3 Ways Wearables Are Impacting Lawyers
Originally published on Legaltech News
In a tense moment, the defense team and the prosecution await a final decision from the jury. As the jury foreman is about to issue the verdict, the defense attorney looks at her Apple Watch. “Your honor,” she exclaims. “I would like to ask to submit a piece of evidence I just came across that is crucial to this case…”
The smart watch is the most popular wearable technology device for lawyers right now. But virtual reality (VR) headsets and smart glasses also present opportunities for legal professionals.
That’s just the beginning. In a few years, lawyers might enhance their performance by implanting electrodes into their brains. But what are they using now? Here’s a look:
1. Smart Watches to Keep Connected
There’s no authoritative figure on the number of attorneys who use smart watches. The American Bar Association’s 2016 Technology Report found 1 percent of legal professionals use “other” for mobile work. (Laptops are by far the most popular devices for such work.) It’s logical to assume that some of that 1 percent are using smart watches.
For lawyers, smart watches have a particular appeal since they can provide access to information on the fly. Users can also set up their devices to only receive certain messages. That way they know when they receive a vibration on their wrists that it’s something important. This can provide a degree of assurance for lawyers in the midst of a trial or during a meeting with clients. They know they’re not missing out on anything important. It also lets them get a break from their smartphones. In theory at least, this can let lawyers stay more focused and connected.
2. Experiments With Virtual Reality Headsets
Most people see VR headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Samsung’s Gear VR and think “gaming.” While that’s understandable, VR’s potential for professionals is a bigger deal than its potential as an entertainment device. Engineers use VR for instance to create 3-D models of what they’re building. Real estate agents use them to give prospective buyers a virtual “walk-through” of properties. Teachers can also use them for distance learning.
For lawyers, the use cases aren’t as obvious yet, but theoretically, a VR headset could open new vistas. Attorneys could use them to take depositions and interview witnesses without leaving their office. Some are also using VR headsets to present their cases to juries to provide a more immersive look at details of a case. Another application is for training lawyers. Using VR can gamify the process and make it more fun and therefore more effective.
3. Smart Glasses to Help Create Empathy
While Google Glass didn’t have the kind of adoption that was expected in 2013, the smart glasses category isn’t dead. Last year, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, released Spectacles, smart glasses that can record 10–30 second videos by pressing a button.
This again seems like a case where the application for legal work isn’t immediately evident. But consider how the Phoenix law firm Fennemore Craig has used Google Glass. Using what it called “Glass Action,” the firm used the headset to let personal injury clients record the travails of their daily lives. In that case, a double amputee who lost an arm and a leg in a work accident used Google Glass for that purpose.
Smart glasses could also be used for evidence collection. An attorney in a workers’ compensation case could, for instance, use Spectacles to catch a claimant mowing his lawn or exercising to prove fraud.
Where do we go from here? Elon Musk’s new startup, Neuralink, aims to implant tiny electrodes into people’s brains to download and upload thoughts. That brings up some fascinating scenarios for lawyers. Imagine being able to access every law and casebook, for instance.
It’s also kind of creepy too, of course. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. One thing is certain: Technology is transforming law just like every other profession. Wearables is one avenue, but there will be others as we move into the third decade of the 21st century.