Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

July 2017 Archives

New AT&T Film Warns of Cyberbullying Crisis

"Get back in."

These three words led Conrad Roy to get back in his truck and kill himself. Teenager Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the case that has caused many to try to understand the ugly reality of cyberbullying.

AT&T, working with teens at the All American High School Film Festival, is doing its part through a new film. It is a compilation of shorts by high school students who have dealt with the "cyberbullying crisis."

While the swarms of Pokemon Go players aren't as plentiful anymore, Augmented Reality, or AR, isn't going anywhere. In fact, the newest iteration of Apple's iPad Pro and newest OS, iOS 11, will feature a whole host of tools for app developers to make AR apps.

However, whether AR will prove to be useful in the courtroom is yet to be seen.

Lawsuits Challenge Web Scraping

If you get a creepy, crawly feeling as your server slows down, it may be the robots scraping your website for information.

And if you get that nauseous, pit-of-your-stomach ache, maybe it's the legal bills you sense coming on. That's because it will take lawsuits or legislation to catch up with web scrapers, and the future is not certain.

Courts allow some companies to scrape websites, but not others. It depends in part on how judges apply old principles to new technology.

One company is thanking their lucky digital stars after the recent ruling from SEC clearly stated that the oversight organization would not be pursuing an enforcement action against it, despite the company running afoul of securities regulations.

The DAO, known for its unique crypto currency, Etherium, took the idea of anonymous payments one step further by extending it to anonymous smart contracts. The company's name stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, and the idea behind it involves the holders of the DAO's currency, or tokens, profiting based on projects performed by individuals. However, unlike other virtual token systems that have emerged over the past few years, the SEC found the DAO to be bit different.

Last month, Canada's Supreme Court upheld a lower court's order that Google alter their search results worldwide as a result of a lawsuit alleging that one Canadian company had infringed upon the intellectual property rights of another Canadian company. However, while Google plans to respect the Canadian court's authority, in Canada at least, it's going to check with a U.S. court before making the global change.

This case presents a few novel, yet significant, issues. Most notably is that the order is the first ever global de-indexing order issued by a court. This raises the issue of whether any court actually has sufficient authority to issue an order to be enforced worldwide. The other big issue is whether Google can be forced to take action outside of Canada based on the fact that no violation of law other than Canadian law has been established. And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the potential First Amendment, government censorship, and net neutrality issues.

More Lawyers at Top Law Firms Are Working From Home

For all the talk about lawyers lagging in technology, it's nice to see that many law firms are leading in at least one area: remote work.

According to reports, more than half of the attorneys at the best law firms work remotely. That includes partners, associates, and of counsel logging in from desktops and laptops at home.

"Remote work is the most popular flex option among both male and female lawyers at every level, and it is offered by all of our top firms," says Working Mother's 2017 Best Law Firms for Women.

Amazon Sued for Delivering Fake Products

You don't always get what you pay for, especially when you buy a counterfeit.

Amazon and its users are learning this painful lesson, as counterfeiters continue to cheat buyers and sellers out of billions of dollars online. Despite their best efforts, victims are losing money every day.

One manufacturer is so tired of it, the company is suing Amazon to get their money back.

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.

Modern Forgery 101: The Tell-Tale Signs of 'Fontgate'

"Watergate" for political scandal. "Deflategate" for NFL cheaters. "Fontgate" for forgers?

It works because "Fontgate" is about forgers using Microsoft's Calibri font to fake documents. In any case, the forged font story is a remake of scandals that actually date back to the original cover-up.

Fontgate really began in 1973, the same year Richard Nixon began the Watergate cover-up. But both gates reverberate in law and politics today.

U.S. Airports Scanning Americans' Faces

If you have flown out of the country from New York City recently, the government scanned your face and stored it for law enforcement.

The same is true for anyone who has flown out of airports in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. It is a pilot program of the Department of Homeland Security, and the authorities are not done.

According to news reports, all foreign-bound Americans will be subject to facial recognition scans if the Trump Administration gets its way. Or as privacy advocates say, welcome to 1984.

When Is It Safe to Use Keyloggers?

Keyloggers are like knives.

They can be very useful, but also very dangerous. It depends on who is using them.

When anyone can get a keylogger for $10, it's a good idea to know how to use one. Even if you don't want to use keyloggers, at least you should know how dangerous they can be.

How Can Your Law Firm Use Facial Recognition Technology?

Maybe you can pick a face out of a crowd -- but how about a crowd of 10,000 faces?

Didn't think so. Neither did the lawyers who were trying to prove that a plaintiff was not at certain corporate events over a span of years. They had 10 terabytes of images but not enough time or money to review them.

Facial recognition software solved their problem. Don't you just love it when law and technology come together?

Are Law Firms Embracing AI? Not So Much, Survey Concludes

In a profession reluctant to leave black robes and white wigs to history, it's not surprising that lawyers have not kept up with technology.

Even the most progressive law firms have a long way to go before a robot takes over the scrivener's job. While all attorneys have smart devices, relatively few really know how to use them.

According to a recent survey, law firms are using less artificial intelligence than brain power. It's not necessarily a bad thing.

Twitter Wins Round for Free Speech Against DOJ

Don't look now, but the FBI is on the run.

Twitter sued the FBI and the Department of Justice to establish the company's right to say how many national security requests it receives from the government. It is part of the company's transparency report to tell users how often governments request their information.

The government recently lost its motion for summary judgment, while Twitter won its motion for an expedited process. As the case heads to trial, free speech advocates and other social media companies are cheering from the sidelines.

Signs Your Law Firm Has Been Hacked

Ignorance is no excuse, and intelligence is no guarantee.

In either case, it turns out that many lawyers do not know when their computers have been hacked. According to a survey of 200 law firms, about 40 percent did not realize their confidential client data had been breached.

Lawyers are not alone when it comes to cybersecurity challenges, but they have a high duty of care when it comes to protecting their information from hackers. Here are some signs your firm may have been hacked:

Will AI Find Your Next Legal Job?

The smart robot taketh away, and the smart robot giveth.

That's not scripture, but it will do when work is hard to find. Google, which has launched a new feature on its search page, will help lawyers find jobs.

At a time when artificial intelligence is taking law jobs, it's certainly a blessing that AI also finds work for attorneys. Here's how it works:

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

Most of us are aware that our personally identifiable information, like our credit card numbers, are at risk when retailers are hacked. However, there may be even greater risks. Indeed, the U.S. government has issued a recent warning about a hacking campaign targeting nuclear and energy sectors.

According to a Reuters article, in recent months hackers have utilized phishing emails in an effort to "harvest credentials" in order to gain access to networks at nuclear and energy targets. Reuters cites a joint report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation as its source. The report indicates that at least in some instances hackers already have succeeded in gaining entry to certain networks, but the report did not identify specific targets that were compromised.

Startup Offers AI Robots for Patent Lawyers

Is it ironic that a smart robot is replacing patent lawyers?

Or maybe it is more sardonic, especially for patent lawyers who have a problem with a robot that can do their job in seconds. But according to a startup called TurboPatent, that' exactly what RoboReview can do.

If it's true, patent attorneys should at least be grateful that the software robot is not well-dressed or funny. Otherwise, some lawyers would be out of a job.