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Tech Tips For the Traveling Lawyer

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Tech Tips For the Traveling Lawyer." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Tech Tips For the Traveling Lawyer

 

I travel — a lot. So I figured I’d pass along some of my favorite technology tools and apps for those of you who also spend a lot of time on the road.

First and foremost, invest in a powerful, lightweight laptop. That way you can take your office with you without needing to visit your chiropractor upon your return. I have a mid-2013 MacBook Air and I love it. It’s a thin, 13-inch laptop — only .68 inches at its thickest point when closed — and weighs in at a little less than 3 lbs. It slides right into my carry-on, takes up very little room, and doesn’t weigh down my carry-on.

Next, invest in a portable laptop stand so that your mobile office will be ergonomic no matter where you set it up. I use the Aidata LHA-3 LAPstand Aluminum Portable Laptop Stand, which retails for $38.99. It’s a cinch to fold up flat and slip into your carry on and and it’s very lightweight at only 1.8 pounds.

Another tool to help keep your workspace ergonomic even when on the road is the Wacom Pen Tablet. This tablet replaces your laptop’s trackpad and is much more comfortable to use than a mouse. It’s compatible with both Macs and PCs, and best of all, it’s flat and lightweight and is easily stored in your carry-on.

Of course you’ll need to bring your smartphone and tablet with you when you’re on the road. After all, there are lots of great apps that make your travel experience more seamless and enjoyable.

First, download the free TripIt app and use it to keep track of your travel itinerary, including your flights, your hotel and rental car information. No more searching your email for your travel plans. Instead, everything is conveniently located in one easily accessible place.

Another nice feature is the ability to share your itineraries via email with family and friends. The app also has a social component which links you to your connections who also use TripIt and then advises you if one or more of your connections will be in the place at the same time as you.

Another app to download is GateGuru. This free app is a life saver when you’re stuck in an airport. It provides maps of all major airport terminals, including restaurants and stores, along with user reviews of various businesses located in the terminal. So, instead of being stuck eating inedible meals or wondering where the closest latte is, you can simply consult the app and be on your way.

Another app that’s great for travel is Next Issue. It’s an app for your iPad or Android device that gives you unlimited access to up to 75 different magazines on your tablet — for just one low price each month. Basic access costs $9.99/month and premium access is $14.99/month.

The basic plan includes access to the most recent and back issues of over 65 different magazines, including Money Inc., ESPN the Magazine, Fast Company, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Wired and Travel & Leisure. The premium plan allows access to seven additional magazines: Entertainment Weekly, Golf World, New York Magazine, People, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker and Time.

One of my favorite features is the ability to download specific issues to your tablet and view them even if you don’t have Internet access. This feature is ideal for traveling.

Take my advice: Invest in a few of these tools and apps. The next time you travel, you’ll have a much more enjoyable, productive, ergonomic and relaxing trip.


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Lawyers and social media – still a volatile mix

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers and social media – still a volatile mix" My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers and social media – still a volatile mix

My fellow lawyers: Are you not listening? Haven’t I told you that social media is a phenomenon, not a fad, and that you need to learn as much about it as you can? Haven’t I informed you of the ethics rules and offered you advice on best practices for interacting on social media? Haven’t I told you that the online medium doesn’t change the message? Haven’t I explained that online interaction is simply an extension of offline interaction? Haven’t I cautioned you to think before you act, since the Internet is forever?

You know I have! So why do you keep doing things on social media that are simply inexcusable and that would never be considered ethically permissible if done offline?

Like the Cuyahoga County prosecutor I wrote about last June who assumed a fictitious persona and then chatted with murder trial witnesses on Facebook and encouraged them to change their testimony. Or the law firm I wrote about last December whose advertising agency posted ads for the firm on YouTube that had racist overtones.

Yet despite my cautionary tales, the social media fiascos continue, as evidenced by the recent actions of Texas attorney James Allen “Jim” Hanson. It was recently reported that Mr. Hansen now faces felony intimidation charges based on his decision to post the following message on Facebook, aimed at his divorce client’s ex-husband: “You pissed off the wrong attorney. You want to beat up women and then play games with the legal system … well then you will get exactly what you deserve. After I get [my client] out of jail I’m going to gather all the relevant evidence and them [sic] I’m going to anal rape you so hard your teeth come loose. I tried working with you with respect. Now I’m going to treat you like the pond scum you are. Watch your ass you little [expletive deleted]. I’ve got you in my sights now.”

It’s unclear to me what thought process lead Mr. Hansen to believe that it would be either: 1) wise or 2) ethical to make such a statement to an opposing party, whether publicly or privately. But to post it online, where it could forever be captured, is simply incomprehensible behavior.

That lawyers like Mr. Hansen continue to exercise what appear to be lapses in judgment when it comes to social media is just one more indication that further guidance is warranted. The good news is that lawyers who still fail to understand how to interact ethically and responsibly on social media are in luck: the New York State Bar Association’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section recently released a very useful set of guidelines on the ethics of lawyers using social media.

The section’s “Social Media Ethics Guidelines” (online: http://tinyurl.com/ComFedGuide) is an 18-page document that was released in March and provides a comprehensive overview of the ethical issues that are triggered when lawyers interact online in their professional capacities. The guidelines will be useful even if you’re not a New York lawyer since the focus includes an analysis of New York ethical issues along with coverage of opinions handed down in other jurisdictions.

The guidelines address the ethical rules relating to: 1) attorney advertising, 2) furnishing of legal advice through social media, 3) review and use of evidence from social media, 4) ethically communicating with clients and 5) researching social media profiles or posts of prospective and sitting jurors and reporting juror misconduct.

So for lawyers who are still unsure of their obligations when interacting online, the Section’s Guidelines are a great place to start. So please — help me help you avoid making the news for all the wrong reasons! Download a copy and get started today. Learn how to better represent your clients and avoid unfavorable press by using social media wisely, responsibly, and ethically.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


3 more states weigh in on ethics of cloud computing

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "3 more states weigh in on ethics of cloud computing." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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3 more states weigh in on ethics of cloud computing

 

As regular readers of my column know, I make it a point to cover opinions regarding the ethics of lawyers using cloud computing as they are handed down. That used to be a fairly easy task to stay on top of as the opinions were infrequent since cloud computing was such a foreign concept to attorneys.

 

The good news is that cloud computing use by lawyers has become much more common and as a result more jurisdictions are tackling the issue of the ethics of cloud computing. However, because of the increasing number of opinions being issued, it turns out that there were a few helpful opinions issued over the past year or so that I have not yet covered So, I figured now was as good a time as ever!

 

But first, let’s start with a brief list of opinions from a number of states that I’ve already covered and which green light the use of cloud computing by lawyers, including Alabama (Formal Opinion No. 2012-184), Arizona (Opinion 09-04), California (Opinion 2010-179), Florida (Proposed Advisory Opinion 12-3), Iowa (Opinion 11-01), Maine (Opinion 194), Massachusetts (Opinion 12-03), New Hampshire (Opinion 2012-13/4), New Jersey (Opinion 701), New York (Opinion 842 and Opinion 940), Nevada (Opinion 33), North Carolina (2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 6), Oregon (Opinion 2011-188), Pennsylvania (Opinion 2011-200), Vermont (Opinion 2010-6), and Virginia (Legal Ethics Opinion 1872).

 

Now let’s move on to the decisions issued by ethics committees in Maine, Ohio and Washington.

 

For starters, the Maine Board of Bar Overseers issued Opinion #207, which updated Opinion 194 (listed above). The board concluded that it was ethical for Maine attorneys to use cloud computing as long they exercised due diligence in vetting cloud computing providers and ensured that “safeguards (we)re in place to ensure that the attorney’s use of this technology (did) not result in the violation of any of the attorney’s obligations under the various Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.”

 

The board then approached the issue of due diligence in my least favorite way by including a rather lengthy list of factors that lawyers should consider along with questions lawyers should ask when vetting a cloud computing provider, many of which were quoted from opinions issued by other jurisdictions.

 

In contrast, the Ohio State Bar Association issued an opinion establishing a more flexible standard in OSBA Informal Opinion 2013-03. The Professionalism Committee concluded that lawyers can store confidential client data in the cloud, but recognized that listing overly-specific guidelines would be pointless since “technology changes so quickly, overly-specific rules would become obsolete as soon as they are issued … For example, rules about exactly what security measures are required in order to protect client data stored in the cloud would be superseded quickly by technological advances.” Instead, the committee offered a short list of general issue that a lawyer should consider when choosing a cloud computing service.

 

Finally, the Washington State Bar Association approach in Advisory Opinion 2215 was similar to Ohio’s. The Rules of Professional Conduct Committee concluded that it was permissible for lawyers to use cloud computing and then provided a short list of general principles that lawyers should consider when researching a cloud provider. Importantly, however, the committee explained that “(s)pecific practices regarding protection of client property and information have always been left up to individual lawyers’ judgment, and that same approach applies to the use of online data storage. The lawyer must take reasonable steps, however, to evaluate the risks involved with that practice and to ensure that steps taken to protect the information are up to a reasonable standard of care.”

 

For a complete list of all U.S. ethics opinions on cloud computing, see Bob Ambrogi’s recent blog post at Lawsites.

 

 Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Decision on mining social media for evidence

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Decision on mining social media for evidence." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Decision on mining social media for evidence

 

As I’ve often discussed in past columns, lawyers are increasingly turning to social media to obtain evidence about parties, non-parties, and jurors. However, when doing so, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the ethical issues involved and to carefully review any ethical opinions handed down in the jurisdiction in which you practice.

 

Most ethics committees have concluded that lawyers may view publicly available evidence without violating their ethical obligations and that they may not engage in deception when attempting to obtain information on social media that is behind a privacy wall, regardless of whether the party from whom information is sought is represented by counsel.

 

See, for example: Oregon State bar Ethics Committee Op. 2013-189 (lawyer may access an unrepresented individual’s publicly available social media information but “friending” known represented party impermissible absent express permission from party’s counsel); New York State Bar Opinion No. 843 [9/10/10] (attorney or agent can look at a party’s protected profile as long as no deception was used to gain access to it); New York City Bar Association Formal Opinion 2010-2 (attorney or agent can ethically “friend” unrepresented party without disclosing true purpose, but even so it is better not to engage in “trickery” and instead be truthful or use formal discovery); Philadelphia Bar Association Opinion 2009-02 (attorney or agent cannot “friend” unrepresented party absent disclosure that it relates to pending lawsuit); San Diego County Bar Association Opinion 2011-2 (attorney or agent can never “friend” represented party even if the reason for doing so is disclosed); and New York County Lawyers Association Formal Opinion No. 743 (attorney or agent can monitor jurors’ use of social media, but only if there are no passive notifications of the monitoring. The attorney must tell court if s/he discovers improprieties and can’t use the discovery of improprieties to gain a tactical advantage). ABA Op. 466 [4/24/14] (lawyer may research jurors using social media as long as the information is publicly viewable and even if passive notifications are sent to the juror).

 

And now Bob Ambrogi reports on his blog, Lawsites (www.lawsitesblog.com), that on May 8, the Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved Opinion 2014-T05, which addresses the issue of whether lawyers can mine social media to obtain evidence regarding an unrepresented adversary. The opinion has not yet been posted on the MBA’s website but can be viewed online at Lawsites: bit.ly/1nCq68r .

 

In this opinion, the committee joined the majority of jurisdictions in concluding that lawyers may not use deception in order to access information behind a privacy wall and instead must specifically inform the unrepresented party of both their identities and the reason for the connection request: “A lawyer for a party may ‘friend’ an unrepresented adversary in order to obtain information helpful to her representation from the adversary’s nonpublic website only when the lawyer has been able to send a message that discloses his or her identity as the party’s lawyer.”

 

In reaching its decision, the committee analogized the online conduct of “friending” an unrepresented party to the offline conduct of calling the party on the phone without providing adequate identification information prior to questioning the individual about issues related to the legal case at issue.

 

The committee’s analysis is sound and provides good guidance for both Massachusetts attorneys and lawyers who practice in jurisdictions that have not yet addressed this issue and who seek to use social media to obtain evidence related to their client’s case. The bottom line: When in doubt, avoid deception and disclose your identity. As I always say, better safe than sorry.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.