Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


Technology has made the lawyer's life easier, right? E-filing, teleconferences for court hearings, scanning documents, and electronic signatures are all part of practicing and save hours of time for litigators.

However, despite all these conveniences, some attorneys pine for the old days where the personal touch, and a personal connection, meant "something" more. On the other hand, clients, then and now, really only care about two things: quality and cost. Increasingly, attorneys are being hired without ever having a face-to-face with a client. As such, when it comes to using technology these days, it's not an option, it's mandatory.

Being accessible via tech takes the place of establishing that trusted connection in person. Clients you've only ever interacted with digitally will expect you to respond to emails, text messages, and even calls, faster than ever before thanks to all the new methods of connecting.

Justice Shuts Down Major Dark Web Dealer

The Justice Department has shut down the largest criminal marketplace on the internet.

AlphaBay, which operated for more than two years on the dark web, was trafficking in illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification, counterfeit goods, hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.

"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year -- taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Litigators beware: Do you know what your ringtone sounds like? Are you sure a prankster child, colleague, or office nemesis, hasn't turned your ringtone into a duck, or something more nefarious?

Obviously, you don't want embarrassing sounds coming from your pocket during a meeting, or worse, while you're in court. And while the duck ringtone may not actually be that bad (and could score you points with a duck-hunting judge), a simple, professional ringtone will always be less disruptive than something that's even cautiously humorous, cool, or anything but professional.

Should Judges Be More Skeptical of Forensics?

"I'm free," Anthony Wright proclaimed. "I thank God for science."

Wright was exonerated of murder last year after 25 years in prison. He was the 344th person in the United States to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

This month, judges at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Judicial Council learned more about how faulty forensic evidence leads to exonerations. Legal experts told them to be skeptical of methods that don't pass scientific muster.

Are you a lawyer that knows the difference between a motherboard and a mother goose? Can you write a page of simple HTML while chewing gum at the same time? Can you effortlessly pilot a drone through flaming hoops of fire?

If so, you might be one of those "tech-savvy" lawyers. And if you are, you might be wondering if there are any niche practice areas to which you might be particularly well suited. Below, you can read about the top three niche practice areas for you tech-savvy attorneys.

There's rarely much debate over whether attorneys are justified in passing through case related expenses and other case related costs to their clients. Good retainer agreements hold clients liable for attorney fees, attorney expenses, and case costs. However, attorneys sometimes wonder where a piece of software, or a smartphone app, falls on the spectrum of case costs or expenses?

Under the ABA model rule 1.5, which governs fees, there is no prohibition against charging clients the costs for software you obtain, or use, for their matters. However, the rule does call for costs to be clearly communicated before being incurred. So if items or categories that arguably include software are not listed in your retainer, you may want to get written permission before spending that client money. Also, if the software is for general use, like Microsoft Office Suite, or Adobe Acrobat, billing these to a client is likely to raise a red flag.

Chatbot Opens Up 1,000 Practice Areas

If you don't know who Joshua Browder is, you might want to check out his new chatbot now.

Browder, a 20-year-old Stanford student and legal innovator, is changing the way the law works. He created a chatbot -- an interactive program that answers questions in real time -- that has beaten 375,000 parking tickets. For free.

Now his bot, DoNotPay, is opening up 1,000 legal areas. That might trouble some lawyers, but Browder is also offering the program to attorneys.

Law Firm Creates 'Virtual Hub' for New Partners

Another law firm is branching out on the internet, setting up a virtual office to complement its brick-and-mortar presence.

Taylor English Duma, which brands itself as a new breed of law firm, is hiring partners to become part of a virtual hub. Unlike purely virtual firms, the Atlanta-based firm calls it a "hybrid" model that will give partners more support to work at home.

It also represents a trend in law firms branching out on the web to serve clients across the country.

Ashley Madison Agrees to $11.2 Million Settlement for Data Breach

Ashley Madison, the adult site that encourages extramarital affairs, has agreed to pay $11.2 million to settle with users whose personal information was hacked and released on the internet.

The settlement will go to resolve dozens of cases resulting from the data breach of some 37 million user accounts. The deal must be approved by a federal judge in the case, which is set for review on July 21.

The settlement ends an embarrassing two-year legal battle, but cannot close the door on the biggest elephant in the adult services arena: what if somebody finds out about your online affairs?

We Need Internet Stop Signs

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

Has our ability to stay present in the real world largely been destroyed by the internet? If so, how has that happened? If we erected internet "stop signs" would we be better off?

While we were saturated with different sources of information, news, and entertainment as recently as the Twentieth Century, those sources had naturally occurring stop cues that allowed us to pause and consider disengaging from the sources.