Web/Tech

Round Up: AI, litigation analytics software, Gmail security issues, and more

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from July 2018:

 


Lawyers should be concerned about a new Gmail security issue: here’s how to fix it

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers should be concerned about a new Gmail security issue: here’s how to fix it

If you’ve been reading my column over the years, you already know that unencrypted email is inherently unsecure and that it’s no different than sending a postcard written in pencil through the post office. Despite this fact, in the mid-1990s, bar ethics committees, including the New York State Committee on Professional Ethics, gave lawyers the green light to use email for confidential client communications.

Of course, as I’ve explained many times before, as technology changes, so too do expectations regarding security and the ethical duty to maintain confidentiality. As a result, email is slowly falling out of favor as an accepted method of secure attorney/client communication. The most recent evidence of this trend was the issuance of  Formal Opinion 477 by the American Bar Association last year, wherein the Ethics Committee concluded that unencrypted email may not always be sufficient for client communication. 

More recently, in early July, news reports revealed that emails sent and received by Gmail users can sometimes be read by third party apps and their developers - not just machines. The reason this matters is because it was previously believed that the emails of people who used the free version of Gmail email were only scanned by machines in order to serve up relevant ads.

This newfound revelation is an important one for New York lawyers who use the free version of Gmail (as opposed the paid version - GSuite - which doesn’t serve up ads to users, and thus emails aren’t scanned by Google). This is because the scanning of emails to provide ads was determined to be permissible by the New York State Bar Association in 2008, when the Committee on Professional Ethics concluded that since the contents of emails were being processed by a machine, not a person, for the limited purpose of serving up relevant content, it was ethically permissible to use Gmail for confidential client communications. (New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion 820-2/08/08).

In other words, if you’re using the free version of Gmail to communicate with clients, and have knowingly or unknowingly granted third party apps access to your Gmail account, you may now be violating your ethical obligation to maintain client confidentiality. And, on the flip side, even if you haven’t granted access to third party apps, if any of your clients use the free version of Gmail, it’s possible that they’ve done so and are now allowing third parties to view confidential email communications.

So if you or your clients use the free version of Gmail, you’ll need to take steps to ensure that your communications are secure. One way to accomplish this goal is to choose a different method of communication altogether. Since unencrypted email is inherently unsecure, regardless of the email provider, why not switch to secure client portals instead? Client portals, which are often built into law practice management software, provide a secure and efficient way for lawyers to communicate and collaborate with clients. With client portals, the cumbersome back and forth process of unsecure, threaded emails is a thing of the past and is instead replaced by the ability to securely communicate in an encrypted, controlled online environment.

Alternatively, switch to the paid version of Gmail, GSuite, or lock your free version down, and ask your clients do the same. If your choice is the latter, you’ll need to head over to Google’s Security Check-up page (online: https://myaccount.google.com/security-checkup/3) and revoke the access that any third party apps may have to your account. Your clients will need to do the same.


Regardless of the path that you take, keep in mind that as a New York attorney, you have an ethical duty to maintain technology competence. And, ensuring that the technologies that you use to communicate with clients are secure is an important part of that obligation. It’s not always easy to find the time to learn about new and emerging technologies, but it’s important that you do so. Make it a priority to learn something new each day, whether it’s from blogs, books, or CLEs.

Like it or not, taking steps to understand technology is now part of practicing law in the 21st century. The good news is that at the end of the day, maintaining technology competence will make you a better, more informed, and more efficient attorney.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.


Round Up: Law School Advice, Legal Billing Software, Online Collaboration and More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from June 2018:


Maine Bar on use of social media evidence for litigation

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Maine Bar on use of social media evidence for litigation

The phenomenon of social media has infiltrated all aspects of our lives, so it’s not surprise that social media evidence is now a pivotal tool in litigation. Juror use of social media has resulted in mistrials across the country for more than a decade now. And trial attorneys are increasingly mining social media for evidence and researching jurors online.

Not surprisingly, the rising practice of using social media information during litigation caught the attention of ethics committees some years ago, and the first opinion on this issue was handed down in 2009. Since then, I’ve regularly covered these opinions in this column, and recently realized that I’d overlooked one that was issued by the Maine Bar’s Professional Ethics Commission last November: Opinion 217 

In the opinion, the Commission addressed both the ethics of mining social media for evidence and researching jurors online. Another issue covered was whether lawyers may connect with judges or quasi-judicial officers on social media sites.

At the outset, the Commission acknowledged that defining social media is a difficult task, since “(t)he functionality, technology and content available on the platforms that make up “social media” likely will continue to evolve dramatically in the future.” Even so, it attempted to offer a rather broad definition, defining social media networks as sites that “are used primarily for connecting socially with multiple ‘friends’ and for sharing a wide range of personal, professional and editorial information using text, links, photographs and video,” while specifically excluding sites that “lack the type of sharing of non-public information with ‘friends’ selected by the profile holder, which characterizes social media platforms.”

Next the Commission turned to using social media to obtain evidence for a pending case. The Commission sided with the majority of other jurisdictions in concluding that all publicly viewable social media information is fair game and may be viewed without issue. But for unrepresented parties, data found behind a privacy wall may only be accessed if attorneys or their agents, when making the connection request, “affirmatively disclose the purpose of the contact.” Represented parties were a different story, and all private information found behind the privacy wall was found to be off limits since any attempt to connect in order to access that information constitute impermissible communications with a represented party.

The Commission also sided with the majority of jurisdictions on the issue of whether passive notifications (like those sent by LinkedIn when someone views a user’s profile) sent by social networks to jurors constituted an impermissible communication. Like the American Bar Association Committee and the DC Bar Committee (and in contrast to the position taken by the New York State Bar Committee), the Commission concluded that only publicly viewable information could be accessed and that passive notifications to jurors sent by social media sites did not constitute impermissible ex parte communications since “any other approach would be unworkable as a practical matter and would subject attorneys to potential ethics violations based upon the happenstance of user settings or new technologies that generate automated messages outside of the attorney’s reasonable knowledge or control.” However, the Commission cautioned that “where an attorney knows or reasonably should know that accessing any social media of a juror will result in such juror becoming aware of the attorney’s access, the attorney should refrain from accessing that social media, (and) (i)f the attorney learns that any juror…has become aware of (it), the attorney must notify the Court…(which) may find it advisable to provide a cautionary instruction…”

Finally the Commission weighed in on lawyers connecting with judges online: “Attorneys are permitted to connect with judges and other judicial officers through social media, but they are precluded from having ex parte communications with, or from attempting to impermissibly influence, such judges or judicial officers through social media.” Once again, this was in line with the position taking by most other jurisdictions on this issue.

As more jurisdictions address these issues, commonalities arise in the analysis and conclusions reached. In this case, the Commission wisely acknowledged the rapid pace of technological advancement and incorporated that concept into the context of its determinations. Hopefully committees in jurisdictions that have not yet addressed these issues will follow suit, since guidelines on ethical use of technology that have flexibility built in are more likely to withstand the test of time.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.


Round Up: Time-tracking Software, Legal Beach Reads, Artificial Intelligence, and More

RoundupI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from April 2018:

 


ABA survey shows lawyers are more mobile than ever in 2018

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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ABA survey shows lawyers are more mobile than ever in 2018

The iPhone was released in 2007, and it revolutionized the way that we communicate and access information. Smartphones, once a novelty, are now commonplace, in the legal profession. This is because, unlike other types of technology, lawyers jumped on the mobile bandwagon fairly quickly.

As evidenced by the results of the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey, lawyers are more mobile than ever before. The reasons are many: mobile computing offers convenience, flexibility, and 24/7 access to important information. Given all the benefits, it’s no wonder that lawyers have taken to mobile devices like a fish takes to water.

According to the survey results, lawyers use a number of different types of mobile devices for law-related tasks while away from their offices. Smartphones are the most commonly used, with 96% of lawyers reporting that they used smartphones while outside the office. Lawyers from firms of 10-49 and from firms of 100-499 used them the most often, with both sets of lawyers reporting usage levels at 98%. Next up were lawyers from firms of 500 or more (97%), followed by lawyers from firms of 50-99 (96%), 2-9 (95%), and solos (93%).

Laptops are also popular, with 81% of lawyers using them for law-related purposes while away from the office. Lawyers from firms of 500 or more reported the greatest use of laptops while out of the office (94%). Lawyers from firms of 100-499 were next at 89%, followed by lawyers form firms of 50-99 (85%), 2-9 (83%), 10-49 (82%), and solos. (74%).

Lawyers were the least likely to use tablets for mobile access while away from the office, with 50% reporting that they did so. Lawyers from firms of 500 or more used tablets the most often (61%). Next up were lawyers form firms of 2-9 (52%), followed by lawyers from firms of 10-49 (51%), solos (49%), lawyers form firms of 50-99 (46%), and lawyers form firms of 100-499 (36%).

According to the lawyers surveyed, they used mobile devices from a variety of different locations.The most common place that lawyers used their mobile devices was their home (96%), followed by hotels (93%), while in transit (89%), airports (85%), clients’ offices (75%), in the courthouse (70%), and other attorneys’ offices (71%).

When it comes to courtroom usage, according to the survey, 57% of lawyers who appear in court have used laptops in the courtroom, up from 46% in 2014. Tops uses for laptops include email (34%), accessing key evidence and documents (33%), legal research (29%), accessing court documents and dockets (27%), calendaring (24%), and delivering presentations (23%).

80% of lawyers who appear in court report using their smartphone in court. Some of the most popular uses include: email (72%), calendaring (58%), real-time communications (44%), legal research (24%), accessing court dockets and documents (15%), and accessing the firm’s network (14%).

When it comes to tablets, 38% of lawyers who appear in court reported using them in court. Tablets were used to accomplish a number of tasks, including email (29%), legal research (25%), calendaring (21%), accessing court documents and dockets (16.5%), and accessing key evidence and documents (15%).

So that’s how lawyers are using mobile devices to practice law in 2018. How does your mobile device usage compare? If you use your mobiles devices less often than your colleagues, perhaps you’re not fully taking advantage of the many benefits the mobile computing offers.
Then again, there are undoubtedly drawbacks to the mobile age, not the least of which is the psychological impact of the perception of 24/7 availability. While it’s not always an easy juggling act, the benefits of mobile access are many, both for lawyers and their clients. The key is to find the right balance between the convenience of easy access to information and maintaining the necessary boundaries between work and your home life. Once you’ve found a balance that works for you, you’ll reap the benefits of the flexibility of mobile computing.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive, powerful law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also 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 can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.

 


Pennsylvania also weighs in on email tracking

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Pennsylvania Also Weighs In On Email Tracking

Last week I wrote about the recent ethics opinion out of Illinois, Opinion 18-01, wherein Illinois joined Alaska and New York in concluding that it is unethical for lawyers to use email tracking software. The Alaska committee specifically limited the prohibition to apply to emails with opposing counsel, whereas the other committees offered a broader prohibition that applied to all emails sent by a lawyer.

After my column was published, I learned that Pennsylvania had also issued an opinion addressing email tracking last year, Formal Opinion 2017-300. At issue in this opinion was whether it was ethically permissible for lawyers to use email tracking software when communicating with opposing counsel. As was the case in the Alaska opinion, the inquiry was specifically limited to emails sent to opposing counsel, as opposed to clients and other types fo recipients.

First, the Committee addressed the issue of how email tracking can affect attorney-client confidentiality when used with opposing counsel. The Committee concluded that information gleaned from the tracking tool could constitute an unwarranted intrusion into that confidential relationship, and provided the following scenario by way of example: “(W)hen a lawyer receives a document in the mail from opposing counsel and forwards it to a client, the lawyer and the client may reasonably believe that the sender is not aware of that subsequent communication, including when and how it was transmitted, when the client viewed it, and when or if the client forwarded the document to another person. The use of web bugs is contrary to this assumption.”

Next, the Committee explained that using email tracking tools when communicating with opposing counsel is also problematic because the lawyer receiving the email is unaware of the tracking software and is unable to do anything to disable it: “(T)his Committee believes that their use violates Rule 8.4’s prohibition against ‘conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.’ Because the lawyer receiving the email does not and cannot reasonably determine or protect against web bugs, the sending lawyer’s use of these devices would violate Rule 8.4.”

Accordingly, the Committee concluded that using email tracking tools when communicating with opposing counsel is unethical: “This Committee concludes that the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit lawyers from using ‘web bugs’ or any other method to track the receipt and distribution of email sent to opposing counsel. While the use of visible tracking devices such as those used in commercial email do not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, the use of a web bug, which opposing counsel cannot determine is present, violates Rules 4.4 and 8.4.”

Of interest is that the Committee exempted two specific types of email tracking tools from its conclusion and determined that they were ethically permissible: 1) email list services and 2) “read receipt” tools. The Committee explained that in both cases, the recipient has the ability to opt into the tracking, thus differentiating these tools from the email tracking software at issue in the opinion.

The Committee explained that email list software, such as Mail Chimp, did not violate the ethics rules since “(1) they are mass emails, and not personal to a client matter; (2) those services display their links to encourage users to click on them; and (3) lawyers and other recipients are aware that they are clicking on the links.”

Similarly, “read receipt” or “delivery receipt” tools, which are available for use in many email platforms, including Outlook, were permissible for lawyers to use since “recipients are aware of, and may configure their software to permit such receipts, to make their use optional, or to preclude their use…”

So, Pennsylvania lawyers have joined the ranks of those who should avoid using email tracking tools with opposing counsel. For those of you who practice in one of the many jurisdictions where this issue has not yet been addressed, I would suggest that it would be wise to err on the side of caution and, in the absence of consent, avoid using software with opposing counsel that could provide insights regarding their online behavior, whether it’s part of an email program or otherwise. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive, powerful law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also 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 can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.


Here’s How Lawyers Can Demystify Legal Technology

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Here’s How Lawyers Can Demystify Legal Technology

In last week’s column, I shared an assortment of online resources that lawyers can use to stay on top of legal technology. It’s not an easy task, given the rapid pace of technological change. Not surprisingly, that’s why some lawyers ignore technology altogether: it’s overwhelming for them to even consider learning about emerging technologies.

Doing so is undoubtedly a mistake, since 31 states now require lawyers to maintain technology competence as part of their ethical obligations, of which New York is one. But the question remains: how can lawyers find time to educate themselves about technology?

One way is to take advantage of the resources offered by your local and state bar associations. For example, when the recently formed Technology and Law Practice Committee that I chair for the Monroe County Bar Association meets each month, we host remote technology-related Q&As with legal technology experts. Our goal is to educate bar members and help them make better choices when it comes to incorporating technology into their firms.

These Q & As can be attended by all bar members, even if they’re not able to attend the meeting in-person, since the sessions are hosted online via GoToMeeting. This makes it easy for lawyers to sign in and participate remotely from their office computers. Recordings of those Q&As are also available online at the Bar’s website. Past interviews have included well-known legal technology experts Bob Ambrogi, Kevin O’Keefe, Mitch Kowalski, and Allison Shields. Next month’s meeting will be a Q & A with Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association's Management Assistance Program, so I hope you can join us!

Another way to stay abreast of technological change is by taking advantage of CLEs designed to help solo and small firm lawyers sift through the vast amounts of information about legal technology that’s available, both online and off. By attending these CLEs, you’ll learn the ins and outs of legal technology, which will help you make the right choices for your law firm.

In June, there’s a CLE planned locally that will help you do just that, so if you’re a Monroe County lawyer who’s struggling to incorporate technology into your law firm, you’re in luck. The Technology and Law Practice Committee is putting on a seminar on June 22nd at 12:15 entitled, “Demystifying technology: How to effectively - and ethically - use technology in your law firm.” You can register for it at the Bar’s website.

Meredith Lamb, a matrimonial attorney with Weinstein & Randisi, will be moderating a panel discussion during which you'll hear from two Rochester-based solo lawyers who have successfully implemented technology into their law practices: Danielle Wild and Aleksander Nikolas. They'll explain how and why they chose the specific tools they rely on every day to streamline their law firms. You’ll also hear their advice and practical tips, including lessons learned from their experiences. I’ll also be on the panel and will speak about the duty of technology competence and will explain why it's important for New York lawyers to make educated decisions about whether or not to use technology in their practices. The ethics of using cloud computing software will be discussed, along with examples of how different types of technology can streamline a practice. Finally, you’ll learn about resources that will help you stay on top of technology changes.

So if one of your priorities this year is to update your legal technology know-how, then this CLE is for you. With just a small investment of your time, you’ll gain lots of knowledge and will leave armed with the information you need to make informed technology decisions for your law firm. 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive, powerful law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also 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 can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.


Round Up: AI Contract Analytics Software, Technology Tips, Bitcoin, and More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from March 2018:


Illinois weighs in on ethics of email tracking for lawyers

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Illinois Weighs in on Ethics of Email Tracking for Lawyers

As technology evolves, so too do the tools we use to enhance even the most basic technologies that we interact with on a day-to-day basis. For example: email. It’s been part of our lives for decades now, and while it hasn’t changed much, there are a multitude of tools available that increase its functionality.

That’s why ethical issue relating to lawyers’ use of email continue to arise even though email use by lawyers was given the ethical nod more than 20 years ago. Some concerns relate to the security of email now that more advanced and encrypted methods of electronic communication are available. Other issues revolve around the use of tools designed to enhance the functionality of email, such as email tracking.

I last wrote about the ethics of the use of email tracking software by lawyers in December 2016, after the Alaska Bar Association Ethics Committee concluded in Opinion 2016-1 that even if the use of email tracking software is disclosed, its application to emails sent to opposing counsel is ultimately both dishonest and unethical.

More recently, the Illinois State Bar Association addressed that very same issue in Advisory Opinion 18-01. Specifically, the inquiring attorney asked whether “the use of undisclosed ‘tracking’ software (sometimes known as ‘web bugs,’ ‘web beacons,’ or ‘spymail’) in emails or other electronic communications with other lawyers or clients is ethically permissible.”

At the outset of the opinion, the Committee explained that this type of software typically tracks, among other things: “1) when the email was opened; 2) how long the email was reviewed (including whether it was in the foreground or background while the user worked on other activities); 3) how many times the email was opened; 4) whether the recipient opened attachments to the email; 5) how long the attachment (or a page of the attachment) was reviewed; 6) whether and when the subject email or attachment was forwarded; and 7) the rough geographical location of the recipient.”

Next, the Committee noted that most lawyers operated under the very reasonable assumption that electronic communications with opposing counsel would be free from any type of tracking. The Committee explained that this was especially so given the nature of the information that could be obtained via email tracking software, including “how much time the receiving lawyer spent reviewing the communication – including even specific pages of documents – or how frequently the communication was viewed (a proxy for how important the receiving lawyer deemed it to be), whether and when it was forwarded either to the client or co-counsel or otherwise, the location of the recipients, and the details of the recipients’ review of the document.”

Next, the Committee turned to the sensitive nature of the information that could be obtained from email tracking, opining that the use of such software to track electronic communications with opposing counsel evidences “the lack of straightforwardness that is a hallmark of dishonest conduct.”

Accordingly, the Committee concluded that even if the use of email tracking tools were disclosed to opposing counsel, their use was nevertheless impermissible since the software allowed “the sending lawyer to intrude upon the attorney’s work product by tracking the attorney’s use of that document, (thus constituting) an unwarranted intrusion into the attorney-client relationship.”

Other than Illinois and Alaska, the New York State Bar is the only other bar I’m aware of that has addressed this issue and it reached a similar conclusion. In 2001 in Opinion 749, the Committee on Professional Ethics determined that a lawyer may not “use available technology to surreptitiously examine and trace e-mail and other electronic documents.” So, New York lawyers are likewise barred from using email tracking software.

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive, powerful law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also 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 can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.