January 10, 2011
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tiersma, Peter M., Parchment, Paper, Pixels: Law and the Technologies of Communication (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2010) ("How changes in technology will influence the textual practices of judges and lawyers who produce and read judicial opinions is harder to say. Today's college students seem to believe that writing a research paper consists of searching the Internet, copying some relevant materials, pasting them into an electronic document, doing some minimal editing, and emailing the result to their professors. Lawyers entering the profession may well write briefs and memoranda in the same way. Rather than reading entire cases, they may simply be jumping from one link to the other in search of the perfect sentence or paragraph to insert into their brief. They may focus so intently on text that they lose sight of the context." "As a consequence, judges may become nervous that a statement can easily be taken out of context and misinterpreted. So they may feel compelled to start drafting opinions in a more autonomous fashion, trying to create text that can stand on its own. And that, in turn, will further promote a more textual interpretation by readers." "Admittedly, lawyers steeped in the traditions of the common law will find this a rather bleak view of the future. . . . Law schools can continue to teach and emphasize traditional legal reasoning. Lawyers can create or reinforce a professional culture where it is simply not acceptable to quote bits and pieces of a case without understanding the larger legal and social context into which it fits. And judges can write opinions that do not easily lend themselves to an overly textual exegesis." What we cannot do is return to the days when the common law resided in the minds and memories of judges and lawyers. There are too many lawyers, and there is too much law. . . . " Id. at 219-220. From the book jacket: "Parchment, Paper, Pixelsoffers an engaging exploration of the impact of three technological revolutions on the law. Beginning with the invention of writing, continuing with the mass production of identical copies of legal texts brought about by the printing press, and ending with a discussion of computers and the Internet, Peter M. Tiersma traces the journey of contracts, wills, statutes, judicial opinions, and other legal texts through the past and into the future.").