DBTC Law Firm

Practicing law has changed radically since the “good old days”

A retrospective compiled from our current staff and attorneys shows just how much things have changed. Our firm’s senior partner started practicing 55 years ago, but even our junior-most associate has seen big changes in the last two years.  Remember rotary dial telephones, onion skin carbon copies, pink slip telephone messages and ashtrays in every office? Read on for this review of “Oh my, how things have changed in the law practice!”

Docket Calls. Not so long ago, lawyers had to attend “docket call” in order to obtain a trial date or a hearing on a motion. Every circuit judge – and every chancery judge, too, before circuit and chancery courts merged – called his docket on a specified date each month or quarter. All lawyers with a pending case were required to attend in person in order to request a trial date or to advise the court of the status of the case. While lawyers complained that attendance at docket calls took precious time away from their offices, these mandated appearances actually fostered a sense of collegiality among members of the bar and often resulted in settlement of disputes.

Electronic filing and online access to court records. The federal courts, including bankruptcy courts, were the first to require all pleadings and other documents in a case to be filed electronically, rather than in paper form. Now, our state courts are beginning to follow suit. All Pulaski County Circuit Court case filings must now be made electronically. Washington and Benton Counties are not yet set up for electronic filings but it is only a matter of time before they, too, are on board. And, although all filings are not yet made electronically, court records in most Arkansas counties are accessible online.

Social media. Social media has changed the face of litigation. Its impact in domestic relations and juvenile cases, in particular, has been huge. Parties and witnesses will have been fully vetted by opposing counsel through searches of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and embarrassing and incriminating posts may well come back to haunt them. In Donley v. Donley, 2015 Ark. App. 496, the Arkansas Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting into evidence screenshots of Facebook comments and photos. Undoubtedly, new rules of civil procedure and evidence will eventually be implemented to govern the discoverability and admissibility of various forms of social media.

Technology. Nothing has caused the practice of law to change more profoundly than advances in technology. Communication by email, instead of “snail mail”, is now the default means of communicating with clients, other lawyers, and court personnel alike. Facetime and Skype often make in-person meetings with clients and witnesses unnecessary. Video depositions and attendance at depositions by video conferencing are commonplace. Discovery responses are now provided in digital formats – DVDs and flash drives – instead of on paper. And, of course, word processors have made those old memory typewriters and floppy disks obsolete!

Alternate dispute resolution. Mediation and arbitration are being utilized more and more often as a less expensive and less time-consuming method of resolving disputes. Only in recent years have certified mediators been available to assist parties in resolving cases. Arkansas courts have embraced the concept and many judges now require the parties to attempt mediation before going to trial.

Dress code. Even styles of dress have changed over the years! In the “old days”, lawyers routinely wore suits to work, whether they were due in court that day or not. When “casual Fridays” became popular, many lawyers followed the trend and dressed down on Fridays. Now, attorneys in many offices are as likely to wear jeans on a Monday as on a Friday – as long as they are not in court!

Although much about the practice of law has changed since the “good old days”, much also remains the same. As we adapt to the fast changing world around us, the Davis Law Firm continues to strive to provide the extraordinarily high quality of legal services which our clients deserve. We still abide by the ethical rules and principles which have long governed our profession. And, as always, our loyal clients remain our singular focus.

 

 

 

 

 

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