James M. Flavin Centenary Program

Remarks of New York State Bar Association President Katherine Grant Madigan

Court of Appeals Hall

Albany, New York

May 30, 2008

Gary, thank you for inviting me to this very special event, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of James Flavin.

It is such an honor to join you, Chief Judge Kaye, Miles Bottrill, Charles Ashe, William Hooks and Associate Justices, and distinguished guests in celebrating the life and accomplishments of one of the State Bar's most forward-thinking and prolific members.

I am delighted to participate in this event honoring one of our members who recognized a need within our profession, forged a partnership with the State Bar, the court system and Legislature, and brought everyone together to fulfill his vision of making computerized legal research a reality.

And, what a vision it was. Electronically stored and searchable case law? Remember, this was back in the day of the IBM electronic typewriter. Some of you will fondly recall the Selectric, with that amazing erase function, where with a click of the pinkie, mistakes would amazingly disappear --- which really dates us.

Yet, James Flavin knew there was a better way to perform legal research. He believed that attorneys could better serve their clients if they could search the full text of decisions. And, he was right.

James Flavin was appointed Chair of our Committee on Electronic Legal Research in 1969. And, under his remarkable leadership, it took just four years, to roll out the initial version of "LEXIS" - making New York's case law and statutes available to the public in 1973.

.Consider where we are now, 35 years later, due to the revolutionary efforts of James Flavin. From anywhere in the world, you can search the law of virtually any jurisdiction. We can download decisions in various formats; we can email decisions to a colleague's Blackberry; we can not only search a decision's full text, but determine how often it has been cited, and for what principle.

Online legal research is a now a competitive billion dollar business, and it has changed the way we teach future attorneys and improved the way we serve our clients.

We often think of the obvious benefits of online legal research - the need for fewer books means more room in our offices and courthouses. We've reduced our carbon footprint by using less paper, saving more trees. And, in just minutes we can search volumes of case law, getting answers to the most complex of legal questions.

But James Flavin's vision has benefited the profession in other ways.

Solo practitioners who, by the way, make up one-fourth of the State Bar's membership -- no longer need access to a vast law library, located at a court house or law school. A laptop, an Internet connection and they are ready to research. Even if they decide to work from Starbucks.

And what about lawyer/parents? Want to work from home a few days each week? Or, need to stay home with a sick child? No problem. Mothers and fathers can telecommute - and access the case law of any jurisdiction from their living room or home office.

And this is all due to the vision of one attorney, one member of the State Bar who believed, "there is a better way" to practice law. James Flavin's legacy serves as an example to us all.

By honoring him today, we are reminded that we must continually seek to better ourselves and our profession.

In closing, let me assure you that his legacy is one that we strive to honor each day at the State Bar - by advocating for improvements and reform, we carry on his innovative spirit through initiatives that help our members be better lawyers and provide the highest quality and most efficient service to their clients.

Thank you, again, for inviting us to be a part of the celebration of James Flavin's contributions to our great profession.