Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

September 2017 Archives

The publishing of mugshots online has become a big business for some unscrupulous internet entrepreneurs. Sadly, for the general public, it's more of an annoyance than anything else. But one lawsuit might be changing the landscape for these businesses that seemingly just look like blatant extortion schemes.

The general business model looks something like this: website/business scrapes public law enforcement databases and websites to obtain mugshot photos and arrest information. Scrapped information gets posted online publicly. When an arrestee finds out their mugshot and arrest info is published online, they must pay the web-publisher to have their information corrected, or removed.

Imagine this, if you will: You wake up in the morning, have your breakfast, take the dog for a walk, sit down on your sofa, grab your VR headset from the wireless charging pad, put your VR headset on, and commute to the office at the speed of the internet. The virtual reality office could be a real boon for law firms and clients, big and small.

Early adopters may be chanting "take my money," but sadly this is still in the fantasyland of early production. A San Francisco based startup, named Meta, however, is keen on getting us to the fantasyland dream of showing up to court as a fully suited up lawyer hologram, while really just eating cereal in our pajamas on the couch. Meta makes an augmented virtual reality office space to transform office empty spaces into offices filled with every necessary piece of software, hardware, scale models, and more.

Tinder Data Exposed: What About You?

What's the most embarrassing thing that could be exposed about you online? Oh wait, that's already out there, if one reporter's experience is any indication.

Judith Duportail, reporting for the Guardian, asked for a report from her social media service and she got back way more than she expected. So it was from a dating app, but that was just the tip of the internet iceberg.

Tinder sent her 800 pages of information it had collected on her, including Facebook "likes," Instagram photos, and some very personal details culled from its 50-million-user database. Could that be you, too?

Apart from the usual tips that go along with opening and running a virtual law firm, there are some serious practical considerations.

If you won't actually have an office, you may want to check to ensure that's ethical. However, most states have found shared virtual office services to be acceptable. If you opt for one of these arrangements, below you'll find five important tips for running your virtual practice.

Design Your Law Office on Your iPhone

If you've been thinking about how your office would look with a new couch, you don't even have to get off the couch to see it.

Augmented reality is coming to a law office near you. It might even be in your pocket already, and can show you exactly what you imagined.

The new operating system for iPhone and iPad enables reality apps like never before. And if that's not cool enough, the iOS 11 is free.

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

Once upon a time not that long ago, we generally took taxis for ground transport from one specific location to another within and around cities. At times, it was difficult to obtain a taxi when desired, or to avoid a wait, a taxi would need to be reserved quite a while in advance. But, then along came Uber as a ride-sharing game-changer with many positive advantages. However, Uber also has taken some recent hits, including losing its license to operate in London.

Uber is fantastic in many respects. By using an app on a smartphone, we can track the closest Uber driver, and in many urban areas an Uber car will come to us within just a couple minutes. No longer are we tied to taxis, or even the need to rent or own cars in Uber-friendly cities.

Ever wonder why so many patent cases get filed in the Federal Eastern District Court of Texas? It might be that wild wild west Texas mindset, or it might be the fact that over 70 percent of patent holders win their cases in that judicial district.

While you might think that reputable companies like Raytheon might rise above the troll-ish act of venue shopping, you should never underestimate the desire of corporations to save money and to get a leg up in litigation. Unfortunately for Raytheon in their patent infringement case against Cray Inc. over supercomputer patent stuff, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals just shipped the case out of the Texas district that has become the most popular for patent holders, and into Cray's home state of Washington.

While corporate data breaches and hacks are becoming regular occurrences, rarely, if ever, do companies make errors in the aftermath as bad as Equifax did in the wake of the recent hack of their database. The major credit reporting company actually sent individuals concerned that their info was stolen in the hack to a fake scam website.

Luckily for Equifax, and the public, the scam website was not really scamming anyone, and was not actually built by a hacker or scammer, but rather a rogue do-gooder and programmer who is fed up with poor corporate cybersecurity.

Is Drone Delivery Really Happening?

A drone will soon be able to deliver a package in 30 minutes across town for $5 to $10.

It gets better, says Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos as his company prepares to launch a drone delivery service. "When you increase the density of your networks, then there is a pathway to get the cost below $2," he said.

It's exciting times, including for law firms that need couriers like Domino's needs drivers, except for one thing: drone delivery companies are taking a little longer to get off the ground in the United States.

There's tech savvy and then there's tech competence. While most lawyers would prefer to be the former, sadly a majority of us only fall into the latter camp. Fortunately, the bar for minimum tech competence is pretty low.

Courts generally only require that attorneys have a working knowledge of how to use email, navigate a web browser, and upload documents from their computer to the court's e-filing system. For some attorneys, staff can be trained to do all these tasks, but in our modern times, clients might not be so accepting of a lawyer that can't even check their own email.

Here are three important things to know about tech competence for lawyers.

If you pride yourself on being on the bleeding edge of technology, then you may want to consider signing up to get your nanodegree in self-driving cars. The new program, being offered by Udacity, is designed to bring more focused talent into the workforce, where there is currently a high demand for engineers and programmers that can work on self-driving vehicles.

If you are light on the programming experience, you'll likely fall behind in the technical areas rather quickly, but there's more to this program than programming. The introductory course, and perhaps some of the general knowledge courses, being offered, could prove rather valuable in wooing potential clients working on these matters.

Felony Against Sexting Teenager Upheld

This material may be unsuitable for children. Now imagine this:

A 16-year-old girl texts a nude selfie to her 17-year-old boyfriend. In Washington, she is charged with a felony for distributing child porn.

It's a bad situation all around, but three judges of the Washington Supreme Court say the law is absurd. It also shows how technology and the law just aren't working.

When Is It Time to Trash Old Tech?

NASA deliberately crashed a $4 billion spaceship into Saturn.

It was inevitable, the space agency said, because the craft was out of fuel and had completed its mission years ago. Plus, it could have contaminated one of Saturn's moons if it crashed there.

So goes the rationale and our tax dollars at work, but it gives pause for earthbound lawyers to ask themselves: when should you trash your old tech? This article is not about upgrading; it's about saving.

Is This the Law Firm of the Future?

What will the law firm of the future look like?

Will a robot take the place of the receptionist? Will smart software draft and review documents? Will attorneys appear virtually online and in courtrooms?

Actually, that's already happening. And so is a new law firm that takes it one step further.

When it comes to getting rid of old client files of the paper variety (after at least five years, of course), there's really only a couple good options: burning or shredding. The latter is much more environmentally friendly, as shredded paper can be recycled, whereas burnt paper just releases chemicals into the atmosphere needlessly.

However, for old digital files, neither burning nor shredding will really get rid of them (okay, maybe burning might, but it might not and you'll never really be sure, and it's probably not worth the risk, dangers, and bad smells, of burning electronic equipment). And just taking a hammer to a hard-drive won't prevent dumpster diving tech thieves from trying to reconstruct digital files on destroyed drives.

Storing old files can be rather costly. Depending on where your practice is located, storing a bankers box worth of client files for five years, or however long is required by your state bar's ethics rules, can add up, especially as the boxes of files stack up.

Given the advances in digital file storage, it makes sense to digitize closed case files for storage. After all, even if the storage costs aren't an issue, managing the physical box (including security and privacy of client information contained therein), and actually destroying the contents, takes time and money. Fortunately, the number of services that provide scanning services means that you can find competitive pricing, so you don't even have to waste an unpaid intern's time scanning docs.

Here are three important tips on digitally storing your old case files.

Hackers' New Way to Attack Phones Using Bluetooth

Back in the day, you looked over your shoulder to make sure no one was following you. Now you have to look in your pocket or your purse.

That's because hackers have found another way to get information from your cell phone or mobile device. They can access your data through Bluetooth technology.

In other words, they don't even need to touch your phone. Now hackers do it in the air.

The newest iPhones were announced this week with the usual Apple fanfare. In addition to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone at the company's new "spaceship" campus, it announced three new models of their now flagship device: iPhone 8, iPhone 8 plus, and iPhone X.

While the 8 and 8 plus are merely systems upgrades and updates of the previous models, as is typical with annual updates, the 10 is a complete redesign. However, one of the biggest upgrades might make the 10 a device to avoid initially, at least if security is an important issue for you.

No Drones for Marijuana Deliveries, Says Bureau of Cannabis Control

Where are Cheech and Chong when we need them?

"Hey man, am I driving OK?" Cheech asks in the 1978 classic, "Up In Smoke."

Chong, his partner in cannabis crime, looks around their smoke-filled car and then answers: "I think we're parked, man."

Since California has ruled that marijuana deliveries may be made only by people in motor vehicles, it has snuffed out other means of transporting the drug. It's no laughing matter to companies that make drones and other autonomous vehicles.

How to Respond to the Huge Equifax Hacking

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

By now, you likely have learned about that Equifax suffered tremendous hacking. Specifically, as Equifax recently announced, hackers took advantage of website application vulnerability to access records during a several month period from May through July of this year. Not only did these hacking activities take place over an extended period of time, but as many as a whopping 143 million consumers in the United States may have been impacted. How so? Their personally identifiable information may have been compromised, including Social Security numbers, addresses, drivers license numbers, and birth dates.

So, what should U.S. consumers do in response to Equifax hacking?

Tide Rises on Lawyers' Duty of Tech Competence

The wave started five years ago when the American Bar Association approved a new rule of professional conduct requiring lawyers to be technology competent.

As Nebraska has recently adopted the rule, the competency wave has crested and is about to break. Now, twenty eight states have raised the bar for attorneys to be technologically proficient.

It's only a matter of time before every lawyer has to take a technology class. So, you may as well get started before the ethics wave crashes.

The practice of law may not, in principle, have changed much over the last few decades (or ever). But, in action, mobile devices have changed the game, in a few big ways.

Where you may have been able to leave your work at the office in bygone years, now, your smartphone is like a virtual desk that can keep you chained to your work even while sitting on the beach. For those lawyers that are constantly in the race for new clients, being accessible 24/7 means being able to land the client that's calling attorney after attorney until they get one on the phone.

Below, you'll find three of the top questions about mobile devices in the practice of law today.

House Speeds Up Self-Driving Law

If the SELF-DRIVE Act is any indication, the law might actually keep up with the technology.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the self-driving car bill by a voice vote. H.R. 3388 is a first-of-its-kind legislation, if not one of the first unanimous votes on a bill in the current administration.

It bodes well for the future of autonomous vehicles, which still have a way to go as the self-driving cars on the road are basically test versions.

Man Who 'Invented Email' Loses Lawsuit Against Techdirt

Dorothy proved it: say something enough and it will come true.

However, for Shiva Ayyadurai, the self-proclaimed inventor of email, it didn't work out that way. He sued Techdirt and its publisher for libel for saying his claim was "complete bull____." U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor ;found in favor of Techdirt.

"One person may consider a claim to be "fake" if any element of it is not true or if it involves a slight twisting of the facts, while another person may only consider a claim to be 'fake' only if no element of it is true," said Judge Saylor.

Technical translation: case dismissed.

Does Your Law Firm Need an App?

There's an app for everything nowadays. Food delivery? There's an app for that. Car service? There's an app for that too. House cleaning? Yard work? Home maintenance? Catching Pokemon? Anything you want delivered? Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. There are more than a few apps for all of this and then some.

Some law firms have even jumped on board the app bandwagon. But does your law firm need one? And what would it do differently than your website? 

In the end, whether or not your firm needs an app really just depends on what kind of clients you want to attract, or what clients you already have and want to keep.

Buy or Lease Tech Equipment? Ask Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonard DiCaprio can't afford to buy his party yacht -- fully equipped with three swimming pools, a gym, fitness hall, cinema, and helipad.

DiCaprio, who is reportedly worth about $245 million, rented the $678 million "Topaz" to party with his friends. What's a guy to do when he can't buy everything?

To lease or buy, that is the real question. It's as true for the rich and famous as it is for the law office manager, especially when it comes to tech equipment.

Does Your Law Firm Still Need a Landline?

Letting go of your landline is a little like letting go of a lifeline from a boat.

You want to do it, but you don't feel confident unless your feet are touching the bottom. "What ifs" keep popping up in your mind like shark fins circling you in the water.

What you're really afraid of is the cost. Do you really need to pay for a landline when everybody has a cellphone? Well, yeah, sort of.

The increasing adoption of blockchain technology may soon have a significant impact for entertainment and copyright lawyers. It's more of a question of when rather than whether. In fact, any lawyer that drafts or reviews contracts better start learning about blockchain as the future is here (so no more complaining about the lack of flying cars). If you don't know anything about blockchain, you need to start learning.

Blockchain is already seeing some use on the fringes of the music industry. There are already music distribution services using the technology to help artists, creators, and even regular people, make money by distributing music using blockchain.