Technology, for better and worse, has changed the legal profession. When I began practicing in 2000, the partner I worked for slyly told me he didn’t envy me starting my legal career in the technology era, noting that in his day, there wasn’t even FedEx! He would draft a contract, head out for a 2 martini lunch, and simply wait for the revisions to come back via U.S. mail. Even back in 2000 it was clear to all that those days were over.
More than a decade later, the rapid proliferation of email and online technologies continues to change our profession. It seems that every year the expectations of clients, judges, and lawyers (even of ourselves) demand increasing immediacy. Take, for example, the fact that court opinions are posted online. Never mind that a decision was only published yesterday, and late in the afternoon — it’s online! That means you can see it, the judge can see it, and the lawyers you litigate against, or negotiate with, can see it.
The immediate availability of published decisions is exciting, no need to wait for the advance sheets anymore to get updated on new developments. But while the instant availability of new decisions can certainly improve our representation, it also presents a struggle. If I can access new decisions the moment they are published, am I going to be expected to do so? Do I need to repeat my research just before oral argument in case the judge delights in springing new decisions on unprepared attorneys? And how can I realistically do that? Do I have to go to three different court websites every day, download every case published and review it in order to say I’ve done my due diligence? No one has time for that — until now.
In partnership with the WSBA, Washington Daily Decision Service (the Dailies) gives Washington lawyers an efficient and cost-effective way to stay current. The service provides a daily bulletin with brief summaries of all published U.S. Supreme Court, 9th Circuit, Washington Supreme Court, and Washington Courts of Appeal opinions. We summarize every case, every day. Our notification is emailed every morning at 5 a.m., and you can read it in just a few minutes on your Smartphone, tablet or computer. You can even click through to the full text decision right from the daily bulletin.
Granted, the Dailies are not an original idea. I practiced law in California and used a comparable notification update there, and many states across the country have similar services. These services are on the rise because attorneys need an efficient and comprehensive way to access the cases that are published daily, but don’t have the billable time or resources to gather and review the new information every day. I view the Dailies as a type of insurance: I may not use a case I read there today, maybe not even this week. But at some point, a decision will be directly relevant to one of my matters, and I better not miss it.
Another reason I started the Dailies was to level the playing field among attorneys a bit. The King County Prosecutor’s Office has a dedicated staff attorney whose job is to read and summarize every case published in Washington every day and sends the summaries to the staff attorneys. It would elevate the level of representation for defense attorneys to have access to that same information for their clients. And particularly for the solo or small firm practitioner, the Dailies offers a comprehensive, efficient, and affordable way for attorneys without extensive resources or armies of first year associates to remain as thorough in their research as their colleagues in larger firms.
One thing is certain — the days of the two martini lunch awaiting a contract in the mail are long over. The technology is here to stay and it is our responsibility to use it to our advantage to best represent our clients.
Washington Daily Decision Service Giveaway!
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