Technologist: May 2012 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

May 2012 Archives

Kinect Facial Recognition Tracks Tongue, Maybe Lies in Future

It seems like the Microsoft Kinect is being used for everything but video gaming these days. The latest innovation brings the Kinect's facial recognition capabilities to a whole new level, one that could also change the way lawyers think about lie detection.

The breakthrough comes courtesy of Japanese researchers from the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. The team there was able to modify the body-wagging accessory to detect tongue movements, PCWorld reports.

The goal of the project is to help rehabilitate people with speech and swallowing disorders, but the application also spells potential in the field of legal discovery.

5 Tips to Speed Up Slow Law Firm Computers

Not all law firms are created equal. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of technology. However, if you're stuck using a slow computer, don't fret, there are tips that can help speed things up.

The following tidbits of advice are also easy on the wallet. So you'll be able to secure a faster workstation without having to put in an upgrade request. And with the legal market full of eager unemployed lawyers, shaking down partners for computer money probably isn't such a good idea right now.

So if your rig is slowing you down, here are five things you can do to speed it up.

The Laptop Buying Guide for Lawyers

With technology's evolution continuing to exceed Moore's law, it can be really tough to know which computer is right for your practice. Don't you wish there was some special laptop buying guide specifically for lawyers?

Well, fear not attorneys, you've come to the right place.

Selecting the proper hardware for all your lawyering needs can be daunting. After all, there are so many choices available today. However, as this guide will teach you, lawyers only need to worry about five things.

Police Tracking Our Cell Phones, Warrants Not Required

Law enforcement agencies across the country were sent spinning in January after the Supreme Court struck down warrantless GPS tracking as an unconstitutional practice. How would they follow criminal suspects discreetly and without an in-person tail?

It seems this question has been answered pretty quickly. Police departments and federal agencies have readily embraced warrantless cell phone tracking as a viable alternative. Cell tower data allows investigators to pinpoint a suspect's location whenever he makes or receives a mobile call.

Privacy advocates are furious.

Should Lawyers Switch to Google Chrome?

The Internet browser wars are in full swing, as Google Chrome has just overtaken Internet Explorer in the top spot. For the time being, Chrome is now the world's most popular browser, but is that reason enough for lawyers to make the switch?

Chrome barely edged out IE, taking 31.88 percent of the world's Web traffic to IE's 31.47 percent, according to StatCounter. Though IE still rules in some regions (like North America), there's good reason for the sea change. Google's browser embraces a lot of sound design mechanics.

But do they make Web surfing better for lawyers? Here are some reasons why using Chrome might be more suited for your practice.

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

Once upon a time, collecting music was a clunky experience, to say the least. Vinyl albums (while you might like the sound they provide) are large and take up a lot of space. And though tapes and CDs are smaller, they can add up in terms of storage needs, and none of the above are easy to navigate in terms of finding genres, artists, or songs. Moreover, of course, they cannot really be "shuffled" in a meaningful way.

Judge in Oracle v. Google Case Learns Code

Many attorneys in technology-based practices know a big hurdle in winning cases lies in people clueless about tech. Judges can be particularly hard to win over because of this barrier. But not the judge presiding over the Oracle v. Google copyright infringement case. He learned computer code.

Judge William Alsup has an undergraduate degree in mathematics. And as he revealed in previous trials, his knowledge extends beyond the law. He's also quite an adept computer programmer and he even learned Java for the Oracle-Google battle.

But as David Boies (Oracle's attorney) has learned, a tech-savvy judge isn't always a good thing.

The Apple iPhone's Siri may not work exactly like it does on TV, but it's still "cutting edge," the company asserts in a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit.

The suit by unhappy iPhone 4 users alleges false advertising about Siri's supposed skills, The Wall Street Journal reports. TV commercials show people using Siri "to make appointments, find restaurants, and even learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs," the suit states.

But in real life, Siri failed to live up to its advertised promises, according to the lawsuit. Apple's motion to dismiss, however, takes a bite out of the disgruntled iPhone users' complaints.

The Best Browser Extensions to Optimize Slow Law Firm Computers

Let's face it, your law firm's technology isn't always on the cutting edge. Optimizing your productivity on slow computers can be tough. But one of the best ways to get the most out of your dated hardware is with internet browser extensions.

Whether you're an Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox user, you know that browsers are serious RAM hogs. And while installing extensions may eat up more memory, in the case of these five extensions, the trade off is worth it. You'll be able to free up more resources on your desktop for all the PDFs and Word docs that no doubt litter your taskbar.

Should Lawyers Switch to a Windows Phone?

With Windows 8's release looming ever closer, Microsoft appears poised to take on Apple and Google head on. However, it's sea change may be Windows Phone. But should lawyers make the switch?

It might seem far-fetched, but the proposed changes Microsoft's planning might very well be the streamlining attorneys need. Microsoft wants to make Windows 8 a truly integrated operating system, one that works across platforms. At the forefront will be Windows Phone.

For lawyers, this might make handling life in and out of the office a lot faster and easier than what iOS and Android currently offer.

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

The London Olympics are set to begin in about 10 weeks' time. And as the excitement and pageantry build, concern also is growing with respect to congestion and IT challenges.

There is little question that London, an already densely populated urban center, will feel the immense weight of the influx of people coming to be part of the Olympic Games. Many aspects of daily life, most notably transportation, will be impacted by the surge of additional visitors moving about London because of the Olympics.

Facebook Co-Creator Eduardo Saverin Renounces US Citizenship Before IPO

Why did Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounce his U.S. citizenship?

The answer to this question was the subject of much speculation on Friday, when news broke that the Brazilian-born tech investor renounced his U.S. citizenship back in September. It was only on April 30, when the IRS published a list of citizens who have chosen to expatriate, that the information became public.

Many believe Saverin is trying to avoid an astronomical tax bill in the wake of Facebook's IPO. His shares are worth as much as $3.84 billion.

Nolo Plain-English Law Dictionary App Useful, But Not Necessary

Remember those first days in law school when terms like "adverse possession," "charitable trust," and "rules against perpetuities" were so foreign?

Well that's the problem with the Nolo Law Dictionary app. The program is great for novices, especially those that aren't too familiar with certain legal terms. But you're a lawyer now -- so you're not much of a legal newbie.

So the real question is -- is the app useful for attorneys? It's a definite "maybe."

Do Judges Really Understand Social Media?

Justice Breyer calls it "the Tweeter." Judge Reggie Walton, charged with overseeing the Roger Clemens retrial, had to ask a juror to explain how the 140-character social-networking service works. And now, Judge Raymond Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia has proclaimed that Facebook "likes" aren't free speech.

These are just a few of the many examples of the growing disconnect between emerging technology and the aging judiciary. While somewhat expected, the reality is that social networking has become an integral part of our justice system. And it seems that today's judges just don't understand it.

Here's a question for any tech-savvy lawyer with a social media presence: Do you know your Klout score? And should you even care?

What is Klout? It's a website and third-party app that considers all of your social-networking efforts like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and somehow calculates a "score" for how influential you are online. A Klout score of 1 means you're barely a blip on the social-media radar; 100 means your posts are being retweeted, liked, and shared at breakneck speed.

Companies with products to push are latching on to folks with high Klout scores for viral marketing efforts, while other firms are using Klout scores to weed out candidates for jobs that require social-media skills, Wired magazine reports.

But does Klout have any real-life clout in the legal world?

E-Reader or Tablet, Which is Best for Lawyers?

Which is best for lawyers, e-readers or tablets? It's a question that doesn't yet have a clear answer. And with Microsoft's recent investment in the area, the answer is even more ambiguous.

Both have features that benefit attorneys. Neither is perfect. So figuring out which is best for your practice will come down to preference. At least until an amalgamation of the two is released (one that doesn't suck).

It's hard to say which you should get, but here are four of the best.

Wikipedia, the online user-edited encyclopedia, is often maligned for getting things wrong. Yet federal appeals courts are increasingly citing Wikipedia in their rulings -- some much more often than others, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Seventh Circuit judges led the pack with 36 Wikipedia citations over the last five years, the Journal's Law Blog found. The Ninth Circuit was next, with 17 cites to Wikipedia since 2007; the Tenth Circuit cited the site eight times, while the Sixth Circuit cited it six times.

Other federal appeals courts cited Wikipedia less than five times over the last five years, according to the Journal. But is Wikipedia reliable? And what's the best way to cite to Wikipedia anyway?

Accused murderer George Zimmerman remains in hiding, but his legal team is raising its online profile by launching a social media strategy.

Zimmerman's legal team, led by attorney Mark O'Mara, created a website over the weekend (gzlegalcase.com) that includes blog-style press releases and is set to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense. O'Mara's staff also set up Twitter (@gzlegalcase) and Facebook accounts.

"Using social media in a high-profile lawsuit is new, and relatively unprecedented, but that is only because social media itself is relatively new," a May 1 post on the website states. "[S]ocial media in this day and age cannot be ignored, and it would be, in fact, irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation."

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

Once upon a time, it was widely believed that electronic discovery would streamline litigation, making it faster, easier, less burdensome, and less expensive. So, now that we are some years into the e-discovery experience, has the prediction come true? Sadly, not necessarily.

While it is true that it can be easier to retrieve information electronically by using search terms, rather than sending teams of associates into warehouses to rummage through boxes of documents, that is just the tip of the iceberg when considering the overall e-discovery effort. And even if vast quantities of electronic information can be brought up based on a simple search, that information had to be harvested at the front-end, and ultimately will need to be reviewed at the back-end.

5 Time-Saving Gadgets for Lawyers

The old adage "time is money" is perhaps most true for attorneys. Living life in 15-minute billable blocks can do that to you. So having time-saving gadgets and devices is a must for any lawyer.

But where do you start and how do you figure out which areas of your life are due for a trim? Well counselors, you're in luck.

Check out these five neat items that'll help you achieve that work-life balance thing you heard about in law school.