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An ode to my mentors, and their dedication


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "An ode to my mentors, and their dedication."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


An ode to my mentors, and their dedication

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.

--John Crosby

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the value of mentors. When it comes to mentors, I’ve been extremely lucky. Throughout the course of my legal career, I have had invaluable mentors, without whom, I wouldn’t be where I am—or who I am. It is to them that I dedicate this article.

First, there is Edward Menkin, a criminal defense attorney in Syracuse, New York. It is because of Ed, a good friend of my parents, that I decided to attend law school in the first place.

His career fascinated me, and Ed encouraged me to learn more about it. When I was in college, I interned in his office and he assisted me in obtaining a summer internship with the United States Attorney’s Office. During law school, he provided me with one of my most memorable law school experiences when he allowed me to sit second chair during a federal prisoner civil rights case that he tried. Ed is one of the most dedicated and talented criminal defense attorneys that I know and I am proud to call him my first mentor.

After law school, I worked for 4 years at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office. There I met Clark Zimmermann, a seasoned PD, who became a life long friend and mentor. Clark was a wonderful, patient, and wise mentor. Whenever I hit a wall and was unsure how to proceed with one of my cases, he never failed to point me in the right direction. He and I left the PD’s at approximately the same time and then worked together as associates at what is now Trevett, Cristo, Salzer and Andolina, P.C. There we became good friends as we assisted each other in learning how to practice civil law, a new experience for both of us.

Another invaluable mentor is my cousin, David Rothenberg, one of the wisest people I know. When I moved to Rochester, he offered me his advice and guidance in obtaining my job at the PD’s office. A few years later, when I was ready to leave that position and was considering leaving the law altogether, he encouraged me to stick it out for a few more years and give civil litigation a try. I took his advice to heart and have never regretted doing so--my years as a civil litigator rounded out my legal experience and made me a much better lawyer.

And, years later, in 2005, after I took a brief, self-imposed hiatus from the legal field, I was explaining to him my intent to begin working as a contract attorney. David told me offhand, “You know the other day on NPR I heard about these things called “blogs.” You should start one.” And, I did--yet another invaluable piece of advice from David, without which I wouldn’t be where I am today.

While at Trevett, Cristo, Salzer & Andolina, Larry Andolina and Jim Gocker were wonderful mentors. Larry is a masterful criminal defense attorney and a skilled negotiator. He truly understands people—who they are and what motivates them. Every time he worked a room full of people--whether it was a pre-trial conference or a tense negotiation—I learned more from watching him than I did during all three years of law school.

Then, there was Jim. Jim taught me how to truly practice law—carefully, methodically, and strategically—leaving no stone unturned. I’ll never forget walking into his office during the beginning of my time at the firm and asking him a question about a filing deadline. He paused, looked at me over his reading glasses, and said “Well, let’s see what the CPLR has to say about that.”

Years later, a new associate walked into my office, desperation in her eyes, and frantically asked me about a filing deadline. I smiled, reached for my copy of the CPLR and said “Well, let’s see what the CPLR has to say about that.” That was when I knew I’d truly arrived as a lawyer!

And, last but not least, there is my co-author, Carolyn Elefant. I first reached out to her via email in 2005, seeking her advice on balancing my newly established contract lawyer practice with my family. Since then she has been an invaluable resource and a wonderful friend. Whenever I need to bounce an idea off of someone, I turn to Carolyn. She is one of the most kind, caring, consummate professionals that I know.

I’m not sure where I’d be but for my mentors. I’m lucky to have had them and am truly grateful to each and every one of them for their advice and guidance over the years.

If you haven’t done so lately, let your mentors know how much you appreciate them. And, if you have the chance to mentor a young attorney, don’t pass it up. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that never stops giving.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at

Looking for a good movie to watch? Look no further.

Movie ReelsImage by JPhilipson via Flickr

I recently asked friends on Facebook and Twitter if they'd seen any good movies lately and here are there responses:

  • Ruth Barber: of gods and men - moving true story about a group of monks who refused to run away, give up or use violence in the face of oppression
  • Cat Adlerman: Up--deep emotion at the begining...happy story and funny.
  • Carla Marie Ciampa: The Kids are All Right. A peek at grown up life, 20 years after the romantic "I do's." The Town. Ben Affleck at his best, greasy, conniving with a poignant love story.
  • Matthew S. Crider Fred Claus: the support group scene
  • Frank T. Pimentel: In the last year it was The Lives of Others without a close second. Other "good" ones were The Blind Side and It's Complicated. Most disappointing was The Hurt Locker. The Lives of Others was great because it showed the depravity of Communism in everyday life.
  • Dave Orr ‎127 hours. Anyone who can cut their own arm off with a cheap Chinese Leatherman knockoff wins Hands, or should I say Hand, Down.
  • Eric Brian Johnson hmmm, Winter's Bone was pretty good.
  • @PokerLawyer: The Kids Are All Right. The Julianne Moore character's speech at the end re: marriage is spot on.
  • @StevenAyr: Exit Through the Gift Shop: Great movie about Banksy and the culture of street art. Good commentary on the art world too.
  • @balancedspoon: Sanctum. Up until the last 30 minutes I didn't know what was going to happen next. Then it unraveled a bit.The landscape was epic
  • @PaulStanleyESQ: kings speech
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NYSBA on the expanding role of lawyers


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "NYSBA on the expanding role of lawyers."

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


NYSBA on the expanding role of lawyers

The New York State Bar Association is concerned about the future of the legal profession. So concerned that it commissioned a report on this very issue that was released earlier this month during the NYSBA’s annual meeting in Manhattan.

The 109-page report (which can be accessed through the state bar association’s website, was drafted by a special subcommittee appointed by the NYSBA’s president. The subcommittee concluded that lawyers are facing increasing global competition in a depressed economy, leading to job burnout and a growing sense of frustra- tion for many lawyers across the state.

In other words, “the profession has changed in its demands of lawyers and how they provide their services. And it will continue to change, as adaptation feeds back against economic and social shifts already taking place.”

One of the more interesting predictions in the report was that due to the recent economic and social shifts, the concept of what it means to be a lawyer is in flux and will continue to change in the near future.

The subcommittee explained that "the role of a lawyer will likely broaden from what it is today into other areas of responsibility, opening up career opportunities for lawyers with expertise in new processes and suggesting both a broader scope of services, and narrower specialization..."

For example:

(T)here may be opportunities:

• To assist in systematizing legal processes, working on their own or with software developers to create more automated legal solutions.

• To create project plans, manage, or train lawyers to handle mas-
sive legal projects.

• To specialize in finding, managing, and applying information or
work product culled from the Internet or from law firm knowledge bases.

• To structure virtual teams of firms that provide highly competitive services or who can create viable offshore substantive service providers.

•There will continue to be opportunities for lawyers working for legal
publishers or other types of substantive service companies to create packaged research, forms and other solutions to be used by otherlawyers. And there will be more opportunities for lawyers who want the flexibility of contract or freelance work and pro bono opportunities to create processes and systems to serve a larger base of clients than can be served, one at a time, in the traditional manner.

The NYSBA’s recognition of this emerging trend, and its acknowledgement that the idea of what constitutes a “lawyer” is expanding, is good news and offers hope to laid off attorneys, unemployed recent graduates and lawyers who have left the legal field in pursuit of greener pastures. A law degree continues to have value even if you’re not practicing law and it turns out that the experience gained over the course of a legal career is not wasted time after all.

Of course, just as with traditional lawyering, non-traditional legal practice is not without its ethical pitfalls. Many worthy online commentators have expressed concern with this very issue, suggesting that lawyers offering non-traditional legal services to other lawyers should avoid “snake oil salesman” tactics.

This issue was addressed in the report, with the sub-committee recommending that “the bar association identify businesses and best practices for lawyers advancing
the concepts above, and that the Law Practice Management Committee consider whether a new committee or additional resources should be established for the purpose of addressing emerging issues in non-traditional legal practice.”

In other words, a lawyer is still a lawyer, if by any other name. Regardless of how lawyers use their law degrees, they continue to have an obligation to act ethically and uphold the high standards of our profession.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at

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Looking for a good book? Look no further.

Books BooksImage via Wikipedia

Today on Twitter and Facebook I asked my followers to recommend a good book that they'd recently read. I got a ton of replies and thought I'd share them here.

  • @blogdesigner: I recently started re-reading "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill because it adds a fire under my ass to push forward in biz
  • @jesshoffman: When Words Collide - Kessler. Cover to cover...again. Why? Because technology makes my writing lazy & law school makes it dull.
  • @techmanchild: Ken Follett is a manchild. Fall of Giants was and is spectacular.
  • @DannyMJohnson: The Help. I know it's a girl book but I LOVED it! Just started the memoir by Michael Oher from the Blind Side...We'll see
  • @pckaufma: "The Next Level" by @ScottEblin - direct instruction on how to live in the moment while moving into the future as a leader
  • @amy_z: I'd recommend Girls on the Edge -"best book on state of girls and young women in America"
  • @andyarnold: The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. Presents a rational argument 4 morality--w/out myth. Emphasis on "well-being."
  • @SterlingEdSrv: One of my personal favorites is Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card.
  • Carla Marie Ciampa: OK, I just read "By Nightfall" by Michael Cunningham. Fiction. Interesting book about couple at a ho-hum stage of middle-age, middle income, middle class ho-hum life. (Not "rock your world" good, but moments of true insight.)
  • Stephanie West Allen (@idealawg): The new book "Succeed" by Halvorson is the best book I have read on goal setting.
    The author bases the book on research. Best of all, she recognizes that effective goal setting...
  • Robert Blankenship (@rjblankenship): The Art of De-motivation by E.L. Kersten Ph.D. available from It is an excellent look at our economy and management of a business.
  • Larry Port (@larryport): Best book for me of 2010: The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. 2009: The Big Switch, Nick Carr.
  • Ann Penners Bergen: Henning Mankell: The Fifth Woman - Swedish murder mystery writer, very cozy and very interesting at the same time.
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The Latest Innovations in Law From LegalTech


This week I wrote a special edition Daily Record column entitled "The Latest Innovations in Law From LegalTech."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


The Latest Innovations in Law From LegalTech

Last week in Manhattan, thousands attended LegalTech New York, hoping to catch up on the latest legal technologies and innovations.

Every year, American Lawyer Media sponsors LegalTech, a conference intended to help lawyers and law firms stay updated on the latest advances in legal-related technology.

LegalTech generally draws attendees from large law firms, ranging from attorneys to IT staff, although firms of all sizes are represented. The conference boasts multiple educational tracks, which focus on a variety of legal technology issues. Ediscovery is always a major focus, although the range of topics this year included knowledge management, records management, project management, social media, and cloud computing.

The main exhibit floor included hundreds of booths featuring legal technology products, most of which focused on enterprise level solutions and ediscovery technologies. Like last year, however, cloud computing products were increasingly prevalent, including a number of new ediscovery products that leveraged the power of the cloud.

The final keynote, held on the morning of February 2, 2011, offered attendees a interesting view of how one expert believed that the world—and the legal field—might function in 2020. Entitled “A look at the Law: 2020: A Radical Perspective on how Technology will Shape the Legal Industry 10 Years from Now. Will you be Ready?”, the talk focused on how emerging technologies will affect the delivery of legal services over the next decade.

The keynote was delivered by Michael Rogers, New York Times Futurist in Residence and author of’s column “the Practical Futurist.” 

Rogers opened by explaining that as a “practical futurist,” his goal is to help businesses and industries think about and plan for the future. He does this using sociology, demographics, economics and cultural movements to predict trends and encompass his visions of change.

He then moved on to note that the virtualization of America is one of the most notable changes in recent history: “We are going into a period that started at the turn of the century…the virtualization of the world.” According to Rogers,  “(V)irtualization…is only just beginning.”

He emphasized the speed with which virtualization and technological advancements are occurring, reminding attendees that just 9 years ago, in 2002, encyclopedias were still found on CD-ROMs and flip cell phones were the norm.

Rogers then explained that change is occurring more quickly than ever because of the intersection of Moore’s law, which predicts that the processing power of computers doubles every two years and Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of its users. As a result, because of the culmination of these two theories due to recent technological advancements, Rogers said, “If it seems like change is happening faster, it is.”

By way of example, Rogers cited the music industry. Rogers explained that in the past, many core businesses, including the recording and journalism industries, considered themselves to be immune to disruptive changes, such as the Internet and failed to adapt. But, as events in recent years have shown, they are anything but immune. He noted that the music industry was particularly hard hit, with revenues of $14.6 billion in 1999, but only $6.3 billion in 2009.

Rogers acknowledged that heavily regulated and professionalized fields such as the medical and legal fields are historically the most insulated from change, but warned that sooner or later, disruptive change cannot be ignored. Rogers likened the effect of virtualization and the Internet to the impact of cars or urbanization, noting that, like all major industries, the legal field is not immune and that virtualization is now having a rapid and profound effect on our profession.

He then turned to the “Internet of Things”, which refers to the networked interconnection of everyday  objects. Rogers explained that by 2020, technology will have advanced enough that it will be extremely inexpensive to build very small sensors and connect them to radios that will then connect to the Internet. He offered the example of connected cars, noting that “by 2020, most new cars will connect to the Internet,” enabling real time risk assessment. He explained that cars may send data evincing risky driving behavior to insurance companies, such as whether a particular car is speeding or whether its driver is repeatedly and excessively braking.

Rogers stressed that the legal field will not be immune from the “Internet of things” and that this concept will undoubtedly “affect how lawyers do business.”

Another technological advancement that Rogers believes will impact the legal field is increasingly intelligent systems, such as machine translation of documents from one language to another. Rogers acknowledged that while these tools will not replace lawyers, they will replace some of the functions that lawyers perform.

Rogers then addressed the effect of virtual lawyering on the legal profession, noting that virtual law offices (VLOs) will be commonplace by 2020. He cited online banking as an example. At first banks were reluctant to allow customers to access their accounts and bank online, but now many segments of the population prefer to bank online. In fact, in recent years, customers 50 years and older have been some of the most frequent users of online banking services.

Rogers predicted that VLOS will increase in numbers and that the increase will be driven, in part, due to the Millennial generation’s comfort level with online services. As this generation ages and becomes a larger segment of lawyers’ customer base, VLOs will become more prevalent. Millennials are more likely to trust online service providers and will expect the online delivery of legal services as a viable option.

Rogers then emphasized the importance of being on the cutting edge of new developments in technology, using the New York Time’s adoption of the mobile web as an example. He described how, in 2005, the company’s research and development team advised that the mobile web was the future of the Internet. Based on that recommendation, the Times developed their mobile website early on, when labor was cheap and mobile web engineers were not in high demand. This foresight has been a huge boon for the Times, as evidenced by Steve Jobs using the Time’s mobile website as an example during the debut presentation of the iPhone in 2007.

Rogers offered this advice to lawyers hoping to encourage change and the acceptance of emerging technologies into their law firms: Rather than emphasizing how different and unusual a new technological innovation or process is, liken it to familiar system already being used. In other words, Rogers explained, “If you have a radical, innovative idea…make it look like something old and you’ll get a lot better response (to it).”

Finally, Rogers noted that in the past many famous scientists and futurists have lamented that they were born 50 years too soon when faced with the knowledge that future technological advancements would likely make their theories come true and their dreams a reality. He then explained how fortunate we are to be alive now, since “we were not born 50 years too soon. This decade is when it’s going to happen and this is where practical futurists have our work to do.”


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LegalTech New York 2011, the Rise of Cloud Computing


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "LegalTech New York 2011 and the Rise of Cloud Computing."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


LegalTech New York 2011 and the Rise of Cloud Computing

Last week, along with thousands of others, I attended LegalTech New York in Manhattan. This annual conference is sponsored by American Lawyer Media with the goal of helping lawyers, law firms and their staff learn about the latest advances in legal-related technology.

EDiscovery and related issues are always a big focus at this conference. However, in recent years, seminars addressing both social media and cloud computing issues have become increasingly prevalent. Last year there seemed to be equal numbers of presentations devoted to cloud computing and social media, whereas this year, cloud computing seemed to be the more popular topic. Only 2 seminars focused on social media, while 7 addressed cloud computing issues.

I’m not sure if this is because the conference planners felt that social media was “so last year” or whether there was simply a feeling that there was only so much to say about a topic that had already been covered extensively in the past. Regardless of the rationale, cloud computing ruled the roost at this year’s conference, both during seminar sessions and in the Exhibit Hall, where there were increasing numbers of cloud computing products and product lines featured at the various exhibit booths.

Most notable were two new law practice management cloud computing platforms. First, LexisNexis debuted “LexisNexis Firm Manager” (, its cloud-based platform that is being beta tested and will be released in public beta sometime in March. Another newcomer to law practice management in the cloud that had booth in the Exhibit Hall was MyCase (, which bills itself as providing “social practice management” in the cloud.

As a further reminder that practice management in the cloud is the wave of the future, representatives from two of the more familiar and leading cloud-based platforms, Clio ( and Rocket Matter (, were also on hand at the conference. And NetDocuments (, a company that offers web-based document management, was also present in the Exhibit Hall.

One topic explored at a number of LegalTech sessions was the increasing overlap between eDiscovery and cloud computing. This conceptual overlap was likewise apparent when perusing the product offerings on display in the Exhibit Hall.

For example, Digital Reef ( now offers hosted eDiscovery in the cloud.  And, as explained to me by their CTO, Steve Akers, eDiscovery in the cloud is the wave of the future and will give law firms increasingly flexibility when deciding how their data will be filtered, stored and managed.

For example, in the future, law firms will have the ability to filter the types of data automatically sent to the cloud and will similarly be able to set parameters that control how their data is treated once it is in the cloud. For example certain types highly confidential data, such as credit cards or social security numbers, will eventually be automatically encrypted as soon as it is stored in the cloud, whereas other less sensitive data will remain in its original, unencrypted form.

The inevitable overlap of cloud computing and eDiscovery, is a strong sign that cloud computing, once a foreign concept, is quickly becoming a familiar one—and for good reason. It is, in my opinion, the next wave of computing.

The legal field would be wise to learn about it, understand it, and use it to their advantage.  And, if the prevalence of cloud computing sessions and products at LegalTech 2011 is any indication, that is exactly what is happening, and 2011 will be the year that cloud computing begins to seep into the consciousness of lawyers across the country.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at

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Upcoming Speaking Engagements

green checkmarkImage via Wikipedia

Just a quick post to let you know about some upcoming conferences at which I'll be speaking:

I'm really excited about all of these speaking engagements and hopefully I'll see you at one of them. Drop me a line if you'll be attending one of these conferences!

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at

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Should lawyers use Groupon to offer discounts?


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Should lawyers use Groupon to offer discounts?"

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Should lawyers use Groupon to offer discounts?

Since you’re likely busy practicing law instead of scouring online sites for the latest and greatest way to market your legal services to clients, you may not be familiar with Groupon. Groupon is an increasingly popular online platform through which local businesses can offer group discounts to potential customers.

Using Groupon, a business offers customers the opportunity to purchase a service or product at a deeply discounted rate, so long as a minimum number of other patrons agree to purchase the service at that price. Groupon sends an email to subscribers, which includes the specifics of the offer, and if the required minimum number of people sign up, the proceeds are split between Groupon and the business offering the discount.

It is the division of the proceeds that arguably presents problems for lawyers—at least that’s the initial take of a North Carolina ethics sub-committee, which recently issued a proposed opinion on this very issue.  Late last week, the ethics subcommittee of the North Carolina bar reviewed a proposed opinion to determine whether it should be officially adopted. At issue was whether a law firm could ethically use Groupon to offer discounted legal services to a group of purchasers or if doing so ran contrary to North Carolina’s ethical guidelines.

The conclusion reached in the proposed opinion is that the use of Groupon by lawyers constitutes impermissible fee splitting with a non-lawyer. As explained in the proposed opinion, the fee collected by Groupon from the lawyer “is a percentage of the amount actually paid to the lawyer and appears to constitute revenue sharing with a nonlawyer…” Of course, that opinion has yet to be adopted by the ethics sub-committee, but the writing is on the wall.

Not all jurisdictions have reached this conclusion, however. For example, a Missouri attorney, Craig Redler, has used Groupon to offer estate planning services, with the blessing of Missouri legal ethics regulators. Prior to participating in Groupon, Redler sought, and received, the approval of the Missouri Advisory Committee and Legal Ethics Counsel. Thus, as the familiar expression goes, reasonable minds, or in this case, ethics committees, can differ.

Of course, because services like Groupon and LivingSocial, another popular group discount website, are such a new phenomenon, most jurisdictions have yet to address the issue of whether lawyers can ethically participate in such group discount services. Over time, as more lawyers seek to use these platforms, more jurisdictions will undoubtedly issue decisions that will offer much-needed guidance in this regard.

However, just because your jurisdiction might permit participation in Groupon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to use this service. Even if a firm breaks even after offering a steep discount and sharing the proceeds with Groupon, I question whether potential clients would be impressed by a law firm that offers discounted services through Groupon.

There’s a lot to be said for the appearance of professionalism and the importance of maintaining the dignity of our profession. Legal services are not akin to a haircut or car wash. Law firms that offer discounts using Groupon run the risk of cheapening the perception of their firm and of the profession as a whole.

While the Internet and emerging technologies offer many new tools that amplify marketing opportunities and streamline the practice of law, it’s important to carefully consider the ramifications of implementing new platforms prior to jumping into the fray.

Thus, in its current format, I’m not convinced that Groupon is an ideal platform for attorneys. But, as with any service, its functionality may very well change over time, thus making it a more palatable marketing alternative for law firms.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at

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