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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

Electronic Signatures Revisited (But Why?)

Is an electronic signature valid in law? Twenty-five years after the Internet was opened to commercial use, that may seem to be a surprising question. An off-the-cuff response might be, “why shouldn’t it be?” The law does not prescribe a form or medium for a signature. Any method of associating a legal entity (human being, corporation, government) with a piece of information (document, text, inscription) will do the job, if the legal entity had the intention that the association should be for the purpose of signing it.

A signature may have many purposes, of course: to indicate consent, to show . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Blockchain? Probably Not.

Most of what you are being told about the future of blockchain in the legal profession is nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong. Blockchain is very cool. And I am the furthest thing from a luddite you will find in the legal profession. I’m a part-time LLM student at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and Department of Computing Science studying the automation of legal reasoning. I’m an ABA Innovation Fellow for 2018/2019, writing open-source software to automate analogy to prior cases. I am an advocate for the adoption of technology in law.

So I’m enthusiastic about blockchain being adopted . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Doctors: They’re Just Like Us (Lawyers)

In 2009, Dr. Atul Gawande published The Checklist Manifesto, to general acclaim. Even Malcolm Gladwell and The New York Times loved it. And it sent many legal knowledge managers into paroxysms of delight. The book helped many of us move from the drudgery of drafting templates and precedents to simplifying processes and managing matters by checklists. This dovetailed nicely with a then-emerging focus on legal project management and process improvement.

Once again, Dr. Atul Gawande is a step ahead of most of us in the legal technology community, by writing about doctors’ pure, burning hatred of the software . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Interested in Testing the Potential of AI on Your Own Dataset?

For the last year or so, our Lexum Lab team has been playing around with machine learning algorithms. ”Telling the fortune” of users based on their search history was one option, but this example showed us that it may not turned out according to plan. Instead our team came up with two applications promising to considerably enhance legal information retrieval. And we are currently looking for partner organizations who are interested in trying them out.

The first one is called Facts2Law. Using the latest deep learning techniques, it predicts the most relevant Canadian case law (and eventually legislation) when presented . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing, Legal Technology

Two Recent ABA Ethics Opinions: More Law Firms Relying on the Cloud

The ABA released ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 482, Ethical Obligations Related to Disasters, on September 19, 2018. The opinion may be found at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba_formal_opinion_482.authcheckdam.pdf. In the opinion, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility clarifies the ethical obligations attorneys face when disaster strikes.

Lawyers must follow the duty of communication required by Rule 1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires lawyers to communicate regularly with clients and to keep clients reasonably apprised of their cases. Following a disaster, a lawyer must evaluate available methods to maintain communication with clients. The opinion instructs . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

CanLII’s Future as a Canadian Primary Law Cooperative

“[T]here is a need to unbundle CanLII’s data if the full potential of innovation in legal information is to be realized.”

“[T]hrough 13 [now 19] years (from concept to today) and over $20M [now $40M] of investment from Canadian law societies through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, [CanLII] has built up a solid lead and in the “free access to law” business and its central position may now be having a negative effect on innovation in legal information.”

Nearly 6 years ago, as President and CEO of CanLII, I wrote those words here on . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

Bitcoin, Not Blockchain for Governments Everywhere

Governments are among the biggest consumers of technology. Amazon has a whole separate AWS cloud for governments. I would not be surprised if very, very few corporations approach, for example, US government’s database transaction volume. Imagine hundreds of millions of tax filings, border crossings, purchases, sales, emails, surveillance records, court files, and highway traffic data stored, processed and retrieved every year. Wait, strike court files. Those are probably still handled in paper form or through private databases, at least in North America.

If the government is so tech hungry, will it eventually become the biggest user of blockchain? The answer . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law

SI – Subtracted Intelligence

In our newfound enthusiasm of all things AI, some might take issue with the word “Artificial” and prefer “Augmented”, or the less pretentious “Added” to reflect a “man+machine” future, rather “man or machine” one. Just as there is a rule that scuba divers operate in pairs to look out for each other, maybe machines should be paired with a human minder/beneficiary.

Trusting them is an issue for Ms. Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, according to the article titled “Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning” in the New York Times:

“While some people

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Technology

Trade Agreements to Promote Electronic Commerce II

A couple of years ago I wrote a column here about using trade agreements to promote laws among the contracting states that would promote electronic commerce. The example discussed was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, then in draft form.

There have been some developments since then that may be of interest.

CPTPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership had a bit of a bumpy ride, as President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement before it was signed. The other parties to the negotiation made some changes to the text then signed it under the name Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Women in LegalTech

At this year’s ILTACON (great conference, as always!), I popped by a hospitality suite to let them know my firm had just sent out a vendor brief for some consulting services. ILTACON was in full swing, and the brief had gone to a generic email address. I thought I’d make a personal visit to ensure they knew about it.

The experience was, shall we say, not awesome. Five – five – vendor reps stood in the suite talking amongst themselves. No introductions. No offer of coffee. No chitchat. No handshake. I was forced to blurt out my reason for visiting. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

“Boring Game Changers” to Improve Your Practice

I have attended my share of legal tech conferences in the last few years (as we all do), and I couldn’t help but notice that in comparison with events from, say, 5 years ago, many of them didn’t have any actionable content for attendees. The audience (lawyers, by a large majority) was sent home at the end of the day feeling like there was nothing left to do but watch the (AI, blockchain, you name it) train pass.

Yet, I’m a firm believer that there is still a lot of room for significant productivity improvements in a fairly traditional legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The 2017 DLA Piper Breach Revisited

It was more than a year ago that the 3,600-lawyer global megafirm DLA Piper was brought to its knees by a data breach in June of 2017. One of the questions we hear most often when we lecture is, “If DLA Piper can be breached, how do the rest of us stand a chance of preventing a data breach?”

It’s a valid question. The reaction last year varied with the size of the law firm. Larger law firms focused a lot on purchasing or increasing their cyberinsurance coverage after the DLA Piper story made the headlines. They also amped up . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology