Denver Bar Association
April 2009
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Bar Codes to Replace Bar Numbers for Colorado Lawyers

by Dick Ott

After more than three decades of assigning lawyers a bar number as they pass the Colorado Bar exam and are admitted to the practice of law, the Colorado Supreme Court announced that a new system of bar codes will be implemented this year.

The bar codes resemble those used by retail stores. They can be readily scanned for detailed information about the attorney.

The recent admission round of new lawyers swelled the volume of Bar numbers to more than 40,000 in Colorado, of which about 22,000 attorneys are currently listed as active.

"It’s just too many lawyers’ numbers to keep track of under the old system," said Colorado Supreme Court spokesperson Jared Sieber. "The antiquated system of simply assigning numbers to lawyers as they take the oath does not convey enough information to the courts, the Bar or to the public."

Beginning July 1, when lawyers enter their appearance in court, they will scan their bar code at the podium. A wealth of information about the lawyer will immediately become available to the court, the clerk and opposing counsel. The new Supreme Court directive requires lawyers to imbed their new bar codes in every pleading they file and every document they handle, for security purposes.

Court clerks and others will soon be able to purchase and install the scanning equipment from an approved vendor. Besides the year of admission to the Bar, the code will hold information about the sex, age, weight, IQ, education, class standing and general health of the lawyer. Lawyers must update information annually with the Court.

Controversially, the Court will require an annual digital scan of every lawyer’s body, similar to the comprehensive inside-and-out 3-D photographic scans taken at airports. Iris scans, a DNA code summary, fingerprints and digital display of variances from the last appearance will be available.

Whereas some attorneys expressed dismay at the invasion of privacy, others interviewed said their privacy concerns were outweighed by the tremendous health benefits of 3-D colonoscopy printouts generated by the annual scan.

The visual information provided is not a privacy issue, Sieber said, as lawyers have already accepted such scans when traveling or going to the Douglas County Justice Center in Castle Rock. "Practicing law is a privilege and not a right; privacy concerns of the lawyer are no longer an issue," said Sieber.

The new bar codes are expected to be interactive, and are being developed by engineers who have crafted evolutions of the successful ankle bracelet system for criminals. Law clerks and judges will be able to update and upload information about a lawyer to the Supreme Court’s Web site to keep information current. This way, the pleading and court appearance habits of a given lawyer will be available to any judge from the Bench at a moment’s notice.

Attorneys also can upload personal theme music into their code to set as background music, or during dramatic moments of the proceedings. Other audio files, such as a brief soliloquy that would play as the code is scanned, could help set the tone for the pleading and the lawyer’s communication with opposing counsel or the court.

The press release from the Court was issued April 1.

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