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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

The Hidden Costs of the Free Lunch

Everybody wants something for free. It’s human nature. And it’s rarely more prevalent than when it comes to technology. “It’s all just bits and bytes, why should it cost anything?” says one. “Information wants to be free” suggests another. 

Today’s generations have grown up in the age of Napster and Google and surveys indicate that there is almost an expectation that digital content, including music and movies, is free. Much to the chagrin of the entertainment industry who has been battling since the invention of the tape recorder and VCR to figure out how to keep making money off a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Lawyers, Engineers and Technology: A Case Study

Lawyers and engineers see the world differently. It is as if they speak different languages, and difficulties of mutual understanding arise. The problem is not so much that they use different words to describe the same thing but rather that they may use the same words to describe different things. It may be more helpful to think of lawyers and engineers as having different belief systems: the motivation for understanding the world and what makes it tick differ. One belief system is not more accurate or ‘true’ than the other, but they can have different practical consequences.

 So long as . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Less Madness, More Method

It is almost trite to say that you don’t computerise a mess, it simply makes it happen faster. The problem is the legal system, particularly litigation; and it is something we are stuck with, though changes are afoot. 

A leading Australian judge has recently sounded the death knell for the traditional system for litigating civil disputes and urged the legal profession to abandon it.

“There is no point in tinkering with the present system and its problems. It is time for a fresh start.”

US-based e-discovery guru, Ralph Losey has long advocated that the system is broken, and that most . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Old News

This is a reflection on the technologies we use to read and cite “the news”. For me, that involves both old news and breaking news. In any given week, I’m likely to read this “news” on websites (both open and closed), on newsprint, and on microfilm. I’ll listen to it on the radio and watch it on tv too. Yes, that’s all of the above. For reasons I’ll discuss below, I can’t predict that this complex, multimedia aspect of my reading life will be simplified anytime soon. I’m not advocating any such simplification either, though of course there are things . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Virtualization and Cloud Computing: Benefits and E-Discovery Implications

What exactly is virtualization and why is there so much buzz about it these days? Virtualization can occur in many forms, but most initially think of using virtualization to consolidate servers into a single hardware platform. Essentially, you can run multiple servers on a single piece of hardware, where each “server” has its own memory “footprint” within the host machine. Servers are the most common devices when firms embark down the virtualization path. There are many other forms of virtualization such as desktop, network and storage virtualization. Desktop virtualizations occur in the larger firms all the way down to solos. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Appy Lawyering

A favourite quote of mine is by Fred Bartlit at the 1994 ABA Techshow

We experiment with software. We buy, we try, we fail. The key to making it all pay off is in the re-engineering process — that is starting off with a blank slate and working from there.

With evaluation periods becoming commonplace, maybe Fred would now say, “we try, we buy, we fail”. Regardless, desktop and smartphone apps are now so abundant and relatively inexpensive that it is all too easy to head down a path of dependance on a program without realising it.

While your main . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Don’t Brick Your Law Practice

The term “brick” in computer parlance means to turn an otherwise usable computer into a useless piece of silicon and plastic. As a careful lawyer, you are already planning for disaster by performing regular backups, protecting your online and personal computer accounts with strong passwords, and so on. There are places in where your law practice software and hardware overlaps with your meatspace, where you become the cause of your law practice becoming a brick.

I liked how a panel on business continuity at the recent Law Society Solo and Small Firm Conference emphasized the mundane over the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The Apostille Convention: Authentication in Action

Last August I reviewed basic principles of authentication, in general and as applied to electronic documents. In that context I mentioned The Hague Convention of 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, known as the Legalization Convention or the Apostille Convention. Since Canada is considering acceding to this Convention, this column will review some of the issues involved in that process and in particular the technological frontiers of authentication that The Hague Conference on Private International Law is exploring with respect to electronic apostilles.


What is at stake in this discussion is the authentication of public . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Three Myths of Working With IT Consultants

We IT consultants are sort of a mystical bunch. People don’t seem to really understand what we do or how and in many cases we get called when people are desperate because all else has failed. Not many people call me when everything is working great. I want to take this opportunity to clear up three misconceptions people have about working with consultants:

1. We usually don’t need your passwords…and just as often don’t want them.

It amazes me how often I’ll show up at a site and the client will just hand me a sheet listing everybody’s account name . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Alternative Fee Arrangements: Their Popularity Soars

There was a time when many lawyers, settled in their ways, thought that they could ignore alternative fee arrangements. That day is clearly gone. The 2010 Fulbright Litigation Trends Survey announced that 51% of the corporate counsel responding to the survey were using some form of alternative fee arrangements.

Why? They cite lower costs first, then predictability, and then risk sharing. So what kind of AFAs do they favor? It’s a very mixed bag with fixed fees, conditional or contingent fees, blended rates, capped fees and performance/reward-based fees. Clearly, there is a lot of exploration going on and a lot . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Digital Evidence in Criminal Law – a New Tool for Understanding Courtroom Technology

Digital Evidence in Criminal Law is hot off the presses — the first in Canada to deal with digital evidence in a criminal law context. The book is so recent that I had to review a digital copy — rather fitting under the circumstances.

Released in late April 2011 it is destined to become the bible of digital evidence for criminal law litigators. Civil lawyers will also find it helpful reading even in their watered-down-rules-of-evidence world.

A wee caveat before I launch into the review: author Dan Scanlan has been my colleague in the Victoria Crown Counsel Office for the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The Core of Legal Technology

Law firm technology is experiencing pressure brought about by the success of consumer-oriented products. As the wave of iPad-toting lawyers begins to wash into the larger law firms, we’re seeing the logical result of the first law students arriving with their personal laptops at schools at the turn of the century. Some law schools initially identified a specific hardware for the students to purchase but that eventually gave way to the creation of systems that could be adapted to whatever technology the students presented.

Now law firms are beginning to adapt to these same consumerization challenges. They are not new . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology