Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

Best of Breed v. Integrated v. Piecemeal v. Outsider

Just as the business of law is at the start of a revolution, the platforms supporting firms, Practice Management Systems (PMS), are facing similar challenges. There are the traditional PMS brands that have been around for decades, and others that seem to have sprung up almost overnight.

Some with many thousands of users, and a maturity that deserves more attention than a feature checklist comparison typically provides. Just this week I received a phone call from a firm that has tried/used 4 PMS’s in the last few years. Experience ranged from “awful” and “incomplete” for two local under-capitalized products, to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The T-Shaped Lawyer: Does the “T” Stand for Technology?

You’ve probably heard about the T-shaped lawyer. The origin of the term was the “T-shaped person” – a reference which first appeared in a 1991 London newspaper article on the subject of computing jobs. The premise is that a T-shaped person has a depth of knowledge in one discipline (this is the vertical stroke of the T) as well as a breadth of knowledge across multiple disciplines that allows for collaboration and innovation (the horizontal stroke of the T).

C-suite executives talk with enthusiasm about seeking T-shaped employees who can successfully collaborate and innovate with our rapidly changing times.

As . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Generation Flux & the T-Shaped Professional

Gartner recently downgraded their forecast for IT spend in 2014, and it caught my eye. According to Mr Lovelock, one of the reasons for this lowering of projection is how quickly we are moving to what he called, “The Third Age of IT”. Apparently 1980 to 2000 was the “IT Craftsmanship Age” where we were building all those (now legacy) systems and putting together our IT departments. And then from 2000 to the present is what’s being called the “IT Industrialization Age” where we’re currently focused on automating and efficiency. In the legal industry I’d say we’re still very much . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology


Around 30 years ago, the Macintosh said Hello, as shown in this impressive 5 min video. It introduced us to user-friendly computing, including visual interfaces, multimedia and an early form of mobile computing as it was designed to be luggable. However, even its IBM mainframe joke to “never trust a computer you can’t lift” wasn’t about to convince you that this was really a human. Not so the recent Turing Test where some of the judges were fooled by the computer into believing they were conversing with a 13-year old, rather than a computer. This follows on from Watson . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Intermediary Liability Revisited: Part 1 – Examples

A dozen years ago I wrote an article about regulating activity on the Internet (‘Solving Legal Issues in Electronic Government: Jurisdiction, Regulation, Governance‘, (2002), 1 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology No. 3 p. 1 ) in which I suggested that a number of successful regulatory strategies focused on intermediaries, as the principal targets of regulation might be hard to find or hard to persuade. Intermediaries often had the benefit (to the regulator) of being large, stable and solvent – and they often cared about their reputation for legality and good citizenship.

Since that time the interest of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Where Are Your Encryption Keys?

Businesses that do not encrypt their information risk losing it. Legal professionals risk private and confidential client information when they do not take steps to secure it properly. Your operating system has encryption built in, through Windows Bitlocker or Mac File Vault II. If you are one of those lawyers on an older version of Windows, use Truecrypt or Diskcryptor to encrypt your hard drive.

Full disk encryption is a baseline now for legal professionals. If you must use portable drives, use your encryption software on them as well. In reality, all computers and drives are portable, which means . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

“It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.”

Clay Shirky, way back in 2008, had a hypothesis: that it isn’t a case of too much information; it’s that we haven’t yet got the filters to help us manage that overload.

And we have to assume that the amount of information we’re already getting will continue to grow. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, if we are to deal with that firehose aimed at our brains, we need to get smarter; because if we don’t we’re just going to get wetter.

When looking for recommendations of where to eat in a new city, for example, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Search Engine Optimization: What Really Works for Law Firms?

Boy oh boy, is this a hotly debated topic – and we happened to attend a very illuminating presentation by Mark Jacobsen, the Senior Director of Strategic Development and Thought Leadership for FindLaw (long position title!). While I am normally somewhat skeptical of FindLaw (after all, they are in the business of selling websites/SEO), Mark did a great job of presenting a study done by FindLaw in a “teaching” rather than a “selling” way.

His presentation was entitled “The Futility of Chasing Silver Bullets: An Analysis of Aggregate Search Performance for Law Firm Websites.” They apparently like long titles at . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Search You

Lawyers want to find information quickly. I often hearken back to now-increasingly dated LexisNexis workplace productivity surveys – 2008 and 2010 – for data on this need. Desktop search periodically raises its profile as one of the tools that lawyers can use. Vivian Manning and Catherine Sanders Reach have both taken a look at some of the tools commonly discussed in legal circles and they provide a good short list of products to review.

We had a recent need for a simple tool to roll out to a small group of researchers and decided to take a look at desktop . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Wings for the Mind

Interest is returning to the potential of expert systems or knowledge-based systems in law. This is in part due to the increased capabilities of machines at a time when the business of law is undergoing dramatic change. It comes with the obligatory “us vs them” talk of lawyers work being taken over by machines that learn. While I have always found the binary thinking of computers attractive compared to some legal reasoning, in this case, an either/or approach is too blinkered.

Hence, I recently tweeted rather cryptically for the sake of brevity: Tools, like lawyers, imperfect alone, hence need each . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Electronic Signatures and Election Registration:  Case Comment on Getup Ltd. v Electoral Commissioner (Australia)

One of the principles governing how the law has come to terms with electronic or digital technology is that of media neutrality: the law should work the same way regardless of the medium by which information is created, communicated or stored. We do not want to create a parallel system of legal rules that apply only when certain technologies are used. We may need to adapt our usual rules to deal with special characteristics or applications of the technology, but these should disrupt normal expectations as little as possible. The challenge is to judge how far it is appropriate to . . . [more]

Posted in: Case Comment, Legal Technology

Dave Winer’s Outliner, Fargo

With his latest project Fargo, Dave Winer puts outliners where they belong: everywhere. Fargo runs in your web browser and stores your data in your Dropbox folder. This combination of browser and cloud puts the outliner everywhere making it a good choice for anyone looking for ubiquitous note taking and writing capabilities.

Why an outliner?

The short answer is that you can reduce most writing to an outline, a series of expandable points or topics. If you think about it for a minute it is easy to see most legal writing as an outline. Many of those course outlines . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology