Cloud computing

Jennifer Lawrence

In case you haven’t heard, over the weekend a whole bunch of celebrities got hacked and nude photos of them leaked onto the internet. Let me just start out by saying that hacking into a celebrity’s phone and stealing her nude photos is just a horrible thing. It’s not a funny joke. It’s not something hackers should be high fiving over. Celebrities have the right to live private lives like everyone else and they have the right to take and keep private photos. On top of the embarrassment of having their private photos available to their parents and all of their fans and every pervert with an internet connection, it could seriously damage their careers. This should be another big warning slap in the face to everyone who stores private or confidential things on the internet, especially lawyers.

What lessons can lawyers learn from this unfortunate episode?

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The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.

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Take the Legal Technology Basics challenge here.

I store my files on the cloud. Whenever you store your confidential stuff on someone else’s computers, you have to be wary of two things: security and privacy. A few weeks ago, I wrote this article about how to beef up your security, so today, I am going to talk about privacy.

The general consensus is that lawyers can use cloud computing. The ABA has put together this map that explains ethics opinions on the use of cloud computing by state. To sum it up, about 20 or so state bars have issued opinions that storing data in the cloud does not per se violate a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality, but you have to use reasonable care in storing your docs online.

There’s a movie on Netflix streaming right now called “Terms and Conditions May Apply.” It’s a scary documentary about how we agree to give away access to our data in the fine print of all of the internet services we use from email to social media. So, how does that relate to confidentiality of client files we store on the cloud?

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A few months ago, I went to an MCLE seminar on cybersecurity. The 90-minute presentation hit topics such as public wifi, cloud computing, thumb drives, and password strength. The goal of the presentation was of course to scare everyone into being more vigilant in their firm policies regarding cybersecurity. The recommendations included:

  • Never use cloud computing. Always store your data on onsite servers.
  • Don’t use thumb drives on company computers.
  • Never use any mobile devices to store firm information (including emails).

After the presentation, we ate dinner, and everyone and my table came to the same conclusion: “Screw that. We are going to use thumb drives while checking our business email on our phones while client files upload to Dropbox.” That’s because some things are just too convenient to give up. As a solo, I might not want a server that I have to maintain. And I like getting my emails on my phone and on my watch because it makes my life easier.

Now, I don’t want to make light of cybersecurity because it is a very serious issue. But, the fact remains that if your data exists in a tangible form, people can steal it and it is vulnerable….

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Christina Gagnier

Cybersecurity is becoming an important issue for lawyers, whether you are a solo or working at a multinational law firm. When it is so easy and seamless from a workflow perspective to move to the cloud, many firms are pushing their operations and employees to this technology. There are many considerations to weigh when deciding to go from the file cabinet or local server to the cloud…

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There is a popular conception, within and without the legal industry, of lawyers as Luddites. If this is true, there is a massive disconnect between the burgeoning legal technology industry — on abundant display at the recent LegalTech New York Conference — and its would-be clientele, lawyers themselves. Can it be that while legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of the attorneys toward these emerging technologies? Considering that these technologies are promising (threatening?) to transform the profession and practice of law, this would be a curious attitude.

On attending this year’s LegalTech panel on the findings of the ILTA Tech Survey, Joe Patrice could not help but conclude that there is a “profound lack of technological savvy among law firms.” To cite but a few examples: 80% of lawyers do not record time on a mobile device. Nearly 90% of firms do not maximize their cybersecurity capabilities. Nearly one-third of firms are using a version of Word that’s seven or more years old. And so on. The survey’s findings do little to contradict the idea that “technology leaps, the law creeps.”

Further reinforcing this “Luddite” notion is the Flaherty/Suffolk University Law School tech audit. This tool tests a range of fundamental technical competencies of law firm associates and the results can be construed as evidence of a lack thereof common to law firms. According to Casey Flaherty, an in-house counsel at Kia Motors and the creator of the audit, the failure rate of associates attempting the test is, thus far, one hundred percent.

A couple weeks back, we conducted a little survey of the ATL audience concerning your familiarity with some legal tech concepts. These ranged from the most “basic” (from the perspective of the tech world) to the somewhat more obscure (e.g., “dark data”). Besides your familiarity (or not) with these concepts, how relevant are they to your current or future practice? How successfully is your employer addressing these issues?

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The New York City Bar Association’s recent report, The Cloud and the Small Law Firm: Business, Ethics and Privilege Considerations (November 2013) offers reasonable enough advice to solo and small law firms contemplating a move to the cloud.  Evaluate the vendor. Review and understand the terms of the service agreement, including the level of security promised, the ability to access data and data breach notification policies.  Assess the risks associated with housing certain types of data against the benefits of convenience and accessibility that the cloud provides. Understand that lawyers have a unique ethics obligation to protect and preserve client data.  In short, nothing that lawyers haven’t already heard in the more than fourteen state ethics decisions of the past five years addressing the cloud (though the Report has value in that it summarizes these opinions all in one place).

Still, while the Report offers solid advice to lawyers considering the cloud, I take issue with the proposed solutions.  We’ve reached a point where solo and small firm lawyers need more than just advice on evaluating the cloud. Rather, we need the bar associations to actually take action to facilitate adoption of the cloud in those situations where it is appropriate…

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Wesley Snipes

* I thought the rule for how to cite a blog in your brief was “don’t,” but I have less use for a Bluebook than a homeless orphan (I hear kindling is hard to come by on the streets). [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]

* More analysis on the mean mommy lawsuit reminds me of how much better things would be if somebody — be it a parent or a bully — had slapped these kids upside their fat heads during crucial developmental years. [Healthland / TIME]

* Maybe if more lawyers knew some basic principles of digital masking, they wouldn’t be so terrified when it comes to tipping ATL about the stuff going down at their firms. Either that, or people would make even more fun of me. [An Associate's Mind]

* Culinary school graduates are also unhappy with the employment prospects available to them after investing in additional education. Let me try this maxim out and you tell me what you think: if the education has neither “computer,” nor “science,” nor “military” in the title, you are being charged way too much. [Eater]

* Don’t you love how lawyers can turn any massive failure into a business opportunity? Lawyers are like the bacteria in charge of decomposition in the crisis ecosystem. [Law and More]

* In the game of tax conviction appeals, Wesley Snipes came up a little bit short. Kind of like the time he slid into second base too early and stopped before the bag. (New rule: all Wesley Snipes tax references must be accompanied by a Wesley Snipes movie reference.) [TaxProf Blog]

Elie wishes he had taken the nuggets.

* What can law firms learn from Folgers crystals? Maybe how to provide legal services rich enough to be served to America’s finest corporations. [What About Clients?]

* A look at what $100,000 in law school loans could have purchased instead — e.g., 505,050 chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. [Constitutional Daily]

* What kind of “reasonable accommodations” are alcoholics entitled to in the workplace? A three-martini mojito lunch sounds good to me. [Overlawyered]

* Some thoughts from Henry Blodget on Groupon and the SEC-mandated “quiet period.” Any thoughts, readers, on Blodget’s take on attorney/client privilege? [Business Insider]

* Professor Ann Althouse on the exoneration of Justice David Prosser (noted in Morning Docket): “A justice is despised because his decisions do not please liberals, and so, without thought, they forgot about things liberals like to love themselves for caring about, such as fairness and due process.” [Althouse]

Is it wrong to find Justin Bieber totally hot? Just askin'....

* E-discovery is moving to the cloud. What are the opportunities and the risks? Ben Kerschberg and Bret Laughlin discuss. [Forbes]

* Speaking of e-discovery, the DISH Network and Redgrave LLP are sponsoring an e-discovery research and writing competition, open to law students. [dishdiscovery]

* Law librarian Joe Hodnicki weighs in on the controversy over ScamProf aka Paul Campos and his controversial blog. [Law Librarian Blog]

* If you share Staci’s opinion that Justin Bieber “kind of looks like a girl,” here’s some support for your viewpoint. [Fashionista]

* The American Constitution Society is holding an online symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. [ACSblog]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

It is not easy staying abreast of all of the important issues affecting small firms, but I do it because my words impact our nation’s policy. Do you think it was a coincidence that less than a week after I instituted the Small Firm Pro Bono Push, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee suggested that private-sector employees need to do more pro bono work? Obviously not.

But sometimes even I need guidance. So I enlisted the help of Susan Cartier Liebel, the guru of solo practice.

Liebel founded Solo Practice University (“SPU”) in order to provide the resources for people to start their own firms that she found to be utterly lacking when she first decided to hang a shingle. SPU offers a wide variety of educational programs and networking opportunities. As Liebel stated, SPU provides the 360-degree experience to learn how to open a law firm in a simple-to-use and cost-effective online platform.

Above the Law covered SPU back in 2009, but much has changed over the past two years. Learn more about SPU after the break….

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