You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 28, 2005

ABA TechShow 2005: an ethical soul in the machine?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:37 pm

I’m a little tired from post-Easter traveling today, so maybe I missed it when I quickly

perused the ABA TechShow 2005 website.  I’m wondering: When and how does the

conference treat the harnessing of technology to help lawyers serve clients better

especially the less-than-sophisticated client (the average consumer and small business)?  


“computer Weary”  There are many sessions on avoiding malpractice when adopting new technologies,

which is an important topic that is more about averting lawyer pain than promoting client gain.  

The TechShow also offers plenty of tips for honing “marketing” strategies that will attract premium

clients.  But, I was hoping for a demonstration of interest in how technology can assist (and

prod) the legal profession to promote clients’ interests in both macro and micro ways — to bring

more efficient and less expensive legal services, along with more pricing and service options. 

  • E.g., spotlighting the ability and potential of technology to support the Self-Help

    revolution — so that clients can solve many legal problems on their own, or with

    minimal use of lawyers (see our post); and exploring whether technology can make
    “unbundling” more practical and available

None of the Educational Sessions appears to treat these topics.  We might not expect 

the corporate sponsors to care, but how about the ABA committees working on access to

the justice system for those with low or moderate income?  Maybe the topic will come up in

Eugene Lee’s keynote address, where he’ll “discuss how the legal community can take advantage

of new technologies without having to dramatically alter the way they work.” [But, what’s wrong

with a few “dramatic” changes?]  

tiny check TechShow Chair Jim Calloway is aware of these and similar issues.   Last October, 

A. Robertson, LPM, Sept. 2004).  So, I’m sure he’s tucked a few gems in the conference

Program, and that the ovesight has been mine, not his.  

The Legal Ethic’s Blog‘s Ben Cowgill has set up a LEB Techshow webpage he hopes will be “a

valuable resource about the intersection of legal ethics and legal technology, using TechShow as

a springboard.”   I don’t believe the intersection should take place solely at the “micro” level of

professional responsibility and legal ethics.  Beyond the level of mechanical rules, it should go

deeper to the level of first principles regarding the profession’s duties to its clients and society.  


Technology offers the chance to breathe life again into the listless cliche about putting the client’s  don't forget tack

interests first.   In the 21st Century, consumers want choice; they want to be active participants

in the design and implementation of the services they receive.  They want information that will

permit them to understand risks and tradeoffs when making purchasing decisions.   If the profession 

truly believes that lawyers are the agents and clients the principals, it must be actively seeking to

harness new and evolving technologies in the service of all clients (not merely those sophisticated

and powerful enough to demand their rights), and not merely in the service of profits, or in the

preservation of lawyer prerogatives. 


Technology can help lawyers better compete and innovate.  But, doing so ethically is not just a matter

of following the minute ethical rules of the road.  The ABA TechShow 2005 should be helping lawyers

comply with those rules of the road.  But it should also be acknowledging and advancing a broader

focus and commitment on doing what is best for the client  — on sharing the benefits of technology

with all who need legal services.

  • Let me know about any TechShow sessions and materials that serve these

    broader ethical issues.  I’d be pleased to find out that I’ve overlooked them.


“schoolBrooks” by Randy Brooks, from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999): 



up late with old friends . . .

my daughter and her blankie

out of the dark again





evening cool

only the widow’s muddied shoes

on the back porch





Easter lily

on the shut-in’s coffee table. . .

fingers over each petal





from dagosan 


her chocolate breath

mingles with mine —

easter sunset






hills behind

snow mist —

tailgater in the mirror



gas pump g  



our chilly hug —

ice encircles

the island


[March 28, 2005]


Powered by WordPress