Prepare Your Case With Google–Or Watch The Supreme Court Do It For You

From reply-all senior associate dunces to technologically-inept lawyers to polls that show 15 percent of bar holders use a computer only when “absolutely necessary,” accounts about technologically-impaired attorneys abound.

And, law firm professionals seem to think it’s acceptable to ignore advances in technology when it comes to lawyering.

However, for those lawyers who eschew e-discovery or e-filing practices, and those firms that remain unaware of trends in legal technology, the jokes on you.

These days, even Supreme Court Justices Google. So when your firm is slow to upgrade its online resources and know-how, you may not survive the next court case.

Because, it turns out, Supreme Court Justices have been supplementing your briefs with their own online research for years.

A former clerk to retired Justice David Souter recently studied 15 years worth of Supreme Court decisions. Allison Orr Larsen, who is a professor at William & Mary Law School, found more than 100 examples of asserted facts from authorities that were never mentioned in briefs attached to the same case.

Additionally, in 120 high-profile, newsworthy cases from 2000 to 2010, Larsen found nearly 60 percent contained facts researched in-house.

“Virtually all of the justices do it regardless of whether they are traditionally labeled liberal or conservative,” explains Larsen, via the article “Should Supreme Court justices Google?” by Robert Barnes for the Washington Post, “and they cite authorities they find themselves on a wide range of subject matter (from biology to history to golf).”

Is this due diligence or simply judicial curiosity?

The fact is, information is exceedingly accessible today. It’s impossible to ignore it. 

“Now the justices (and their clerks and their librarians) are flooded with information literally at their fingertips. Social science studies, raw statistics, and other data are all just a Google search away,” writes Larsen.

“If the justices want more empirical support for a factual dimension of their argument, they can find it easily and without the help of anyone outside of the Supreme Court building.”

Many lawyers are starting to question the validity of this practice.

For example, in 2011, the court found a California law forbidding the sale of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment. Justice Stephen G. Breyer in a dissent offered 13 pages of studies on the topic of psychological harm from playing violent video games. Justice Clarence Thomas cited 59 sources to support his view that the Founding Fathers believed that parents had absolute control over their children’s development—an overwhelming 57 of them were not in the briefs submitted in the case.

Is this organized legal justice or vigilante Supreme Court intervention?

Lawyers are welcome discuss this topic at length. But, wherever your firm stands on the contentious argument, the fact of the matter is, Justices do check the Internet.

When it comes down to your case, what will they find? And, more importantly, do professionals at your firm possess the technological skills to adequately prepare?

-WB


Fear your firm may be falling behind? Start with The Center For Competitive Management’s course, “Excel® Charts and Graphs Made Easy.”

And, read C4CM’s blog post, “Why Integrating Legal Technology Will Save Your Firm Time And Money.”

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