The law offices of yesterday were what are now known as “paper offices.” News stories, briefs, testimonies, and attorney billable hours were all recorded and displayed on pieces of paper. In today’s digital age, we know that paper systems can cause money, time, and efficiency to be lost. Additional staff must be hired to manage paper documents, to file legal briefs, and to search for and/or catalog evidence. Losing a vital paper means that extra time and money must be spent tracking down a copy. Compiling billable hours by hand is time-consuming. And, paper-based case filing systems require large amounts of storage space to warehouse – which is expensive – and can require long bouts of human searching to retrieve necessary documents, which is time consuming.
Enter the electronic law firm, the digital courtroom, and the virtual database.
Modern technology has digitized or automated most aspects of paralegal, legal secretary, and attorney job functions. From billing hours to retrieving evidence to filing briefs with a court of law, technology is helping legal professionals to perform an amazing amount of work cheaply and efficiently.
One of the greatest advances in legal work is the increased use of digital entities such as databases, e-mails, message board postings, and text messages as evidence. These types of records are invaluable in quickly enabling legal teams, judges, and juries to see evidence of crimes. Cyber-technology specialists are experts at deciphering and translating electronic records into testimonies and evidence.
Digital evidence can be especially compelling in intellectual property cases, murder cases, and white-collar crime debacles. For example, critical e-mails in the Enron case were used as evidence that the energy giant had partnered with its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, to produce faulty accounting and auditing records. These e-mails ultimately helped to indict Enron and Arthur Andersen associates in criminal wrongdoing. However, digital evidence has other legal uses, as well. For example, the contents of pop star Michael Jackson’s computers were seized for use against him in The People v. Jackson, a case during which he was accused of lewd acts involving children, in 2005.
Technology-based evidence is a great development for expediting trial preparation and procedures. However, technology can be used in law firms on a daily basis, helping to make the daily tasks of paralegals and lawyers easier to complete.
Legal hour tracking and calculation programs allow employees of law firms to partially or fully automate the legal billing process. Paralegals, lawyers, and other legal professionals are often billed for their work on an hourly basis. Therefore, they must itemize the tasks they perform on an hourly basis, as well. Specialized legal billing software allows legal professionals to bill for their hours; these bills might be submitted internally, as well, for payroll, firm budgeting, or accounting purposes. Get Online Services law practice management software
Another area of legal practice in which technology is an asset is document control. There exist several proprietary legal software packages that streamline the document imaging and preservation processes. Paralegals and lawyers are able to scan paper documents and convert them into electronic files; compile databases of evidence, facts, or statistics; code litigation documents for quicker retrieval — and in some cases, restore the quality of damaged electronic documents. These document-control programs allow legal professionals to work more efficiently while saving immeasurable amounts of space – and, therefore, costs — by eliminating the need for bulky paper organization and filing systems.