Technology has made the ability to enhance one’s skills and capabilities easy. As litigating lawyers, we are required to be able to draft legal documents, pull up research on short notice and check our emails on the go for client requests and office updates, amongst other things. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, laptops – you name it, and the market has git. What we often forget is that these “must have” items in our lives can never replace our intellect. Yes, that thing called “intellect” – which nestles in between our ears and has infinite potential, should we choose to use it. As my Ustaad puts it, “Your generation has forgotten how to feed, develop and use your intellect. You use computers as a substitute.”

We lawyers are clever professionals – using our craft and guile to bend the law for the benefit of our clients and to assist the Bench in writing well reasoned judgments. Our dependence on computers is worrying, though necessary. We often forget that the computers can’t do our thinking for us (even though most of the time, we want them to) and whilst arguing a case before a Judge, the computers cannot factor in the variables that come into play in a courtroom.

Back in the day, it was all about reading, absorbing and re-reading Law Digests, Commentaries, Statute Books, Legal Dictionaries and physical copies of judgments. There would be piles of books surrounding one’s desk, coupled with the relevant documents and papers of a particular case that was being prepared. It was all a lot to take in and could be over-bearing for a newcomer.

Fast forward a decade or so, the documents and papers still exist – so do the books, but instead, our focus and attention is on the computer. And why not? We would rather be efficient and read everything, which is available on the Internet, instead of having to take out the books ourselves and be surrounded by a castle of books. Not to mention, the facility of having a computer has helped us lawyers greatly with respect to checking our grammar, spellings and presentation whilst drafting legal documents and enables us to present written submissions before a Judge in a clean and organised manner. And before you jump to conclusions about the contents of this piece, I am very much a part of “my generation” – wherein the absence of a computer and all the gadgets we rely upon to make our professional lives more efficient, would make us feel incomplete, and at times, inadequate. Still the generation of lawyers before us had it tougher. They were required to use their brain cells more than we do and at the end of the day, the danger is that they will always be known and revered for the skill of their craft whilst we may be known as diligent word-processors, to put it harshly.

“LexisNexis”, “IndianKanoon”, “Pakistanlawsite” – legal search engines from around the world are now available at one’s fingertips (for a price, of course) whereby lawyers have the facility of being able to do their research efficiently and apparently, comprehensively. It is a disconcerted feeling though, when a junior or an intern comes to work at the office now, and one of the paramount concerns is: “Does the firm/office have access to the lawsite? If so, can you please give me the username and password?” My instinctive reaction is “Yes, we do have access but you will be granted such access on an ‘as and when required basis.’” But given the complex nature of the work we are engaged in and the scarcity of time to complete tasks in particular case, one caves in and submits to the trends of the youth.

A while ago, I did an experiment with a junior who recently joined our office, who was having a tough time going about legal research for a case. Upon seeing that he/she was a ‘tech-savvy’ individual and was struggling to find a suitable answer for the problem from the ‘net’, I showed him/her another way of doing the research – by taking out the Digests, Statute Books, Commentaries and Dictionaries and taking cues from whatever quoted precedents would hold and therefore, expanding the scope of legal questioning that was being done on the problem involved. Sounds vague, right? However, at the end of the experiment, and having to argue its merits and demerits endlessly, the Junior told me that by doing it the ‘hard way’, the line of questioning had expanded no doubt and although it was slower than doing it on a computer, it helped him/her to think about the possible solution to the problem differently.

Change is inevitable in the times we live in. As human beings, we have to have the ability to adapt to that change and adjust accordingly. However, what should not be lost sight of, if our ability to think, re-think and re-think some more. As lawyers, it is our job to use our skills as Advocates to know the facts, apply the law and persuade a Judge to rule in our favour. And though we wish there was a fixed formula to solve the equation, there is none. We may live to compute, but we most certainly do not compute to live – if that makes any sense.