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The legal system can be… frustrating. No doubt about it.

Anyone who works in the system can easily identify more than one area that would benefit from streamlining with a more efficient process, better software, reduced redundancies, etc.

I spent the better part of my morning preparing a rather extensive appeal document. I had it written well in advance, read, re-read and fretted over it until it was ready. I could relax… wrong.

Adobe Acrobat (yes, Adobe, you) made my morning a living hell.

Without going into the details of the repeated crashes, after much effort, the PDF document was finally ready… to be printed.

That’s when it hit me. Here I had created an electronic document that even someone in 1998 could view and print, yet I had to send my assistant to Kinkos and get a total of 11 copies of two files, each with different colored paper, and mail them to various interested parties who could have easily accessed and printed them via secure servers, in less time than it took me to battle Acrobat. And on top of that, the clock was ticking– I had to appear in court soon.speedy trial PA

Frustrating.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the hard work and effort that all my colleagues display, but there are often times when a simple upload could save more than a few man hours and streamline the process. At the end of the day, the system is what it is, and although I am certainly an activist and advocate for issues like marijuana legalization and gay rights, I am, first and foremost, an attorney. I am am trained to successfully navigate the system– not change it.

My clients do not hire me because they want to change the system. They want competent, experienced and professional representation in a court of law.

As much as I hated the digital document of death this morning, my job, indeed my legally binding oath, is to represent my clients to the best of my ability, and if that includes a duel to the death between Microsoft Windows and Apple OS because 4 court systems cannot agree on a digital document format relevant to the 21st century, so be it.

That was just one case. One.

Federal appeals, trials, DUI’s and pretty much everything court related requires documentation formats that are outdated and S.L.O.W.

The system is over burdened ( a big reason marijuana legalization makes dollars and sense) and it still relies on a traditional, 20th century approach to paperwork. It’s literally paperwork.

Not an Excel file, not a Word doc. Printed paper. Date stamped. Often in front of, or by, someone else. This is after waiting in line, behind a bunch of other attorneys and assistants and the cop who cuts in front of everyone…

You get the picture.

At the end of the day, the system, despite it’s machine-like persistence, is still made up of people. That’s where the simple things like being courteous and pleasant, treating everyone from the door guards and clerks to the Police and Judges with respect, can make a big difference.

It’s important remember that my clients are also people, and I have to wade through a lot of muck sometimes, but that’s why I’m there. Navigate the system, use every means at my disposal to get them the very best result possible. And most importantly, remain calm, cool and collected– even on days when I want to smash my computer.

 

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Patrick NightingaleWelcome to The Machine