“The Medium Is (Not) The Message”: Musings on the Intersect (or Disconnect) between Legal Technology and the Practice of Law

At the outset, let it be known that I have a collegial affinity towards Nicole Black (Twitter: @nikiblack and http://www.lawtechtalk.com/) whom I had the pleasure of meeting for lunch a few months ago when Nicole was in Toronto attending a law tech conference. I also commend Nicole for her unbridled enthusiasm for legal technology. However, at the risk of sounding like a Luddite, Nicole and I have a serious difference of opinion on what “Law and Technology” means and which aspect should be emphasized: Is it Law First, Technology Second, or the converse? Before putting the deontological cart before the consequentialist horse, the following is the text of my recent exchange with Nicole on Twitter which, in my view, exposes a serious disconnect, rather than intersect, between legal technology and lawyers:

Any one else notice that most law tech afficionados only talk about the latest law tech conferences. Any substantive law tweets soon? about 2 hours ago from UberTwitte

@thetrialwarrior Ahem. Are feeling persnickety again? I have happy pills if you’d like one…;) about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

Ok, Web 2.0 law tech is a tool in a lawyer’s tool box. However, knowing how and where is useless unless you know what you’re looking for. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck

@nikiblack Why is it that everytime I pontificate about law tech, you crash my sermon? I’d like to know if Web 2.0 affects substantive law.. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior I just like to pull out the soap box from under you while your talking, just to see what happens;) It’s my nature. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack For instance, do judges factor in legal tech when researching or drafting opinions? Is law tech only relevant to e-discovery? about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior Ahem. While “you’re” talking. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

Dear @nikiblack: How does Moore’s Law impact the practice of law? Is law tech related to legal informatics? What about nano-technology? about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck

@thetrialwarrior And, “every time”? Really? It must be total coincidence, since I only occasionally see your tweets in my stream. hmmm about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack I trying to find out how law tech will affect my practice in the future. I don’t care about building a better mousetrap. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack


@thetrialwarrior Those are fascinating issues–to some, I suppose. Not to me. I tweet about what interests me. You should tweet abt that;) about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@thetrialwarrior *yawn* I’m sorry, did you say something?😉 about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack Weak response. I’ll wait to hear from someone who isn’t overly defensive or cavalier. Just unfollow and save the sarcasm. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior I’m not going to unfollow. I like you. That’s silly. And I’m not overly defensive. I just disagree with you on this issue. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@thetrialwarrior Well, you should tweet abt that or find ppl who do & follow them. Why do all of us interested in tech have to tweet abt it? about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack The answer is simple: Law tech is about LAW and TECHNOLOGY. The Law is the main course, the tech is antipasto or dessert. Voila. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior Nope. There’s also the issue of using tech in your law practice for non-substantive matters. Who said u get to define it? about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack I am led to the inexorable conclusion that law tech is about the business of law and has nothing to do with the practice of law. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior That’s not true. But if you want practice of law issues, law reviews are probably best place for that info. about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@nikiblack Really? Only law reviews discuss the impact of law tech on substantive, procedural and practice-related issues? about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to nikiblack

@thetrialwarrior No, but that’s probably your best source for that info, if you’re dying to get it. 33 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to thetrialwarrior

@thetrialwarrior or law prof blogs-bec they’re more into the esoteric stuff. Those on Twitter are more gadget/tech trend types… half a minute ago from Tweetie in reply to thetrialwarrior

@thetrialwarrior so we’re naturally more interested in practical uses/issues rather than philosophical/substantive issues 32 minutes ago from Tweetie in reply to thetrialwarrior

Admittedly, the 140 character limit on Twitter is a double-edged sword: while brevity is the soul of twit, the context may sometimes be exorcised.

At the risk of sounding impolitic, I simply posit that while law and technology may intersect on some level, it remains my uninformed, non-tech savvy view, that technology is neither a panacea for lack of substantive legal knowledge, nor a placebo for lack of competence or skill. Yes, we all need to keep up with technology, but form follows function, not vice versa. While computer technology is subject to Moore’s Law and Wirth’s Law, lawyers should not overlook Parkinson’s Law, posited by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as the opening line to his satirical essay published in 1955 in The Economist:


Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

3 Responses to ““The Medium Is (Not) The Message”: Musings on the Intersect (or Disconnect) between Legal Technology and the Practice of Law”

  1. Nicole Black Says:

    Hi Antonin,My tone with you in that conversation was intended to be one of good-natured ribbing between friends. Since we've actually met in person and got along well, I thought we had a rapport that allowed for a conversation of that type. Many of my comments were in jest, to a person that I consider to be a friend.When you pull the convo out of the Twitter stream and post it here, that context is arguably lost, so I'd just like to clarify that that was the spirit of the conversation. I tried to portray that by including ";)" (aka "winks") during the conversation.As for the subject matter of the conversation, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Don't know either of you, nor did I read the whole post (TLDR and all that: it's just not interesting). Generally, though, it's bad form to post a personal communication on-line without running it by the other party first.

  3. Antonin Pribetic Says:

    Dear Anonymous,If you were familiar with Twitter you would likely know that "online" and "personal" are contradictory terms. The Twitter conversation was in the public stream and available to anyone to read and comment upon. However, although you found the post TLDR ("too long, didn't read") thanks for visiting the blog and providing your anonymous comment.

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