Category Archives: Information Technology

Seven major themes about the algorithm era

Pew Internet’s report, Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age, identifies seven major algorithm era themes (listed below). See also NPR’s Will Algorithms Erode Our Decision-Making Skills? — Joe

pi_2017_02_08_algorithms_0-01

Baker & Hostetler licenses ROSS Intelligence’s AI product for bankruptcy matters

In what is reported to be ROSS Intelligence’s first BigLaw client, Baker & Hostetler has licensed ROSS for use by its Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights team. Here’s the joint press release. — Joe

Protecting the public from unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers

Legal software publishing companies and legal application developers that serve the public directly beware. A discussion paper from the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services is inviting comments on proposing a regulatory scheme that would impose restrictions on currently unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers. See Issues Paper Concerning Unregulated LSP Entities (March 31, 2016). Is the ABA protecting the “public interest” or attempting to expand its control over competitive threats to the organized bar’s hegemony? — Joe

Cognitive computing at ROSS (now) and Thomson Reuters Legal (forthcoming)

“When you pair the computer with the human, you get something way better than either the human or the computer. If you look at it from that formula, humans will always be on the winning side.” — Andrew Arruda, CEO and co-founder of ROSS.

Ed Sohn, Senior Director at Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services (formerly Pangea3), reviews recent developments in cognitive computing at Thomson Reuters and ROSS in alt.legal: Can Computers Beat Humans At Law? (Above the Law, March 23, 2016). One snip from the very interesting blog post is displayed above. — Joe

The Digital Future of the Oldest Information Profession

Recently, Ray Worthy Campbell (Peking University School of Transnational Law) uploaded to SSRN The Digital Future of the Oldest Information Profession, very interesting. From the essay’s introduction:

This article will look at three ways legal practice is being disrupted by the digital information revolution, and then examine how education for legal service providers might evolve to best serve society in light of those disruptions.

First, from outside legal practice have come and will come changes in how white collar work is performed that affect law practice along with other occupations. For example, the digitization of documents and the development of digitally monitored business process management both arose outside of law practice, but have combined to change how documents get reviewed and processed in major litigation and corporate deals. Digital documents are easy to ship worldwide and susceptible to machine review, and technology enables higher levels of planning and performance tracking than were possible in the era of legal pads. While not limited to law practice, such exogenous business process changes have had and will continue to have a significant impact on how traditional legal businesses operate.

Second, digital products and processes will arise or be modified specifically to solve legal problems without resort to traditional legal practice or analysis. An example of this type of innovation would be LexMachina or IBM’s legal application for its Watson product, ‘Ross’, which apply Big Data techniques to legal issues. Other examples would be rule-based document assembly systems, which assess client needs and deliver appropriate legal documents. Some of these digitized systems will replace lawyers as software-only solutions, while others will assist lawyers. Still others – and perhaps the most economically significant, if regulation allows – will enable non-lawyers to serve as the interface between client needs and digitized expert knowledge, delivering an acceptable level of problem solving without recourse to traditionally trained lawyers.

Third, and not least important, will be changes in the law itself to adapt to a digital environment – that is, the ways in which legal rules and processes will need to evolve to function effectively and justly in a digital world. Many of the new digital technologies rely on massive data sets, and the justice system does not – and perhaps should not – create data in the same way Internet sites or retail supply chains do. Just as businesses and government bureaucracies have had to adjust workflows and information capture to take advantage of digital possibilities, pressure will be brought on legal systems to restructure in order to be digital friendly. As rules become embedded in software code, perhaps even removing the option for choice, legal thinkers will have to address how such embedded directives fit into a system of rules formerly captured only in text.

— Joe

Docket-based research needed to find “submerged precedent”

“[S]ubmerged precedent pushes docketology in an uncharted direction by identifying a mass of reasoned opinions—putative precedent and not mere evidence of decision-making—that exist only on dockets,” writes Elizabeth McCuskey (Toledo) in Submerged Precedent, 16 Nevada Law Journal ___ 2016 (forthcoming)[SSRN]. Professor McCuskey adds “[s]ubmerged precedent thus raises the specter that docket-based research may be necessary in some areas to ascertain an accurate picture of the law itself, not just trial courts’ administration of it.” Here the abstract for this very interesting article:

This article scrutinizes the intensely individual, yet powerfully public nature of precedent, inquiring which decisions are made available for posterity in the body of precedent and which remain solely with their authors and the instant parties. At its broadest level, this article investigates the intricate relationships among precedent, access, and technology in the federal district courts, examining how technology can operationalize precedent doctrine.

Theory and empiricism inform these inquiries. Drawing from a sample of district court decisions on Grable federal question jurisdiction, the study presented here identifies and explores the phenomenon of “submerged precedent” – reasoned opinions hidden on court dockets, and not included in the Westlaw or Lexis databases. The study detailed here found that submergence may obscure as much as 30% of reasoned law on Grable federal questions from the view of conventional research.

This article investigates the structural and institutional forces behind submergence, as well as its doctrinal implications. By effectively insulating some reasoned opinions from future use by judges and practitioners, the phenomenon of submerged precedent threatens to skew substantive law and erode the precedential system’s animating principles of fairness, efficiency, and legitimacy. Most urgently, the existence of submerged precedent suggests that Congress’s mandate for public access to federal precedents in the E-Government Act of 2002 lies unfulfilled in important respects. The application of precedent theory informed by empirical observation suggests a more thoughtful approach to technology and public access to precedent.

— Joe

Commercializing AI: TR’s Watson Initiative to launch global financial regulation product by year’s end

Among several other product announcements, Thomson Reuters Legal recently disclosed that it will release in beta the first legal product using Watson’s cognitive computing technologies by year’s end. On Dewey B Strategic, Jean O’Grady writes

Ever since TR announced their collaboration with IBM Watson last October, the legal community has been impatient to learn how this alliance will manifest in a legal product. We still don’t know but TR did promise that they will be the first company for built a legal product using Watson technology. The alliance will combine IBM’s cognitive computing with TR’s deep domain expertise. A panel of executives from TR and Watson revealed that there will be a beta product available by the end of 2016. Their first collaboration will focus on taming the complexities of global financial regulation.

Bob Ambrogi adds “The product will help users untangle the sometimes-confusing web of global legal and regulatory requirements and will be targeted at customers in corporate legal, corporate compliance and law firms. Initially, it will focus on financial services, [Erik Laughlin, managing director, Legal Managed Services and Corporate Segment, and head of the Watson Initiative] suggested, but will also address other domains important to corporations.”

Very interesting. Wouldn’t it be something if TR was prepared to demonstrate how this product will work at AALL ALI AALL in Chicago this year? — Joe

Librarians Are Here To Stay

I get asked every now and then about the future of librarians.  I work in an academic environment.  I get questions from students, faculty members, the general public, other librarians, you name ‘em.  The type of questions I get are contrasted, to some extent, with statements that with everything on the Internet we will be obsolete.  I’m sure many librarians, not just law librarians hear that.  Those with that attitude tend to think that because they never use a librarian’s services that no one else would need that assistance either.

All of you should know, for example, that Google offers free case law that extends back to approximately 50 years for state cases and 80 years for federal cases.  I have found unreported cases and slip opinions in the archive.  My point is that Google is hardly a secret to the Internet-going world.  At the same time, I get calls from non-law libraries about case law and the librarian or patron at the other end seems to have no idea that this archive exists.  They are delighted to know that exists once they find out about it.  Public patrons in particular seem happy to know that they don’t have to trudge to downtown Chicago to find accurate case law that isn’t behind a paywall.

I encounter students almost every day who seem not to have a clue as to how to read a result in a catalog search result.  They’ll flash their phone or tablet screens at me and ask me what to do to get a copy.  Sometimes the answer is as simple as pointing out the location on a paper map.  Other times it can be pointing out that there is a link on the record that can give instant access as an e-book.

Let me state categorically that I do not think these circumstances or the people asking them are dumb.  They obviously either do not have the knowledge that resources exist or have thought about how get the information on their own.  That is where we come in.  The public Internet has been around for at least 25 years if not longer.  There is so much out there and so many strategies for locating information that may or may not be behind a paywall.  There are scams to avoid.  I remember a phone call where an individual called and said she was contacted by phone from the IRS demanding a tax payment.  I looked up the IRS page and read the statement detailing how the Service contacts individuals.  It noted that the Service never contacts people by phone demanding money.  For those pondering the “unauthorized practice of law” angle, I read the text verbatim and let her draw her own conclusions.

Information is power.  We know how to find it and put it in context.  I would never claim to know everything there is to know about content online.  At the same time, there are no shortage of people who draw upon that experience and that of my colleagues.  For those who claim they don’t need us, fine.  But don’t assume that no one needs us.  Librarians will be here for a long time to come if my experience is accurate.

Mark

Upcoming Workshops Of Interest

First of all, there is this from Washington University in St. Louis:

Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship Workshop 2015

The 14th annual workshop on Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship, co-taught by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, will run from June 15-June 17 at Washington University in St. Louis. The workshop is for law school faculty, lawyers, political science faculty, and graduate students interested in learning about empirical research and how to evaluate empirical work. It provides the formal training necessary to design, conduct, and assess empirical studies, and to use statistical software (Stata) to analyze and manage data.

Participants need no background or knowledge of statistics to enroll in the workshop. Registration is here. For more information, please contact Lee Epstein.

As a side note, I won’t be posting this Thursday or Friday as I will be attending the MichALL Spring Conference titled “Technology in Law Libraries: Where We’re At and Where We’re Going.” The event will be held on Friday, April 17, 2015, in the Wayne State Univ. School of Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights lecture hall. The program flier is here:

http://www.aallnet.org/chapter/michall/meetings/Spring_Event_Flier_031215.pdf.

Electronic registration is at http://goo.gl/tT89ar.  The conference fee is a very reasonable $20.

Mark

The New Lexis Advance

The new Lexis Advance interface is supposed to hit screens everywhere on September 8, at least according to this announcement from Lexis.  I can’t say enough bad things about the old (current) interface.  I hope the usability of the new interface is better, otherwise it’s back to the Lexis.com option hidden in the Research Tab.  –Mark

Scam Alert: Scammers Posing as MS Support Warning of Virus Infections

I had a phone call this morning while I was getting ready for work.  There was a gentleman at the other end of the call telling me he was calling from Microsoft support and that my computer was riddled with viruses.  Should that be virii?  I had read about these types of calls in the tech press.  I told the caller that my computer was fine but he insisted that it was not based on reports Microsoft had received from my machine.  I argued for a minute but finally had to hang up on him despite his urgent insistence.

It was a scam that was trying to get me to download software that would effectively riddle my computer with viruses and pay for the privilege no less.  I’m writing about this lest anyone get fooled by this approach to compromise a phone, laptop, or desktop computer.

More information is available from Microsoft (the real Microsoft), the Register, which is a tech site from the U.K., and the Malwarebytes blog.  The latter has specific examples of “errors” used by the scammers to alarm a potential mark.  Microsoft technical support never makes cold calls to Windows users.  The scam, by the way, has variations for Apple users.  That’s mentioned in the blog post.  Please don’t waste your time with these people. –Mark

Use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Free Online

News reports are appearing about Microsoft offering free and legal versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint via cloud access.  Readers may be aware that Microsoft is pushing Office 365 as a subscription based alternative to installing the application suite on a computer.  The free web versions of the most popular Microsoft applications are associated with a Microsoft account and OneDrive, formerly SkyDrive.   One can open, edit, or create a document in OneDrive by selecting the option from the menu choices at the top.

Anyone familiar with a computer based version of the Office applications will feel quite at home.  The same ribbon interface appears with just about the same options.  I believe, as with most people, I use only common formatting in documents.  Everything I needed in Word is here and more.  In fact, I’m typing this in Word Online as a way of testing the viability of the product.  So far, so good.  This version of Word appears to support keyboard shortcuts (at least the ones I use) without too much variation from the boxed Office suite.  The editing process is smooth and stable.

Some features are missing.  Inline spell and grammar check do not appear to be an option.  There is an spell check feature under Review in the menu bar.  Some option boxes require clicking a button to select a choice rather than responding to the Enter Key.  Drag and drop seems to be missing as well.  These are minor inconveniences.   I find the product very comfortable to use, especially for the price.

Anyone interested in creating a Microsoft account to use OneDrive or Office Online can sign up for free at this page.   Additional commentary on the product are available in CNET NewsTime Magazine, and PC World.  –Mark

Producing a citation index in the legal research system of the future

John Miano continues his video series on the legal research system of the future. The topic of the below video is citations and citators. The central theme is that a legal publisher does not need an army of editors to produce the best citator on the market.

To view earlier episodes and to watch for forthcoming ones, go here. — Joe

Ambrogi on the 10 most important legal tech developments of 2013

Bob Ambrogi identifies his top ten legal tech picks. One, the most important one in my opinion, is

Competence in technology turned from dalliance to necessity

In August 2012, the American Bar Association voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” During 2013, we saw several states follow up on the ABA’s action. Delaware became the first state to formally adopt a duty of technology competence and it created a Commission on Law and Technology to help lawyers comply. Massachusetts is considering adoption of this rule. And in Pennsylvania on Nov. 21, amendments took effect to that state’s professional conduct rules to comport with the ABA model rule.

(Links omitted).

For his complete list, go here. Bob asks “What am I missing? What would be on your list?” — Joe

How I got lazy as an attorney and how you can avoid it

That’s the title of a recent Fastcase Blog post by Joshua Auriemma. Here’s his open salvo:

I often wonder whether the Googleification of legal research isn’t a terrible thing for the profession (at least in this stage of the technology’s development). In law school, I was a master of Boolean searching. I thought about my research question, figured out which words probably appeared closest to other words, and crafted a narrow and specific search.

Somehow, when I became an appellate attorney and had access to WestlawNext through my firm, all of that training went out the window.

If interested, continue reading the post here. — Joe

Miano on the basic canvas requirements for the legal research system of the future

In the third part of his ongoing video series, Colosseum Builders’ John Miano discusses the basic canvas requirements from the end user’s perspective for the legal research system of the future. Highly recommended.

To view earlier episodes and to watch for forthcoming ones, go here. — Joe

How should a legal research system format content?

Colosseum Builders’ John Miano “The Legal Research System of the Future” is a series of videos that present his ideas about how to design a large scale legal search service. He is sharing them “in the hope that someone will build a legal research system that is more than a Google box on top of a legal database.” The below video addresses how online legal content ought to be formatted. Highly recommended

Check Miano’s The Legal Research System of the Future for additional videos in this series. — Joe

Don’t expect innovation from WEXIS as long as WEXIS dominates the legal search market

Colosseum Builders’ John Miano provides, in the below video, “a no-holds-barred look at the legal research market and why now is the time for someone to make their move.” Highly recommended. — Joe

Box for Legal expands its tools for providing secured content management and collaboration services

“In the past year, Box’s sales in the legal industry grew more than 150 percent as customers like Perkins Coie, Wilson Sonsini and Fowler White Boggs use Box to collaborate internally and externally, manage and share information, and access legal documents on mobile devices,” wrote Nitin Gupta at Box Adds New Partners to Help Law Firms be More Competitive. In addition to being selected as the newest member of the ABA Advantage Program, Box is partnering with Intapp to prove law firms with a bridge between their legacy document management systems, offering a new integration with Guidance Software’s EnCase eDiscovery product, and has added 22 new end user legal app partners to the Company’s content sharing platform for the follow services:

  • Practice and case management: Rocket Matter, Amicus Attorney, Fastcase, Lex Machina and DirectLaw
  • Timekeeping and billing: Chrometa, Bill4Time and SimpleLegal
  • Access to lawyers: Avvo, UpCounsel, Plain Legal, LawPal and LegalReach
  • Courtroom information management: TrialPad, Lora Courtroom, iJuror, LawPavilion and TrialDirector
  • Productivity: iClient, Legal Viewer, Doc Scan Pro and Parallels

Folks might want to check out Box to avoid becoming a captive client of our very large “legal solutions” vendors. See, for example, Bob Ambrogi’s ABAJ column, Thomson Reuters’ cloud platform Firm Central emphasizes integration—at a cost:

The biggest downside to Firm Central is that all this integration carries a price. Firm Central’s base monthly subscription is $35 per seat, which is cheaper than most of its competitors. But that does not include the optional eBillity, which adds another $25. For the other Thomson Reuters integrations—WestlawNext, Westlaw Form Builder and Drafting Assistant—each requires its own subscription.

Even more unfortunate, when you ask what it would cost to add these products, you are directed to a salesperson rather than given a direct answer. What separates Firm Central from the practice management pack is its integration with other Thomson Reuters products. Unfortunately, the only way to get those integrations is through extra subscriptions.

Hat tip to Fastcase Teams Up with Box:

As soon as the integration is complete, you’ll have an option to store your documents to Box and access them on any device or app implementing the secure Box technology. … [T]he possibilities for what you can do with the documents you save from Fastcase are limited only by how those partners implement this technology. At some point you may even be able to sync your case management system with the research you perform on Fastcase as a result of these partnerships.

At Box Furthers its Push into Legal with New Integrations, Bob Ambrogi identifies the end user legal app providers that offer integration with Box now –“DirectLaw, Chrometa, Bill4Time, Plain Legal, TrialPad, Lora Courtroom, iJuror, Law Pavilion Plus, iClient, Legal Viewer, Doc Scan Pro and Parallels. The rest will become available in the first quarter of 2014.”

— Joe

Friday Fun: Avoid Evil Otto when playing Berzerk

You can run an in-browser emulation of Berzerk, a multi-directional shooter video arcade game released in 1980 by Stern Electronics of Chicago but avoid at all costs Evil Otto. Alternatively, you might want to play Pitfall! That game was released by Activision in 1982. At the time, it is the second best-selling game made for the Atari 2600 (after Pac-Man), with over 4 million copies sold.

Both and many more early PC-Apple games as well as some early productivity programs such as WordStar, the most popular word-processing program of the early 1980s and the grand-daddy of mark-up coding, plus a 1979 version of VisiCalc, the first-ever spreadsheet program, are available as in-browser emulations from the Internet Archive’s new Historical Software Collection.

Hat tip to Bob Ambrogi’s Retro Fun: Try Out Historical Software (LawSites post). — Joe