Deaths, Intellectual Property, iPhone, Technology

Notes on the Passing of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. And millions of people across the planet learned of the news on devices he invented.

You’ve probably already heard the details. The 56-year-old chairman and co-founder of Apple had been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004. He ran one of the most successful companies in the world, a company he founded in a suburban garage. He invented the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad; at one point he owned Pixar; and he personally had more than 300 patents to his name, according to The Atlantic.

I am having a hard time thinking of any other human in recent memory who has so widely, tangibly, and positively changed the face of the world.

As Alexis Madrigal wrote, it’s strange to mourn the head of an international corporation as we would a beloved actor, musician, or head of state. But we can’t help it….

I have used Apple computers as long as I have been able to read. Growing up, my family never owned a PC. The closest we got was when my dad brought home a Dell work laptop for a few months. I was the only kid in school who couldn’t play computer games because I had a Macintosh. I grew up on AppleWorks, not Word, and I had no idea how to use a two-button mouse until high school.

I began editing videos and making slideshows for school projects on Final Cut Pro in middle school. I got my first iPod for Christmas in 2002, and I’m still using the one I got around 2006. Weirdly, I have never owned an iPhone, but I’m finally ordering one on Friday, when the 4S goes on sale.

News of Jobs’s death hit me a lot harder than I expected it to (here’s the New York Times obituary). I started realizing I would be a very different person without Apple computers.

But this isn’t about me; this is a legal news website. As with everything else, Jobs and his company’s effect on the legal profession is anything but insignificant. During the recession, some law firms have been giving associates iPads instead of monetary bonuses. Whether or not the associates appreciate the swap is a separate question. At least one firm created an iPhone app to help job-seeking lawyers stay abreast of job openings.

Just within the last few months, a discussion has begun within the legal blogosphere, asking, “Who will be the Steve Jobs of law?” In other words, who will be the one to simplify and streamline the complex, bewildering legal world and open it up to laypeople?

Here’s what Professor Larry Ribstein wrote over at Truth on the Market:

Now compare a smartphone to law — the law that ordinary people and businesses confront when they try to do the most basic things, the law that handles the simplest disputes by multiplying them into second, third and fourth level disputes. As Gillian Hadfield explained in her insightful article, The Price of Law, this is the law that the lawyer monopoly, which benefits from complexity, has forced onto our society.

Dismantling this monopoly could open the law to myriad inventors who could create technologies that make law accessible to ordinary people.…

Law is waiting for its Steve Jobs (or Bill Gates). When he or she arrives it could be a lot more important than the iPhone.

That’s quite a claim. Jobs had damn big shoes. As our own Jay Shepherd said on Twitter, “He put a dent in the universe.”

Apple’s Visionary Redefined Digital Age [New York Times]
Why We Mourn Steve Jobs [The Atlantic]
Waiting for the Steve Jobs of law [Truth on the Market]

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at You can read more of his work at

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