Technology

David Bowie said it this way:

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

(Turn and face the strain)

Ch-ch-Changes

I know you’ll be humming that song a couple hours from now (and thanking me for it). But, it underscores that clients are demanding ch-ch-ch-change from the legal profession on both sides of the border. We can’t ignore it any longer. We need to turn and face the strain head on. We need to meet the challenges of globalization and technological innovation and transform our industry.

It looks like Canadian lawyers are making an attempt to join the twentieth century — sorry, I mean the twenty-first century. The Canadian Bar Association recently released its Futures Initiative report that sprung from two years of consultations by lawyers and legal profession experts. The Futures Report makes twenty-two recommendations for helping the Canadian legal profession break away from its horse and buggy business model (developed by Gen A) to join a world where you can watch video of a horse online before purchasing it with Bitcoins…

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You may have heard about a behavioral science experiment involving monkeys and a ladder with a banana at the top of the ladder. When one monkey would try to climb the ladder to reach the banana, the researchers would spray all of the monkeys with a hose. After a while, when a monkey tried to go towards the ladder, the others would stop him so that they wouldn’t get hosed. The researchers then switched out one of the monkeys with a new monkey who didn’t know about the hose. When he would go towards the ladder, just as before, the others would stop him. The swapping continued, and the new monkeys would join in stopping newer monkeys from going towards the ladder, not knowing about the hose treatment, but learning from the example of the original monkeys that going towards the ladder is bad. The researchers eventually swapped out all of the monkeys so that none of the original monkeys were together, but all of the new monkeys would try to stop each other from going towards the ladder.

There is some debate online as to the origins of that experiment, or whether it ever happened, so I’ll just call it the “parable of the monkeys who just do what everyone else does without understanding why” — or, for short, “the parable of the associate.” If you work in a law firm, you probably recognize the above fact pattern and can analogize it to your colleagues.

I’ve come across a bunch of lawyers since I started my legal career ten years ago. Some of them were really good, some were really bad, and most of them were just somewhere in the spectrum of not being memorable. The lawyers who were bad were all bad for about a thousand different reasons, but the lawyers who were good, almost always shared one quality: they were outside-the-box thinkers….

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Ed note: Stat of the Week is a new feature that pulls custom data points from ATL Research as well as noteworthy sources across the web.

Last month at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) held its annual conference. As would be expected, the event generated a tremendous volume of Twitter chatter, much of it focused on statistics. The LexisNexis Business of Law blog has compiled a collection of the most compelling, quirky, or frankly speculative #ILTA14 numbers (e.g., “Prediction: 10 years 40% of the Fortune 500 won’t exist.” – Shirley Crow). Read on for more highlights.

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The business of law continues to evolve post-Great Recession. Law firms are dealing with clients who are trimming legal budgets, shunning expensive hourly billing rates and subsidized training of associates, and opting for smaller and more cost-sensitive legal options.

These trends have had a ripple effect. The job market for lawyers—while showing signs of improvement in small pockets—remains depressed, resulting in intense critiques of legal education, downward-trending law school applications, and law schools adapting or closing. Presumably, law students and new lawyers notice these trends and are strategizing accordingly, thinking commercially and entrepreneurially about their careers, and seeking the best legal experience and ROI in a rough macro legal market.

Entrepreneurs recognize these trends and a few startups—UpCounsel, Lawdingo, Priori Legal, and LawTrades—are riding a robust tech (and derivative branding) wave to disrupt the increasingly vulnerable legal industry. Each (i) strives to provide a frictionless and transparent platform for cost-conscious clients to quickly acquire legal services, and (ii) offers lawyers an alternative avenue to monetize their degrees free of typical infrastructural and administrative burdens of solo or small practice. This new crop of startups has earned the label “the Uber of law.” What is their value proposition for lawyers? Are they truly Uber-like providers of legal services, or is that just opportunistic branding? Should lawyers care?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

That… doesn’t sound right.

We’ve already mentioned how a number of comments have been submitted concerning Australian Attorney General George Brandis’ Hollywood wishlist proposal for copyright reform in Australia. There are a number of interesting comments worth reading. I was pleasantly surprised to see the normally copyright-maximalist BSA come out against the proposal, saying that it will create a real risk of “over-enforcement, punishment of lawful conduct and blocking of lawful content including critically important free speech rights.” Dr. Rebecca Giblin, who has studied these issues and other attempts to put in place similar filters (and how they’ve failed), has also put forth a very interesting comment.

The most bizarre comment, however, has to come from Village Roadshow. Village Roadshow is the Australian movie studio that the US State Department admitted was used as the token “Australian” movie studio in the MPAA’s big lawsuit against iiNet. iiNet is the Australian ISP that the MPAA (with Village Roadshow appearing as “the local face”) sued for not waving a magic wand and stopping piracy. iiNet won its case at basically every stage of the game, and that big legal win is really at the heart of these new regulatory proposals. Apparently, Village Roadshow’s CEO still hasn’t gotten over the loss in the legal case.

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In my last column, I shared how Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is using his iPad while on the bench. I explained how he got started using technology—by using PDFs instead of paper documents—and eventually transitioned to using his iPad for many of his judicial duties. And we learned that not only does he use an iPad, he has managed to convince some of his Second Circuit colleagues to do the same, thus reducing the amount of paper used by the judges.

It was clear from my last column that Judge Wesley is sold on the benefits of using technology. But he’s also well aware of the drawbacks—a topic I promised to cover in today’s column. So let’s get started.

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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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Our law firm does not have a Twitter account. But our consulting and patent monetization firm, Markman Advisors, does (@MarkmanAdvisors) — an active one, where we post about patent litigation-related events that are of interest to our followers. Twitter has become our number-one way of interacting with the investment community that is the target for our consulting and patent monetization services.

Yet our law firm still does not have a Twitter account — and I am not convinced it should. As a practicing litigator, I am reluctant to give out my opinions on legal issues through such a broad-reaching medium. Lawyers on Twitter either need to have a lot of guts, or follow the typical boring Biglaw marketing model. I am not interested too much in either approach.

Our engagement with Twitter is relatively recent, dating to the launch of our law firm and consulting practice. Prior to Twitter, our focus was on demonstrating our patent litigation bona fides via investor-focused articles on websites like Seeking Alpha and Harvest. The goal of that work was to demonstrate that Markman Advisors offered investors, inventors, and companies interested in patent situations a unique analytical approach, informed by our collective experience litigating big-ticket patent cases while at Biglaw firms. We were fortunate to build a following on those platforms, which led to meetings with the type of clients we were interested in representing. In the course of those discussions, we found out that for the investment community — traders, hedge funds, whomever — Twitter is a necessary and powerful communications tool.

Being lawyers, our first reaction was skepticism….

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Professor John Yoo, who deemed waterboarding wasn’t torture.

Among the many, many, many problems with running a torture program (beyond being morally problematic and with no history of effectiveness) is the fact that it makes it easier for others to justify torture programs as well. It’s now come out that ISIS has been waterboarding prisoners, including reporter James Foley whom they recently beheaded. Waterboarding, of course, was one of the CIA’s favorite torture techniques. And, of course, people had warned for years that having the CIA waterboard people would only encourage others to use the technique against Americans. Hell, even Senator Dianne Feinstein condemned waterboarding a few years ago, because it would lead others to do it against the US:

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Yesterday, a California appellate court overturned the lower court’s dismissal of a malicious prosecution claim against Biglaw mainstay Latham & Watkins. According to the opinion, the lower court was wrong on the statute of limitations, but the opinion also went out of its way to express just how likely the plaintiffs were to prevail on the merits of their claim that Latham doggedly pursued them on a “non-viable” legal theory.

Latham still has an opportunity to defend itself, but the language of this opinion is certainly not encouraging.

The plaintiff already recovered over $1.6 million in fees from Latham’s client, let’s see how they do against the firm…

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