Legal research should be hard, shouldn’t it?

by Jason Wilson on April 7, 2013

Last week I had the good fortune of being a guest of Thomson Reuters for the excellent Keynote speech given by the very entertaining David Pogue at ABA’s TechShow in Chicago. As I sat in the front row with several other fellow bloggers, the screens on either side of the dias showed videos of WestlawNext testimonials and, interestingly, a “WestlawNext iPad Video”. I think this video must have run twice in the time we waited for Pogue to be introduced, but anyway, here it is again:

I get the desire to sync up identities, to hitch your wagon to a compelling company like Apple, an organization that has changed human behavior in so many ways. But as I sat watching it, I couldn’t help but to feel sad that legal research was portrayed as being fun, light, easy, and all with just a few simple swipes and taps. Maybe I’m making more of it than I should, but I come from the days of law books, of pouring over facts, details and standards, of writing shit in yellow pads until your fingers hurt. It was stimulating work, but hard. We were also dealing with real people, with actual injuries whose lives were transformed by a single event. It isn’t the land of sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. When I watch a video like this, I can’t help but think that it’s no wonder the current generation of entering law students have such a perverted view of the legal practice. Tech is shiny! Tech is fun! Your job is simple!

To be fair, a few speakers at the conference mentioned that they enjoyed doing research with WestlawNext on their iPads. I can’t speak to their briefing or advocacy skills, but they were older and not paid for their endorsements, so take that for whatever it’s worth to you. Whatever you do though, please don’t ever let your associates think the practice of law is anything but difficult.

[Image (CC) by gwilmore]

{ 3 comments }

thegherkinkerfluffle April 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

The process in that video took 7 or 8 more steps to copy simple text than what most of us do now. The future of law is apparently doing the same stuff but also spending an extra half-hour of your day tapping shit with your finger.

jasnwilsn April 8, 2013 at 8:23 am

Ha, ha. Something I didn\’t really pay attention to, but true.

Susan April 24, 2013 at 9:13 am

What is disturbing is that the text the researcher copied is from the syllabus, which, if you read the text the asterisk by the word Syllabus sends you to: "The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337, 26 S.Ct. 282, 287, 50 L.Ed. 499. So if you are using the app, you don't even have to read the opinion itself.

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