Out of Necessity Breeds Innovation
Lawyers are stubborn. I admit it, I’m one of them. For decades lawyers have focused and practiced law in an adversarial and rule driven arena. Many days, I feel like I am starring in the movie “Groundhog Day”, where Bill Murray finds himself waking up to the same scenario every day until he almost loses his mind. I hate to say it, but many lawyers are the same way. Yes, we like to repeat what works! The proverbial creature of habit. My philosophy in the past has been, why change if it’s working? Tested and tried practices by lawyers and law firms throughout the decades are slow to change.
Understanding the Future
I’m sitting here in my law office realizing that not only are we dealing with a worldwide health crisis that will change the legal industry, but in fact, all businesses will change overnight. There is no doubt that technology will lead the way on all fronts. The problem is lawyers and courts have been very slow to adapt to most technology innovations.
Let’s Create a Solid Online System Now
For example, right now, the courts have literally shut their doors to the public because of the Coronavirus. This is completely understandable based upon the seriousness of the virus and how quickly it spreads. But wake up, the Maryland court system, and all other judicial branches throughout the United States should be creating a game plan on how to use modern technology to stay open. In other words, the message should be the courts are open for business. This is essential to administering justice in this State.
Now is the time to create the structure where many court matters can be heard and accommodated electronically. This will save money in the future regarding building new courts structures and court personnel costs. There is no reason why many non-merit proceedings and even some merit proceedings can’t be adjudicated electronically. Granted, there are some cases that need to be heard in person, but many can be resolved, via electronic communications.
The Devil is in the Details
It is time for a new system to be created. There is no reason why the courts cannot hold sessions and hearings, via video and telephone conferencing. After all, we do this currently for bail hearings and some out-of-state proceedings. The time has come for the creation of a completely new set of rules so that lawyers, police officers, judges, and other court personnel can get back to doing what the public needs. Many civil, domestic and some criminal matters can be conducted electronically by video. In my law firm, we are currently meeting with clients, via “Telelaw” and “Zoom” conferencing. It’s a fantastic way of doing business, it’s simple and often it’s free.
We Are the Leaders!
It is our duty as leaders of the Maryland legal system to figure out ways to accommodate the public regarding this difficult time. I believe social media and online communication will dramatically increase during this period. We either get on the bandwagon or we don’t. The public deserves to have a judicial system that is working, even more so given the chaos that surrounds them. Granted, the courts are open for very limited purposes, but most matters are not being heard. We need a “call to arms” to every judge and lawyer in the State to make this happen!