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Is This the Law Firm of the Future?

What will the law firm of the future look like?

Will a robot take the place of the receptionist? Will smart software draft and review documents? Will attorneys appear virtually online and in courtrooms?

Actually, that's already happening. And so is a new law firm that takes it one step further.

Does Your Law Firm Need an App?

There's an app for everything nowadays. Food delivery? There's an app for that. Car service? There's an app for that too. House cleaning? Yard work? Home maintenance? Catching Pokemon? Anything you want delivered? Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. There are more than a few apps for all of this and then some.

Some law firms have even jumped on board the app bandwagon. But does your law firm need one? And what would it do differently than your website? 

In the end, whether or not your firm needs an app really just depends on what kind of clients you want to attract, or what clients you already have and want to keep.

Buy or Lease Tech Equipment? Ask Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonard DiCaprio can't afford to buy his party yacht -- fully equipped with three swimming pools, a gym, fitness hall, cinema, and helipad.

DiCaprio, who is reportedly worth about $245 million, rented the $678 million "Topaz" to party with his friends. What's a guy to do when he can't buy everything?

To lease or buy, that is the real question. It's as true for the rich and famous as it is for the law office manager, especially when it comes to tech equipment.

Is the PACER Security Problem Fixed or Not?

If you ever wondered about your federal court PACER bill, there was a good reason.

It turns out that the electronic access service had a software issue for decades. The flaw made it possible for hackers to access court documents and charge it to other user accounts.

The courts reportedly have fixed the problem. So do you trust the system now?

Sadly, the droid you are looking for still does not exist. And to make matters worse, the walking talking humanoid robot of your dreams is still prohibitively expensive. But, new software that utilizes AI technology is bringing us closer to the day where a humanoid robot can actually prove helpful to a practicing attorney.

While we may not have a C3PO style robot paralegal yet, the software, at least in patent and bankruptcy law, is getting sophisticated enough to consider making one, or a small army. Fortunately, you don't have to wait for a walking, talking metal box to use the newest practice software, for the most part, any regular old computer should do the trick (so long as it's not actually an old computer).

Let's face it, artificial intelligence is already here in many different forms. Siri, Alexa, and all the other digital assistants are now commonplace in many peoples' lives. Rather than flipping on the TV, or opening a computer, or looking at that thermometer hanging outside your back window, or just even opening that window, to find out what the weather's like, most of us now just ask: "Hey Siri, what's the weather?"

This simple difference may seem minute, but AI has the potential to impact the way we do things, the way we think about things, and the way we make decisions, from small to large.

While the swarms of Pokemon Go players aren't as plentiful anymore, Augmented Reality, or AR, isn't going anywhere. In fact, the newest iteration of Apple's iPad Pro and newest OS, iOS 11, will feature a whole host of tools for app developers to make AR apps.

However, whether AR will prove to be useful in the courtroom is yet to be seen.

There's rarely much debate over whether attorneys are justified in passing through case related expenses and other case related costs to their clients. Good retainer agreements hold clients liable for attorney fees, attorney expenses, and case costs. However, attorneys sometimes wonder where a piece of software, or a smartphone app, falls on the spectrum of case costs or expenses?

Under the ABA model rule 1.5, which governs fees, there is no prohibition against charging clients the costs for software you obtain, or use, for their matters. However, the rule does call for costs to be clearly communicated before being incurred. So if items or categories that arguably include software are not listed in your retainer, you may want to get written permission before spending that client money. Also, if the software is for general use, like Microsoft Office Suite, or Adobe Acrobat, billing these to a client is likely to raise a red flag.

Chatbot Opens Up 1,000 Practice Areas

If you don't know who Joshua Browder is, you might want to check out his new chatbot now.

Browder, a 20-year-old Stanford student and legal innovator, is changing the way the law works. He created a chatbot -- an interactive program that answers questions in real time -- that has beaten 375,000 parking tickets. For free.

Now his bot, DoNotPay, is opening up 1,000 legal areas. That might trouble some lawyers, but Browder is also offering the program to attorneys.

Are Law Firms Embracing AI? Not So Much, Survey Concludes

In a profession reluctant to leave black robes and white wigs to history, it's not surprising that lawyers have not kept up with technology.

Even the most progressive law firms have a long way to go before a robot takes over the scrivener's job. While all attorneys have smart devices, relatively few really know how to use them.

According to a recent survey, law firms are using less artificial intelligence than brain power. It's not necessarily a bad thing.