The Old School Lawyer


The Old School Lawyer

As a thoroughly modern divorce lawyer, I am at my computer, marking up a Marriage Settlement Agreement and emailing it first to my client and then to opposing counsel to get their comments (in different colors) on my draft. It was not always thus. I used to be an old school lawyer.

My First Word Processor

My first word processor was a spiral notebook and a point pen in law school before every student had an apple laptop, tablet, and cellphone connecting them to the world wide web. I learned how to take shorthand and how to type, first on a manual, and then on an electric typewriter.

The keys went “clickity-clack” and a bell rang “ding” when you got to the end of the line. Old school lawyers remember that rhythmic music that got faster and faster when you pounded out that motion to strike evidence as “fruit of the poisonous tree” at a break in the middle of the trial.

Carbon Paper and White Out

Every old school lawyer had a box of carbon paper. You put a piece of carbon paper that left black smudges on your hands; your white-cotton, button-down shirt; your white seer-sucker suit in the summer time; and your fancy tie that your Aunt gave you last Christmas. You put the carbon, smudgy side down, between two pieces of typing paper and rolled them into the typewriter.  The carbon made a copy on the bottom sheet.

When you made a mistake, you had a little bottle of liquid white out which was like a white paint that came with a little brush on the cap so you could paint over and then type over your mistakes. You also had to lift the carbon paper and correct the copy without getting smudges all over it.

Big Leaps Forward

Thankfully we made big leaps forward in word processing. We thought it was a miracle when someone invented an electric typewriter that could remember what you typed. Talk about artificial intelligence!

The genius of this machine was that you could write your firm letter to opposing counsel on it, then retype only the words that needed correction or revision, then push a button and the machine would type out a perfect letter automatically. All you had to do was reload the paper.

Even better, it could type out as many perfect copies as you needed automatically — one for your client and one for the file. No more carbon paper.  No more smudges on your red power ties.  But sadly, no more “clickity-clack ding”.

Next we got copiers and a nifty word processor from Xerox. Old school lawyers thought the Xerox word processor was the cat’s meow because it had a little screen on it about four or five words long on which you could correct your mistakes. How short-sighted we were.