Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

June 2016 Archives

Robot Editors Are Proofing Your Legal Documents Today

BigLaw firms still employ summer interns and summer associates to do a lot of the grunt work associated with editing and proofreading, but solo and small firm attorneys don't usually have that luxury. What do the smaller guys do when there's not enough money to go around?

These days, more and more small firms are employing software to do the editing for them. These robot editors are getting cheaper, too. Some robots are even questioning the hallowed words of Supreme Court justices. This sounds great, and you may even want to get your very own. But where do you start?

FBI Can Hack Your Computer, Court Rules

Imagine you drove your car into a bad part of town, parked on the side of the street, and walked away to go eat dinner. When you came back, you discovered that thieves broke your car's windows and stole your backpack and mobile device hidden in the trunk. How would you react if you found out later that it wasn't ordinary street criminals who broke into your car, but the Feds?

Last week's ruling by a Virginia federal district court brings this almost ridiculous sounding hypothetical closer to reality in today's increasingly Orwellian world. Below, we briefly look at potentially one of the most significant federal district court rulings in recent history, US v. Matish III.

Drones have been around for some time now. What was perhaps the first aerial bombardment of a city involved a sort of proto-drone. In 1849, Austria employed "unmanned aerial vehicles" (balloons filled with remote-controlled bombs) against revolting Venetians. By the late 1950's, the U.S. Air Force was routinely using unmanned aircraft during missions in hostile territory.

But drones are just recently being embraced for business and recreational use, with non-military drones quickly outnumbering their combative counterparts -- used more often for photographing scenic vistas than bombing neighbors. That proliferation has led to a host of legal issues and the birth of a whole new practice area: drone law. Here are some of the most interesting legal developments in this burgeoning field, from the FindLaw archives.

Will Biometrics Solve Security Issues for Law Firms?

Law firms and other professional communities are becoming increasingly open to using biometrics for security purposes. There are obvious advantages to biometrics. If you're like most people, you are tasked with remembering a dozen or so passwords just to access your usual online accounts. There is proprietary software out there that can synchronize your accounts, but there is still some hassle involved.

Recently, a fair number of banks have implemented biometric technology to safeguard customer accounts. Will this be the long sought-after security panacea for law firms? Possibly, but we're still skeptical.

The FAA Finalizes New Drone Rules

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

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced in a press release that it has finalized its first operational rules for the use of small unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise more commonly known as drones. According to the FAA, these rules "work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives."

The FAA states that industry estimates indicate that these rules could generate at least $82 billion for the United States economy and possibly could create in excess of 100,000 new jobs for the next 10 years. These new rules will take effect in late August. The rules provide safety regulations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are performing non-hobbyist operations.

You've got your document formatted exactly to specifications: titles are properly bolded, block quotes are well blocked, bullets sit in perfect lines. Then you insert just one troublesome picture or footnote -- everything is shot. Goodbye beautiful formatting; goodbye well-arranged page. Hello desperate plea for a last-minute extension.

It doesn't have to be like this. With a few quick tricks, you can help escape Word formatting hell -- at least most of the time.

We all want to do less and earn more. But when that doesn't happen, we need to do more to earn more.

But you don't need to work through the night in order to get work done. There are plenty of tools out there to help increase your productivity, helping you become a more efficient, effective attorney. Here are three.

Switching to Macs in Your Law Practice: The Basics

According to a recent survey by the Legal Technology Resource Center at the ABA, approximately eight percent of responding lawyers reported that they used a Macintosh in their practice (Macbook, Air, etc.). That doesn't sound like a lot, but it sounds more impressive when you note that the number used to be a little under six percent in 2014 when the same survey was taken.

That means the number is growing, but it's still surprisingly low. Here are a few tips for you to get started switching to Macs in your practice.

Artificial intelligence is finally moving into the legal world. Within the past two months, two major firms have partnered with artificial intelligence companies, hoping to hand over a sliver of their legal work to robot lawyers. But despite the emergence of AI-assisted BigLaw firms, lawyers have been slow to adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, and reasonable skepticism remains. After all, your computer program might win on Jeopardy, but can it pass the bar?

Which is to say, when it comes to AI and the law, the field is still in flux. To give you a quick overview, here are seven of our top recent posts on artificial intelligence, from the freshest section of the FindLaw archives.

The impact of technology on legal practice isn't just felt in eDiscovery, incriminating selfies, or AI junior associates -- it's also playing out in courtrooms. Tech's impact in the courtroom ranges from cutting edge, still hypothetical applications like virtual reality crime scenes, to everyday uses like electronic filing and electronically displayed evidence.

But how are judges, often considered tech-averse, responding to these changes? They love them, according to a recent survey by the New York City Bar Association, but they also don't always use tech to its fullest potential.

How Are Lawyers Using Social Media?

If you're a solo lawyer, there's a good chance that you have at least some social media presence for your business. But have you ever wondered just how you stack up in comparison to other attorneys out there? What are the other lawyers and firms doing that you might not be?

To answer that question, we happily stumbled onto this infographic already put together by the practice management company We think you should check it out.

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

The news reports lately have been grim in the wake of the Orlando massacre. And at the same time the Presidential candidates have been proclaiming that they each are best suited to combat terrorism going forward.

But, rather than delve into that morass, how about something on the lighter side for a moment? Let's talk about Pokemon characters, and how a newly introduced Pokemon character might bear a resemblance to one of the Presidential candidates whose initials are DT. We can thank a recent CNET article for bringing this to our attention.

When Should You Upgrade Your Work Computer?

A number of unavoidable expenses go into running your own business. Maintaining the most efficient computer system for your needs is one of them. We went from writing by hand, to typewriters, to PCs, to talking to our computers all within a century. Technology is moving fast and nobody expects it to slow down.

This isn't to say you need to be on the cutting edge of tech -- you just need to keep your head above the water. So, what are the signs that it's definitely time to upgrade your computer?

We have to hand it to Massachusetts attorney Richard Goren. When faced with a negative review on Ripoff Report, he didn't just win a defamation victory (alright, it was by default, so it's not too impressive), he convinced the court to transfer him ownership over the copyright of the negative post, in a clever attempt to get around laws that protect websites hosting user-generated content.

But not everyone is amused by Goren's legal maneuvering. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen have filed an amicus brief in Goren's case against Ripoff Report, arguing that Goren's move is an abuse of intellectual property protections.

It sounds dirty, but everyone does it. Googling yourself, or "performing a vanity search" as they say in polite company, is incredibly common. It's a rudimentary way to see what your internet footprint looks like, and to discover what kind of information Google has on you.

Now, Google has finally given Googling yourself the attention it deserves. The search engine is adding a host of new features that make vanity searches much more helpful, to busy legal professionals and everyone else. You'll be able to easily find information on your Google accounts when you Google yourself, including security and privacy information. And you can even use Google to find your lost phone.

BigLaw AI Wars: DLA Piper Strikes Deal With Kira Systems

Artificial intelligence is taking over a job near you, if it hasn't already. BigLaw firm DLA Piper has partnered with Canadian tech firm Kira Systems to launch an AI legal tech tool that will be used for document review during M&A transactions. This automation step has been billed by DLA Piper as a boon for clients and the company.

It's the latest in BigLaw handshakes with AI companies, and it has everyone at the bottom of the totem pole worried.

Once eDiscovery seemed like a whole separate world from traditional discovery. But now that so much of our work and lives are digital, eDiscovery is quickly becoming the standard mode of discovery in many practice areas. If a former employee claims emotional distress after an injury, check his emails and text messages. If a debtor claims insolvency, look into her social media accounts along with her bank accounts.

But as common as eDiscovery has become, it is hardly a settled field. The eDiscovery world continues to evolve, with new technology, new standards, and new ways to make eDiscovery work better for you. To help you get a handle on all the developments, here are our seven top eDiscovery updates, from the FindLaw archives.

DOJ: Apple v. Samsung Should Go Back to Lower Court

The IP battle between tech companies Apple and Samsung got a little weirder recently with the involvement of the Department of Justice, which filed an amicus urging the Supreme Court to send the case back down to the deciding federal trial court in order to determine the appropriate damages.

The Supreme Court is not beholden to the DOJ by any means. But if the advice is heeded, it could mean years more of legal wrangling in the courts. But interestingly, this IP battle might enrich other parties besides the lawyers.

On the internet, all content is equal. At least, that's the goal behind the Federal Communications Commission's Net Neutrality rules. Propagated last year, Net Neutrality bans three main practices: blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. But in order to put those rules into place, the FCC first had to classify broadband internet as a utility.

This morning, the D.C. Circuit upheld that classification, finding that the FCC could treat high-speed internet providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The decision, issued in a sprawling 184-page ruling, is a major win for the FCC and advocates of Net Neutrality, and could dramatically change how the government approaches internet services.

BYOD policies, or Bring Your Own Device policies, allow employees to use and access company information on their personal devices. You can send messages to coworkers on your personal phone's Slack app, between right swipes on Tinder. Instead of staying at the office all night, you can download corporate reports onto your home computer.

For many, BYOD policies are great. They give employees a bit more freedom to work where and when they want, on the device that's most convenient. For employers, the policies eliminate the need to provide workers with dedicated work phones and laptops. But when it comes to eDiscovery, BYOD policies can start looking like a very B-A-D idea.

Yahoo! Dumps 3,000 Patents on the Auction Block

A few months ago, Yahoo Inc. moved about 3,000 IP patents into the patent holding company Excalibur IP LLC, and started puffing up value. The details have been in the tech news for a while and already speculators are positioning themselves accordingly.

"This represents a unique opportunity for companies operating in the Internet industry to acquire some of the most pioneering and foundational patents related to Web search and advertising," Yahoo said of the sale. And rumor has it that sale estimates should top $1 billion.

Flamethrower Drone Draws Government Ire. Can the FAA Regulate?

When Connecticut student Austin Haughwout attached a semiautomatic pistol to his drone and showcased his proof-of-concept on YouTube, he must have known that government would start raising eyebrows. It looks like the legal issue this has instigated will end up in court soon enough.

We all would love the privilege of roasting our next Thanksgiving bird via flying-flamethrower, but we genuinely feel that Austin has poked the dragon in the eye on this one.

Passenger Drone Company Test Flies in Nevada

It's strange to think that drones were regarded by many legal naysayers as mere annoyances a couple of year ago. Pretty soon, they said, these things would go the way of the Macarena and would fade away from relevance.

Boy, did they call that one wrong. Now drones are getting so prolific that federal and local laws have been enacted just to track them. They're peeking into our homes, helping us conduct war, may deliver our packages, and now a manned Unmanned Aerial System may be flying you to work.

This weekend, it was revealed that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and tech titan, had one of the worst passwords ever. It was "dadada." And he used it across multiple sites. If the Zuck can't be bothered to make even a half decent password, can lawyers?

Yes! In fact, basic password security isn't even that hard. And you can have unique, hard-to-crack passwords without drowning in password glut. To help you out, here's some of our top password security advice, from the FindLaw archives.

Zuckerberg's Password Fail: 'Dadada'

Facebook's very own Mark Zuckerberg's suffered the sting of hackers recently when his Twitter and Pinterest accounts were compromised. All fingers seem to be pointing to the 2012 LinkedIn hack that proved to be a major embarrassment for the professional networking site -- and may have revealed Zuckerberg's password.

But it looks like the Facebook CEO could be gaining: his password for multiple accounts was 'dadada'. For shame.

What Oracle v. Google Means for GPUs

What does the recent ruling in Oracle v. Google mean for the future GPL/GNUs? If we're lucky, and if wide Internet opinion is correct, it means more of the status quo -- and that's a good thing if you're an open-source community developer.

For a case that's worth billions of dollars, the jury's special verdict sheet looks awfully innocuous.

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

It seems like we constantly are hearing about Internet hacks and the stealing of personally identifiable information online. At this point, we use the Internet for so many positive aspects of our lives. Given that we inevitably are online, what are some steps that we can employ to keep our private information safe?

Here are just a few simple tips to keep in mind:

Two years ago, the European Court of Justice embraced the "right to be forgotten," establishing new, tougher privacy protections for EU citizens. The major impact of that right, so far, has been the elimination of unwanted results from Google and other search results.

But the right to be forgotten isn't exactly absolute, researchers at New York University have found. With just a few clicks, Europe's privacy rules can be easily elided. And that could mean new legal woes for American tech companies.

Tron Meets Justice: Virtual Reality in the Courtroom

The relentless march of technology advances onward with virtual reality not only changing how we recreate, but also how we dispense justice.

Researchers from Staffordshire University in England have been handed a $200,000 grant to develop methods of presenting crime-scene evidence to jurors and other courtroom participants through the use of virtual reality technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. But are there drawbacks to entering the Grid?

There's no shortage of legal tech startups. There are entrepreneurs and innovators across the country looking to bring the latest technology to the legal market, from cutting-edge artificial intelligence applications, to basic document management streamlining. There are even social networks just for lawyers.

But what there isn't is mass adoption of new technology. Lawyers and law firms remain particularly slow to embrace new tech, making it harder for startups to gain valuable venture capital funding. Can obstacles to a true legal tech boom be overcome?

It's been a rough day for Theranos, the blood testing start up, and its once-lauded founder, Elizabeth Holmes. A year ago, Theranos was valued at $9 billion, based on claims that its simple, tiny blood tests could revolutionize medical diagnostics. Holmes, who had a 50 percent stake in the company, topped Forbes' list of America's Richest Self-Made Women. Then came the reports that almost all of the company's claims could not be substantiated and that the few tests it was approved for were highly inaccurate.

Holmes and her company may have hit their nadir today, when Forbes removed her from their list of richest women, declaring Holmes's net worth to have dropped from $4.5 billion to nothing. Nothing. The fall came just days after three major class actions were filed against the company, accusing it of faulty and misleading tests.

Robots can't run a law firm -- at least not yet. But when it comes to your basic tasks like scheduling and time keeping, you can save a lot of money by putting the computers in charge. (Or at least letting them help you out.) A few simple apps can help you streamline many typical tasks, from responding to email to collecting a settlement.

So, if you're looking for some tech to lighten you workload, here are 10 recommendations, from the FindLaw archives.