Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained - NYTimes.com

This is a good read but only related to virtual law offices tangentially. IAE, here it is: The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained - NYTimes.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are Law Schools and Bar Exams Necessary? - NYTimes.com

The following piece suggests that deregulation of law practice should and will occur. As I have suggested elsewhere, technology is already driving legal business away from traditional law firms and toward other entities. I believe that dramatic, revolutionary change is happening in regard to the structure of law firms. This blog is an effort to shine a light on the way forward for young lawyers and small law firms. Here is the article: Are Law Schools and Bar Exams Necessary? - NYTimes.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

equivio.com/files/LJN Baker and McKenzie.pdf

Here is the future of big litigation. There are even firms now that are employing lawyers to work on these kind of document review jobs for law firms on a contract basis. This is one of the highly disruptive technologies of our day. equivio.com/files/LJN Baker and McKenzie.pdf

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Will Dropouts Save America? - NYTimes.com

I agree with most all of the observations in the following piece. Much of the creativity that goes into the creation of a virtual law firm is exactly in line with the author's observations. Does this article talk about you? Will Dropouts Save America? - NYTimes.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tweets And Status Updates Meet The Courtroom: How Social Media Continues To Be A Challenge For E-Discovery In 2011

Electronic discovery is a very large part of the technical/electronic revolution that has swept over law practice in the last decade. Even if you are not directly involved in litigation your clients may be and you may be required to take action to protect their information. Here are some cautionary tales about Facebook and other social media that have become important issues in law practice. Tweets And Status Updates Meet The Courtroom: How Social Media Continues To Be A Challenge For E-Discovery In 2011

Dropbox Will Simplify Your Life - NYTimes.com

Some people have raised questions about the security of Dropbox when used by lawyers for protected client information. Everybody needs to make their own decision about that, but in my opinion modest and reasonable precautions can be taken. This is a truly wonderful product for mobile lawyers. Dropbox Will Simplify Your Life - NYTimes.com

3 reasons cloud app development is taking off | Cloud Computing - InfoWorld

This can be a huge development for law firms. Lower IT costs means more competition. 3 reasons cloud app development is taking off | Cloud Computing - InfoWorld

Monday, October 17, 2011

A New View of Review: Predictive Coding Vows to Cut E-Discovery Drudgery - Magazine - ABA Journal

One thing this new development means is that there can be a level playing field for the small office that is up against a large defendant or who represents a large client who has a large number of electronic discoverable documents.A New View of Review: Predictive Coding Vows to Cut E-Discovery Drudgery - Magazine - ABA Journal

A New View, Part 2: E-Discovery Changes Have Some Seeing a Career in Document Review - Magazine - ABA Journal

The second part of the previous story. Here a home based lawyer is making a good living in e-discovery using new tools that obviate much of the existing stigma. A New View, Part 2: E-Discovery Changes Have Some Seeing a Career in Document Review - Magazine - ABA Journal

A New View of Review: Predictive Coding Vows to Cut E-Discovery Drudgery - Magazine - ABA Journal

One thing this new development means is that there can be a level playing field for the small office that is up against a large defendant or who represents a large client who has a large number of electronic discoverable documents.A New View of Review: Predictive Coding Vows to Cut E-Discovery Drudgery - Magazine - ABA Journal

Evernote For Lawyers – 9 Productivity Tips

I am a long time fan of Evernote. Here is an outstanding Blog post that describes some of the best features of this terrific product. One tip, however, it is so easy to use that you can fill up your Notebooks very quickly with stuff you don't really need to save. Evernote does have a strong search capability, though, that can save you from yourself. Evernote For Lawyers – 9 Productivity Tips

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The franchised future of small law firms

This is not directly about virtual law firms, but the concept certainly applies. As usual, England and Wales thinking is far ahead of the ABA.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Leaked Screenshot Shows New iOS 5 Nuance Integration -- AppAdvice

Here is an indication that the new iphone, ipad operating system will have Dragon voice recognition built into it for purposes of texting and email. It probable that the integrated app will support any text based app on the system such as word processing and presentation software. Leaked Screenshot Shows New iOS 5 Nuance Integration -- AppAdvice

Friday, September 30, 2011

Here is the text of an email I just sent to one of my former research associates who said:

I like it.With good enough security, you could run the office management software from the cloud.
But how will you create documents? No keyboard. It's hard to compose or write an email without a keyboard.



The Dragon software on my iPad runs in the cloud and is virtually flawless. Dragon has used the iPad software to develop a huge database of voices and words and that is why it is working so well. What does not work is the interface between Dragon and email so I don't use it very often. But, that is sort of beside the point because if you parse the language that Amazon has used in the announcement it indicates that they intend to run the Silk browser with other operating systems. Today the rumor is that Amazon is talking to HP about buying the Palm portfolio which includes WebOs, the best mobile operating system I have seen. The Fire is the first of many and we don't know much about what the single mini-usb port will support. In all events, this is I think the beginning of the next wave of mobile personal computing. And, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are not going to be sitting back with glazed eyes saying "ain't it cool"?

Amazon Cloud Boosts Fire - WSJ.com

HERE WE GO! While Apple fiddles with Samsung in Australia the Fire is burning: Amazon Cloud Boosts Fire - WSJ.com

Can ‘Moneyball’ Principles Be Applied to the Valuation of Legal Services? - ABA Journal

One of the key concepts underlying virtual law firms is the substitution of "value" billing in the place of the hourly bill. Here is a distinctly current approach to the issue: Can ‘Moneyball’ Principles Be Applied to the Valuation of Legal Services? - ABA Journal

Amazon 10.1-inch tablet to ship before the holidays? | Crave - CNET

It just keeps on coming today. WebOS running from the cloud is beyond amazing to contemplate. Amazon 10.1-inch tablet to ship before the holidays? | Crave - CNET

Kindle Fire: The commoditization of computing has begun | ZDNet

This fellow has it right and he doesn't even focus on the split processing innovation of the Silk Browser. If that works as promised the prediction here is certainly correct. Kindle Fire: The commoditization of computing has begun | ZDNet

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazon Silk—Amazon's Revolutionary Cloud-Accelerated Web Browser


This may be the most significant technological step in many years. If Amazon is able to move most of the computing load from the computer to the cloud for small consumer devices it will dramatically change the way we work. Now remember, Amazon holds the key to the front door of its massive cloud. That may raise some significant legal issues, particularly under the Sherman Act since Amazon is so far ahead in cloud development. Apple will have to respond and with $75 billion in their cash drawer the sparks will fly!
You read it here first!

Legal software: Automation could kill lawyers. Why that's good for everyone else. - Slate Magazine

" . . . While legal automation will be a boon for those who can't afford representation, it's bad news for lawyers. The industry is already in a slump, and law school is no longer seen as a sure path to riches. Because software will allow fewer lawyers to do a lot more work, it's sure to drive down both price and demand." Legal software: Automation could kill lawyers. Why that's good for everyone else. - Slate Magazine

Many of the lawyers who survive this revolution will be in "virtual" practices that provide specialized services. The technology necessary to practice virtually is low cost and increasingly capable of providing a full service law firm with high quality client interaction.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biggest story from the Kindle Fire presser: Silk browser | ZDNet

Biggest story from the Kindle Fire presser: Silk browser | ZDNet This is a very big deal. If the Silk browser is as fast as it should be this will be the new standard for the virtual law office. I have not yet collected the functional details but I have pre-ordered a Fire. As soon as I run it through my law office tricks test I will write a full report. At the very least, this is the first full use of the cloud we have been talking about for the last 18 months.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New York State Bar Resolution Calls For "Practice Ready Lawyers"

http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com is a Blog by Professor Campos at the University of Colorado that raises many issues concerning the current status of legal education in the United States. Our system of education and certification of lawyers is unique and is increasingly being called into question on grounds of effectiveness, value and professional training. The following expresses the view of many of us: New York State Bar Resolution Calls For "Practice Ready Lawyers"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Law grads going solo and loving it - Business - Personal finance - Careers - msnbc.com

The following article has a lot of useful information and a point of view that will be of interest to both 3Ls and recent grads. To get the full scope of the discussion, however, you need to read all of the comments which represent the various perspectives on going Solo. It is certainly a difficult undertaking but with a little elbow grease and a bit of attitude it can be done!


Law grads going solo and loving it - Business - Personal finance - Careers - msnbc.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I quit my job, went to work for WizIQ, and put my kid in private school | ZDNet

The following article is a great argument for changes in all education, including legal education. It is all about preparing young people for the 21st Century mess we have left them to clean up.

Why I quit my job, went to work for WizIQ, and put my kid in private school | ZDNet

Legal Field Is Nation’s Most Difficult Industry for Job Placement, Employment Website Says - News - ABA Journal

Just as I started this blog I became aware of the Scam Blog phenomena, in particular the blog by LawProf called Inside the Law School Scam http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com. Over the last month I have spent much time reading these blogs and the comments from many young lawyers who are caught in terrible economic trap. They have six figure school debt and no work. Legal Field Is Nation’s Most Difficult Industry for Job Placement, Employment Website Says - News - ABA Journal

Law office technology will, I think, reduce demand for both lawyers and for many kinds of legal services. At the same time, modern law office technology can support the creation of much leaner small firms that have a very focused goal.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Samsung to Roll Out 4G Android Tablet This Year - WSJ.com

In a forthcoming post, I will talk about the kinds of things you will want to look for in a tablet computer. High speed Internet access is surely one of them: Samsung to Roll Out 4G Android Tablet This Year - WSJ.com

RIM Hopes Cars Drive PlayBook Sales - WSJ.com

I think this is a big deal: RIM Hopes Cars Drive PlayBook Sales - WSJ.com . If RIM wins this one, as it well might, it may find many users who will want to have the ability to plug their tablet into their car and go. That is an intriguing possibility and keeps RIM in the game.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Looking Back to Windows 95

I just purchased a wonderful little Acer computer with 4 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. It's has eight USB ports and puts out great video. It is running Windows 7. It cost less than $500. The power and affordability of modern computing hardware and software is stunning. The following is an article that I wrote at the real dawn of the Windows era in 1995. There had been other Windows operating systems before, but they were not much to be proud of. Windows 386 was the first effort to provide true multi-tasking and it simply did not work. If you care to read what is below, please note the hardware specs in what was the going hot machine of the era. They are NOT typos:

LAW OFFICE COMPUTING(TM)

Winton Woods

August 1995


The Boy Scouts' Marching Song

Only a few of you will remember Tom Lehrer and his Boy Scouts' Marching Song but for those who do, it is an apt warning for the next few weeks when Microsoft puts its Windows 95 product on the market. Those who don't remember Tom Lehrer may want to read TOO MANY SONGS BY TOM LEHRER (with not enough drawings by Ronald Searle)(Pantheon, $16.50) (Paperback, $8.95) for a view of the Fifties that differs a little from the TV version. For the rest you, those who like living on the edge and don't need Rogain, August of 1995 is your time.

The introduction of Microsoft Windows 95 will have a huge impact upon the world of those who use computers. It will also have a huge impact upon Microsoft Corporation, which expects to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the new product in the first few months. No other product in the history of computer software has ever generated the enormous amount of publicity in both the press and more general publications such as BusinessWeekand The Wall Street Journal. If you have ever purchased a computer product by mail or registered your name with one of the many companies that then turns and sells that name to someone else, you have received copies of advertisements seeking your money to purchase Windows 95 before it ever hits the streets. Many of you will succumb to that temptation, and a lot of you have indicated to me that you can't wait for the opportunity. Before you jump, however, let me tell you some things that you need to know.

The first thing that you need to be aware of is that in order run Windows 95 successfully you need to have a fairly recent machine. Nothing less than a 486/66 chip, running 8 megabytes of ram is required. Don't believe the hype that Windows 95 will run just fine on a your old 386 machine. Secondly, you need to have at least 200 megabytes of uncompressed hard disk space to accommodate the size of Windows program and the additional software that you will soon need. Finally, you should have a high end graphics card, perhaps with video capabilities and a sound card in order to fully appreciate the power that Windows 95 will give you. You will undoubtedly want a 17 inch monitor and a CD ROM drive as well. Many of you have machines that meet those specifications and, for you, spending another $89 to purchase an upgrade to Windows 95 is probably not a bad investment. There are some important downsides that you need to think about, however. First, there will undoubtedly be various bugs and hardware conflicts in the first edition of Windows 95. That is absolutely unavoidable, although the beta testing that was done concerning this software is far, far more extensive than any beta testing that has ever been done before. Because computers are built in so many different ways and in so many different configurations, there undoubtedly will be many, many hardware conflicts that will be difficult to resolve in the early going. Besides the hardware problems, however, are the conflicts with existing software that will undoubtedly occur. You cannot assume that all of the software on your computer will run under Windows 95. Indeed, you should assume the opposite. Some applications may run slower under Windows 95 and others will not run at all. Again, these problems are simply the product of the complexity of the program and the astronomical number of potential unique configurations that exist on our individual computers.

In the last issue of INFORMATIONWEEK, Thomas E.F. Sobczak, in a column directed at information management professionals, suggested that everybody wait for six months until they work out the bugs. I think that is excellent advice. Eighty or ninety percent of the problems that are going to occur with Windows 95 will occur during the first six or eight months of the products use. Microsoft will exert superhuman effort to find fixes for all those bugs, although certainly as with any complicated software product, there will be various problems that they cannot simply resolve. Be that as it may, by the time ice melts in the Santa Cruz River, Windows 95 will be a functioning reality that I believe will totally dominate the computer market. But that six or eight month period will be a period of incredible difficulty for many of those who jump off the fantail of the stable old DOS based ship. Ninety percent of the users of Windows 95 will probably experience almost no difficulty with the installation of the program on their existing machines. Indeed, the hype in the press emphasizes the ease of installation and the automatic configuration of various devices like CD-ROM drives and video cards. But for the remaining ten percent, there is a range of potential problems that begins with minor annoyances and ends with system destroying crashes. Unfortunately, there is no way to know which category you are in until you try to install. That means before you start to load up Windows 95, you need to have backed up every single one of your essential files, including the start up and configuration files on your existing hard drive. If you are one of the unfortunate few who suffers a serious operating system crash during the installation or use of Windows 95, the only way you can be certain that you can get back up and running the way you were before is to have an appropriate set of backup files that will allow you to duplicate the existing system on your hard drive. In some unknown number of cases, the disaster that accompanies the attempt to install Windows 95 will require reformatting of the hard drive before you are able to access it again. While there are, even in those extreme cases, ways in which you can probably salvage most, if not all, of the files that you need to continue operating, those remedies will be extremely expensive and involve removing the hard drive from the machine and sending it off to some far away place where the information that you seek can be extracted by experts. Whatever you do, don't try to install Windows 95 without that backup. Be Prepared!!

The potential for problems that I have just described is magnified greatly if you will be running Windows 95 on a network. If you have a network, the likelihood is extremely high that you are using that network in your business or practice, and under those circumstances the advisability of jumping into Windows 95 right now is even lower. Networks create problems all by themselves and while Windows 95 is supposedly very accommodating of networks, there are, beyond doubt, many rough spots ahead. In your business you simply cannot tolerate the risk of any serious system crash, and unless you are prepared to deal with such a crash fully and immediately, you ought not to change your operating system right now. Your life will not change dramatically if you delay the adoption of Windows 95 for a few months. The increase in knowledge and the fixes for complications that inevitably occur will make your life much easier in April than it is in August. Moreover, the software designed for Windows 95 will be much cheaper and far more available than it will be during the forthcoming holiday buying season.

That does not mean, however, that you have to deprive yourself of the opportunity to learn Windows 95. Indeed, you and others in your office who use computers for anything other than basic word processing ought to be learning Windows 95 as soon as you can. You ought to have a machine in the office that is not part of your day-to-day operation where you and your staff can spend a few hours a week learning Windows 95. Windows 95 is very different from the existing Windows configuration and from older DOS based operating systems. It is similar to the MAC/OS2 operating interface with long file names and folders for holding files. While it is designed to be easy to use, it will take some time to learn and it will be extremely difficult for your staff if you suddenly throw them into a radically different operating system and expect them to continue to get out the work that they have always gotten out. If you run a pretty tight ship in your office and you don't have the capacity to tolerate significant periods of down time, you ought to wait until your staff or certain key people on your staff have familiarized themselves with the product and are prepared to deal with the potential for crisis.

There is one other reason to wait. I expect that the introduction of Windows 95 will substantially increase demand for computers that are capable of running it efficiently. That increase in demand will accompany the normal increase in demand that occurs in the fall pre-holiday season. You will never again have an opportunity to spend as much money on a computer as you will have in the next few months, and that alone is a good reason to wait. By Spring I expect that you will be able to buy a Pentium 90 computer with 8 megabytes of RAM, a CD ROM, a high end video card, a high quality sound card, and a 17 inch monitor for under $2,000. That same machine will cost $500 to a $1,000 more than that during the next few months. All of this adds up to the conclusion that you can save a bundle of cash and a lot of hard time by delaying your purchase for a few months. The bottom line is simple. That is: you must fully backup your system in a way that will allow you to reformat your hard drive if that is what you must do in order to get up and running again. Anything less than this undertakes the risk that you will lose all of the information that you have on your machine. Be Prepared!!

The Courtroom of the Future Project

What follows is the history of the Courtroom of the Future Project. Ultimately, the Courtroom of the Future Project became focussed on the backend of litigation, the law office. And now, with the advent of cloud computing and small computers like the iPad and its forthcoming competitors we are entering a whole new era. I call it the study of Tomorrow's Law Firm but it is really already here. Once we get the basics out of the way and you know who I am and what I am about we will start to hit the many fascinating aspects of this new way to live and practice law as you choose. I look forward to your input!


LAW OFFICE COMPUTING

February 2001

Winton Woods

My Three Odysseys

I have recently embarked upon my third odyssey, a search driven by the sudden availability of some 35 or 40 electronic courtrooms in Arizona. My third odyssey is beginning pretty late in life but like the other two I have little doubt that it will be exciting and very fulfilling.

My childhood was an odyssey filled with cars and motorcycles and cameras. In my early twenties I was a photojournalist who went to law school and became an academic where I toiled in the university vineyard for some 20 years. Technology was in the past. I was a writer of briefs and law review articles. I taught generations of lawyers about civil procedure and federal courts. I was content. Then about 10 years ago I received a the telephone call from the late Judge Richard Bilby regarding a trial that was taking place in his courtroom in the federal courthouse in Tucson. The case was a civil action arising out of the collapse of the Charlie Keating Empire and involved hundreds of thousands of documents and a number of videotaped depositions. It was a very interesting case in all events, but it was made much more interesting by virtue of the fact that it brought into the courtroom what was then totally new and innovative technological support. Judge Bilby told me that the parties had invested several hundred thousand dollars in the equipment that was then installed in his courtroom and he thought I would be interested in seeing it. I had just started using computers on a regular basis and I was fascinated by their potential application to the practice of law in general and in litigation in particular. So I eagerly accepted Judge Bilby’s invitation for lunch and wandered downtown to see his courtroom. The tech guys were just finishing up the installation of two huge monitors and the bar code driven document display system. When they demonstrated how a bar code swipe brought up an image of a document on the 5 ft. wide rear projection monitor I was hooked. When the tech guy started highlighting portions of the document with the electronic pen I was in love. And, when she demonstrated the way videotaped depositions might appear to the jury my heart just stopped. “This is very good stuff”, I thought to myself, “this is the future of litigation.” The seeds of the Courtroom of the Future project were planted that day in Judge Bilby’s courtroom and began the second leg of my technological odyssey. Over the course of the next year I spent a very high percentage of my time trying to figure out a way to make that technology affordable so that it could be used in ordinary cases. I visited with Judge Strand in Phoenix who was as fascinated as I was by the potential and it was in his courtroom that I first learned from Marilyn Sanchez about real time court reporting and its great potential. Desktop scanners were a new product and inexpensive software for displaying images of documents in an effective manner did not exist. Then a friend of mine returned from Comdex with a floppy disk containing a piece of software called Watermark. Watermark provided a simple user-friendly system for scanning and displaying documents. Text could be highlighted and zoomed into and annotations such as underlining and circles were easy to do. With a simple scanner and Watermark I found myself on the road to the courtroom of the future. But while the manipulation and annotation of documents on the computer itself was fairly easy, the display of those images to an entire courtroom was hard. The monitors in Judge Bilby's courtroom were not portable and they were huge. Few courtrooms in the state courts were large enough to accommodate them. I had to find a way to display the document images in small courtrooms. It was then that I discovered digital projection technology. By coupling a laptop computer and a VCR to a digital projector I was able to overcome the space limitations imposed by ordinary courtrooms. I had an idea and I had a plan. Now what I needed was money. The University had just created a special grant program that looked perfect for my project. I was certain they would love both my idea and my plan. I made an application for $35,000, which was rejected out of hand. I went to the Dean but there was no money to be had. I decided to take my idea to private enterprise instead because I thought I could get some donations of equipment if I could provide some good PR for the manufacturers. I knew the manufacturers were not interested in donating equipment to me or to the law school itself and so I went to back to Dean Tom Sullivan and asked him to allow me to create the Courtroom of the Future project as a vehicle for seeking contributions of money and equipment. Tom was a former trial lawyer and he was enthusiastic about my project. He authorized its establishment and even scrounged up a few thousand dollars to get my fund raising off the ground. Over the course of the next year I was able to secure over $100,000 worth of equipment and software for the project. In 1995 we inaugurated the Courtroom the Future Project by holding a three-day national conference on courtroom technology. We attracted an all-star cast of presenters and 150 judges, lawyers and court administrators from around the country. We started to get a lot of recognition including a cover story in California legal magazine. It was only a matter of time, I thought, before courtrooms all over the country would be equipped like ours. I was right but I had no idea how long it would take. Part of the problem was money and the realities of the budgeting process. The second part of the problem arose from the fact that the technology for displaying images was in its still in infancy. Monitors were small and hard to read documents on and projectors were expensive and not very bright. Over the next few years, the technology improved tremendously and the price of that technology became affordable. Equally important was the fact that farsighted court administrators began building into the budgeting process money for building electronic or rooms. Those three factors have now joined together to create the nearly 40 electronic courtrooms that will be online in Arizona by spring. The process that I thought would take a year so has in fact taken five years. But in a sense the delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The display technology that you will see in the new courtrooms is so vastly superior to what was available only a year or so ago that it turns out that we were fortunate to have avoided heavy investment in technology that we would now want to replace. The display technology installed in our new courtrooms may be eclipsed by new technologies in a few years, but it is so good that it will be usable for a very long time to come.

All of this brings me to once again refocus my career and begin my final odyssey. A year ago negotiation with University allowed me to go halftime so I could pursue the opportunity to develop courtroom-oriented programs in the private sector. Last summer I reached an agreement with Lex Solutio Corp. in Phoenix to become their general counsel and director of education on a halftime basis. So now I have the best of both worlds. We are training our law students in the use of electronic courtrooms and I have the opportunity to reach out to the bar with training programs specifically tailored to their needs. The field is in state of tremendous growth. The number of lawyers using digital imaging to support trial preparation is growing exponentially. The software for building those trial support systems has matured and has become affordable. The hardware for displaying and annotating digital images has reached a high level of functionality.

Over the course of the coming months we will provide a number of opportunities to become acquainted with our new courtrooms. The Courtroom of the Future Project will sponsor a court technology demonstration and training site at the ABA TechShow in March. As always our focus will be upon affordable technology that is easy to use. The Maricopa County Superior Court has a committee actively working on the development of various kinds of training programs. The Trial Practice Section of the Arizona State Bar will present a demonstration of the primary courtroom presentation tools at the Annual Convention and one day of the CLE by the Sea Program will be devoted to the new courtrooms. Lex Solutio Corporation in Phoenix and InData in Gilbert are opening new training facilities that will focus on both trial preparation and presentation. And with all of this, I start my third career. I am excited about the possibilities and with the strong support of the private sector I look forward to doing what academic economics have kept me from doing in the last few years.

My old articles

I wrote my Law Office Computing column for many years. As I begin this blog I am going to go back and republish some of them and comment on how things have changed in 20 years or so. If you want to see the landscape you can find many of the Law Office Computing columns at http://www.law.arizona.edu/it/court/writ.html

When the World Changed

Fifteen years ago I said to my then boss, "the internet is going to change the world" and he just laughed. He was a very traditional lawyer and as he said he had "no interest in ruining his eyes by reading on a computer monitor" which in those days was not far from the mark. But it was his haughty dismissal of the power of the Internet that got me riled. I wrote the following article which was basically a response to his disdainful dismissal. I just hoped somebody else would read it:


Law Office Computing(TM)

Winton D. Woods

May 1995

It seems that every place you go in the last few months you hear people talking about the Internet. The vast majority of them know very little about it, but the Net's global characteristics are so intriguing that expanded knowledge runs the risk of interfering with the fantasy of a seamless electronic world without boundaries. In that fantasy world the Internet has broken down the walls created by language and culture and nationalism and rendered us instead into a homogenous world called cyberspace.

The fantasy is at once close to the mark and hopelessly naive. The Internet does connect us in many ways, but the protocols for accessing it are often arcane and difficult to use. The arcaneness of the Internet has been the principal barrier to its expansion to the masses of computer illiterates and semi-literates. Just as the intricacies of DOS for a decade kept the masses away from computers, so too have the text-based protocols of the Internet made access highly difficult.

I have spent a lot of time in the last few months thinking about why it is that text-based access to cyberspace has made it into a rather exclusive club. I think I found the answer last week when I returned from a trip to find over 50 messages on my voice mail. One of you, who will remain nameless, left me with an important message, told me you were traveling and gave me an 800 number for your pager. The first ninety percent of the message I got just fine, but when you got to the 800 number you rolled it off in staccato fashion and I was totally unable to get the numbers down. I confess to a foul word or two, followed by a pound on the table and emphatic statement I wished to hell people would slow down when they leave their phone numbers on the voice mail. My thirteen year old daughter happened to be standing next to me and she said, "Daddy, he said 1-800-492-9586" or something to that effect. I was at first shocked, by my shock was followed by a blinding insight into the obvious: for some, text-based access to technology is no problem. But for others like me, it is Masada. My colleague, David Wexler, remembers every telephone number and birthday of every friend he ever had. I had a friend in law school who undertook to memorize the meaning of every word in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. He did it methodically, a page a day, and when I met him during our first year of law school, he was into the Q's. Not only did he know the meaning of all of those words, he could spell them as well, almost without error. It suddenly became clear to me that the text-based barrier was no barrier at all for many people, while for other people like me it imposed enormous constraints upon our use of computers. I suddenly realized why one of my oldest friends, a man of uncommon brilliance, threw up his hands in disgust and threatened to physically destroy his DOS based computer because he could not remember the commands long enough to even write them down. He really tried, but for him the text-based access system was an absolute barrier, while for others it is a piddling nothing--perhaps even a remarkable efficiency. I am sure the psychologists have an explanation for all of this and it relates to something like right brain, left brain dominance, traumatic injuries in childhood and unrelenting exposure to various noxious substances. Maybe my inability to use text-based systems is a product of too much fine red wine and cigars during the heyday of my youth. But whatever it is, it doesn't make an awful lot of difference. Graphical User Interfaces, such as Macintosh and Windows, have brought computers to the masses and now the same technique has brought the Internet to us as well.

They go by different names, but whether they are called Cello, Mosaic, Lynx or Netscape, the so-called World Wide Web browsers make access to the Internet the same sort of point and click adventure that have made CD-ROM encyclopedias and games so incredibly successful.

Those of you who have been using the Internet in a text-based mode have probably marveled at the prolixity of some of the commands you are required to type in order to access a file on the Internet. The Worldwide Web browsers overcome that problem in two ways. First, once you are given the exact location for an Internet resource, for example, HTTP://WWW.PEDS.CSMC.edu/README.HTML. You only need to type it once in order to be able to access it for the rest of the life of your computer. Once you have typed the address, checked to make sure that it works and then discovered that you like what you have found, you are able to save that address as a so-called bookmark. Once marked, it is forever after accessible from a list of your bookmarks. But there is an even more expansive way of accessing resources on the Internet. For example, there is an Internet site called Interesting Places for Kids, (HTTP://WWW.CRC.RICOH.COM/PEOPLE/STEVE/KIDS.HTML) which is a list of hundreds of fun places for kids to explore on the Internet. Once you have typed in that rather long and difficult address and saved it as a bookmark, your kids will be able to access the Interesting Places for Kids site by simply clicking on the bookmark with their mouse. Once they are at the site, they are presented with a very long list of things that kids find fun to do with computers and Home Pages from K-12 schools all over the world. To access any of those things, they are not required to type in anything at all. All they have to do is to place cursor of the mouse on the particular highlighted item that they want to see and click. Through the magic of a process called Hypertext, they are immediately taken to that place, which may be in Geneva or London or Tokyo. There is even a place where you can go to NASA and from there out to the universe. Thus, the computer becomes a virtual spaceship, just a mouse click away from almost anywhere. That's the good news and the true part of fantasy.

The bad news is that getting your computer set up to do this sort of thing has not been easy. I have worked on and off for the last year getting my computer at the office able to access the Worldwide Web in the way I have just described. It has not always been successful even though I have had tremendous resources at my disposal. My computer at the law school is a very powerful Pentium computer that is hooked directly to the Internet, but it still has seemed slow and somewhat difficult to use. Besides, if I wanted to give my children the kind of computer experience that I think they ought to have, it had to be on my home base computer. Several months ago I described to you my discovery that we could use the local Digital Concepts Bulletin Board as a vehicle for accessing the Internet and the World Wide Web. It works pretty well and it is incredibly cheap. But the interface or Web Browser used by the bulletin board is something less than satisfactory, and I frankly found myself using it very little. A couple of weeks ago I found at the bottom of a stack of papers an envelope from Prodigy, the on line service I am sure you have heard about. In the envelope was a disk inviting me to try Prodigy for free. The fact is I had tried Prodigy many years ago and found it to be very weak in comparison to my old standby CompuServe. I had canceled my account and had not gone back. This time, however, I was intrigued by the fact that Prodigy claimed to have created an Internet Browser for the Worldwide Web that is easy to use and relatively fast. I thought I would take them up on their free offer, though my expectation was that their system would be less than satisfactory.

Installing Prodigy on my computer and accessing it with a 14.4 Kbps modem took only a few minutes. The graphical user interface for the Prodigy system has a button to click on for the World Wide Web and that I did. I was taken to another screen where I was given the option to explore the World Wide Web and I clicked upon that. You can imagine my amazement when I discovered that the browser created by Prodigy gave me access to the Worldwide Web in an easy to use graphical interface that seemed to me to be almost as fast in its execution as my powerful Pentium computer at the University. While I am sure from a technical standpoint that the perception must be wrong, the reality is that the Prodigy World Wide Web interface is so easy to use that I was able to accomplish things with it that I had not be able to accomplish using the University computer.

Prodigy's two big competitors CompuServe and America Online say that they too are coming up with a World Wide Web browser interface that can be accessed through their services. But for now the Prodigy service is fantastic, and while I don't think much of the other aspects of the Prodigy network, if you really want to explore the World Wide Web and cyberspace universe, I think this is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to do it. All you need is a 14.4 Kbps modem and a 486 computer that runs Windows reasonably well.

Have fun on the Web!! And have your kids show you how to get to http://starbase.ingress.com/TSW (for lawyers only!)