New Law School Tech

Now that the new law school has been approved by the Board of Trustees, it is important the technology within the school matches the need for today’s law student.  The advantages of tech will allow for remote participation in class. It will allow for more activities to be done within the classroom. It, in theory, should improve grades since the lectures will be available 24,7

As I think back on my 1L year, video recording in every classroom would have been helpful.  Each classroom should enable faculty to record and stream video of their lectures, along with content from the podium computer or a laptop. Faculty should also have the ability use special capture software on their personal computers or laptops to record a presentation for later viewing by students. This technology can also be used for keeping a record of none class events and can be used commercially for profit as other organizations can rent the space.

The courtrooms should be outfitted with similar technology. Courtrooms should have video and audio recording equipment as well as podiums with computers and laptop connections. They should also have a document camera. Seminar rooms should have projectors and a computer that allows for group review of lectures.  Even study rooms should be outfitted with monitors and laptop connections. These improvements will help with the overall success of students.

 

     -Darrell Kelly

 

 

Cybersecurity and the Solo Practitioner

It comes as no surprise that cybersecurity is rapidly growing in importance in every profession, including law. Big firms worldwide are spending increasing amounts of their operating budget to ensure that their machines have the most up-to-date software available and that their staff is all adhering to necessary security practices. These concerns are also of the utmost importance to the solo practitioner; one security breach would likely be enough to sink an up-and-coming solo practice.

The silver lining to this cloud is that there are a vast multitude of things lawyers can do to increase their security capabilities, ranging from things as easy as email encryption or as difficult as instituting complex hardware firewalls. While the more broad-stroke approaches such as installing the newest antivirus technology and keeping it updated serve their intended purpose, the best way to ensure firms are operating on the most secure level possible is to ensure that the practicing attorneys and staff are aware of the risks involved with a security breach, and know how to do their part to prevent a breach from happening.

Governing bodies of the profession such as the ABA are scrambling to keep themselves up-to-date in terms of security and what they need to require of attorneys to ensure client safety and security. Some jurisdictions, such as Florida, are even making technology topics a required component of their mandatory CLEs, not a very subtle way of relaying the importance of cybersecurity, but an effective one. Especially in a solo practitioner context, if the new lawyer keeps himself current on cybersecurity threats and ways to combat them, a significant breach becomes much less likely.

https://abovethelaw.com/2017/05/what-a-law-firms-website-says-about-its-cybersecurity-practices/?rf=1

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/gpsolo/publications/gp_solo/2015/may-june/the_new_lawyers_guide_cybersecurity_and_protecting_your_practice.html

-Brandon Ellis

Promoting human rights through technology

I came to law school to learn the skills that will allow me contribute to the promotion of human rights around the world. I believe that human rights law offers us the best opportunity to live in peace and harmony in an increasingly globalized world. The universal declaration of human rights (UDHR), replicated in regional human rights instruments, is perhaps the most important document that humanity has created through universal consensus. The document is a safety net for all human beings, especially the most vulnerable among us. Where the greatest religions have failed to unite us, the universal declaration has.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the UDHR does not have as much exposure as the instruments that are taught in our churches and mosques and synagogues. Perhaps it is because the UDHR is relatively late in arriving. But after seventy years of its existence, I sometimes wonder if the UDHR will ever have the prominence that it deserves. I believe that there are enough people who care about spreading the universal message of human rights, provided that they have the logistical means. This is particularly difficult because, unlike religious prophets, human rights campaigners do not usually pretend to be vicegerents of God or that their message is divine. And since many people who need the protection provided by the UDHR trust God more than their fellow human beings, they would rather seek deliverance in their places of worship and wait for their reward in the afterlife.

I think this trend can be reversed through technology at least for two reasons. First, the human rights regime is not in any way late in the technology market. In fact, it should have advantage over other global regimes given that it emerged about the same epoch as the internet. Second, I believe that human rights language is more compatible with technological advancement than other global regimes because both human rights and technology inherently promote one thing: the equality of human beings. I therefore believe that through the development of free human rights apps, interactive websites, and social media outlets, the work of human rights campaigners should become much easier, and the UDHR should become the “New Bible” of the world.

-Musah Abubakar

Expectations of privacy with Social Media Searches

The government monitoring social media pages constitutes an invasion of privacy. Currently, the fourth amendment allows this form of intrusion. However, as our world continues getting more technologically immersive, there is good reason to believe that a greater degree of privacy should be afforded to our citizens. For example, when does a government employer have the right to search through a person’s daily Facebook conversations? These everyday conversations essentially may allow the government employer to infer one’s character. This is highly problematic because often proper context may not be given. However, more deeply troubling, with the advent of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., comments can be searched from any point in time, this form of intrusion would never comply with offline standards.

The fourth amendment states: that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. At first blush, it would truly seem that this amendment is violated when a government agent aimlessly dives into a person’s posted content. However, the third-party doctrine creates an exception to this protection from invasion of privacy. Specifically, in social media content the third party doctrine permits such government intrusion. The probable cause standard is not required and therefore, the justification for such searches is unreasonably low.

Social media users believe they are afforded a reasonable level of privacy. After all, often it a closed private network that gives these users the right their conversations will be free from government agents. Should government interests supersede the privacy interests of the individual? Wouldn’t that also infringe upon basic first amendment rights if they do? Individuals could not post freely what they want to say and this would create chill effect on speech. Social media users would constantly have to be concerned about whether government agents might be conducting searches in regards to their posts. A possible solution for the user would be to more strictly enforce their privacy controls and be careful with who they accept into their social network. However, the better solution would be applying the probable cause standard because it still provides law enforcement the ability to do their job but without perusing through the individuals information as they see appropriate.

-Vishal Noticewala

 

 

The eDiscovery Evolution

As we’ve learned throughout this semester, technology is rapidly changing the legal field in many ways. Specifically, advancements in the eDiscovery technology are opening the door for new employment opportunities for specialists and give law firms newfound capabilities. Coinciding with the general diaspora from paper to the digitized world of legal documents are shifts in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The biggest change is to Rule 26, which now imposes a proportionality requirement to the eDiscovery. The original Rule 26 language was pretty vague, “the discovery must be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The 2015 Amendment holds, “the eDiscovery must be proportional to the needs of the case.” The new rule imposes a greater burden on parties because it forces them to to take into account things like the amount of damages, the sides’ resources, and the benefit of the evidence sought versus the lengths it would take to find. In the end, this in many cases will lead to an attorney being forced to make a greater evidentiary showing for why the discovery is necessary. This reflects the intent of the rule change – to speed things up.

The fact is eDiscovery can be extraordinarily expensive. The courts denounce “entrepreneurial litigation,” those cases where both a plaintiff’s chances of prevailing and damages are small, and the only real winner ends up being the attorneys. Both technology and the rules changes help to remedy this issue. On the technology side, I predict there will be an influx of highly specialized IT groups that law firms contract for eDiscovery. Artificial technology advancements, groundbreaking coding techniques, automated redaction and dashboard reporting will continue to evolve as these specialty eDiscovery groups gear their innovations towards becoming as efficient and capable as possible. Additionally, law firms themselves will be incentived to maintain a highly secure and organized electronically stored information ecosystem. This is crucial to helping a third party specialty group collect, process, and analyze data, thereby directly impacting arguments for further and against discovery.

There is a potential unintended consequence of this movement in that it significantly favors parties with access to high-level eDiscovery capabilities. The greater the ability a party has to pinpoint the data they seek, the more likely they are to meet their Rule 26 showing for proportionality, being that the burden of obtaining that information is relatively low. Additionally, there can be a snowball-like effect in that highly capable parties are more likely to make a showing for expanding the scope of discovery at the outset. Before these high-level eDiscovery techniques become ubiquitous in the legal field, the party with the more capable and efficient eDiscovery team will undoubtedly have an upper hand.

All in all, the 2015 Rule 26 Amendment reflects the changing technological world we live in. No longer are the days of responding to a dreadful request for discovery by crying “undue burden.” As eDiscovery specialty groups enhance their capabilities, such a response will become increasingly futile in the eyes of the court. It is only a matter of time before the language of eDiscovery becomes as ubiquitous to judges and attorneys as the rules themselves. In the meantime, if firm is able to offer these types of innovative services, surely they will have an upper hand.

-Zack Sobel

Law Firm Apps

The number of IPhone users has increased over the years, and with that increase, there has been a significant increase in app use across all generations. People download apps all the time–whether it be to play games, listen to music, or stay updated on the news. However, law firm apps are not as popular as some other apps. But, many firms, especially solo practitioners, are finding a great use for them.

One attorney, in particular, Gabriel Cheong, has created an app to serve as a functional tool. Cheog, a divorce attorney, recently created a Massachusetts divorce app for his clients, prospective clients, and others for only $.99 per download. This app has enabled Cheong to enhance awareness of his firm and increase business. (http://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2013/03/law-firm-app-extravaganza/). Lawyers are able to use these apps to strengthen relationships with their clients by relating to them via technology. One app also serves as a client portal, where clients are able to make online payments, contact personnel, and access court resources. The app is free for clients, which makes it more attractive for clients to use.

Building a law firm app is no easy task however. It takes time and money, especially if the firm wants to generate more clients from app usage, they may have to hire professionals to ensure client security as well as address other concerns a layperson many not be able to consider. (http://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2013/03/law-firm-app-extravaganza/).

The legal industry, however, is noticing a boom in the number of apps being created amongst law firms. One research that looked at the top 300 law firms by revenue showed that 80% of the law firm mobile apps on app stores were created or updated in 2016 or 2017, which means that recently firms have been increasing their usage of such technology to attract more clients. (http://www.kimtasso.com/mobile-apps-in-law-firms/). More law firms may be joining this trend, and if they do not, then they may risk not attracting as many clients, so it may be in their best interest to join the trend to adopt law firm apps.

 

Sources

Legal market research – Mobile apps in law firms 2017

Law Firm App Extravaganza

     -Ronique Padda

 

What is Reasonably Accessible?

With technology taking over the world and making communication more convenient, should attorneys be accessible 24/7? Should clients reasonably expect their attorneys to respond to them at all hours of the day? Attorneys all work from their phones, laptops, and tablets. They could be easily reached via e-mail or text message. The way society is today, it is almost unacceptable to not have your mobile device handy at all times. There are employers who will demand a response from people within 15 minutes of sending a message because they know everyone has their mobile devices on them all the time. But what if a client decides to text their attorney past 9pm on a week day? Are there boundaries?

Attorneys are human beings with lives and families as well. They should be accessible during business hours but there should be boundaries set for outside of normal operation hours. It is not healthy to “take your work home” and that should also apply for attorneys. Yes, there are some emergencies that may need immediate attention; but there needs to be a line drawn for people to know what would constitute as an “emergency.” Most issues can wait until the next morning to be addressed. It would be unreasonable to expect an attorney to respond to a message at 11pm when you could just call and ask the question at 8am.

During business hours is different. An attorney should be able to respond to messages throughout the day in between meetings and court sessions. If the attorney is not available right away and there is an emergency, then someone from the office should be available to speak and do their best to help. If they are unable to provide an answer, they can at least write down your concern, ask an attorney, then get back to you.

There has been instances where a client will try to get their questions answered by the attorney’s office via e-mail and phone but no one in the office would respond for days. It is understandable that attorneys are busy; however, that is why they have an office with staff members to help. There should also be reasonable consideration when it comes to responding to a client in a timely manner. So should attorneys be easily accessible and clients should reasonably expect their attorney (or a staff member) to be available to answer a question by the end of the business day. After hours, it is hard to say. Some attorneys will continue to work with their clients after business hours, but it should not be expected of everyone. Having a mobile device should not automatically subject you to being at someone’s every beckon call. There needs to be a balance. There needs to be a standard for what is deemed to be “reasonable” when it comes to the accessibility of attorneys to their clients. Every case is important. Every attorney should respond to their clients in a reasonable time frame and be reasonably accessible. Every client should understand that and not create unreasonable expectations.

-Jessica Nguyen

The Stereotypes of Risk-Averse Lawyers with Technology

The well-known belief that lawyers are risk-averse when it comes to technology and any type of major change in the law office has been percolating for decades. Though it is a commonly perceived notion that lawyers are hesitant to adopt change that modifies their existing way of work, it is interesting to examine why this perception is the case and what can be done to combat that stereotype. To simplify the matter, the article I examined states lawyers do not like new technology because no one wants to be replaced with technology and the majority of individuals do not like change. In general, people have specific routines and mannerisms and an abrupt uprooting to those routines can contribute to disgust. Law firms are a prime example of this phenomenon.

While law firms are often integrating legal tech into work practices, many law firms are still hesitant to replace practices outside of e-discovery and practice management systems. Despite the size of the firms, replacing these systems is a source of discord because the changes uproot the traditional billing and support system. The traditional billing system of law offices is seen as the stereotypical ‘best practice’ because it enables firms to earn more money for their work. Replacing systems with electronic avenues reduces the need for as many human interactions and thus increases office efficiency. While efficiency is typically seem as a positive trait in most businesses, in law it produces different results. While efficiency through automated systems enables work to be done quicker, which generally satisfies clients, it can contribute to the disenchantment of lawyers. Efficiency can replace or reduce the amount of money billed, thus reducing the amount of money earned for work.

In order to combat these problems, it is often easy to revert to the classic stereotypes of a lawyer and to ignore change. However, as the article notes, law firms need to find a way to “marry the art and science of law with technology.”  In order to do so, a firm should look for a gap in the law profession that no one else is thoroughly tackling and find a way to address it. This could lead to the adoption of more legal tech companies. By knowing the market of lawyers and what they need in order to perform efficient work, an effort can be made to marry technology and law without one replacing another. Pushing lawyers to adopt technology in order to mesh with traditional law firm practices will likely be met with increasing disdain in the years to come. Instead, finding and implementing legal technology that simplifies a way a work while still preserving some of the traditional methods may prove successful for firms still operating in the past. The impetus to combat the traditional stereotypes of lawyers has become stronger over the years with the rise of legal tech. The more law firms operate within the traditional stereotypes, the farther they can fall behind the competitors adopting legal tech in accordance with market change. The needs of clients have changed over the years, and lawyers must respond to those changes by embracing a method of work more efficiently without completely uprooting traditional methods of work. By creating a smoother transition into legal tech, lawyers can combat traditional stereotypes and work to distance themselves from antiquated ways of work.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/maryjuetten/2015/02/19/legal-tech-or-tech-legal/2/#38cae565134e

-Kristen Schulz

Gray Area: Computing the Impact of Technology on Ethics in the Legal Field

Ethics as it intersects with other areas of life has always interested me, and the interaction of ethics and the legal field is no exception. Technology is a huge factor in thinking about ethics and law – let alone ethics and lawyers – particularly since technological advances have been huge in the last couple of decades, let alone years. The advances in technology and in proportion to the advances in the human mind got me thinking about how changes in technology impact ethics in the legal field.
I found a couple of articles – cited below — that helped shed some light on this question, although they presented opposing viewpoints. The first one speculates on the direct effects of technological advancements on law firms. The author predicts that law firms will need to work with more collaboration and transparency, and mentions a few other benefits that might make law a much more efficient, less costly field. Even when ethics was not directly mentioned, I could see how new technology could lead to more ethical, safer practices: enhanced cyber-security, increased transparency, more cooperation in smaller spaces, and the like.
The second article I found had a broader focus of ethics regarding technology and man-made laws, but practicing law could easily fit into that thought process. The article talked about how technological advancements have made it much easier to invade others’ privacy and uncover sensitive information about them, which can be used in unfair, discriminatory ways. The author made a great point about how technology is advancing far faster than human perspective and laws are adapted, which has led to harmful impacts on others that could increase in magnitude proportional to the abilities of technology.
These dire predictions made me think about how technology could be used unethically in law. Litigators could dig up extremely sensitive information on the opposing party and use it to coerce or blackmail them. The increase in available information and capabilities could lead to more harm than good if lawyers possessed the necessary knowledge.
Of course, technology in itself is not evil; it is the intent and actions of the humans who use it that leads to unethical behavior. I see the amazing potential for technology in the legal field, and I anticipate increased efficiency and decreased cost. Still, I am wary of the temptations that technology might present to behave unethically, or even illegally.
Sources:
https://www.allcovered.com/learning/legal/next-decade-tech-and-the-law-firm-of-the-future/
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/526401/laws-and-ethics-cant-keep-pace-with-technology/

-Emily Pennington

Dictation

This may seem trivial, but anything that can contribute to making a law professional’s day more efficient is worth incorporating into his daily routine.  As an Apple user, I have several products, including my Mac laptop.  Therein, I have made use of the dictating software on my Mac, which saves ample time instead of handwriting notes from lectures.  The speed of dictation versus pad and paper or even typing is astronomical, advantageous, and something that I have made use of even during my internships.  The Mac, of course, can use my voice to do various commands, but, entering into my third year of UC law, I find that it has proven best in the time it saves when either taking notes through dictation, or reviewing said notes after lecture.  I have seen dictating software used by mentors in the field, and, I hope for there to be more advancements within this particular software as I progress through my career.

For those who do not have a Mac, at least iPhone users, there are several apps that allow the ease of dictation for working legal professionals.  One prime example is Rev; just as with my Alexa or Siri, Rev is something I use when I am busy doing something else, working to multi-task, bringing efficiency into my home office, so to speak, or when I’m walking in between classes or, the hands-free technology allows me to dictate thoughts from class safely when I drive to work, never having to take my eyes off the road.  Rev is just as proficient in managing my time with my workload, and I find it invaluable when I don’t have the time to carry around my Mac.  

Google Docs voice typing has been great, and I have suggested its use during group projects, saving ample time and being economical with our resources, as many of the employers I have worked for are paperless, I found translating such eco-efficiency into my group assignments as more than simply environmentally-friendly.  The transcription is like having a robo-secretary, always ready to lend a hand to make things a little less stressful for me.  Every bit helps and, the time I save with dictation allows me to really focus on my thoughts, reflecting on my studies, and contributing the best of myself within these early stretches of my career.

 

     -Darrell Kelly