Monday, September 24, 2012

What Would My Dad Think?

My father, who also practiced family law, died in 1991. At that time, the fax machine was cutting-edge technology. In 1991, we still used books to research the law and while we used rudimentary computers, we weren’t yet completely dependent on them.

The other day I was thinking about how my dad would adapt to the modern law office. I remember how much trouble he had with his 5 pound cell phone; and I can only guess he would still be dictating to Marge, his secretary, as he did then. But while so many things have changed, the core of what we do has remained the same. We are still in the business of solving problems. While discovery has gotten completely out of control, the same basic procedures that applied then apply now. We still deal with fragile people at a very delicate time in their lives. Like then, we still need to balance empathy with action and advocacy with common sense.

In most respects, the practice of family law has changed little in the 21 years since David left us. I think about him often and wonder how he would look at things in our modern world.  But I'm certain his mantra wouldn’t change,” take care of yourself and your family, take care of your clients, and take care of the profession.” Timeless principles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Solo and Small Firm Conference- ISBA

I will be speaking Friday September 14th to the Solo and Small Firm Conference of the Illinois State Bar Association. The topic of my presentation is authentication of evidence, in particular the authentication of digital evidence. More and more we use Facebook pages, text messages and other forms of digitally based information as evidence. Digital evidence, like any exhibit, must first be authenticated before it can be admitted. Authentication requires a preliminary showing that the proffered evidence is what it claims to be. Foundational testimony is often used to authenticate the exhibit but other methods can also be used: stipulations, request to admit the authenticity of the exhibit, and judicial notice may establish that the exhibit is authentic. Authenticity is not a difficult burden and questions about authenticity of the exhibit go toward the weight given to the exhibit, rather than its admissibility. General claims that “the exhibit could have been tampered with” are insufficient to disqualify it. Don’t forget: establishing authenticity is only the first step in admitting the document. You still must contend with other evidentiary obstacles such as hearsay, best evidence rule, relevance, etc.