CourtHack: Tech comes to the courts

The CourtHack hackathon is an initiative by the National Center for State Courts in Utah and HackerNest. The purpose is to address the growing digital divide between information from the legal system (law enforcement, legal representation) and the court system (trials cases, judges, courthouses) that needs to access it.

The recent Netflix documentary Making a Murderer demonstrates how the inability to easily access data and communicate with the court system can contribute to systemic failures. Popular television shows aside, there is continuous talk about the failures of our justice system. Punishment is not deterring future crimes; there are far too many police officers in certain neighborhoods and not enough in others. According to UTNews, non-violent criminals are being incarcerated at alarming rates, producing a 60% chance that they will go back to prison once released. Although there are many reasons why these issues are plaguing our justice system, all experts agree that the current strain on the court system to meet the public needs is a threat to our rights to fair and speedy trials.

CourtHack seeks to use hackathons to create innovative and efficient solutions to flaws in the U.S. justice system. As one of the first ever court-related hackathons, CourtHack hopes to serve as a symbol of how the legal system and technology can be brought together to produce positive results.

Approximately 100 participants will form teams and compete for sizeable cash and non-cash prizes, mentorship opportunities, key meetings with industry decision-makers, and a demo spot at a major court technology conference. The event is completely free, although there is a $20 registration fee that will be refunded when you arrive on the day of the event. The hackathon will take place at:
Matheson Courthouse
450 State Street
Salt Lake City, UT

Legal minds, technologists, entrepreneurs, and concerned citizens are encouraged to compete in this epic, 22-hour hackathon. There will be an expert panel of judges that range from court administrators to judges to CIOs from around the country.

CourtHack Challenges

The team at CourtHack has made a set of challenges meant to inspire teams to build the things that will have an immediate benefit on people’s lives. Teams are not limited by the challenges; they are meant to inspire and shape the understanding of the needs that currently exist.

1. Accountability: Predictive Analytics to Target Court Oversight

Courts are supposed to oversee estate assets, including those that are willed over to family members. There are instances where a guardian may be presumed to be stealing money from the person that they are supposed to protect, but the court may be backed up with other cases. Lack of time and lack of resources makes this process difficult to manage. Therefore, there is an opportunity for technology to better manage these cases, and make abuses of the system more transparent.

2. Public Access to Justice: Apps, Tools, and Processes to improve access to justice and allow the public to resolve disputes efficiently

The court system is terribly behind in web technologies. This means that simple things such as paying a fine, or showing proof of license or insurance for a ticket are not usually possible via the web. Simple mobile applications that would enable citizens access to complete these transactions would dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of the court.

3. Legal Speed: Remote dispatch of emergency protection orders

Speeding up the flow of court information to and from the public is a major need. Circumstances such as domestic violence and abuse would be greatly facilitated if there were an easy way to send information to law enforcement and the court system. Getting restrictive orders can take time do to the need to present information in court. An application that would allow this data to be sent over the web, along with video conferencing with expedite this process.

4. Wild Card: Gaps in the Court System

There are many existing gaps in our legal system that could be aided by technology. Minor issues that are currently being handled in court may be able to be done remotely if there was a web portal and mobile app for access. Even the need to ask questions to the court could be facilitated by web technologies. There is a lot of opportunity to help make the court system more efficient in its ability to serve the public and fulfill its duties.

Article via University of Texas News, 1 June 2015; The New York Times, 12 March 2012

Photo via CourtHack


Automate your law practice

David Sparks is famous for being a successful lawyer and a technology geek. He explains how he mixes both law and technology to make a unique practice. “I use technology to make my practice run faster and more smoothly. Nothing that I do is impossible for another lawyer to do and everything I do can be accomplished using either technology or manpower. Technology doesn’t give me something no one else has — but because of it my practice is much more lean, and, among other things, gives me an edge in terms of pricing.”

To keep his law practice running lean, automation is the answer. When asked why he automated his law firm he replied, “First, there’s efficiency—it’s much faster. When you have the computer doing something for you, you no longer have to type out words or take time to manually file documents on your computer. Second, it’s more accurate. The computer is doing the task, so for example, as long as you set up the rules correctly, the computer is always going to name files properly.”

Here are some of the tools that he uses to automate his workflow:

Hazel

Hazel is software for mac that is designed to clean and organize files in the background while you work.

I automate my firm’s documents using Hazel. So when I scan a document into my computer, the document is automatically saved in OCT format and then Hazel reads it and can identify clients, dates, etc., and will name the file and file it away for me in my system,” he says.

TextExpander for Mac

TextExpander allows you to create custom abbreviations that, once typed, will expand to full words or images.

“With TextExpander, when I’m drafting discovery documents — for example the list of 5 contention questions we use in California — I have created text expanders so I can type in the bits that are different in each case and TextExpander automatically creates and generates the questions for me. I was going to hire a paralegal to do this for me, but realized it’d be more efficient and more cost effective for the client to accomplish this task using automation.”

Sparks ends with some advice about bringing more technology into your practice. “My standard advice to lawyers is don’t be afraid of technology. It can make you a better lawyer and can save you a lot of money.”

Article via Above the Law, 23 July 2015

Photo: The Lawyer by Ard van der Leeuw [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Legaltech trade show tips

Legaltech is the most important legal tech trade show of the year.  It is the number 1 resource for law firms and professionals to get the latest information for law practice management. The next show is scheduled for February 2-4 2016 in New York City. If you plan on attending, this post is meant to give you a few tips to get the most out of the conference. These are tips coming from Legal tech marketers on having a great experience at Legaltech this year.

1. Get started early

Get in touch with your contacts before you get to the conference. Make appointments now so that you will have an agenda of people to meet with when you arrive.

2. Start updating your social media feeds

Social media can be a powerful way to make connections with those that you know and those that you don’t yet know. When it comes to big events like this, it is inevitable that those within your industry will be abuzz with information leading up to the show. Use this as an opportunity to bring attention to your legal business and yourself.

3. Attend editors’ and bloggers’ breakfast

These are free events so there is nothing to lose. It will also give you the chance to be exposed to thought leaders in the industry as well as learn about what is coming next. You will get access to dynamic editorial and leadership teams, as well as entrepreneurs working in your industry.

4. Write about your experience

You can write anything from a blog post on your company site to a series of tweets. What is important is sharing your experience. This will not only give you the chance to attract an audience of curious colleagues, but this will also give you another chance to bring attention to your own practice or firm.

Article via LegalTechNews, 14 January 2016

Photo: Tech cocktail conference crowd by Frank Gruber [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Handshake software integrates with Ravel

Handshake Software, a provider of SharePoint-based products and services to the legal market, announced its tech integration Ravel Law, a legal search, analytics, and visualization platform. The move is based on the need to provide a legal search product to law firms that will allow them to be more efficient in their practice.

Glenn LaForce, vice president of global sales & marketing at Handshake Software stated, ““Attorneys are under tremendous pressure from their clients with regards to the billable hour, so bringing together as many data sources as possible into one universal search is paramount for their practice,” he said. “To be able to perform legal research while seeing key financials, internal documents, contacts and internal expertise helps the attorneys become more efficient and effective.

This move is a strategic integration between the two companies products. By combining these technologies, the users Sharepoint experience will include search that allows for all knowledge to be in one place. LaForce confirms this by saying, “Lawyers, CIOs and knowledge management professionals tell us they want one system to deliver one-stop [knowledge management] information to their users. Our integration with Ravel Law is another important aspect of the Handshake Software’s all-encompassing solution that includes integration to online legal research and other major legal applications.”

The goal is to provide and environment where users will have access to critical firm data as well as online law research materials. This allows attorneys to more effectively manage the business and practice of law. We’re excited to bring these technologies to lawyers in one easy-to-find location,” said Nik Reed, co-founder and chief operating officer at Ravel Law.

 

Article via LegalTechNews, 12 January 2016

Photo:Assignments by Ryan Hyde [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Legal firms remain concerned about cloud privacy

Lawyers are a conservative group when it comes to adopting new technology. This continue to hold true for the ever popular cloud technologies. Concerns about privacy and security related to data breaches are holding some firms back from transitioning over to cloud storage and services. In a 2015 Cloud Security Survey released Netwrix reveals the concerns around cloud adoption among lawyers include: security and privacy of data (26 percent), migration costs (22 percent) and loss of physical controls (17 percent). Moreover, security risks include unauthorized access (32 percent), insider misuse (18 percent) and account hijacking (18 percent.)

Alex Vovk, CEO and co-founder of Netwrix, told Legaltech News “Legal departments will be reluctant to entrust their valuable data and customers’ sensitive information, until they are absolutely sure that cloud providers can offer better security than the company can ensure on-premises.” Although data security is a privacy issue for all industries, legal departments are less likely to adopt technologies that do not guarantee full protection for their data.

Law firms may be cautious, but that doesn’t mean that they are uninterested in cloud technologies. According to the survey, 44 percent of the respondents indicated they their firms were in a stage of evaluation and discovery concerning cloud services. “This indicates that [law firms] are potentially ready to invest more in additional cloud security and consider various cloud options,” Vovk said. In fact, when it comes to hybrid cloud models, legal entities have the same interest in making the transition as private companies. In addtion, 37 percent of those surveyed favor a private cloud model.

Vovk summed up by stating that “… as soon as cloud providers are ready to provide additional security measures and to some extent ease the compliance burden …lawyers would become less skeptic[al] about cloud adoption.”

Article via Legaltech News, 3 December 2015

Photo: Cloud Solutions via NEC Corporation of America [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Ravel Law to digitize Harvard legal library

Though it may seem surprising, most legal rulings, despite being public domain, are not available for free to the general public. Harvard owns the most comprehensive collection of U.S. case files, a collection second only to that of the Library of Congress. The Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow believes that “law should be free and open to all,” though. In order to make that belief a reality, Harvard has partnered with legaltech startup Ravel Law to digitize its legal library. It will take a team of seven people to carefully take apart more than 40,000 physical books of case files and scan them. After all of the case files have been digitized, Ravel Law will make the database of legal research searchable and available online for free. Additionally, the creators of Ravel Tech hope to add the ability to visually represent connections between cases in order to better visualize patterns over time.

Though anyone will be able to access these digitized case files for free, this “Free the Law” project will also help small firms that are not able to afford access to large legal research databases like LexisNexis and WestLaw. Additionally, the creators of Ravel Tech hope that other innovators and nonprofits will be interested in developing their own search and analysis tools for the case files. These tools, search functions, and visual maps that Ravel Law hopes to implement will be especially important. Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor and director of the law library, explains that, “It’s one thing just to access it in a book. It’s another to be able to build relationships among cases because nobody reads the law from cover to cover starting with the first book.”

Article via BuzzfeedNovember 9, 2015

Photo: This Book via Bob AuBuchon [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]