Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

February 2018 Archives

AI Beats Lawyers at Issue-Spotting NDAs

Did you ever have that moment when someone soundly beat you at an intellectual task?

Maybe it was in law school when a student finished the test 20 minutes before everyone else and aced it. Or maybe another candidate got the law job you wanted.

Even if you were that guy, all that is about to change. Robots are better than lawyers now at the threshold of legal analysis.

Net neutrality is one of those things that you don't even realize is necessary ... until it's gone. Unfortunately, Americans may be forced to experience the non-neutral World Wide Web in the very near future, unless we can all collectively #SaveTheInternet.

On April 23, less than 60 days from now, the final nails in the net neutrality coffin will be getting hammered down. But before that date comes, there are several challenges to the law's repeal that still must be overcome, though it may require a movement and more than a hashtag.

Is Legal-Industry Cryptocurrency a Good Idea?

According to reports, an off-shore company called Legaler will create cryptocurrency for the legal industry.

Stevie Ghiassi, chief executive officer of the company, wants to raise up to $35 million for blockchain technology that lawyers can use for transactions with clients and service providers. Legaler also said it will use the technology to help charities with crowdfunding.

Not to quote Chicken Little, but didn't the digital currency market just fall 30 percent? And who in heaven is Legaler?

Bill Would Legally Recognize Blockchain Data in California

California may soon join other states that have made blockchain records legally enforceable, including smart contracts and electronic signatures.

Under California's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, proposed legislation expands the definition of electronic records to include blockchain and electronic signatures. Blockchain, which is like electronic DNA, creates an electronic ledger of the origins and history of records.

It is the same technology that makes bitcoin a trustworthy virtual currency. For many lawyers, blockchain is becoming the best way to create verified documents.

For practicing lawyers looking for AI assistance, good help is hard to find. Although there are now several AI tools available, figuring out which ones are worth it and which ones are a waste, can seem like more of a hassle than any of it is worth.

However, if you are able to find an AI tool that fits your needs, all the hassles, trials, and tribulations will be worth it. Below, you can read about a few of the AI tools that are already available for attorneys, and one of them is actually both good and free.

Hackers 'Cryptojack' Tesla Cloud

Just when you thought you had a grasp of cybersecurity, criminals have found another way to hack your computers: cryptojacking.

Tesla recently discovered the problem on its cloud system. The company quickly reported that it did not affect customer privacy or vehicle security.

But the breach illustrates another reason to double-down on cybersecurity measures. It's no time to risk some hacker taking over your computers.

For many lawyers, a big part of the job involves talking on the phone. And whether you're talking to a client, a witness, an adversary, or anyone for that matter, keeping your hands free for typing or taking notes or flipping through you calendar can be rather helpful.

Basically, you need headphones, or a good headset. But really, since it is 2018, you need wireless headphones. Holding a smartphone, or (gasp) a traditional receiver, up to your ear isn't too terribly inconvenient, but being able to use it for your calendar, email, and web while you're on it is a game changer. And while the speakerphone option is always there, that's a disrespect reserved only for your least favorite opposing counsel, and an option that isn't available while working in a semi-public place (like a cafe/train) or on the go.

Below, you'll find a little guidance about the best wireless headphones for lawyers.

Can Crowdsourcing Accurately Predict Supreme Court Decisions?

Someday, anybody will be able to be part of the process at the highest court in America.

Oh wait, that's today. At least there is a website that lets anybody join in forecasting decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

By the time you read this blog, there will also be a discussion at Stanford about how such crowdsourcing predicts Supreme Court decisions. So are we there yet?

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

Apple opened its glittery, circular, spaceship campus in Cupertino a few months ago. This campus is the of dream of Steve Jobs, which he pitched to the Cupertino City Council in 2011. It reportedly is estimated by the Santa Clara County Assessor to have cost $5 billion.

The gigantic, circular building comes with 45-foot-high curved panels of glass, among other modern, glass features.

FedEx Customer Data Exposed

Remember when you weren't supposed to throw sensitive information in the trash because nosey people could get it?

Well, in case you didn't know, you shouldn't leave that information on old servers either. That includes abandoned Amazon accounts.

FedEx is learning that lesson the hard way. A security company says FedEx forgot 119,000 documents with customer information online -- "a blunder that left the information available to identity thieves and other malicious actors."

Why Your Firm's Data Is Useless Without Human Ingenuity

In the movie Moneyball, a team manager uses analytics to helps the Oakland A's win the World Series.

It's a great sports movie, even though the baseball team didn't actually win the series. They had a great year, but that was a Hollywood ending.

Tony La Russa, the real-life manager, is a Hall-of-Famer in part for bringing analytics to baseball. He says the reality is that analytics will get you in the game, but you also have to rely on human ingenuity.

For some companies, hiring can really be an incredibly burdensome process. In addition to the usual red tape that any hire must go through, the selection process can be downright daunting if an employer receives more applications than it can reasonably review.

Fortunately, thanks to artificial intelligence, tools are being developed to improve the hiring process for employers, recruiters, and even lawyer job seekers. Also, a newly launched tool promises to help by extracting exact qualifications from an employer's job description or post, then matching those to only qualified candidates. Basically, the AI is doing the grunt work that recruiters or human resources personnel normally do.

Advising clients on how to handle their social media before and after filing a case is a minefield. The general consensus is that clients should not post anything about their case, and that posts and comments, even if not public, should be kept to a minimum.

A recent decision from New York Court of Appeal, the state's highest court, makes the above consensus even stronger. The court clarified that Facebook posts, if relevant to a case, cannot be withheld from discovery on privacy grounds. Although the court clearly expressed that individuals do have a privacy interest in what they post to Facebook, that interest, like the doctor-patient privilege, can be waived when it is relevant to the claims being made.

Does Snapchat Really Get Sued So Much?

Snapchat recently disclosed it paid $157.5 million to an ousted founder, a relatively small price to pay for a company that was valued at $25 billion when it went public.

The disclosure prompted speculation about "why Snapchat gets sued so much." But is that really true, or is that an example of muddy downstream media -- recycled mainstream media stories sprinkled with a little speculation?

It's hard to say, but we know that Snapchat is no Uber when it comes to lawsuits. Here are some comparisons:

Must Lawyers Get Along With Tech?

Whether it's just being proficient with word processing and email (including the use of attachments), or being able to navigate around in a cloud-based case management portal, or knowing enough to not embarrass oneself on social media, in these modern times, lawyers really can't afford to not get along with technology.

While a client may not care that much if your law firm is green, if you can't use email, or even provide more advanced tech that another firm boasts having and using, the client will care. Modern computing technology is central to daily life for most people now, and not using it could be a clear sign to clients of inefficiency or even incompetence. What's worse, not knowing enough about technologies relevant to a case could result in an ethics violation.

930,000 Law Firms Passwords Exposed

When Yahoo disclosed last year that 1.5 billion accounts were hacked, it may not have troubled law firms that had their own email accounts.

The problem is that one hack leads to another, and now 1.16 million law firm email addresses have been compromised on the dark web. What's worse, 80 percent of them included their passwords.

It is a major cybersecurity issue for the 500 law firms affected in London, but what does that mean to American lawyers? It means it is likely only a matter of time before your email is hacked, too.

US Busts $530 Million Cybercrime Ring

'In Fraud We Trust' was their slogan.

What were they thinking? Apparently not that much because U.S. attorneys have filed charges against them in one of the biggest online frauds ever prosecuted by the government.

Infraud Organization, an Amazon of people selling stolen credit cards, social security numbers and other personal information, boasted 11,000 members. Well, they did before the arrests.

Uber and Waymo Settle Mid Trial

In the middle of a two week trial, news of a settlement shocked reporters and courtroom observers, who had all come to watch the Uber v. Waymo trial drama unfold, in real life, in San Francisco. And while Waymo's billion dollar demand went unfulfilled before trial, Uber was willing to break off about a quarter billion dollars worth of equity and a public apology (if you could call this Uber blog post a public apology).

The self-driving technology case involved trade secret violations relating to Waymo's self-driving tech. It was alleged that Uber poached Waymo's employee, who downloaded a bunch of files before leaving and was involved in developing Waymo's tech personally.

Kalanick Grilled about 'Cheat Codes' at Trial

Travis Kalanick took a back seat at Uber last year, but he was back in the hot seat this week.

The former Uber CEO, who was forced out under pressure from investors, was the main attraction at the trial in Waymo v. Uber. Google's self-driving car division claims Uber took its technology.

Kalanick, testifying in the biggest case to hit Silicon Valley in years, admitted that he wanted Waymo's self-driving engineer. But he denied Uber took the self-driving technology. Ya think?

Google Drive Enables Comments on PDFs, Images, Office Files

Everybody, including Google, knows lawyers have something to say about everything.

But Google is making it easier for them to comment on Office files, PDFs, and images. In Google Drive, users can now comment in the preview pane without having to use other tools or convert files.

Reviewers say it's not quite the same as G Suite or Office 365, but it works. Oh, and in case you're wondering, it's free.

Major Tech Acquisitions to Watch Now

One thing's for sure about the future of tech, there will be changes.

Drones, self-driving cars, augmented reality, and virtual currencies are yesterday's news. Tomorrow will not be about the next big thing, but who owns it.

Today, major players like Amazon and Google and are staking their claims in the future marketplace. But then there are those tech deals that are running in the background.

For some lawyers, legal research is engaging, stimulating, and even fun. For others, it's torture. Thankfully, legal researchers and those that hate legal research have had a symbiotic relationship for quite some time.

Unfortunately for the legal researchers though, artificial intelligence is poised to start really cutting into the available research workload, or at least the number of hours one can claim spending time researching legal authority. A newly released free AI tool not only works, it seriously threatens those who live to research whether cases cited in briefs are still good law.

New Legal Tech Group Changing the Legal Landscape

Judith Flournoy, a leader of a new legal tech association, says she thrives in 'a constant state of change.'

As the Association of Legal Technologists holds its inaugural conference this weekend in Arizona, "a constant state of change" seems a fitting attribute for one of its board members. Other members include business and tech leaders who collectively could change the landscape of legal tech.

Actually, that's what they want to do. They are bringing together law firms and tech providers to "think differently" to solve problems in the ever-changing field of legal technology.

Artificial Intelligence: Are We Safe?

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

When we hear about artificial intelligence, we frequently are bombarded with notions of ultra-smart robots taking over the world, while either destroying humans, or at least leaving humans in the development dust. The good news, at the time of this writing, is that humans currently do not face that AI existential threat. However, the bad news is that artificial intelligence nevertheless creates present and future safety concerns.

Googling a potential client should be part of any law firm's client intake process. After all, an adversary most certainly will, and it doesn't take more than a few minutes to find red flags that will warrant further research or discussion.

However, for many lawyers, knowing how deep you need to dig online for negative information about your potential client is a difficult question to answer. While criminal defense attorneys might not care what comes up, for civil practitioners, it matters. Generally, how much it matters will depend on the potential client and the type of case.

Below you can read about some of the flags that might warrant a deeper background check, and what to do if you find those flags.

If you have Comcast internet service, you might want to take a closer look at your bill. If there's a charge for a Service Protection Plan, or SPP, you may want to start digging to find out how that got there. If the numbers from Washington's AG are right, there's over a 50 percent chance you were lied to by Comcast.

The Service Protection Plan (SPP) charge apparently covers quite a bit that the company already provides standard with their service. It claims that the fee is to cover things like service calls to your home, however, as noted by Ars Technica, one of the most common service call related items isn't even covered. Perhaps, most disturbingly, many of the Comcast customers filing complaints assert that the SPP charge appeared on their bill without their consent or them ever even signing up for plan.

Lawsuit: Sex Toy Company Spies on Customers

People work remotely through computers, so why not use sex toys remotely?

It may surprise you to know that there is an app for that. A Hong Kong-based company makes vibrators that can be controlled remotely through cell phones.

But it came as a big surprise to one user that the company was collecting data about her sexual behavior through the app. Of course she sued anonymously -- maybe.

It's both the saddest and cutest story ever. After all, it involves an autonomous security robot getting canned by an animal shelter. One of Knightscope's gloriously cone shaped security robots, aptly named K9, has been taken permanently off duty by the San Francisco SPCA.

The SF SPCA got their robot in order to patrol around their building and in their parking lot, allegedly to deter homeless individuals from congregating around the building, and hopefully stem some of crime they've been experiencing. However, after repeated complaints from the homeless individuals that frequent the area, the organization decided to discontinue K9's use.