I’m not a brain in a vat. At least I don’t think so. (Lame attempt at humor there, I know.) Well, assuming that I am embodied for real, then equally “for real” are all the file folders, unfiled documents, notes that I’ve taken, treatises, deal books and loose-leaf reporters spread around my office. What I’ve found, the longer I’m in this game, is that the unavoidably physical task of assembling contract precedents for review, the very act of having to jump up from my desk countless times during the day to get my hands on a document or a volume is plain annoying, “wearying” is perhaps the best way to describe it all.
I’m in pretty good health, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and enjoy long walks in NYC – so it’s not a physical disability, thank God, that makes all this scrambling around painful. And, despite my affinity for tech, I do agree with those who say that there’s little yet on the tech front that can outdo good lighting and words printed on white paper to make the reading experience enjoyable. Also, it’s not the disorderliness of my office that’s the source of pain here; those items mentioned above as being spread around my office are far from being scattered randomly over desk and floor.
I guess what I’m saying here is that, as a senior lawyer -- but one who’s still very much involved in the hands-on practice of law (I do a great deal of “first draft” drafting, always at the computer mind you, and I review and comment on a lot of other lawyers’ work) – what I really want to do is just think and get paid for doing so. (I’m putting telephoning and negotiating at the bargaining table aside. They’re a big part of my day, too; but I’m more often than not at my desk drafting or reading). In asking whether document storage, sorting and retrieval systems can alleviate the “scrambling” around that I find so painful – and I mean with respect to ALL kinds of documented materials, not just files stored in the firm’s document management system – am I posing a question that goes to the “intelligent” application of information technology to law or am I just day-dreaming of a George Jetson kind of practice?
In answering my own question, let me ask you to consider how much more efficient I could be if those relevant drafting precedents could be found with a few mouse clicks, if the files from the deal under review didn’t have to be hauled from file room or even from my office floor to my desktop, if the regulations contained in the loose leaf service could appear on my wide screen flat-panel monitor in a column adjacent to the very document that I’m drafting or have under review. We’ve come a long way since the mid-70’s when I started to practice and it’s a far cry from the days of “White-out” (sp?) and cut-and-paste document assembly, so perhaps it’s plain old laziness that has me write my post today. No, I insist that the rallying cry should be “automate all but the thinking” (but see a previous post on artificial intelligence). Eliminate every bit of the drudgery and time-waste with intelligent machines and software use, and let me do what I really want to get paid to do – think, analyze, advise.