HuffPo had a great slide show on those things that became obsolete in their opinion this decade. No matter what the list or opinions, it demonstrates more than anything the vision of Alvin Toffler and the challenges, from our perspective, of the practice of law in this new era (or wave).
It can be a problem because innovation is happening so fast, and now new tech is gobbling up old tech at an amazing pace. The new innovations do not even last a decade.
I was at a family get together this season and speaking with lawyers who, for whatever reason, are just now discovering the Internet and smart phones. This is problematic because, at their pace, what might in the past represent a generation of innovation behind, these lawyers are running multiple generations behind and risk, themselves, of becoming obsolete. They need to not only advance more quickly, but they need to get past the point where these tools are not just novelties. These tools need to be included in their practices, but their practices need to be integrated around the cheap tech. If for no other reason, cheap tech is liberating.
So, what has died, is dying or changing:
1. Social media is overtaking communication, ahead of calling. On top of texting, Tweeter, the Google Wave, Facebook, My Space, Linkedin, and the like, Americans sent more than 110 billion text messages in December 2008 alone, and that number is increasing.
2. Classified Ads in Newspapers. Dying. Craigslist now cover 500 cities.
3. Dial up internet. I know some rural-based people are still stuck with this, but it is on the verge of being nostalgic.
4. Encyclopedias. Oh, I miss the days of pulling a volume of our encyclopedias off the shelf to do a report for school. NOT! But, it is important to note that Microsoft just killed its online pay-for encyclopedia business. Whatever the problems, Wikipedia we love you. Increasingly, I am figuring out who to serve and the correct names of companies included in lawsuits with Wikipedia.
5. CDs. Along with this you can kiss music albums goodbye, I guess. I had a lawyers complain to me not long ago about all of space his CDs were taking up on a shelf, which contained his archived files. I am older and I was thinking how I use to have thousands of square feet in office space and storage facilities to maintained the actual archived files before CDs became a viable option. Back then we would have laughed at someone that suggested they could house thousands of filed on one shelf. Before going digital the federal courthouse in Houston, Texas alone would bring in 40 feet of paper every business day.
6. Landline Phones. Oh please! DEAD! And, good riddance. When I think of the thousands upon thousands of dollars ripped out of my financial hide by phone providers and services like AT&T over my life, all so I could sit on my butt behind a desk in an office, away from my home, and be tethered to the wall, is simply disgusting. Ma Bell, you might be a nice enough old lady, but ... I hate you.
7. Film. Gone. I now have a 5 pixel camera, with a flash, on my DROID.
8. Yellow pages. Dead. I do not even keep those yellow pages delivered to me for any length of time. I usually place them in the recycling bin the day I receive them. I do get a kick out of thumbing through them first to see what attorneys are still buying large ads. In the old days my law firm bought tons of yellow page space. The pricing just kept increasing until the point it became outrageous. Tech has a way to dealing harshly with hubris of past industries. I noticed in the late 90s that yellow pages had quit working, and especially so in terms of what it cost to place an ad. Worse it lacks flexibility. Your ad does not work, and you get the pleasure of going bankrupt over it, as you spend month after miserable month paying for the ad that does not work.
9. Catalogs. Through. From a law office perspective, do you remember all of those office and furniture supply catalogs that would come unsolicited in the mail. How much did that cost? Now it is all about the Net.
10. Fax machines. Funny now, but in 1987 I actually had a judge in Lufkin, Texas issue a capias for my arrest because during a ice storm that made travel impossible to Lufkin to attend court, I faxed a motion to this effect to an office supply store the morning of the hearing and asked the owner to walk it across the street to the courthouse. The judge was of the opinion that if I could file a motion than morning that I could be in his court regardless of the weather. Later, I got to explain to him the magic of how this was possible and he was just completely dumbfounded. Boy, have we come a long way since 1987. I do not get too many faxes these days. But, I do receive them in PDF via email when I do. And, I do not have a fax machine. Just a cheap scanner and a laser printer circa 1996.
11. Wires. From the mid 90s until recently, venturing to the back of a law office where the work was actually done was depressing. Wires everywhere. We use to bitch at other lawyers about "wire control". Even now, I still have a computer, printer and scanner that are hardwired. But, it is all passing by.
12. Letters. Mail? How, quaint. In 2000, my small law office spent something like $6,000 in postage, paper and envelopes, not including lawyer and staff time. Still, I have to serve pleadings and the like, but I do this through a service online that does it cheaper than I could have ever done it myself. Not to mention faster and better. Handwritten letters are occasionally nice, but have been replaced by social media. The Postal Service continues to lose money and is now relegated to being a advertising delivery service.
13. Law books. I added this one because it is relevant to the practice of law. These are mainly just history. In the old days my firm maintained a law library for research. If I never have to see a pocket part again, I will be a happy man. By the time I closed down my big firm the updates on the library ran about $7,000.00 a month, and I could not give the books away. Mountains of reporters eventually went to the incinerator. I give a number of CLE presentations today. Papers are delivered. However, they are handed out on flash drives.
Just this decade a bankruptcy judge in Plano, Texas retired. His name was Donald Sharp. I remember at the unveiling of his official portrait, in which he had his arm over a law book, staring into the camera, he commented in the not too distant future people will look at the portrait and and laugh that back in the day judges wore glasses and did research out of books. I think that day has come sooner than many expected.