Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

April 2016 Archives

You can get married in Klingon, use Google in Klingon, and even stage Hamlet in Klingon. But can you copyright Klingon? CBS and Paramount seem to think so, and they're suing a fan film that makes use of the language, first invented in 1984 for "Star Trek."

Now, a group of linguists is stepping into the legal fight, arguing that Klingon, and other "constructed languages," are real, living forms of communication exempt from copyright law. Their amicus brief is, of course, partly in Klingon.

Pro se litigants are becoming increasingly common and while some self-represented parties do a pretty respectable job, others do not. Maybe they show up unprepared for their hearing. Or maybe their complaint is hand written. Perhaps they have ... unique views on admiralty law and the federal legal system.

But hey, what can you expect? These litigants don't have years of legal training and much of their legal know-how comes from a Google search -- if that. Thankfully, there's now a simple way for pro se parties to get prepped for court. An online video game developed by law professors at Northeastern University walks the self-represented through the basics of the courtroom -- helping them out long before they show up in their pajamas.

The NSA wants it, eDiscovery professionals are obsessed with it, and your files are secretly full of it. It’s metadata, the data about data that’s kept in most electronically stored information. And it’s had a major impact on the legal field over the past several years.

So when it comes to metadata, you’ll want to make sure you know your stuff. With that in mind, here are our top metadata explainers and tips, from the FindLaw archives.

Not sure how you feel about inter partes review, the relatively new administrative process for challenging patents? Neither is the Supreme Court, who struggled during oral arguments yesterday to determine what claims construction standards the Patent and Trademark Office should use in IPR proceedings. The case, Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee, could have long-lasting implications, as the use of inter partes review continues to grow.

Let's take a look at how things went.

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

It seems like just yesterday that the Ashley Madison site became big news. The Ashley Madison site claimed that it was the world's largest place on the Internet for married people to find adulterous partners. Indeed, the site boasted that it had more than 38 million users. And importantly, the Ashley Madison site claimed that people looking for affairs could do so anonymously. Unfortunately for Ashley Madison users, the site was hacked in July, 2015, and some of the personally identifiable information of some of the site's users was leaked.

It was a very techie day in the Supreme Court today, as the Court heard oral arguments in the only two tech-related cases of the year. In the first, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons, the Court debated whether attorney's fees in copyright litigation should be awarded when a prevailing defendant has advanced the interests of the Copyright Act, or more restrictively, when they have resisted unreasonable litigation.

Let's take a look at how the arguments went.

Tech up or Die: Law Firms Survive Better With Technology

Luddites take note: technology ought not be shunned, but embraced. Becoming comfortable and current with tech is increasingly a determinant in how likely your firm is to survive over the long term.

And it's not even just about how competent your firm actually is, either. Even client perceptions can be crucial.

Thanks to social media, we live in a world of almost constant oversharing: teenagers share their insecurities on Facebook, adults Instagram their every meal, the Kardashians -- well, never mind, the Kardashians are an extreme case.

And this is great news for lawyers, who have increasingly turned to social media for evidence in litigation and are now using it to collect judgments or seize assets.

New Cybersecurity Prevention Strategy: 'Detect and Response'

Corporations, law firms, and small businesses know the mantra all too well: cybersecurity is getting hairier, bloodier, and more complicated with each passing day. The best option may be to hire a third party security firm. But we're still losing the war.

If it's not possible to keep up with all potential attacks, what's to be done? According to the State of the Endpoint Report by Ponemon Institute, many IT departments are focusing on protection after a breach occurs.

You don't have time to waste. Or if you do, you don't want to waste it renumbering paragraphs in a document, or futzing with a malfunctioning printer.

Thankfully, many of the obnoxious time sucks we encounter can be avoided, making our days more productive and less annoying. How? Here are our five top law firm productivity tips, from the FindLaw archives.

How Smartphones Have Changed Car Accidents for Injury Lawyers

Chances are you have a tool in your possession that has fundamentally changed how law is practiced, particularly in the area of gathering evidence: your smartphone.

Cell phones and their recording abilities have completely changed the game. We no longer have to rely on dubious eyewitness accounts of what happened. Now, lawyers don't need to rely on equally dubious accident reports. If you have an auto injury case on your hands, you should be asking your client a simple question first: "Did you take pictures?"

If you're an attorney (or anyone) using Windows, computer security experts have an urgent message for you: uninstall QuickTime, immediately. That's because the Window's version of QuickTime, the multimedia program found on most computers, is no longer supported by Apple, its maker.

That means the software will still work, but there will be no more security support -- leaving QuickTime users vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. So, follow the advice of the experts (including the Department of Homeland Security) and kick QuickTime off your computer. Here's how.

FBI Refuses to Tell Apple About the iPhone's Security Flaw

The FBI couldn't really tell Apple how they cracked their phone, even if they wanted to. According to Reuters, the method that was used to crack the infamous Syed Farook iPhone is proprietary and owned by a group of professional hackers outside of the U.S., and certain rules may preclude the government agency from letting Apple in on the secret.

Apple has a strong interest in knowing exactly how the foreign hackers achieved their goal. Before Apple can patch up the security flaw to avoid future hacks of this kind, the company will need to know how the hack was accomplished.

Quick Tips for Guarding Your eDiscovery

According to seasoned in-house counsel attorneys Scott Herber and David Moncure of VIA and Shell Oil Co., respectively, lawyers can no longer turn a blind eye to highly sophisticated threats to their data management and data. This applies to their highly sensitive e-discovery as well.

Now that we're on high alert after the recent hospital hacks, we thought it was a good idea to start getting attorneys back in their "alert" mode when it came to their international eDiscovery.

You were into the Microsoft Office Suite before it was cool; now you're looking for the next best thing. You're tired of the Apple fanboys and want to support the underdog. Or, you just really hate PowerPoint.

Don't worry, there are plenty of alternatives to dominant software out there -- good, often cheap, and sometimes free alternatives. So, if you want your law office to take the road less traveled by (technologically speaking), we're here to help you out. Here are our top alternative tech posts, from the FindLaw archives.

When it comes to useful robots, we're still a few years away from getting a real-life version of Rosie, the robot maid from 'The Jetsons.' (A Roomba will have to do.) And indeed, we may never get the metal heaps promised by 60's era futurism.

But, with advancements in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, virtual assistants are proliferating. Siri can pull up directions, Cortana can play your favorite music, and now X.ai, a new virtual assistant start-up, is promising AI help that's actually useful in the office: Amy, a bot that can handle your scheduling.

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

What are we going to do about climate change? Can government get the job done to protect us? Well, some children do not believe so, and they have taken the matter to federal court. Indeed, a federal magistrate has just ruled that their climate change lawsuit may proceed.

Thomas Coffin, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the federal district court in Eugene, Oregon, has ruled in the case Juliana v. United States, that a climate change lawsuit, brought by twenty-one youth from the ages of 8 to 19 years-old, may proceed. The lawsuit specifically asserts that the federal government of the United States is in violation of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by allowing and supporting ongoing production and combustion of fossil fuels.

When the ride-hailing company Lyft agreed to settle a proposed class action with its drivers, commentators noted that the tech company was getting off easy. For $12.5 million and some small concessions that did not include classifying drivers as employees, Lyft could have escaped a major challenge to its business model.

Except, just a few months after the deal was struck, a federal judge rejected the settlement, finding the terms unacceptable to both Lyft drivers and the state of California. The parties will have to give settlement negotiations another go if they want to avoid trial.

Mock Juries Made Easy With New Tech Research Tool

Imagine you're a litigator or potential litigant looking at the possibility of a jury trial. Wouldn't it be a great thing to get a very good educated guess as to the most likely verdict a particular jury would reach?

In the words of this generation, "There's an app for that." Litigation tech provider company Precise has announced the release of Predict, a jury research tool that makes use of statistics to get that long sought after prediction.

The recent Panama Papers leak, caused by a data breach in the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, underscores what we've long known: the legal industry needs to make cybersecurity a priority. (There are some lessons about abetting corruption to be learned from the Panama Papers as well, but that's for another blog.) And it's not just Mossack Fonseca that's struggled with cybersecurity; just recently, Cravath confirmed it had been hacked, while the FBI warned firms in Chicago that they were being targeted.

But not all data breaches are made the same. Here are the five most common types of law firm data breaches, and their causes.

When it comes to stealing valuable information, lawyers are easy targets. We handle sensitive personal and financial information, we hang on to immense amounts of data, and we're not always the most technologically sophisticated. So it's no surprise that hackers are going after law firms more than ever before.

Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself from hackers. To help you avoid a potentially devastating cyberattack, here are FindLaw's top eight posts to help you ensure your cybersecurity.

Russian Hacker Targets Top Am Law 100 Law Firms

No one is safe from hackers today, at least not in BigLaw. Crain's Chicago Business reports that 48 top Chicago law firms -- many of which are part of the Am Law 100 rankings -- were targeted by a mysterious Russian cybercriminal who operates out of Ukraine. His goal? Top law firms' mergers and acquisitions info. With that sort of inside information, a cybercriminal could do very well for himself.

Another new week, another spate of cyber-criminal activity for firms to prepare against.

It's the biggest legal data breach ever. With over 11 million previously confidential files released to the public, the so-called "Panama Papers" have led to accusations of corruption, cronyism, and tax evasion, implicating everyone from Vladimir Putin and Jackie Chan, to the (now former) Prime Minister of Iceland.

At the center of the scandal is one law firm, Mossack Fonseca, whose "limited" data breach exposed how the rich and powerful hide their cash. Here's what you should know about the firm.

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

Drones have become cheap and fun to operate for many people. Operators love to fly their drones up into the sky, maneuvering them around while taking photos and videos from aerial vantage points. But do these activities come with risk? Absolutely!

Uber 'Genius' Algorithm Price-Fixing Suit Must Go Forward

Uber wasn't as lucky in its attempt to stop litigation in its tracks as it was in another lawsuit brought against the transport-app company. A US District judge has decided not to grant Uber's motion to dismiss and instead let the price-fixing issues be heard by a jury.

Uber has to do battle on two front's as its Ninth Circuit Case O'Connor et al. v. Uber Technologies has just few months left before it will be heard on the merits.

Facebook Events: A Lawyer's New Marketing Tool?

Hopefully you’ve made the time investment to start making your presence known online in order to expand your market and to tap into other potential clients. You’ve started a blog, you’re managing your SEO, and you’re handling your social media accounts with a handy dashboard.

Speaking of social media, have you considered a Facebook Event? LawTechnology Today suggests that it is one option that is effective at getting a burst of referrals and social media shares. Keep in mind a few things, however.