It’s silly season again, when 100 or so legal bloggers begin beating the bushes for your votes as a readers’ favorite in the annual ABA Journal Blawg 100. With this blog having been retired last year to the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, I am safely exempt from campaigning. However, I wanted to weigh in [...]
CAT | General
The web-based practice-management platform Rocket Matter announced improvements this week to its time-and-billing capabilities. The improvements include:
- Billing for Dropbox documents and Evernote notes. Rocket Matter already let users set up integrations with Dropbox and Evernote. This new feature lets you easily capture time related to work done in Dropbox and Evernote, including the ability to add time for past work.
- Add billing for past dates. With this week’s changes, users can now add billing for past dates to emails, documents and to-do items. So, if you wrote an email yesterday but neglected to bill it at the time, you can add it today but show yesterday’s date. To do this, simply click the dollar sign next to an email, document or to-do item and enter the time, date and description.
As Rocket Matter describes in this blog post, these changes are on top of several others this year to its time-and-billing features. Other changes made earlier this year include the ability to easily share invoices directly through the client portal, rather than having to download and email them; the ability to accept credit card payments; and upgraded reporting and tracking.
The video below provides an overview of the changes.
The “hero” label is much abused these days. The tendency of the TV news to call anyone who commits an act of compassion or humanity a hero threatens to water down the word. Nelson Mandela was a hero — a man who came out of three decades of imprisonment and played a pivotal role in ending the oppressive and racist system of apartheid and then became his country’s first Black president.
When I was in law school many years ago at Boston College, Mandela was still in prison and was part of the reason that I devoted substantial time — time I probably should have spent studying — to trying to get BC to divest from South Africa. I was one of the organizers of the campus-wide South Africa Liberation Support Group, helping to organize protests against BC’s then-ownership of stock in some 20 major corporations that were doing business in South Africa and meeting with university officials to urge them to disinvest.
The news of Mandela’s death caused me to Google “South Africa Liberation Support Group” and, much to my surprise, found coverage of our efforts in archived issues of The Heights, the BC student newspaper. The photo above, from the front page of the Jan. 29, 1979, issue, shows one of the protests I helped organize, with a barely visible me in the background. And here is a link to a an op-ed I wrote in the same issue of The Heights, arguing that BC, as a Jesuit institution, had a particular obligation to be at the forefront of the fight to end apartheid: Commentary SALSG: The Case Against Apartheid) — The Heights 29 January 1979 — Boston College.
It is worth remembering that Mandela was a lawyer as well as a hero. He fought hard for the principles he believed it — at great cost to himself but also with great reward. He was an inspiration to many, a true hero in every sense of the word.
Here are a few items from the week that are worthy of note:
Elvis law. The ABA has published The Little Book of Elvis Law. The King’s legacy inspired not only generations of fans, but also generations of litigation. This book reports on some of those cases, from paternity suits to licensing disputes. Hat tip to Moritz Legal Information Blog for bringing this to our attention.
Blog shuts down. One of the blogs I’ve always followed closely is Victoria Pynchon’s Negotiation Law Blog. This week, Victoria announced that she is hanging up her spurs after seven years. Her interests have moved away from mediation towards her renewed involvement in feminist activism, she explains. She will still micro-blog at Career Advice for the Short Attention Spanned and contribute longer posts at She Negotates and at The Daily Muse.
Infinite storage. Cloud storage company Bitcasa this week announced infinite storage for $99 a month. That is probably a lot more than you need, but it is also offering a full terabyte for just $10 a month and 20GB for free. Compare that to Dropbox, where a free account gets you only 2GB and the $10/month plan gets you 100GB. And, unlike Dropbox, Bitcasa encrypts your files before they’re uploaded, meaning Bitcase employees can never access them.
Free federal cases. The U.S. Courts announced that its project to provide free access to court opinions via FDsys has expanded. From the 29 courts previously included, the project has expanded to 64 — eight appellate courts, 20 district courts and 35 bankruptcy courts. That’s a good thing but, as Courtney Minick writes at the Justia blog, it’s still not good enough.
Google Scholar Library. This week, Google Scholar launched Scholar Library, a feature that lets you save search results (including court opinions) in folders, organize them by topic, and use Google to search them.
In response to this blog’s 11th birthday yesterday, a couple of people asked me what other law blogs were around way back then. The question reminded me of a post I’d written in 2007 for Law.com’s Legal Blog Watch, Who Was the First Legal Blogger?.
After searching through the archives of some of the longest-running legal blogs that I knew of, I declared the first-ever legal blog to be Walter Olson’s Overlawyered, which started on July 1, 1999, and continues strong as ever today.
Turns out, however, that I was wrong. Walter was not the first.
Yesterday, in the course of searching for my 2007 Legal Blog Watch post, I came across an even earlier post of my own — one that I’d forgotten about entirely — addressing this very question. That 2003 post, The First-Ever Law Blog?, cited immigration lawyer Greg Siskind as the self-declared first-ever legal blogger.
In May 1998, before the term “blog” had even been coined, Greg set up something that walked like a blog and quacked like a blog. He explained in a 2003 post:
I actually had set up a blog back in May 1998 before there was even a term “blog.” In that year, we set up an “online diary” to keep readers apprised of legislative developments surrounding the H-1B cap. The page was extremely popular and in one day alone received more than 50,000 hits.
You can still see that page, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
That means that Greg, not Walter, gets bragging rights as the first legal blogger.
If you’re curious about who else was blogging back then, that 2007 post includes a list of some of them (and read the comments for others). You might be surprised at how many of them are still around today.
The name “blog,” by the way, was first used in 1999, according to Wikipedia, as a contraction of “weblog,” a term which was coined just two years earlier, in 1997.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the launch of Esqspot, a professional networking site for lawyers that offers a twist from other such sites — it aims to promote not only online networking, but also good old-fashioned live networking.
So far, it has hosted its live networking events only in New York. This week, however, Esqspot comes to Boston, for its debut event here in my neck of the woods.
The event is this Friday, Nov. 22, starting at 6 p.m., at Scholars American Bistro & Cocktail Lounge, 25 School St., Boston. Attorneys, law students and others in the legal industry are invited.
You can register to attend here. The cost is $15 per person. I hope to attend and look forward to seeing you there.
The Free Law Project — which I mentioned here just recently when it added 1.5 million opinions to CourtListener — had more big news today. It has created the first-ever API (application programming interface) for U.S. court opinions. Essentially what that means is that other computers can talk to Free Law’s computers and use its data and search engine for their own purposes.
To most of us, this won’t matter a whit. But it opens a huge door for legal startups and developers to create new products, tools and services that use the Free Law cases. That could mean new types of legal-research services, new alert services and new ways of presenting and filtering case data.
The site currently has 350 federal and state jurisdictions that will be accessible using the API. In announcing the API, the Free Law Project offered these examples of what can be done using the API:
- Include a list of relevant opinions on your blog or website.
- Get a list of the new opinions of the day and make a Twitter or Facebook page stream from it.
- Keep track of opinions that Free Law has blocked from search engines at the request of an involved party.
- Track modifications made to the collection.
- Interrogate or track the citations within an opinion or the citations to an opinion you’re interested in.
- Keep track of changes to the database of jurisdictions or simply get a list of them.
- Show the most relevant opinions for a given topic, such as abortion.
- Build a citation cross-walk that allows you to find parallel citations.
“The new API is the first of its kind that we’re aware of and we’re really excited to be offering it,” Free Law cofounder Michael Lissner said in an email to me. “It provides access to our 2.4M documents in a programmatic way, giving people insane access to data that’s never been easily available like this.”
Developers can find more information about the API at this link.
In Other News …
Also since my last post about the Free Law Project, it announced the launch of what it calls CiteGeist, a feature designed to provide significantly better results in determining the relevancy of a case to a search query. Now, when you enter a query, CiteGeist will analyze which opinions are the most cited and use that information to provide the best search results.
[T]he basic idea is to give a high CiteGeist score to opinions that are cited many times by other important opinions, and to give a lower CiteGeist to opinions that have not been cited or that have only been cited by unimportant opinions. Once we’ve established the CiteGeist score, we combine it with a query’s keyword-based relevancy. Together, we get a combined score which is a measure of how intrinsically important a case is (its CiteGeist) as well as how closely it matches your specific query.
The feature was developed for the Free Law Project by a volunteer contributor, Bo Jin (Krist), a software engineering student at Tianjin University who spent last summer at UC Berkeley.
You know you’re getting on in years when even your blog is old. Eleven years ago today, this blog started. Here was my first post.
Heck, this blog has been around so long, it’s in a hall of fame.
Thank you to all my readers over the years. I know for a fact that some of you have been with me from the start. But even if you are a brand-new reader, I appreciate it and hope you’ll come back for more.
Thanks also to all the other legal bloggers out there. I read many of you religiously and count some of you as my friends. You keep us informed, enlightened and challenged through your good work.
A little over a year ago, wireLawyer launched in beta as an online community exclusively for lawyers. At the time, I wasn’t kind to it. I expressed skepticism about the likelihood of success of a legal-vertical professional network and I called out the site’s founders for claiming to be the “first online professional network for the legal community,” which was not so — although Matthew Tollin, wireLawyer’s cofounder and CEO, disagreed with me.
I had not checked in on the site since then, so I was glad on Friday to have an opportunity to catch up by phone with Tollin to find out what is happening with the site, which is still in beta.
The major news is that wireLawyer recently launched a lawyer-to-lawyer referral feature. Building up this referral network will now be the primary focus of wireLawyer, Tollin told me.
When wireLawyer launched last year, you may recall, its main focus was on allowing lawyers to share documents and share advice through Q&As. Facilitating referrals was always part of the plan, but Tollin said that this will now be the site’s main focus.
Currently, the site offers two ways to make a referral. The first is similar to how you might use LinkedIn to make a referral — search the site for lawyers who fit what you are looking for. You can search by keyword and narrow your search by practice area, location, law school attended, and languages spoken. Similar to LinkedIn, you can also narrow your search by first-degree and second-degree connections. If you find someone that you think qualifies for the referral, message the lawyer directly and decide how to proceed.
The second method is to post referrals from your wireLawyer dashboard. When you choose this method, wireLawyer staff actually research the best candidates by geography, practice area and reputation and provide you with recommendations. You remain free to make the referral decision and to work out any referral arrangements.
wireLawyer is also about to launch a Smart Q&A feature. So far on the site, users can post questions, but the questions and answers are not visible to other users. Sometime in the next week or so, the Smart Q&A feature will launch, allowing users to see previous questions and answers. (This is a lawyer-to-lawyer Q&A feature, not consumer-to-lawyer.)
One other piece of news Tollin shared is that wireLawyer is currently in discussions with a CLE provider about licensing CLE content and making it available through the site.
Tollin said that he is actively seeking to raise seed funding to help bring the site out of beta and build out ways for the site to begin bringing in transactional revenue. So far, they have raised around $450,000 of their $750,000 target, he said.
My skepticism about legal-vertical sites such as this is not because I don’t think they’re a good idea. To the contrary, I think sites that are designed purely for lawyer-to-lawyer networking make a lot of sense. My skepticism comes from seeing legal-vertical site after legal-vertical site fail because of the inability to build up a critical mass of lawyer users. It just seems that lawyers don’t have time for or aren’t interested in these types of sites.
At the same time, there really are no good ways for lawyers to make referrals outside of the old-fashioned methods of direct contacts. Direct contacts will always be the best method, but what happens when you need to make a referral somewhere where you know no one? It would be useful to have a site that could facilitate referrals in those instances.
So will wireLawyer succeed where others have failed? Tollin says the site is up to 4,000 registered users and that the referral feature has been generating a lot of new interest. Registrations are only part of the story of course — participation and activity are the real determinants.
Last July, I reported here that Box, the file-sharing and collaboration platform, was making a ramped-up push into the legal industry. Today, Box followed up on that news in a big way, announcing new integrations with 22 mobile and web legal platforms, a major new e-discovery integration, and a special promotion through the American Bar Association Advantage program that gives ABA members 50 GB of free file-sharing space in Box.
Box will integrate with a range of practice management, time and billing, legal research, productivity and trial apps. The full list of these is below. Some of these integrations are available now via the Box Apps Marketplace, while others will become available in the first quarter of 2014.
In addition, Box is entering into a partnership with Guidance Software to offer its EnCase e-discovery platform to Box customers. EnCase will integrate with Box in a way that will allow law firms and corporate counsel to search, collect and preserve electronically stored information maintained in Box. EnCase will be able to scan Box for relevant ESI and then use Box to provide centralized access to data.
Through the ABA Advantage program, Box is offering ABA members 50GB of free space for file storage and sharing. The offer is good only for ABA members and only for those who are not currently Box subscribers. Eligible ABA members can claim the free space at this link.
One other Box announcement today is that it will be integrated with the iManage document management system via a bridge using Intapp’s Integration Builder. For law firms that use iManage, the integration will allow them to extend their DMS to the cloud securely via Box, enabling their members to access documents from mobile devices and collaborate via Box.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Nitin Gupta, the former lawyer who is director of the professional services group at Box, who said that Box is working towards the goal of providing a strong cloud-collaboration platform that will serve all segments of the legal profession — large firms, small firms and corporate counsel. Towards that end, integrations with legal-tech vendors and partnerships with bar groups will be key, he said.
Integration with Legal Apps
Here is a complete list of the platforms with which Box will integrate:
Practice & Case Management
- Rocket Matter, a legal billing and law practice management software for small and mid-size law firms.
- Amicus Attorney, a legal practice management software. Users of Amicus Cloud will be able to view and work with their Box documents directly from within Amicus.
- FastCase, a legal research platform. Fastcase will integrate Box into its printing utility so that users can save results directly to the cloud.
- Lex Machina, a legal analytics platform for IP lawyers.
- DirectLaw, a virtual law platform. The integration will allow DirectLaw subscribers to access any files they have stored in Box through their DirectLaw attorney dashboard. They can also transfer legal documents and other content created in DirectLaw to their Box account.
Timekeeping & Billing
- Chrometa is a time and billing software that automatically captures and organizes time. Through the Box integration, Chrometa users will be able to save their invoices directly to their Box account.
- Bill4Time is a cloud-based time and billing software serving both small and large professional service firms. Bill4Time will be integrating its core web application with Box. In the near future, the company plans to integrate Box into its full suite of apps, including: mobile apps, iPad app, and HTML desktop app.
- SimpleLegal provides an ebilling platform where companies can receive, manage, and pay all their legal bills.
Access to Lawyers
- Avvo is an online platform that has ratings, reviews, and disciplinary records for lawyers in every state.
- UpCounsel, a service for businesses to find attorneys. UpCounsel plans to use Box within its “workspaces” that sit between lawyers and clients on the UpCounsel platform with the aim of creating a more efficient interaction between clients and lawyers. Box will be used to exchange, review and store documents. Both lawyers and clients will be able to connect their existing Box accounts to import files into the UpCounsel workspaces.
- Plain Legal PlainLegal is a platform that helps connect businesses with lawyers. Through Box, lawyers and clients will be able to securely view and collaborate on confidential documents. Plain Legal will also integrate Box Embed and Box APIs to provide secure file sharing for lawyers and clients.
- LawPal helps connect startups with experienced lawyers. Through the Box integration, LawPal will provide lawyers easy access to users’ documents for storage and retrieval.
- LegalReach describes itself as the world’s largest legal network connecting attorneys, corporate counsel and consumers. Through the Box integration, LegalReach will provide document storage for attorneys and their clients.
- TrialPad is an app for preparing and presenting trial presentations. Now, TrialPad has added support for Box to allow storage and transfer of case materials. Users can browse their Box account directly from within TrialPad and bring in individual files, file folders, and zip files. In addition, users can save annotated copies of their case materials back to their Box account.
- Lora Courtroom, an evidence presentation application.
- iJuror, a juror selection app.
- LawPavilion Plus, an app that helps legal practitioners better organize their legal matters.
- TrialDirector organizes documents, videotaped depositions and graphics for courtroom presentations and jury trials.
- iClient is an app that helps lawyers manage all of the clients for their law firm.
- Legal Viewer is a PDF viewer designed to support the review of hyperlinked and other PDFs on the iPad.
- Doc Scan Pro is an app that allows lawyers to scan all of their documents with an iPhone.
- Parallels is an app that allows lawyers to organize the important dates in the storyline of a case. With the Box integration, all the spreadsheets that integrate Parallels with Casemap will be stored on Box.
Of the integrations I’ve listed, the ones currently available are DirectLaw, Chrometa, Bill4Time, Plain Legal, TrialPad, Lora Courtroom, iJuror, Law Pavilion Plus, iClient, Legal Viewer, Doc Scan Pro and Parallels. The integrations with Guidance Software and iManage are also available now. The rest will become available in the first quarter of 2014.