Like other professions, the legal profession continues to evolve. Changes in the practice of law come not only from the substantive law but from revisions in procedural rules, technological advances and the changing nature of societal demands on the legal profession.
Changes in the substantive law, society and technology continue to raise new issues for the modern legal practitioner. Veteran attorneys can no longer remain focused on the practices of the past, but must keep abreast of the many changes occurring, evolving themselves. The importance of continuing professional development is imperative for both young attorneys and veterans to keep pace with changing trends.
Technology Issues in Practice
The last decade created a plethora of technological advances, both in the legal profession and society at large. Increased use of smart phones, text messaging, email and portable data transfer devices have transformed the acquisition and transmission of data. This technological revolution has changed the way practitioners operate on a day to day basis, just as the way the general public operates.
For instance, the discovery process in modern litigation must not only include requests for written records in a case, but must also include requests for electronic records. Electronic communications must also be requested, including cell phone records, text messaging records and even online social networking records. The attorney practicing in the 21st century must have a working knowledge of these communication methods to thoroughly prepare for litigation.
Likewise, changes in data storage and security have created new issues for protection of privacy, especially for the legal practitioner. Storage of files in a secure file room provided adequate protection for the attorney in the past, but electronic storage, online storage or portage storage through USB drives optical disks and portable hard drives have created new issues for security of confidential information.
In one sense, the computer hacker may present more of a security threat than an intruder who physically invades the office. Computers may be hacked from any location worldwide, and up to date firewalls, as well as encryption processes are a must. It is vital for the modern attorney to obtain a practical knowledge of the data storage systems available and the manner in which they must be protected.
In terms of practice, more and more court systems are moving to electronic filing of pleadings and other court filings. Though much more convenient than the typical trip to the courthouse or the mailing of paper documents, it creates an entire new set of procedures for the attorney to follow. Fortunately, most court systems implementing electronic filing will provide manuals and seminars to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Continuing Legal Education
Continuing Legal Education requirements are set by the state in which the attorney is licensed. Most federal districts require the attorney to provide evidence of state law CLE requirements. Nearly all states now have a mandatory CLE requirement.
Continuing Legal Education offices in most states are becoming more in tune with changing technology. Besides offering seminars on changing areas of law, the form in which this education is obtained is also changing. Teleconferences, webinars and online study are offered in every state along with live seminars.
Though the practice of law is changing, and the veteran attorney must change along with it, there is assistance available. Modern technology allows the modern attorney to stay abreast more easily than ever, often without leaving the office.
Ryan Devereux wrote this article on behalf of German Lawyer, where you can get American legal advice in Germany.