New territory for the law firm – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, ND • John Oelke, associate attorney at the German law firm in Grand Forks, says the practice of law is changing — and the change isn’t over yet.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed work and the office in a big way, and that same change has happened in legal practices across the upper Midwest. Oelke points out that because German law handles estate planning, it’s much easier to work with clients in the Red River Valley when they can just hop on Zoom instead of asking clients for a longer drive. to get to the office.

“In North Dakota, it can be very difficult to travel to a major city, Grand Forks, Fargo or Bismarck, to meet with an estate planning attorney,” Oelke said. “It’s made it easier for us to communicate with customers on initial consultations, where they can do it from home and save the trip, save the 90 mile drive or whatever it is to drive from Cavalier to Grand Forks.”

It’s not yet a competitive necessity, Oelke said. But it will soon be, as offices are forced to keep up with the changing times to maintain a steady flow of clients.

It’s not just COVID that has changed the way lawyers work – it’s a tidal shift that has unfolded over the years. Today’s lawyers – and especially tomorrow’s lawyers – have much more than Zoom at their fingertips. Major advances in data processing programs and other legal software are changing the way the legal profession approaches research and writing and promises a faster and easier way to work.

Tammy Pettinato Oltz is Assistant Dean of Law Library and Information Services at the University of North Dakota School of Law, where she is also an assistant professor. She teaches a course called “Technology of Law Practice” and says the technology lawyers need to keep up is constantly changing.

One of the most exciting changes, Oltz said, involves “artificial intelligence” in the law, a phrase that conjures up the image of a thinking, purring robotic legal assistant. The reality is a little less exciting – these are fancy search tools, not C-3PO. But they still help advance the efficiency of lawyers by leaps and bounds, like a data-processing program that can quickly analyze large amounts of decisions, diagnose trends in how a certain judge might rule or think.

Oelke is familiar with this sort of thing, having recently come to German law from a law firm.

“There are companies that compile all of this data, and you can see exactly how often each judge grants each type of motion, type of thing,” he said. “If you are representing a client, are you going to waste their money on a motion that is never granted in court?”

Compose is another particularly useful tool, Oltz said. It is a legal writing program that comes with a long list of templates that suggest and link writers to relevant case law.

“I would say what it does is for a certain part of the process it collapses the research and the writing,” Oltz said, helping free lawyers from the minutiae of rote research to focus. about strategy – something a computer program can’t do. do (cross your fingers).

Oelke said he’s sure legal tech will continue to rise — with remote signatures being a particularly promising area for improvement. Legal documents that once had to be signed in person could soon benefit from DocuSign processing, allowing parties with computers to apply electronic signatures without the hassle of paper documents.

What lawyers and clients are seeing now appears to be just the beginning.

“I’m not that old. And I can look back and see what technology was like when I was in elementary school and where it is now,” Oelke said. and at night, I think it will become more and more convenient, especially for customers.”

Comments are closed.