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Advances in technology, including the Internet, e-mail, file-sharing programs, and sophisticated new presentation software, are all changing the way law is practiced. Meanwhile, these new technologies are also creating fertile ground for new law, most notably in the fields of intellectual property and Internet law. While the legal profession has in the past sometimes been slow to respond to developments in technology, many law firms and attorneys are now embracing technology wholeheartedly and effectively integrating it into their practices. The current crop of law students, who have grown up in the Internet age, are on the cutting edge of this movement to integrate technology with law. Long a leader in the fields of intellectual property law and legal technology, George Washington University Law School has recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its physical plant to incorporate the newest hardware and software into all aspects of its programs. Smart podiums in classrooms provide state-of-the-art instructional tools, while a wireless network allows students to communicate more efficiently with other students and faculty members. Plasma screens situated throughout the law school feature scrolling announcements, calendars of events, and simulcasts of current events, while a series of intranet portals allow all members of the law school community — students, faculty, staff, and alumni — to keep in touch and receive relevant notices and announcements. Over the past two years, students have come to rely on the law school portal as one of their primary sources of information. The portal is password protected and allows students to get information that is unique to them (e.g., messages regarding their classes, registration information, and notices regarding law school programs). Assignments are sent through the portal, and discussions are frequently facilitated through class-specific electronic listservs. These technological advances give students additional pedagogical tools in the course of their studies. Recognizing the broad and deep importance of technology to law, the law school has encouraged the study of technology in its curriculum. With over a dozen full-time faculty members and close to 20 part-time adjunct faculty members currently teaching courses involving law and technology, GW provides the ideal setting to study the impact of law on technology and vice versa. DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT Incoming 1L students are required to purchase network-compatible notebook computers for classroom use so that professors can assign projects using interactive teaching software. By using the teaching software SynchronEyes, first-year legal research and writing instructors are able to conduct real-time, example-based instruction and exercises in class. For example, students may be asked to draft a question presented in class. As they type on their computer screens, the faculty member will be able to observe their work from the instructor’s terminal and choose to display selected students’ examples to illustrate particularly good efforts. The combination of this software and the wireless laptops allows research and writing faculty to teach “hands-on” writing rather than just talking about it. And students are being equipped with skills they will need when they enter practice. In addition, with the school’s new in-classroom technology, training on the Westlaw and Lexis legal databases will no longer require a trip to the computer lab. Instructors will be able to conduct training sessions during the scheduled class period. In effect, every classroom has been converted into a computer lab. HIGH-TECH MOOT COURTROOM In partnership with the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., the law school recently became a demonstration center and classroom for cutting-edge technologies now available to enhance litigation practice. The NCSC, founded in 1971 by Chief Justice Warren Burger, aims to improve the administration of justice in the United States and abroad. The recently renovated Jacob Burns Moot Court Room provides law students, lawyers, and judges with a unique opportunity to explore the ways in which technology can be used to enhance litigation practice. Technological features include podiums with high-resolution digital overhead projectors, video projectors, video monitors, voice-activated transcription recorders, and computer terminals. One of the more powerful electronic tools available in the courtroom allows an attorney to display exhibits electronically, mark them up on a computer display for all those in the courtroom to see (including the judge and jury), and then allow a witness to similarly mark up the display, again for all to see. The moot courtroom is one of only two truly electronic demonstration courtrooms in the country, and it will be kept up-to-date with the most current technology. Presenting evidence in such a clear and sophisticated manner can have a powerfully positive impact on judge and jury. Given this impact, and the likelihood that such technologies will become more and more commonly used in the future, students should learn to become comfortable with them. It is often no longer sufficient to conduct trials with exhibits that consist of cardboard displays or labeled documents. To advocate most effectively on behalf of their clients, litigators must be able to use the available courtroom technologies. To convey information and make it understandable, lawyers need to communicate visually as well as orally. In meetings with clients as well as in the courtroom, it is important that all participants be able to see and hear supporting materials. Computer-generated exhibits, videos, and even the traditional chalkboard all help clients, jurors, and judges to understand the case. Law firms are incorporating new technologies into every practice group, to enhance collaboration, communications, and efficiency, which are particularly important in a global practice. In corporate practices, attorneys regularly share documents, drafts, and other records with clients through intranet networks accessible through the World Wide Web. Given the immense volume of documents generated in large corporate cases and how distant attorneys often are from their clients, having functional computer skills is considered essential to client service. In addition, many courts and federal and state agencies are moving toward electronic filing, either allowing or requiring that certain documents be submitted in electronic format. With the latest technological resources at hand, GW law students have the opportunity to develop computer skills in the classroom, so they are ready to put them to use them in the courtroom and on the job. Frederick Thrasher is director of career development at George Washington University Law School.

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