Web resources

Technology, Web 2.0, and the Practice of Law

Drlogo11 This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Technology, Web 2.0, and the Practice of Law" 

My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Technology, Web 2.0, and the Practice of Law

      

  Your old road
        Is rapidly agin'
        Please get out of the new one
        If you can't lend your hand
        For the times they are a'changin'

            --Bob Dylan

      Many lawyers find themselves overwhelmed with their workloads and as a result, keeping up with technological changes is relatively low on their list of priorities.   

      It shouldn’t be. Technology is dramatically altering the legal landscape, and if you don’t make an effort to keep up, you’ll be left behind with a dust cloud swirling around you, wondering what hit you.
      
     While learning about emerging technologies may seem like a daunting task, it needn’t be.  There will most certainly be a learning curve, but the effort spent familiarizing yourself with new technology will pay off immensely in the long run.

      A great place to start is at the website my colleagues, Greg Back and Matt Lerner, and I created to complement a continuing legal education seminar recently held at the Monroe County Bar Association:  Practicing Law in the 21st Century--Practice Management and Substantive Law Resources on the Internet. This website, a blog, is predictably called Practicing Law in the 21st Century.

      The blog highlights readily available internet resources and tools that will allow lawyers to practice beyond the four walls of their law office and become more productive, more efficient and less stressed.  It provides links to a vast assortment of cutting edge law office management tools, productivity tools, links to free legal research sites, and free substantive resources. 

      Many of the tools highlighted on the blog are considered to be part of the next generation of Web 2.0 applications.

      Of course, after reading the previous sentence, you might be wondering:  What exactly is Web 2.0? 

      Wikipedia describes Web 2.0 as “the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users…(t)he idea of ‘Web 2.0’ can also relate to a transition of some websites from isolated information silos to interlinked computing platforms that function like locally-available software in the perception of the user. Web 2.0 also includes a social element where users generate and distribute content, often with freedom to share and re-use. This can result in a rise in the economic value of the web to businesses, as users can perform more activities online.”
 
    In other words, Web 2.0 is a living, breathing, evolving World Wide Web, which increasingly relies upon the participation and collaboration of its users.  Websites are no longer static, information-providing pages.  Rather, they are ever changing and responsive, with the content being envisioned, generated and shared by a participatory web community.   Much of the content is created and stored online using web applications, as opposed software downloaded to individual computers.  YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and Flickr are prime examples of Web 2.0 in action.

      One of the Web 2.0 applications that was a favorite of many participants on the CLE panel was Jott, a free reminder service that, among other things, allows you to call your Jott account vis a toll-free number and dictate a note which is transcribed and sent to you via email or text message.  Another very useful Web 2.0 application, Zamzar, provides free online file conversion.  This web applications converts uploaded files into any number of formats, from, for example, Word to WordPerfect, and sends the converted file right to your email inbox.
   
     Also of interest to many participants were the office suites available online at no cost, which offer the ability to create word processing documents, spreadsheets and online presentations, much like Microsoft Office.  Zoho,Open Office  and Google Docs  are well-known and popular online platforms that provide these services.

      Another tidbit that caused a stir amongst seminar attendees was the fact the entire New York Code of Rules and Regulations is newly available for free online.  Also of interest was a useful and free online database containing the municipal codes of nearly every town and village in New York State.

      These websites are just the tip of the iceberg.  Head on over to the blog and explore it at your leisure.  Embrace technology and learn how to practice law in the 21st century.   
 
    I promise--it will be relatively painless.  You might even find it to be an interesting, educational and enjoyable experience!


Law and Web 2.0

Checkmark Today, I participated in a CLE, Practicing Law in The 21st Century, with two fellow bloggers, Matt Lerner of the New York Civil Law Blog and Gregory Bell of the Jazz@Rochester blog.  The venerable Charles Inclima was our moderator.

In conjunction with the CLE, Greg, Matt and I created a blog, creatively named: Practicing Law in the 21st Century.

This blog highlights "tools that will help lawyers to practice beyond the four walls of the law office and make life within those wall less burdensome and, possibly, less expensive" and includes information regarding:

Our goal is to periodically update the blog with new resources and information.

Check it out.  If I may say so myself, it's a great resource!


Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Drlogo11 This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Practicing Law in the 21st Century."  The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.

My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Rapid technological advancements have changed the way the world functions; the practice of law has not been exempt from this change. The landscape of the legal field has been dramatically altered by the advent of high-speed Internet, email, data phones, and remote office capabilities.  Law firms are now grappling with issues of e-Discovery and e-filing is becoming commonplace.

These issues have been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks, as I prepare for a CLE that I’ll be participating in at the MCBA on May 15, 2008, from 9 am-noon: “Practicing Law in The 21st Century — Practice Management and Substantive Law Resources on the Internet.” The goal of this CLE is to make technology more accessible and useful to lawyers in their practices.

Technology has made the practice of law simpler for some, while other attorneys find themselves struggling to keep up with the changes or, alternatively, ignoring technology in the futile hope that it will simply disappear.

The fact remains, however, that technology is here to stay. In order to succeed in a rapidly evolving marketplace, lawyers must embrace change and learn to use technology to their advantage.

Computers and the Internet can be used to improve all aspects of a law practice. The Internet and data phones allow lawyers to obtain information anywhere, anytime. Office servers can be accessed remotely on data phones or home computers, thus allow- ing lawyers timesaving flexibility. A lawyer in the middle of trial can now step into the hallway and conduct legal research via a data phone.

Vast amounts of information relevant to the practice of law can be obtained online. In addition to the traditional Web-based legal research companies such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, there are now low-cost Web-based research alternatives available.

And, if you know where to look, large amounts of information can be accessed online at no cost, including case law, both federal (1997-present) and New York (from 1995 to the present). New York and federal rules and regulations are also available, as are New York State Attorney General opinions and the 2007 Codes of New York State.

Online resources can keep attorneys current and on top of changes in their specific areas of practice as well. Online news articles and legal blogs are great tools in this regard.

There is also a vast assortment of cutting-edge resources avail- able on the Internet to assist attorneys in managing their productivity and their law practices. There are low cost Web-based practice management systems that can replace traditional software. Free Web-based email, calendaring systems, word-processing, and phone and fax sys- tems can replace traditional and costly alternatives.

Networking opportunities abound online. Between listservs, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and social networking sites such as Facebook, lawyers have more opportunities than ever to interact with and learn from lawyers across the country.

Of course, technological change has made certain aspects of legal practice more difficult and confusing. The most evident example of this is the ever-prevalent issue of E-discovery. Since the amendment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in December 2006, businesses and their lawyers have struggled to respond to e-Discovery requests and to alter their business practices in order to preserve e-data and thus avoid sanctions under the new rules.

Fortunately, there are a number of free and useful resources on the Internet, which can assist attorneys in complying with the new rules. In addition, there are companies that now assist businesses with the e- Discovery process, such as DocuLegal.

There is no question that technology has transformed the legal profession and will continue to do so in the future. Rather than keeping your head in the sand, why not embrace technological changes and learn to use them to your advantage? The short-term investment will be minimal and the long-term pay off will be huge — not a bad trade-off, all things considered.


Two New Online Legal Research Tools

Checkmark There are two new and free online legal research tools:

  • The Public Library of Law:  Via Fastcase access to cases from the U.S. Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals Cases from all 50 states back to 1997, federal statutory law and codes from all 50 states, and  regulations, court rules, constitutions, and more.
  • AltLaw: Provides searchable text of the last few decades of U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate decisions.

Hat tip: Above the Law.

Continue reading "Two New Online Legal Research Tools" »


Useful Web Resource for NY Criminal Defense Practitioners

Checkmark I recently discovered a summary of recent New York criminal law decisions handed down during the second half of 2007, authored by Albany attorney Michael P. McDermott from the law firm O’Connell and Aronowitz that might be of interest to those of you who handle criminal matters.  The summary can be found here.

The following is an excerpt from the January 2008 summary:

Multitasking?

Trying to juggle a hectic practice?

In the middle of a murder trial but still need to attend that real estate closing? Relax, the jury can wait.

In People v. Ortiz 1, defendant was convicted of murder and attempted murder. He received a cumulative sentence of 30 years to life. On appeal, defendant argued that he was deprived of conflict-free and effective representation because jury deliberations were suspended for an afternoon so that his attorney could attend a closing. The First Department rejected defendant’s claim, characterizing the adjournment as a “routine scheduling conflict” and affirmed the conviction.

For those of you foolhardy enough to try this in Albany County… please do not mention that you read this in the newsletter.

“But Judge… I want to keep the sleeping juror!”

The trial court dismissed as “grossly unqualified” a juror who repeatedly appeared to be sleeping during the course of the trial. 2 When questioned after the first observed snooze, the juror admitted that she was tired, but claimed to be paying attention to the proceedings. It was only when the juror’s head snapped back several times during the charge that the court dismissed the juror over the defendant’s objection, without making further inquiry.

The First Department found no error, finding that additional questioning was unnecessary under the circumstances.

Cliffhanger Resolved

For those of you actually in suspense over the resolution of People v. Greene (first discussed in the November newsletter), read on. You may recall that the issue in Greene was whether evidence obtained in violation of the physician-patient privilege, which lead to the identification of a murder suspect, warranted suppression of the identification. The Appellate Division thought not.

In affirming, the Court of Appeals held that there is no constitutional right to privacy in physician-patient communications. The Court reasoned that it is a physician’s duty to safeguard the privilege and to suppress the evidence would be to punish the State for the misconduct of the physician or hospital. 3

No Courtroom for a Crime

In People v. Zimmerman, 4 the Court of Appeals handed down a decision with a most curious result.

Zimmerman, was the result of the Attorney General’s probe into alleged violations of the Donnelly Act (New York’s antitrust law) by Federated Department Stores. In the course of its investigation, the AG’s office deposed Mr. Zimmerman (CEO of Federated) in Ohio.

Believing that Mr. Zimmerman lied during the course of his deposition, the AG convened a grand jury in New York County to consider perjury charges. The grand jury returned an indictment charging Zimmerman with Perjury in the First Degree.

While the alleged perjury obviously occurred in Ohio, the defendant conceded New York had jurisdiction pursuant to CPL 20.20 (2) (b). That statute confers jurisdiction when the underlying criminal offense is designed to prevent the occurrence of a particular effect in this state and the conduct was committed with the intent that it would have such an effect.

However, the defendant took issue with New York County as the venue for the action. The AG’s office argued that “particular effect” venue pursuant to CPL 20.40 (2) (c) rendered New York County the proper venue since any prosecution generated by the underlying investigation would have been commenced in that county. While the statutes defining the “jurisdiction” of the State (CPL 20.20) and the “jurisdiction” of counties (CPL 20.40) are similar, there are important (and probably unintended) differences. For a county to have jurisdiction (i.e. proper venue), under the “particular effect” theory, the county itself (not the state of New York as a whole) must suffer a particular effect of the defendant’s alleged misconduct.

Because there was no proof that New York County, as opposed to the State as a whole, suffered from Zimmerman’s alleged perjury, the indictment was dismissed. In the words of Judge Ciparick, writing for the majority: “it is lamentable that, although defendant’s acts admittedly could have caused a “concrete and identifiable” injury to New York State generally, there is not a single county in the State where this prosecution could be brought given the current statutory scheme.”

I told you it was curious.

1. 2007 NY Slip Op 08836, decided November 15, 2007.
2. People v. Snowden, 2007 NY Slip Op 07883 (First Department, reported 10/18/2007).
3.  People v. Tamal Greene, 2007 NY Slip Op 09066 (decided 11/20/07).
4.  People v. Zimmerman, 2007 NY Slip Op 09812 (decided 12/13/07)


Useful Web Resource

Checkmark Today, while at a board meeting for a public interest legal organization that I'm involved with, I learned of an interesting and potentially very useful web resource, LawHelp.org-New York.

Although this website is tailored toward the legal consumer, it contains a wealth of information for the New York legal practitioner with the added benefit that is all easily accessible in one place.

It provides basic information, forms and resources for a large number of legal topics, including employment law, immigration law, trusts and estates, tax law, education law, just to name a few.  It would be particularly helpful as a very basic starting point in an area of law with which you are unfamiliar.

It also provides information based upon your location, so you can easily look up contact information for courts near you.

Another nice feature is that certain areas of the site can be accessed in a large number of languages, should you have a client whose native language is not English.  There are a number pamphlets available that explain basic legal issues in a number of languages.

Again, although the website is targeted toward the lower income legal consumer, if you spend a few minutes exploring it, you may very well find some of the information to be useful in your day to day practice.