Chaos or Continuity? The Evolution of the Role of the Lawyer and the Impact of Technology on the Legal Profession From Its Nascent Use to the Digital Age, in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Beyond

25 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2020

See all articles by Jan L. Jacobowitz

Jan L. Jacobowitz

University of Miami - School of Law

Date Written: June 30, 2020


What does it mean to be an advocate? In its broadest sense, advocacy means ‘any public action to support and recommend a cause, policy or practice…’Advocacy is a communicative act. Advocacy is also a persuasive act... John Capecci and Timothy

Lawyers advocate more so than state their own positions. Arlen Specter

Throughout much of history advocacy has been recognized as a necessary component of our society; a component that has been both respected and ridiculed. Advocacy on behalf of another developed as a cultural adaptation and a societal innovation to facilitate both dispute resolution and business transaction. In fact, third party advocacy birthed the legal profession which in turn evolved over time to adapt to cultural changes in society. Today the legal profession is fully entrenched in society and far from being thought about as an innovation. Instead, the legal profession finds itself confronted by the innovations of the digital age. Technology is challenging both the legal profession’s adaptability and the nature of the attorney-client relationship.

The attorney-client relationship likely originated in Ancient Greece and Rome. While scholars have documented much earlier findings of various societies establishing and imposing laws on their citizens, the concept of employing an advocate and the rise of a legal profession did not take root until much later. In fact,[t]here is not the slightest trace in ancient times of a distinct legal profession in the modern sense.”

The enactment of law much before the establishment of a legal profession is consistent with the concept that “almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” Moreover, the literature suggests that in preclassical times, there was no need for the role of a lawyer because the law was “divinely sanctioned and revealed.” The answers to legal issues could be provided by a king, oracle or priest who possessed “the divine stamp of approval” and served in a judicial function. In fact, ancient civilizations relied on the divine connection between kings, oracles, and priests to various recognized gods and goddesses who channeled messages of acceptable conduct. Court proceedings involved a review of documents and testimony from witnesses who took an oath to the gods.

Ancient Greece’s evolution of its legal system eventually provided for informal representatives and laid the foundation for a new profession. Ancient Rome elevated the status of legal representatives to paid professionals. From Ancient Rome through today, both the law and the legal profession continued to evolve to incorporate historical, cultural, and technological changes throughout the world. Contemporary lawyers practice in diverse environments and differing legal systems throughout the world. Yet, the attorney-client relationship—an interpersonal relationship that demands competence, confidentiality, and loyalty—remains remarkably the same in its essential components. What continues to change is the expression and facilitation of the relationship, especially as technology continues to impact our lives. This article will briefly explore the development of the legal profession from its origin in Ancient Greece and Rome to its emergence from the Dark Ages in England, and then will fast forward to the beginnings of the legal profession in the United States. Next, the article will explore the historical impact of technology on the legal profession and its ongoing challenge to adapt to the digital age. Finally, the article will conclude with some observations about technology, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the future of the legal profession.

Keywords: Role of Lawyer, Technology, COVID-19 Pandemic, Digital Age, Future of Lawyering, Law and Technology

Suggested Citation

Jacobowitz, Jan L., Chaos or Continuity? The Evolution of the Role of the Lawyer and the Impact of Technology on the Legal Profession From Its Nascent Use to the Digital Age, in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Beyond (June 30, 2020). (Forthcoming) Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, Vol. 23, No. Symposium, 2020, Available at SSRN: or

Jan L. Jacobowitz (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

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