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IRS Wants to Identify Bitcoin Users, Spy Into Coinbase Records

The IRS is looking for tax money wherever it can, but is finding that it's not so easy in the world of virtual currency.

Bitcoin, a digital currency targeted by taxing authorities, is still safe at Coinbase, the nation's largest exchanger of the crypto-currency. The IRS recently served a summons for information about Coinbase users, but the company is expected to oppose the request. The IRS claims that two people used exchanger to avoid taxes, and it has asked for information to identify all Coinbase customers from 2013 to 2015.

Electronic notarization, or eNotarization, is becoming increasingly common, according to a recent whitepaper by the National Notary Association. Lawyers are submitting eNotarized documents to courts, banks are relying on eNotarized mortgage forms, and law enforcement is using eNotarization to sign criminal complaints.

In most cases, this eNotarization simply takes the form of an electronic signature on a computer or tablet. Yet a smaller, but growing, approach to eNotarization allows documents to be notarized over webcams, eliminating the need to meet face-to-face with a notary.

You're a large firm. You've invested in a skilled, sophisticated tech team: data analysts, programmers, legal tech experts, managers. They've helped you innovate your offices and practices, writing bespoke software tools or analyzing internal data. Now, you're looking for ways to continue maximizing their value. What do you do?

The answer in many law firms seems to be: turn them in to their own, client-facing service.

Wonder if our AI future will look like Westworld or Blade Runner? If we’ll need to start creating social security programs for retired robots? If we’ll still have social safety nets after smart machines replace human workers? K&L Gates, the massive BigLaw firm, is wondering about the implications of AI, too. And it’s donating $10 million to create a research center focused on the ethics of artificial intelligence.

The donation will launch the K&L Gates Endowment for Ethics and Computational Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University, the New York Times Reports, supporting a new center at the university where researchers and academics will tackle questions about the ethical implications of emerging AI technologies.

You don't have to look far to find someone claiming that lawyers are tech-phobic. The perception of lawyers as reactionary Luddites isn't exactly correct, however. While the legal industry might not embrace the latest tech trends as quickly as say, a Silicon Valley social media startup, lawyers are no strangers to cutting-edge tech.

Take artificial intelligence, for example. A developing technology with some of the most "disruptive" potential, artificial intelligence is already working its way in to the legal sphere and leaving its mark on attorneys' everyday practices. Here are some examples to help illustrate AI's influence, taken from the FindLaw archives.

You post a job online and are suddenly inundated with hundreds of applications, cover letters, resumes, letters of recommendation. Do you put a flesh and blood human in charge of separating the wheat from the chaff? To make the first phone calls and handle round-one interviews?

For many companies, the answer is increasingly no. Instead, they’re turning to computer programs not just to sift through resumes, but to conduct actual interviews, and the “rise of the robo-interview” could have important legal implications.

Florida lawyers will have to take three hours of technology CLE courses in 2017 now that the state has become the first to mandate attorney tech training. The Florida Supreme Court approved the rule change last Thursday. The amendments to Florida's Bar Rules also include an addition to the comment on competent representation, clarifying that attorneys may retain a "non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question" and emphasizing safeguarding confidential information as part of competent representation.

Will this be a trend that takes off nationally?

It's axiomatic these days that companies need to take cybersecurity seriously, lest they end up like the next Yahoo!, who recently revealed that it suffered the largest hack ever, potentially jeopardizing its plans to be acquired by Verizon. But cybersecurity protections can be restrictive and expensive, leading some clients to overlook them for as long as they can.

What's a lawyer to do? Surprisingly, the jury is still out, with some attorneys urging their colleagues to become more proactive in promoting cybersecurity among their clients, while others suggest a more cautious approach.

It's back to the drawing board for Uber and thousands of its drivers. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected a proposed settlement between the two yesterday, saying that the agreement falls short of what is "fair, adequate, and reasonable."

The drivers' class action lawsuit alleges that Uber had misclassified its drivers in California and Massachusetts as independent contractors, instead of employees, denying them the protections of state and federal labor laws. The settlement left the question of the drivers status unanswered, in exchange for a potential $100 million payout and some small changes to Uber policy. Chen's rejection of the settlement is a significant blow to Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, who has been criticized for allegedly selling the Uber drivers short.

Looking to spur some innovation in your legal practice? Maybe it's time to take some advice from Matt Homann, founder of Invisible Girlfriend, an actual, real-life company that offers a digital version of a real girlfriend "without the baggage." (Don't worry, there's an Invisible Boyfriend service too.)

What's the founder of a sort-of-sad fake girlfriend company know about the law? Well, before he was creating digital fauxmance, Homann was a solo practitioner, and he's dedicated years to thinking about innovation and the law. Homann recently spoke to the Atlanta Association of Legal Administrators about innovation in law firms, and some of his ideas seem worth considering.