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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

No or not until computers can generate a document that meets the reader’s needs and expectations according to Syracuse Law prof Ian Gallacher in his essay, Do RoboMemos Dream Of Electric Nouns?: A Search For The Soul Of Legal Writing [bepress]. Here’s the abstract:

This essay considers the possibility that computers might soon be capable of writing many of the documents lawyers typically write, and considers what qualities of writing are uniquely human and whether those qualities are sufficient to render human written work superior to computer generated work.

After noting that despite the claims of rhetoricians and narrative theorists, not all legal writing is persuasive writing, and that it is in the non-persuasive area of prosaic, functional documents that computer generated documents might gain a bridgehead into the legal market, the essay tracks the development of computer-generated written work, particularly in the areas of sports journalism and corporate reporting. The essay notes that the templates developed to generate these documents can be customized to produce the tone desired by the customer, meaning that both rhetoric and narrative have been captured and transformed into tools that can be manipulated by computer programmers. This in turn means that computer generated documents will not be devoid of rhetorical or narrative interest, making the programs that develop them potentially appealing for lawyers even if they seek to use them to draft persuasive as well as more functional documents.

What these programs will lack, however, is empathy — the ability to anticipate what information a reader will need from a document, and when the reader will need it, and to draft a document that meets the reader’s needs and expectations. An empathetic human writer knows when to follow and when to break the genre expectations of a document and can send powerfully persuasive messages to a reader by use of that knowledge.

The essay concludes that empathy is a crucial, and uniquely human, aspect of persuasive writing and that an empathetically-aware written document should be superior to a technically accurate but non-empathetic computer generated document.

Joe

A new gold rush has come to California, with the state’s massive legal system open for mining as courts and lawyers move to new technology. Investor Warren Buffett’s right hand man has joined in the race along with enormous software and publishing companies from around the nation. “It’s truly the wild west here in California,” said an industry insider, “a land grab.”

They are scrambling for a mother lode of multi-million-dollar contracts for software and licensing, vast additional sums for upkeep, and the right to set up a toll booth on Court Road for 38 million people. — Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News Service

Why? Dinzeo explains that “the rush of deal-making follows the collapse of a half-billion-dollar, ten-year state project to develop a Court Case Management System for all California’s 58 trial courts. Widely savaged by judges as a ‘fiasco” and a “boondoggle,’ the software developed by Deloitte Consulting was abandoned last year.” For much more see Tech Gold Rush Strikes CA Courts. — Joe

On Tom Glocer’s blog, former TRI CEO Tom Glocer returned to the day, some 30 years ago, when he and fellow Yale LS classmate, Ron Wright, launched a computer game at YLS that was designed to be a teaching aid for pre-trial discovery. The program apparently was well received at Yale. It even made the New York Times. Glocer republished the article in his 30th Anniversary Post – Can Computers Teach the Law? post. [Glitchy direct link warning; hence the above link to the blog’s front page.] From Computer Gives Yale Law Students a Taste of Court Process (NYT, Dec. 25, 1983):

Professor Fiss, one of Yale’s three professors teaching civil procedure this semester, is replacing what was a written exercise with a computer game created by Mr. Glocer and Mr. Wright. Process of Discovery.

OK, so the NYT article was Christmas Day newspaper fodder. Still, it’s too bad Glocer didn’t bring that sort of innovation to the table at Thomson Reuters. Then again, WEXIS is the cemetery for innovative thinkers. Perhaps he tried.

Dear Tom,

Don’t know about your non-compete clause but … why not start up an Etsy eCommerce site for one-off  e-“legal solutions” like altSEs, apps, etc., handmade by legal technologists? My hunch is many of those creative folks wouldn’t mind giving you a 4% sales commission for the exposure they might get from a legal Etsy site.

Your pal, Joe

Launched in 1992, the line-mode browser “was the first web browser with a cross-platform codebase so it could be installed on many different kinds of computers. It was a relatively simple piece of software with a very basic interface, but in the early days of the web, it was instrumental in demonstrating the power of this new medium.” You can revisit the very first universally accessible web browser by clicking on the “Launch Line Mode Brower” button here.

Hat tip to Nat Torkington’s Four short links: 7 October 2013 (O’Reilly Radar) for this gem.  — Joe

Raymond Blijd, Project Manager, Online Innovation, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, admits that designing a legal research interface for the small screen remains a challenge but he predicts the era of desktop-based legal research is coming to a close. His prediction is based on desktop usage studies and consumer purchasing trends for IT equipment. Once document creation moves to the small screen, so will legal research according to Blijd in his Intelligent Solutions Blog post The Death of Legal Research on Desktop.

Joe

Kudos to ABAJ for finally recognizing CALI’s John Mayer as a member of ABA Journal’s class of 2013 Legal Rebels. It’s about time IMHO. This is the fifth annual Legal Rebels installment and John has been doing his CALI thing since 1994. No doubt John was happy to accept the recognition on behalf of CALI’s staff, past and present, and the Center’s institutional supporters. In the below ABAJ video he promotes one of CALI’s most important projects, A2J.

John’s CALI gig almost lasted no longer than a concert performance by the other John Mayer.  According to the ABAJ’s profile (located under the heading “Freeing the Law” here), “Shortly after starting, center leaders told him the organization might shut down.” I wonder what bar on the west side of the Loop John went to after hearing that!

Oh, BTW, John is a member of the inaugural class of the Fastcase 50. The 2011 Fastcase 50 profile does a far better job at capturing the essence of this rebel with a damn good cause. For example, “John Mayer is a visionary and a connector (as well as a leading purveyor of flying stuffed animals at conferences).”

Joe

OASIS members are discussing the feasibility of designing an open standard data model and markup model for legal citations that can be used in electronic texts.The importance of addressing this issue should be obvious to legal information professionals. See Draft Proposal for a New OASIS Technical Committee (Legalcite) which is accompanied by a backgrounder.

Quoting from an email by Chet Ensign, Director of Standards Development and TC Administration, OASIS Open:

A standard model for tagging citations could simplify software development and become the foundation for new innovations in legal authoring, linking, annotating, searching, and citation analysis, all without requiring that the display text on the page be changed in any way.

If this is of interest to you, your organization, or any of your colleagues, we would be pleased to hear from you. Feedback — supportive, skeptical or critical — is key to launching an effort with the right scope to deliver an open standard that the legal field can use. If you are interested in learning more about how you can participate in the effort, we would like to hear from you as well.

See Chet’s web profile to contact him directly. Thanks for the heads-up.

Joe