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Archive for ‘Columns’

Criticizing Judges in a Trump Era

What does ethical criticism of a judge or judgment require? Or, to put it slightly differently, on what basis might we say that a criticism of a judge or judgment is improper?

Recent comments by Donald Trump make this question seem straightforward. The President’s tweets were clearly inappropriate. It is not acceptable for the President to refer to a Federal Court trial judge as a “so-called judge”, to describe the judge’s decision as terrible (Feb 4), to call a Federal Appeals Court judgment a “disgraceful decision” (February 10) and, most chillingly, to say “Just cannot believe a judge would put . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

#HackJustice

In his February 3rd, 2017, Slaw article entitled “Build, Baby Build”, Colin Lachance describes his experience of having individuals share with and seek his advice on building some “app/service/tool that could very well make a valuable contribution to public or professional engagement with legal information or the legal system.” Having come from a law and technology background, I have had the same experience. Often times the questions from aspiring legal tech entrepreneurs center on struggling to understand how or where to begin. I have found that this leads some to overthink things and to not get going. I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Five More Questions About Digital Copyright Law

In my first post on Slaw last summer, I highlighted 5 questions that face digital copyright law. There are of course many unanswered questions in this remarkably dynamic area of the law. Below I discuss 5 more issues that are elaborated upon in my Digital Copyright Law book:

1. What is a copy in the digital age?

The copy concept in copyright law was simple before the internet. An author received compensation for copies purchased by consumers. Digital technologies, which are copy dependent for the production and transmission of content has created new kinds of copies. These are “technical copies” . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property

The Future of Law and “Intelligent” Technologies: Prophecies, Technologies and Opportunities – Part 2

In the first part of this blog post, we looked at the current benefits we are enjoying from technologies resulting from AI research. We also examined some risks accruing when AI approaches are deployed in legal activities where transparency and justifications are required. In the following lines, we will borrow from a recent study made of the impacts of AI on lawyers employment. We will also try to enumerate potential benefits of AI technologies in our own line of business, legal publishing.

In “Can Robots be Lawyers?” (forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, (Spring 2017), currently . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing, Legal Technology

Cultural Competence and the Next Generation of Lawyers and Lawyer Regulation

Every year, I have the pleasure of teaching first year law students at the University of Ottawa in a dispute resolution and professional responsibility course. A big part of the course involves having students gain “hands-on” experience through simulations where they interview clients, write client advice letters, negotiate with opposing counsel and conduct mediations. For someone with a passion for legal ethics like me, the course is extra fun because this practical experience is coupled with extensive instruction on professional responsibility issues. Among other things, at the end of the term, the students write a final paper reflecting on one . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Legal Research’s Easy Button Moment

I have been thinking of this blog post by Jean P. O’Grady from last September: “Lex Machina Launches New ‘Easy Button’ Analytics Apps to Compare Judges, Courts and Law Firms”. To my knowledge Lex Machina doesn’t literally call their system improvements an “easy button”, but the site developments and O’Grady’s description are symptomatic of this moment in how we discuss legal research: there is a desire to make legal research easier, and as technology improves this is becoming a reality.

In many cases this will be a great help to people who want to navigate the legal system . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Marketing Strategy: First, Ask the Right Questions

So often, law firm marketing discussions go something like this: “Billings are down, we should be doing more marketing” or “The associates aren’t busy, they should be marketing themselves” or “We need to grow the firm, we have to get out there and market.”

OK, good, fine, now what? The most common response is to leap straight to tactics: “Let’s do a seminar!” “We need a brochure.” (Yes, some lawyers still say that.) “The website sucks, we need a new one.” But without a strategy, these tactics are random, uncoordinated acts that will end up costing a lot of money, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

The Future of Law and “Intelligent” Technologies: Prophecies, Technologies and Opportunities – Part 1

Career prophets have been announcing the demise of the legal profession for decades already. According to some, the traditional lawyer will soon follow the way of telephone operators, bank clerks and travel agents. Recently, the prophecies have taken a new turn. While outsourcing, offshoring, legal Taylorism—all previous threats of course remain, we are now being forewarned about a new source of disruption: “intelligent software” in law. Once again, prophets insist that those who are not already into it are laggards, and by now we should all know what will happen to them.

In this post, I address the deployment of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing, Legal Technology

Publicly Funded Consumer ODR Is Now a Reality in Quebec

Ever since we started this regular column back in 2012, we’ve been defending a basic thesis: for consumer online dispute resolution (ODR) to succeed, it needs to be publicly funded and retailers need to be given a clear incentive to take part. This is the thesis we aimed to test when, on October 7th of 2016, the Cyberjustice Laboratory (the “Lab”), in collaboration with Quebec’ consumer protection agency (the Office de la protection du consommateur or “OPC”), and the ministère de la Justice du Québec, decided to launched a pilot project around the Lab’s Platform to Assist in . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

AI Takes Over Google Translate

You may have missed, during the holidays, the news that Google has replaced the technology underlying its Google Translate tool, going from a “phrase-based” system to neural networks (i.e., AI).

The improved technology was announced in September, but it has only recently been made available in the publicly available Google Translate (and only for the most common language pairings).

Translation of legal information is an important issue in Canada. First, language barriers faced by different groups (Indigenous people, Francophone minorities outside Québec, Anglophones in Québec and immigrants) are a significant component of the access to justice problems.

But . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Chevron’s Fair Share of Responsibility for Climate Change and Why It Matters

Wildfires. Drought. Flooding. Rising sea levels. Climate change is already reshaping and impacting BC communities in profound and frightening ways. As unchecked fossil fuel pollution continues to push global temperatures ever higher, we are frightened for our communities, for communities around the world, and for the world we leave our children. – Letter to BC local governments from community groups, 25 January 2017

On January 25, 2017, we, along with dozens of organizations from across British Columbia, sent a letter to each and every local government in the province – asking the Mayors and Councils to take action to demand . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Research Into Use of Dispute Resolution Boards in Large IT Projects

A new year means new opportunities and challenges.

For me, this means that, after years of gradual transition from being a legal advisor and advocate to focusing on acting as a neutral mediator and arbitrator, I’ve finally completed my metamorphosis, formally retiring from the practice of law as of the end of 2016.

One of my new projects for 2017 is with a working group of the International Technology Law Association (ITechLaw) that is preparing a report on the use of dispute resolution boards (DRBs) in large, long-term IT development and implementation contracts. We are also looking at . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution