Technologist: September 2010 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

September 2010 Archives

ABA Hearing to Explore Impact of Tech on Client Confidences

The American Bar Association is inviting interested parties to register to testify at a public hearing in Chicago. The hearing, scheduled for October 14, 2010, from 2 to 5 p.m., is part of the American Bar Association Commission on Ethics 20/20. The ABA hearing will discuss and analyze technology's impact on protecting client confidences and attorneys' use of cloud computing applications for developing business.

ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm created the commission in 2009 to review the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in addition to U.S. attorney regulations with regard to technology and international legal practice developments. The hearings are designed to gather useful information and may result in recommended amendments to the model rules or other changes in 2012.

Should Firms Issue Pre-loaded Smartphones for Associate Attorneys?

What will the legal foot soldiers of tomorrow look like?

A recent article discussing the future of U.S. Army technology offers a look into how law firms might use similar technology for associate attorneys in the future. The Army is running a pilot program where new recruits receive pre-loaded smartphones.The phones come pre-loaded with useful training information. Lieut. General Mark Hertling said "It has everything a soldier needs to know."

With the smartphone, a recruit can access army manuals, the Soldier Creed, first aid manuals and all sorts of additional materials from the "Apps for Army" library.

Social Networks Subject To Discovery

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

As you post communications, photos and videos on Facebook and MySpace, do you ever wonder if social networks are subject to discovery in litigation? Well, you should, as one recent court decision indicates.

In the case of Romano v. Steelcase, a New York judge ruled that defendant Steelcase was entitled in discovery to access the plaintiff’s current and historical Facebook and MySpace pages and accounts, including previously deleted information, on the basis that information to be found there could prove to be inconsistent with her claims of injuries and loss of enjoyment of life. The plaintiff alleged in her lawsuit that she fell off a defective Steelcase chair, which led to permanent injuries, pain, loss of enjoyment of life, and multiple surgeries. Steelcase contended that public portions of her Facebook and MySpace pages revealed that she had an active lifestyle, including travel, and it wanted further access to her social networking information, which the plaintiff refused.

Internet Explorer 9 Now Available in Public Beta

Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari. There is plenty of competition these days in the Internet browser war. But despite the feature-rich options available on the other web platforms, Internet Explorer continues to dominate the market, for better or for worse.

But now there is a new weapon in Microsoft's web browser artillery: Internet Explorer 9, which was released in public beta last Wednesday. The final version is expected to be released sometime next year. The new browser offers better support for HTML5 as well as other important features, including a faster JavaScript engine. Also gone are the days of the clogged, bloated look. Internet Explorer (or "IE9") is very minimalist, CNET reports, calling it "a theater with individual Web sites as the stars of the show."

Rumor: Maker of BlackBerry Developing iPad Competitor

BlackBerry might be releasing a tablet computer and investors like the news. After The Wall Street Journal published an article on the product, which would compete with the iPad, shares rose 3%. It is believed that the new product could be formally announced by BlackBerry next week at a developer's conference in San Francisco.

The iPad has already been a hit for Apple, selling millions. The BlackBerry product, which some have already dubbed the "BlackPad," will have a seven inch touch screen, Bluetooth, broadband and the ability to connect to cellular networks through a BlackBerry smartphone, as well as one or more built in cameras, according to sources cited in the story.

XCom Global Makes International Data Roaming Affordable

Ever traveled overseas for business and needed a way to stay connected to the internet? As I learned before my most recent trip to Europe, it's not as easy as turning on international data roaming and using your trusty old iPhone or firing up your laptop. Not unless you're down with paying insane roaming charges. For example, Nilofer Merchant traveled to Canada on business. She used an AT&T DataConnect modem to get online for a few hours.  When her bill arrived she was shocked to see that 707 MB of international data access set her back a cool $10,609.

There must be a better way. And it looks like there is.

The next time that I travel abroad, I plan on checking out XCom Global, a San Diego based company (and subsidiary of an Japanese company) that advertises an "Unlimited aXcess plan" which allows unlimited international data roaming in 32 countries for $14.95 per day. Apparently quite a few law firms have already taken advantage of Xcom Global's services and found not only cost savings, but time savings as well. (It sure beats having to hunt down a cafe with WiFi in France.)

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

Most of us are aware that electronic discovery abuse and spoliation of evidence can lead to monetary sanctions. But one recent case shows that such failures also can lead to adverse judgments and even potential imprisonment. In Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., Chief Magistrate Judge Paul Grimm, of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, was called upon to resolve the plaintiff’s motion for terminating and other sanctions arising out of the defendants’ alleged intentional destruction of evidence and other litigation misconduct.

In his memorandum, order, and recommendation to the Court, Magistrate Grimm noted that during four years of discovery, during which time the President of the defendant company actually was aware of the duty to preserve relevant information, the defendants nevertheless “delayed their electronically stored information (‘ESI’) production; deleted, destroyed, and otherwise failed to preserve evidence; and repeatedly misrepresented the completeness of their discovery production to opposing counsel and the Court.” As a result, “substantial amounts of the lost evidence cannot be reconstructed.” Indeed, the plaintiff identified “eight discreet preservation failures.” The plaintiff contended that the defendants did not provide certain categories of discovery notwithstanding numerous prior court orders to do so.

Protecting Your Law Firm From Data Theft

As technology improves at an increasingly rapid pace, many attorneys are upgrading their hardware frequently. That laptop that you purchased in 2007 just doesn't cut it compared to what's available now. But when it comes time to upgrade, there is always a question of what to do with your old equipment. You might be surprised to learn how many people sell or throw away their old equipment without thinking about data theft.

But you, you're smarter than that right? You would never just throw it away, you erase your hard drive or soak it in acid, or hit it with a hammer. Nothing to worry about then, right?

Wrong, according to a recent article published on Foxbusiness.com.

RIM Acquires Documents to Go: Will Your Productivity Benefit?

Research in Motion confirmed last week that they acquired a large part of DataViz, maker of the Documents To Go application. "RIM has acquired some of the assets of DataViz and hired the majority of its employees to focus on supporting the BlackBerry platform."

Documents To Go is a popular application for mobile users that allows for editing Microsoft Office documents on a smartphone. If you haven't tried it yet, it's worth looking into as you might see a productivity benefit. Documents To Go currently supports a number of platforms, including the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Maemo, PalmOS and Windows Mobile. Documents to Go sells at Apple's App Store for $9.99 and $14.99 for the standard and premium versions, respectively. The application supports Powerpoint, Excel and Word documents. PCMag endorsed Documents To Go Premium for the iPhone, selecting it as an Editors' Choice.

Android Smartphone Gains Market Share, But is it Right for Attorneys?

Google's Android operating system is rapidly gaining market share in the smartphone world. Analysts expect that by the end of the year it will surpass Apple's iOS, Research in Motion's Blackberry, Microsoft Windows phones and Nokia's Symbian. By 2014, it could become the worlds number one mobile phone operating system. The growth is so massive that according to Google, 200,000 Android phones are activated on a daily basis.

That's not the say that the future of the phone is certain. Oracle recently filed a federal copyright lawsuit alleging that without permission, Google built the Andriod operating system on Oracle's Java software, The San Jose Mercury News reports. Android also faces challenges related to the different versions of the OS for different phones. Finally, Google also is likely to find it difficult to manage relationships with the plethora of wireless carriers and manufacturers.

Google Instant Changes How Clients Search for Attorneys

If there is one thing you can be sure of when it comes to the Internet, it's change. If you think you have it all figured out, you will be humbled quickly when the next big development occurs. This week's major development: Google Instant.

So what is Google Instant and how does it change the way clients seek attorneys?

Google Instant is a search enhancement that shows results in real time, letter-by-letter, as you type. For example, in the past, if a client was searching for a criminal attorney in San Francisco, they might have typed, "criminal lawyer SF," hit enter and then looked at the results. 

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

Companies naturally want to protect their internal, sensitive company information. Indeed, intellectual property and trade secrets often constitute the crown jewels of a given operation. Companies also have practical and legal obligations to protect confidential information of their customers. Accordingly, prudent companies develop policies that are designed to ensure the security of such highly valuable, proprietary and sensitive data. But does that mean that company employees necessarily follow those polices?  Au contraire! 

Indeed, according to a recent study in Europe by Ipswitch, a file transfer security vendor, 69% of IT managers transmit highly confidential data, such as payroll, financial and customer information, over the Internet using unsecured emails. 

Google Adds Priority Inbox Feature to Gmail

Gmail is in the process of rolling out a new inbox feature that could prove very useful for attorneys who use their e-mail service. The feature is called Priority Inbox. It automatically separates messages that the program determines should have priority. It is designed to make it easier for you to quickly see the messages that truly matter and push the ones that don't matter to the bottom.

Priority Inbox works by analyzing the e-mails you receive and determining which messages are actually important. Then, it gives you the opportunity to train it for future messages. If you are familiar with the thumbs up, thumps down feature of a site like Pandora, you won't have any trouble training Priority Inbox. Based on your feedback, Gmail adjusts which messages are marked priority.

Gmail's servers look at several types of information to identify the email that's important to you, including who you email and chat with most, how often you email with these people, and which keywords appear frequently in the emails you read.

Apple to Update iPad Software: Good for Law Practice?

On Wednesday Apple announced several new product and software updates that have the tech world buzzing. Of course, much of the buzz is the usual back and forth, "I love everything Apple!" vs. "Apple is overrated and overpriced and you guys are a bunch of fanboys." We'll leave that debate to someone else and instead fill you in on a few new features for the iPad software that could increase efficiency at your law office.

Many attorneys are using iPads as part of their practice. It can be used as an e-reader, e-mail device, music player, photo viewer, web client and nearly anything else that a computer can do. Some attorneys are even bringing them into the courtroom and using them to display evidence. That may not fly in every jurisdiction, but even if the iPad never leaves your office, it has quite a lot to offer.

When the new iOS 4.2 iPad software comes out in November, the iPad is going to have a new set of features beyond what it can already do. A few of the features that we are most excited about are highlighted below:

BlackBerry Ban in India Delayed 2 Months

If your law firm is doing business in India, you will want to pay attention to the dispute currently taking place between Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, and the Indian government. The two have been "locked in a dispute about access to the encryption used on BlackBerry devices.

On Monday, India agreed to withdraw its BlackBerry services ban for two more months. In exchange, RIM agreed to provide Indian government security with more access to corporate e-mail and instant messaging, The Associated Press reports. The Ministry of Home Affairs will review the potential BlackBerry ban in 60 days; the Department of Telecommunications will study the prospect of having BlackBerry services routed through servers in India.