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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

Electronic Seals

Canada’s electronic commerce legislation in Canada tells us how to create an electronic document that will satisfy a legal requirement that the information must be in writing. Most such legislation also tells us that a legal requirement that a document be signed is satisfied by an electronic signature. In the common law provinces and the territories, however, it stops short, however, of telling us how to create a sealed document.

This article addresses that shortcoming, if it is one. It will restrict itself to seals on transactional documents. Seals by public authorities will be the subject of a future column . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology


Namespaces are used in XML to avoid the problems caused by what would, without the use of namespaces, be latent ambiguities.

A long time ago, in a place far away, there were two ships called “Peerless”. The plaintiff in Raffles v. Wichelhaus (1864), 2 H. & C. 906 (LLMC), 159 E.R. 375 (Hein), 33 L.J.N.S. 160, claimed he had a contract with the defendants for the delivery of some cotton to the defendants in Liverpool “ex Peerless from Bombay” (a.k.a. Mumbai). The defendants claimed they had refused to accept delivery from the Peerless which had sailed . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The Basics of Using PowerPoint in Court

You’ve built your evidentiary PowerPoint. It’s ready to take to court. It’s chock full of interesting and persuasive images, maps, diagrams documents etc. needed to prove your case. What’s next?

Previous columns covered the basics of creating an evidentiary PowerPoint (PPT). In this column I’ll begin to cover considerations for using a PPT in court.

The PowerPoint as an Exhibit

A crucial first step is to decide is how the PowerPoint will be filed as an exhibit.

Like any object or photo used in court the PowerPoint (PPT), once referred to by a witness or displayed in court, must be . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Is It Possible to Secure Law Firm Data?

To answer the question, we interviewed our friend and colleague Matt Kesner, the CIO of Fenwick & West LLP, a West Coast law firm representing high tech and bio-tech clients. Matt has “walked the walk” when it comes to security and protecting data.

Is the data at a law firm really different or are there “special” considerations when dealing with security within a law firm? Matt suggested that there are a lot of tensions at play within a law firm. There’s always the tension between IT and end-users. The end-users are more difficult to tame and are more independent than . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Holier Than Thou

We talk about connecting to the Internet, a pipe through which travels all of the information flowing into or out of the law practice. It is not that simple, though, and that oversimplification can mean that you overlook possible holes that might make your client or law practice information vulnerable to access by others.

Any Port in a Storm

The reason the pipe analogy works is that, while in transit, your information really is flowing amid lots of other information. But the place that it ends up – or starts from – is determined in part by what the request . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

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