3 Modern Trends: Facebook, the Cloud, and Security

Based on trends in technology over the last few years, it appears there are three technological trends that I predict will be increasingly utilized by the legal profession in the years to come. These trends will take place in social media, the cloud, and in security.

Facebook – a major marketing tool.
Let’s take a look at the statistics as supplied by https://www.attorneyatwork.com/2017-survey-results-lawyers-use-of-social-media-marketing/. In a short period of time, social media has become a marketing tool to the majority of lawyers. In 2017, 70% of attorneys use social media as a marketing tool. Of those, a strong majority believe their social media use is either “somewhat or very responsible” for bringing them new clients. When asked, “which platform is most effective for bringing in new business,” 31% stated Facebook, 27% stated LinkedIn, and 26% reported no platform as being effective. As for solo practitioners, 94% report using Facebook and 75% report using it as a part of their marketing plan. Lastly, 40% of attorneys report using social media for paid marketing ads, and 20% or attorneys report taking out paid advertisements on Facebook.

What do the stats mean? The numbers show that specifically Facebook is being increasingly utilized as a marketing platform for law firms, both big and small. The stats also demonstrate that Facebook is believed to be the most effective social media outlet, despite LinkedIn being an employment-tailored application. As Facebook becomes increasingly more universal in American culture, so too will lawyer’s attempts at connecting with their clientele on that very platform. Due to its cost-effectiveness, return on investment, and outreach capabilities, Facebook will continue to grow as a marketing tool for law firms.

The Cloud – it only gets bigger.
As the legal profession makes the slow and steady diaspora from paper to the digital world, the cloud will continue to play a big role. The overwhelming majority of lawyers use smartphones for law-related tasks at almost 80% as of 2015, up from about 70% in 2011. (https://www.legalitprofessionals.com/legal-it-columns/8775-lawyers-cloud-computing-and-mobile-technology-in-2016) Additionally, over 59% report personally using online storage for law-related tasks in 2015, up from 45% in 2012. Of those respondents, 62% are from firms of 2-9 attorneys (up from 40% in 2012), 61% are solo practitioners (up from 43% in 2012), 56% are from firms of 10-49 attorneys (up from 44% in 2012), and 50% are from firms of 100 or more attorneys (up from 52% in 2012).

The Cloud offers cost-effective services to centralize a firm’s legal information. Whether it be using a calendar, Google Docs, or the iCloud, the Cloud offers a “convenient and affordable alternative compared to traditional premise-based systems.” It’s true that an attorney or firm could elect to spend its time to assemble one’s own management system, but in many cases the time expenditure simply doesn’t rival the low monthly costs of utilizing the Cloud. The top-cited reasons attorneys are making the switch to Cloud is that it offers 24/7 access from anywhere, it has a modest and predictable monthly cost, and it has a robust data back-up and recovery system. In a fast-pace legal profession, the Cloud offers a user-friendly and reliable experience for attorneys that enables them to most efficiently manage loads of information. The Cloud will only continue to grow and be relied upon in the years to come.

Security – a must.
As digital records are increasingly incorporated into daily life in the legal profession, the need for adequate cybersecurity measures also increases. Law firms are the safe keeper to highly sensitive and personal information. Pursuant to the ABA Rules 1.1 and 1.6, attorneys have contractual and regulatory obligations to protect client information. However, the legal field appears to be relatively behind in taking adequate measures. (https://www.natlawreview.com/article/law-firm-data-breaches-big-law-big-data-big-problem) In 2016, a survey from the aforementioned website highlights some concerns. 37% of survey respondents cited loss of billable hours, 28% reported hefty fees for correction including consulting fees, 22% reported costs associated with having to replace hardware/software, and 14% reported loss of important files and information. The threat is real and experts agree that encryption is a basic safeguard that should be widely deployed, however only 38% of overall respondents reported use of file encryption and only 15% use drive encryption. Email encryption has become inexpensive for businesses and easier to use with commercial email services, yet overall only 26% of respondents reported using email encryption with confidential/privileged communications or documents sent to clients.

The combination of an increasing reliance of Facebook and the Cloud with the current suboptimal cross-profession use of adequate security measures leads me to predict that cybersecurity will be increasingly relied upon by law firms of all sizes in the coming decades.

-Zack Sobel

Amazon is taking over the world, whether you realize it or not.

Antitrust law’s most important problem of today is Amazon. In the past the law itself has yet to challenge Amazon because it has been doing exactly what it is suppose to do: becoming more competitive on the market with the use of innovation. However, the internet giant has recently acquired one of the leading food supermarkets in the U.S.: Whole Foods. Therefore, federal anti-trust review will surely evaluate the new merger. But with the Trump administration in place, it would seem unlikely there will be any objection to it.

According to Olivia LaVecchia & Stacy Mitchell, “Amazon now captures 46% of online shopping, with its share growing faster than the sector as a whole.” Nearly most online buyers will go to Amazon first before making purchases. Making Amazon one of the most trusted companies. In a way Amazon’s position has shaped what Anti-Trust law has become. So, you ask why? Why doesn’t Anti-Trust law do anything to Amazon? The heart of the issue is the fact that Amazon fits awkwardly in what’s legal or not because such a force was not anticipated.

Also, Amazon has successfully slipped through the cracks under the government’s scrutiny because it’s focus has always been making products more affordable.  Whole Foods priced has drastically dropped to become more competitive with the other supermarkets like War-Mart and Krogers. However, even with these favorable price cuts, we are left with these essential questions: should Anti-Trust laws become more rigorous? What should the law identify as a threat in the competitive market? Finally, should we permit Amazon in attaining this much control of the market?

-Vishal Noticewala

Facebook “Friends”

The number of friends someone has on Facebook varies from person to person. As someone who rarely logs on to Facebook, I limit the number of friends I have to those I see myself interacting with closely on a daily basis. Others, however–including many people I know–have close to 1,000 friends on Facebook. But, what does that mean? Does that mean the 1,000 friends someone has befriended on Facebook are close friends or acquaintances? In some cases, people can accept a friend request from someone they have never met before, and may never interact act with in reality outside from the social networking site. This is the digital world we live in.

Having said that, the interplay between law and Facebook is an interesting one. Recently, judges’ use of Facebook to friend lawyers they may see in court has become a controversial topic. Just this week, an attorney asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide if judges are biased if their Facebook friends include lawyers who they will most likely see in court, keeping in mind that judges have to follow a standard that litigants have state and federal due process rights to a fair and impartial trial (Daily Business Review). Knowing that a Facebook friend may not signify a close relationship, in many cases, a judge adding an attorney who may appear in front of the judge in court does not seem problematic. The article published in the Daily Business Review further noted the significance of small communities and Facebook friendships: ” if a judge’s acquaintanceship with an attorney always led to recusal, judges in rural areas could never hear any cases”. The court opinion in the Florida case did note, however, that  if the judge’s friendship with an attorney is open to the public, suggesting a close relationship, then that may affect an impartial court proceeding, and the judge may need to recuse him or herself from the case.

What does this say about the technological world we live in? A Facebook friend is not necessarily a close friend? I use Facebook to stay in touch with people I have met in person but who live far away from me. However, some people use Facebook as a way to meet people without having met them in person. And others use Facebook personally and professionally. If some use Facebook professionally (like a Linkedin profile), then those people may not have met the person friended outside of the social networking site. For a judge and a potential lawyer the judge may see in court, the two parties have to pay particular attention as to what is being posted on Facebook if they do become friends.

A technological friendship entails being more careful and considerate of others who may see the relationship, because this relationship is out there for the rest of the world to see. Some people read too much into a Facebook friendship, while others may look at a Facebook friendship as nothing more than an impersonal connection.

-Ronique Padda

 

 

 

Social media removing professionalism?

Social media is an incredible resource for attorneys to use. Many use it for networking purposes, advertisements, and event promotions. If used properly, social media can greatly improve an attorney’s law firm and reputation. There are, however, many drawbacks. Attorneys who are unfamiliar with social media, on a professional basis, can actually hurt their business and reputation. There are attorneys who will use the firm’s page as if it were their own personal page and “share” links that are irrelevant and misleading to their practice of law.

Attorneys need to make sure they can differentiate between their personal page and the firm’s public page. I have seen attorneys who will post about their personal lives and share photos of family gatherings. Such personal information should not be shared on a public firm’s page. It is completely irrelevant to the firm and the services they provide. I strongly believe that posting about the firm’s activity would benefit its reputation; but posting about one attorney’s day trip hiking a mountain does not.

Professionalism needs to be maintained on social media. If social media sites are going to be used to draw in clients, then it is imperative to keep a professional face on the internet. Another deterrent I have seen is a firm posting pictures of the attorneys attending a “happy hour” together and they are all clearly intoxicated. All that says to viewers is that the attorneys enjoy drinking. I, personally, do not want to go to a firm where I believe the attorneys are alcoholics and spend more time drinking rather than working on my case. It’s important for attorneys to let loose and have fun, but that’s not something that would be appropriate to post on a firm’s page. That’s an example of something to post on a personal page rather than the firm’s page.

Professionalism should be something that is always kept up, whether in person or on the internet. It seems like something that would be common sense but it can be easily lost on social media. Everything that is posted should be reviewed with careful consideration. The way an attorney words a post, what links are shared, what events are created, that should all be screened and reviewed before being published for potential clients to view.

Again, social media can be a phenomenal tool for attorneys to utilize to promote their business. As long as professionalism is kept up, attorneys should absolutely use social media for their firms. It’s an incredible way to promote business, advertise events, and to connect and communicate with their clients/ potential clients.

-Jessica Nguyen

Premonition

Premonition is a newly developed, highly discussed solution with artificial intelligence to legal research.  An archival database, premonition is a technology that is projected to help lawyers strategize the best approach to winning cases, due to examining large pools of previous cases and their outcomes that will be housed within the system’s mainframe.  Premonition, through its use of artificial intelligence, is a Webster for lawyers. It is a resource that supposedly has every answer, and every projection for any case worked within a firm, due to its in depth analysis of previous court records and documents. It can project similar trends with input and relevant data.  Premonition, is a major game changer, just in its housing base of the realm of storage that the technology holds; the access level is equivalent to what a team of paralegals would take weeks to find as they scanned through legal resource after resource.  Founded by CEO Guy Kurlandski, Premonition does what the outsourced law firm or paralegal team does through their lengthy and costly hourly billing with more effectiveness and reliability.

The statistics housed in Premonition help to project competent strategies for legal defense and argument.  It also showcases litigation data, to allow clients or smaller firms to see the stats for specific attorneys, as in the cases they’ve tried, and how many they have won, the documents or strategies used in those cases.  Success rates for individual attorneys and the firms they represent are housed in the artificial intelligence of this software, aiding in the selection of the best person for the relevant case, identifying weak points in strategy and where the less logical, but more precedent-setting nonconformist method should be implemented in case development. The software is said to affect stock projection and retention rate for larger firms, due to its accuracy in depiction.

PR Newswire greatly identified how the technology of Premonition “mines big data” in digging through thousands of archives to find the exact answer to a given legal dilemma.  It’s Google for litigators, a natural antithesis to the lengthy and costly, traditional manner in which law firms win cases—through long hours pouring over ancient legal texts and documents, scanning for months for the right data.  Many see this data as game changing and have sought to invest in more than just dollars and cents.  The impressiveness of the storehouse of AI just harpoons this pioneer into the big leagues, a progenitor in its field it seems, just as Apple revolutionized the smart phone and the idea of how we communicate, Premonition is creating a new standard for statistical research and systemizing projected outcomes for legal firms.  

 

Darrell Kelly

Is Social Media the Answer to Lawyers’ Depression Problem?

 

A study by John Hopkins University concluded that the rate of depression among lawyers is 3.6 times higher than that of other professions studied. Another study by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that lawyers are more likely to commit suicide than non-lawyers. Also, 70 percent of Yale Law School students surveyed in a 2014 study reported that they have struggled with mental health issues during their time at law school.[1] The results of these studies show that something about the legal profession makes it more stressful than other professions.

 

It has been argued that “perfectionism and pessimism” are likely the cause of the widespread depression within the legal community. Lawyers, it is said, are trained to abide by extremely high standards which are, on the one hand, essential to their professional success, and on the hand detrimental to their mental health.[2] Because of their “overdeveloped sense of control,” the argument goes, lawyers blame themselves if things do not go as planned.[3] Lawyers are also said to be “Paid worriers” who are preoccupied with predicting the future and anticipating threats, “[s]o they learn to see problems everywhere, even when they don’t exist.” Accordingly, lawyers are advised to avoid anxiety through meditation, focusing on the present, and seeking medical help.[4]

 

While I agree that perfectionism and pessimism may be detrimental to lawyers’ mental health when taken to the extremes, I disagree that perfectionism and pessimism explain the disparity in depression rate between lawyers and non-lawyers because some level of perfectionism and pessimism are expected of all professionals, whether they are lawyers or not. The disparity in depression rate between lawyers and non-lawyers, I believe, stems from the professional rules that disallow lawyers from sharing their mundane experiences, particularly work experiences, with their friends and loved ones.

 

In order to reduce stress, it is necessary for lawyers, whose profession constantly brings them in contact with the suffering of others, to have an outlet of sharing their experiences, and I believe social media provides that outlet.  In fact, a study by the Pew Research Center found that people who share their experiences on social media experience less stress than those who do not.[5] Sadly, state bars and ethics rules make it difficult for lawyers to utilize social media.[6]

 

[1] Leslie Gordon. How lawyers can avoid burnout and debilitating anxiety. ABA Journal (July, 01, 2015). Available at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/how_lawyers_can_avoid_burnout_and_debilitating_anxiety.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Megan Friedman. Social Media Can Actually Make You Feel Less Stressed. Available at http://www.elle.com/life-love/news/a26068/social-media-can-actually-make-you-feel-less-stressed/.

[6] Kellen Andrew Hade. Not All Lawyers Are Antisocial! Analyzing Limitations on Attorneys’ Use of Social Networking under the First Amendment. Available at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/ethics_2020/ethics_20_20_comments/hade_newtechnologiesissuespapers.authcheckdam.pdf.

-Musah Abubakar

Insights into Accessible Technology for Blind Lawyers

I want to use my first post to write about something important and near and dear to my heart: the accessibility of technology in the law practice. Accessibility is crucial for lawyers doing research, writing memos and other correspondence, and carrying out the other facets of their day-to-day work. It is also important for the clients who wish to explore the website of their chosen law firm or view pertinent information their lawyer may share with them. As is the case in other professions, law is becoming an increasingly digital field. In many respects, this is helpful for those with disabilities – such as total or partial blindness — who are interested in becoming lawyers. Utilizing computers and electronic information puts them on a more even playing field with their sighted colleagues, and eliminates the dreaded stacks of handwritten documents. However, there are still many websites and software packages that are either inaccessible or hard to navigate with screenreading software.
I was born totally blind in 1994, and as far as innovations in technology are concerned, I feel like I couldn’t have been born at a better time. Even in my still-short life, I’ve gone from banging out my homework on a Braille typewriter to using a small, sleek notetaker with a Braille display and a laptop with a screenreader, both of which can render my assignments instantly readable in print. I went from only being able to perform the most basic functions on a cell phone to operating an iPhone with VoiceOver and using it for numerous purposes on the go. Most importantly, though, the increase in accessibility and the awareness of its importance has broadened my horizons career-wise. In law school, I use Lexis and Westlaw to do my research. My screenreader is able to let me know when cases are designated as good law – a green indicator for everyone else – or bad law – yellow or red – because the graphics are labeled. At my summer job, I utilized a free, open-source screenreader and a flatbed scanner in conjunction with an OCR program to read any paper documents or image-based PDF files I received, and I barely even had to use the scanner because so many things were electronic text files to begin with.
Still, accessibility is far from perfect. Many PDF files still consist of scanned images of text that are not readable without using an outside OCR program. Some websites are readable, but the lack of intuitiveness leads people using screenreaders to spend a few minutes investigating the layout of the page to figure out exactly what they’re dealing with. Additionally, many case management systems and most software packages for billing and time-keeping are not yet screenreader-friendly. As Matthias Niska pointed out in an article about accessibility in the digital profession, the keys to improving accessibility are awareness, education, and implementation. Lawyers and web and software developers alike should be made aware of the importance of accessibility and accompanying legal requirements. They should be educated on what does and does not work, and should work to make the products they create or use accessible to all people. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of this effort in the next few years, given the great strides that have already been made.
Article:
https://www.americanbar.org/content/newsletter/publications/law_practice_today_home/lpt-archives/june13/why-digital-accessibility-matters-to-the-legal-profession.html

-Emily Pennington

VPNs In The Legal Profession

As a lawyer in the 21st century, it’s no secret that a majority of legal work takes place digitally. All sorts of private and sensitive information, such as client details or court documents, are exchanged via email and other online methods day in and day out. Furthermore, methods of extracting this information from the laptops of unsuspecting lawyers are also becoming increasingly difficult to detect and combat. Whether your working in a coffee shop or in your office, the surest way to obtain peace of mind that your documents are safe is to utilize a VPN.

 

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. While that may sound confusing at first, essentially all it does is replace the existing network that your computer or device would normally connect to with an online, virtual network. Via sophisticated encryption, it becomes impossible for a hacker or other unauthorized user to determine your location, identity, or to see any of your sensitive information, while also allowing you to browse the internet anonymously.

 

This is particularly useful for lawyers who find themselves working in public places often. Setting up shop in a Starbucks for a few hours can be a great way to knock out work, but it also leaves everything on your laptop up for grabs. VPNs are also relatively easy to set up and use; download the VPN software of your choice, connect to one of any number of servers (located all across the globe), and that’s all. There are free as well as paid options, with the paid options being generally more reliable and only costing around $10-20 a month.

 

The law has very little sympathy for lawyers in terms of client confidentiality; if a hacker obtains client information from your device, the blame falls squarely on you. With how easy and cheap it is to set up a VPN, there’s no excuse for lawyers working on client matters or other confidential information not to use one, especially in a public venue. Rather than deal with a costly security breach, legal professionals are better off investing in a reputable VPN and ensuring that their data is safe.

 

https://www.eloa.org/choose-best-vpn-law-practice/

https://lawyerist.com/buyers-guide-vpn/

-Brandon Ellis

The Incremental Adoption of Legal Technology in the Law Office

While the advent of technology has proved to spark a variety of innovations across multiple disciplines, the legal profession has been an industry rather slow to adopt these emerging technological advances. Since the law office is generally viewed as a rather conservative venue of employment, technology and its seemingly modern association has been categorized as a substantial and often threatening change to traditional ways of work. More specifically, legal technology has become an emerging market for law offices looking to gain a competitive edge. Conversely, law offices are stigmatized as places filled with “risk averse” longtime partners or associates that have maintained a preference towards legacy providers as a way to work more comfortably while supposedly mitigating security concerns. Not only does this attitude demonstrate hesitation towards a more modern way of working but also a cautious investigation into more efficient ways of work without abandoning traditional methods.

Offices looking to incorporate emerging legal technology are often skeptical of adopting such information at a rapid rate of change for various reasons. The risk of information breaches, traditional use of the billable hour, and the partnership model have hindered such adoption. Since lawyers often fall into the “risk averse” stereotype, it is also common to assume that includes a fear of technological advances. In many law offices skepticism arises when new technology is introduced. Cloud-based rapid testing and organizing prototype environments is either frowned upon or seen as too risky in the law office to protect sensitive information. Thus, it is not surprising that many law offices do not have cloud-based storage capabilities or re unaware of their availability. In my experience, studying information technology as an undergrad and working with tech-friendly companies offers a stark contrast to when I worked at a law office. IT-friendly companies were generally excited to implement and test new technologies in the office and it often provided a sense of relief for newer employees unfamiliar with legacy technology. Conversely, while working at a law office, most information was stored in large filing cabinets, most senior employees utilized legacy technology and wished to continue doing so, and often employees were untrained in using newer technologies because they were never asked to use them. Most senior individuals in the law office were concerned that heightened use of technology would pose security concerns for client information and that the time spent investing and learning newer technology would not be as beneficial. While this surely is not representative of every law office in the nation, it does present a great challenge to offices that are slow to adopt these technologies and may result in falling behind the competition.

In addition, the billable hour has been widely utilized throughout law offices, however the high costs most clients incur paves the way for more efficient research. Historically the majority of law offices operated on the premise of collecting hours in order to increase profits which has remained a prominent aspect of a law office. This mentality often leaves little time for investing in the most efficient methods of research and taking the time to learn the skills needed to utilize new models of billing. Thus, firms adherence to the billable hour creates an inherent disincentive to enhance legal technology. This is because an increase in technology and productivity leads to a decrease in billable hours necessary to perform a specific task.

The phenomenon of the partnership model contributes to difficulty in adopting new technology since it is often difficult for partners to come to a consensus about investing money into newer technology without risk of overstepping another partner’s authority. Since partners are usually more senior members, they are often reluctant to adopt technology more than younger associates, who though influential, generally have less authority in the decision-making process. Therefore a generational gap can contribute to a discourse regarding the use of technology in the office, however the most senior associates generally have the final say in those decisions. Despite these challenges, there is a possibility to allay these fears concerning emerging technology and cross-discipline interaction may be a vital component to this effort. Promoting the use of legal technology as a means of stimulating project efficiency, heightening security protections, and offering critical employee training should be seen as a way to improve the law office as a whole. Whether it is a small law clinic or a large firm, legal technology can be helpful in all avenues of the legal profession and providing these offices with a greater understanding of its necessity in the growing market may be a key factor in stimulating incremental adoption of new technologies.

https://law.stanford.edu/2016/05/17/the-current-state-future-prospects-for-legal-tech-adoption/

-Kristen Schulz

Late to the Party: Why I Care About Technology

Entering law school as someone over 35 as opposed to under 25, I consider myself a late bloomer. This often has me feeling like the unfashionable old person at the Jonas Brothers concert. Do kids these days still like Jonas Brothers? I think we are liking them separately now rather than as a “brothers” unit, but you get the point. The 10 or 15 years that I lived my life before my peers were born were years before the internet was readily accessible to the average person.  I remember using floppy disks in elementary school to play Oregon Trail when the ox and squirrels were nothing but green pixels on an all black screen.  In 8th grade, I was using the card catalog to find books in the library for projects. I was fortunate to have my own set of Encyclopedia Britannica since Google was not yet created.  Many of my high school  papers were typed on a word processor.  I didn’t have my own cell phone until I was 18, and back then the coolest feature you could really have on your phone was the ability for it to…. wait for it, FLIP CLOSED. I will admit that hanging up on people was a lot more satisfying back then. Anyway, the point is that many of my classmates have grown up in a world with the ability to access the internet and its immeasurable amounts of information. They came of age when phones became handheld computers and most households have at least one computer.

The difference in our comfort with technology is painfully noticeable come exam time, when my colleagues are typing at twice my speed. They just get around web pages and computers so much faster than I do. This can be further demonstrated by my niece who can figure out  an application in nearly half the time I can and without her ever referring to the “help” settings. It is as if her exposure to technology at an early age (essentially birth in her case) has made it so that for her, these technologies are intuitive. Which in turn makes me ask, what is her brain doing differently than mine?  I imagine that technology and the use of technology that in some ways creates short cuts for tasks, helps shape our brains to take more leaps of thought. Where my Punky Brewster and Cabbage Patch brain is scanning the screen, carefully reading all the text and looking for a clue as to what to do next; my niece has started the game, created a character, and finished the first round. She intuitively knew where to click and what to do which allowed her to get ahead.

We are all aware that technology is by no means going away.  The advancements are extraordinary and there is nothing that technology has not touched, from agriculture to the law. With the landscape of our world being changed regularly by these advancements in technology, I do not want to get left behind my peers. I want to be able to provide the best service for my clients which involves utilizing technology efficiently while maintaining best practices. It also requires a retraining of my mind to be able to take more leaps. This technological intuition is something that I believe can be taught simply by repeated exposure to new technologies. Get into new applications and explore. Start a YouTube Channel or an Instagram page so that you can begin to see how these platforms work.  I should probably start with a typing application.