Chief Justice Roberts Not Sure About On-Line Research

Paradise found.  Paradise lost. In his speech for the Drake University’s Dwight D. Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law, Chief Justice John Roberts cautioned that lawyers and law students need to be wary of the Internet and its ability to “undermine the critical thinking and research skills lawyers need to effectively argue a case.”

About 2,000 people attended the Chief Justice’s speech at the Knapp Center on October 2.  The Chief Justice cautioned that lawyers need to focus on what is relevant and what is not relevant by utilizing old fashioned techniques. While acknowledging the power of the Internet, Chief Justice Roberts cautioned his audience that the newest technology and resources have limitations, including a propensity to obscure the strength of the connection to the matter at issue.

The Chief Justice recognized the dramatic impact the invention of the printing press effected on the practice of law. Similarly, our rapidly evolving access to information is forging another dramatic shift in how we receive and process the information in which we, as lawyers, trade.  While I am sensitive to the concerns raised by the Chief Justice, I am confident that our awareness of the potential downside of rapid access may be all the policing required to ensure skilled and thorough legal research.