Technology, and my life as a lawyer

Technology has taken over the practice of law, and therefore, my life. When I started practicing law we relied on carbon paper, IBM Selectric typewriters and mag cards.

Today, as long as I'm awake, technology is like my second brain – always on, always available and always providing information.

I commence each day by checking my BlackBerry for emails and voicemails that have come in overnight, either from clients that can't sleep or those that are in far-flung time zones.

And, shall I add, BlackBerries are not just BlackBerries anymore. When connected to the new digital phone on my desk, I can listen to my office voicemails without even dialing in, or call clients and friends and have it appear that I am actually sitting at my office desk. How great is this for sneaking out of the office for an afternoon? Yet more importantly, with all of its bells and whistles, BlackBerry has become an indispensible tool for attorneys. Such technology allows us to connect with our clients and be much more responsive than in the days prior to the advent of smart phones.

Aside from staying connected my work benefits from software that no one had dreamt of five years ago. We have a document management system that allows us to file and retrieve e-mails, documents and pleadings from our desktops – a tremendous time and cost saver for me and my clients, as well as a big step toward our firm's goal of going paperless by 2013.

Technology is also changing the way our firm approaches billing, with hourly rates becoming a thing of the past. After all, what other service do you pay for without knowing the end cost? Instead, we have turned to software programs to help us better align our interests with our clients' and bill using flat rates, budgets and other alternative methods that give both parties predictability as to the end costs and revenues. 

And like every other economic sector, the legal profession hasn't been immune to the impact of social media. In the next few months our firm will be launching a new website that utilizes blogs, podcasts and RSS feeds providing the latest information in a variety of areas of legal importance. We will also have a Miller Nash Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account accessible from our website.

When the world began going digital, security and the sheer volume of documents was a concern for the legal industry. At Miller Nash, we've solved these challenges by using secure FTP sites or online filing cabinets we call "document hubs" for our clients to store materials. Our digital filing cabinets are complimentary for our clients and allow information to flow seamlessly and securely between select parties while minimizing attorney and staff time.

As an attorney, technology is incorporated into everything that I do. From keeping track of my work to managing client information or communicating with my clients, technology saves overhead costs and time, and ultimately, it allows me to work faster and more cost effectively. Although we still use "snail mail" as needed – and for those clients who prefer it – we've adapted and enjoy working in an electronic world.

So before I leave you to return to my BlackBerry, I want to leave you with one word of caution: though technology has ramped up multitasking exponentially, it's important to remember that certain kinds of multitasking can be bad.

For one, never talk to your spouse and read emails at the same time.

Horenstein is a Vancouver-based business and real estate lawyer and the marketing partner for Miller Nash LLP. He can be reached at 360.699.4771 or