Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

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In the state of Minnesota, an appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely inspiring the state's residents to make the switch from traditional landline telephones to VoIP telephones. The state has posed the following (potentially hyperbolic) question that the court will likely avoid answering: Whether the rule of law may be rendered obsolete by technological innovation.

For individuals who already pay for high-speed internet access, tacking on VoIP services can be done rather cheaply, and are almost always a better deal than traditional landline services. This is partly due to a loophole that allows standalone, interconnected, VoIP providers to avoid stringent state consumer protection rules.

However, the case pending before the Eighth Circuit could change everything, as the state is asking the court to declare VoIP providers as telecoms covered by the FCC. And interestingly, the FCC decided to step into the appellate fray by filing an amicus brief discussing how VoIP services live in a sort of FCC-limbo.

Buying into new technology will probably make you better at lawyering, though it might not make you a better lawyer, per se. You'll be able to get more done, be more organized, do things on your own that would've taken whole teams just a few years ago. But, when going to court, some lawyers think that all the new tech just gets in the way.

However, ignoring technological advancements that have been made over the past two decades, especially when going to court, is a dangerous game. After all, if your opposing counsel has the latest tech, you need to be prepared for it, and may even need to be able to respond in kind.

Below, you'll find five FAQs about using tech in the courtroom that will hopefully convince you to get over your courtroom technophobia.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Lethal Texting: When Is It a Crime?

Michelle Carter, the teen convicted of involuntary manslaughter for texting a friend to commit suicide, is today's poster child for texting gone way wrong.

Carter faces up to 20 years in prison for telling her ex-boyfriend, as he filled his truck up with carbon monoxide, to finish it. Get back in the truck, she told him.

"The time is right and you're ready, you just need to do it!" the Massachusetts teen texted.

What Could Facebook's Brain-Linking Technology Mean for Legal Marketing?

Body language is so yesterday. Tomorrow, it will be head language.

That's because today Facebook researchers are working on a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind. They want people to communicate with the computers through their heads -- no wires or strings attached.

It sounds like the closest thing to mind-reading since Kreskin's ESP, which means it will probably be a board game before it's a practical interface. Not to be a buzz-kill, but the voice in my head is saying, "Objection. Hypothetical."

Time to Revisit the Outer Space Treaty?

At the height of the Space Race and in the chill of the Cold War, the world's most powerful nations reached an agreement that has remained largely intact for 50 years: The Outer Space Treaty.

It was 1967 -- only five years after the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in the Cuban missile crisis -- when the countries put down their weapons and agreed that space would not be militarized. Somehow, ironically after millions have died in conflicts around the globe since then, we have made it so.

However, legal minds ask, will the treaty survive a new space race?