Yogi Berra, a data science pioneer and Hall of Fame manager for the New York Yankees, once declared, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” How true.
It’s in that same spirit we take a look at our 2020 output to see what, if anything, can be asserted about the state of the legal community by observing which blog posts proved most popular among our readers during the past year.
The COVID-19 pandemic was, and is, and will likely be, the leading topic for discussion among lawyers and judges. Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. devoted the entirety of his 2020 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary (PDF) recounting the ways that federal and state judges responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The Chief Justice praised the manner in which the courts embraced technology to carry out vital judicial business during trying times. Singled out for particular attention was Texas trial court judge Emily Miskel, who in May innovated with videoconferencing technologies to conduct the nation’s first-ever fully remote jury trial.
The legal profession’s sudden and fervent interest in technology was also reflected in the popularity of our blog posts addressing technology topics. Learning new ways to conduct depositions, litigate cases, and run a viable law practice in 2020 meant that lawyers were always on the prowl for information, searching for any tip or success story they could put to work in their own practice.
Re-Opening After COVID-19: A Tall Order for Law Firms, Remote Lawyering Is Here to Stay, and COVID-19 Burnout? Bar Groups Can Help were the most popular blogs we published in 2020. The professional mindset that drove these articles to the top of our readership stats is not difficult to discern. Practicing law in 2020 was challenging and novel in many respects, and it could wear down even the best lawyers.
The next most popular group of blogs addressed aspects of litigation that were affected by COVID-19. Posts such as COVID-19 Litigation Trackers Showcase Law Firm Expertise, On COVID-19 Insurance Coverages: We Haven’t Seen Anything Yet, Scanning the COVID-19 Litigation Scene, and In-House Counsel Describe Relations With Outside Firms During COVID-19 Pandemic all had a strong readership within a profession that is continually searching for — and wary of — the “next big thing” in litigation. Obviously, COVID-19-related litigation will be an area of significant professional interest in 2021.
Finally, our recent series of blogs drawn from the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s two-day conference on virtual trials caught the attention of many readers. Technology Tips From Virtual Trial Experts, Practical Presentation Tips for Your Next Virtual Proceeding, and Remote Technology and Trials After COVID-19 presented a wealth of actionable advice from the judges and attorneys who participated in bench and jury trials during the early days of legal practice in the pandemic.
The year 2020 was a time of coping, innovating, and continually learning within the legal profession. During the upcoming year, we expect the environment that made these articles popular will continue, even as the COVID-19 recedes and life gradually returns to normal.
Thousands of COVID-19-related cases are working their way through federal and state courts, with more to come. Courts will be weighing revisions to procedural rules in an attempt to preserve the best of the virtual justice innovations pioneered in 2020. And the legal profession will continue along its course of rapid change — no doubt turning its attention to not merely adopting but to also perfecting the use of technology in the practice of law.