Is There A Difference Between A Virtual Lawyer & An eLawyer?

I guess that I never considered that there could be a difference, but apparently the difference is more substantial than merely adding an “e” to the front of the word. Richard Granat at his eLawyering blog discusses the more than semantic variance in his entry on July 31. According to Granat, a virtual lawyer moves his firm onto the internet to avoid the cost of a bricks and mortar business, but continues to practice law in the same tradition as those bricks and mortar firms by billing clients for an attorney’s time at an hourly rate. eLawyering, by Granat’s definition, is more akin in my mind to “robo” lawyering in that it involves the substitution of an electronic solution or program for the work of a living lawyer.  An example of this is electronic document generation. Granat applauds the use of eLawyering to lower legal fees. I am somewhat more skeptical about its use. Flesh and blood lawyers have been employing time saving mechanisms for years: from physically cutting and pasting xerox copies of prior work to the use of word processing document repositories or libraries. While it saves time and money to avoid “reinventing the wheel” through the use of forms, we haven’t developed artificial intelligence to a level that safely permits the substitution of an eLawyer for the thinking lawyer’s oversight. Obviously, Granat is not suggesting a contrary conclusion. It does bear noting, however, that the existence of fantastic tools is not enough to make a “lawyer” – as Mr. MIller eloquently stated in his interview in my prior entries, we drive the technology, it does not drive us. There is no substitute for human creativity, learning, experience and careful consideration and oversight.

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