Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

May 2013 Archives

Linux for Lawyers: Can You Switch? Should You?

As someone who "grew up geek," I always had the desire to try Linux. Unfortunately, the last time I had spare time was in high school, and Red Hat Linux wasn't compatible with my six-year-old desktop computer. After a few frustrating hours, I gave up, reinstalled Windows 2000, and then spent the next few years in blissful ignorance of the Linux landscape, as Windows XP and 7 were both masterpieces.

Fast-forward to today, and Windows 8 is a much-reviled abomination of an OS that, in my limited time with it, has been clunky and annoyingly unusable on a traditional mouse-and-keyboard desktop.

If there was ever a time to switch to one of the free varieties of Linux, it's now. Plus, it give me something to blog about, and something new for all you techie attorneys to consider.

Don't Rely on Apple iCloud's Faulty Two-Factor Security

What good is a deadbolt lock on your front door when the back door is missing and the house keys are sitting inside, in plain sight?

It's not a perfect analogy, but its pretty close to the situation many Apple users are in, without even knowing about it. Earlier this year, Apple released two-factor authentication. It was heralded, as all two-factor implementations are, because as more and more of our data (and our clients' data) move to the cloud, there is more and more to lose from someone cracking a simple password.

Apple Filed $53 Million iPhone Settlement, Possible Refunds

Apple Inc. has filed an iPhone settlement agreement in the a class action over its liquid damage policy for the iPhone and iTouch. This $53 million preliminary class settlement agreement could mean $200 in refunds to certain iPhone and iTouch customers who were denied warranty replacements.

Many of us may have heard about this damage policy Apple used. Probably some of us have been denied replacements under their standard warranty. iPhone and iTouch devices had an indicator tape within the headphone jack or dock connector that would turn red or pink to indicate that the product had water contact. Apple would not inspect the product, but only base their denials of the standard warranty on this indicator.

Firm Central Reviewed (Finally): Amazing, if You Love Outlook, WestLaw

Finally! We have gotten our hands on the once-elusive Firm Central. Our corporate parents (Thomson Reuters) entered the crowded cloud-practice management field only recently, after competitors Clio, Amicus, MyCase, RocketMatter, and Total Attorneys had already launched their products.

How did the first Firm Central fare? Read on to find out.

The Social Media Teen Generation

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

Today's teens certainly constitute the social media generation. And a recent study titled "Teens, Social Media and Privacy" by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project sheds light on this phenomenon.

Significant findings include the following:

Judge Pressures Apple to Settle E-book Price-Fixing Lawsuit?

And then there was one.

After a fifth publisher settled on Wednesday, Apple is alone in fighting against the U.S. Justice Department's accusations that the company and publishers conspired to fix e-book prices. If Judge Denise Cole's comments on Thursday are reflective of the strength of the government's case, we could see Apple come to a last minute settlement as well.

They better hurry. The trial is set for June 3rd.

We Asked and We Received: Twitter Gets Two-Factor Authentication

Twitter was atwitter yesterday with news of a big change to the site’s security protocols: users can now choose to enable two-factor authentication. That’s big news for everyone, even if you don’t use the social media site. After all, remember that fake tweet by a hacker that caused the stock market to briefly nosedive?

The new feature, which must be enabled by individual users, requires two steps to log in. You first enter your password (as always). Second, the system sends you a text message with a six-digit code that must be entered to get access to the account. It begs two very important questions: what about organizations and what about third-party tweeting apps?

5 Ways Tech Lets You Actually Take a Vacation

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, it's time to think about treating yourself and your family to a much-needed vacation. It's difficult to leave a busy practice behind for some lawyers, but it is really important to de-stress once in a while. You will feel rested and refreshed when you return to the office in a couple weeks.

It used to be we would have to notify everyone of our absence and clear our schedule. Now, tech and vacations can work together. If you don't actually have to be somewhere, as the Lawyerist reminds us, technology can free us to get out of town and not look back. Well, not look back too much.

Here are five ways you can take a tech-sponsored vacation without your clients or opposing counsel making you regret it:

NYC Takes on AirBnB Over Illegal Hotel Practices

We've seen it again and again -- startups revolutionize a traditional practice only to meet resistance from outdated or misapplied laws. When Square introduced an iPhone attachment that processed credit card payments (genius), it ran afoul of state money transmitter laws. Uber allows you to hail a taxi from your phone (brilliant), but it clashed with state and city taxi laws across the country.

And now we have AirBnB. This ingenious startup allows you to sublet a spare room, or an apartment, for a few days at a time. For those visiting a pricy city, it's a godsend. In fact, Crain's New York notes that the startup is expected to generate nearly $1 billion in economic activity in New York City in 2013, most of which is outside the cluster of hotels in the midst of Manhattan.

The only problem is, the entire thing is illegal, at least in NYC.

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

Up until recently, and for years, I was a lawyer addicted to his BlackBerry. My BlackBerry always was on my hip, ready for immediate use. I became so proficient that I literally could type as fast with two thumbs on the device as I could with all of my fingers on my desktop keyboard at work. But other attorneys kept whispering in my ear, "Try the iPhone -- once you do, you will never go back to the BlackBerry."

So, over the New Year holiday, I tried my daughter's iPhone. I must say, I was most intrigued by Siri and the voice-recognition feature, not to mention the much larger screen.

Three Fun Gadgets for Law Grads

Yesterday, we covered three suggested “pragmatic” gifts — the sort that will help advance your dear law graduate’s professional life. A laptop could help with cover letters and hopefully, paid legal work. Tablets are great for bar review apps (and bar review breaks!). Smartphones help her answer emails and take calls from potential employers.

They are all good gift ideas, but sometimes, fun trumps function. After all, your grad has been working hard for years to get her degree, and now little Jane will be taking a bar review course and searching desperately for an entry-level legal position. Maybe now is the time for something a little less pragmatic.

Three Pragmatic Gadgets for Law Grads

Little Jimmy is about to venture onward and conquer the world. You watched him cross that stage after three years in hell, three years of Socratic interrogation, three years of working towards an uncertain future in a profession suffering from unprecedented contraction.

But you don't want him to think about that last part. This is a time for happiness, optimism, and preparation for the next phase of his life (bar review!). You're probably considering graduation gifts. Instead of a traditional gift, such as a watch, how about a pragmatic gadget instead? These three tech toys will not only delight him with hours of Angry Birds, but also will help him study for the bar, send and receive job-related correspondence, and give him access to vast quantities of information from apps, the web, and the cloud.

Book Review: Android Apps in One Hour For Lawyers

As a faithful Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 (Google’s homebrewed Android phone and tablet, respectively) user, I am almost as enthusiastic about Android as that Droid Lawyer guy. So when I received an email from the ABA announcing the newly published Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers by Daniel Siegel, my curiosity was piqued. A book that promises to introduce me to an already familiar world? Why not? Maybe I’ll learn something new.

Best of all? The ABA kindly provided a copy of the book for review, saving my $40 for more apps.

Total Attorneys Cloud Practice Management Platform: No Longer $1

When we reviewed Total Attorneys way back in February, we walked away with a generally positive impression. Though the interface was less polished then its competitors, and though it lacked a couple of desired features, the bottom line was the bottom line: $1 per attorney.

That's $1 for calendaring, contact management, billing, invoices, trust accounting, and document storage. We figured the price was a lure to get users in, with hopes that they'd pay for upgrades, such as the $35/month for payment processing. Even if it was a lure, $1/user/month was an insanely low price.

The insanity just ended.

Notorious Porn, Copyright, Patent Trolls Down But Not Out

By now, many of you have heard of Prenda Law. The porn-trolling "law firm" spent years sending demand letters to (and filing boilerplate lawsuits against) those who illegally downloaded porn. Many of the letters contained shades of blackmail, with hints that their investigation of the matter would reveal that person's pornographic proclivities to neighbors and relatives if a settlement wasn't reached quickly.

The legal basis of the scheme was simple: The lawyers acquired the copyrights to pornographic films and assigned the rights to a number of newly-formed shell companies, such as Ingenuity 13. Prenda Law would then monitor BitTorrent for IP addresses and file subpoenas to obtain the identities behind the IPs.

The lawyers would then send the blackmail letters, offering to settle for about $4,000. They'd also file boilerplate lawsuits in bulk, hoping for default judgments. If anyone lawyered up and fought the case, they'd drop it and move on to the next porn pirate.

Thinking About Upgrading Your Laptop? Wait!

Though lawyers are becoming increasingly mobile, we can’t do everything on a tablet or cell phone. Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like the ol’ QWERTY keyboard and 100 wpm typing to burn through a brief or blog post in a hurry.

It’ll be awhile before we reach the “post-PC” age. You likely still do most of your lawyering on your computer, and it you are nearing your upgrade time, you might be perusing your options.


Creepy Tech Patent of the Year: Google's Policy Violation Snooper

Employers can, in most cases, monitor employee email. The problem is, that's a time-consuming chore. Unless litigation ensues (or is threatened), most employers would rather spend their time doing something more productive.

Ah, but for every tech need, there is an invention. We already know that there is software (or "bots") that can scan email to filter out spam or junk messages. And Google uses a similar technology to scan your email and deliver personalized advertisements. How about taking that same technology and using it to monitor employees' email for violations of company policies?

What Tech WAS in Your Briefcase? What's in it Now?

Last week, a friend and colleague forwarded this hilarious ABA Solo Newsletter piece which appears to be from … 1923 or so. There’s no date, but the tech suggestions for briefcase essentials are amusing. No, the author wasn’t recommending an Apple Newton, but it’s almost that bad.

If we had to guess, we’d tag it around 2004 or so — the heyday of the PDA and Palm Treo devices. So what were the recommendations? And what would today’s list look like?

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

In the case Design Tech. Grp. LLC d/b/a Bettie Page Clothing, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that employees of a clothing company were improperly terminated based on comments they made on Facebook complaining about their supervisor and expressing their workplace concerns.

According to the administrative law judge's ruling, which was appealed to the NLRB, workers at Bettie Page Clothing engaged in the following exchange on Facebook:

Onion's Twitter Gets Hacked; Still No Two-Factor Authentication

The greatest faux-news site on the Internet has just gone where many real news sites have gone before: Syria.

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) are a group of pro-Syria hackers who, according to Slate, have cracked the Twitter accounts of some of the biggest names in journalism, including the BBC, NPR, CBS, "60 Minutes", Reuters News, and the Associated Press. The AP hack, of course, resulted in a fake tweet about an explosion at the White House that triggered a brief stock market panic.

Want Data Privacy For Your Email, ISP, Social Media? Ask the EFF

With so much of our data, and our clients' data, transferred over the Internet, lawyers have an especially significant interest in data privacy. We aren't tweens visiting Justin Bieber sites. We are counselors with clients' financial records, identifying information, and sensitive case data stored on our computers, in the cloud, and occasionally, in our email inboxes.

When evaluating service providers, we have repeatedly advised our readers to look at the company's privacy policy, terms of service, and past practices. Who owns the data? Who can access it? Do they suffer frequent security breaches?

It's not just the company and hackers you have to worry about, however. Though the Feds aren't peeping into everyone's inboxes, if you have a client with a sensitive matter, isn't worth choosing the most stalwart provider?

Microsoft Close to Catching Up to Google With Skype+Outlook Marriage

What's the most popular video-chatting tool for businesses? Three instantly come to mind: Skype, Google Talk, and iChat/Facetime. Out of the three, Skype has pretty much ruled the business world. It was the first on the scene, it is popular internationally, as well as in the United States, and it's extremely cross-platform - with apps for nearly every imaginable computer and mobile operating system.

Lately though, Google Talk and Facetime have been making inroads, especially the former. Google's version is also available on a variety of platforms and on desktops, it can run through the browser via Gmail - meaning no proprietary software. A poll of TechCrunch readers found that 55.8 percent preferred Skype, while 31.7 percent preferred Google's offering.