Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

September 2016 Archives

It's axiomatic these days that companies need to take cybersecurity seriously, lest they end up like the next Yahoo!, who recently revealed that it suffered the largest hack ever, potentially jeopardizing its plans to be acquired by Verizon. But cybersecurity protections can be restrictive and expensive, leading some clients to overlook them for as long as they can.

What's a lawyer to do? Surprisingly, the jury is still out, with some attorneys urging their colleagues to become more proactive in promoting cybersecurity among their clients, while others suggest a more cautious approach.

When Google announced it was no longer supporting Google Glass, the recording, texting, streaming wearable, in January of 2015, we thought we were finally done with creepy, techie eyewear. Our sighs of relief might have come too soon, though.

Barely a year and a half after Google Glass's much celebrated demise, the photo messaging app Snapchat has announced its own set of smart eyewear, called Spectacles, which are camera-equipped sunglasses that can record the wearer's surroundings and immediately upload clips to the app. So, will these Snapglasses raise the same privacy concerns as Google Glass?

The Internet - Latest Addiction

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

We routinely hear about all sorts of addictions relating to drugs, alcohol, food, and even sex. But what about internet addiction? Is it real, and is it a problem? The answer to both, unfortunately, is yes.

According to a study led by Michael Van Ameringen at the McMaster University in Canada, heavy internet use can exacerbate various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, especially among college-aged students. The results of the study recently were presented at the European College of Neuropharmacology conference in Vienna.

Good writing is often simple writing. That maxim works as well for legal writing as it does for 'The Old Man and the Sea.' But as lawyers, it's easy to let simplicity get lost under a pile of legal complexities, terms of art, and subordinate clause after subordinate clause.

In the process, your writing can sometimes become almost unreadable, even to other lawyers. Thankfully, there are a few ways to quickly and simply check your work's readability -- and to fix it up if it's becoming a bit too complex.

How can you spot emerging trends in legal technology? You could look at the companies that successful startup accelerators are supporting, like Y Combinator's recent support for a "Turbotax for Immigration." Or you can look at public collaborations, like that between Harvard Law School and the legal research startup Ravel Law. Or look at the tech law firms themselves are using, like the few big firms who've started to employ artificial intelligence.

Or you can look at where the talent is going. Legaltech News's Ricci Dipshan recently did the latter, identifying four legal tech trends as evidenced by recent hires.

Smart lawyers use two computer monitors. A second screen is one of the few plug-and-play tech additions you can get that will really improve your productivity and ease of work, almost instantly. With two displays, you can draft a letter on the screen on the left while looking at client notes on the right, edit a document on one screen while reviewing research on another, or just stream Netflix on one screen while working late on the other. After a few days of using dual screens, going back to one will make you feel like a chump.

But if you're on the run, you're usually out of luck, trapped by your laptop or tablet's single screen. Thankfully, someone has come up with a simple, ingenious solution.

When it comes to preventing hackers from spying on you through your webcam, the FBI has a decidedly lo-tech solution: use tape. Speaking at a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey suggested covering up your webcam as one of the "sensible things" the public can do to protect themselves from hackers.

Comey's comments have been met with some derision. (I mean, is tape really the best solution the FBI has for protecting America from hackers?) But it's also good advice. Here's why.

It’s one thing to have your LinkedIn or Dropbox account compromised by hackers. It’s another to have hackers break into your email account, impersonate your typo-filled writing, then convince opposing counsel to send a $63,000 settlement payment to the hacker’s offshore bank account.

Unfortunately, that’s just what happened to one Virginia attorney. The lesson: if you know your email has been compromised, clue in opposing counsel, or you could be responsible for whatever loss follows.

Apple unveiled the new iPhone 7 last week and while the newest iteration of the smartphone isn't reinventing the wheel, it is making some small changes. Chief among them: Apple is dropping its headphone jack. That means that if you want to listen to music on your iPhone, you'll have to use Bluetooth headphones called AirPods that sit, cordlessly, in your ear, or get more traditional, cord-based headphones that hook up with the iPhone's Lightning charger, instead of a headphone jack.

But the change isn't just about aesthetics or performance or cords. It's also a shrewd legal move on Apple's part.

The Different Layers of the Internet

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

Most of us regularly use the surface level of the internet. But there are other deeper and darker levels. So, let's briefly explore three levels of the internet.

First, there is the "surface web." As you read this blog, you are operating on the surface web. When you access your email, when you tweet on Twitter, when you conduct Google searches, when you listen to Pandora, when you watch YouTube videos, when you buy and sell things on eBay, and when you shop on Amazon, you are utilizing the surface web.

Since it gained notoriety as a teen sexting app in 2012, Snapchat has evolved to become a major social media force, with more than 150 million users sending temporary photos and texts over the app every day. That's a higher daily user rate than Twitter. Which is to say, when it comes to social media, Snapchat is becoming increasingly important.

Snapchat is no longer something lawyers can ignore, so here's what you should know about the app. (But don't worry, we're not going to ask you to start posting selfies to Snapchat.)

A few years ago, your "smoking gun" was likely to show up as a "smoking email," some sort of electronic document, probably found on a single computer, giving essential information in civil litigation, criminal inquiries, or internal investigations. Today, those electronic documents still remain essential, but they've expanded from the smoking email to the smoking text message, or even the smoking Snapchat.

But as information from mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, and the like) has become increasingly important, developments in cloud computing are making accessing that information ever more difficult. Here's why.

Despair, misery, ceaselessly changing puzzles, and constantly impending doom. No, it's not your first year as a new associate, or even the next season of 'Game of Thrones.'

It's Vidar, a role playing computer game "where everyone dies." And it sprang from the mind of Dean Razavi, who, until just a few weeks ago, was working as a litigation attorney for Katten Muchin Rosenman. "Razavi always knew he would be a lawyer," according to a recent profile in the video game blog Kotaku. And he was. Up until the day he walked out of the doors and became a video game designer.

If you're like me (and thousands of other legal professionals), you probably got an email from Dropbox about a week ago, letting you know that you'll need to reset your password. "Huh," you thought, "I didn't even remember that I had a Dropbox account." And then you went about your day.

But that email wasn't just a friendly reminder that Dropbox still existed -- it was one of the first, oblique, acknowledgements of that Dropbox was hacked in 2012, and lost 68 million usernames, emails, and passwords as a result.

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

Drones are coming down in price, and they no longer are confined for deployment by military officials and high-level business moguls. So, can you just go out and buy and use a drone, completely unfettered? Sorry, no. Not under new FAA rules. But where there is a will, there is a way.

If you have a business purpose for your drone, you could be fined for using your drone without obtaining FAA approval. However, beginning last week, you can apply for a license by taking a multiple choice exam and by paying a modest fee.

There has been lots of talk about artificial intelligence in the legal sphere lately, much of it centered around the idea of robot lawyers and the end of attorneys as we know them. All this, despite the fact that we're still a ways away from deploying AI legal tech in any large-scale, meaningful way.

But at ILTACON, the annual gathering of the International Legal Technology Association, some technology leaders proposed a slightly different vision of the legal tech future. AI isn't going to unleash an era of robot attorneys, at least not anytime soon. But it could quickly become the next spellcheck -- technology you could live without, but probably shouldn't.