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Today’s Tech: How Lawyers Actually Use Technology

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Nicole Black. My column, Today’s Tech, will highlight how individual lawyers are using specific technologies in their law practices. More on my column later, but first let me explain who I am and why I’m writing this column.

Above all else, I’m a total geek. My geekery started back in the late 70s when I was in elementary school and my dad brought home a TRS-80 computer. I had to learn how to program in BASIC to get that computer to play Pong. But trust me — it was worth it.

It was in law school in the early 1990s that my geek status was solidified. That’s when I became a diehard Trekkie. Star Trek: the Next Generation was my escape from the stresses of law school, and I watched it religiously. I was fascinated by the technologies used by the characters and the writers’ vision of the future and remember thinking how amazing — and unlikely — it would be if we had just a few of those technologies available in my lifetime….

Fast forward to 1995, when I graduated from law school, and a world that included all of those technologies still seemed like a pipe dream. After passing the bar I worked for the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, New York for nearly 4 years, then moved on to a mid-sized civil litigation firm. During those years, technology took a back seat to representing my clients and trying cases. But even then, as I followed a very typical legal career path, the allure of technology beckoned, which is why I created a website for that law firm as a side project.

So it wasn’t surprising to those who knew me well that my career eventually diverged from that trajectory, leading me to where I am now: the Director of Business and Community Relations for MyCase, a web-based law practice management software company, and an author and legal technology columnist. Because I’ve always been fascinated by technology, focusing on the effects of technology on the practice of law seemed like a natural fit. And that’s what I’ve been doing since 2006.

It’s nothing short of amazing to me that many of the technologies portrayed in Star Trek — ones that I never expected to be available in my lifetime — have become reality in just the last 7 years or so: video conferencing with people thousands of miles away, large touchscreen computer interfaces, portable handheld computer tablets, computers that respond to voice input, small devices that you can hold in the palm of your hand that provide you with everything you needed to know about the world around you, universal translators that make it possible for anyone to communicate, small mobile devices that provide a person’s medical information and vital signs, and machines that can produce food or a requested item out of thin air.

The problem for lawyers is that this change has occurred at an unprecedented rate. So while most lawyers were busy trying to keep their heads above water during turbulent economic times, these new technologies were rolling out incredibly quickly and changing the world in ways never before seen.

Despite the rapid advancements of technology and the undeniable effects of internet-based and mobile technology on the business world, many lawyers have continued with business as usual, steadfastly maintaining that technology has minimally impacted on the practice of law. Meanwhile, other attorneys have done their best to keep pace with the rapid changes by learning about and implementing new technologies into their practices; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

My goal with this column is to examine lawyers’ use of 21st-century technologies by exploring how specific lawyers are incorporating emerging technologies into their practices. In each post, I’ll focus on one attorney and one type of technology. I’ll interview the lawyer and provide an in-depth description of how the attorney is using the technology and discuss whether it actually works as had been envisioned when the lawyer first began using it. Oftentimes, the technology will prove to be beneficial, but in some cases, it may turn out that the technology wasn’t up to par and was actually more of a hassle than it was worth.

So that’s what this column is about — lawyers, technology and how they’re using it in their practices. Hopefully each column will provide valuable information, tips, and ideas for other lawyers seeking to use newfound technologies to streamline their practices and better represent their clients.

I’ll start off with a long-time assistant public defender, and in my next column I’ll explore how she uses her iPad to better defend her clients, so stay tuned.

Finally, because I’m planning to focus on a different attorney in each column, I’ll always be seeking new attorneys to feature. So if you or someone you know is using technology in a creative or unusual way in your law firm, drop me an email at

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business and Community Relations at MyCase, web-based law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack and she can be reached at

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