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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

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] “The Apostille Convention: Authentication in Action”

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] “Three Myths of Working With IT Consultants”

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] “Alternative Fee Arrangements: Their Popularity Soars”

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

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] “The Core of Legal Technology”

Posted in: Legal Technology

Electronic Real Estate Transactions

Much of the legal status of electronic communications in Canada (and elsewhere) rests on legislation based on the United Nations Model Law on Electronic Commerce of 1996. The Model Law’s main Canadian implementation has been through the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, adopted in 1999. All the common law provinces, Yukon and Nunavut have enacted the Uniform Act, as shown here. Quebec adopted its Act to establish a legal framework for information technology in 2001, mainly based on the principles of the Model Law though not using the Uniform Act as its template. The electronic documents part of the . . . [more] “Electronic Real Estate Transactions”

Posted in: Legal Technology

Voice and Video

In technology today, and especially on the web, there is a constant push for the new shiny thing. Lately it seems like that new shiny thing comes in two flavors: Voice Recognition and Video. In my (not-uncontroversial) opinion those are two of the most overrated technologies in the business right now.


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Undoubtedly true, but honestly…don’t use a thousand words when 56 words will do. It seems like today every website is trying to video-enable itself and recently I even saw a pitch for video e-mail! That’s fine when the . . . [more] “Voice and Video”

Posted in: Legal Technology

What Not Re When Not

In the mid-nineties, I was asked to demonstrate in court our evidence display system for a major prosecution. Instead of my usual script and demonstration, Senior Counsel for the Defence asked that I demonstrate by editing a document ID on our interactive system on the fly. While the system was not built to do that, particularly in court, I thought I could do it, though not quickly. Then he asked for another document to be changed, and before I had finished, another, and then half a dozen in rapid succession. In my efforts to impress the Court, I had fallen . . . [more] “What Not Re When Not”

Posted in: Legal Technology

A Column About ZIP

The ISO has been Studying ZIP

Annex A of "New Work Item Proposal on Document Packaging" (April 12, 2010), ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 N 1414, said:

Today many electronic documents are embodied not in wholly proprietary formats, but in formats built on the foundation of standards.

One increasingly common approach is to specify formats in which XML documents and other digital resources are stored together in an archive based on a minimal implementation of what is known as the “ZIP” format.

Examples of document-centric formats which take this approach include:
• ISO/IEC 26300 (Open Document Format for Office Applications)

. . . [more] “A Column About ZIP”
Posted in: Legal Technology

PowerPoint: Evidence Presentation

There should be a point to using a PowerPoint for evidence presentation.

Don’t just launch into using PowerPoint because it’s great fun and easy to use. Decide to use it only after reflecting on how it would enhance your case. Don’t just reach for technology for technology’s sake. 

There will be times when a simple story told by a witness unadorned by technology is better. Think of a lawsuit based on a person recounting the story of being sexually abused as a child. Courtroom technology in such a case could distract and may even be perceived as trivializing the emotion . . . [more] “PowerPoint: Evidence Presentation”

Posted in: Legal Technology

Operation “Night Dragon”: A Data Breach Illuminated

Hackers and cybercriminals have been having a field day recently. Even big oil companies with expansive security budgets can’t keep the bad guys out. In an operation dubbed “Night Dragon” by security company McAfee, Chinese hackers have been targeting several global oil and energy companies since November of 2009, in an attempt to steal sensitive proprietary information about oil and gas field bids and operations. You would think that oil companies would have first class security and defense-in-depth. Apparently, not so.

Law firms should take these attacks against big oil as a warning – and should bear in mind the . . . [more] “Operation “Night Dragon”: A Data Breach Illuminated”

Posted in: Legal Technology

These Are the Droid Apps You’re Looking For

Android-powered phones and tablets are an increasingly prevalent option for lawyers. Android was the operating system on one-third of the smartphones sold in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal. The power of these devices is not the operating system, though. Just as with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, the real punch comes from the small software apps that you install on your device. Unlike Apple, you don’t need any intermediary software like iTunes to access the Android Market. Let’s take a look at some of the apps you might want to grab for your . . . [more] “These Are the Droid Apps You’re Looking For”

Posted in: Legal Technology