The Luddite Lawyer

Am I dating myself too much if I reference Kee-Rock, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer? If, like me, you were a regular viewer of “Saturday Night Live” in the late 80s and early 90s, you probably get this reference. For the rest of you, please try to keep up.

Kee-Rock was a recurring character on the late-night comedy sketch show, played brilliantly by the late, great Phil Hartman. According to the premise, Kee-Rock was found by archaeologists frozen in a block of ice. He was thawed out and subsequently attended law school, graduated, and passed the bar, thus becoming Kee-Rock, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Almost every episode took place in the courtroom and would involve some type of closing argument to the jurors in which Kee-Rock would make a personal appeal. Typically, it went something like this (please note that the quotes are approximations of what I generally recall being said. Don’t cross-check me on this):

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am but a simple caveman, discovered by your scientists and thawed from a block of ice. I don’t understand your modern world. It frightens me. Sometimes, when I receive a message on the fax machine, I wonder ‘did little demons get inside and type it?’ I don’t know! My primitive mind can’t grasp such concepts, but there is one thing I do know, when a man, such as my client, slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of the public library, that man is entitled to $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, and that is all my client is asking for.”

The jury then renders its verdict, without the need for deliberation, because Kee-Rock has moved them with his eloquence and personal touch. It may not sound like much on paper, but trust me when I say that Phil Hartman really sold it, and for many of us in law school at the time, Kee-Rock was second behind only Atticus Finch as a role model for what we wanted our careers to be.

After a year and a half of a pandemic forcing the legal profession to adapt to and embrace new technology, I think I have officially become the Kee-Rock of my generation. The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, version 2.0. I write this with a certain amount of chagrin. I value technology. I really do intuitively understand that it is intended to make life easier, to make lawyers more efficient, and to overall improve the quality of legal representation. Nonetheless, in all candor, I have to admit that I am not adept at adjusting to the dizzying pace at which new technology is being thrust upon us and uprooting our lives. I need time to adjust and develop comfort before I fully embrace a new technology and, in this day and age, that seems almost impossible.

It was only 15 years ago, when I started at my current firm, that my mentor asked me, in our first meeting after I had been hired, what resources I needed to make my life easier. The firm would provide it. I proudly told him that I was very easygoing and that all I really needed was a computer to do research and word processing. I told him that I didn’t even own a cell phone. He looked at me quizzically and said “you do now.” That first phone was a flip-top designed to make phone calls… and that was all. Now, 15 years later, my entire family has gone through the full panoply of iPhones on the market and I spend my days emailing, researching, drafting, and socializing, all from the comforts of my phone. A side note here, it is telling that, in my family, the 16-year-old and 12-year-old each have a newer generation of phone than I do. My family, recognizing that I am the least capable of appreciating new technology, have relegated me to a phone five iterations out of date, with a cracked display and the inability to hold a charge for more than a few hours. Meanwhile, my 12-year-old could create a full-length feature film on her phone and still have enough computing power to launch an unmanned shuttle into outer space. I’m not bitter.

Social media is another area in which technology has outpaced my poor Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer brain. The same cannot be said for social media content. I resent Mark Zuckerberg and everything he stands for simply because I cannot understand how he was able to monetize something like Facebook. I have a Facebook account (my kids tell me it is for old people) but I use it these days only to see what friends are posting. The last time I posted anything myself, I made what I thought was an innocuous comment about the 2020 election and received responses and threats from people I didn’t even know. Good friendships ended that day, and my future social media activity declined. I read countless articles over the past few years proclaiming the effectiveness of social media for attorney marketing. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not sure anyone is going to hire me because of the picture of the meal I posted on Facebook, the entertaining TikTok video I created, or the 280 characters Twitter allowed me to show how witty and intelligent I am. Maybe I am an outlier… I am sure I am… but I cannot fathom what a successful social media strategy would be for me. At this point, I just want to avoid losing any more friends.

As long as I am laying bare my technology deficiencies, let me talk about Zoom for a minute. If the past year and a half has taught me anything, it is that I have four chins and they are all prominently on display when I log in for a Zoom meeting. I perform terribly in such meetings because I am so self-conscious of the way I look, and this has transferred over to live interactions, now that I know what I look like to people on a daily basis. Zoom and similar remote platforms were created to give increased access to social and professional interaction. It has had the opposite effect upon me, driving me further from human interaction for fear of my hideous visage. Also, what’s the deal with the hazy ghostlike glow surrounding me during Zoom meetings? I guess I need to invest in the halo lighting and professional backgrounds to make my Zoom appearance more palatable, but I am too tired to try and terrified the results could be even worse than the reality of what I am dealing with now. These days, you need a full tech and lighting crew with a makeup artist just to log on to a scheduling meeting.

Technology is changing daily, and with it, the way we conduct our business and private lives. Some have managed to keep up, while others of us are left in the dust. Relegated, at times, to being a caveman lawyer. I will continue to try, because I know I have to. Artificial intelligence won’t wait for me to catch up and I need to master technology (or at least become proficient) if I am to deliver the best legal services I can. However, don’t for a minute think I won’t relish the opportunities (fewer and farther between) to render bespoke, personal, live, and interactive representation to clients just like we did in the caveman days.

About the Author

Jason H. Long is a shareholder with the firm of London & Amburn, P.C. in Knoxville, Tennessee, specializing in health care and business litigation.

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