Technologist - FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Once upon a time, at the turn of this century, when the commercial internet starting becoming a reality, we had the first opportunity to purchase holiday gifts online. This seemed like a big experiment. Would our orders really get fulfilled? Would the gifts arrive on time? Was it safe to give a credit card and other identifying information on the World Wide Web?

Fast-forward to now. Many billions of dollars of gift transactions are happening on an ongoing basis as the current holiday season is upon us. We have grown accustomed to making online purchases of all types throughout the year, and the holiday season ratchets this up tremendously.

When Lan Cai was unhappy with her lawyers, the 20-year-old nursing student did what many Millennials do: she took to the internet. Specifically, Cai went on Facebook and Yelp to give the law firm a negative review. The firm, the Law Offices of Tuan A. Khuu in Houston, Texas, wasn't pleased with Cai's online complaint. They sued.

They didn't win that suit. Last week, a judge in Texas tossed the firm's lawsuit and ordered them to pay $27,000 to cover Cai's attorney's fees.

You're probably familiar with how data analytics can speed up the eDiscovery process, helping attorneys quickly review documents for responsiveness. You may have heard about how "big data" can be mined to improve law firm practices, helping lawyers monitor clients and improve their efficiency. You probably also know of legal tech companies who are mining data in order to make legal services and research faster, better, and more automated. In sum, there's a lot that data analytics can do for lawyers.

But can data analytics help you in trial prep as well?

You're a tech-savvy attorney, as fluent in gigs and RAM and blockchain as you are in personal injury, summary judgement, or motions in limine. You know how to tell a worthwhile tech product from an unnecessary one, and you know how tech can improve your practice of law. Or, hey, maybe you can't tell a Mac from a PC -- but you want the best new tech out there anyway.

If either of these sound like you, here are five worthwhile gadgets you should check out.

Benefits of Legal Tech Outsourcing

In an age when technology is making some careers obsolete, lawyers can thank the outsourcing of digital services for helping them compete.

According to a recent survey, lawyers are using more outside services to handle digital tasks at their firms. Swiss Post Solutions (SPS) North America, a leader in outsourcing and digitization solutions, says law firms outsourced mailroom and messenger services the most (93 percent), reception services next (50 percent), and then conference room management (47 percent). Big law firms have led the way, but smaller firms are catching up.

Consumers who critique businesses through Yelp, TripAdviser, and other websites may breathe easier now that a new law is on the president's desk.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act, which Congress passed to stop businesses from punishing consumers who post negative reviews, received widespread support in both houses. The U.S. Senate approved the bill unanimously yesterday, sending it to the President Obama for signature.

"Reviews on where to shop, eat, or stay on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor help consumers make informed choices about where to spend their money," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without the fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right."

Don't Use 'Web Bugs' to Track Email From Opposing Counsel

Remember that email from the wealthy Ethiopian offering to send you $1 million to do a legal transaction?

Hopefully, you didn't respond or open an attachment from some similarly scary source. Not that we lawyers would ever fall for this type of scam, but I am here to tell you there are attorneys out there who send equally pernicious email. And they don't even offer to pay you money!

IRS Wants to Identify Bitcoin Users, Spy Into Coinbase Records

The IRS is looking for tax money wherever it can, but is finding that it's not so easy in the world of virtual currency.

Bitcoin, a digital currency targeted by taxing authorities, is still safe at Coinbase, the nation's largest exchanger of the crypto-currency. The IRS recently served a summons for information about Coinbase users, but the company is expected to oppose the request. The IRS claims that two people used exchanger to avoid taxes, and it has asked for information to identify all Coinbase customers from 2013 to 2015.

Thankful for Technology

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

At times, it can seem like technology is bringing us down ...

We frequently hear about: cyberbullying of teens; online intellectual property infringement; various forms of identity theft, hacking, privacy and security violations, and cyber crime; cyber warfare; illegal sales of munitions and slaves and the organization of terrorist activities on the Dark Web; political email scandals; potential foreign Internet influence over US political elections; and the list goes on and on.

But during this Thanksgiving and holiday season, not only can we be thankful for our family and friends, we also can be grateful for the many benefits of technology.

Black Friday shoppers in San Francisco were able to hop on the city's light rail system for free last week, after the city's Muni transit system fell victim to a ransomware attack. Ransomware infected about a quarter of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's computers, encrypting their files on Friday.

The hack shut down many ticketing kiosks for days, giving San Francisco straphangers a free ride for the weekend, as hackers demanded a bitcoin ransom worth $73,000.