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Tesla Claims No Duty to Design a Fail-Safe

The seat belt -- the simple lap-belt design -- was not required on cars in the United States until a decade after its invention.

A fail-safe -- a device to stop unintended acceleration in electric cars -- is not required in America now. And Tesla, the electric, self-parking car manufacturer, says it has no duty to make one.

That is the big issue in a proposed class action filed in a California federal court recently. The lawsuit cites 26 incidents in which Tesla cars have suddenly accelerated, including 22 crashes. The plaintiffs allege a design defect, and say Tesla should have created a fail-safe to fix it.

If your firm burns down, will you have a backup plan? What if your office just loses internet for a day? Or your computer system gets hacked and held for ransom?

For every law firm, from the smallest solo practice to the biggest of BigLaw, these are very real possibilities. As a legal professional, you should be aware of such potential risks and have a plan in place to respond. To help you out, here are some disaster-aversion tips from the FindLaw archives.

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?

On the streets of Bangalore, in the dance halls of Rio, and among the windmills of the Low Countries, they are celebrating. Why? Because it's World Backup Day, a global holiday nonpareil.

What? This is the first you've heard about World Backup Day? Don't worry, celebrating is easy. You've just got to take some time to backup your files. Here's how to do it.

Taking Your Legal Career to Cyberspace and Beyond

Evolution does not always occur through survival of the fittest; sometimes it just occurs through the right fit.

For Adam Cohen, it may have been a combination of the two. He was a BigLaw partner, but he had a passion for technology. In time, he evolved from legal advocate to white hat hacker.

"With technology and business these days, everything changes so rapidly that you constantly have to be learning new things," he told the ABA Journal about his change from law partner to managing director of an expert consulting firm.

Cohen is one of a breed of lawyers who are evolving with technology, gaining knowledge in new fields and emerging in new professions. Here are a few:

When it comes to technology, the legal industry isn't known for being an early adopter. But after years of dragging their feet, many firms have now started to embrace legal tech, even if that embrace is a bit tepid. There are legal tech conferences, legal tech blogs (ahem), legal tech gurus. The field is exploding with startups in everything from legal research to practice management to eDiscovery.

So what's next? Here are some promising trends at the intersection of law and technology, taken from the FindLaw archives.

In 2013, Bitcoin was inescapable. The strange little cryptocurrency had morphed from an internet oddity, where Bitcoin-backers celebrated exchanging 10,000 Bitcoins for two (bad) pizzas, to a serious phenomenon. After a whole lot of stumbling blocks, Bitcoin has continued to grow, with the digital currency valued at over $1,000 a coin today. (That makes those pizzas worth $10 million.)

But the real story behind Bitcoin isn't Bitcoin, it turns out. It's the blockchain, the technology that makes Bitcoin possible. And it's blockchain, rather than virtual currencies, that could revolutionize everything from banking to land records. The tech could even be embraced by tech-shy lawyers.

Are workers like Uber drivers or GrubHub deliverymen independent contractors or employees? This is one of the central questions in a growing sector of the economy, where app-based companies can help you get a ride to the airport or send someone over to do your laundry. Most of those companies treat such workers as contractors, while those workers are increasingly demanding recognition as employees.

Two major cases, driver-led lawsuits against Uber and Lyft, were set to help end the debate. But now that those lawsuits are headed toward settlement, will we ever get a definitive ruling on the issue?

Virtual, digital currencies seem to have some staying power. Bitcoin is now at its highest value ever, $1250 per coin, and still growing -- despite the SEC's rejection of a Winklevoss-backed exchange-traded fund for Bitcoin. And while Bitcoin grows, so too do other cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum.

With so much cyrptocoin flowing, the tax man will soon come knocking. And when he does, Steptoe & Johnson want to be there to influence the outcome. The firm announced last week that it will be forming the Digital Assets Tax Policy Coalition, alongside industry partners, in order to "help develop effective and efficient tax policies for the growing virtual currency markets."

Cyber insurance is the fastest growing area of the insurance market -- by leaps and bounds. The cyber insurance market is exploding, as companies look to insulate themselves from liabilities stemming from hacking, data breaches, and the like. The ABA is even selling cyber insurance to lawyers now.

Today, cyber insurance isn't just something that lawyers need to consider adding to their insurance plans. It's something they need to understand from a legal perspective.