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A profession being tested by technological changes became the central theme at the annual meeting of the nation’s oldest bar association April 11. Connecticut Supreme Court Justice William J. Sullivan, the keynote speaker at the Hartford Bar Association meeting, insisted that incoming HCBA president Glenn E. Coe introduce him simply as “Tocco Sullivan.” He did, but this was visibly difficult for Coe, for whom a polished formality has become second nature. Sullivan, who earlier that day had addressed the Legislature with a report on the state of the judicial branch, spoke about the rapid technology-driven changes in the work of lawyers. He saluted the phenomenon of computer word-searching for precedent. Trials in the future will eventually become multimedia productions, with remote witnesses and digitally created exhibits — even an all-electronic appellate record. He quoted the prediction of one court futurist that “the next century will eventually see the birth of the virtual courtroom, present only in cyberspace, with all participants able to interact with each other solely as computer images.” The press of technology, inventing among other things, new crimes, will test the law’s time-honored deference to old decisions, and “this tension between tested precedent and unprecedented legal issues will be one of the immense challenges for lawyers and judges in years to come.” He said he was troubled by a decline in the sense of community in the legal profession that at one time had provided young lawyers with “more mentors than we could possibly need.” But increasingly, as the pace quickens, “we have less time to devote to how we approach each other. The sense of legal community is evaporating, and with it, our civility … . How we speak to each other does matter.” Sullivan suggested that lawyers “consciously reduce the level of antagonism that legal arguments incorporate,” but to speak up � civilly — in defense of the profession. Pointedly, he said, “We need to stop being agreeable to the telling of those insufferable lawyer jokes.” In the dark-paneled banquet rooms of the Hartford Club, uncharacteristically loud music from a Latin band punctuated the evening. It was Coe’s choice, an intentional contrast. He accepted his new post by recapping at length his colorful history, from birth in the Panama Canal Zone, to youth on a tiny Caribbean island so simple that the town was named “Town,” the road, “Road.” Coe, a partner in the firm of Rome, McGuigan & Sabanosh, made a point to honor the survivors and the memory of Vernon, Conn., lawyer Arthur Meisler, who took his own life in early April. Venerated trial lawyer William R. Davis, of Riscassi & Davis, was granted the 2001 President’s Award for Excellence by outgoing president Francis Brady, and Dennis F. Kerrigan Jr., of Leboeuf, Lamb, Green & MacRae, won the Judge Maxwell Heiman award for his professional and community service, including a program to provide legal representation to children in crisis.

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