Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

March 2016 Archives

Do you take meetings at local coffee shops? Do you like to step out of the office with colleagues, for a quick triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato break? At the same time, do you obsessively schedule out every aspect of your day?

If you answered yes, you're in luck. At Microsoft's development conference in San Francisco today, Starbucks announced a new partnership with the tech giant: a Starbucks add-in for Office. Yep, you can now schedule your Starbucks breaks straight through Outlook. (There's no word yet on whether you can order a double half-caff from Excel, but we've got our fingers crossed.)

Finishing a brief from the back of a car. Uploading a last minute filing just as the clock strikes midnight. Keeping in touch with your colleagues while mid-flight. None of these things would have been possible just a few decades ago.

Thanks to a host of apps, programs, and gadgets, attorneys can stay connected (and productive) like never before. In the spirit of helping you stay plugged in, here are seven of FindLaw's best posts on tech to keep you connected.

Ransomware Now Attacking Mobile Devices

If you've never heard of ransomware, you're really behind the times. Beginning with 2015 and into 2016, the number of malware attacks on all devices -- desktops, laptops and phones -- skyrocketed to its highest percentage of cyber-shenanigans ever. And it looks like this highly profitable criminal business model is here to stay.

At the risk of sounding like a doomsayer, this writer cautions legal professionals to watch themselves and to drop the "it only happens to somebody else" mentality.

FBI Cracks Farook's iPhone Without Apple's Help

Heated debate has raged as to whether or not Apple should, or even could, assist the U.S. government in its quest to pry open his cell phone. After long resisting a court order, it looks like both Apple and the FBI won in the announcement that the FBI had broken into Syed Farook's phone. But if you really think about, the FBI won more.

The federal government experienced 77,183 cyber incidents last year, according to a recent report by the Office of Management and Budget. Those incidents, more than 200 a day, covered everything from denial-of-service attacks against government websites to the theft of over 20 million personnel files.

The massive amount of cyber incidents represents a 10 percent increase from previous years, though federal agencies are getting better at preventing cyber attacks, according to the report.

It's like rain on your wedding day. It's a free ride when you've already paid. It's the "certified ethical hacker" program that spread dangerous encryption malware to users, despite warnings from outside sources.

Who would've thought. It figures.

Are You Insured Against Ransomware? You Should Be.

Ah, insurance: one of the most critical expenses that lawyers need -- yet so poorly understand. At least, lawyers may not fully grasp the important of certain types of insurance. Take ransomware, for instance. Does your firm have it? If not, do you need it?

Six years ago, Apple released the iPad and suddenly the market for tablet computers, which had been around since the early 90s, exploded. Simple, mobile tablet computing was now a real, worthwhile thing. But since 2010, Apple has been surpassed by its competitors, especially when it comes to using tablets for professional purposes. The primary iPad-killer is the Microsoft Surface Pro, which we love. Sure, it's cute that you can play Candy Crush on your iPad, but you can actually do work on the Microsoft Surface.

Now, with a smaller, improved iPad Pro, Apple is finally getting back into the tablet game. Compared to Microsoft Surface, which one is the best choice for attorneys?

We're surrounded by unorganized, unstructured data: old case files, public records, mountains upon metaphorical mountains of electronically stored information, and even the emoticons in your emails. This data can be mined for valuable information. That, at least, is the promise of "big data," that data with low information density, but huge volume can be organized and analyzed for important legal insights.

And it's already happening. Here are five of FindLaw's top posts on how big data is affecting the legal industry today.

If you wanted to transfer real property in England a thousand years ago, you would have to publicly present the buyer with a clod of dirt from the land, symbolizing the transfer of title, and record the exchange in the local shire-book or church-book. One thousand years later and the clod is gone, but the rest of the process is very much the same: transfers of real property are still recorded with the local county's recorder of deeds, the modern equivalent of the shire-book. It's an effective, but not a terribly efficient, system.

Blockchain technology, some propose, can bring that antiquated system into the contemporary age. Blockchain technology could create a widely distributed, indecently verifiable, and largely incorruptible record of property ownership that bypasses the centralized system of county offices and recorders of deeds, or so the thinking goes. It's as though everyone could have their own personal, inscrutable Domesday Book.

FBI Delays Apple Hearing to Try a New iPhone Hack

For the last few weeks, conflict between the iPhone maker and the FBI has been so heated that even people who know nothing about encryption (that's most of us) have developed very spirited and views on the matter.

In a somewhat odd twist, it looks like the FBI just took a breather and said, "Fine, we don't need you," to Apple. It appears that an "outside party" just alerted the government to an alternative means to cracking Syed Farook's phone. This is all very disconcerting, particularly as there was a hearing for the debate to continue on scheduled for today.

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

The Electronic Information Privacy Information (EPIC) has just filed a third-party intervention brief before the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) to help challenge the surveillance activities of intelligence organizations of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Artificial intelligence is finally jumping off the pages of sci-fi novels and into reality -- and we're not just talking about the Roomba. Tech companies are starting to make real advances into AI, really quickly. Now, some of them are applying those advances to the legal industry, in IBM's ROSS platform and the Microsoft-backed contract reviewing software, Beagle.

So... The robots are coming? The robots are coming!

Trade Commission Stymies Chinese 'Hoverboard' Imports into USA

Way back in 2014, Segway filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, alleging that imported Chinese "hoverboards" violated its patents. Now, that complaint has started to bear fruit. Yesterday, the ITC issued a general exclusion order banning most self-balancing hoverboards from being imported into American borders.

The exclusion order could have far reaching and substantial effects, not least of which is making people look less stupid getting from point A to point B.

Malware Is Infiltrating Businesses Through Social Media

While you're reading this in the office, do you also have a Facebook window open? Are you Facebooking at work? You could be putting your law firm's security and data at risk.

It's true. Malware has found weaknesses in social media security to infiltrate business organizations.

Sure, keep your Post-It notes and legal pads, your expensive pens and marble paperweights. But when it comes to the important stuff -- client files, court filings, memos and the like -- your firm should be paperless.

Going paperless makes it easier to maintain and organize your records, share information between members of your firm, and, frankly, it just makes it much easier to work in today's always-connected environment. Here are seven of FindLaw's best "how to go paperless" posts to help you out.

3 Ways Millennials Are Disrupting the Legal Industry

Lawyers have a bad reputation for being stuck in the past. Compared to other professionals, lawyers do not take well to technological changes.

That's problematic because we're living in a time when technological advancements are drastically changing communication and professional services. Science historian James Burke reminds us: by the time you learn and understand something, it's already obsolete. And millennial lawyers are right on that razor edge. Let's look at a few simple ways young lawyers are disrupting this industry.

Will Your Smartwatch Save Your Life?

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

The love affair with smart-phones has led to further rapture with smart-watches. Right now, we can act like Dick Tracy, with the world on our wrists within these tiny smart-watch gadgets. But these smart-watches might not all be about work, communications, and fun and games. Why? Because there is the potential that smart-watches might evolve soon to have the capability of saving lives.

CRISPR Lawsuit: The Biggest Gene Patent Pre-Suit of All Time Hit PTAB

At first hearing, you might have thought that Crispr was some sort of new age snack. But it just happens to be probably the biggest giant leap forward in biotech and bioengineering in recent history of medicine. Crispr could be the key to hacking genes in ways that scientists could previously only fantasize about.

Sounds like there's a lot of money to be made? Yeah, we'd say so.

SCOTUS Kills Apple's E-Book Challenge by Denying Cert.

It looks like at least one of Apple's legal issues is finally put to rest. The Supreme Court of the United States declined this last Monday to hear Apple's challenge to the Second Circuit's ruling that it and four other companies tacitly conspired to drive up e-book prices in violation of federal anti-trust laws -- specifically the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The Supreme Court's decision not to disturb the lower circuit's ruling (or refuse to review the case) means that Apple will have to pay approximately $400 million as part of the settlement put in place earlier.

Tips for Safeguarding Client Information

Safeguarding client information isn't as easy as you might think. In the digital age, safeguarding information is something even the most tech-savvy corporations struggle with. To ensure that your clients' information is safe, you actually have to be proactive about your security. Let's start from the beginning.

Slack, for Simplifying Some Aspects of the Law Office

Since its launch in late 2013, the "email killer" platform Slack has done well for itself. It seems that in the time it takes you to blink, yet another several thousand users have been called over by the social-media/workplace platform's siren call.

But what about lawyers? Should attorneys acquiesce and join the movement? Or do we, as lawyers, have to suspend enthusiasm and consider some of the pros and cons?

The cloud isn't just going to transform how attorneys work and compute, it already has. From endless email storage to cloud-based eDiscovery, lawyers are working on the cloud every single day.

So, what is the cloud anyway? (Besides just "someone else's computer.") And what do lawyers need to know about it? Here are FindLaw's top seven cloud-based blog posts to help keep you up to date.

Managed Services in Electronic Discovery: Our Digitized Future

Just when finally found the time to catch up with the latest technological development, another one comes up. Technology is moving at such a brisk pace that even those in the tech fields have trouble keeping up. So, how can you -- a busy lawyer -- hope to stay on top of everything?

Realistically, you can't. And developments in ediscovery case management are the latest concern you have to deal with. But with just the smallest investment of time, you can at least ensure that your small to mid-sized firm doesn't get blindsided by unseen factors in ediscovery.

Are there really only two months of Supreme Court oral arguments left? It's seems like just yesterday that the term was kicking off. Now it's winding down, with one less justice but a few mayor tech cases on the horizon.

If you're a technology-focused attorney, here are two cases to keep your eyes on in the upcoming months.

Pentagon Asks Hackers to Search for Security Breaches in Pilot Project

The Pentagon just announced this week that it would invite outside hackers who'd been pre-vetted by the U.S. D.O.D. to try their best to crack the cyber-defenses of its websites.

According to Reuters, this is the first project of this kind hosted by the federal government.

Well, it has finally happened. In a first, the maker of a self-driving car has accepted that their autonomous vehicle might be liable for a collision with a more traditional auto.

The revelation comes after a Google self-driving car drove right into it's human-operated kin this Valentine's Day. And that the little ding could have major implications for the future.

Apple Security in China and America: A Double Standard?

A lot of ink has been devoted these past few weeks over Apple's resistance to the FBI. Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, has repeatedly made his position clear that Apple customers' security is among the company's top concerns.

However, there have been some concerns raised that the company might have been less than staunch in this view in the past when dealing with China. Is this a case of double standards in resisting government demands?

Encryption isn't just about decoder rings and Nazi spies anymore; it's one of the main legal and political issues of our time. It's a topic lawyers need to understand, as encryption touches on everything from privileged communications, to cybersecurity, to the Fifth Amendment.

Here's our roundup of FindLaw's best encryption-related Technologist posts. It's much of what you need to know about encryption, in just a few posts.

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

It already seems like the Presidential campaign has been going on forever.  There have been countless debates, speeches and statements by and among the candidates. Some topics such as immigration and whether to build a wall have been rehashed over and over - beating dead horses further to death. But what is the one topic the candidates consistently ignore?

Cyber security!

The Confused Role of Lawyers in Modern Cyberwarfare

The final chapter in Sun Tzu's Art of War is dedicated to emphasizing the critical role of the spy in warfare and the sage underscores the recurring thread throughout the work of the importance of information. With regards to spies, no one "should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be preserved."

The role of the physical battlefield is playing a small and smaller part in the theatre of war; and cyberwarfare and electronic networks increasingly so. Hackers are now the foot soldiers and generals of yesteryear -- and also the spies.