The rise of technology

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat in the front row in a courtroom in Prince George’s County District Court, the police detective I next to me nudged me slightly and pointed to the bailiff who looked at me sternly as he repeated, “All cell phones must be turned off while in the courtroom!”

Unfortunately, as noted in a previous post, Rule 16-110 has no provision for using an electronic device in the courtroom when not immediately before the judge. If we cannot use an electronic device any other time, there’s almost no point in having it.

While I heard bailiff before, I didn’t even consider that what he was saying applied to me because I was using my BlackBerry and its use as a phone might only be the third or fourth most useful feature. I don’t think of it as a “cell phone.”

In fact, like many, my “smartphone” has become an extension of the office. When I was interrupted in the courtroom I happened to be checking my calendar for available trial dates. But I could just as easily have been searching for opposing counsel’s contact number, checking a daily task list or texting some information to a colleague standing in for me in another courtroom. Not only do these tools make attorneys more efficient but they also improve the efficiency of the courts.

And, if you didn’t already know, smartphones can be used to perform a lot more: legal research; reading, managing and editing documents; accessing files; attending meetings remotely; dictating and sending memos; and running background checks. The list grows daily as smartphone and tablet apps are being developed that increasingly transform your smartphone into something else entirely.

For some direction on what your iPhone or iPad is capable of and how it might enhance your practice, check out iphonejd.com, where New Orleans attorney Jeff Richardson provides reviews and detailed information on the latest apps. Oklahoma City attorney Jeffrey Taylor does pretty much the same thing at thedroidlawyer.com for those who prefer Android-powered smartphones. Check them out to see how you might transform your cell phone into a smartphone and become a little more efficient in your practice.

According to a recent survey by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, lawyers are increasingly using smartphones as part of their practice. Not only is technology making the practice of law more efficient and hassle free, but it is also increasing client expectations about our capabilities.

To learn more about how Maryland attorneys are incorporating technology in their practices, you might contact your local bar association, the MSBA or the Maryland Association for Justice. The more we all get used to these tools and how helpful they are, the better chance we have at improving Rule 16-110 and battling the Luddites and those with the technological heebie-jeebies among us.

The MSBA Law Office Management Administration is hosting a series of free lunchtime webinars on technology, including one entitled “Top iPad Apps for Lawyers.” And, later this month, the Maryland Association for Justice is hosting a “Technology and Social Media Seminar” (with our own John Cord as one of the presenters).

One thought on “The rise of technology

  1. A few months ago we obtained a victory with a Rule that merely allows us to bring “cell phones” into Courthouses. Unfortunately, few people understand the difference between cell phones and smartphones and indeed, it is unfortunate that our devices are called “smartphones” because they are computers first and telephones last. The least important but most annoying feature to a Court official is the phone aspect of a smartphone. We now need to have the Rule amended to permit unfettered use of our “smartphones” with the volume muted.

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