Welcome to the first installation of the Matechik Law Firm’s blog. My goal in writing is to offer some insights and helpful hints on legal matters, highlight some of the things happening in the Sarasota community, and just help you get to know me better. The lawyer-client relationship often delves into matters that can be pretty personal in nature, and it’s important for both parties to feel comfortable with each other. So this is my way to share some of my thoughts and perspectives with YOU, personally—on unbillable time!
You most likely are reading this on an electronic device, be it a computer or a smart phone—or maybe even a Bluetooth-enabled television. It’s a bit mind-blowing to think of the advancements in technology we have witnessed in the last 5 to 10 years, let alone within the length of our lifetimes. I’m sure that many of you, like me, can remember using Rand McNally maps to figure out the best driving route to a new destination; and then, later, marveling at the magic of MapQuest while printing out tailored and detailed driving directions from a home computer. That was just the start of GPS technology advancements, as we moved on to dash-mountable GPS units, Smartphone apps, and now integrated navigational aids like CarPlay that respond to voice commands. Wow! And that’s just one example. When I remember film cartridges taking a week to develop, or thumbing through a large user’s manual for an appliance rather than googling for guidance, it’s truly mind-blowing to think of how far and how fast technology has advanced the way we do many of our daily tasks.
Clearly, I’m a big fan of technology and how it can transform industries and lives. So imagine my dismay when I first entered the legal profession and realized how far it lagged behind other fields in terms of adopting new technologies to make things happen easier and faster. While it’s exciting for lawyers to make appearances in the courtroom, it seemed inefficient, and unnecessarily costly to the client, to make frequent trips to conduct basic business that could be completed with computers or phones. For instance, why force all parties to travel to a courthouse, find and pay for parking, and wait in a line, simply to sign a document or make a brief uncontested motion? The same issues applied to attorney-client meetings: sometimes, the only reason to hold a meeting was to obtain signatures and have them notarized—something that could have been achieved using readily available digital-signature technology.
To be fair, over the last few decades, the legal profession had modernized in several ways—but mostly to improve behind-the-scenes office operations. Electronic case filing and online document review were introduced in the late 1990s; automated case management came along a decade later to help ensure that cases moved along in the system and to provide transparency for that process. Starting in the early 2000s, some law offices began using time-tracking software, automating the invoicing system and allowing clients to make electronic payments. And by the 2010s, many law firms began using digital collaboration tools to facilitate easier internal consultations and meetings.
But with few exceptions, digital solutions weren’t employed in the courtrooms or within attorney-client consultations…until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the legal profession, like most industries worldwide, to rethink its day-to-day operations. As it became clear that the pandemic’s impact would be long-lived, solutions had to be found quickly so that the court systems could reopen and operate safely. Tapping into existing technology, courtrooms began holding virtual hearings; public-access cases were sometimes broadcast live—something almost unheard of in most states prior to 2020. Even the U.S. Supreme Court started hearing arguments remotely during the pandemic.
I am extremely proud to say that the Matechik Law Firm was among the first in our area to offer virtual meetings and online document signings for clients. Thanks to new laws and improved software, we can even offer the ability to sign and notarize estate planning documents, such as Wills and Trusts, online. This was particularly significant at the height of the pandemic because, as you might imagine, many people felt a sense of urgency to draft or update wills in light of the uncertainties caused by the public health crisis. In recognition of the Firm’s leadership in implementing virtual practices, I was asked to be a featured speaker at the October 2020 Clio Con, the world’s largest tech conference. Fittingly, that event was held virtually, and it was my honor to share my thoughts on managing a practice in the face of uncertainty with over 4,500 attendees from 45 countries.
Today, as life continues to resume a sense of normalcy, these pandemic-born conveniences will remain in place within the legal profession, because the advantages of accessing legal services online are indisputable. Our local judges have now standardized remote proceedings. The convenience of meeting via secure video-conference link, from your own home or another location of your choice, saves you time, effort, and money. No more driving downtown, circling for a parking spot, and sitting in the hallway: just click on a link and we can talk face-to-face through the magic of Zoom. Meanwhile, easy-to-use e-signature apps, which have become an industry standard, allows for secure document exchanges and digital signatures.
You don’t have to be overly tech-savvy to take advantage of online services. Access to a computer or smart phone is really the only thing needed; and although the software is fairly straightforward, my team and I can guide you through it step-by-step if you are uncertain of how to use it at first.
Truly, obtaining legal services has never been easier. So if you’ve been putting off starting your estate planning because it seemed like it would be a hassle, wait no more! I’m just a click away, and I’m can’t wait to meet you—either virtually or in person–to help you with this important planning.