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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

Good Old Hyperlinks

By the time I was figuring out my stance on artificial intelligence, the legal tech talk had already moved on to blockchain. So I decided to write about something even more outdated – hyperlinks.

Links are the backbone of (legal) information systems

In research information systems we use citation information heavily. In the legal field, the cited-citing connections allow us to group documents into smaller universes. This feature of legal information is being exploited by virtually all providers for use in hyperlinking, to create citators, to provide the ability to note-up documents, and to rank search results. Citations can be . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Equustek, Blockchain and Uncensorable Search

This summer, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc. matter. As you may have read, one of the major concerns with the decision is that it has the potential to open the door for a new type of censorship on the Internet. For instance, this EFF article on the decision is named “Top Canadian Court Permits Worldwide Internet Censorship”.

For the purpose of this post, I don’t need to take a stand and tell you if I think this case was rightly or wrongly decided. That said, it’s fair to assume . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Non-Horror Vendor Stories: Successful Relationships

My last two posts focussed on tips for vendor demos and vendor horror stories. I promised, though, I would be fair to the many excellent vendors in our ecosystem. In this final vendor-related post, I relay some “above and beyond” stories I’ve collected.

Coming Through with the Business Case

As our clients push us to provide better metrics on our legal services, so too have we turned this focus inwards. It’s hard to get a business case or project approved without some good numbers to back up the ask. This is where vendors can, and do, save the day.

About . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The Blockbuster That Is Blockchain: What It Means to the Practice of Law

Several years ago, a Canadian attorney and good friend of ours, invested $10,000 in bitcoin. Clearly, he is a lot smarter than us. We can’t even imagine the extent of his profit – several days before we started to write this article, bitcoin hit an all-time high of $4,991.66 on September 2, 2017. It is down slightly as we write, but our friend certainly hit a jackpot.

We become aware of bitcoin wallets a few years ago, as husbands (mostly) began to hide assets from their soon-to-be ex-wives in those wallets. And then came a barrage of ransomware attacks. Law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

SEC Weighs in on Initial Coin Offerings

As of August 2017, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) – a means of raising funds for a new cryptocurrency venture, whereby units of the new cryptocurrency are sold to early backers of the project in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies – were said to have collectively raised over $1.2 billion, surpassing early stage venture capital funding for internet companies. The value and nature of these transactions have, unsurprisingly, drawn the attention of regulators worldwide including a total ban on ICOs from the People’s Bank of China. On July 25, 2017, in response to criticism and concerns surrounding ICOs, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Prohibiting Access to Social Media: Reasonable Limits?

From time to time one reads of court orders banning people from using social media, usually in anticipation of trial but sometimes as part of a formal disposition.

For example, in R. v. Elliott, the defendant accused of harassment on Twitter was banned from using Twitter pending trial. Ultimately he was acquitted, and the ban was lifted. He had spent three years off Twitter.

A Nova Scotia court banned a teenaged defendant from social media for 21 months after his conviction for assault, uttering threat and criminal harassment. He was ordered to delete his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Smart Contracts Are Not What You Think

It is 2035. The US dollar is not a reserve currency anymore because nobody buys oil or borrows from the IMF or World Bank. IRS, once the biggest US-dollar creditor in the world, is struggling to tax decentralized cryptographically protected businesses freely operating across borders. A lot fewer economic players need US dollars because their debts (taxes, loans, and invoices) are not denominated in US dollars.

What does this have to do with smart contracts and lawyers you ask?

If technology, new energy sources, and rising third-world wealth cause these cataclysmic changes in the financial system, cryptoeconomies (aka blockchains) will . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law

How Far Are Lawyers From Drafting Smart Contracts?

I wrote in my last post that the “blockchain will alter the way we think about contracts and several types of legal documents will effectively be software-like.” This is a truism for many cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Of course, I was referring to “smart contracts” even if I didn’t used the expression “smart contracts” for buzzword avoidance purposes. I suggested that some lawyers would be involved in drafting these “instruments”.

Before we start, there’s some confusion about what a “smart contract” actually means, and it’s at the root of a certain amount of similar confusion in the legal sphere about the immediate . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Can You Trust Your Expert Witnesses With Confidential Data?

Not always. There was a recent case in which confidential data was not, to put it mildly, well handled. The corporate defendant, a mortgage servicer, was accused of violating a consumer’s privacy rights based on the manner in which it handled collection calls. The defendant protected its customer data with layers of network security consistent with best practices and ISO guidelines. During discovery, the plaintiff’s experts received the calling data and copies of the customer service call recordings.

Both experts had unrelated full-time day jobs. Their expert witness work was a side business run out of their homes. Neither expert . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Proprietary Algorithms for Public Purposes

It is now generally recognized that “code is law”: how computers process the millions of on/off, yes/no signals in their binary universe can have legal effects beyond their obvious output. Deciding how computers handle data they receive is a matter of choice, and those choices have consequences. These consequences arise whether or not the software writers, the coders, are aware of their choices or assumptions.

Two developments have brought the coding issue back to the fore in public discussion. The first is the computerization of what used to be purely mechanical devices. The analysis of physical phenomena is done, pursued . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

What Technology Will Do to Law Practice (And It’s Not What You Think)

The conventional wisdom is that technology will make law practice more efficient. It will commoditize some lawyers and give super powers to others. In either case, it will improve “access to justice.” This view is based on one universal bias in the legal and near-legal community: that law and justice have inherent value and are necessary for all aspects of the society to function properly.

This belief has spread to the near-legal community such as law practice technology vendors. All of their products are designed to increase the efficiency of lawyers or of the legal process or to serve lawyers . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Do Lawyers and Law Students Have the Technical Skills to Meet the Needs of Future Legal Jobs?

As technology is increasingly used within law practices to streamline legal processes and more efficiently deliver services to clients, an important question has arisen within legal professional and academic circles: Do lawyers and law students have the technical skills to meet the needs of future legal jobs?

If you have ever tried to innovate or introduce technologies to a law firm or to lawyers, then you know how challenging it can be to convince lawyers to use new technologies. Harder still is convincing them not revert to the old and outmoded way of doing things, but to persist in the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology