Sanctuary Cities

Federal law can work wonders or cause continued devastation for groups and individuals through implementation or denial, respectively, court-ordered injunctions.  Such is the case with a grant program in Chicago that hones in on Sanctuary Cities.  Under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, Chicago, Illinois had hoped to use the funds but was met with resistance from the Department of Justice.  Due to the supposed lack of communication with the plans for immigration within the city, Chicago tried and failed to bring about an injunction in order to continue its goals.  As Sanctuary Cities are pivotal grounds for immigrants who are indeed seeking Sanctuary, Chicago representatives would have hoped to prevail in their injunction due to lack of adequate support.

Federal deportation comparative to the community plea for long term members who are undocumented persons within the country has seen much discussion with the Trump administration and, the president’s constant anti-immigration propaganda fails to recognize the humanity of these persons who may have called these Sanctuary Cities home for years.  The Sanctuary Movement, supported by liberals, feared and prosecuted by conservatives and Trump supporters, hardly has as much foundation as would be required to pay tribute to the historical fact that this nation was built upon the work of a nation of immigrants. Despite the Republican Convention, it is hoped that many might see the benefits that immigration has in culturally advancing many Americans.  

Being falsely termed “criminal illegal alien” is not the proper manner in which this country ought to greet members of other nations who may be looking to America for a new beginning, a new home.   Sanctuary Cities seem to be the only bit of heart and homage that America currently has with respect to the histories of this country.

Darrell Kelly 

The Breath Test

Machines can make mistakes. It happens all the time. However, in the context of an OVI the stakes are much higher. Under Ohio law, the requirements if you’re twenty-one or older: 0.08 percent, a commercial driver: 0.04 percent, and under twenty-one: 0.02 percent. The measure of your BAC level is how the police determine whether one is intoxicated or not. Whether one is violating the law or not. In theory in order to make an accurate determination the breathalyzer product should be functioning properly.  The issue presented is the way that the machine can create an inaccuracy which can affect any individual reading and can then lead to a wrongful conviction.

Calibration itself seems to come up often. During this past summer, watching an OVI trial, I noticed that the defense focused mainly on this issue. Asking questions such as who calibrated the machine? When was the last time the machine was calibrated? Was the calibration done properly? Another common source of inaccuracy is the deviations the instrument will provide. Subtle changes of weather itself can lead to inconsistent results. To be wrongfully convicted of a OVI due to an inaccuracy by the machine itself presents a troubling problem. The fact that your breath itself can change the outcome of the results, needs to be carefully considered.

According to Ohio Revised Section 4511.19 the elements of the law itself are composed of these hard and fast numbers. However, there should to be more reliable technology if the merits of your crime is merely tied to the number 0.08 percent for a twenty-one year old. It is indeed a fact that drunk driving in of itself is a serious offense and the effects are significant to public safety but what happens when the back to back breath tests fluctuates from a .078 to .081 percent? In order for the defendant to get a fair trial, the technology itself needs to become considerably more accurate or the law itself needs to change. The law shouldn’t solely rely specifically to the numbers as the elements themselves but rather use the numbers simply as evidence to connect the defendant to the crime. Conclusive presumptions are not only forbidden in a criminal case but due process necessities the right for a defendant to challenge the machines’ results. This challenge is reasonably justified especially if  machine doesn’t get the numbers right in the first place.

-Vishal Noticewala

Ride High, Get a DUI

The legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes is a rather new phenomenon in the United States. I happen to fall on the side of at least decriminalizing it, though I fall short of advocating for its use. At least preliminarily, however, it appears that certain strains of marijuana, specifically those containing the compound “Cannibidiol,” or CBD, show great promise for treating several medical conditions. CBD, however, isn’t the compound in marijuana that gets a person “high,” that would be “Tetrahydrocannibidiol,” or THC.

As a country we tend to agree that a certain amount of alcohol in a person’s system is acceptable because at low levels it doesn’t “impair” one’s driving ability per se – this limit is generally a .08 Blood Alchohol Level, or BAC. The only way police can enforce this arbitrary line of biochemical demarcation is through technological advances such as breathalyzers and blood tests. The problem with policing DUI’s pertaining to driving “high” off marijuana is that there is no reliable test for measuring impairment. The problem is biochemical in nature because THC stays in a person’s system for weeks, if not months, after they have smoked marijuana. However, a high from marijuana doesn’t last more than 6 hours at the very most. This means that testing for the presence of THC tells us little to nothing about the level of impairment an individual experiences.

Currently, Colorado State Police are waiting optimistically for the science to catch up to policing demands. There are several devices currently in development, but their accuracy and reliability have yet to be proven. Scientists are seeking ways to test for recent ingestion of marijuana on the breath, in saliva, or even transdermally. There are several hurdles scientists are trying to overcome. First, which metabolite or compound best indicates intoxication? What level should the cutoff be? Can a device reliably ascertain a person’s level? It appears the first two questions are the most difficult to answer. Currently, the most reliable device is the Hounds Lab Pot Breathalyzer which the owners claim their device is capable of satisfying all three of the above questions. They claim they have reached the balance between “safety and fairness” in that their device tests for THC on the breath, and a positive test is only reached within a few hours after ingestion, the time a user is most impaired.

People are going to smoke marijuana whether its legal or not. Even so, society has an obligation to discourage operating a vehicle while impaired from any substance, including marijuana. Therefore, developing technology that can accurately test for this type of impairment is a necessary tool for police, and one which I predict will one day be as commonly used as the traditional alcohol breathalyzer in the near future.

-Zack Sobel

Technology and the Distribution of Power in the Legal Industry

There is a general assumption, it seems to me, that the most financially successful big law firms have the best lawyers. While this assumption may be true in some cases, I do not believe that it is always true. At any rate, big law firms seem to attract the most lucrative contracts and control the legal market of major cities. Understandably, law students compete tirelessly among themselves to secure a job with a big law firm because that is one surest way of offsetting gargantuan student loans and establishing financial stability. With their history of financial success and their ability to attract the richest clients, it seems to me that big law firms have risen to the level of invincibility within the legal industry. And it is safe to conclude that they are keen on maintaining their dominance as long as they can.

Thus, unless the status quo is disrupted, law students will most likely continue to compete with each other to get jobs in big law firms. And since law firms can only absorb a minuscule of new lawyers, many new lawyers will have to find alternative ways of surviving in the legal industry without a big law firm job and even in competition with big law firms. Thus, if the status quo is maintained, big law firms will continue to take away most of the financial benefits of law practice, and the multitudes of lawyers will most likely fail to realize their financial potentials. The surest way of reversing this dominance of big law firms, I believe, is through the effective use of modern technology. Instead of waiting in line to obtain a big-law-firm job that may never exist, law students and new lawyers may find ways of circumventing the status quo by creating an effective online presence and reaching out to clients through creative social media outlets. I must assume that big law firms are also keen on maintaining strong online presence. Nonetheless, the open nature of the internet does not give big law firms unsurmountable leverage over small firms and solo practitioners as their financial superiority does. In fact, it is even likely that big law firms are complacent about online presence because of their historical success. Thus small law firms and solo practitioners might even have an advantage over big law firms with regards to establishing effective online presence. Technology, therefore, is likely the key to redistributing financial power within the legal industry.

-Musah Abubakar

Final Blog Post

In these final weeks of the semester, I thought this blog post would be a good opportunity to take a step back and reflect on this course. Like most people my age, I grew up around technology, but wouldn’t consider myself tech-savvy. This course not only gave me a great overview of many facets of technology that I was not familiar with, but also provided very practical advice in terms of how to take advantage of the tools available to the 21st century lawyer.

One of the most helpful lessons in the course for me was learning about the different features of social media that can be utilized in a professional manner. I had used Linkedin some prior to the class, but only really understood the basics. Many of the features available on the site I was unaware of. I also underestimated how important it is to maintain an updated profile that is easily searched and read by potential employers. With this knowledge I feel confident that I can make myself more employable as well as effectively maintain connections with colleagues and other contacts.

Additionally, the lesson about cybersecurity was invaluable. Moving forward as a profession, lawyers will need to be cognizant of the dangers that exist involving potential hacks or interception of confidential client communication. Learning how to install and successfully use an email encryption software, for instance, or learning how a VPN works and why one should consider using it, are facts that will surely become commonplace as technology progresses, but having taken this course I can consider myself ahead of the curve on these fresh developments.

Overall, I would choose to take the course again in a heartbeat, and will not hesitate to recommend it to my colleagues, in the hopes that the future generation of law professionals will as a whole be more technologically literate. I’m thankful to the instructors for the time they put into the lessons and assignments, and will certainly use much of what I learned in this course moving forward.

-Brandon Ellis

Looking back and Moving Forward

As the semester draws to a close, I wanted to offer a few reflective thoughts and takeaways from this class.
While I’ve enjoyed all of my law school classes to some degree, this class and client counseling stood out because they have given me knowledge and techniques I will use on a day-to-day basis in my work. I have a much greater understanding of the technological skills required to have an effective legal practice, as well as my proficiency regarding those skills. Some things are reassuring to me, and some things will require more in-depth practice and learning on my part.
Bearing that in mind, I came across an article from Illinois about law schools implementing technology and skills-based classes into their curriculum. The information didn’t come as much of a surprise to me given the technological developments and lawyers’ need to keep up once the job starts. It made me grateful for all of those research workshops and tech-based assignments. Not only am I concerned with learning programs and processes, but also determining accessibility and finding work-arounds, if need be. These skills-based classes and assignments have increased my knowledge of what works for me and what may need some adapting, which is essential to learn and communicate with potential employers.
I also found an article about the increased use of automated processes in law firms. Again, I was not necessarily surprised – although it had never occurred to me that it could polarize the success of large and small firms in the beginning, when it was new and more costly to implement. It is nice to know that small firms and solo practitioners are now leveling the playing field.
Both articles stressed that lawyers need to come to the job fairly tech-savvy, and that on-the-job training – particularly with technology – is not as practical anymore. The second article mentioned the tendency of law firms to purchase sophisticated software packages that are either not used to their full potential, or are more cumbersome than they are worth. It drove home the importance of making wise technological investments rather than jumping on the bandwagon by implementing technology that looks good but is not a good fit. Technological implementations are important, but law offices should not jump straight from 0 to 100, so to speak.
Essentially, both of these articles stress not only the importance of technology in law firms, but the need to be the master of the technology rather than let the technology conquer us. With that in mind, I can take stock of what I know and what I need to know. I am coming away enlightened to the fact that that I have a lot to learn.
Sources:

Legal Technology Has A Home In Law School Education


http://practice.findlaw.com/practice-guide/law-office-technology-helps-and-hinders-professionals.html

-Emily Pennington

Keeping a Level Head

As an attorney, it can be extremely difficult to keep your personal feelings and emotions out of certain cases. In fields such as family law and immigration, the cases get extremely personal to the client and it can be hard to proceed with a client without letting emotions get the best of you. How do you handle a client who you’ve gotten to know over the weeks, heard their stories, and see how emotional they are? You want to address your clients properly without allowing your emotions to go haywire or seeming like you’re stone-cold. But how is that possible?

As an attorney, it is important for you to build a relationship with your clients. Really get to know them and really work for the benefit of your client. You need to be able to talk to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable enough to provide you with the important information needed to properly pursue their case. It is important to be able to relay both good and bad news to your client without being insensitive or “babying” your client. Although you want to be able to connect with your client, it is important you do not play up their emotions since it might cause the situation to become more intense and your client more difficult to keep on track with the discussion.

But how do you keep yourself from becoming overly emotional? How do you connect with you client, become invested enough to make their case a priority to you, yet not lose sight of your purpose and let your emotions cloud your judgement? There are some things you, as an attorney, can try to make sure each meeting stays on track and all goals get met.

  1. Come in to the meeting with an agenda. Stick to the proposed agenda and when your client starts to go off track, help them get back on track.
  2. Have a paralegal or law clerk attend meetings with you and ask them to take notes. While you are deep in discussion with your client, it may be helpful to have someone there to help take notes so you do not seem to get too distracted from what your client is saying. Your paralegal or law clerk can help make note of the important facts without fixating on the emotional intensity of the conversation.
  3. Record the meetings and review them at a later time with a clear head.
  4. BREATHE.

Now of course, your client must be aware of the confidentiality that is held between the client and yourself. And you must be sure to receive expressed consent from your client to have another person sit in on the meeting to take notes or to record the meeting. There are other ways to avoid having your emotions cloud your judgement but it is extremely important to go into meetings with a clear mind, focus your attention on your client, and keep the client’s goal in mind without letting emotions take over the meeting.

The practice of law can be extremely taxing and can take a lot out of someone emotionally. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and go in to every meeting well prepared.

-Jessica Nguyen

Stop Not Slacking

I can be very disorganized sometimes. I recently discovered a way to be more organized and have everything in one place to improve communications with other people. For the first ever, I believe it is okay to slack now and again. Slack technologies has developed a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools. Slack was founded by Stewart Butterfield, and has been around since 2014. The program started as an internal tool used by a company, but now can be used by others.

It is considered to be the fastest growing business application in history. It is mainly a great tool for team building and improves team communication because of the way everything is organized on the app. Businesses in over 100 countries are using slack. Slack’s website notes that discussions of team members are organized into channels, so there is a place for every project, team or department. A group can create a channel for the next project, like planning the next offsite. The website also highlights other features of Slack. Slack combines apps that users already use, but this is shared with other members that are included on the Slack chat group.

Once the group has been using Slack regularly, the users can gather information that becomes available and searchable after being indexed, giving the team access to the collective knowledge of the company. The app is free to use.

Why is Slack relevant to law firms? Well, Slack has become a popular option for law firms to improve on communications within departments. Important features of Slack help protect client confidentiality and other things that are essential for law firms to consider, as the main duty for lawyers is to their clients. Slack includes an accounting of data encryption at transit and at rest, and includes a variety of security measures to ensure seriousness of data security. Slack also has a client portal feature, and Slack provides external legal groups to join if one is interested.

I am never amazed at the number of apps and technological advancements out there. The legal industry will continuously change as new technologies emerge, making sure firms are using secure and updated features as to not lag behind in a technological era.

Sources

https://good2bsocial.com/slack-law-firm-communications/

The Ineffable* #Slack: 9 things lawyers need to know

https://slack.com/

-Ronique Padda

Technology in Law Future Prospects

I found an article that presents a compelling overview as to how technology is changing the law firm and the types of technology that may prove the most advantageous to the profession. Even though the author cites lawyers are risk averse, he believes it is a necessary aspect of the legal profession and one of the main considerations that need to be balanced when attempting to keep up with technological advances around the world. Lawyers are tasked with the substantial burden of providing a type of guarantee that they will utilize the services and knowledge they have, as promised in an effort to meet client needs. Without familiar and successful services, lawyers would not be able to accomplish their stated goals. As the tension grows between providing legal service to clients and law firms looking to edge out the competition, firms will find themselves competing against outside legal service providers in order to bridge the gap between the technology savvy and the technology-averse.

Artificial intelligence and the law firm have slowly begun to mesh and provide lawyers with specific information and accomplish tasks that would be less efficient if performed solely by humans. Specifically e-discovery has become a prominent artificial intelligence utilized for the primary steps in preparation for litigation. This technology appears to be meshing well with more attorneys, even if it is a rather slow process, because it is more efficient in the gathering of information but also utilizes attorneys or like minded legal professionals. Professionals looking to implement e-discovery into law firms must have skills in statistics along with successful project management ability. These skills are becoming highly coveted and advanced training is now required to implement many forms of e-discovery. In addition, e-discovery also has the benefit of predictive coding, where a machine learns from watching human behavior and then utilizes algorithms to make decisions about relevant information. This technology may not be accepted by all in the legal community, but it seems to be a technology well-suited to the legal profession because it implements cutting-edge technology without taking away some aspects of human input, so perceived risk can be minimized.

Despite these advances in technology, it appears as though the use of the billable hour may be one of the most difficult aspects to replace or enhance with technology. While some law firms have chose to embrace a fixed fee system, the majority still utilize the billable hour despite its lack of efficiency. In the article, the author suggested a potential integrated system where some services are at a fixed rate and additional services are at a billable hour. This idea could prove fruitful but must be attempted with realistic expectations. In the future, law firms may begin to explore concepts of “big data” and unstructured databases, technology concepts being heavily used in large, cutting-edge businesses. While businesses often utilize outside service providers to accomplish these tasks, firms may benefit from some in-house providers to help transition law firms stuck in a technology-averse bubble. Larger law firms could benefit from “big data” type of services, but must keep in mind the individuality of each client, as opposed to grouping them into a whole. Firms run the risk of losing the individualized aspect of legal services if artificial intelligence takes over, however an in-house technology team and proper training to employees may help mitigate these concerns and ease firms into the 21st century workforce.

https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014/may_june/how_technology_changing_practice_law.html

-Kristen Schulz

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