Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2017 Archives

Are Lawyer Bots Impacting Jobs?

It's not really news that robots will take over lawyer jobs, but it is about that time.

A year ago, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 23 percent of a lawyer's job could be automated. As it turned out, that future is already here.

Some 1.1 million legal professionals in the United States did not lose their jobs in 2017, but the traditional legal neighborhood has definitely changed since the robots started to move in.

3 Problems With How Patents Are Vetted

Like the Darwin Awards, the Stupid Patent of the Month began as a way to point out the idiots in the human experiment.

Stupid patents, like stupid people, got what was coming to them. Following their stories, we laughed; we cried; they died.

Now it seems there was also some science to it all. Those stupid patents came from flawed DNA -- problems in the PTO. Here are three of them:

Notable Legal Tweets of 2017

In the year of the "Twitter President," it's fitting that the most notable tweets involved President Donald Trump.

Trump managed to keep the social media company in the spotlight at a time when it was losing market share. Some predicted Twitter would not survive the year, but as the President's go-to platform, it is not going away anytime soon.

Here are some of the most notable tweets of 2017, and quite naturally they involve Trump. Even when he didn't start the conversations, he was in them.

When it comes to running a law firm, especially small or solo practices, getting money through the door is the only way to keep the door open. As such, it can literally pay to accept credit cards and alternative payment options to checks and cold hard cash.

Before you set up a new payment method for clients, you should review your state's specific ethical considerations relating to the fees charged by credit card, and alternative payment, processors, like PayPal or Venmo. Also, you need to be aware of the potential drawbacks to using certain services.

The end of the year is a great time to upgrade your tech around the law office. You may be able to justify big-ticket items, and those big-ticket items are often at their cheapest points between Christmas and New Years when shoppers are making returns left and right, often without receipts.

You know there's a fine line between what you want and what you need. And with the rapid pace with which tech keeps marching on, you might still "need" a few of the following hot tech items for yourself or your practice for the upcoming year.

Are Encrypted Messaging Apps for the Paranoid or Lawyers?

In Steve Martin's comedy Bowfinger, a no-budget filmmaker follows a famous actor around Hollywood and secretly films him to piece together a movie.

The big problem is, the movie star is paranoid. When his adviser discovers the surreptitious recording, he observes: "Well, I guess it's true; it's not paranoia when someone's really after you."

That's a long intro for this point: you are not paranoid if you think someone is tracking your phone, text messages, and other communications. But the movie is hilarious and there's an app for those who are worried about cell phone security.

Lawyer's Programming Skills Help Disadvantaged Clients

If you have two hats, you usually can't wear them both at the same time.

Unless you are Michael Hollander, a programmer-turned-lawyer. Hollander is an employment attorney who is creating software to help disadvantaged clients.

Why did he jump from computing to lawyering? It definitely was not for the money.

3 Reasons to Never Play Video Games at the Office

Don't play video games at work.

This is sort of like saying: "Don't mix beer and wine together. Oh yeah, don't drive on the railroad tracks." Words to live by, says Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."

Do we really need someone to tell us not to play video games at work? Apparently...

What to Know About Twitter's Anti-Hate Speech Policy

People sometimes use Twitter for the wrong reasons, but Twitter is doing something right.

Following up on its campaign against revenge porn and harassment, the company has a new program to fight hate speech. Twitter already had policies to remove threats of violence, and now the company is drilling down on hateful imagery, symbols, and related behaviors -- especially against hate groups.

Twitter is focused on eliminating hate from its platform, starting with a video President Trump retweeted from a racist group called Britain First.

With the recent killing of the Obama-era net neutrality regulations, many law firms are probably wondering what is going to happen to their online marketing campaigns. More enterprising attorneys might even be wondering whether they can ride the dark side of the non-neutral net to get preferential ad placement.

If net neutrality is left to die, the internet as we know it today could become a vastly different place where internet providers can manipulate speeds and access to certain content online. When it comes to online marketing, it could really create serious problems not just for internet users, but also for the marketers and the companies that rely on marketers (like many small to mid-size law firms).

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

You might like to think that you can move about in the world without being noticed. Perhaps you relish the idea of being able to disappear into a crowd while not being recognized. But such notions of anonymity are disappearing.

Of course, you probably have heard about GPS tracking that can be used to determine the specific geographic whereabouts of a person. And now facial recognition can be used to pinpoint the identity of a person in a crowd or frankly at any location where the technology is implemented.

When it comes to cybersecurity, there is a delicate balance between annoying and asking to get hacked. While cybersecurity is important, there's no doubt about the fact that cybersecurity measures, like two-factor authentication, or obscenely long and complex passwords, are just annoying.

Unfortunately, when outsourcing cybersecurity, third party providers will always want to oversell. This has two primary benefits for them: 1) the more you buy the more money they make, and 2) the more cybersecurity you have in place, the less likely you'll have a breach which makes the third party look good. Knowing how much digital security your firm actually needs generally depends on what you're doing, but having a good basic understanding can minimally help you avoid getting soaked by third parties.

There's a lot to do during the year. But during the last few weeks of the year, legal work can often slow down quite a bit. As such, it doesn't hurt to spend a little time doing some of that digital housekeeping you've put off all year.

In addition to taking stock of your hardware and making sure it has been properly serviced and updated over the past year, there are a few simple tech related chores that shouldn't be ignored, especially more than annually.

Below, are a few digital chores that you might want to do during the end of year lull.

Being one of those tech savvy lawyers can often be overwhelming due to all the questions from the non-tech savvy lawyers. ("What do you mean it wasn't plugged in?" ... "Wait, I can turn my iPhone off?" ... "How do I not reply all?")

But when the tech savvy lawyers have questions, the answers tend to involve a bit more nuance than a Homer Simpson original invention. Below, you'll find five common questions that tech-savvy lawyers have asked.

Lawyers around the world need to be on the lookout for scammers pretending to be them on the internet.

In the past, fake lawyer scams usually involved some form of in-person contact between the fake lawyer/scammer and the victim. Nowadays though, with how commonly lawyers are hired online without ever even having a face-to-face with the client, it only makes sense that fake virtual lawyers are now trying to get in on the action.

Unfortunately, there might not be much you can do to stop a scammer from using your name, address, or even copying your website content, in order to make a credible looking online profile to scam legal consumers. At this point, the best you can do is know the basics of how the scam works, monitor your online presence, and be ready to contact the authorities if you find that a fake lawyer website has been setup using your identity.

Senate Considers Controversial Online Sex Trafficking Bill

Sixteen-year-old Desiree Robinson was raped and stabbed to death after meeting a man through Backpage, a website notoriously known for sex-trafficking.

Yvonne Ambrose, her mother, told Senators the tragic tale at a recent committee meeting. The Senate Commerce Committee members listened as they consider the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA).

"If there were stricter rules in place for posting on these websites then my child would still be with me today," Ambrose told a silent audience.

Hackers Steal $10M in ATM Crime Spree

Hackers looted $10 million from an ATM network, affecting financial institutions throughout the United States and overseas.

The MoneyTaker group, named after malware used in the crime spree, started siphoning accounts no later than May 2016. After penetrating one U.S. bank, they raided at least 20 other companies -- including one law firm.

So it's not just about looking over your shoulder when you use an ATM; better check out who is handling your money.

A jury recently awarded Amazon $3.6 million against one of their Marketplace vendors, Beautyko. Unfortunately for Amazon, this massive verdict won't cover their losses related to the underlying dispute. Nevertheless it is still a win which potentially reinforces the public trust in their "zero tolerance" policy for vendor fraud.

The lawsuit alleged that the vendor manipulated Amazon's automated purchasing system to offload millions in unneeded inventory onto Amazon. When Amazon requested that Beautyko accept the return of their inventory, the company refused. Unable to justify the overstock of inventory Amazon liquidated the inventory, incurring a nearly $4 million loss in the process.

How Facial Recognition Is Used by Law Enforcement

If someone updates George Orwell's 1984, they should explain how Big Brother grew up.

Yesterday, it happened through DNA evidence. Today, it's happening with facial recognition software.

In the latest chapter on the technology's application, police used the software to catch suspects who stole circuit breakers from businesses in Southern California. As Big Brother Borg says, "Resistance is futile."

When you're in the zone, banging your fists against the keyboard trying to knock out that brief, stopping to open up the list of "symbols" and scrolling through them can be a real flow killer.

Luckily, there are a few options that you may not even realize exist. If you have the desk space and money to burn, you can buy one of the new "legal" keyboards or keyboard attachments. These have quite a few useful keys that you won't find on a standard keyboard.

However, if you don't have desk space, nor extra computer peripheral cash sitting around, you can easily get by using standard keyboard shortcuts, so long as you can remember them.

Below is a list of the most helpful keyboard shortcuts for lawyers. Most of them should work on most all computers, except for the Word specific ones at the end.

Even though the flying car is still a fantastical concept that is nowhere near ready for a mass consumer market, time sure does fly when it comes to new tech. Based on what we've seen this past year, 2018 surely seems poised to be another banner year for tech companies, and especially those that cater to the legal industry.

Though investment in legal tech may have slowed, it may be due to a shift in focus to production and sales of that tech. Unlike many consumer electronics, legal tech has a bit more of a learning curve. Not only do lawyers have to learn how to use it, lawyers need to be convinced that they need it. Nevertheless, if the trend continues, you can almost certainly expect the following three legal tech predictions to come true in 2018.

SEC Shuts Down Cryptocurrency Initial Coin Offering

If you are crypto-curious about investing, maybe you should save your real currency and just read this story.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is shutting down an initial coin offering by PlexCoin. In its first enforcement action, the SEC's cyber fraud unit alleges the offering is fraudulent.

It's a major development in the virtual currency market. The demand has been so furious, regulators have not known how to deal with it -- until now.

When you're travelling and expected to work remotely, carrying around a whole office can be rather cumbersome, and, not to mention, heavy. Thanks to all the modern technology though, you really don't need much to make sure you can do everything you need to do.

Here's a list of seven essential tech travel items for lawyers:

Tech Giants Avoid Liability for Online Radicalization

We've come a long way in technology since a court ruled against Helen Palsgraf, who sued a railroad company after a guard helped a man get on the train and his package of fireworks fell, causing an explosion that rattled a scale to fall on the woman at the other end of the platform.

Today, a court ruled against a police officer who sued Twitter, Facebook, and Google after he responded to the shooting of five other officers by a former Army reservist who had killed the officers to protest police killings of black men in two other states because terrorists groups spread their philosophies on the social media networks.

Well, maybe we have not come that far in the law. But in a proximate cause way, that's a good thing for social media networks. For victims of terrorism, not really.

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

At this point, you likely already know about the many tasks and functions that can be performed by artificial intelligence (AI). Indeed, you probably have learned quite a bit about that from prior editions of this blog. And now there is more, this time in the realm of art.

When it comes to works of art, authenticity is of vital importance. For example, before an art buyer decides to buy a painting supposedly created by Picasso, he or she will want to undertake best efforts to determine whether or not the painting truly is a Picasso or a fake. Plainly, a true Picasso has enormous monetary value, whereas a fake does not.

When the holidays roll around, retailers tend to offer some really good sales on really useful tech. For many lawyers running their own shops, this is one of the best times of year to upgrade your law office tech. Not only can you score some sweet holiday season deals, you may also be able to score some sweet end of year tax deductions.

Useful office tech may not be what your staff truly wants. But, if you're not buying gifts for people around the office, you might want to consider getting tech gifts for the office that the staff (and you) can use to make working a little bit easier or better.

Bitcoin saw massive growth due to its popularity among criminals. However, the technology that makes it possible could be what drives criminals away from the cryptocurrency, thanks to artificial intelligence.

Blockchain is the public, decentralized, distributed transaction ledger that is used to monitor Bitcoin transactions. And while the blocks on the ledger chain don't contain personally identifying information, it's still possible to identify who made specific transactions given a little bit of additional information. And thanks to the digital revolution forcing the sex trafficking industry to adapt to the times, researchers have learned how to find and use that little bit of additional information to stop sex traffickers on some of the largest online platforms.

A Bitcoin exchange service, Coinbase, try as it might, was unable to stop the IRS from securing a court order compelling the company to name names of potential tax evaders. Given that the current value of Bitcoin is at an all time high, this news didn't make much of an impact.

Last year, the IRS issued a summons to Coinbase demanding that the service turn over their entire transaction history for 2014 through 2015. The federal agency, for that time period, only received tax gains reporting related to Bitcoin for less than a thousand individuals. Given the consistent upward trend in the value of Bitcoin, the IRS seems compelled to investigate whether Bitcoin users are trying to evade taxes using the cryptocurrency.

Law Firm Takes on 'Bro Culture' in Tech, Opens LGBTQ Lab

Nixon Peadody is an evolving law firm.

Since its founding in 1999, it has merged with at least five law firms and grown into an international enterprise employing about 700 lawyers. Earlier this year, it brought another type of business into its fold -- StartOut Growth Lab, an incubator for LGBTQ businesses.

Thomas Gaynor, managing partner at the firm's San Francisco office, says it is about changing culture. He said it is especially a challenge for LGBTQ startups in the tech world.