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South Carolina Lawyers Required to Maintain Email Addresses

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "South Carolina Lawyers Required to Maintain Email Addresses." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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In the mid-1990s, email was a frowned upon by bar ethics committees across the country. So not surprisingly, as part of a knee-jerk reaction to this emerging new technology, a number of bar association ethics committees required that attorneys obtain client consent before email could be used (see, for eg., South Carolina (Opinion 94-27 1995) and Iowa (Iowa Ethics Opinion 96-1 1996)).

But then, in 1999, the American Bar Association reversed that trend , largely due to the overwhelming societal acceptance of email. With the issuance of ABA Formal Opinion No. 99-413 the ABA ushered in a new era for lawyers—one where email was an accepted method of communication. In that opinion, the committee determined that client consent regarding the use of email was unnecessary. By doing so, the committee implicitly condoned attorneys’ use of unencrypted electronic communications with their clients.

Since then, email has become one of the primary ways in which we communicate. In fact, some would even argue that we’ve reached the point where  email has become outdated and that other, more secure forms of communication such as encrypted communication via cloud computing platforms, is the method of the future. 

Even so, because of the prevalence of email, in 2011, South Carolina—one of the states that forbade attorneys from using email to communicate with their clients in 1995— revised its rules to require that attorneys include an email address as part of their contact information when registering with the bar. As explained in the opinion: “In relevant part, Rule 410(g) provides that "[p]ersons admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina shall have a continuing duty to verify and update their information in the AIS, and must ensure that the AIS information is current and accurate at all times.  At a minimum, the contact information must include a mailing address, an e-mail address and a telephone number."  Rule 410(e), SCACR, states that the mailing and email addresses in AIS shall be used for notifying and serving the bar member.”

And then, earlier this month, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an Order in Appellate Case No. 2012-213164 in which it suspended a South Carolina attorney’s license to practice law because she had failed to maintain and monitor an operational email account. The Court explained the rationale behind its decision: “Although respondent may consider herself retired from the practice of law since she has not represented clients in many years, she is nevertheless classified as a regular member of the South Carolina Bar and, therefore, pursuant to Rule 410(g), SCACR, required to provide a valid email address.  Even if she were eligible to elect to be a retired member of the Bar,4 she would still be required to maintain an email address pursuant to Rule 410(g), SCACR.”

The issuance of this Order is just one more example of how far we’ve come in such a short time. For now, at least, my faith in our profession and its ability to change with the times has been restored. But change rarely occurs on a grand scale, so who knows what type of knee jerk reaction to less accepted technologies we might see in the near future. Tune in tomorrow and see.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Mobile apps for the paperless law office

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Mobile apps for the paperless law office." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Mobile apps for the paperless law office

More than ever, lawyers are realizing the value and time-saving capabilities of mobile devices. The flexibility and convenience of practicing law on the go is especially apparent when lawyers take advantage of mobile apps created for creating, storing and organizing documents and notes. If you haven’t yet discovered the many benefits of creating and accessing digital documents on your iPhone or iPad, why not get started today using some of the iOS apps discussed below?

First, your iOS device is perfect for taking notes no matter where you happen to be. Some of the most popular note-taking apps include Evernote (free), Notability ($2.99), and, my favorite, Springpad (free). All three of these apps offer a vast assortment of note-taking capabilities, including a variety of methods and integrations which allow you to access your notes on both your device and online. Springpad and Evernote also offer Web-based interfaces which make it easy to clip and store websites, images and more using any Web-enabled device.

For document creation, one of the best options is Apple’s Pages app ($9.99), which offers full-featured word processing right on your iPad or iPhone. If you prefer Microsoft Word, then you can use the Office 365 app for iPhone (free, but not yet developed for the iPad), although that app requires that you have an Office 365 subscription and doesn’t offer many of the popular features found in Word, such as the ability to track changes.

For a more full-fledged word processing app for Word documents, take a look at Office² HD ($7.99), an app that lets you view, edit and create Microsoft Word-compatible documents, Microsoft Excel-compatible workbooks and Microsoft Powerpoint-compatible presentations right on your iPad.

Next up, apps that facilitate the storage and annotation of PDF documents. There is a lot of competition in this space and as a result, there are a number of PDF apps that are popular amongst lawyers.

First, there’s Goodreader ($4.99). For many lawyers, this is the app of choice for reading and storing PDF documents. although I find the interface to be a bit clunky. My preferred PDF annotation app of choice is PDF Expert ($9.99), because it has the cleanest and most intuitive interface. Like Goodreader, it reads most documents types and and once you’ve imported documents, you can create folders, name your files and store them away.

It also has fantastic annotation features, making it incredibly easy to fill in forms by adding typewritten or handwritten text into documents. You can also mark up documents by highlighting text or striking through words and easily input text into blanks found in documents. Other popular options to consider include iAnnotate ($9.99) and ReaddleDocs (free).

Finally, another way that you can use your iPhone and iPad to manage documents on the go is by using a scanner app. There are a number of document scanner apps available either for free or at very reasonable prices of less than $10. These apps make it easy to scan a document using your device’s camera function. You simply take a picture of the document and then send it to the recipient via email. Many also give you the option of printing the document or uploading it to a cloud-based document storage website such as Dropbox, Evernote or Google Docs. My scanner app of choice is Scanner Pro ($2.99). Other alternatives include GeniusScan (free) or TurboScan ($1.99).

So there you have it: an assortment of apps that make it easier than ever to create and manage documents on the go. So download a few of them today and give them a test drive. You might be surprised at how easy it is to to stay on top of your busy law practice no matter where you happen to be.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Lawyers Get Creative With Use of Social Media

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers Get Creative With Use of Social Media." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers Get Creative With Use of Social Media

As we near the end of 2013, most lawyers understand the reach and staying power of social media, even if they’re not using it in their law practices. And those that don’t yet have a full understanding of how the main social media platforms work are doing a disservice to their clients.

That being said, those lawyers who continue to ignore the impact of social media are in the minority and most have figured out how social media works and are finding creative ways to use social media to accomplish their goals. And, the goals can be many, with the most common ones being marketing a law practice, obtaining evidence in a case, and researching social media for information on jurors. But lawyers are using social media in other ways, too, both in support of clients’ cases--and in support of an ill colleague.

Let’s start with the former and turn to a recent ethics decision, Opinion 977, issued by the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics. In this case, a New York attorney sought to use social media in a very creative way: he represented a client in an administrative proceeding and sought to distribute an online petition and survey in support of the client’s case.

Specifically, the attorney was defending his client in a cancellation proceeding before the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The lawyer asked if he could ethically: 1) distribute a link to the client’s online petition (designed to garner opposition to the cancellation) via Facebook and Twitter, assuming he simply advised readers of the link but didn’t actually ask them to sign it, and 2) post an online survey asking readers whether they found the two trademarks confusingly similar.

The Committee’s answer? That doing so was ethically permissible in most cases. “A lawyer representing a client in a trademark cancellation proceeding may use social media to distribute a link to an online petition in support of the client’s case, and may post an online survey, where there is no substantial likelihood that the petition or survey would materially prejudice the upcoming administrative adjudication.”

Now let’s head south to Miami, where the law firm of GrayRobinson used social media in an even more creative--and incredibly altruistic--way. Upon learning that one of their partners, Philippe Devé, had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the law firm launched a social media campaign in an effort to find a bone marrow donor match for Devé, an only child with elderly parents.

As many as eighty people appeared in person at the Miami offices of GrayRobinson to be tested as donors. In addition, hundreds of people across the country responded, volunteering to be tested. All with the help of social media and lawyers thinking outside the box.

So, it would seem that the times truly are a’changing. No longer are lawyers ignoring the impact of social media and refusing to acknowledge its existence. Quite the contrary. Instead, lawyers from coast to coast are harnessing the power of social media and creatively using it to positively affect their clients’ cases--and the world around them. We’ve come a long way in just a few short years and I, for one, can’t wait to see what will happen next!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Looking at the 21st century legal landscape

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Looking at the 21st century legal landscape." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Looking at the 21st century legal landscape

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

— Charles Darwin

 

Law firm leaders take note: The current legal landscape is a perfect example of Darwinian theory in action. The world is changing rapidly and only the most adaptable and innovative legal providers — and providers of services to our profession — are going to prevail and thrive in the new world order.

Recent announcements from two different companies which provide services to lawyers are indicative of the pace of change and the need to pivot — or pay the price — at the slightest hint of change in consumer demand.

First, there was  the announcement last week of BlackBerry’s buyout offer from Fairfax holdings for $4.7 billion, which followed news that BlackBerry was reporting a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion and planned to lay off 4,500 members of its workforce. This, after BlackBerry’s seeming dominance of the mobile computing market as recently as 2010.

But it was in 2010 that fissures in their marketshare became apparent when BlackBerry’s stock market performance began to be superseded by Apple’s. The rest, as they say, is history. BlackBerry — unable or unwilling to pivot with changing times — went the way of Kodak.

Shortly thereafter, large firm lawyers across the country reluctantly parted with their “Crackberry’s” only to find a newfound love — and addiction for — Apple and Android smartphones.

Also announced this week was legal research provider Fastcase’s new partnership with the New York State Bar Association, marking their 25th partnership with bar associations across the country. While this is an impressive milestone, what really stood out to me in their press release was this fact: Fastcase now has over 600,000 subscribers, which they assert is more than half the population of lawyers in the United States.

From my current understanding of the number of United States attorneys, their claim is correct, but even if it’s not 50 percent of lawyers, that’s still an impressive number. And it’s a number that is no doubt affecting the bottom line of the “big two” — the more traditional legal research providers who shall remain unnamed.

So, it’s clear that lawyers, although historically resistant to change, are undoubtedly changing with the times, since they’re shifting from using more traditional technologies and tools to more modern, 21st century alternatives.

But, the question remains: are lawyers fully embracing change or are they moving too slowly? According to the fifth annual Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey (online: www.altmanweil.com/LFiT2013/), the results are still out. While law firm leaders are acutely aware of the changes that the profession is facing, many continue to implement the old school strategies to 21st century problems.

According to the survey: 1) They are concerned that the demand for legal work is flat or shrinking in many practices; 2)They feel real pricing pressure from clients; 3) They recognize the competitive forces of commoditization and the emergence of lower-priced, non-traditional service providers, 4) They are coming to grips with the idea that aggressive growth in lawyer headcount may no longer make sense, and 5) They believe that the pace of change is increasing.

However, despite their acknowledgement of the need for change, the unfortunate conclusion reached by the survey was that: “Along with many external market pressures, there is internal drag from partners who don’t fully understand the need for change, who don’t feel any sense of urgency to change, or who are simply resistant to doing things differently. Additionally, firm leaders’ options are often constrained by Baby Boom partners with significant economic sway and a short-term outlook who act as a drag on meaningful firmwide innovation.”

So, although some lawyers concede that rapid change is afoot, many of those in leadership positions are unwilling to pivot with changing times. Only time will tell if this failure to react appropriately to change will result many large firms following in BlackBerry’s shoes and suffering a Darwinian fate. Tune in tomorrow and see.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.