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Technology and the New Practice of Law

Technology and the law have a type of symbiotic relationship.

New technologies change the practice of law, and the law also molds the use of technology. They are not entirely dependent on each other, but they certainly can thrive when they co-exist.

Here are some areas where they have changed everything and the new practice of law:

Businesses, cautious about future litigation and concerned about potential eDiscovery issues, are retaining more and more electronic information generated by their business and employees. We're not just talking about emails and .doc files, either. Electronically stored information is being collected from everything from social media apps to Internet of Things devices.

All told, there's a massive amount of ESI being stored by mid-sized and large companies -- 49.3 gigs per user for email data alone, according to a recent white paper by Osterman Research. And that number is expected to grow by more than 300 percent in the next six years, to 133 gigs.

'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.

Automation Replaces About 23 Percent of Lawyer's Work

Relax, a robot will not be taking your law job -- yet.

According to researchers -- aided by computers, of course -- only 23 percent of a lawyer's tasks can be automated with current technology. After analyzing 2,000 work activities for 800 occupations, McKinsey Global Institute reported that it will be a decade before artificial intelligence will take over any lawyer jobs.

That's right, C3PO, get away from the lawyer's desk and get back to the translation business.

Court: File Sharing Waives Privilege

If you're uploading files to a file sharing website, you may as well just leave them on a park bench where everyone can see them.

That's not just a flippant phrase about the risks of file sharing, that's what the judge said in a case pending in a federal district court in Virginia. Magistrate Pamela Mead Sargent said an insurance company's decision to upload files online was "the cyber world equivalent of leaving its claims file on a bench in the public square and telling its counsel where they could find it."

"It is hard to image an act that would be more contrary to protecting the confidentiality of information than to post that information to the world wide web," she said.

Dispel Cybersecurity Myths at the Law Firm

In Greek mythology, Phobos was the bloody god of fear in war. Worshipers built him a temple of skulls. His name brought panic and flight.

Thousands of years later, Phobos spawned the word "phobias." It means an irrational fear of something or someone. Today, fears of being hacked and encountering cyber-terrorism have created their own myths.

The cybersecurity threats are real, but not all fears were created equal. Here are a few myths:

Analytics Offers You Can't Refuse

If you thought you could ignore business analytics in your law practice, well, analyze this:

Big Data, with more than 25 billion smart devices on the Internet of Everything, is getting bigger by the nano-second. Not even Big Brother can ignore the need for analytics to handle the information overload.

Take, for example, the case of Gary Pusey. He pleaded guilty to insider trading last year after the Securities and Exchange Commission identified him by using analytics to pour though billions of rows of data going back 15 years. The Analysis and Detection Center of the SEC's Market Abuse Unit uses the software to identify individuals who have made repeated, well-timed trades ahead of corporate news.

Basically, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse. So it is with business analytics: you just have to accept it. Here are some reality checks:

Tips for Using Echo in the Law Office

Echo, if you haven't heard, is basically Amazon's desktop version of Apple's Siri. It's a digital assistant that looks like a speaker and responds to voice commands. Call her, "Alexa," because she was programmed that way.

Marketed primarily for home use at $179, Alexa can do a lot of things. Play music, turn on appliances, read news stories, calendar events, set reminders, send messages, and even order products online.

Because of such conveniences, some lawyers are using the device for their law offices. After all, what personal assistant will do all those things for less than minimum wage, plus overtime?

Here are some points to consider:

Best Practices for Cloud Computing at Your Law Firm

With internet security breaches becoming commonplace, what is the forecast for cloud computing in the law?

A tornado, such as the 1.5 billion email hacks at Yahoo last year, should at least give lawyers pause to reconsider the best practices of cloud computing. Jennifer L. Ellis, of Lowenthal & Abrams, recently offered some thoughts at a continuing legal education program:

5 Ways eDiscovery Will Change Things in 2017

This changes e-Everything.

As information security specialists sort out the aftermath of the 1 billion email hack at Yahoo, lawyers are circling the remains for future litigation issues. Will a billion customers rally for a class-action of privacy claims against Yahoo? Will Verizon retreat from its offer to pay $4.8 billion for the company's core business? Will the federal government demand more records from Yahoo in its fight against cyberterrorism?

And will the eDiscovery ever end?

Electronic discovery has evolved for more than a decade, and will continue to change for the next 10 years at least. That's not a prediction; it's a continuum. Here are five changes that are likely to come next year: