In preparation for Legaltech West, a conference on legal technologyfour general counselors from companies in Silicon Valley such as SurveyMonkey and Adobe System were asked to speak on a panel entitled “A Day in the Life: The Role of the Silicon Valley General Counsel”. The moderator for the panel, Dean Gonsowski, global head of information governance at Recommind, thinks that the title is bit misleading. For these lawyers, there’s no such thing as a typical day. Working in an ever-changing environment like Silicon Valley means that these general counselors not only have to be comfortable dealing with traditional tasks, they also have to be able to handle unique and challenging problems every day. However, Gonsowski describes these challenges as just “blips in the radar”.

So what allows these general counselors to continue to do their jobs in an environment driven by constantly-evolving technology? While being knowledgeable about tech is definitely required, preparing for technological problems such as data breaches is considered ordinary in Silicon Valley. Rather, general counselors have to be able to effectively handle unprecedented problems. For example, the general counselor from SurveyMonkey speaking on the panel was able to direct a smooth transition after the CEO was unfortunately lost in an accident, despite not having adequately prepared for such an occurrence. Gonsowski cites her experience working in a fast-paced environment as the reason her and her team were able to handle the situation. These general counselors’ work amidst constant variability and disruption prepares them to handle problems a company much older may not experience at all.

Gonsowki thinks that hearing about these general counselors’ day-to-day lives may inspire people to try to follow in their footsteps. But, based on the fact that virtually any kind of problem can be handed to them, legal counsel in Silicon Valley don’t usually have a set job description or even a normal operating procedure. Therefore, according to Gonsowski, “this level of chaos is not going to be for everybody”.

Article via Legaltech NewsJuly 7, 2015

Photo: oracle via Dave [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

With law firms and their clients facing cyber threats more and more frequently, it makes sense that firms would want to come together and share what information they know about these threats in order that each firm can be better prepared to advise their clients. The Legal Services Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, or LS-ISAO for short, was formed to allow this kind of collaboration between firms. The new alliance is connected with a similar organization, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, or FS-ISAO, which has been requiring private and public financial sectors to share information on cyber security and other threats since 1999. While LS-ISAO was formed after several law firms contacted the FS-ISAO, not all law firms are eager to join the alliance.

Although any law firms are educating their members on cyber threats or even have teams specifically dedicated to cybersecurity, most law firms guide their response to cyber threats based upon their clients’ opinions. For example, Chanley Howell, a member of the cybersecurity team at Foley & Lardner, isn’t very keen on becoming a part of the alliance, but explains, “If we start hearing clients recommend it, we’ll probably join.” Though it may seem counterintuitive for a cybersecurity team to put off joining an organization created to spread knowledge about cyber threats, Jeremiah Buckley, a founder member of Buckley Sandler who writes about cyber risk, argues that there are some potential drawbacks an organization that shares cybersecurity information so freely. Namely, if a law firm shares what they learned from a cyber threat with the alliance, even though everything is required to be anonymous, other firms could still determine which law firm was involved and then use that information to attack and discredit the firm. On the flip side, firms should be wary of information that is shared anonymously since there is no way to prove that the information is correct. Finally, firms are still competing with one another, and giving someone else a leg up may not always be in a firm’s best interests.

Even though there may be some issues associated with the new alliance, the Legal Services Information Sharing and Analysis Organization is still young. With time, according to the Vice President of Products and Services at the FS-ISAO, trust will develop between its members.

Article via Bloomberg BNA, August 21, 2015

Photo: Two People-Business Meeting via Stephen D [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Larry Lessig is a lawyer, political activist and scholar on a mission to bring important legal research to light. Legal scholars spend many years researching deep topics, such as who is really financing political campaigns, that never make it to the public consciousness. In order to change that, an  event called Hacking iCorruption was created. This is a hackathon meant to attract accomplished programmers, scientists, journalists and academics together to push this research to the internet and into the hands of the public at large.

Lessig launched Safra Research lab in 2010. Since then, the lab has amassed a data from legal research that he believed should be involved in political debate. This mission, combined with investigative reporter Brooke Williams idea for a hackaton, was the spark that created Hacking iCorruption. In the article Williams states, “A lot of us had simple problems that required a technical solution, but we had no budget or ability to hire an expert to solve it.” It became clear that having a hackathon would be the way to bring together the diverse group that they needed.

Due to the success of this hackathon, new ones are springing up. WeCott is a hackathon that has been created to help people organize boycotts and receive crowd funding. Hackathons are a movement according to the organizers of WeCott, and they are focusing on efforts to keep the momentum going in their communities.


Article via ABAJournal, 1 September 2015

Photo: Hackathon via Ferderacao das Industrias do Estado de Sao Paulo[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Casetext,a free legal research website that uses crowdsourcing to annotate cases, has introduced a brand new tool that publishes attorney’s commentary and connects them to cases they cite. Users of the new LegalPad app can write articles and share them with particular interest groups in the Casetext community

Attorneys who publish articles on the site can create a reputation in their specific areas, according to Casetext.

“Legal writing is exceptionally hard. You feel constantly buried in dozens of sources, trying to keep quotes and citations straight,” according to Jake Heller, Casetext founder. “We crafted technology to help writers focus on what matters most: developing their message.”

Article via ABA Journal, 2 July 2015

Photo: A Writer’s Morning via Gene Wilburn [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Speakers at Avvo’s sixth annual Lawyernomics conference discussed how the legal profession will function in the next five to ten years. Avvo CEO Mark Britton noted that lawyers are leaving opportunities on the table by not addressing commoditized work. Attorneys aren’t providing certain services to their clients yet look negatively upon nonlawyers who try to do it themselves. Automating work through “freemium” models such as Rocket Matter can help attorneys create strong relationships with potential and current clients while allowing lawyers to avoid the work they don’t want to do, according to Britton.

F. Daniel Siciliano, a professor at Stanford Law School, asserted that, as law becomes readily available to the public and more open-sourced, clients will no longer need lawyers. He had done research that ultimately indicated that, when a targeted immigration law office relied less on human employees and more on technology, it was 10 times more profitable than offices with traditional revenue models. According to Dave Schappell, startup business development manager at Amazon Web Services, a lawyers should be investing in is the Cloud, an option that has been ignored by many attorneys. Plenty of major companies and government agencies already run on the Cloud, increasing agility and encouraging innovation by lowering risk, Schappell says. While the legal profession may be going through chaotic changes, it is important that they create a strong culture of client service and remain true to their values.

Article via ABA Journal, 18 May 2015

Photo: Law Books via Mr.TinDC [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Illinois Supreme Court strikes down broad ban on audiorecording conversations (Eugene Volokh, 20 March 2014) – Under Illinois law, any person who “knowingly and intentionally uses an eavesdropping device for the purpose of hearing or recording all or any part of any conversation” is committing a crime “unless he does so … with the consent of all of the parties to such conversation or electronic communication.” This isn’t limited to conversations that the parties reasonably intend to be private: “conversation” is defined as “any oral communication between 2 or more persons regardless of whether one or more of the parties intended their communication to be of a private nature under circumstances justifying that expectation.” DeForest Clark was indicted for violating this law; here’s how the ACLU of Illinois amicus brief describes the facts: [The] charges arose from a September 17, 2010 child support hearing before Judge Robert Janes in Kane County Circuit Court. Mr. Clark represented himself pro se at the hearing. The hearing was conducted in open court and no court reporter was present. Mr. Clark recorded the hearing in order to preserve a true and accurate record of public proceedings in which he was representing himself without the assistance of counsel and without the benefit of a court reporter. For the same reason, Mr. Clark also allegedly recorded a conversation between himself and opposing counsel, Colleen Thomas, prior to the hearing in a public hallway in the Kane County Judicial Center. Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the statute violates the First Amendment ( People v. Clark (Ill. Mar. 20, 2014) )

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