Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

November 2012 Archives

Senate Ponders Email Search Warrants, Netflix Facebook Sharing

A Senate panel has voted to revise laws that require search warrants for email accounts and prohibit the sharing of movie-viewing data, which would clear the way for Netflix to integrate with Facebook.

Interestingly, the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote to revise the two laws would actually increase electronic privacy protections with respect to one issue, while decreasing protections with the other.

If you need a new, separate phone number, but just temporarily, a new app is answering the call. The Burner iPhone app can create disposable phone numbers at an initial price of just $1.99.

The real-world applications are practically endless: Just think of all those times when you don't necessarily want to give out your "real" phone number. In fact, Ad Hoc Labs Inc., which created Burner, touts the app as being "Perfect for dating, job searches, short-term projects, Craigslist transactions," and social media accounts.

Here's how the Burner app works:

Advancements in technology have made electronic devices smaller, faster, and "smarter." But that has also empowered a new generation of high-tech peeping Toms.

In New York state, for example, cases involving unlawful surveillance via so-called "perv cams" — i.e., cell phones, pen cameras, or other recording devices — have almost doubled since last year, the New York Daily News reports.

In addition, the accused peepers almost never take their cases to trial.

BBC Settles Libel Suit, But Twitter Users May Be Next Target

The BBC may not be alone in dealing with a libel case after allegedly defamatory statements were made about British politician Alistair McAlpine: Twitter users may be on the hook too.

Last month, the BBC broadcast a news story that erroneously linked McAlpine, a former member of Britain's House of Lords, to a child sex abuse case. While the report didn't mention him specifically, it gave enough details that others were able to identify him.

But it quickly became clear that the story was untrue, and the BBC settled a libel claim with McAlpine. Still, the case is poised to change libel law, at least in the UK.

Top 10 Creative Ways Lawyers Can Use an iPad

Law isn't considered an artistic profession, but that doesn't mean there aren't creative ways for lawyers to use an iPad.

An iPad is a powerful tool for a law office if you know how to use it well. Instead of carrying around multiple tools to get the job done, many attorneys have discovered that most of the time you only need one, as the website iPhone J.D. recently explained.

Maybe you're looking for more ways to use your office iPad, or maybe you've been considering whether it's worth the cost. To assist with your decision, we've collected our Top 10 ways that attorneys can use their iPads to improve their practice:

'Mobile Tuesday' Revived: Will Consumers Want to Phone It In?

If you're worried there won't be enough time to get your discount shopping in, never fear: Mobile Tuesday is here.

Or rather, it's back, as the New York Business Journal reports. But will consumers answer the call to shop via smartphone?

Yes, in addition to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, now Mobile Tuesday is trying to reel in tech-savvy shoppers. The idea is to create deals that are only available to consumers who make purchases on their smartphones or mobile devices, according to Forbes.

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

In some of my prior blogs, I have noted that we tend to live our lives through technology and not in the real world.

I have advised that at least once in a while, we need to put down our gadgets and take time to smell the roses.

But hey, it's almost Thanksgiving, and in giving thanks, we certainly can praise technology.

Kiiac Analyzes Contracts, May Improve Your Drafting Abilities

Contract drafting is an exacting process that requires precise legal language and careful analysis to ensure that provisions will survive a court challenge. You can tell if your document is similar enough to previous ones to meet current legal standards, but it's harder to tell if you're missing important pieces.

What if a piece of software could do it for you? That's what ex-tax lawyer Kingsley Martin was thinking when he developed Kiiac.

What's Kiiac? It's software that uses statistical analytics to evaluate contracts and gives lawyers feedback on what it finds.

Gen. Petraeus' Draft Email Trick Didn't Fool the FBI

Former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell reportedly used a draft email trick well-known to teenagers and terrorists in an attempt to conceal their intimate relationship.

The two would compose draft email messages using a shared Gmail account, reports The Washington Post. Instead of actually sending email to each other, both Petraeus and Broadwell left unsent messages in a draft folder or in an electronic dropbox. The other person could then log into the same account and read the emails there, without creating an actual email trail.

While this may seem new to many, this draft email trick has been used for years by anyone trying to hide illicit relationships and communications, according to the Post.

Papa John's Text Message Spam Leads to Class-Action Suit

Papa John's is being sued for $250 million by a class of plaintiffs citing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Papa John's text-message lawsuit could lead to the largest damage award ever under the TCPA, CNN Money reports.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs claim they called their local Papa John's to order pizza, and soon received a barrage of unsolicited text-message spam. Some customers claim to have received 15 or 16 messages in a row, many in the middle of the night, according to CNN.

If the text messages indeed violated the law, Papa John's could face a penalty of $500 per message sent. But if a willful violation is found, the penalty could rise to $1,500 for each text message.

About 500,000 spam texts were allegedly sent, the lawsuit claims.

TranscriptPad App Makes Deposition Review Easier

There are some iPad apps that can be put to use for legal business. Then there are some that are beautifully designed -- and designed specifically for lawyers. TranscriptPad is one of the latter.

TranscriptPad is designed with one task in mind: deposition review. If you spend any time at all litigating, you know that is no small task.

Reading through depositions on paper is a hunt-and-peck task. You search for relevant words and phrases that could help or hurt at trial, and try to organize them on a notepad or in a computer document.

TranscriptPad takes the heavy lifting out of that process. Here's how it works:

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

Tax reform can and does happen at the ballot box. Indeed, startup companies in San Francisco should soon feel the benefit of the recent passage of the city's Proposition E.

Proposition E implements a tax on gross receipts, phasing out San Francisco's prior payroll tax. This will be very beneficial for startup companies that have paid staff but have yet to earn much revenue.

Apple, HTC Reach Settlement Over Patent Disputes

Apple and HTC have reached a settlement that's the first of its kind in the smartphone patent battle.

HTC, a Taiwanese company, was one of the first Android smartphone producers sued by Apple. Their feud started several years ago and, like the Samsung battle, it spread to include lawsuits all around the world.

It now appears all of those claims will be put to rest as part of a "global settlement" between Apple and HTC. The details are secret, but some of the facts are known.

5 Tips for Setting Up Holiday Out-of-Office Replies

It's a good idea to take a vacation during the holidays. But before you check out for some much-needed time off, you need to set up your out-of-office email reply.

As an attorney, forgetting to set up an out-of-office reply can be a dangerous move. Even if you're only missing one day for the holidays, if an emergency comes up, clients need to know what to expect.

Setting up a quick out-of-office reply is a good start, but taking some extra time to be thoughtful about it is even more beneficial. Here are our Top 5 tips:

Attorneys Can Earn CLE Credits On the Go With CLE Mobile

Apps available for lawyers provide a lot of time saving capabilities. They help with research, with scheduling, and with everyday business needs like billing and email.

They can also help you earn CLE credits.

West LegalEdcenter's CLE Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch allows you to earn CLE credits on the go. The app isn't new, but it's earned so much positive acclaim that it's become something all lawyers should have in their arsenal.

Networking Made Easier With 3 Smartphone Apps

There are a lot of apps out there specifically for lawyers, but there are also a lot of useful apps that are good for lawyers without being specific to the practice of law.

Networking is an important part of being a lawyer that has nothing to do with law. It applies to anyone looking for clients, looking for a better job, or just looking to make connections. That's pretty much every lawyer out there.

To steamline the process and make it easier to stand out when you attend a networking event, we've gathered some apps that make it easier to connect with new contacts. Here are three apps that can help you stay in touch:

Will the U.S. Ever Be Ready for Online Voting?

It's been almost 10 years since the first national election that relied on direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting, but we aren't much closer to the idea of voting online in U.S. elections. If anything, we've taken a few steps away from it.

Since the 2000 election, DRE voting has become less popular, Ars Technica reports. Several states, including Florida, have gone back to paper ballots entirely and are phasing out computerized machines.

That doesn't mean our elections are entirely low-tech. Machines are generally used to count ballots. But while our technology moves forward, it seems our elections are lagging behind.

An App With No Privacy Policy? There's a Fine for That in CA

Requiring mobile applications and websites to have a privacy policy is nothing new, but California is putting some teeth into its requirement by threatening to fine companies that don't comply.

California's regulations have a fairly wide reach, affecting any company that does business in the state or has users who live in California. Not only are those companies required to have a privacy policy, they must also publish it conspicuously on their website and/or app so that users can find it.

The regulations aren't new; California first passed the law dictating privacy policies in 2003 as the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA). Last week, they started forcing companies to fall in line.

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

We usually think of the Internet as a place where we can obtain information, communicate with others, and engage in various business and personal activities.

However, is it also a new battlefield?

Yes, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Indeed, as reported by Reuters, he maintains that while hackers have already attacked financial institutions, they also have the capability to strike mission-critical domestic power grids and government systems.

Apple's Court-Ordered Samsung Apology Comes Under Fire in UK

The Apple-Samsung animosity is far from over, and the latest development is over Apple's court-ordered apology on its UK website.

As part of an infringement ruling in a UK case, the court ordered Apple to publish notices saying that Samsung's products did not infringe on Apple's patents. So Apple published notices that said the UK court didn't find infringement -- but that other courts did.

That wasn't good enough for the UK judge. He found that Apple's statements weren't compliant, and ordered the company to try again. But Apple's second notice, too, has come under fire.

New Google+ Features Can Pay Off for Lawyers

Google has announced several new features to its video chat platform Google+ Hangouts. These new features enhance an already useful tool for lawyers.

Some of the new features and updates to Hangouts include colorful notifications and a sidebar that consolidates key tools in one spot, writes Mashable.

The sidebar for tools like invites, chat, and apps will appear when you need it, and disappear when you don't. These new features will allow attorneys on Hangouts to focus on their clients without the clutter of tools and other icons.

How to Choose the Best Bankruptcy Software For Your Practice

Bankruptcy practice promises a lot of clients but its complexity can make it intimidating for lawyers who don't plan to specialize. Bankruptcy software is designed to fill that gap.

When it comes to software, at minimum you need a program that will streamline the process and prepare a bankruptcy petition. But given the options on the market there are many other things to consider before purchasing.

There are lots of popular products including Best Case, EZ-Filing, New Hope's Bankruptcy 2012, and products tied to legal research subscriptions. So which is right for your practice?

Jailbreaking Smartphones (But Not Tablets) is Now Legal: DMCA

The U.S. Copyright Office has performed its duty of publishing exemptions to the DMCA once every three years. This year's exemptions include a ruling that jailbreaking a smart phone is now legal.

But the detail that's turning heads is that the exemptions don't mention tablets.

In order to keep up with the times, the DMCA makes some effort to adapt to new standards as technology develops. As part of that, exemptions to the rules are made every three years based on new information. But the current exemption is making some question whether there's any logic to the rules.