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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns


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

The Speed of Change (Spoiler Alert: It’s Slow)

The buzzword bingo I played during LegalTech NY and ReInvent Law was won by the word “change”. It was an amazing firehose-of-information week, and getting off the plane I was committed to picking up Kotter’s Leading Change book (again), plus I ordered Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations book. But the February blues of a Toronto winter got the best of me and I ended up reading Switch instead. (It was an easier and happier read as it turned out.)

I came away from New York with the (rather obvious) thought that: change will be slower if solutions don’t make things easier, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

A Scary “Mask”: Tag, You’re It!

Remember the childhood game of chasing all of your friends in an attempt to merely lay a finger on them so they could assume the role of the “it” person? It doesn’t feel much different these days when dealing with technology. There are a ton of “bad guys” trying to compromise your technology for a variety of reasons. Once your computer is infected it may be a long time before you are even aware of the compromise.

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

There are so many definitions of APT that it can make your head spin. It can refer to an . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Your Passwords S****

One of the most significant threats to client confidential and private information in law firms is bad passwords. Unless lawyers and paralegals are substantially different from the general public, we’re using the same bad practices when we create and re-use passwords as everyone else.

You’ve already heard all the suggestions on using better passwords, so I will leave that dead horse alone. In fact, I’ll suggest that you forget it. If you think you can create sufficient secure passwords for all of your offline and online accounts and devices, you’re a better person than me. The rest of us should . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology