An institution governed by convention, strict divisions of labor and a rigid decision-making hierarchy. A head of the house content to stay "upstairs" with little interest in the work being done "downstairs." Traditional ways on a collision course with seismic cultural change. Yes, that's a description of Masterpiece Classic's popular period drama "Downton Abbey," which just wrapped up its second season on PBS. But it could just as easily refer to a legal team handling the typical e-discovery litigation project.
When lawyers fail to adapt to the technological revolution and, for example, resist taking a direct role in e-discovery, they face the same challenges and fate as Downton's patriarch, Robert Crawley, the Lord of Grantham, who is stuck firmly in the Victorian era even while the world around him is changing irrevocably.
It's amusing for viewers to watch as Downton Abbey's Victorian aristocrats stubbornly resist the modern world and only grudgingly use a telephone. "Is this an instrument of communication or torture?" quips one member of the stiff-collared clan at the thought of using the phone.
Some face obsolescence with steely resolve, while others bravely negotiate great changes caused by the Great War and societal and economic shifts. It has been particularly painful to watch Lord Grantham's floundering attempts to maintain the status quo. "Before the war I believe my life had value," he laments. "I should like to feel that way again."
With the luxury of hindsight, viewers want to give Lord Grantham a little push and tell him to get with the times — to learn to use the phone or drive a car, for heaven's sake! It's ridiculous nowadays not to see the good that was brought about by electricity or communicating by telephone.
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By: Erin Nealy Cox