Technology

Edward Snowden returned to the news this week when NBC aired an hour-long interview with him, the first on American TV. Anchor Brian Williams met with Snowden in a Moscow hotel. The 30-year-old former computer systems administrator described his motives for releasing an unprecedented payload of classified information about NSA surveillance.

Snowden is vexing. As a person, he seems a mix of likeable and unlikeable traits. He appears earnest, convinced of the rectitude of his choices even if, as he told NBC, “Sometimes, to do the right thing you have to break the law.” Yet he bristles at Obama Administration characterizations of him as a low-level employee, a high-school dropout. (For example, the president told reporters last year, “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”) Even if Snowden is right to resist the connotations of those labels, listening to him defend himself in the interview can be painful. He insists he was “trained as a spy” who lived under an assumed identity and was a powerful operator. He sounds like a young man with a bruised ego. The last thing one wants to have to worry about in a situation of this great national and international importance, though, is one young man’s ego.

Snowden’s case is more important and more vexing. NSA’s surveillance programs are deeply troubling….

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Keith Lee

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life of a lawyer. And the longer you are a lawyer, the more it will come to define you – if you let it. But it is a limiting definition, even for the best and brightest of lawyers. Take Marcus Tullius Cicero, likely the most famous lawyer in history. Upon being acclaimed for his skills as a lawyer, it is said that Cicero remarked:

“And yet he often desired his friends not to call him orator, but philosopher, because he had made philosophy his business, and had only used rhetoric as an instrument for attaining his objects in public life. But the desire of glory has great power in washing the tinctures of philosophy out of the souls of men, and in imprinting the passions of the common people, by custom and conversation, in the minds of those that take a part in governing them, unless the politician be very careful so to engage in public affairs as to interest himself only in the affairs themselves, but not participate in the passions that are consequent to them.”

– Plutarch, Cicero, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans (c. 75-100 AD), John Dryden translation

Here we have the greatest lawyer in all of Rome, insisting that he wished to be remembered as a philosopher — a thinker — not a lawyer. Being a lawyer was part of who he was; it did not define him….

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Disney is a name that is often associated with copyright maximalism for pretty good reasons. Despite the fact that many of its early successes depended heavily on either direct infringement or making use of the public domain, the company was a very aggressive enforcer of its own copyrights. And, of course, it was also a primary lobbyist for expanding copyright protections, andextending copyright term every time Mickey Mouse approached the public domain.
However, in the past few years, it’s seemed as though Disney has been a bit quieter than in the past about copyright issues, allowing some other companies to take the lead on that. And, in some cases, it seems to even be recognizing (*gasp*) that some infringement can actually be a good thing. Andrew Leonard, over at Salon, has the story of how Disney has finally joined the 21st century in realizing that having fans create derivative works around the movie Frozen, has actually been useful and free promotion for the original (and massively successful) movie.

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Dr. Dre

* As you may have heard, Apple is buying Beats Electronics for $3 billion. Apple is being represented by Weil, but don’t worry, no one forgot about Dre — he’s got Munger Tolles and Skadden Arps on his side. [Am Law Daily]

* Haynes and Boone will have a new managing partner as of January 1, 2015, and to make sure he fulfills the good old Texas stereotype of things being bigger, he wants to grow the hell out of the firm’s Houston office. [Dallas Business Journal]

* Stephanie Avakian, a WilmerHale partner in the New York office, was tapped by the Securities and Exchange Commission to become its deputy director of enforcement. Yay! [DealBook / New York Times]

* “We can’t turn law schools into graduate school for the study of law,” says a law prof who thinks legal education is straying from being professional education. Aww, write a paper about it. [Harvard Crimson]

* A Los Angeles couple has been accused in the hit-and-run death of Judge Dean Pregerson’s son. The judge isn’t “looking for blood,” but some jail time would probably help. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

Would it surprise you to learn that lawyers talk a good game, but rarely follow through substantively? Well, in that case here’s a dog-bites-man story for you: lawyers are quick to share their concern about maintaining the security of their clients’ files and not so quick to invest in the technology required to do so.

This comes days after the Justice Department announced that the Chinese Army was engaged in digital espionage and that they were specifically targeting law firms as the soft underbelly of data protection.

How big is the disconnect between word and deed?

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I was in it to kill it. I want to replace lawyers with code.

Tim Hwang, quoted in Kashmir Hill’s piece in the June 16th issue of Forbes, discussing his stint at Davis Polk.

Tech guru Hwang secretly attended law school at Boalt Hall just to score his seven-month gig at Davis Polk, which he spent planning a computer program to replace first-year attorneys by automating tasks like document review (shhhh — don’t tell him about predictive coding or anything like that). Hwang plans to release the program to firms FOR FREE this summer. Look out Biglaw, you’re being forced down the same road Sterling Cooper did with its fancy IBM 360. Watch out for severed nipples!

* In sad news, Judge Harold Baer Jr. died last night. A giant of the Southern District of New York, Judge Baer will be remembered for his sound judicial temperament and his biting wit. [New York Law Journal]

* Paris Hilton hit with $2 million lawsuit for breaching a footwear deal. Does anyone still care enough about Paris Hilton to sign her to multi-million dollar sponsorship deals? [Radar Online]

* Kamala Harris may have a bright future, but her present has some issues. She started a task force to go after foreclosure consultant fraud and managed to pursue only 10 cases, fewer than her colleagues in other states despite California’s foreclosure crisis. Part of having a prestigious job is actually doing it. [East Bay Express]

* A Texas woman has filed suit claiming she was forced to give birth in solitary confinement, begging for — and not receiving — medical care. The baby died. But, hey, the baby came out of her, so it’s not a problem whether it lives any more in conservative Texas. [Feministing]

* Judge allows Bank of America to continue foreclosing on the home of Burt Reynolds. And somewhere Alex Trebek smiles. [WPEC]

* More on the female brain drain at law firms and how to fix it. [She Negotiates]

* 5 awesome charts that prove that patent litigation is officially out of hand. [Vox]

* Ray Rice’s lawyer offers a hypothetical of the videotaped altercation between Rice and his now-wife. This is why lawyers shouldn’t use hypotheticals. [Sports World News]

* Is there really a “third way” when it comes to Net Neutrality? This article makes a good case for rules allowing providers to take reasonable actions to address the different needs of Skype vs. email. [The Hill]

* Law firms are starting to think like media companies. Next thing you know, Biglaw will be all Hollywood. Video after the jump…. [Mimesis Law]

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* The Supreme Court chimed in on the death penalty today, ruling 5-4 that Florida can’t use an IQ score as a hardline rule to apply the death penalty. Justice Alito dissented, complaining that the Court turned over the issue to psychiatric doctors. Because if you’re going to make a decision on mental incapacity, why involve people who know the science? [SCOTUSBlog]

* Well, it turns out one of the reasons why Charleston Law is so eager to sell to InfiLaw is that its founders withdrew $25 million in profits over the last three and a half years, leaving the school a financial wreck. [Post and Courier]

* What?!? A judge was allegedly kidnapped by a convicted felon that she may or may not have had a relationship with while she worked as a public defender. And the alleged kidnapper escaped the police when he sneaked out of the hospital because apparently Maryland hired the Keystone Kops. [Washington Post]

* In a sad testament to what happens when zealous representation meets law firm hierarchy, a new study reveals that working hard doesn’t get you anywhere. Just deliver the bare minimum you promised and call it a day. [Law and More]

* Video game manufacturer files lawsuit against… somebody. They’re not sure. But whoever they are, they’re ruining Starcraft. [Hardcore Gamer]

* Nevada’s bar president decided to use his monthly newsletter column to opine on gay marriage. That was probably a mistake for him. [The Irreverent Lawyer]

* A new environmental law firm opens in the rustbelt and it’s ready to take on some industry bigwigs. [What About Paris]

* New York upholds the right to be annoying on the Internet. [IT-Lex]

* Lawyer-turned-rapper Mr. Kelly (@Mrkelly_music) has a new video after the jump about lunchtime and the malaise of living a corporate lifestyle. His album is available too. [YouTube]

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Do you willingly feed trolls who are trying to obscure their identities?

I’m not talking about the cave-dwelling, ugly beings depicted in folklore as either giants or dwarfs. Those trolls aren’t yet online.

I want you to focus on the more insidious demons known as the “Internet trolls” (aka troll-holes as in a-holes). Troll-holes are devoid of any moral compass. These sorry-excuse-for-humans seek to ply discord on the internet. They post hateful, anonymous comments on anything from blogs to newspaper sites to Amazon and Yelp.

They want to argue with you. They want to demean you. They want to attack you. They want to provoke you. They want to upset you. They want to emotionally gut you.

Don’t take the bait….

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A large part of my practice is helping people in trial present their cases with technology. Whether it’s just using a trial presentation program such as inData’s TrialDirector, or developing case themes and graphics to tell the story, it can get pretty pricey sometimes.

Last year in Las Vegas, Richard Suen won a little over $100 million in a jury trial, and the judge gave him back his $593,000 that he spent on his trial presentation.

But, that’s not a lot of help to those who can’t spend six figures on trial presentation to begin with. Naturally, one of the questions I get asked the most is whether you can do awesome trials for cheap. Of course you can….

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