Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

November 2017 Archives

There are quite a few issues surrounding communicating with potential clients via text message. And while we're unaware of any outright statutory prohibition on communicating via text once contact has been initiated, getting to that step can be ripe with conflict.

Fortunately, for the many attorneys that have adopted the strategy of marketing via text message, an increasing number of states are okaying the practice and treating text messages like e-mail or other written communications. However, there are definitely some boundaries that it would be wise not to cross, unless you're looking to put your license on the line to cause an ethical stir.

BigLaw Firm Launches In-House Tech Lab

Sometimes, including these tech times, you just have to do it yourself.

That's about what Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe has decided with its internal technology incubator, "Orrick Labs." The developers are building custom solutions for the law firm.

"Clients worldwide are asking us how we are addressing innovation and value, and Orrick Labs is a key part of the answer," said Orrick chairman Mitch Zuklie. "With a dedicated team collaborating with our lawyers, our goal is to innovate where optimal solutions are not available in the market."

The dream of patent litigation reform is nothing new. It is expensive. And so called patent trolls can pretty much get away with operating legal, government sanctioned, extortion schemes.

Even after strong patent reform was passed in 2011 basically targeting patent trolls, the problem has continued to persist. But interestingly, SCOTUS recently heard arguments in a case seeking to invalidate and challenge the somewhat new process of inter parties patent review by the USPTO. And based on the reports after the oral arguments, the Oil States v. Greene Energy case doesn't seem likely to disturb the newish process.

A new lawsuit filed against Uber in California on behalf of two unidentified women is claiming that the service is not as safe as advertised. The Doe plaintiffs allege that each was raped by their Uber driver, calling into question the service's claim that it is a safe alternative to driving home from the bar.

The case is not only seeking class action status, but the attorneys are also requesting that Uber turn over their data on the rider complaints relating to rapes and assaults. The case seeks an injunction against Uber requiring changes to the driver screening process, as well as new monitoring policies for drivers to ensure riders are more protected from a driver assault.

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas, what usually unfolds into a vehement battle between tech-giant and law enforcement over privacy rights, ended in a rather unexpectedly peaceful manner. Investigators of the mass shooting found a blood spattered iPhone in the shooter's vehicle and promptly got a warrant to search it. Surprisingly, they also got an offer of assistance from Apple.

Initially, it seemed as though law enforcement needed assistance to get into the locked device, however that has not been the case. Despite the fact that the tech giant seemed willing to cooperate with authorities, it reportedly has not been contacted.

Apart from the sheer cool factor of being able to project your favorite movies and TV shows as large as your walls will allow at home, digital projectors can be really handy for lawyers and litigators. It could even make you a better lawyer.

Really! They're not just toys for grown boys, a digital projector can be a great business tool, and can take your presentations up a notch, both in and out of the courtroom. If you've been looking for a reason to plop down a few hundred dollars on one of the coolest tech gadgets out there, read on below for a few of the best.

Spy Archive Left on Amazon by Pentagon Contractor

So much is a mouse-click away these days.

A playlist of classic rock. A video of cats doing funny things. A billion online posts collected by military spies. Wait, what?

That's right, U.S. military intelligence made a huge trove of social media surveillance publicly available -- one mouse-click away from being spread across the internet. Thank goodness it was only your Facebook information. Wait, what?

Black Friday Deals for Lawyers

"But it was on sale!"

It's such an accepted explanation for impulse buying, it's practically a mantra. And as religious holidays go, Black Friday is a universally acceptable day to worship the sale.

With some guidance from tech experts, FindLaw has a shoppers list for your pilgrimage to tech nirvana on sale day. This is the lawyer's edition:


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

While we regularly should practice gratitude, it is that time of year to be especially thankful. So, as we are gathered with family and friends eating turkey and all the trimmings, we think about those aspects of our lives as to which we are most grateful. And how about technology?!

As we race and dash from one thing to another to keep up with our frenetic schedules, it is easy to forget about how we benefit from technology that supports almost everything we do. There are countless examples of how our lives are much easier by virtue of technology. Let's consider some examples in the Thanksgiving context.

Mystery at the FBI: Crime Report Missing Most of Its Data Tables

Critical information is missing from an FBI report.

According to analysts, the information is considered "the gold standard of crime data." The Uniform Crime Reporting Program contains crime, arrest, and police data from around the country.

But almost 70 percent of the data tables are gone from the latest report. Why did the FBI eliminate the tables?

While we've seen quite a bit of talk about self-driving cars and "taxis" this year, one of the self-driving vehicle industry's greatest challenges has been waiting on the side of the road: Self-driving semi trucks.

For most drivers, driving next to, or in front of, an 80,000 pound semi truck is one of the more frightening parts of being on any roadway. However, that fright likely pales in comparison to driving near an 80,000 pound semi truck that doesn't even have a driver in the cab. While autonomous driving systems are continually being refined and getting better with each successive test and software/hardware update, the stakes, and thus regulatory hurdles, for self-driving trucks are a little bit higher.

AlphaBay's PR Man Indicted

How in the world is AlphaBay's public relations man going to spin this?

Ronald L. Wheeler III, the PR man for the online drug dealer, has been indicted on charges of "conspiracy to commit access device fraud."

This man doesn't need a PR person; he needs a lawyer. If only he had one before he got involved with AlphaBay.

Google Fiber. You Want It When?

Two words: speed and access. (Technically, that's three words but you're slowing down the process if you're computing.)

When it comes to internet service, we want it faster and we want it yesterday. We're lawyers, and we have things to do!

Two more words for you: Google Fiber. Actually, you may have two questions. How fast is it and where can I get it?

Law firms, from solos to big law, can usually benefit from using the latest, most advanced technologies available. At least, that's the promise of new tech.

However, when it comes to new tech for practicing lawyers, not everything will add value or create a worthwhile benefit. In fact, if a firm has a solid system in place, there could be virtually no reason to make any changes at all. Growth can be overrated, especially when you're happy with the status quo and making good money.

But, if you are considering outfitting your practice with the latest and best tech available, below, you'll find a few tips on how to start your search.

In the state of Minnesota, an appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely inspiring the state's residents to make the switch from traditional landline telephones to VoIP telephones. The state has posed the following (potentially hyperbolic) question that the court will likely avoid answering: Whether the rule of law may be rendered obsolete by technological innovation.

For individuals who already pay for high-speed internet access, tacking on VoIP services can be done rather cheaply, and are almost always a better deal than traditional landline services. This is partly due to a loophole that allows standalone, interconnected, VoIP providers to avoid stringent state consumer protection rules.

However, the case pending before the Eighth Circuit could change everything, as the state is asking the court to declare VoIP providers as telecoms covered by the FCC. And interestingly, the FCC decided to step into the appellate fray by filing an amicus brief discussing how VoIP services live in a sort of FCC-limbo.

DOJ: Trump's Tweets Are Official Presidential Statements

As the 'Twitter President,' Donald Trump may leave a legacy to the law that will outlive his judicial appointments.

According to the Department of Justice, Trump's tweets are official statements of the White House and the President. It's hardly trivial because his tweets are at issue in more than one legal proceeding.

While relatively few lawyers will litigate over the President's tweets, Twitter statements may be admissible as official records for many others.

Attorneys are often advised to learn and adopt the latest and greatest new tech has to offer. But, there is a certain appeal to just having a system that reliably works and doesn't require continual updates.

For lawyers who have that, convincing them to change their ways will be nearly impossible, unless you can point to a potential ethical violation. After all, if something isn't broke, why fix it? Right? When it comes to finding the right tech, it can be rather challenging, but once you have it, you'll be one of those lawyers who are technologically set for life. As such, lawyers as a group tend to embrace hardware and software that is no longer supported by the maker, a.k.a. "legacy systems."

AI Beats Attorneys in Law Competition

Remember that show where the computer totally destroys the lawyer?

No, not that one. That was a computer-generated dinosaur crunching on the attorney.

We're talking about CaseCrunch, which hosted an AI-versus-lawyers competition. You guessed it: the robot killed the lawyers.

There's no denying that we live in a digital world. For attorneys, the digital world has definitely provided some real conveniences. Digital projectors have replaced poster boards and easels, smartphones have revolutionized calendaring, digital filing is amazing, and the widespread adoption of email was absolutely game changing.

But, along with the conveniences technology brings, some attorney jobs have gone the way of the dodo bird thanks to new developments. AI programs are starting to not only do the job that an attorney or paralegal would, the AI is doing it better, faster, and more efficiently than any human lawyer ever could.

Fortunately, for most lawyers out there, your jobs are currently safe, but that might not be the case in a decade.

Is Facebook's Revenge Porn Program Crazy?

Not to be a judge or anything, but Facebook's revenge porn program seems like a really bad idea.

The social media giant wants people to send in nude photos and videos of themselves. The company says it will build a database with them to stop other people from posting the same images on the website.

"Right," as Bill Cosby said.

At this point, nearly every attorney out there has received a flash drive or CD/DVD-ROM filled with files in response to a request for production. These days, document productions are even exchanged via email.

While most of the time, getting discovery in electronic format is convenient for everyone, some ediscovery, like an image of a hard-drive for a consumer electronic device, like an iPhone, can be thousands of pages long and contain pages upon pages of incomprehensible gibberish. Reviewing all that raw data might seem like a waste of lawyer time, but can you, in good conscious, never even open the file before assigning a support staff to review, or sending it out? Do you really need to review the raw ediscovery, or can you just wait for the summary report?

The marijuana industry, despite the federal taboo and legal challenges, is booming. The law firms and other ancillary industries that cater to the marijuana industry are seeing massive growth alongside the pot boom as well.

However, one of the big challenges faced by both businesses and the states is the regulation of the industry. From monitoring sources to recording transactions, due to the highly regulated nature of the industry, marijuana businesses will likely need to rely on technology to ensure they keep on the legal side of the marijuana regulations. And, like most highly regulated industries, pot regulation could potentially benefit from the use of blockchain.

Legal Tech Is Booming, So Where Is My Robot?

Legal tech is booming.

The good news is, that means more work for tech savvy lawyers. The bad news is, maybe you're not one of them.

So either you get tech smart, or you get a techie to work for you. Then again, maybe you should get a robot before a robot gets your job.

In these modern times of i-devices and wireless everything, cybersecurity is really important. From phishing scams to firewalls, lawyers and law firms need to be in the know in order to avoid being victims. Minimally, practicing good password security is a must as being duty bound to protect client information means potentially massive liability for data breaches and passwords are generally the keys to the data kingdom.

Among the most promising cybersecurity developments involves the integration of biometrics into authentication processes. Basically, using biometrics means that a malicious hacker cannot break into a password protected system by cracking the password because the password isn't typeable, at least in the traditional sense.

Surprisingly, biometric passwords, like a fingerprint or Apple's newest Face ID, are rather popular among employees (especially lazy and negligent ones), and are also good for business. Below, you'll find a few reasons to consider dumping your old passwords and jumping on the biometrics bandwagon.

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

Long ago in internet time, back in the mid-1990s, Congress considered how closely to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Congress determined that it was in the best interests of the United States not to burden ISPs with restrictions, so that the Internet could grow and flourish in the areas of commerce, communications and education. Thus, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was enacted and it provides broad immunity for ISPs with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. Generally speaking, ISPs have not saddled with publisher-type liability -- it is not their job to police their web sites to ensure that posted content is not false or malicious.

The Hamilton Township plaintiffs are celebrating their victory (in the form of a settlement and consent decree) against a public official that blocked them from an official Facebook page where information was being publicly disseminated. This win may be the first of many in the line of recent cases over whether individuals can be blocked by official government social media channels.

The consent decree, approved by the federal district court, orders Township Trustee David Wallace Jr. to unblock the residents from the Facebook page and "any other social media site" that is used as an official, non-personal, communication channel.

Following celebrities online generally results in a mixed feed of personal news and paid-for advertisements disguised as thinly veiled personal updates. For some reason, advertisers think that people are gullible enough to buy anti-aging products from child models, and as such, it is no surprise that celebrities endorse everything these days from cellphones to cellophane and even cryptocurrencies.

However, new guidance from the SEC might give both celebrities and social media influencers pause before they make their next post lauding the way using Bitcoin makes them look younger, smell better, and run faster. The SEC is warning that failing to disclose that a celebrity promotion of a cryptocurrency was paid for is a serious criminal violation.

Legal Tech Helps Sort Through JFK Files

Legal tech is helping to solve the Kennedy Assassination.

Wait, what? Isn't everybody old enough to pull the trigger in 1963 dead already?

Seriously, the JFK assassination is like the oldest conspiracy case since Elvis didn't die. But new tech is digging it up again, and you can blame the lawyers.

Patent Was Masterminded to Sue Small Businesses

This 'Stupid Patent of the Month' was once a mastermind's plan.

U.S. Patent No. 6,738,155 claims a "printing and publishing system" that uses a "communications network." That would be a network printer, right?

It doesn't seem so patent-worthy -- because, well, everybody thought of that. But a company claiming the patent threatened litigation to coerce license fees from hundreds of small businesses, and that was the master plan.

Tool Company Wins $27.8 Million Patent Case

Snap-on. Snap-off. The Snapper. Wait. Wrong product.

Snap-On got sued for patent infringement. Snap-On sued for patent infringement. Case on. Case off. A Judgment.

Sorry, but the jingle was more catchy than the story. It goes like this: Snap-On lost a $27.8 million judgment in a patent infringement case.

Buying into new technology will probably make you better at lawyering, though it might not make you a better lawyer, per se. You'll be able to get more done, be more organized, do things on your own that would've taken whole teams just a few years ago. But, when going to court, some lawyers think that all the new tech just gets in the way.

However, ignoring technological advancements that have been made over the past two decades, especially when going to court, is a dangerous game. After all, if your opposing counsel has the latest tech, you need to be prepared for it, and may even need to be able to respond in kind.

Below, you'll find five FAQs about using tech in the courtroom that will hopefully convince you to get over your courtroom technophobia.

AT&T Gives Up Against Google Fiber

Google resistance is futile.

Seriously, Google it. It's a Borge expression from another universe, but here it means you can't stop Google's fiber network. AT&T tried and failed.

Last year, AT&T sued to keep Google Fiber from getting faster access to utility poles in Kentucky. A judge dismissed the case, and now AT&T is giving up.