Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

August 2016 Archives

If you're tapping away on an iPhone, make sure you've got the latest updates. Otherwise, your calls, text messages, emails, and contacts could all be vulnerable to Israeli cyberspies -- or whoever buys their software.

The NSO Group, an Israeli software company that the New York Times describes as "one of the world's most evasive digital arms dealers," has released software exploiting security vulnerabilities in Apple products, allowing anyone who uses it to collect your information, steal your passwords, track your location, and even secretly record your conversations. All they have to do is send you one text.

How to Improve Your Computer Experience

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

It probably is fair to say that most of us are glued to our computers for a large part of each and every day. Accordingly, how can we improve our computer experience? A good start is to follow eight fairly simple tips, among a variety of other tips that also could be considered.

Robots are humans too, right? Well, not exactly. But as artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to advance, some are arguing that the resulting technology could deserve basic rights -- a recognition of a sort of "electronic personhood."

In Europe, at least, the idea is getting some traction. A recent draft report by the European Union's Committee on Legal Affairs calls for the consideration of whether robots may be entitled to legal rights -- and how to hold them civilly liable should autonomous robots injure others.

Future Legal Jobs That Will Replace Traditional Lawyer Roles

Lawyers are beginning to worry that the legal tech wave will render many law jobs obsolete. One thing is for sure: mundane tasks like demand letters are already on their way to the computers. So what tasks will be left for humans? And what future jobs will lawyers likely be holding?

To maintain job security these days, it's all about adaptation.

New Black Hat Cybersecurity Buzzwords

In the pithy words of Monzy Merza at TechCrunch, the annual Black Hat briefings are an opportunity for the hoi-polloi "to drink from the firehose." While the lions' share of know-how and information will no doubt be devoured and processed by the brainiest of cybersecurity experts and hackers, the rest of us must play the part of vultures -- eating the scraps.

And that assumes we can digest what's left. Blink, and some new threat is already out there on the internet threatening your data and network. Here we'll discuss some of the recurring terms that featured at this year's Black Hat briefing.

If you’re looking to modernize the way you schedule appointments, you might want to check out Microsoft Bookings. The new Office 360 application out of Redmond lets you schedule and manage appointments online. Bookings eliminates the need for clients to call in to schedule a check-in, or to ping pong emails back and forth to set up a time to confer with opposing counsel.

The way Bookings works is not so different from how you might schedule a haircut, doctor’s appointment, or dinner reservation these days — online and fairly seamlessly. Could it work for a law firm?

The Ultimate Impact of Sex Robots

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

Technology continues to advance to help humans in so many countless ways. And now we are getting to the point that we are not simply dealing with cold machines, but we are dealing with features and contraptions that are becoming quite human.

For example, we can talk to Siri on our Apple devices, and a human voice, programed to our liking by gender and accent, will talk back to us. And when we call all sorts of businesses, we are guided through various prompts by a human voice that is powered by voice activation software. Who knows, is it possible that some people can become smitten by these voices, like the protagonist in the movie "Her"?

Who Owns the Creation of an Artificial Intelligence?

This question is becoming increasingly relevant every day: who owns the product of an artificial intelligence?

Why, the owner of the machine, of course. But is that answer really quite so obvious? After all, who owns the machine if the machine itself is difficult to define? And even more curious, can an intelligence be owned? And should it?

It's back to the drawing board for Uber and thousands of its drivers. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected a proposed settlement between the two yesterday, saying that the agreement falls short of what is "fair, adequate, and reasonable."

The drivers' class action lawsuit alleges that Uber had misclassified its drivers in California and Massachusetts as independent contractors, instead of employees, denying them the protections of state and federal labor laws. The settlement left the question of the drivers status unanswered, in exchange for a potential $100 million payout and some small changes to Uber policy. Chen's rejection of the settlement is a significant blow to Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, who has been criticized for allegedly selling the Uber drivers short.

Looking to spur some innovation in your legal practice? Maybe it's time to take some advice from Matt Homann, founder of Invisible Girlfriend, an actual, real-life company that offers a digital version of a real girlfriend "without the baggage." (Don't worry, there's an Invisible Boyfriend service too.)

What's the founder of a sort-of-sad fake girlfriend company know about the law? Well, before he was creating digital fauxmance, Homann was a solo practitioner, and he's dedicated years to thinking about innovation and the law. Homann recently spoke to the Atlanta Association of Legal Administrators about innovation in law firms, and some of his ideas seem worth considering.

Wearable Tech Is a Security Nightmare

As time goes on, technology has not only assumed a larger role in the layman's life, but in the lawyer's as well. Today, wearable tech is all the rage -- and whenever something is all the rage, that's when professionals should let cooler heads take the lead. Because any sane-minded professional should realize that wearable tech presents an enormous security risk.

Are Your Note-Taking Apps a Security Risk?

Note-taking apps are part of the recent trend of enabling people to document every aspect of their lives for posterity and future use. Everyone knows that with convenience comes diminished security. But what steps do you need to take to ensure your day-to-day musings aren't being hacked?

LinkedIn, the Facebook for resumes, has filed suit in the Northern District of California against 100 unnamed individuals accused of using bots to scrape information from its website. The suit accuses the Doe defendants of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal anti-hacking law.

The lawsuit comes just barely a month after the Ninth Circuit expanded the reach of the CFAA, ruling in two cases that the CFAA could criminalize unauthorized password sharing and could impose civil liability for misusing a social network. The LinkedIn suit, though, could seek to push the reach of the CFAA even further.

Metadata: the Ethics Trap That Could Get You in Trouble

Most people, including lawyers, are at least broadly aware that whenever a document is created, something exists behind the scenes that tracks information related to the creation, editing, and general handling of the document. That "something" is called metadata, and although it's wonderful for engineers and accountants, it can be hell for attorneys.

Here, we go over some of the basic considerations all attorneys must think about when handling client files.

You can hold depositions in three states, in a single day, all from your office. You can interview potential associates without flying them into town. You can see what your cat does while you're at work all day. The future is here -- if you've got the right video conferencing software.

And no, not all video conferencing platforms at the same. You can't share your screen while streaming in Facetime, for example, and you're not going to get much in the way of customer service if you're getting face-to-face on Gchat. Indeed, when it comes to video conferencing, some of the small names are much better than the big guys.

Cops Search Computer for Defamatory Statements -- About Their Police Chief

After a blogger accused the sheriff's office in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana of improprieties, sheriff's deputies quickly seized the computers of the suspected blogger, a former sheriff's deputy himself, accusing him of criminal defamation. "If you're gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I'm gonna come after you," Terrebone Sheriff Jerry Larpenter told the local news station, WLL-TV.

Now, a Louisiana judge has issued a search warrant, allowing those deputies to take a "look-see" into the suspected defamer's computer. Ethics attorney and Loyal Law Professor Dane Ciolino described the ruling as "extraordinary," adding that "[i]t's amazing we're having this conversation in Louisiana rather than in Iran."

If you want to find the cutting edge of law and technology, don't only look to BigLaw Bitcoin practices, AI innovators, or even lawyers turned techies. Look to corporate legal departments, as well.

A shift in corporate culture is driving in-house legal departments to "invest more than ever before in refining their operations to deliver more efficient and predictable legal services," according to Inside Counsel. And, in doing so, many of those legal departments are forging the legal tech frontier.

BigLaw is moving into the cryptocurrency sphere, now that Steptoe and Johnson have announced that they're opening a blockchain and digital currency practice. Blockchain is the technology that underlies Bitcoin and other alternative digital currencies. It's been hailed as potentially revolutionary, capable of transforming everything from the legal sphere, to land registries, to international finance.

"The blockchain, like the internet, is going to have an impact on just about every existing type of institution in the years ahead," according to Jason Weinstein, the Steptoe partner co-leading the new practice area. And when that digital technology leads to real-world legal issues, Steptoe wants to be the BigLaw firm clients turn to first.

Has Social Media Committed International Terrorism?

A number of lawsuits are pending in federal courts these days and their legal significance cannot be overstated. At issue is whether or not the three biggest names in social media today -- Google, Facebook, and Twitter -- have committed acts of "international terrorism" under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

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

The United States and Russia are superpowers and have potential and actual conflicts in various realms. And the Olympics are no exception when it comes to conflicts between the two countries. Let's set the stage:

At first, it appeared the International Olympic Committee was going to ban all Russian athletes from competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games because of doping concerns. Indeed, the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a report that concluded that dozens of Russian athletes were doping during the Winter 2014 Sochi Olympic games, and on top of that, the Russian government had been complicit in a cover up of that doping scandal.

You need to know what's going on in the world, but you've rarely got time to sit down for the nightly news, let alone read through a newspaper. Sure, you can scan through social media or quickly browse a website, but that's a pretty haphazard way to stay informed of major news events.

That's where the Reuters TV app comes in. (Disclosure: Reuters is FindLaw's sister company.) Reuters TV allows you to get high-quality, authentic journalism no matter how busy you are, by creating a customized news video stream that adapts depending on how much time you have to spare.

Cloud Tech and IT Is Evolving Fast, to Small Firms' Benefit

Most attorneys don't practice in a massive firm, but go it alone or work with a few partners. That's about 84 percent of us. That's right, four out of five lawyers (plus change) are having to handle a significant amount of our own law firm functioning.

But fear not, it looks like the demands of the market have created a solution that might give some smaller players in the game some hope. Legal tech is starting to take small firms seriously, to the small practitioner's benefit.

Colonizing Mars isn't as easy as Matt Damon makes it look. Before you're abandoned to the empty wasteland of the Red Planet and forced to learn to live off surplus rocket fuel and potatoes, you've got to get through the federal government.

And getting government approval to go beyond the Earth's orbit is no simple task, as one company learned recently. Moon Express recently became the first government-approved private mission to a celestial body, and they only wanted to go to the a few hundred thousand miles beyond the stratosphere. Before you boldly go where only government astronauts have gone before, you apparently need to clear a few legal hurdles.

Tips for Handling Phishing, Social Engineering Scams

The con has been on this earth longer than civilization. It seems that somewhere, somehow, someone is trying to pull a fast one on someone else. Cons, scams and schemes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: "snake oil,", Ponzi schemes, political promises.

Those still exist, but the latest digital scams are getting fancier, more sophisticated and more prolific. Here are a few tips that will help you dodge them.

For $12, Criminals Can Hack and Track Your Wireless Keyboard

Another week, another hacking piece. Only this time, it's not about a threat of your networks, email accounts, or some large bank -- it's your keyboard.

Bastille Networks did some digging around and found that wireless keyboards are the latest crack in the ever growing security levee. For about $12, hackers can acquire a radio device that can both track and inject keystrokes into your machines. Worried yet?

A phone is stolen or a computer hacked. Suddenly your personal information is being held for ransom. But the hacker doesn't want cash, he wants sexual favors. "Send nudes," he says.

It's sextortion, or the abuse of power to obtain a sexual advantage, and it's a growing cybercrime, with hundreds of individuals becoming victims every day. Yet, despite the increase in hacking-related sextortion, there has been little action taken to craft laws that would fit the crime.

Technology is essential to today’s legal practice, from your website, to your practice management software, to simple word processing tricks. But you’re a lawyer, not an IT specialist. So when it comes to setting up your firm’s intranet, evaluating cloud computing security, or figuring out what’s wrong with your email, sometimes it’s necessary to bring in a little help.

Enter the legal tech consultant. A legal tech consultant can be a lifesaver for your practice, whether you’re rebuilding your firm’s computer infrastructure or just looking to improve your staff’s document management competency. But, like with all hires, you’ll want to make sure you’re bringing the right consultant on board. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Amazon Now Raking in the Dough

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

Once upon a time, toward the beginning of the commercial internet, critics questioned Amazon's aggressive approach in throwing money at the concept of becoming the full-purpose seller of all types of products online. Indeed, while Amazon was growing along the way, it was in the red, far from turning a profit. Detractors believed that Amazon's "Hail Mary" approach would fail, and the only question was when Amazon would go under, like many other early dot coms.

Well, who is laughing now? Amazon, and CEO Jeff Bezos, of course.

Legal Tech: Responsibility of the Attorney or Paralegal?

Legal tech is now firmly rooted in the legal landscape. Younger attorneys who are more fluent in technology may take to legal tech like fish to water. But older and tech-phobic attorneys may not be so lucky. If you're job hunting, you may have noticed that a lot of the job requirements ask for a certain level of fluency in case-management or trial prep software.

But who's responsible for staying current with legal tech? Can an attorney pass this responsibility along to a paralegal?

5 Technology Traps That Can Ruin Your Law Practice

With tech complexity shooting skyward, even pretty well educated folk like lawyers have to watch their steps carefully when it comes to security slip-ups. Any one of the scenarios we list below could completely ruin your practice and your business for a long time -- yet lawyers still do them every day.

Just accept that tech problems will take place. However, you can and should take steps to mitigate how often they take place. A little prep will save much headache down the road.