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One Lawyer's '30-Year Retrospective' on Changes in the Practice of Law

Via the Legal Writing Prof Blog I came upon an interesting column in the March 2011 Los Angeles Lawyer entitled, "The Lawyer’s Toolkit: A 30-Year Retrospective." In the column, J. Scott Bovitz, Loyola Law School class of 1980, reflects on how the practice of law has changed over 30 years. He concludes that the job description of transactional or litigation attorneys really has not changed much, but the tools and procedures lawyers use have changed dramatically.

Here are some of Bovitz's observations of what has changed in his three decades of practice:

1980: Lawyers started their days with "stale black coffee and a donut."
2011: Lawyers start their day with an “extra hot, skinny, no whip, Americano” and an organic muffin. [And, I might add, their "office" might actually be the coffee shop serving their breakfast.]

1980: The average ratio was one law firm partner and one associate to one secretary.
2011: The average ratio is about five lawyers to one professional assistant.

1980: Document preparation began on a yellow pad, followed by dictation to a secretary, who wrote in shorthand and then attempted to transfer these words to a typewriter without error correction.
2011: Document preparation is done by lawyers typing their own drafts directly into word processing programs, or in the case of "true lawyer-geeks," by "dictat[ing] directly into the computer while the software types along."

1980: Court filings were blue-backed and carried by messengers.
2011: Most federal pleadings are filed online. 

1980: Top lawyers charged $60 an hour.
2011: Top lawyers charge $1,000 an hour, or more.

For all of Bovitz's observations on the changes he has witnessed since 1980, read the full article here.

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 25, 2011 at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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