The future of legal search will be embedded in artificial intelligence.

The future of legal search will be embedded in artificial intelligence.

Bob Ambrogi is an experienced and talented journalist who covers the legal profession. And all of that means he has the essential element of skepticism. So when he covers the evolving horse race in legal research, I tend to trust his takeaways.

Oh, you didn’t know there’s a horse race? Well, that could be a problem. Because strategic thinkers are assessing the best and most efficient ways to do legal research. Time was, we’d all sit at tables with mounds of books. And don’t forget your Shepard’s, unless you like malpractice claims.

We’ve advanced, of course, and most all of us know the ins and outs of some legal software, be it Lexis, Westlaw, Fastcase, Casemaker … what have you.

But the world is not standing still while the Lexises of the world (Lexii?) run the board. Instead, ROSS has entered the scene.

You may know ROSS Intelligence as the artificial-intelligence tool that has become adept at beating world-class chess pros. Bored, or something, ROSS has turned its attention to the legal field. I’m guessing there may be a few extra dollars in the legal field rather than in board games.

It was bound to happen, but someone has made a head-to-head (byte-to-byte) comparison of Westlaw, Lexis, and ROSS.

The takeaway: In certain areas, those first two had better get to the gym, because they are being outpaced by their artificial intelligence cohort.

You can read all of Bob’s takeaways here.

Part of the research into ROSS Intelligence included the user experience. (Source: Blue Hill Research)

Part of the research into ROSS Intelligence included the user experience. (Source: Blue Hill Research)

As you’ll see and maybe appreciate, he couches his conclusions with a number of caveats—not the least of which, the test was performed in a practice area—bankruptcy—in which ROSS was initially developed. So maybe that robot intelligence simply is most at home on that playing field.

But its competitors probably should not reside in that comfortable excuse. Clearly, the search landscape is changing.

And of course, in that change may be opportunities for lawyers. Especially those who are forward-thinking and recognize the strategic advantage in better, more efficient search.

Meantime, if you want an even deeper dive, here is the report from Blue Hill Research, the company that did the comparison tests, and detail from the ROSS folks themselves.

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what's hot and not in law practice

On a regular basis, Bob Denney puts himself and his judgment out there and predicts what will be the coming year’s hot—and cold—law practice areas.

He recently did so again, and I encourage you to read his prognostications.

In the meantime, here are a few he mentioned that made me pause and wonder how lawyers and law firms are responding to these new pushes and pulls. As Bob says:

Social media. Continues to be far more effective for building individual lawyer reputations than for firms.

Competition. It’s no longer just from other law firms. It’s now coming from two other directions: Non-legal business entities like LegalZoom and, for large firms, more and more from the clients themselves who are using their legal departments as well as alternate service providers.

Cybersecurity. While many firms have developed plans for reacting to a cyberattack, many more have still not developed or implemented cybersecurity plans to prevent such attacks. One overlooked factor is what actually constitutes a breach. Some firms regard any unsanctioned access of a firm system as a breach, while others do not regard it as a breach until something — data, files or money — has been taken.

Scamblogging. A category of online writing by debt-burdened law school graduates who are convinced their law schools misled them about their opportunities for employment.

What’s growing in your law practice? If it’s a niche or topic that surprises you, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

modern law practice technology tools niche

instagram-terms-of-service

An Instagram employee takes a video using Instagram’s new video function at Facebook’s corporate headquarters during a media event in Menlo Park, Calif. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

If you had to guess what documents are most central to your daily life and to your future possibilities, I’d wager many Americans would point to works like the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Probably because they think that’s how they should answer.

I am the biggest fan of those documents, but that answer might not be entirely correct. Instead, I’d point you to those below-the-radar Terms of Service that populate the legal life of every app you use. And that means they populate your life too, like it or not.

I’ve written about terms of service before, and I find these tiny little, unassuming adhesion contracts to be fascinating. I wrote here about a change to the Snapchat ToS.

And for good measure, let me re-share a Venn diagram that explains the intersection of law and love. (Spoiler alert: It’s complicated.)

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition. love technology law

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition.

This past week I read a terrific article (by the similarly terrific Amy Wang) about efforts to make terms of service more understandable, especially to youngsters. (Hat-tip to Wayne Rainey for the lead on the article.)

The Washington Post story was driven by the January 4 release of a report called “Growing Up Digital,” which examined young people’s interactions with those ever-present tech marvels that transform—and complicate—our lives.

And where good things happen, I’m never surprised to see a lawyer in the mix. The story tells how one of the task force members was charged with trying to redraft the Instagram terms of service to make them understandable to teens and other humans.

So that’s what London-based privacy lawyer Jenny Afia did.

Here’s a bit from the story:

Lawyer Jenny Afia rewrote the Instagram terms of service so kids would know their privacy rights.

Lawyer Jenny Afia rewrote the Instagram terms of service so kids would know their privacy rights.

“Afia was a member of a ‘Growing Up Digital’ task force group convened by the Children’s Commissioner for England to study Internet use among teens and the concerns children might face as they grow up in the digital age. The group found more than a third of Internet users are younger than 18, with 12- to 15-year-olds spending more than 20 hours a week online. Most of those children have no idea what their privacy rights are, despite all of them agreeing to terms and conditions before starting their social media accounts, Afia said. The task force, which included experts from the public and private sector, worked for a year and released its report Wednesday [Jan. 4].”

If you’ve ever read terms of service (and I hope you do), the next statement won’t surprise you: “The group ran Instagram’s terms and conditions through a readability study and found that it registered at a postgraduate reading level, Afia said.”

Fascinating and important stuff. Though Instagram wouldn’t comment for the story (probably upon advice of the same lawyers who drafted their ToS), here’s hoping efforts like this make a dent in the way these important, meaning-laden documents are drafted.

Once again, here’s a link to the complete Post story.

And you can read the complete “Growing Up Digital” report here.

Blogging (even a wee bit) may help curb your technology fears.

Blogging (even a wee bit) may help curb your technology fears.

We’re midway through November, and I thought I’d share my wish (early New Year’s resolution?) regarding courage and technology.

That’s what I wrote about in the November Arizona Attorney Magazine, and I’ve posted my column below.

You can read the whole terrific issue here.

Someone—or someTHING—at ASU knows my name.

That was my somewhat disconcerting realization as I strolled through the new ASU Beus Center for Law and Society last month. Besides being filled with real, live humans, the building also has impressively sized screens scattered throughout, which offer information—often personalized for those who downloaded a free app.

Seeing your name appear on a screen as you approach falls somewhere on the creepy scale, let’s admit. My first impression was like something out of Blade Runner—Siri with bad attitude. But I had to admit that the ’tude was all mine. In fact, I came to be charmed by the devices, created by New York-based interactive design firm Unified Field.

Remember how odd GPS seemed, and now we can’t live without it? These screens are like that, HAL minus the antisocial personality.

Tomas Rossant, Ennead Architects, and Tom Williams, ASU, demonstrate an interactive screen in the ASU Beus Center for Law & Society, Aug. 10, 2016.

Tomas Rossant, Ennead Architects, and Tom Williams, ASU, demonstrate an interactive screen in the ASU Beus Center for Law & Society, Aug. 10, 2016.

Those screens are one of the things I spoke about at the California Bar Leaders Conference in September. Tasked with discussing communications beyond 2016, I also mentioned wearable technology, cloud services, Big Data, and more. I even snuck in a suggestion to get blogging.

Ultimately, though, I said that what I was really discussing was not tools, great as they can be, but a futurist outlook. Not video options, but experimentation. Not social media, but fearlessness. To convey my point, I shared more than a few photos.

One photo I snapped at Chicago’s Midway Airport. A narrow hallway, more of an alley, could easily be missed in the blink of an eye. The 40-foot dead-end meandered off the concourse, and what it held was an archaeological dig, of sorts—the airport’s land-line phones, a bank of telephone directories, and newspaper dispensers, for good measure.

The alley’s sole occupant sat at a telephone. Based on attire and brief-bag, I’m guessing he was an attorney—the only one who would partake of the mausoleum of ancient technologies. Is anyone surprised?

Advanced thinking is not what draws you into Midway Airport's Mausoleum of Ancient Technologies.

Advanced thinking is not what draws you into Midway Airport’s Mausoleum of Ancient Technologies.

Another photo I shared was snapped by my older daughter Willa when she was 3 or 4. She was so pleased by that picture of me—though she did cut my head off.

Both photos enliven the futurist impulse and remind me of technology advice from UC-Berkeley professor Richard Hernandez: Start even if you feel you’re not ready. And when it comes to cutting off heads in photos—and tech generally—the imperfect but genuine trumps the perfect but robotic—every time. Let’s get fearless.

A sans-head portrait of me by my daughter, circa 1999.

A sans-head portrait of me by my daughter, circa 1999.

Citrix Sharefile logo

Citrix ShareFile wondered how lawyers use the cloud. So they looked into it.

I occasionally share information and tools from member-service providers. Today, let’s think about … the cloud.

Citrix ShareFile was curious about how many lawyers are using the cloud for their work. And being helpful people, they provided their findings in an easy-to-digest infographic.

Being helpful myself, I’ve parsed it out for you down below.

Please note that Citrix understands lawyers and their needs. How do we know that? Well, they’ve even got footnotes—7 of them—in their infographic. How lawyer-friendly is that?

And as long as we’re on the subject, I urge you to read Bob Ambrogi’s insightful article here. It discusses the fact that many lawyers still say they are hesitant to operate their law practice in the cloud. But one of the unique findings is that lawyers may already be operating there and don’t even know it.

As Bob reports:

Lawyers remain conflicted (surprise!) over using the cloud for legal work.

Lawyers remain conflicted (surprise!) over using the cloud for legal work.

“Every year, the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center publishes the Legal Technology Survey Report, a survey of the legal profession’s use of technology. The 2016 survey is now out, and it contains some surprising findings about lawyers and the cloud. (The full survey costs $1,995 and separate volumes cost $350 each.)”

“According to the survey, only 38 percent of lawyers say they have ever used cloud-based software for law-related tasks. That percentage is only a slight budge from the prior three years, during which the percentage hovered around 31 percent. Fifty-three percent say they have never used cloud-based software, and 10 percent have no idea whether they have or not.”

That’s right: 10 percent do not know if they have used the cloud.

Maybe we need to understand what the cloud is before we go dissing it, eh?

Before I forget, here is the great resource Bob Ambrogi named, the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

And, finally, here is what Citrix can tell us about our complicated relationship with the cloud. (As always, click to biggify.)

Apps do a lot, but have you read their terms of use?

Apps do a lot, but have you read their terms of use?

This past weekend, when I had a few spare moments, I was perusing the terms of use of my Snapchat account.

What, doesn’t everyone do that?

Probably not. But we occasionally should wonder a little more about the legal side of those app-tastic tools.

For instance, I was struck by the open approach at the very top of those terms. In fact, they highlight a binding arbitration provision you may be agreeing to. The ALL-CAPS are theirs:

“ARBITRATION NOTICE: WE WANT TO LET YOU KNOW UP FRONT THAT THESE TERMS CONTAIN AN ARBITRATION CLAUSE A LITTLE LATER ON. EXCEPT FOR CERTAIN TYPES OF DISPUTES MENTIONED IN THAT ARBITRATION CLAUSE, YOU AND SNAPCHAT AGREE THAT DISPUTES BETWEEN US WILL BE RESOLVED BY MANDATORY BINDING ARBITRATION, AND YOU AND SNAPCHAT WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT OR CLASS-WIDE ARBITRATION.”

Charming, in a way—though certainly driven by courts that have looked askance at such provisions when they are hidden away, deep down in legalese. But no one who glanced at even the top sentence of Snap’s term could miss that blunt warning.

Turns out, I could have opted out of the requirement of mandatory binding arbitration, simply by sending a letter to that effect to their snail-mail address (within 30 days of these changed terms).

Did I? No, though I considered it simply as a fun exercise (and a second blog post!). I passed on the legal Bartleby moment partly through laziness. But partly also because I’m just conspiracy-theory-amenable enough that I would fear they’d take the six, or eight, or 10 decline-letters they receive every month and “accidentally” close our accounts.

Irrational? I get it. Whatevs.

And apparently, I’m not the only one fascinated by terms of service. Just this morning, the lead question in the ABA Journal’s legal-news quiz focused on PokemonGo’s TofS. So there:

PokemonGo terms of service was a subject in an ABA Journal news quiz this week. Do you know the answer? I did.

PokemonGo terms of service was a subject in an ABA Journal news quiz this week. Do you know the answer? I did.

Meantime, to add to our social media joy, how many of us are aware that social media clauses in prenuptial agreements are now a thing?

Plastic bride and groom with gavel, on white - divorce conceptIt’s true. Not only might you want to keep grandma’s stocks and grandpa’s bullion out of the hands of your formerly betrothed. Now, you want them to keep their hands off your social media assets.

Romantic, I know.

Read the essay by Jaburg Wilk attorney Jason Castle here. And follow him on Twitter @CastleAzlaw @Jaburg_Wilk

As Jason tells us:

“For example, the clause would address what and how information is shared whether it is positive, negative, insulting, embarrassing or includes flattering photos, images, or other content. I recommend keeping the clause as broad as possible to accommodate the rapidly growing technology because the technology of today will be outdated within 10 years. I also believe prior to marriage it is important for the parties to clearly understand what they each define as private and what is acceptable to be shared with others. Another component of a social media clause can include the ability to monitor the other spouse’s social media activities.”

And that’s even before he gets to the awfulness of revenge porn. I mean, people are the worst.

What new technology–law–love mashups have you come across recently? (And do you also read terms of use of your apps? Please say you do.)

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition. love technology law

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition.

To make the whole thing more legally accessible, I’ve created the Venn diagram above. You’re welcome. (And for all my law school professors who wondered about my legal acumen: Boom!)

Comment below or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Cybersecurity and privacy were two of the primary topics at the 2016 TechShow.

Cybersecurity and privacy were two of the primary topics at the 2016 TechShow.

Great learning at conferences is one of the best things ever. But if you can’t be there, hearing the takeaways of smart folks may be the next best thing. In fact, because those correspondents have done the hard work of taking notes and synthesizing, it may be the ideal outcome.

That’s how I felt about this year’s ABA Techshow, which I was not able to attend. (I was in a different lawyer event just blocks away, but the closest I came to joining the techies was nearly crashing the Clio party. Next year.)

Although I missed the event, seven technology experts have boiled down for the rest of us their take on the biggest TechShow messages. You should bookmark and read their complete analyses here.

To synthesize even further their event coverage, here are a few insights from those smart people, whom you should follow (links take you to their Twitter worlds, which you should join):

  • ABA TechShow tips American Bar AssociationFrom Catherine Sanders Reach: “This year seemed to have had an unofficial theme: privacy and security.”
  • From Natalie Kelly: Uber Eats may be a fascinating analogue to assess how we deliver legal services.
  • From Heidi S. Alexander: Stop making unencrypted calls, and be sure you’re using the cloud securely.
  • From Reid F. Trautz: Our regulatory system is stifling innovation in the legal profession.
  • From Tom Lambotte: It’s scary out there, even for Macs.
  • From: Nora Regis: Better use of Excel, including pivot tables, can be your law-practice friend.

And in case you decide you need just a little more impetus to pay attention to technology, especially in regard to cybersecurity, enjoy this article about a hack of New York-based Cravath Swaine & Moore (originally reported by the Wall street Journal, but that’s behind a paywall, so the NYT wins.)

To access law firm data, hackers bypass the front door. Cravath Swaine & Moore cybersecurity

To access law firm data, hackers bypass the front door.

As the article opens:

“Federal authorities have warned for years that big law firms are ripe targets for computer hackers because they are information-rich repositories of corporate deals and other sensitive client information.”

“But big law firms, as a general rule, are loath to confirm whether they have been victims of data breaches, largely out of fear of alarming clients. Breaches and potential intrusions at large law firms often go unreported and generally come to light only anecdotally—often in news reports or discussions at legal conferences.”

Well, the anecdotes are growing more and more common. What are you doing to ensure your data is secure? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org with your tech-success story.