CAT | General

Jun 26, 2014

My ABA Journal Column Looks at a Lower Cost Alternative to Acrobat

The July issue of the ABA Journal includes my ‘Ambrogi on Tech’ column, “An Acrobat alternative, at a third of the price.” I review Nuance Power PDF Advanced, a full-featured professional PDF program that does virtually everything Adobe Acrobat Pro can do, but at one-third the price.

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Jun 23, 2014

Another Look at ClearView Social, the Social Media Sharing App for Lawyers

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And you can teach a lawyer all about social media, but you can’t make the lawyer do anything with it.

For many law firm marketing executives, that is a frustrating fact of life. All the social media training in the world doesn’t guarantee a lawyer will ever post an update.

That, at least in part, is why social marketing consultant Adrian Dayton developed ClearView Social, an app that partially automates the process of posting to social media. His goal, Dayton told me in a recent conversation, is to bring down the technical barriers a little bit so lawyers will find it easier to post and therefore do it more regularly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical post about ClearView Social. I expressed concern at the premise of having marketing departments feed lawyers with pre-programmed content to post to their social media feeds. I was concerned that this would turn lawyers’ feeds into streams of spam.

Dayton contacted me after I wrote that to offer a demonstration. The app is still somewhat of a work in progress and will not be released commercially until October. Having seen what Dayton has so far, I’ll admit I’ve softened my position. I can see that it could be a useful adjunct to a lawyer’s social media engagement. I can still see, however, how easily it could be overused or wrongly used and prove my fears about spam.

clearviewemail

Lawyers receive an email from the marketing department encouraging them to share an item to their social netwoks.

Clearview is targeted at mid- and large-sized firms. Its purpose is to help attorneys “more easily share content with their professional networks through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms.” It does this by allowing a single person in the firm – in most cases, someone in the marketing department – to create a queue of content for the firm’s lawyers to share through their social networks. The marketer can add items to the queue manually – maybe when the firm is mentioned in a news article – or use the firm’s RSS feeds to populate it automatically.

These queued items get sent in an email to all the attorneys in the firm. The email shows a headline and brief summary of each item, and next to each item are two buttons, one for sharing the item on LinkedIn and one for emailing the item to someone.

The lawyer then reads through the list and picks the item or items to share. If the lawyer clicks the LinkedIn button next to the item, the item will be posted to the lawyer’s LinkedIn page. If the lawyer clicks the email button, an email will open in Outlook preformatted with a subject line and the link to the item. In either case, the lawyer can personalize the message as he or she sees fit.

That’s it. The lawyer can share as few or as many items as he or she chooses. The app allows sharing only to LinkedIn at this point. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook may be added later.

Each lawyer’s shares are uniquely coded for tracking. The firm can track which items are being read, which items are most popular, and which lawyers are sharing the most items. This can all be displayed on a “leaderboard” showing the top sharers and top items.

“This let’s law firms become smarter about social media,” Dayton says. “They can see what everyone else is sharing, what’s doing well and what’s not doing well.”

As noted above, the app remains in beta. So far, five law firms are using the app as beta testers and Dayton hopes eventually to have 30 firms in the beta. Five AmLaw 100 firms have committed to join the beta, he said.

Dayton expects to release the commercial version of the app in October at the Legal Marketing Association technology conference. By then, he expects to have added other features, as well, while still aiming to keep the app simple in its purpose and functionality.

In my prior post, I expressed concern that the app does not actually help attorneys share content they find worthwhile. Rather, I said, “it makes the attorneys the conduits or redistributors of content someone else chooses to share.”

This remains a concern. The app does allow for more choice and personalization than I’d originally understood. That’s a good thing. In fact, as I understand it, an attorney can use it to share any item, not just the items suggested by the marketing department.

Still, I tremble at the thought of what could happen with this app. I imagine someone in the marketing department sending out a queue of, say, 10 articles. Suddenly, 500 or 800 or 1,000 lawyers all start sharing those same 10 articles. The lawyers think they’re doing their marketing duty, when in fact their collective action only undermines the cause.

I am sympathetic to the plight of the law firm marketer. It is not easy to motivate lawyers to participate in social media. If a tool can make it easier, I can see why it would be tempting. If law firms buy Dayton’s app – and I have no doubt they will – the challenge will be to use it moderately, selectively and with due deference to all the readers out there who don’t need anymore automated junk flowing through their social media streams.

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Jun 20, 2014

A Correction on LegalZoom Lawsuits

In a post here May 19, LegalZoom Suffers Setback in North Carolina, I wrote about recent legal developments in South Carolina and North Carolina involving claims that LegalZoom is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Towards the end of that post, I wrote:

Meanwhile, LegalZoom continues to face challenges in other states, including Alabama and Arkansas. On Oct. 3, 2013, the Supreme Court of Arkansas granted LegalZoom’s request to send a lawsuit pending there to arbitration, pursuant to the mandatory arbitration clause in LegalZoom’s terms of service.

I have since learned that the Alabama matter was dismissed earlier this year, prior to when I wrote that post.

Based on documents and correspondence forwarded to me, the Alabama matter was filed in June 2011 by the DeKalb County (Alabama) Bar Association, alleging that LegalZoom was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The trial judge ordered the DCBA to post a $20,000 bond as security for costs. The DCBA filed an interlocutory appeal of the bond (in the form of a petition for writ of mandamus) to the Alabama Supreme Court.

While that was pending, the trial judge dismissed the lawsuit for the DCBA’s failure to post the bond.  The DCBA appealed the dismissal and won permission to consolidate that appeal with the bond appeal. On Jan. 10, 2014, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal without an opinion.

LegalZoom had previously settled unauthorized practice lawsuits in California, Missouri and Washington. A lawsuit in Ohio was dismissed. With LegalZoom’s win in South Carolina, the Alabama suit dismissed, and the Arkansas case sent to arbitration, the only active court action against LegalZoom over the UPL issue is the North Carolina case.

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Jun 17, 2014

Tweets Track Secret Edits to SCOTUS Opinions

This recent edit tracked by @SCOTUS_servo was minor, but others are ‘truly substantive.’

Last month, a collective “Really!?” rolled through the U.S. legal community when Harvard Law Professor Richard J. Lazarus published his study — and Adam Liptak reported it in The New York Times — revealing that the Supreme Court sometimes quietly revises its opinions years after they were issued, sometimes in ways that result in “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning.”

Yes, it turns out that bedrock law you relied on may be a bit looser than anyone knew. According to Lazarus, the only “final, official opinions” of the court are those in the printed bound volumes of the United States Reports. It can be as long as five years from when an opinion is handed down to when it becomes “final.”

In the meantime, how are lawyers and scholars to track changes to Supreme Court opinions? In many cases, the court’s process of making these changes is not open to the public, there is no notice to the public, and there is no contemporaneous public record.

Now comes David Zvenyach to the rescue. Zvenyach, general counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia and a bit of a coding nerd, has created a Javascript application that regularly scans the opinions posted to the Supreme Court website and then sends out an alert via Twitter whenever a change is made. (It also sends a notice when a new opinion is posted.)

The Twitter account is @SCOTUS_servo. More information is available at the SCOTUS-servo GitHub page.

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Jun 13, 2014

DiligenceEngine Aims to Streamline M&A Reviews

DiligenceEngine2

Results are shown in split screen, with the summary on the left and the source document on the right.

Can technology streamline M&A due diligence reviews in the same way it did e-discovery reviews? Can it improve on the time-consuming and error-prone process of manually reviewing mounds of contracts in advance of a corporate acquisition?

Noah Waisberg believes it can. The former Weil, Gotshal & Manges corporate associate teamed up with computer scientist Alexander Hudek to found DiligenceEngine, a platform that uses computer technology to enhance the speed and accuracy of contract review in mergers and acquisitions. (more…)

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Jun 11, 2014

MIT Legal Hackathon Starts Online Tomorrow

This is a summer of legal hackathons here in the Boston area. As I’ve previously mentioned here, The  the ABA Journal and Suffolk University Law School will be cosponsoring a hackathon around the theme of access to justice in conjunction with the ABA annual meeting in Boston. Hackcess to Justice, as it is being called, will be held Aug. 7-8, with $3,000 in prize money going to the top three hacks. (I’m thrilled to add that I will be one of the three judges for the event.) Read more about it here and here

Meanwhile, the first-ever MIT Legal Hackathon kicks off tomorrow and runs through Sunday, and you do not need to be anywhere near Boston to participate, since the entire event takes place online. The event announcement describes its purpose:

The goal of the event is to bring together people to collaborate on solving legal and technical issues and challenges as law and business become fully digital.  Software developers, business people, academics, government employees, advocates and others.  Participants will have the opportunity to offer or join sessions to collaborate on “hacking the law” by developing computer and legal projects.

Included over the course of the event will be four “innovation challenges” that will focus on coming up with ways to better address certain issues relating to legal information:

  • Clio challenge. Clio will sponsor a  challenge that will pull together participants from the business, legal and computer communities to look at a couple of different issues and develop approaches to solving the needs of all three communities.
  • Annotation challenge. Sponsored by Casetext (which I reviewed here), this challenge focuses on conceiving of and implementing ways to use and improve the Casetext platform, which uses crowdsourcing to annotate primary legal materials.
  • Effective legal language challenge. Andrew Perlman, director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation at Suffolk Law School, and Gabe Teninbaum, professor of legal writing at Suffolk Law, will lead this challenge, which will look at developing a two-step crowdsourcing platform for the drafting of more effective legal language.
  • Controlling and exercising data rights. No description has been posted yet of this challenge.

In addition to these challenges, there is a full program of related sessions, as well as the opportunity for participants to create their own sessions. See the full program here and a list of the speakers here. Registration is free. Follow developments through the event blog.

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Jun 9, 2014

Venerable LawBase Aims to Be ‘Best of Breed’ for Case Management

Recent years have brought an influx of new practice, case and matter management systems, primarily in the cloud. With so much attention paid to these newcomers, it is easy to overlook the venerable old-timers – the companies that have been at this a long time and, because of that, have learned a thing or two about what lawyers want.

One such platform is LawBase, a case and matter management system first launched in 1981 by Synaptec Software Inc. Although the company is old, the software is not, says its CEO Philip Homburger.

“We adapt and stay up with the current technology,” Homburger told me in a recent interview. “We are leading edge, but not bleeding edge. Our experience is important. No one’s ever complained about our experience.” (more…)

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Jun 5, 2014

Revisiting Foxwordy, the Latest Lawyers’ Social Network

FoxwordyFront

When Foxwordy launched in February, I gave it some grief for claiming to be “the first private social network for lawyers.” Needless to say, it wasn’t the first. It strikes me as a bad move for any company to start out by claiming to be something it isn’t.

On top of that, I’ve grown skeptical about the likelihood of success of any legal-vertical network. I was recently interviewed for a San Francisco Chronicle story about Foxwordy, and I think reporter Benny Evangelista accurately summed up my perspective: (more…)

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Jun 4, 2014

Rocket Matter Adds Evergreen Retainer Option and Enhances Performance

The cloud practice management company Rocket Matter today rolls out a new “Evergreen Retainer” feature. The feature automatically invoices clients to replenish their retainers when their accounts fall below specified amounts.

Using this feature, the lawyer and client would agree on a minimum retainer and a replenishment point. After the client pays the initial retainer, then when the retainer falls below the agreed amount, the client is invoiced to replenish the retainer to the minimum amount.

For example, the lawyer and client may agree to a minimum retainer of $1,000 and to replenish the account when the remaining amount of the retainer drops below $500. These numbers can be set in the user’s dashboard, where the feature can also be toggled on or off.

Rocket Matter also said today that it has made improvements to its hardware and software that increase the speed of its platform by over 60 percent.

Also included in this latest system upgrade are two new analytics reports, several bug fixes and minor user interface improvements, Rocket Matter said.

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May 30, 2014

File Sharing by Lawyers Largely Insecure, Survey Suggests

lexisnexis-law-firm-file-sharing-precautions

If I were to leave a document on a table entitled, “My Deepest, Darkest Secrets,” under which I wrote, “Please do not read this unless you are someone I intended to read this,” how securely would you think I’d protected myself?

That, effectively, is all the majority of lawyers do to protect confidential documents they share with clients and colleagues, according to a LexisNexis survey published this week. (more…)

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