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Practicing law in the age of the internet

generation-jd-sheri-hoidraEvery time I click on the webpage bookmark that takes me to the Maryland Code on LexisNexis, I thank my lucky stars I practice law in 2017 and not 1997. Just the thought of having to sift through paper statutes makes my head spin.

We are blessed to have the ability to practice law more competently than ever thanks to the internet. There are blogs and listservs to keep us on the cutting edge. Websites like Yelp, Avvo, and Google legitimize us in the legal community with each five-star rating. Programs like Adobe provide us with the ability to PDF 30 pages of discovery, convert it to Word and easily copy and paste our client’s answers from email. Voila! A full day’s work taken down to an hour, so we can spend five minutes scrolling through Instagram without feeling guilty.

Truly, the internet has made it possible to compete with big law even as a solo practitioner. Some of my colleagues don’t even have a bricks-and-mortar office. Not that I’d be able to handle my cases on a purely virtual basis, but I know that it’s possible.

Yet even with all these advancements, being an attorney in the technological age has its drawbacks. Firing a client? Not the best idea unless you want to risk a negative online review. On more than one occasion I’ve kept a troublesome client because I feared the wrath of online trolling. There’s also hackers, sending emails to the wrong person, and answering a legal question on a website without a sufficient disclosure that it does not result in an attorney-client relationship.  The possibilities of errors are endless.

We have to be observant and careful. It’s important to spend money on the right virus protection and to accept the updates on your computer. Don’t cc your client on emails so they inadvertently respond to opposing counsel revealing your entire case strategy. I’ve seen attorneys cc clients on emails and it makes me cringe.

Oh, and then there’s MDEC – I wish I could say it’s made our lives easier as Maryland attorneys, but it’s going to be a long time before the system is perfected. Having to draft a written certificate to comply with mandatory online filing rules for each pleading? Annoying. Getting charged a fee to file a document electronically? About as unnecessary as Ticketmaster’s convenience fee. It doesn’t help that the lack of a statewide transition to MDEC means that attorneys can make mistakes. Timing is everything in our profession and practicing law while the courts shift to paperless filing is risky.

Just last week, I filed a motion to continue a matter in Cecil County by mail. A few days later, it was sent back to me with a pamphlet enclosed with instructions on complying with MDEC procedures. This is the first case I’ve taken in this jurisdiction, so it was news to me that they had converted over to MDEC.

Thankfully, I had enough time to hop online and file my motion.

All of this is to say that the internet is undoubtedly a huge asset to the business of law, but we have to remain vigilant in protecting our clients and our reputations online.