Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


The recent SCOTUS ruling clearing the way for states to charge sales tax to out of state online retailers without any physical presence in a state is making big waves, as expected.

While the decision really only clears the South Dakota law, the majority opinion provides much guidance for other states, suggesting that the limits placed by South Dakota on which businesses have to pay are rather instructive. In response to the opinion however, there has been a strong push from small business, big online retailers, and small-time sellers, for Congress to act to protect small online business interests.

What the SCOTUS Decision Does NOT Mean for Cell Phones

While the U.S. Supreme Court said police generally cannot follow people through their cell phones, the justices did not prohibit cell phone companies from doing it.

In Carpenter v. United States, the Court said police violated the defendant's expectation of privacy, but most people surrender it as soon as they turn on their phones. In that way, the decision is notable for what it didn't say.

It may trouble privacy advocates, including the four justices who dissented in the opinion, but the law -- like GPS tracking -- only goes so far.

Simply put, 'knowledge integration' is the practice of taking several 'knowledge models' and connecting the dots between them. Basically, a knowledge model, also called a knowledge representation, presents information in a way that can be utilized by a computer to solve complex problems or tasks.

Though these concepts come from the study of artificial intelligence, they can be applied to nearly every business, even the practice of law. As Thompson Reuters Practical Law explains, it's about deriving meaning from that mountain of knowledge from all this new data from all this new tech. (Disclaimer: Thomson Reuters is the parent company of FindLaw).

While we may all be patiently waiting for the robot lawyer revolution, at the end of the day, legal ethics are probably not going to change due to the new emerging technology, including A.I. At least according to a recent multimedia exploration on the topic by Thomson Reuters and Above the Law partnership. (Disclaimer: Thomson Reuters is the parent company of FindLaw).

However, what will change does concern the intersection of legal ethics and legal tech: How lawyers practice law. As more and more new consumer and legal tech gets developed and integrated in everyday life and legal practices, lawyers need to be aware of where legal ethics can be jeopardized. Below, you can read about 3 ethical issues that will confront lawyers as new legal tech gains more widespread usage.

Ransomware Is Real and Lawyers Aren't Doing Enough to Protect Against It

Ransomware was really a simple concept: lock up a computer system until the owner pays to free it.

And that's one of the reasons it became a problem for law firms. Lawyers would pay the "nuisance fee" just to get back to business. Simple.

But that was yesterday. Today, ransomware is a little more complicated and a much bigger threat.

You may have heard of the concept of a decentralized distributed ledger thanks to the popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that utilize blockchain technology. However, a recent innovation along similar lines caters particularly to users of cryptocurrencies: Decentralized, distributed dispute resolution.

The idea is simple enough, if there's a dispute, the parties to the dispute can implement a smart contract that will effectively present all the relevant facts to a jury of users who are incentivized to render the correct decision. Then when the jury returns a decision, the smart contract automatically executes based on the decision. While this might seem a bit too futuristic and impossibly unreliable, Rome wasn't built on the first try. (That's how the saying goes, right?)

How the iWatch App Turns Students Into State-Sanctioned Social Media Police

After school shootings left dozens dead this year, authorities began searching for new ways to prevent another campus tragedy.

They found one, ironically in the same place the mass-murderers first lashed out: on social media. Lawmakers are focused now on how students can use their social media to police suspicious activities.

In an age when the internet is virtually everywhere, it was bound to happen. But in 1984, nobody thought Big Brother would be a high school student.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Unless you are living on another planet, you are quite familiar with how to summon an Uber car on an app on your phone so that an Uber driver can pick you up and drive you to the destination of your choice. But Uber is not content with just this form of transportation. Indeed, Uber has grand dreams of being an all-encompassing hub for many types of transportation. Let's take a look at some of these transportation offerings.

How to Avoid Socially Engineered Email Attacks

In plane, train, and automobile crashes, human error is often the cause because technology is more fool-proof than the people in the drivers' seats.

It's a harsh indictment, but finger-pointing before a tragedy is better than after one. In the collision of email and cyberattacks, it is also a human problem.

According to reports, the latest email scam has cost businesses about $3.1 billion. Here are some ways law firms can avoid the human errors that lead to serious crashes.

How Vulnerable Are Email and Digital Signatures to Old Hacks?

They say old tricks are the best tricks -- at least in the movies.

In "The Fifth Element," a future Bruce Willis learns that he wins a contest. But he was tricked with one of the oldest tricks in the book, er, movie.

And so it is today. According to a new report, hackers have long been able to spoof digital signatures and email with a decades-old bug.