Bruce Coode was asked to welcome the new members of the local Nepean Hawkesbury Law Society at a function last week, and also to give a short speech. He spoke about the changes that have occurred in the legal profession since he was admitted in 1977.
When I was your age ...
Most of you can probably think of some of the modern conveniences that didn't exist in 1977, like video conferencing, the ability to appear at Court by audio visual link or telephone, dictation software that converts your words to type or social media. In fact, no internet at all, no email, no search engines like Google, no legislation available online at all. There were no scanners, because what would you do with a scanned document?
Some of it has already gone
Some technology has already gone. In the last forty years the fax machine was new, and then essential to the practice of law, and now many firms don't actually have a fax machine anymore. We have a fax machine and honestly we mostly receive junk mail on it (yes, junk mail by fax is a thing).
Most practitioners no longer use physical books or loose leaf services for their research, or at least that is what the sellers of software would have you believe.
Less obvious changes
There were no mobile phones, a solicitor went to court with silver coins in their pocket and then lined up at the pay phone during the lunch break to call the office or their client.
There were no computers at all, in fact not every firm had a typewriter. Word processors were introduced in between typewriters and computers, which were essentially typewriters with the ability to store in memory some limited (very limited) information to recreate forms and precedents. You could also cut and paste.
There was a heavy reliance on pre-printed forms that were filled out by typewriter or by hand, and there were very few dictaphones. A solicitor either hand wrote a letter, or the secretary sat and took short hand while the solicitor dictated.
Where will we be in forty years?
This raises the question, where will be be in forty years? How will the solicitors admitted today be practicing law as they approach retirement? What technology will come and completely disappear in that time, will social media be replaced by something, will email be replaced by something? And how do we train people in a profession knowing how fundamentally the practice might change in their career?