Episode 150 - Technology's Impact to the Practice of Law over the Decades
At episode 150, we felt like we needed to take a quick look back. Of course, Leh and Todd decided to look all the way about to the 90's and discuss the changes in technology that have occurred since then. The more they thought about it, the more they remembered. It is amazing just how many technological advances have occurred since 1990 and how those advances have changed the practice of law forever. By the time they finished the show, they realized that they had just scratched the surface of all the changes. Join us for a trip down memory lane.
Leh Meriwether: Todd, are you ready for some fun today?
Todd Orston: Leh, I never have fun. I don't know what you're talking about.
Leh Meriwether: I say we do something different today.
Todd Orston: We speaking another language? I wish you would sort of clue me in before we get started. How are we going to have some fun?
Leh Meriwether: We're not going to necessarily talk specifically about the law today.
Todd Orston: Wow. Once again, prior notice would have been fantastic. What are we going to talk about?
Leh Meriwether: Let's talk about, since this is our 150th episode or show we've recorded, let's get a little nostalgic. Let's go back in time.
Todd Orston: I swear to God, if Barry White starts singing right now, I am leaving.
Leh Meriwether: I was thinking more of a dial-up modem sound and "You've got mail."
Todd Orston: Oh, yeah. All right.
Leh Meriwether: That kind of going back in time.
Todd Orston: Got it. So, so you want to talk about technology?
Leh Meriwether: That's right. Hey, welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and from time to time even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. And today though, we're going to talk about technology in the law. We're going to deviate just a bit from family law, but just have fun today.
Todd Orston: Yeah, but let me also say this. To people who are listening, and let's say if there are any of you who are out there and you're listening thinking, "Well, you're not going to be teaching me today about a specific area of the law, alimony, child support, division of property." This is important especially if you are thinking about embarking on this kind of a case and working with an attorney. Because technology has changed so dramatically and it has had such a huge impact on the practice of law, especially in family law, that when you're choosing an attorney, a lot of your interview questions should relate to technology. How has that-
Leh Meriwether: Do you still use a typewriter?
Todd Orston: Is that an abacus on your desk? That's interesting. But technology has been embraced to some degree by every attorney, cell phones, computers, those are the obvious ones. But daily it seems, there are applications, there are programs that come out that all are designed to make us, as attorneys, more efficient in how we work for our clients and that can absolutely impact the cost that you pay. This show is actually important for everyone or rather anyone who might be going through this process.
Leh Meriwether: And we're going to talk about how technology in some ways has allowed you to save money when it comes to going through a divorce. In other ways, how it's actually made the divorce process more expensive. And now some of that's driven by the clients, and we'll explain to you what we mean by that from, thanks to technology, but we'll get into it. But we're going to start by going back in time. I'm going to go back to the 90s or well, maybe the 80s. I remember-
Todd Orston: 1720s.
Leh Meriwether: I'm that old?
Todd Orston: If I'm picking... No? All right. Well, I'm going to go those wigs and all of that anyway, whatever. I could rock one of those white wigs, I'm just saying.
Leh Meriwether: I started working at a law firm in the very early 1990s. When I was getting ready to go to law school, before I went to law school, I went to work for a law firm to make sure that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to go in the area of law. And I remember going in there and there still being typewriters there. Now, in the early 90s, word processors were just starting, and so they had word processors and they had these giant keyboards with these huge computer monitors, but a tiny screen.
It was like green and black. It wasn't even black and white, it was green and black. And they would work on them and I think all the systems were in DOS. I don't remember anything at this first law firm being in Windows, but there was forms that the courts all used that you had to still type so like summons, forums and all these things. You had to type on them. And I remember typing with a manual typewriter like ka-cha, ka-cha, ka-cha, kind of made that noise.
Todd Orston: You're clearly a very slow typist.
Leh Meriwether: Oh yeah. The secretary's-
Todd Orston: Nine hours later, you have a one-page document. Great.
Leh Meriwether: I was terrible with a typewriter.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Do you remember when the manual typewriter was replaced with the electric typewriter?
Leh Meriwether: I do. As crazy as that is.
Todd Orston: And when that the whiteout function on the Smith Corona... I remember I got to use my mom's electric typewriter and she showed me how they had the whiteout function on the typewriter, where you didn't have to then take the little white strips and retype the words and it would erase it. It did it automatically. It was like dark magic. It was amazing. Yeah, I mean, I'm so glad those days are over, but I was very excited at the time.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I liked using the whiteout. It was just the white stuff. You just-
Todd Orston: Yes, we know what whiteout is, all right.
Leh Meriwether: Some people don't. I don't think some people do. But no, I do remember switching from a manual typewriter that always... Part of the reason I was going ka-cha, ka-cha because I would always hit two buttons at the same time and the numbers would get stuck or the letters would get stuck.
Todd Orston: That's a personal problem.
Leh Meriwether: But then we switched to electric typewriters and it was so much nicer.
Todd Orston: Yeah. We are not hearkening back to the day of typewriters. We are not trying to say typewriters should come back and replace computers, but the point is that when you think about the changes in technology. I mean going from typewriters to computers, from a typewriter to a word processor to... Because I remember when I started college, I had this Mac Daddy, it was great. It was a built-in screen with, with a built-in a printer and it was-
Leh Meriwether: A built-in printer?
Todd Orston: Oh, it had a 3.5 inch floppy disc drive. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh, I can't tell you how many ladies I met at the bar saying, "Come take a look at my word processing... " But no, I'm kidding. All right. No. But it was great. But then you think about even that-
Leh Meriwether: I keep thinking of the movie Revenge of the Nerds.
Todd Orston: Right. I was more excited than I should've been, but it was a great word processor. Thanks Mom and Dad. But then you think about today. Look, you think about the computing power. I mean, I've heard people say that the computing power of NASA computers when they sent someone to the moon, one of our laptops is far more powerful than what they had.
Leh Meriwether: The first smartphone was more powerful than what they had.
Todd Orston: Right. You think about that and then you think about how attorneys have then adopted this technology. Think about how they had pools of typists creating a document.
Leh Meriwether: Right. Let's talk about that real quick. It used to be, you would have lawyers, they wouldn't type, but they would dictate so there was-
Todd Orston: Dictaphones.
Leh Meriwether: Dictaphones. First, it was the big cassettes, but then they got the microcassettes. Ooh, I could have four cassettes take up the same space as one big one.
Todd Orston: We created records actually. It's 12-inch.
Leh Meriwether: They would dictate out the letters and then they would give the dictation to their secretaries or paralegals, and then they would go in and type them up, and then they would print it up, and then the lawyer would read it in hand mark changes, and then give it back to the paralegal. And so a letter could take you three, four hours.
Todd Orston: Yeah. As opposed to now, that same letter might take you 25 minutes. Are you chewing in the microphone? I can't take you anywhere, I swear.
Leh Meriwether: Sorry.
Todd Orston: No. But now, it could take 25 minutes to do that same letter.
Leh Meriwether: Right. Now it's an email. You don't even need any paper.
Todd Orston: Again, going back to what I was saying before, where it's important to know how comfortable your attorney is with technology. Granted, I'm not anticipating that the attorney you're using still uses a typewriter, but still, there are some that are very comfortable with technology and some who just aren't, and that can absolutely result in higher costs.
Leh Meriwether: I remember were the original word processors that did not have formatting functions, that did not have auto-correct functions. They did not have spell check. They didn't have indexes and they definitely didn't have auto text, which I actually-
Todd Orston: Don't even get me started on that. I swear, I went a couple of months one time and I was sending out messages. And I think I asked about 12 different people to take a bath with me. very time I said, "Hey, can we speak tomorrow?" Instead of speak, it would change it to soak. And so I kept saying to clients and opposing counsel, it's like, "Listen, I think we should get together and soak." I had a few people just be like, "I'd rather just talk on the phone. But if we're going to get this case done, if you need a bath, I guess we're taking a bath."
Leh Meriwether: Oh, my gosh.
Todd Orston: And by the way, I did not bathe with any of them. Yeah, just in case the bar is listening.
Leh Meriwether: Oh my.
Todd Orston: But technology like that, it continues to evolve and you're right, a lot of things aren't even sent by letter anymore. It could just be a formal email, which could take minutes, rather than 25 minutes rather than three hours. It could take minutes to send that same communication.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I once wrote, "Hey, I'll be there in a sec," like for a second, and it said, "I'll be there for sex." That's how it changed it. I immediately was like, "No! Second, second. I mean second."
Todd Orston: Your phone has a problem. Mine was at least clean or wanted me to be cleaned.
Leh Meriwether: Hey, up next we're going to talk about how the fax machine changed the practice of law. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Talking about all the changes to technology, just things are just flooding back. All of these things that we used to think were absolutely amazing.
Todd Orston: Like my Commodore 64. The bomb! [inaudible 00:11:40]
Leh Meriwether: I had a TRS-80.
Todd Orston: Are you kidding me? Get out of here with that. The computing power in the 64 far greater, and the gaming. Bard's Tale, are you kidding me? It was incredible.
Leh Meriwether: Hey, welcome everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are on, you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. Normally on this show you're going to hear us talk about divorce and family law, but today we're actually talking about... This is our 150th show that we've done. We've been doing it for the last few years and we just wanted to sort of go back in time and think about how technology has... We've seen it change the practice of law. If you're listening to this saying, "Well, what does this have to do with me needing a lawyer?" There's actually some tidbits in there because there are some lawyers that kind of resistant to change. And if you are the type of person that loves to communicate electronically and your lawyer may not be, that can create some communication issues in your relationship.
But where I left off the last time we talk about fax machines, which you pretty much don't see today. But I remember when the first fax machine got installed into an office and everybody's like, "Wow, we can send a letter instantaneously. We don't have to wait a couple days for it to go in the mail and the other person to read it. It just goes right away." At first, it was on thermal paper. Do you remember that?
Todd Orston: Yeah. You know what was really fun when you would get a call from opposing counsel and they would say, "I have 427 documents that I'm going to fax over," and four hours later it's still like, "Uvv-vvv-vvv-vvv. Okay we're on document number nine. Ah, that's fantastic."
Leh Meriwether: And you've run out of thermal paper.
Todd Orston: Yeah, yeah, but we were still excited. "Wait, you mean all I have to do is sit by this machine for 14 hours as opposed to driving 10 minutes and picking it up? Oh, it's a miracle."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. But people would do that.
Todd Orston: But people would do that. Absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: And then I remember when the fax machine developed the, you didn't have to use thermal paper anymore. You could use regular paper. I was like, "Woo, that's cool."
Todd Orston: Yeah. But nowadays, obviously, scanning and, I mean, scanning, just think about how amazing that is, especially not just in transferring documents to other parties because we'll, what we do is we open up like a ShareFile and so our clients can upload-
Leh Meriwether: That's the name of the service. Yeah.
Todd Orston: Yeah. It's basically a secure repository for digital files, and then we can have our clients forward those documents to us. We can make documents available to opposing counsel. It is so incredibly convenient. And for firms, and we're going to get into this later, that have higher end, let's just say, document management systems in place, then everything is digitized. So it's amazing. Now with scanners, you have the ability to... You don't need a fax machine. Everything gets basically put into the system and we have clients that will call, and they'll be like, "Hey, you know that document that was filed like six months ago?" Hey, can you go ahead and..." "Oh, yeah." Two button pushes and they have the document.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, it's absolutely amazing. I still remember the first copier I had to work in that law firm. There was no collator, and you had to copy it one page at a time.
Todd Orston: Oh, yeah.
Leh Meriwether: So when we had discovery where people would turn over documents and you got a stack of 500 pages, I had to stand at that machine, ver-rr-rr-
Todd Orston: That's when you discovered you hate the practice of law.
Leh Meriwether: Ver-rr. Well, thankfully, shortly thereafter they installed one of those things that held like 20 pages at a time and we go-
Todd Orston: Oh, wow.
Leh Meriwether: It would go voop, voomp.
Todd Orston: Your sound effects today are fantastic. I swear I think you should... hold, Andrew, can he get a job with the station? I mean, I think you should do all the sound effects for all the shows.
Leh Meriwether: Oh gosh.
Todd Orston: And by the way, I never worked on a machine that went voop, voop, voop. I have no idea what you're talking about.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, I remember it.
Todd Orston: All right, voo, voop.
Leh Meriwether: Voop, voop. Well, now it's like jong, jung, shong, shong, shoon, shoon.
Todd Orston: Oh, see, there you go. It's impressive, impressively bad, but it's impressive nonetheless.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I mean, the collate machines now can suck in like 50 pages a minute.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: Before it was like five pages a minute.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, those types of things all, granted, copy machines are now old school. So when we're talking about attorneys or some people being reluctant to adopt technology, I'm pretty sure most attorneys are okay with the whole concept of a copy machine. But there's so much out there. There are so many different types of technology, and the way technology, obviously, how the advances, how fast they're coming at us. I mean, it's absolutely amazing. Like I was talking about with document management and copying, I mean now it's not... We don't copy everything. At this point, we scan it, and within minutes we could have... we've gotten boxes or... Good Lord, one time I had like 23 boxes delivered to me, banker boxes, I mean. And even that, within four hours everything was scanned in, and our people-
Leh Meriwether: All the way.
Todd Orston: And our people were trained. They knew how to scan it, how to then put it into and label the files, and that kind of ability to deal with massive loads of documentation as efficiently as we're talking about. That same 23 box situation, I mean that would've been probably a week of two or three staff people, staff members sifting through-
Leh Meriwether: And that's after the first three quit.
Todd Orston: ... everything just to organize... right, exactly, just to organize it so that the attorney can then jump in and make sense of everything that's been delivered. And now within three hours, four hours, that same amount of data is digestible by the attorney.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So these machines we have now, they copy, they fax, they scan-
Todd Orston: They make eggs. It's amazing.
Leh Meriwether: Mine doesn't make eggs, but I remember-
Todd Orston: How cool that'd be though, especially if you have a big job and you're like, "Listen-
Leh Meriwether: Well, maybe toast.
Todd Orston: ... I need four color copies and an omelet."
Leh Meriwether: That's for Episode, what, 300 [crosstalk 00:18:32]-
Todd Orston: And by the way, if any of you copy machine companies are listening, I have copyrighted that. And so, do not steal my omelet making copy machine idea.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, I remember having the, remember those dot matrix computer printers.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I do. Just promise me you're not going to make any sounds.
Leh Meriwether: I can't promise anything.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Dot matrix. Are you kidding me?
Leh Meriwether: Sz-tzzz.
Todd Orston: Oh, see. Dot matrix, when I was in college, that's all we had.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Dot matrix, and-
Leh Meriwether: Did you have the wheel that [crosstalk 00:19:13]-
Todd Orston: Yeah! Of course.
Leh Meriwether: ... the paper on the side you had to tear off?
Todd Orston: You have to tear the whatever you call the, right. Exactly-
Leh Meriwether: Perforated paper.
Todd Orston: That kept it on the track.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Oh, and how much fun when it went off the track.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, that was so annoying.
Todd Orston: Oh, yeah.
Leh Meriwether: You had to start printing all over again too. You couldn't like print on page two.
Todd Orston: Yeah, and now what are we talking about? We have laser printers, dot matrix... or not dot matrix. Inkjet-
Leh Meriwether: Then it went to inkjet. Yeah.
Todd Orston: I'll be honest with you. If it were up to me, it would still be like chalk cartoons on cave walls. I have no idea what, how they invented that. I mean that's like some Jackson Pollock, but they can spit the words onto the paper and it looks like letters. I don't get it.
Leh Meriwether: And in color too.
Todd Orston: And in color. Yeah I-
Leh Meriwether: And pictures.
Todd Orston: I don't buy it. I think it's a fad. I mean it's like break dancing. It'll be gone soon.
Leh Meriwether: But in some ways it is a fad because I thought, I read earlier that Xerox is looking at merging with HP because people don't print these things as much anymore.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: I mean with the new, for instance an iPad, when it came out with the iPad Pro with the pencil. Now you can just write on the iPad itself.
Todd Orston: I'm sure the trees are rejoicing.
Leh Meriwether: But there was a point though apparently, where people were printing all their emails. So even though people were using emails, the paper usage actually went up for a period of time because people were printing all those emails.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And now if someone transferred to us, what would be the equivalent of five, six banker boxes of documents. We know better. We know not to print all of those documents out. We don't need to print out all those documents. To go to trial, we may need 50 documents out of 500 or a thousand or whatever the case is. In the past, everything was printed, everything was sitting in banker boxes and getting them to and from court, tons of fun. When you're walking in-
Leh Meriwether: Especially in the rain.
Todd Orston: Oh yeah. But with box after box after box and getting them to the courtroom. But that's not necessary, especially since everything's digitized. And we could be in court, have the documents we know we need as exhibits and then we also have documents that are on, let's say an iPad or a computer and we can pull those up whenever we need them.
Leh Meriwether: I've only done it once, but that was partly because the courtroom was set up for it. But I tried the whole case with an iPad.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: You could share digitally all the exhibits, and so they showed up on the screen.
Todd Orston: And the court and the judge gets it and can see it on their little screen and also on the big... yeah, absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So it's come a long way and boy, it's a lot nicer to carry an iPad to court than 10 banker's boxes. And up next we're going to continue to talk about how technology has changed the practice of law.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it. If you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show. You know Todd, we've been talking about the scanning and the emailing and how easy it is for us to send 400 documents with a click of a button, but you couldn't do that even 15 years ago.
Todd Orston: Oh yeah.
Leh Meriwether: I mean, it is amazing how many little things that made such a huge difference and the practice of law. Hey everyone, this is Leh Meriwether with me is Todd Orson. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. And you are listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. And normally we're talking about the law and divorce and family law, but today we're taking a walk down memory lane and just thinking about all the ways that technology has changed the practice of law and-
Todd Orston: And continues to change it.
Leh Meriwether: And continues to change it. How we try to do our best to embrace all those changes so we can best serve our clients. But we're having a little fun with it too because we were talking about... well just I remember the, "You've got mail," the dial up and I still remember the sound of the dialing up and the getting online and you could send an email and you'd be like, "Oh, I got email." Now it's like, "Oh I got email." God. Especially when I go on vacation and come back, there's a thousand emails in my inbox.
Todd Orston: And then I'm flying to Seattle or from Seattle, New York to meet someone that... no, I'm kidding. That's it. You know how many unnecessary trips I took to New York? I mean, it was amazing. Sorry. That was a really bad... anyway. All right, every one can't be a gem. But you're right. In terms of communication. Communication, and it obviously continues to evolve. It has changed so dramatically. The norm of course, used to be, at some point, you want to talk to your lawyer, for the most part, go schedule a meeting. You're going to go to the office, you're going to meet with the attorney. Obviously phones, that becomes the second best method of communication.
Leh Meriwether: Right, and for a long time, if the lawyer was out and about, you had to call the office. And if he wasn't there or she wasn't there, you had to make an appointment or leave a message. And it wasn't even like a digital, you left a message with a secretary. There wasn't even voicemail. I remember when there was no voicemail.
Todd Orston: Yeah. So, when we talk about these types of things, I want people to understand, we will tell our clients all the time that you can call us whenever you want. If you want to schedule a time to meet with your attorney, come on in. It is not the most efficient use of time. It is not the most efficient method of communication. There are going to be times where an a face to face meeting is absolutely necessary. There are going to be times when a phone call is appropriate, but many questions can be answered by email.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: And so you need to get a feel for, again, the attorney that you're with. Because even today there are attorneys who are just more comfortable with that face to face or more comfortable with a phone call. You'll email them with questions, they'll be like, "Why don't I just call you?" All right, that's fine. And that may be what you need to do. But remember, a phone call is usually not the most efficient way of communicating.
A phone call to answer, let's say you have 10 questions. What I find is that, you come in for a meeting, it's going to be an hour or more. You do a phone call, it's going to be a half hour to 40 minutes. An email where you can very cleanly and in an organized way, just write out your questions and say, "Hey, can you just answer these questions for me?" All right. It took you the time to write it and it might take the attorney 10 minutes to give you a response.
Leh Meriwether: Really. I think that depends on the complexity of the questions.
Todd Orston: You're 100% right. Because I've had to write emails that are three pages long.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: But usually that's when I will say, I think it's going to be easier if I pick up the phone.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: Can we schedule either a time to meet or-
Leh Meriwether: That's usually my email response back is, "Your questions require me to ask you more questions."
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: So let's schedule a time to talk.
Todd Orston: But I'm not talking about those situations. A lot of times the questions are basic questions that can be answered fairly quickly. If it's a strategy issue, then of course you might need the phone call or the meeting.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: But the point is, you want somebody who embraces the basic technologies like email as a form of communication.
Leh Meriwether: And the other advantages, maybe you're busy during the day at work, but in the evenings you can type a quick email and send it. And when the lawyer gets to the office the next morning, it's there for him or her to read and respond to you. So that's the other nice thing where most voicemails cut off after about two minutes. So you may not be able to leave a long detailed question or you have a, here's the background, here's my question, what do you think? You can't do that in the voicemail. But you can do that in email, that you can type after hours and have the lawyer there to read it the next day. Or maybe they're tied up in court or something like that. So that's the advantage of email. And it doesn't cost you anything because you don't have to use a stamp for mail. You don't have to drive to the office. And-
Todd Orston: Really? I put a stamp on every email that I...
Leh Meriwether: Are you serious? No wonder our postage expenses are so expensive at your office.
Todd Orston: Things I wish I knew.
Leh Meriwether: Oh my.
Todd Orston: Yeah. So let's talk, for something that's actually to me it's so important to me because I've been on both sides. The way that an office is organized and the way that an office organizes its information. I was talking a little bit before, but document management. A lot of firms, their document management is the banker box.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: All right? But I can tell you right now, in the past, when I was a solo practitioner, before I joined Meriwether & Tharp, if somebody needed something then either myself, somebody on my staff would be like, "Okay, let me go into the box," and granted, they were organized and they would pull out that document and they would fax it over or whatever the case might be. That's a lot of time and effort. There are programs out there, like the one that we use, where people will call, and they do it all the time, they'll say, "Hey, can you send me..." whatever it might be.
Leh Meriwether: I've lost this document.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And within seconds we can have it in their hands. It makes you happier as a client. You know that the information is organized, protected, safe, and you can get your hands on it. And instead of you paying 15, 20, 30 minutes for someone on the attorney staff to do that for you. You may not even be getting charged or if you are, it's minutes.
Leh Meriwether: And I think that that's a huge evolution to software evolution. Well, and hardware too, because going back to when you mentioned, you had the 3 1/2" floppy. I remember the 5 1/4" floppy too.
Todd Orston: Oh yeah.
Leh Meriwether: But now that we have so much-
Todd Orston: Well that was the true floppy the 3.5 was rigid. Why they still called it a floppy? I still object. Don't get me... That's another show. That's next week's show. Why 3.5 was... Nevermind. All right, anyway. Sorry. I'm just angry.
Leh Meriwether: So we have, now you have hard drives that are terabytes rather than just megabytes.
Todd Orston: Right.
Leh Meriwether: And now we can actually store all that stuff digitally. And they didn't really have, the software was prohibitively expensive for solo practitioners to store all that stuff on a hard-
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: The hardware and the software to keep all that stuff stored and managed was incredibly expensive. Today, with the cloud services, I think that has opened up a whole new door for a solo practitioner. A solo practitioner means you're the only lawyer in the office. You may have a bunch of support staff, but you're the only lawyer. And many small firms, being able to use the cloud and cloud services has dramatically changed the game.
Todd Orston: Yeah, and you want your attorney and staff to be as efficient as possible. And I'm not saying that because we have embraced as a firm, technology, as we have, that we are somehow better, or better prepared or better capable than someone who let's say has not. I can only tell you that having come from a world of... I was a solo and for many years it was cost prohibitive. My abilities now to communicate with clients and provide them with the data that they need in a very efficient way, it is night and day different than where I was as a solo, struggling to basically manage cases and represent clients.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. The other thing that reminds... Oh, so I saw a survey actually from Family Lawyer Magazine, I think it's their most recent edition. And I was stunned to see that something like 46%, I don't have the study in front of me, I'm just going from memory, but 46% of the people that responded to their survey still do not have an online or digital service that even tracks their time. We have a cloud based system that tracks our time. When we work on something, a timer pops up and we log in what we worked on and we give a description of it and then save it to the file. And then from there, that actually generates a PDF that gets emailed to the client twice a month. But 46% of lawyers out there-
Todd Orston: It doesn't surprise me. Do you know how many times people call me and I explain how we every two weeks will send out a statement detailing the work that we're doing for you, how many people will call me and say, "Well, I'm represented right now." And I'll be like, "Okay, well how often would you get billing, would you get statements?" "No, I've been working with that person for six months and I've never gotten anything."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that's true. I carry those two. It still surprises me because we've been using at Meriwether & Tharp on the online, we've had case management software since 1999 and it's gotten, it's evolving, and in some parts it's getting more expensive, other parts it's getting less expensive. But up next we're going to talk about other changes to the practice of law that we've seen because of technology. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft. You know I've seen War Games. I think you just, I think you just accessed... Would you like to play a game?
Leh Meriwether: Oh, I just had to play that just to bring back memories.
Todd Orston: Oh yeah, yeah. And actually that recording went on a little bit longer and that's usually when I'd be cursing at someone. But it was taking too long to-
Leh Meriwether: Too long to dial in?
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: Hey everyone, welcome back. This is Leh and Todd and you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. And today we've been talking about changes in technology and how that's impacted the law. And we've even mentioned things about what to look for in your attorney. Like if he still uses a stone tablet that maybe you want to find another attorney. Look for someone who maybe uses email or something like that. But no, we've been having fun because this is our 150th show and we're just having fun kind of going back in time, thinking about when we first started practicing law and all the challenges that we had back then.
In the last segment we talked about a surprising survey that I saw the results from of how many lawyers are not taking advantage of technology. I mean sure they're using email because the courts now require it because I believe in the state of Georgia and federal courts in Florida, most courts around the country are requiring everything to be filed digitally. There's no more paper being filed with the courts. Even orders, proposed orders that are being sent to judges are being sent either as a PDF or as a word document that will allow the judge to manipulate or change it or rewrite it as he or she sees fit. But what a change.
Todd Orston: Oh yeah. And by the way, I just want to make sure that I'm clear, I'm not saying that if you are speaking with or working with an attorney that has not fully embraced technology, that that is a bad choice. There are many attorneys who have been doing this for years-
Leh Meriwether: I thought that's what you said.
Todd Orston: No, no, it's just working with you might be... Anyway. No, no, but what I'm saying is it can be less efficient, But there are many attorneys who've been doing this for many years and they do a great job for their clients. So I'm not saying that they are not good attorneys. I am saying, technology, if you are working with an attorney, I believe, who has embraced technology, technology can make things, the work that we do, we can do it much more efficiently. And so that's not to say 100% of the time somebody who has not embraced it can't work efficiently. That's just me saying I've seen it. I've experienced it personally. And-
Leh Meriwether: I think on the flip side, I've seen folks that, like clients that have not embraced technology that on our, has actually made it more difficult on our end-
Todd Orston: Oh absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: ... because we have. And so a scanning of documents, like there's some clients that don't want things sent by email. We've got to mail everything to them. And we still have postage machines and everything, but we don't use mail that much. It's interesting. They'd rather come into the office and talk. They'd rather come into the office to pick up documents rather than us just simply email them to you. So if your preference is more, I'll just say, more traditional, then keep that in mind when you're working with an attorney and ask them how they bill, how do they send out their bills? Because again, I was shocked. I can't imagine spending the time to hand-write down the time I spent on a file and then later on re-type it up into an Excel spreadsheet or something and then email that out. That's just too much work.
Todd Orston: Well listen, you just touched on something. Excel, some of the programs that we now take for granted, Excel, PowerPoint, so much of what we do is based on the formulas that we utilize in programs like Excel, like our marital balance sheets. And we have them set up in a way that makes it an incredibly simple but powerful tool for people going through a divorce when you're dealing with asset division and those issues. And there are attorneys out there that, they just don't use those tools. And how many times have we been able to let's just say, make a good, strong winning argument in court because we had the better data? Or we've been able to counter arguments being made because we could very quickly with the use of tools, like an Excel spreadsheet, we can show what they're saying is not accurate and [crosstalk 00:38:47].
Leh Meriwether: And I think my favorite example was, I was in the middle of a trial. The other side was claiming that he had to borrow all this money. And so all these loans, he'll pay them off, but that means he shouldn't give her as much out of the house. Well, they were all based on his alleged expenses. So I literally put all of his expenses on the computer, plugged the computer into the monitor that was on the wall that the judge could see, and we went through all the expenses. And he had doubled, he had listed several of the expenses two and three times on different points on his financial affidavit. So I said, "This looks like it's a duplicate." "Oh yeah that's a duplicate." "So I can delete this?" "Yeah, you can delete this." And so when we finished his cross examination, he had an extra 2 or $3,000 leftover every month. He claimed he was seven grand in the hole or something like that. But I mean, so there was a a $9,000 swing, that I was able to use technology and illustrate very simply to the court.
Todd Orston: And if you don't utilize tools to organize thoughts and organize data, like an Excel spreadsheet, all right? We don't use as often in court, PowerPoint-
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: I just went and I just went to a... And heard somebody speak, I went to a seminar, and that attorney, now granted doesn't practice in family law, but he was talking about the the power of PowerPoint and how if you are, as an attorney, not utilizing PowerPoint... We utilize it all the time in our internal seminars and things like that. It is obviously incredibly powerful, but in court absolutely it is something that can be used. If you can go into court and you are organized, you understand the data, you understand the evidence that you need, and you can throw it up onto a screen so a judge can watch all of the data being just spoonfed. It's incredibly powerful.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I think it really is case dependent, because I used to use it when I did cases outside of family law. I used it a lot more than I do in family law cases, just because the nature of the type of case. But I did want to spend a few minutes before, because we're almost out of time... I wanted to touch on smartphones and how that's changed the practice of law. But also I'd mentioned at the very beginning of the show that, while we've talked about the things that have made us so much more efficient, where we've been able to produce documents a lot quicker and rather than it taking hours to produce something, we can boil it down to 45 minutes or an hour.
But on the flip side there's a dark side to this technology. Emails. We just talked about how convenient it is, but at the same time that very convenience can drastically drive up a bill. We want to help our clients as much as possible, but we've seen cases where the client will email two, three, four times a day, and we try to do our best to answer those questions efficiently. But because it's so easy to ask all the questions, that sometimes those questions get answered on their own, just as the case goes along, that we answer them, and the next thing you know, the bill is three, four, $5,000 after just three weeks because there's been so much communication. So that convenience has a dark side if you don't pay attention.
Todd Orston: Yeah, you have to learn how to use it. Not just, "Has my attorney embraced a certain technology?" But you need to know how to use it. We always tell people, if you have 10 questions, it is much more cost effective if you send one email with 10 questions as opposed to 10 emails, each with one question.
Leh Meriwether: But I think that's where the smart phone comes in. I mentioned that because you used to have to be on your computer. We used to have to use the mail to the post office to mail things, and then that process of sending out written communication got shortened dramatically with the invention of email, electronic mail. But you still had to be sitting at a desk on a computer to type up that email. Now you can be on your smart phone at lunch one day and just whip out your phone, type a quick email and fire it off. And then maybe you're sitting in traffic. Now you're not supposed to do this, because it's illegal in Georgia, but I see people all the time still doing it. Sitting at a red light, typing an email on their phone and firing it off. That convenience of a smartphone, being able to email from any location at any time, as long as you have a signal, can drive up costs.
Todd Orston: As we are heading towards the end of the segment and the end of the show, let's talk about... I just want to talk very briefly about some of the very exciting things that we are seeing, and we actually have a show coming up in December where we're going to be talking about how one individual, one person, has been able to get artificial intelligence to assist in mediating and resolving cases, where they can analyze the facts and then help parties get to a a resolution, which is absolutely mind blowing.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I can't wait to... I know you already have a lot of questions for him. I've got questions for him. I can't wait to have him come on and talk about the program that he is part of. I don't know if he was the person who wrote the program or drove the program. I actually know he's a licensed mediator, so he has taken his knowledge of technology and applied it to alternative dispute resolution to try to create something to help people get through this process and save a lot of money on attorneys, is what it sounds like. Ad shorten the process dramatically. That is going to be fascinating. And you know what, I still have a whole 'nother page of-
Todd Orston: You need technology to give us more time, actually.
Leh Meriwether: That's one thing it can't do. Thanks so much for listening everyone.