available. It used to be that the only available research options were to either use the closest law library or maintain a costly and space-consuming library on your law firm's premises.

Next, along came electronic research capabilities, but even then, it cost an arm and a leg to subscribe to the two most popular platforms, Westlaw or LexisNexis. The high subscription costs often made these platforms unpalatable for solos and small firm lawyers. Fortunately, the Internet age ushered in a new era in legal research, making legal information available to everyone at little to no cost. Whether it's low cost alternatives like Fastcase or free options such as Google Scholar, 21st century lawyers have more affordable legal research options for which to be thankful than ever before.

Finally, the flexibility and affordability of online networking also deserves a passing nod. Of course face-to-face networking is still important, but by using online networking effectively, you can amplify the reach of your in-person networking - and best of all, you can do it on your own schedule. Inconvenient after-hours networking events can be worthwhile, but are time consuming. Social media interaction is far more flexible and can be done no matter where you are, on any Internet-enabled device.

Sure things have changed. And while some lawyers may wistfully recall the good old days, others recognize - and appreciate - the benefits of practicing law in 2015. No doubt it's a different world than it was a decade ago, but this holiday season, don't forget to be thankful for the many changes that have been for the best.

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Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book "Cloud Computing for Lawyers," coauthors the ABA book "Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier," and co-authors "Criminal Law in New York," a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com

Published: Tue, Dec 01, 2015

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