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Digital Degrees

The next time you enter an office "war room" and peruse boxes of documents and mountains of overstuffed Redwelds, consider the following: The average lawyer can use the equivalent of 20 trees--every year. Given the latest American Bar Association (ABA) estimates that there are more than 1.1 million lawyers in the U.S., that is a sobering 20.2 million trees! The roots of such consumption often start in law school and grow dramatically from there.

Fortunately the growth of e-discovery, computer-based document management systems and electronic court filings have gone a long way toward saving a lot of trees in our overpapered profession. Legal libraries, long known for their enormous casebooks and reporters, are shrinking as lawyers increasingly rely on laptops, rather than library stacks, for research. At the same time, videoconferencing has greatly reduced a lawyer's need to travel.

The change represented by online legal education will undoubtedly come grudgingly, but it will come. And when it does, it will not only revolutionize the manner in which some of our finest lawyers are educated, it will forever alter the environmental impact that has marked our profession.

Janice L. Block is executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Kaplan Higher Education.

staff Writer

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