Roy Oppenheim doesn’t just embrace social networking. “I live it and breathe it,” said Oppenheim. Having lost the bulk of his builder and developer clients in the foreclosure crisis, Oppenheim of Weston, Fla.’s Oppenheim Pilelsky last year started a blog aimed at new clients — foreclosure victims. He also created Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Let’s put it this way: We’ve had to hire people just to respond to inquiries,” Oppenheim said. The Internet “allowed me and the firm to completely reinvent [ourselves].”

Welcome to the latest age of technology, which has redesigned the shape of legal practice during the past decade. Of course, there’s the BlackBerry that stays on all hours. It was introduced in 1999.

But now there’s blogging. A small sample hints at the vast range: SCOTUSblog is run by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Art + Law + Blog by Bryan Cave, Global Immigration Counsel by San Francisco-based Lit­tler Mendelson and Law and the Environ­ment by Foley Hoag of Boston.

There’s social networking. According to a 2009 LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell survey of nearly 1,500 lawyers, more than 70% of lawyers are members of an online social network — up nearly 25% from the past year — with 30% growth reported among lawyers ages 46 and older.

But for time and resources spent, the most important technological development must be the expansion of e-discovery. Robert Ambrogi, who maintains blogs on media law and legal Web sites, pointed to e-discovery practice as “the fastest growing segment of legal industry over the last decade.”

Spending for e-discovery software and services will reach an estimated $1 billion by year-end, according to Gartner. A Kroll Ontrack survey found that, on average, companies will spend $1.29 million to manage electronic data in 2009, compared with $437,000 just last year. Law firms now point to partners, not paralegals, who specialize in e-discovery and records management.

“Any litigation whatsoever” (in Ambrogi’s words) now entails e-discovery. Be it text messages, instant messages or cellphone records, attorneys must dig this stuff up to survive.

Ambrogi summed it up: “Lawyers can no longer afford not to be tech-savvy.”

— Tresa Baldas