“These are the good old days……”
I hope many of you enjoyed the Battle of the Barrister Bands at Smokey Glen on May 27th. This event reminded me of the lovely summer evenings at Smokey Glen where our wonderful old tradition known as the “Bar Revue” began. Let’s hope the Barrister Band event becomes an annual institution that will be remembered the same way 30 years from now. Thank you to all of our members who organized, practiced and performed in these events last month and in years past.
For those of us who have been practicing law for a decade or many decades, we tend to recall the “good old days” fondly, while bemoaning the traditions or familiarity that may have been lost over the years. I am as guilty as anyone when reminiscing about how simple life used to be in my “good old days”. I was on a jury before the Honorable Judge John F. McAuliffe, who sat on the Circuit Court bench in what was the “new courthouse” at the time. As a juror, I ran into a law school friend and a very young Assistant State’s Attorney, Harry Storm, who suggested I apply for a clerkship with this tremendously talented trial judge. When I applied for this coveted clerkship, I submitted a resume (typed by a classmate as I did not yet type) with a hand written cover letter, using my best possible cursive penmanship. It seems like yesterday but that was over 33 years ago.
Many song lyrics refer to “the good old days”, I will save my favorite for last, but here are a few…..
Carly Simon: “We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway…..I’m no prophet, I don’t know nature’s way; so I’ll stay right here, ‘cause these are the good old days….”
Pink: “I still feel the same way I did when I was 17, I still look over my shoulder waitin for the world to change… But these are the good old days…and I think I’d like to stay”
The Judds: “Grandpa, tell me about the good old days. Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy. Grandpa, take me back to yesterday, where the line between right and wrong, didn’t seem so hazy. …was a promise really something people kept, not just something they would say and then forget”
Socalled: rap lyrics I wouldn’t dare repeat or reprint….
Lawyers are often reluctant to accept change. Think of those of us who still use dictation or don’t know how to use our calendaring or billing software with ease…..but even those of us who are resistant to change have made great strides thanks to technology, whether we wanted to do so or not!
There was a great article in the ABA Journal about innovations in the law, called “Law is Change”. Read it, as it puts into proper perspective just how much progress has occurred in the field of law in the last 50 years alone. Younger lawyers might better understand the technical limitations of some senior lawyers when they see how far we have come (and for some of us, all that we have endured!).
IN THE FIELD OF LAW: For many years, being a lawyer required little formal education. As recently as 1951, only 20% of lawyers graduated from a law school. Half of those lawyers had not graduated from college. In 1960 it became the norm to require 3 years of law school as well as satisfactory demonstration of high moral character to a bar committee by the applicant. Initially, most young lawyers were white males. When I went to law school in the early 1980’s, my class was approximately 35% women. The ABA lifted its ban on African American lawyers as members in 1943. Today’s lawyers are increasingly diverse, which is a significant improvement over the past.
EVIDENCE: “evidence” was limited to fingerprinting, firearm, bullet and tool mark identification and actual original documents. Now tools of evidence have progressed to DNA analysis leading to accurate identification, genetic paternity testing of 99.99% accuracy, digital forensic investigations, accident reconstruction, and a national fingerprint database, to name a few. What changes will cameras worn by police officers bring?
ELECTRONIC MAIL: Original documents were either mailed or hand carried by a courier. Now most communications or documents are sent electronically in an instant. As a result, you have lost the 3 day “cushion” of time you may have counted on to respond. If you receive an email by 5 or 6 pm, do you feel the need to respond immediately?
IN THE COURTS: The courtroom clerk’s job of indexing the electronic recording systems implemented in the 80’s took the place of the stenographers. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to allow for alternatives to stenography to record depositions, ultimately leading to video depositions. The Federal Courts have embraced “e-filing” completely and it will become mandatory everywhere in time…the State of Maryland is currently phasing in the smaller counties before Montgomery County gets on board.
IN THE OFFICE:
* Word processing computers of the 1970’s replaced manual typewriters.
* Phones didn’t make conference calls possible, track your time for billing, etc….. there were no cell phones or GPS, you had to use a phone book and know how to read a map.
* Wordperfect came out in 1980, then Word in 1983….making it possible to draft documents and edit them with ease. PDF or “portable document format” made it possible to share a document without risk of another party editing it. Billing and calendaring software are now the norm.
* Legal Research: Westlaw and Lexis make it possible to do research online, increasing our reach for resources and making libraries in every office unnecessary.
*The first fax machine in the 70’s produced a less than adequate image on slippery, curly paper and the ink disappeared with age. Scanning and email is making fax machines much less critical. Scanning is leading us to have “paperless” offices, which will minimize storage issues.
*Photocopiers were used beginning in the late 50’s, when you ”burned” a copy…. Now these machines copy, staple, collate and do everything but put your letters into envelopes.
* In the 1980’s, with the introduction of LAN or local area networking, we were able to connect multiple computers to save a document to a network drive or to allow multiple computers to share a printer.
* The widespread use of the internet and email as a means of communication in the late 1980’s became the norm for law firms. The use of formal hard copy correspondence has diminished considerably. The ease and efficiency of email communication is a blessing, but at the risk of the intended meaning being lost or misinterpreted. Firms have had websites and blogs for years and listserves are used by all of us. Advertising has changed altogether with internet searches and social media.
*Remember the first big car phones that were permanently attached to your car? Then came flip phones, blackberries and now smartphones. Now we can work virtually from anywhere, from home, while on vacation, nights, weekends, etc…..but do we feel compelled to work with no end to our workday?
Change is inevitable. We all know that. We may think our respective experiences of our “good old days” were better than anyone else’s. That is everyone’s prerogative. For today’s young lawyers, who are the future of this bar, this county and our country….these are their good old days. This is the cycle of life, it has gone on before us and will continue to do so for eternity, whether we choose to embrace it or not.
Our most constructive means of insuring the successful future of the bar and the fair and proper administration of justice; which will affect our families and community for generations to come…….is to make certain that our young lawyers benefit from the examples of integrity, professionalism, and competency we demonstrate daily as well as the experience and wisdom we graciously share with them.
If you don’t have a Mentee, please contact Elizabeth McInturff or Shuaa Tajammul, Co-Chairs of our Mentor/Mentee Committee, to be assigned a Mentee. It could the greatest contribution to the future of our bar you can possibly make.
We all bring something worthwhile to the table. Share the knowledge you can offer generously and be receptive to the opportunities or ideas offered to you.....reciprocal mentoring is not a new concept. The young can learn from the old and the old should learn from the young as well. It is a concept that will sustain our efforts to maintain the standards of excellence we strive to achieve personally and professionally.
Do all you can to make sure future generations “good old days” are as good or better than your own. That is a legacy we can all be proud of.
In closing, of all the songs I found, I saved this one for last as it resonated with me the most, although I had never heard it before……….
”I’m wastin half of my life just lookin back, thinkin all of my good times were in the past. Ain’t no joy to be found living life like that. I couldn’t feel the sunshine on my face, everywhere I’d go I’d feel out of place. Finally figured out I’d never win that race. Now I’m amazed to find….these are the good ole days we been livin. No more lookin back, all is forgiven. Ain’t gonna live my life through no picture frame. These are the good ole days…..” James Otto
Lynn Caudle Boynton