Technology

This week’s column was initially going to be about setting fees, but then two lawyers pissed me off so I’m now writing about why technology sucks and needs to be controlled like a screaming 2-year-old on an airplane.

I took Friday off to chaperone a field trip with one of my kids to the Everglades. I promise if I ever get a Pinterest account I’ll post all the pictures of the alligators. On Thursday, I did everything but wear a shirt that said, “I WILL NOT BE IN THE OFFICE OR AVAILABLE FRIDAY.” I also emailed some annoying people that haven’t been out of their office, ever.

That day, one lawyer I emailed responded something to the effect of, “I know you’re going to be out tomorrow but,” and then asked me to do some work on our matter. The other lawyer called Friday morning, was told I was out and said, “Can you have him call me to discuss a case even though he’s out?”

Yeah, we all have smart phones, we’re all getting email in real time, and regardless of what we’re doing, the other side can’t comprehend that we are either really not available, or just don’t want to be available. Maybe we’re looking at alligators with our kids while our phone is back on the bus.

Being out of the office (and for those that don’t have an office, “being out of the office” is a concept, not a physical geographical location issue) is something lawyers need to do to avoid hating the practice of law, but it is becoming more and more looked down upon….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Practice: Technology and the Lost Art of Unavailability”

Did this young soldier aid the enemy?

Bradley Manning, the American traitor or human rights champion depending on your perspective, was back in court yesterday. His court-martial officially began, and he now faces 22 serious charges that could carry a life sentence, if he is convicted.

The 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst allegedly gave more than 700,000 classified documents to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Manning deferred his plea, so he and his attorneys have more time to strategize. Both sides are still working to set a date for trial, but is getting close to do-or-die time for the embattled Manning.

Let’s see the newest details about his case…

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Working as a process server is a tough job. It might be one of the few modern professions where “don’t shoot the messenger” still has literal meaning. Seth Rogen made it look kind of cool in Pineapple Express, and he got to wear disguises. But that movie wasn’t exactly realistic.

But what if there was a new, technologically savvy way to serve hard-to-access litigants? Some sort of online community that everyone was a part of? Oh wait, we have that. It’s called Facebook.

::Light bulb goes on::

At least, that’s what a judge in England was thinking on Tuesday when he ruled that a defendant in a commercial dispute could be served via Facebook. The judge gets points for forward thinking, but at the same time I’m not sure the plan was too well thought-out…

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Stephanie Adams

* Vedel Browne, the man charged with robbing Justice Stephen Breyer, will enter a plea of not guilty. Why turn yourself in and then claim innocence? That makes no sense, mon. [Washington Post]

* Guess which Biglaw firms helped to broker the $173B Greek debt deal? Cleary Gottlieb, Allen & Overy, and White & Case. It’s too bad they’re going to get paid in gyros. [Am Law Daily]

* England has approved of the use of Facebook for service of legal documents. If the files went to “Other” messages, the defendant can probably claim ineffective service of process. [Associated Press]

* A Florida firm is suing the BBB after receiving a grade of “F.” It’s not the firm’s fault its clients complain — they’re just too dumb to “understand legal complexities.” [Orlando Sentinel]

* Former Playboy Playmate Stephanie Adams won a $1.2M jury award in her excessive force case against the NYPD. You don’t drop a woman with implants to the ground, she could pop. [New York Daily News]

Like it or not, sex offenders have rights, too.

Sex offenders are the easiest people to take away rights from. Even other criminals hate sex offenders. Their crimes are heinous, it’s unclear if recurring sex offenders can ever be “cured,” and if they ever get out of jail, even most progressives are happy to severely curtail their rights and freedoms.

It’s tough to take a public stand for the rights of pedos. But someone has to do it. Yesterday, a Louisiana federal judge struck down a state law barring sex offenders from Facebook and other social media. He used a First Amendment argument to scrap the law, which took effect in August, and created a “near total ban on internet access” for sex offenders.

That’s all well and good, although Facebook isn’t exactly pleased….

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Humiliating? Yes. Harassment? No dice.

At this point, nearly everyone has at least one friend who finds perverse joy in posting stupid, unflattering photos of their friends to Facebook. Maybe drunk photos or maybe just dorky, grody ones from right after you ran a marathon or something.

In these mildly annoying situations, most people would untag the photos and then forget that they existed. But not everyone. A Minnesota man named Aaron Olson could not handle the fact that his uncle posted photos from his childhood in front of the Christmas tree, along with some snarky captions. So he sued his uncle for harassment.

A Minnesota district court tossed his case, and earlier this week the Court of Appeals of Minnesota denied Olson’s pro se complaint. Judge Natalie E. Hudson wrote a surprisingly zen unpublished opinion, considering how silly the lawsuit (and Olson’s in-court behavior) was…

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Just a few weeks ago, Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck (S.D.N.Y.) spoke to several hundred people at LegalTech New York about the importance of predictive coding for the future of electronic discovery. He expressed his hope that a federal court would, sooner rather than later, officially encourage using the technology in a case.

Shortly after participating in the panel, Judge Peck fulfilled his own wish. Last week, he became what appears to be the first federal judge to order litigants to use the cutting-edge technology in a case.

Let’s look at the details, as well as take a little refresher on predictive coding…

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Ah, yes. I am familiar with this internet of which you speak.

The first month of 2012 was a crazy one for internet law. The Stop Online Piracy Act gloriously crashed and burned, Apple is getting sued in China for naming rights to the iPad, and in America someone is suing to show that porn doesn’t deserve copyright protection. In the wake of all the hot debate and hot tempers, it seems some people highly invested in internet freedom and content protection have begun looking to gain support for their causes outside of the legislature.

This week, we learned from a couple news stories that advocates from both sides of the internet aisle have turned to lawyers and the court system to defend their causes. Earlier this week, some OG internet pioneers testified to a jury, and a major media company executive has begun courting law professors for support.

I’m not sure whether I think the fact that people have decided the legal system is a good place to argue high-level, fundamental internet freedom questions is impressive (give yourselves a pat on the back, attorneys, you are hip to the tech set now), or a little bit scary (do these people realize how technophobic lawyers can be?).

You will have to decide for yourself…

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Austrian law student and founder of the websit...

Max Schrems, a 24-year-old law student from Austria, has become one of Facebook's fiercest critics.

While most law students are shaking off the winter break and settling back in for the second semester, Max Schrems is busy doing his best to bring Facebook to its knees.

Last year, the 24-year-old University of Vienna law student spent a semester abroad at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. His privacy law professor there, Dorothy Glancy, invited a privacy lawyer from Facebook to be eaten alive by speak to the class. Schrems was shocked by the lawyer’s limited grasp of the severity of European data protection laws, and decided to write his final paper for the class on how Facebook was flunking privacy in Europe.

In the course of his research, he discovered that Facebook’s dossiers on individual users are hundreds of pages long, and include information users thought had been deleted. When he returned to Austria last summer, he formed an activist group called Europe v. Facebook (to legitimize his campaign and make it seem like more than just one law student), filed dozens of complaints in Europe about Facebook’s data practices, and publicized his findings online, leading to widespread media attention, a probe by a European privacy regulator, and questions from Congress.

On Monday, Facebook’s European director of policy (and former MP) Richard Allan and another California-based Facebook exec flew to Vienna to meet with Schrems for a whopping six hours to discuss his concerns.

Continue reading at Forbes.com….


LegalTech New York finished up earlier this week. I survived with only a minor case of technology loop, although my iPhone was begging for mercy by the end.

The conference was frenetic, to say the least. There was a lot going on, regarding a cornucopia of technological topics and tools to help lawyers. As expected, the biggest hype revolved around predictive coding and computer-assisted review.

The legal technology world has been buzzing about this stuff for a while now, and we have covered it on these pages several times before. (Here and here, for starters). At the conference, attendees got to hear from the naysayers, the enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Several panels helped explain exactly what the technology means on a practical level. And no, cyborgs will not be stealing all the contract attorney jobs any time soon.

One of this week’s highlights was a lunchtime panel featuring two prominent attorneys and a New York magistrate judge. The discussion helped clarify, demystify, and define the terms that have been making headlines (even in the New York Times) for a good part of the past year. Is computer-assisted review as scary as it seems? Of course not.

Let’s see what the panelists — and at least one irate audience member — had to say….

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