Vermont Bar Journal
Winter 2007 - #4.
Restoring Respect Begins at Home
THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL WINTER 2007
Restoring Respect Begins at Homeby S. Stacy Chapman, III, Esq.Do you remember the "good old days"? Think back to a time when Rule 11 was just another page in the "Green Books"; a time when real estate closings were non-adversarial; a time when depositions were arranged by telephone and not by subpoena or notice; and a time when lawyers communicated face to face to resolve differences or otherwise settle cases or disputes.
The growing lawyer population in Vermont, combined with advances in technology, have changed the practice of law and the relationships that attorneys throughout the state share with one another. Ten years ago, "The Web" was something a spider made in the corner of the porch ceiling. "E-mail" was something that "those big firms" had to communicate with one another in their own offices. Terms like "The Internet," "Electronic Document Filing," or "List Serves" were words which either did not exist in our vocabulary or represented futuristic concepts which we thought were about as likely in Vermont as "Molecular Transport Systems."
Today, IBM Selectrics and Magcard Typewriters are ancient history; and, if you talk about "onion skins" the reference is probably regarding some new appetizer available at a fast food restaurant. The bottom line is that the practice of law is simply not what it was ten to fifteen years ago.
While changes in technology have improved the ability to deliver quality legal services in the sense of available online research or preparing and modifying complicated documents in residential and commercial transactions, with those efficiencies we unfortunately seem to have sacrificed the "personal touch" and professional courtesies and collegiality among fellow lawyers.
Changes in the practice of law are not unlike changes we have witnessed generally in other business or personal dealings. Paying bills can now be done over the phone or by computer; dealing with a bank or the phone company, or a credit card company or any other business requires a touchtone phone, or a password and a user name. Even pumping gas can be accomplished without even so much as speaking a word to the "friendly attendant." Remember when "good old Pete" would wash the windshield and offer to check the oil?
With the loss of personal contact in business, in the law, and in society in general, we have also seen the loss of respect for what used to be admirable professions. While lawyers are still held in some esteem, unfortunately we are also the subject of oftentimes mean-spirited jokes. For example, "What do you have when you have a lawyer buried up to his neck in sand? Not enough...