News Flash: The Legal Profession and State Courts Enter the Twenty-First Century

These days, many, if not most folks are connected, technologically speaking, virtually (no pun intended) 24 x 7.

Not so when I began practicing law in the dark ages of 1988.

Back then, about the only piece of technology an actual lawyer was likely to lay their hands on was a fax machine. The primitive precursors to personal computers were just starting to be rolled out … to the secretarial pool.

Computerized legal research was in its infancy … and each of the two major players in the industry at that time had their own branded “pre-computer” terminal that did nothing but their own proprietary legal research. They were pretty darn big boxes too.

The legal profession as a whole has arrived relatively late to the technology party. But that has been starting to change – lately.

Although I still regularly encounter attorneys who openly, even proudly, admit (or inadvertently demonstrate) that they do not have the vaguest idea how to use a computer. Are Yahoos about Yahoo. Are utterly clueless about e-mail. Deny having a fax machine. Won’t carry a dumb cell phone, let alone a smartphone.

But all that may be about to change, at least here in Florida.

Effective the first of this month, Florida family lawyers are required to serve court papers upon opposing counsel via … e-mail.

A cosmic shift.

Tempered only by new rules that, in effect, deem delivery via e-mail to take as long as via postal (snail) mail (5 days). Presumably on the theory that newer, and perhaps less enthusiastic, adopters of e-mail technology may not check their e-mail more than once per work week. (Change doesn’t always come easy.)

Yes, unrepresented parties may choose to “opt in” to e-mail service too.

And just around the corner is mandatory electronic filing of Florida family court papers with the Florida family courts.

Another cosmic shift.

As these new procedures are implemented in Florida and other states, both our environment and clients will benefit significantly, in more ways than one.

But the transition may be a little rough along the way …