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Archive for the ‘Legal Technology’ Columns

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

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]

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]

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]

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]
Posted in: Legal Technology