Archive for 2010

Dec 29, 2010

An iPad App for Courtroom Presentations

An iPad equipped with the right software could be a powerful tool in the courtroom, given its portability and ease of use. A new iPad app, TrialPad, is specifically designed for use in the courtroom, as a tool to prepare and present electronic evidence at trial. Connect your iPad to a courtroom projector and use TrialPad [...]

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Dec 27, 2010

Vote for LawSites in the ABA Journal Blawg 100

Voting ends Dec. 30 for the readers’ favorites of the 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100. LawSites is in the Legal Tech category. If you haven’t voted for your favorites, now is the time.

(In order to vote, you have to register with ABAJournal.com.)

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Dec 23, 2010

A Cute, Cheap Alternative to Adobe Acrobat Pro

A full-featured PDF program is a must-have for any lawyer these days. But at a price tag of $449, Adobe Acrobat X Pro is a lot to pay for lawyers in solo and small firms. CutePDF Pro is a program that provides much of the same functionality as Acrobat Pro, but at a much-cheaper price — a budget-friendly $49.95.

You might want to act soon to take advantage of this price. The CutePDF website makes it appear that this price is a limited-time offer and that the normal price is $89.95. Plus, this price currently includes a second program, CutePDF Form Filler, which otherwise has a stand-alone price of $29.95.

I should mention here that, for the perfect price of $0, you can get the CutePDF Writer, an application that lets you print to PDF from any Windows program, but that offers no additional functionality.

CutePDF Pro integrates with the CutePDF Writer to provide an array of features comparable to Acrobat Pro. Using CutePDF Pro, you can:

  • Digitally sign PDF documents.
  • Scan documents to PDF.
  • Add Bates numbers to PDF documents.
  • Convert PDF documents to image files.
  • Extract, reorder and duplicate pages within PDF documents.
  • Type text anywhere on a PDF page.
  • Add notes, comments, highlights and other mark-ups to PDF documents.
  • Add passwords and set security options for documents.

The added Form Filler program lets you save interactive PDF documents to your computer and then fill them in and print them at your convenience.

Features You Don’t Get

At $400 less, CutePDF Pro does not give you everything you get in Acrobat Pro. Some of what Acrobat offers that CutePDF does not includes:

  • An OCR option when scanning into PDF.
  • The ability to convert PDF documents to Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Version comparison.
  • Ability to create fillable PDF forms.
  • Various wizards and quick-action features.

One question I have is whether CutePDF complies with the PDF/A standard that the federal courts have said will be required at some future date. I could find nothing about this on the company’s website so I submitted the question through its support site and will let you know what I find out.

The bottom line is that you have a choice between a $449 program (less if you’re upgrading from an earlier version) and a $49.95 program. The cheaper program lacks some of the bells and whistles of its higher-priced rival, but it does most of what the typical lawyer would need — and it does it well.

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Dec 21, 2010

Clarification on Demand Media: Two Contracts

After my earlier post about Demand Media, I received a comment from a Demand Media community manager who said that the contract I cited is not the contract that applies to bloggers. I went back and checked the contract that was presented to me when I was invited to migrate my BlogBurst account to Demand. I see now that there are, in fact, two contracts, both presented on the same page.

On the sign-up page, there is a scroll box that contains an agreement titled, “Demand Media Blog Distribution Network Agreement.” Just below that, there is a hyperlink that says, “View Agreement in New Window.” Below the box and the link is a checkbox that says, “I have read, understand and agree to the Blog Distribution Agreement, Terms of Use, Code of Ethics and Privacy Policy.” Each of those references is a hyperlink to the full document.

Here’s the mix-up. The contract shown in the scroll box is different than the contract you get if you click “View Agreement in New Window.” It is also different from the one you get from the link next to the checkbox titled “Blog Distribution Agreement.”

In the scrollbox is the agreement that the community manager described. It says:

You retain sole authorship and ownership of any Contributions submitted by you to us under the DM Blog Network program. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, you grant to Demand Media and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of, perform, display and disclose each such Contribution (and derivative works thereof) for the purposes of (a) adapting the Contribution to fit within the Demand Media Network without substantially changing its original meaning, and (b) distributing the Contribution (and derivative works thereof) to the Demand Media Network.

But if you click on either of the hyperlinks below that — the one that says “View Agreement in New Window” or the one labeled “Blog Distribution Agreement” — you get the contract I cited in my earlier post, the one in which Demand gets all ownership rights.

So, how would this play out legally? You are presented with one version of an agreement in a scrolling box (one in which you retain your rights), but you then must click a checkbox that says you agree to an entirely different version (one in which you give away your rights).

Most likely, this is a mistake on Demand’s part in creating this page and setting up the links. But it is a mistake that could have confusing legal consequences. Unless and until it is fixed, I wouldn’t check that box.

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Dec 21, 2010

Bloggers Beware of Demand Media’s Demand for Ownership

[See my update about this: Clarification on Demand Media: Two Contracts.]

Way back in 2006, I accepted an invitation to enroll this blog in something called the BlogBurst Network. It described itself as “a syndication service that places blogs on top-tier online destinations.” Those destinations included several major newspapers, such as the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Gate and the Washington Post. While I would retain ownership of my posts, I had to agree to give BlogBurst a “perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of” my posts.

I don’t remember whether I gave it much thought. I enrolled and then pretty much forgot about it. Whether any of my posts were ever picked up through BlogBurst, I can’t say.

Recently, I received notice that Demand Media had acquired BlogBurst and that I would have to take action to migrate my account. “With the power of Demand Media Studios, we are offering a new platform to help great bloggers like you be even more impactful and successful,” said this new invitation. “Whether your goals are building your online brand, driving more traffic to your blog, or positioning yourself as an industry expert, the Demand Media Blog Distribution Network can help.”

It went on to say this: ”The Blog Distribution Network will allow you to grow your fan base and interact with larger audiences through new channels. In addition to the current BlogBurst distribution, your posts can now appear on our highly trafficked network of sites like eHow.com and LIVESTRONG.COM in relevant sections or even on homepages. As before, all posts will include links back to your blog to help you increase traffic and engagement.”

Tempting. Until, that is, you get to the bothersome fine print. The invitation doesn’t mention it, but if you “migrate” your blog to Demand, you are also turning over ownership of your posts. Here is what the Contributors Agreement — which bloggers are required to agree to — says:

Your Grant of Rights. Each of your Contributions will be original and solely created by you as a “work-made-for-hire” specially ordered or commissioned by us, with Demand Media being deemed the sole author of the Contribution and the owner of all rights whether now known or hereafter devised (including all copyrights and all extensions and renewals of copyrights) in and to the Contribution, with the right to make all uses of the Contribution throughout the world and all changes in each Contribution. Without further obligation to you, we may use, reproduce, edit, change, add to, take from, translate, reformat, or reprocess the Contribution in any manner.

If for any reason a Contribution is not deemed to be a work-made-for-hire under applicable law, you hereby irrevocably assign to us all rights whether now known or hereafter devised (including all copyrights and all extensions and renewals of copyrights) in and to each Contribution throughout the world, including any and all of your rights to authorize or control the exploitation of each Contribution by any media and means now known or hereafter devised.

You waive all “moral rights of authors” that may exist or any similar rights. We may, but are not obligated to, provide attribution to you in connection with any Contribution or to display, use or otherwise exploit any Contribution. You hereby grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, nonexclusive, worldwide, transferable license to use and display any biographical information or photographs that you provide to us in connection with this Agreement in any and all media. Upon request by us, and at your own cost, you will promptly provide us with such documents and agreements as we may require to further evidence and confirm your representations, warranties, and covenants under this Agreement, including material and location releases and assignments.

In case that wasn’t clear, let me restate it: If you agree to syndicate your blog through Demand, then Demand becomes the “sole author” of your posts and “the owner of all rights whether now known or hereafter devised” in your posts. You are turning over ownership of your blog to Demand.

That’s a Demand I can live without.

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Dec 19, 2010

More Details on RECOP from Fastcase’s Ed Walters

Ever wonder why someone who is in the business of selling court opinions would want to support a project that is devoted to giving them away for free? I have the answer to that question from Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase.

As I wrote here earlier today, beginning in January, Fastcase will collaborate with Public.Resource.Gov to launch the Report of Current Opinions, a weekly release of all federal and state appellate opinions available for anyone to use without restriction. Fastcase will provide the opinions that RECOP will use for its weekly releases.

So why would Fastcase, which operates a paid legal research service, give away these very-same cases? And these are not raw cases — they are cases that Fastcase collects from hundreds of different sources in any number of different formats and file types and then harmonizes into a uniform format.

“The courts have created a modern-day Tower of Babel, with hundreds of different formats, standards, and file types,” says Walters.” To make the law understandable and useful, Fastcase harmonizes these opinions into a single standard for our own site. Today, we’re sharing that work with the world.”

The reason his company is doing this, Walters says, is because it believes that competition in legal publishing should be based not on who owns the data but on who provides the best features, services and prices.

“For too long, the dynamics of this market have been driven by access, but the services legal publishers offer haven’t gotten much better,” Walters says. “The more public you make the law, the more the competition has to be about the quality of the service, the innovativeness of the service, and the price of the service.”

Walters acknowledges that by releasing this data, he will be encouraging the development of new competitors, both commercial and non-commercial. (The now-shuttered Alt-Law project is an example of the latter.)  That, he believes, is a good thing.

“For West and Lexis, this is their AOL moment — they can’t make this fight about access anymore,” he says. “We want the fight to be about who delivers the best service, who is the most nimble, and who delivers the best value.”

Needless to say, Walters believes that is a fight that Fastcase would win. “We’re going to continue to make Fastcase better and better.”

More Details about RECOP

RECOP will include all federal and state supreme and appellate opinions issued beginning Jan. 1, 2011. The first feed of cases will be released on Friday, Jan. 14, covering cases issued the week of Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, Walters says. A new feed will be released every Friday thereafter, covering the prior week’s opinions.

The number of cases to be released is staggering. Walters estimates that there are some 10,000 appellate opinions a week, meaning RECOP will put out roughly a half-million opinions every year.

As I mentioned in my prior post, a number of commercial and non-commercial entities — all involved in the Law.gov project — will help make this happen, helping to prepare the cases for release each week.

Also as I mentioned in the earlier post, the backers of this project plan to operate it for only two years, after which they hope the government (or governments) will pick it up. Walters is hopeful that will happen. “I will be very surprised if the government doesn’t do it,” he says.

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Dec 19, 2010

Public Domain Group to Begin Weekly Release of all Federal and State Appellate Cases

The next revolution in legal publishing is just around the corner. Starting in 2011, Public.Resource.Org, an organization devoted to putting government documents in the public domain, will begin a weekly release of HTML versions of all slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of all 50 states and the federal government. The weekly release, to be called the Report of Current Opinions, will be available for reuse without restriction by anyone under the Creative Commons CC-Zero License and will include full star pagination.

Carl Malamud, the founder of Public.Resource.Org, announced RECOP in a post today at the O’Reilly Radar blog. He will obtain the cases from Fastcase, which will provide all opinions in a given week by the end of the following week. Participants in the Law.gov project — which include both for-profit organizations such as Justia and Fastcase and academic institutions such as PrincetonCornell and Stanford — will assist by performing initial post-processing of the raw HTML data.

[See also this update: More Details on RECOP from Fastcase's Ed Walters.]

In addition to weekly release of all current opinions, Malumud announced today, the feed will include periodic releases of important segments of the back file, including:

  • A release of 3 million pages of 9th Circuit briefs from 1892 to 1968 which were produced in cooperation with UC Hastings College of the Law and the Internet Archive and is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Double-keyed HTML for at least the first 10 volumes of the Federal Reporter, First Series and all 30 volumes of the Federal Cases will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2011. This data is being furnished as part of the YesWeScan Project.
  • William S. Hein & Co., which provided high-resolution scans of the Federal Cases, is providing a high-resolution scan of the Federal Reporter, First Series which will be released in the first quarter of 2011.

The project is actively pursuing several other important archives that are missing from the collection, Malamud said, including Supreme Court Briefs and multiple versions of the annotated statutes of the 50 states. “We would welcome the contribution of any legal publishers wishing to furnish such data,” he said.

Notably, the RECOP project will be limited in its duration. Malamud explains:

Providing the back file and ongoing release of primary legal materials is really the job of those institutions of government that make the law. That is the idea behind Law.Gov, an idea that the government must do a much better job of promulgating the raw materials of our democracy. Because we feel strongly that government must strive much harder to be that shining city upon the hill that Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy both aspired to, we have set two timeouts on this new service.

The first timeout is a sunset clause. RECOP will operate in 2011 and 2012 and then terminate. By then, Malamud says, the government should be able to pick up the reins. The second timeout could come earlier. “We have established a milestone of July 1, 2011,” Malamud writes, “by which government needs to step up to the plate and join us in helping make this service real.”

It is not clear from Malamud’s post what happens if government does not step up to the plate.

More details on the project will be released in mid-January, Malamud said.

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Dec 18, 2010

Trends in Law, as Seen By Google’s Ngram

Google this week announced a new visualization tool called the Google Books Ngram Viewer. Using data drawn from the millions of books it has digitized covering the years 1500 to 2008, it lets you see and compare the frequency of words and phrases as they were used in books over a span of years or centuries. As Google puts it: “The Ngram Viewer lets you graph and compare phrases from these datasets over time, showing how their usage has waxed and waned over the years.”

That got me wondering about phrases drawn from the legal profession. I graphed certain phrases, grouped together for comparison. Results prior to 1900 were so minimal that I kept my searches to the years 1900-2007. The phrases I searched were:

  • bankruptcy lawyer, employment lawyer, intellectual property lawyer
  • law firm partner, law firm associate
  • intellectual property law, securities law, corporate finance
  • biglaw, megafirm, megalaw
  • solo practitioner, sole practitioner, solo lawyer
  • large law firm, global law firm
  • corporate counsel, inhouse counsel, general counsel
  • law firm marketing, lawyer advertising
  • discrimination law, civil rights law

It was interesting how many of these phrases showed little usage until 1980, when suddenly several of them start to trend upward dramatically. “Megafirm” starts a sharp rise in 1980 and peaks in 2000. “Biglaw,” a firm popular among bloggers, isn’t even a blip. “Solo practitioner” reaches its peak around 1974. “Global law firm” starts to register only around 2000, while “large law firm” had a major jump in the early 1960s.

The term “corporate counsel” has shown minor usage since around 1960, while the term “general counsel” has been popular throughout the time period, reaching its peak around 1951. The phrase “lawyer advertising” was barely seen before 1970 and reached its highest frequency of usage in 1990. “Discrimination law” and “civil rights law” followed pretty much the same upward trend, both starting to register around 1940 and reaching their peak around 1995.

See the results below. Click on any image to enlarge it. Each graph includes labels matching the phrases to the colored lines.

bankruptcy lawyer, employment lawyer, intellectual property lawyer

law firm partner, law firm associate

intellectual property law, securities law, corporate finance

biglaw, megafirm, megalaw

solo practitioner, sole practitioner, solo lawyer

large law firm, global law firm

corporate counsel, inhouse counsel, general counsel

law firm marketing, lawyer advertising

discrimination law, civil rights law

text

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Dec 17, 2010

My Five Most Popular Posts of 2010

I’m stealing this idea from someone who suggested it for another blog, but it got me curious to go back and look at which of my posts were most popular this year.

Here are the top five:

  1. A First Look at WestlawNext.
  2. Exclusive First Look: Fastcase iPhone App.
  3. LexisNexis Rolls Out Lexis Advance for Solos.
  4. Bloomberg Law: Can it be a Contender?
  5. Beware New ‘Best Attorneys’ Site.

Notice a pattern here? Four of the five had to do with legal research.

This blog moved to a new address on April 29, so the above list is cobbled together from two sets of stats. And the first two posts were both in January, so they’ve had a year to rack up traffic. That said, the Westlaw post was far and away the most popular, with nearly double the hits of No. 2.

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Dec 17, 2010

Vendors form ‘Legal Cloud Computing Association’

Four companies that offer legal-oriented products and services through the cloud have banded together to form the Legal Cloud Computing Association. LCCA’s purpose, according to its announcement, “is to promote standards for cloud computing that are responsive to the needs of the legal profession and to enable lawyers to become aware of the benefits of computing technology through the development and distribution of education and informational resources.”

The four companies that make up LCCA’s founding membership are:

As its first official act as an organization, the LCCA published its comments on  the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 paper concerning lawyers’ use of Internet-based client-development tools (PDF).

The LCCA tells the ABA commission that it supports efforts to provide clarity to the legal profession on the ethical implications of Internet technologies. With regard to cloud computing, the LCCA proposes that the ABA endorse a minimal set of standards for cloud-computing providers along with model terms of service for cloud providers.

Those minimal standards, the LCCA says, should cover data-center security, network security, software security, data-transmission security, back-ups and redundancy, confidentiality and privacy, and data portability.

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