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If personal injury lawyer Raymond Gill Jr. gave colleagues his own day-in-the-life video, they would suffer the shock of recognition. Like many of them, this 21st century litigator starts out daily at Woodbridge, N.J.’s Gill & Chamas by checking e-mails and voice mails. Then he might leave a message on his expert’s cell phone to arrange a videotaped deposition, insurance against missing a “best practice” deadline. Or he might meet with a co-counsel and a client on a videoconference or prepare a PowerPoint summation. Some days, after browsing relevant unpublished opinions, he dictates trial memos or correspondence to his computer using a voice-to-text program he bought at Best Buy for $139. Will all this technology help him win a trial? It doesn’t have to. Gill and his equally wired adversary have called in a mediator they trust and expect to settle the whole matter. “There’s no question we’re in the electronic age,” Gill said over the telephone last Wednesday. “They’re all very much part of the practice,” he says. To be sure, lawyers’ use of new information and technology isn’t a breakthrough. Personal computers became de rigueur in the 1980s. Internet access and e-mails proliferated in the 1990s. But in 2005 — a year that lacked a court decision that shook the bar, a seismic shift in the business cycle or an overshadowing personality — the inexorable march of technologies was the sometimes-subtle story of the year. It started on Jan. 3, when the state Supreme Court began posting simulcasts of oral arguments on the judiciary Web site. While federal courts dithered over the propriety of cameras in the courts, the New Jersey justices showed where they stood and piped their hearings to anyone who wanted to tune in on a PC. Unpublished opinions went online in October. For trial lawyers in the computer age, the big trend was the use of video-enhanced summations that made closing arguments look like reality TV. William Levinson of Edison, N.J.’s Eichen Levinson used the technology at a trial in Middlesex County and won $19 million in an asbestos-related death case on Aug. 10. In the summer, New Jersey joined a number of states and established a pilot program to track 250 sex offenders by GPS radio signals. In a new use for old technology, the state Supreme Court adopted a rule in October that effectively made the recording of violent crime suspects’ confessions a legal requirement. It wasn’t obvious, but high technology was at the core of developments that seemed to be rooted in old-school thinking. Take “best practices.” The rise of sophisticated case-tracking technology made best practices possible in 2000, and the rules continued to be the bogeyman of litigators in 2005. Chief Justice Deborah Poritz told the State Bar Association convention in Atlantic City in May that the system was working and that judges were free to be flexible when needed. Yet lawyers interviewed last week, like solos James Curran in Milltown, N.J., and Michael Halfacre in Little Silver, N.J., named the continuing angst over best practices the number one legal story in the state in 2005. Because their ability to win postponements in trials has been curtailed, they are now videotaping more depositions than ever before, they say, increasing the cost of doing business. Court administrators gave best practices credit for a 57 percent decline in the number of backlogged civil cases in the court year that ended June 30. Medical malpractice filings were down about 15 percent. State Bar leaders, including president Stuart Hoberman, suggested the good statistics were caused by a decline in filings, not by best practices.

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