Making, Disseminating, Applying, and Practicing Law
in a Digital Age

Peter W. Martin
Cornell Law School
Spring Term 2008

In the past few decades, digital technology has swiftly and deeply penetrated law, legal institutions, and legal processes. Already the effects have been dramatic, but the change has only begun. With some of law's functions it is possible to view digital technology's current role as substituting for the prior print-based methods, with others it remains a supplemental or alternative track. But in few if any has its potential for truly transforming how law operates or how law is thought about become evident. It is still early for that.

With the benefit of retrospection one can see that past technology shifts have had deep effects on law, not simply on the speed or efficacy of its transmission and operation but on its basic structure and even how experts and citizens think about law and legal change. This course will explore the forms of change that digital technology is bringing to the full range of phenomena we lump together and call "law." It will also look at major sources of resistance and unsettling new issues raised by the digitization of law.

Some of the discrete topics to be pursued include the issues surrounding application of digital technology to:

  • Public dissemination of legal information, including judicial opinions, administrative regulations and adjudications, municipal ordinances
  • The input side of legal institutions, including the submission of required reports and payments, the initiation of judicial proceedings (e-filing), and applications for public benefits
  • The communication of legal materials, policies, and standard practices within public law-making and law-applying bodies (courts, legislatures, administrative agencies)
  • The conduct of legal proceedings, including civil and criminal trials, administrative deliberations and public comment on proposed rules, and administrative adjudications
  • The work of lawyers and law firms