Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

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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?

'Beetlejuice,' Tim Burton's 1988 chef d'ouevre, tells the tale of one titular ghost who is called into existence to fright and delight when his name is repeated thrice over. Just say 'Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice,' and he's transferred from the netherworld to your dining room.

The Freedom of Information Act works in a surprisingly similar way. Under the Act, government agencies that have received three or more requests for public records must make those records available on their websites. Now, public interest groups are turning to that Beetlejuice provision to help preserve public access to government data, data they fear could be removed by the current administration.

Lawyers, Double Check Your Cell Phone Security

Read this, even if you think your phone is secure.

This update is about the law as much as the technology. Recent court decisions should give you more reasons to double check your cell phone.

And if you haven't secured your phone in the first place, then start with some basics:

If you're looking for the definition of demurrer or argle-bargle, pretty much any reputable dictionary published in the last hundred years will do. But if you're looking to find the meaning of "botnet," you might have to rely on less-established sources, even Wikipedia. While language and technology evolve quickly, giving us an endless list of neologisms ranging from "fax machine" to "defriend," the dictionary makers of the world, those modern-day Samuel Johnsons and Henry Campbell Blacks, take a bit more time to separate the wheat from the "chillax."

But they catch up eventually. This week, Merriam-Webster announced that it was adding more than 1,000 words to its pages, many of them technological in origin. Now you'll finally have something reliable to cite the next time you're explaining open-source NSFW listicles.

FCC Puts the Brakes on 'Zero Rating'

In what may be the first casualty of net neutrality rules, the new Federal Communications Commission announced it will not investigate internet service providers who may offer "zero-rating" data plans to customers.

The FCC notified AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast that the investigations the Obama administration started are over. The zero ratings investigations looked into whether the companies were violating net neutrality rules by not charging customers to use data with certain apps.

"These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace," FCC chairman Ajit Pai said.

Legal Implications of Autonomous Ships

An oil tanker, weighing half a million tons, is churning through San Francisco Bay without a crew. What could possibly go wrong?

This is more than a hypothetical question. It is the future. Robot-assisted boats are already coursing through the oceans, bays, and waterways around the world.

And with advances in artificial intelligence, the next big thing in the shipping industry will likely be autonomous ships. These office-building-sized tankers, filled with liquid fires-waiting-to-happen, will be creeping around the globe without a man on board to pilot them.

Feeling a little seasick?

A class action lawsuit against PACER, the online Public Access to Court Electronic Records service that everyone loves to hate, overcame an important hurdle last week.

The suit accuses PACER of charging too much for records and, on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle certified the class, which includes just about anyone who has used PACER in the last six years.