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5 Pieces of Technology That Could Help You Practice Better

You're probably a fine lawyer, but if you're like most others, you could be better. What you probably don't know is that the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer could be as little as the great lawyer's ability to better utilize technology in the market-place.

Let's take a look at some bare necessities.

You don't have to look far to find news about bots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning moving into the legal sphere -- and potentially displacing flesh-based attorneys. There are online chatbots handling traffic disputes, machine learning programs doing associate-style legal research, and, for the support staff out there, artificial intelligence secretaries who can take care of attorney scheduling.

But there's no need to burn your J.D. and take up coding just yet. Technology will absolutely change the legal industry, but it probably won't eliminate too many legal jobs.

When Joshua Browder kept getting hit with parking tickets in London, he decided to stop paying the fines and start beating the tickets. He soon became an expert at fighting traffic tickets and has since helped people overturn 160,000 tickets, thanks to a chatbot he programed. You can chat with Browder's bot online, for free, and it will guide you through contesting your ticket, just like you were talking to a human being.

Except Browder isn't an attorney, he's a 19-year old Stanford undergrad. Could his chatbot constitute the unlicensed practice of law?

Videoconferencing programs like Skype or FaceTime are becoming increasingly common in today's courtrooms. Defendants detained in other jurisdictions can Skype in to the court house. More rarely, witnesses may present testimony via teleconference. Even attorneys have been known to appear in court through the magic of online video streaming.

But a new ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court should give videoconferencing attorneys and courts some pause. The highest court in the Land of Enchantment recently tossed a murder conviction, ruling that the use of Skyped testimony violated the Constitution's Confrontation Clause.

Lawyering in the age of Yelp can pose some tricky issues. No one likes to be reviewed like they were the neighborhood Thai restaurant, especially when the review is negative, or even false. But lawyers with online reviews are more likely to be hired.

And while online review sites have been around for more than a decade now, best practices and the law are both evolving. To help keep you up to date, here are the top five recent developments in online lawyer reviews, from the FindLaw archives.

Do You Suffer From Computer Vision Syndrome?

If you work in an office and spend any time in front of a computer, there's a good chance you suffer from the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

We've all experienced it: the dry eyes, the slight burning, the back issues, and the headaches. And we know that we all need computers to do our work. So what can we do to combat this problem?

Tracking Client Communications in the Digital Age

There are two major components to practicing law: handling the case so the client doesn't have to, and communicating with the client just what it is you're doing. Both can be overwhelming.

Now add the fact that you have to keep track of what you told the client just to make sure you're following best practices. This underscores something that every lawyer should know -- but not all lawyers do: documentation of client communications.

You're finally upgrading to a new P.C., or you're getting rid of those old external hard drives you found in the storage closet. Maybe you have a ton of dated USB drives you no longer need, now that you're cloud-based.

Whatever you do, don't just toss out, sell, or give away your old hard drives. First, make sure you wipe them of their data. Here's how.

There's software to manage just about every aspect of the modern law office: your email, your word processing, your document storage, and your meetings. And there's even software to help you maintain and improve your client relationships.

If you're using paper client files or managing client relationships on an ad-hoc basis, we'd suggest checking out some client relationship management software. Here's why.

PACER is no one's favorite database. Sure, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records service gives you online access to federal court documents, saving you the hassle of calling a courier or heading down to a courthouse yourself. But the service is not particularly user-friendly, intuitive, or functional. The fact that it nickel-and-dimes you (literally) for every page of public records you view is just icing on the "God, I hate PACER" cake.

And now, a coalition of nonprofits is suing over those fees, arguing that the 10-cents-a-page price tag isn't just excessive, it's illegal.