Update on the Courtroom of the Future Project
As many of you know Our First Annual Institute on Courtroom Technology and the dedication of the Courtroom of the Future at the University of Arizona College of Law was a huge success. All tolled, we had over 150 judges, court administrators, lawyers and journalists in attendance. The dedication address on the impact of information technology on the practice of law was given by Vance Opperman, President of West Publishing Company. He was followed by Joe Cotchette, a lawyer from San Mateo who was the lead counsel in the famous case in Judge Bilby's courtroom involving the Charles Keating fiasco. In the afternoon Mike Arkfeld, Tom Elke, and Bob Palmer demonstrated the way that they use computers in the courtroom. Finally, on the evening of the first day, Brian O'Neill-- the lead counsel in the Exxon Valdez case-- talked about how he was able to obtain a multi-billion dollar verdict in that case through the use of information technology. The second day featured addresses by Gordon Bermant, the Director of Planning and Technology for the Federal Judicial Center, John Strong and Tom Mauet from our faculty, and John Greacen, a graduate of the Law College, now the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Mexico and the national authority on electronic court management. All in all it was a wonderful send-off for the project and we have received a great deal of national attention. I have been called upon to provide a number of courts and agencies with information regarding the process leading to the development of electronic courtrooms. Our corporate partners have benefitted from the national recognition that has come to the project and, of course, the students at the College of Law have benefited as well.
It is not only the law students who will benefit from the Courtroom of the Future. We have a much grander vision for the project that includes not only providing services regarding information technology to courts, public agencies, and law firms, but the training of lawyers in the use of information technology in both the courtroom and the law office. One of the things that we propose to do in the near term is to develop what I have referred to as "boot camps" where mature lawyers can come to the Law College for a few days and learn the basics of courtroom technology. Our hope is that we can take people who have a fairly high level of computer phobia and give them a gentle introduction to the use of technology that will enable them to develop their skills and alleviate their fears. We have not picked the date but we expect to announce our first boot camp in the very near future.
We continue to obtain new corporate partners and additional contributions from existing corporate partners. Doar Communications has just this month provided us with a copy of the Doar Presenter which is a special version of the ELMO projector that became so famous during the Simpson trial in Los Angeles. The Doar Presenter will become a standard part of our Courtroom of the Future Project and will enable large screen display of both 3D objects and documents in the courtroom. When the Doar Presenter is combined with the Boeckler PointMaker we expect to have a basic presentation system that is both low cost and very easy to use. Neither the Boeckler nor the Doar Presenter require any kind of specialized computer knowledge. Indeed, they utilize skills that every trial lawyer already has and therefore substantially enhance the functionality of the Courtroom of the Future Project.
West Publishing Company has recently provided us with a CD-ROM recorder that will allow us finally to create CD-ROM disks both for purposes of preparing courtroom presentations as well as providing a convenient and inexpensive vehicle for maintaining the record in individual cases. The recorder will also allow us to begin to develop classroom materials to be used in training students and lawyers in the use of the technology now in place in the courtroom. This is a project that was originally funded by a grant from the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction in 1994. We are now hopeful that we will be able to bring that project to completion in the near future.
In the Spring of 1996 we will hold our Second Annual Institute on Courtroom Technology at the Law College. The tentative date is the weekend of March 15, but that is subject to change as things develop. At the moment, our plan is to address the general topic of virtual lawyering. We plan to bring to the conference leading people from throughout the country to talk about the way in which information technology has begun to remove constraints of time and place from the process of lawyering. We will talk about what the Internet can do and cannot do in that regard. We will talk about what satellite technology can contribute and we will talk about the newly develop fiber optic ring that surrounds downtown Tucson and Phoenix. We hope to talk about how utilization of in-place technologies can finally bring together all of the various constituencies of the state bar and the judiciary. But this conference will not be just a conference about technology per se. We intend to address the larger issues that surround the technological revolution in law practice. How does the concept of virtual lawyering fit into our overall lifestyle? How can a lawyer maintain some semblance of family life and individual integrity when every client is but a keystroke or telephone call away? How do we control our urges to work when we should be relaxing or playing? Stress in our profession is widely noted and a matter of deep concern. The American Bar Association's program on Beyond the Breaking Point is but one example the need to address these kinds of lifestyle issues. In my estimation, they may be far more important than the technology itself.
As you read this column, I will be delivering a lecture to the Manitoba Law Society in Winnipeg. I was deeply honored to be asked to give this annual lecture and to tell the story of the University of Arizona College of Law's Courtroom of the Future. More importantly, however, I sought escape from the bland and boring November weather in Tucson and I look forward to the invigorating arctic chill in Winnipeg!
TIP OF THE MONTH:
There is another big price war brewing and according to INFOWORLD, the trade magazine for the industry, prices of entry level desktop computers will drop to about $1000 by early 1996. IBM just last week dropped the price of PC300 (Pentium 90, 8 megs of RAM and a 540 MB hard drive) to $1366. That is the machine that will probably cost $1000 by next spring.
The timing is perfect. By next Spring the problems with Windows 95 will be resolved and you will be able to replace your office system with a fully functioning and up to date computer. Of course, there are no guarantees, but I think that INFOWORLD is the most trusted voice in the industry and probably correct in their prediction. If they are, you will save around $700 a machine by waiting just a few months.