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Corona Pulling The Law Into The 21st Century

The law and the legal profession aren’t big on change. Lawyers and judges still regularly use Latin and rely on cases that were written before cars were invented. Rules requiring face to face gatherings which were established when the only alternative exchanging original documents through the U.S. mail remain in place to this day. Changes happen, but they tend to happen slowly.

One of the few positive side-effects of the current Cornavirus pandemic has been to drastically speed up the legal profession’s adoption of technology. The United States Supreme Court just recently, for the first time in its history, held oral arguments via a conference phone call instead of in an in-person hearing. The Indiana Supreme Court has gone a step further and scheduled all of its May and June oral arguments for Zoom teleconferences rather than courtroom hearings. Numerous other trial court hearings, depositions, and other meetings have been conducted using technology. Rules have been adopted to allow for remote notarizations, witnessing of documents, or swearing-in of witnesses. Other rules requiring in-person appearances or the filing of physical documents have been relaxed or suspended.

It is impossible to determine just how many of these changes will stick once we’ve moved past this current health crisis. But it appears many judges, lawyers, witnesses, and clients have learned to appreciate many of the technological options we now have available, including increased convenience and decreased costs, and that the practice of law may have taken a significant step forward in using technology to address many legal matters.

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