Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

October 2016 Archives

Google, not content with controlling most of the world's search, email, and web browsing, released its own "iPhone killer" this month, the Google Pixel. Now, Google technically already controls the mobile phone market as well. Its Android operating software is used on almost 90 percent of all smartphones worldwide. But Pixel is Google's latest, most aggressive shot at conquering phones themselves, coming on the heels of its Nexus phones. And it has pretty great reviews so far.

Should lawyers give it a try?

You don't have to look far to find someone claiming that lawyers are tech-phobic. The perception of lawyers as reactionary Luddites isn't exactly correct, however. While the legal industry might not embrace the latest tech trends as quickly as say, a Silicon Valley social media startup, lawyers are no strangers to cutting-edge tech.

Take artificial intelligence, for example. A developing technology with some of the most "disruptive" potential, artificial intelligence is already working its way in to the legal sphere and leaving its mark on attorneys' everyday practices. Here are some examples to help illustrate AI's influence, taken from the FindLaw archives.

At the annual Relativity Fest in Chicago earlier this month, kCura, the eDiscovery company, brought together four federal judges to discuss eDiscovery, the law, and even a bit of privacy. The panel, hosted by kCura's eDiscovery counsel, David Horrigan, featured some of the names behind eDiscovery's "most impactful rulings," Legaltech News's Ian Lopez reports.

The discussion covered everything from proportionality to the Sedona Principles to Deflategate. Here are some of the highlights.

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

The short-term lodging landscape has changed radically in recent years. Rather than always book hotels when away from home, people now frequently book to stay in the homes or apartments of other people through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. The growth in this area is reflected by the $30 billion estimated worth of Airbnb. But does this mean that these short-term rental sites are completely free of legal concerns? No.

You may have noticed some hiccups on the internet last Friday. Facebook went down, then Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. They were all victims of a coordinated attack on the infrastructure of the internet, making it impossible for millions to connect to their favorite websites. If you were trying to waste some time online last Friday, hackers weren't going to make it easy for you.

What set this attack apart, though, was how it was accomplished: through the Internet of Things. Hackers commandeered thousands of internet-connected devices like webcameras, routers, and baby monitors, and turned them into weapons used to cripple the net.

You post a job online and are suddenly inundated with hundreds of applications, cover letters, resumes, letters of recommendation. Do you put a flesh and blood human in charge of separating the wheat from the chaff? To make the first phone calls and handle round-one interviews?

For many companies, the answer is increasingly no. Instead, they’re turning to computer programs not just to sift through resumes, but to conduct actual interviews, and the “rise of the robo-interview” could have important legal implications.

Are businesses (or their reputation management companies) suing fake defendants in order to get rid of negative online reviews? That's the argument made by Eugene Volokh and Public Citizen's Paul Alan Levy recently in the Volokh Conspiracy.

The duo looked at 25 court cases that followed a suspiciously similar pattern. First, a self-represented company, often with ties to a reputation management firm, sues a defendant for a defamatory online review. Then, the defendants agree to an injunction which quickly results in a court order to take down the allegedly offending content. Suddenly: poof, no more bad review. But when someone tries to find track down those defendants, they're no where to be found. Indeed, they might not even exist.

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

Unless you are a hermit hiding out in an undiscovered cave, you are well aware that we have been in the thick of an acrimonious and difficult election cycle for the highest office in the land -- the Presidency of the United States. Presidential campaigns and campaigns for other elected offices have been a struggle in prior years -- given all the competing interests, priorities and strategies that constantly have to be juggled. If that were not enough, now candidates have to deal with the new reality of cyber warfare.

Forget email, instant messages, and shared Google calendars. When it comes to managing your office, Facebook thinks its social network is the place to do it. The company launched its office-friendly version of the social network on Monday.

Known as Workplace, this version of Facebook replaces status updates and cat pictures with status updates and productivity tools, to help employees collaborate more easily.

You're an attorney, not the IT guy, and when it comes to most tech issues, clients usually know to go to (nerdier) experts. But with so many tech problems having legal implications today, you still have to be versed in common tech issues.

To help you out, here are five tech issues almost every lawyer should be ready to discuss with their clients, taken from the FindLaw archives.

The Supreme Court's recent decision in Spokeo v. Robins is already being felt in courts, including in a class action against Lyft over the company's background check procedures. Lyft's drivers alleged that the company broke the law when it conducted background and credit checks without informing them.

But that suit was tossed last Wednesday, largely on the basis of Spokeo. That May, 2016 decision held that plaintiffs must show a concrete injury to gain standing when alleging a violation of their privacy rights.

There's nothing wrong with being technoskeptical. There's good reason for attorneys to take a cautious approach to technological advancements, making sure that the next big thing is actually a worthwhile thing before throwing their money (and their clients') at it.

But you also can't bury your head in the sand when it comes to technological change -- not just because it's unwise, but because it can be an ethical violation. That's right, more and more states are adopting the view that lawyers who don't stay up to date on tech, or consult with someone who is, are violating their professional duties. So, if you are a Luddite lawyer, or your partner or associate is, it's time to join the modern age. If you're not sure, here are a few simple ways to tell.

Sure, a legal career isn't exactly as treacherous as a job as a mountaineer, deep sea diver, or garbage collector -- but that doesn't mean the legal profession isn't without its risks. Attorneys have to constantly worry about protecting client confidences, maintaining the integrity of their information, and making sure that all their I's are crossed and T's are dotted.

Technology has certainly made legal work easier in many ways, but as more and more aspects of a practice are connected, it's also opened plenty of security risks, threats that can bring down your practice and disrupt your life. Here are three all lawyers should be aware of.

In the United States, social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Answers generally can't be held liable for the content user's post online. Responsibility for defamatory posts, infringing media, or crazy rantings generally falls on the poster's shoulders, not on the platform that hosts the content.

That's not the case in other countries, however, where websites may have greater responsibility for user's content. Case in point: German prosecutors are currently considering whether to force Facebook to take a more active hand in ensuring its user content complies with the country's anti-hate speech laws by removing users racist and threatening posts.

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

One presidential candidate with the initials DT has claimed generally that "the system is rigged" and he has speculated in advance as to whether the election also might be rigged against him. At the first presidential debate, he did say that he would abide by the election result if the candidate with the initials HRC won the election.

But what does it mean to "win"? If the election result is a close one, and if she apparently tallies sufficient popular and electoral college votes to put her over the top, would he concede her victory if there are suggestions of hacking of voting systems? This question is posed because a recent Associate Press article asserts that hackers recently have targeted registration systems in greater than 20 states and cites a Homeland Security Department official for support for this assertion.

Florida lawyers will have to take three hours of technology CLE courses in 2017 now that the state has become the first to mandate attorney tech training. The Florida Supreme Court approved the rule change last Thursday. The amendments to Florida's Bar Rules also include an addition to the comment on competent representation, clarifying that attorneys may retain a "non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question" and emphasizing safeguarding confidential information as part of competent representation.

Will this be a trend that takes off nationally?