Technologist: February 2013 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

February 2013 Archives

Can a Pedometer Make You a Better Attorney?

Eighteen months ago, a bundle of joy arrived on my doorstep.

At the time, I couldn't have anticipated how much such a tiny thing would change my life. I didn't know that it would make me healthier and happier. And more competitive. So much more competitive.

Of course, I'm talking about my FitBit.

When I was a wee lad in law school, Evernote did not exist. There was, however, OneNote, which comes with Microsoft Office.

I was smitten. Whereas Word was clunky for taking random notes and scribbles, OneNote was like taking notes on a digital paper. There were audio clips, sketch tools, old-fashioned typing, and best of all: brilliant OCR (the tech term for turning words from a picture or PDF into editable text.)

Then I left law school, and OneNote, behind.

You may have heard of these newfangled Google laptops. Some are as cheap as $250. The newest Chromebook, the Chromebook Pixel, costs a whopping $1,300 for the base model. But what in the heck are they?

Lets start with what they are not. They aren't Windows or Mac laptops. They aren't Ubuntu Linux laptops. They are laptops that run Google's Chrome OS - a stripped-down and speedy quick operating system that runs from the familiar Chrome browser.

During our interview with Ron Collins of Amicus Attorney, we got into an interesting discussion about Google’s data policies and how they implicate A lawyer’s duty of confidentiality and the attorney-client privilege. Many people are concerned that Google’s sharing of information and scanning of email for advertising purposes constitutes a breach of confidentiality, a waiver of attorney-client privilege, or both.

It’s an interesting question.

What's in a name? Everything.

The right name is memorable, descriptive, and ideally evocative of positive feelings and connotations. The wrong name, however, can ruin a perfectly good business or product.

When it comes to domain names, there are a number of unfortunate examples, such as the site we cited last week, Who Represents? (whorepresents.com). Or take for example, Experts Exchange (expertsexchange.com). Because this domain name will be on business cards, promotional materials, and typed by customers, you'll want to be very careful when choosing it.

What Does it Take to Become a Glasshole? 50 Words and $1500

Some people become lawyers because they want to help others and blah, blah, blah.

But some of us did it for the gadgets. How else would we be able to afford the latest tech toys with a liberal arts background?

Being an attorney may not offer many advantages when it comes to acquiring gizmos -- no one's handing us an iPhone prototype to lose in a bar -- but having a way with words (and $1500) could help some lucky lawyer win a new toy that's not even on the market yet: Google Glass.

This is the second part of our interview with Ron Collins, CEO of Gavel & Gown Software, the company behind Amicus Attorney, and now, Amicus Cloud. Yesterday, we discussed the present state of Amicus Cloud. Today, we talk about the future.

Let’s talk about the future. What about document production? Will that include any actual legal forms or templates, or is it a create-your-own sort of system?

Absolutely. If you go back in history, you’ll find that Amicus Attorney was the first practice management system that supplied document assembly, or document automation as it’s sometimes called, as a tool that you can use inside practice management.

After getting a chance to sit and play around with Amicus’ new cloud-based offering, and after expressing our mostly positive thoughts on the product, we sat down with Ron Collins, CEO of Gavel & Gown Software, the company behind Amicus Attorney and Amicus Cloud.

When designing the cloud-based version, did you try to mimic the desktop version in the browser or redesign it from the ground up?

No, we didn’t mimic and that can be seen very clearly from looking at the products. Client matters, management, calendaring, legal calendaring with related activities and rules, task management, contact management, CRM, time and billing are all the standard elements of practice management so of course you’re going to find them in both.

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

Following his recent State of the Union address, President Obama issued an Executive Order entitled "Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity."

The Policy section of the Executive Order notes that repeated cyber intrusions into critical infrastructure demand improved cybersecurity. This section correctly points out that the threat to critical infrastructure "continues to grow and represents one of the most serious national security challenges we must confront."

Total Attorneys is an odd bird. From the time you enter their site, until the time you find the tiny gray text link to the practice-management platform, you are bombarded with information on client leads, which we presume is TA’s primary business. (Here is the shortcut to the platform.)

It’s a shame too, because many people will give up without clicking through multiple screens and tiny links. We almost skipped out too, but persevered - and it was worth it.

Much like our previous practice management platform reviews, we used a dinosaur of a netbook to put it through its paces, before assigning an arbitrary score on a scale of 1-10, based solely on our subjective time-limited experiences. Off we go …

Instagram Asks Court to Dismiss Terms of Service Lawsuit

Okay, so Instagram’s proposed changes to the app’s terms of service weren’t well-received.

We can all agree that the photo-sharing service could have done a better job explaining what the new terms meant, and that it was not trying to sell users’ photos to advertisers. If you don’t like the new terms — and a lot of people don’t — you can argue that Instagram never should have made the changes in the first place.

But did the Facebook-owned company commit an actionable offense?

Security, smechurity, right? If you use an iPhone that has updated to iOS 6, your passcode-protected phone might not be so secure after all. According to Gizmodo, a relatively simple series of button presses will allow anyone with the phone in hand to bypass the lock screen and enter the phone app, allowing them to make calls, send messages, and view and edit contacts.

The trick works using the following steps, per some guy on YouTube:

Can Uber, Task Rabbit Save Your Valentine's Day?

It’s Valentine’s Day. And you’ve been so busy billing that you forgot to get a gift for your sweetheart. What’s a busy lawyer to do?

Yes, you can still pick up flowers and chocolates and an “I love you” teddy bear holding a heart. But that requires you to leave your office. Who has time for that?

Thankfully, technology is here to save the day.

In the market for or curious about cloud-based practice management solutions? Today, we continue our series of reviews on some of the more popular contenders in the area. Amicus Cloud is the newly-launched fully-online version of their popular small firm practice management software. It has been designed with accessibility in mind - from huge touch-friendly buttons to compatibility with mobile and desktop browsers.

As with the other contenders, we are going to use a dinosaur of a netbook to put the platform through its paces. We’ll then assign an arbitrary score on a scale of 1-10, based solely on our subjective time-limited experiences. Sound fun? Let’s get started.

Can we finally just say it? The Fourth Amendment is on life support.

It is 2013 and two out of three Americans live an in area that the American Civil Liberties Union have labeled the "Constitution free" zone. This zone is 100 miles from the edge of our nation's borders and is the area that the Department of Homeland Security considers a "reasonable distance" from the border.

It is also the area in which the DHS apparently has the right to perform a search without warrants, without probable cause, without reasonable suspicion, and without any stated justification whatsoever, under the border search exception. Forget about the Patriot Act mining through millions of peoples' data. That's a needle in a haystack. They'll just seize your smartphone and laptop at the border.

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

Are hackers still out there causing mischief on the Internet? You bet! Indeed, our own Federal Reserve reported that one of its internal websites had been breached by hackers last week, according to Reuters.

The Reuters article notes that this follows an assertion that hackers associated with the activist group Anonymous had gained access to personal data relating to more than 4,000 bank executives. That data was then posted on the Internet.

The Drones Are Coming! But Not to Charlottesville?

Charlottesville, Virginia. Beloved by Thomas Jefferson. Adopted by John Grisham. Home to the University of Virginia. (One hellUVa school.)

You know what you won’t find in Charlottesville if the city council has its way? Admissible drone evidence.

Charlottesville is the first U.S. city to pass an anti-drone resolution.

Lawyers: Change Your Password. Now. Seriously. Do it.

Lawyers make up terrible passwords. You know, like “password.” Or “12345!”

But it’s not as though we have lots of confidential, important information trapped in the hardware or software or clouds that we’re password protecting.

Oh wait, we do.

“You see that? His eyes bear into your soul, searching for your innermost secrets. Imagine being cross-examined by that guy. Swag. Pure, unadultera …”

[Audible grind. Black screen.]

“Hard drive not found. Press F5 to run diagnostics.”

It’s every computer-user’s worst nightmare. Midway through your mocking of a lawyer’s awful commercial, or midway through your appellate brief to the Supreme Court, your hard drive fails. To be honest, we’ve only experienced spontaneous system failure once or twice on our lives, but you still need to be prepared. What do you do when your system abruptly dies?

Before there was DropBox or MEGA, there was Box.net, now known simply as Box. It is, much like its aforementioned competitors, an online cloud storage solution. It also has a few other features, like Google Docs integration, an auto-syncing tool that works with Microsoft Office, and BoxSync, which syncs a folder on your computer with your Box Drive.

Do the plethora of features make it worth switching if you are a DropBox lover? Personally, we’re far too noncommittal to use one or the other - each has its own strengths and weaknesses. But if you are the commitment type, here are the features and factors to consider:

Did we say free? Well, kind of.

You see, the geniuses at ObiHai designed a box that takes Google's free calling, and a free Google Voice number, and routes it into a normal phone. Pay for the Obi box, which is $30-$70, depending on the model, and you have free phone service for as long as Google Voice remains free.

How much is your monthly office phone bill? $100? $200? Extrapolate that over a year or two and the saved overhead is truly significant.

It all started with a simple, yet common problem. A 237 page document from WestLaw (a Thomson Reuters company) would not open in any mobile office suites. Lawyers often have to read through long documents, whether it be caselaw, documents pertaining to ongoing litigation, lengthy contracts, or treatises. Being able to read those documents on one's tablet, therefore, is pretty much a dealbreaker.

Our first option, Documents to Go, was a no go when we tried to open the file. Another popular option, QuickOffice Pro, also failed. Then we stumbled upon another contender when Google ran a sale late last year: OfficeSuite Pro. At the $0.99 sale price, it was an impulse buy that we're not regretting. Even at the $15 regular price, knowing what we know now, it'd probably be worth it to someone who regularly uses it.

We recently discussed what the future of law firms might look like when previewing Thomson Reuters' (FindLaw's parent company) upcoming product, Firm Central. We hoped it might fill the void in our legal tech-geek souls.

It's not the first of its kind, however. There were others before it, which may or may not be be superior. We aim to find out, beginning with MyCase, a cloud-based practice management platform with a nifty social media-esque interface. If your memory is cloudy as to why these online solutions are a desirable concept, take a quick look at our preview of Firm Central for the gist of the concept.

For each contender, we are going to use a dinosaur of a netbook to put the platform through its paces. We'll then assign an arbitrary score on a scale of 1-10, based solely on our subjective time-limited experiences. Sound fun? Let's get started.

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

Social media no longer is the province of only those who are college-aged or younger. Indeed, businesses of all types now seek to capitalize on social media connections, and law firms are no exception. Many firms now have their own Facebook pages, for example, and many lawyers are seeking to attract attention through a variety of other social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, more and more, information is being stored in the cloud.

Notwithstanding this gravitational pull toward clouds and social media, lawyers need to remain mindful of ethical and practical constraints, so that they do not feel more pain than joy in this context.

Remember the days of yore, when you took notes on legal pads and recorded voice memos with a handheld recorder? Ever lose your notes or leave them at the office? Ever print or copy-and-paste something interesting off of a website, only to be unable to find the site later?

Evernote is an app that has the potential to replace all of those ancient tools. Using your tablet, smart phone, or computer, you can record voice memos, make sketches, type up notes, or take a quick picture. Each of these is stored to a notebook, which can be used in a manner similar to a those manila folders that you used to use to hold torn-off pages from legal pads and cassette tapes from your voice recorder.

Traveling for Trial? 5 Free Apps to Get You Going

The first time you travel for a trial or deposition, it's fun and exciting. By the time you have a few wins under your belt, it becomes a hassle.

If you have an upcoming work trip, these five free apps can ease your travel trials.