Tag Archives: Google

Prepare Your Case With Google–Or Watch The Supreme Court Do It For You

From reply-all senior associate dunces to technologically-inept lawyers to polls that show 15 percent of bar holders use a computer only when “absolutely necessary,” accounts about technologically-impaired attorneys abound.

And, law firm professionals seem to think it’s acceptable to ignore advances in technology when it comes to lawyering.

However, for those lawyers who eschew e-discovery or e-filing practices, and those firms that remain unaware of trends in legal technology, the jokes on you.

These days, even Supreme Court Justices Google. So when your firm is slow to upgrade its online resources and know-how, you may not survive the next court case.

Because, it turns out, Supreme Court Justices have been supplementing your briefs with their own online research for years.

A former clerk to retired Justice David Souter recently studied 15 years worth of Supreme Court decisions. Allison Orr Larsen, who is a professor at William & Mary Law School, found more than 100 examples of asserted facts from authorities that were never mentioned in briefs attached to the same case.

Additionally, in 120 high-profile, newsworthy cases from 2000 to 2010, Larsen found nearly 60 percent contained facts researched in-house.

“Virtually all of the justices do it regardless of whether they are traditionally labeled liberal or conservative,” explains Larsen, via the article “Should Supreme Court justices Google?” by Robert Barnes for the Washington Post, “and they cite authorities they find themselves on a wide range of subject matter (from biology to history to golf).”

Is this due diligence or simply judicial curiosity?

The fact is, information is exceedingly accessible today. It’s impossible to ignore it.

“Now the justices (and their clerks and their librarians) are flooded with information literally at their fingertips. Social science studies, raw statistics, and other data are all just a Google search away,” writes Larsen.

“If the justices want more empirical support for a factual dimension of their argument, they can find it easily and without the help of anyone outside of the Supreme Court building.”

Many lawyers are starting to question the validity of this practice.

For example, in 2011, the court found a California law forbidding the sale of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment. Justice Stephen G. Breyer in a dissent offered 13 pages of studies on the topic of psychological harm from playing violent video games. Justice Clarence Thomas cited 59 sources to support his view that the Founding Fathers believed that parents had absolute control over their children’s development—an overwhelming 57 of them were not in the briefs submitted in the case.

Is this organized legal justice or vigilante Supreme Court intervention?

Lawyers are welcome discuss this topic at length. But, wherever your firm stands on the contentious argument, the fact of the matter is, Justices do check the Internet.

When it comes down to your case, what will they find? And, more importantly, do professionals at your firm possess the technological skills to adequately prepare?

-WB

 

Fear your firm may be falling behind? Start with The Center For Competitive Management’s course, “Excel® Charts and Graphs Made Easy.”

And, read C4CM’s blog post, “Why Integrating Legal Technology Will Save Your Firm Time And Money.”

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Internet Censorship: How SOPA and Protect IP Affects Law Firms

All great revolutions have a “freedom” song to encourage valor in dissidents, to celebrate liberty for all, and to express sentiments of solidarity in protest.

A myriad of poems and songs during the American Revolution memorialized the fight for freedom, such as “Liberty Song” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Even the Stamp Act was singled out by a catchy tune, “American Taxation,” by Peter St. John.

In contemporary times, we are reminded of the old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Musical patriotism is alive and well in America, but these days, the expression and protection of the bill of rights concern web-based conflict.

Today, you can sing along to yet one more reason for dissent, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). In keeping with tradition, the act has inspired its own freedom song, “Firewall,” by Leah Kauffman (via CNET).

And, the digital revolution is not lost on British songwriters, either. Dan Bull, a U.K. singer, released “SOPA Cabana,” which also openly opposes the Republican legislation currently under debate in the House (via CNET).

So, why does SOPA deserve these trial-and-tribulation tributes?

SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act, target overseas “rogue websites” that host illegal copies of movies, videos, music, and photos. If passed, the law would require Internet service providers to deny customers access to any violating website, domain name, or IP address.

There are broader implications to the bill. Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, for example, will be required to adjust their search results to exclude foreign websites in violation of the bill. Payment providers and ad services will also be impacted, being forced to refuse business to any website in violation of the bill’s terms.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, defended the bill, saying, “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.”

It seems, however, that American jobs within affected U.S. industries—Internet service providers, search engines, ad services, to name a few—will be the first to lose, as U.S. companies will bear the burden and costs of compliance.

The Verge (via Above the Law) summarizes the bill’s major problem, “Because US copyright holders generally can’t drag a foreign web site into US courts to get them to stop stealing and distributing their work, SOPA allows them to go after the ISPs, ad networks, and payment processors that are in the United States. It is a law borne of the blind logic of revenge: the movie studios can’t punish the real pirates, so they are attacking the network instead.”

In the same vein, Rebecca MacKinnon wrote an on-point The New York Times op-ed against SOPA. She starts her article with:

“China operates the world’s most elaborate and opaque system of Internet censorship. But Congress, under pressure to take action against the theft of intellectual property, is considering misguided legislation that would strengthen China’s Great Firewall and even bring major features of it to America.”

In addition to the questionably unconstitutional nature of the bill described above, SOPA also seeks to infringe on some of the social and political liberties upon which America was founded:

“YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have played an important role in political movements from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park. At present, social networking services are protected by a ‘safe harbor’ provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which grants Web sites immunity from prosecution as long as they act in good faith to take down infringing content as soon as rights-holders point it out to them. The House bill would destroy that immunity, putting the onus on YouTube to vet videos in advance or risk legal action. It would put Twitter in a similar position to that of its Chinese cousin, Weibo, which reportedly employs around 1,000 people to monitor and censor user content and keep the company in good standing with authorities.”

Recently some Biglaw firms were thrown into the fray.

Aside from those law firms who were directly implicated in the bill, firms should pay attention to the progression of SOPA for three main reasons:

1. Take a position

SOPA in the House, and Protect IP in the Senate, have widespread implications, and they will certainly affect the business of your best clients. So, find out quickly where they (and you) weigh in.

2. Act 

Law and politics are inherently mixed. If there were ever a time to act on this hotbed issue (by, say, biglaw pressure), now is the time. The Senate Judiciary committee has already approved the Protect IP bill and it’s waiting for a floor vote that has been scheduled for January 24. Furthermore, during a two-day debate in the House Judiciary committee in mid-December, SOPA supporters seemed to have a commanding majority on the committee. Congress returns in 2012 to vote on the bill.

3. Prepare

The number of online companies is growing rapidly. Whether or not your firm supports SOPA, if it passes in the House, lawyers will need to bring many of their clients with web-based corporations into compliance.

Ultimately, lawyers have long composed this country’s first patriots. Two-thirds of the fifty-five delegates who attended the American Constitutional Convention were lawyers.

And, it was a lawyer—Francis Scott Key—who wrote the lyrics to this country’s most symbolic and proudest tune, The Star Spangled Banner.

In 2012, your firm faces a difficult decision. What anthem—for or against the IP revolution—will you sing?

-WB

Read more about why law has an important place in politics in, “Peace, War, and Lawyers” in addition to other constitutional upsets here.

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Good Boss, Bad Boss: How To Become A Superior Manager To Your Associates

As a boss, it’s difficult to know when to befriend your employees and when to assert yourself as their superior.

Often, supervisors feel they cannot be both beloved and respected around the office. Instead, they tend to choose one or the other.

Sometimes, bosses achieve neither.

Take, for example, William Ernst, the owner of a Bettendorf-based chain of convenience stores called QC Mart in Iowa. A state judge called his actions “deplorable” after he was sued for offering prizes to workers who could predict which of them would next be fired, according to the Des Moines Register.

After realizing the game was not a joke, cashiers at the QC Mart quit their employment.

One-such cashier, Misty Shelsky, told the Des Moines Register that Ernst had a long history of unprofessional conduct in relation to lower-ranking workers, saying to the Des Moines Register:

“This guy was the boss from hell.”

Although an extreme example of bad boss behavior, sometimes we all fall victim to strong words, a quick tongue, and, generally, unconstructive criticism. Especially when faced with associate misconduct or errors, attorneys—simply human—may need a simple reminder that a kind word goes a long way.

It turns out, though, that kindness as a working state of mind is not only a maternally birght idea, but a statistically-sound business strategy as well.

According to a recent Harvard Business School study (via NY Daily News), workers appreciate a boss with technical competencies, but, when given the choice, a tremendous majority of people prefer a likeable person over a highly skilled person who is a poor communicator.

Surprised? So was Google. The media mogul decided to confirm these study findings with its own research. Laszlo Bock, Google’s Vice President for the company’s equivalent of Human Resources, first reacted to Google’s results with, “That’s it?”

According to the New York Times, who first reported on Google’s research, employees wanted first and foremost, “even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

And that’s it, that’s the answer.

To be the best boss, you should be communicative, caring, and, well, nice.

It’s important to realize that when you trust your team, you earn trust and produce superior work in return. Google’s findings create the best banner against micro-managing.

“They don’t like being told what to do. They’re just, ‘Give me the facts and I’m smart, I’ll decide,’” Michelle Donovan, a manager of people analytics who was involved in the study, said to the New York Times about effective management styles.

When filings are due, work extends after hours and on weekends, and young associates make first-year mistakes, remember that people are more receptive to kind words. And, when business calms down, supportive communication and niceties lead to praise as being a great boss.

In terms of direct profits and productivity for the firm, a likeable leader retains more qualified lawyers longer and happier.

-WB

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Do Patent Trolls Discourage Innovation?

Lawyers tend to roll their eyes whenever a patent dispute is mentioned.

The process is lengthy, backlogged, tendious, and it seems no company can escape the claws of litigation. Motorola, Nokia, HTC, Apple, Google, Research In Motion (RIM), and Samsung are all currently involved in one or more patent lawsuits relating to their smartphones, according to John Tothill at Computing.co.uk.

Congress, itself, is entangled in the mess that is patent law, approving a complete overhaul of the system. Patents will soon be awarded based on a “first to file” rather than “first to invent” basis.

Proponents of this change, under the America Invents Act, argue that the bill will reconcile the U.S. patent system with patent legislation of other nations in Europe, as well as Japan. This would streamline the patent process for companies aiming to file patents in multiple countries.

But, are these patent laws and regulations preserving the true spirit of patent application in the first place? Maybe not if Google has its way.

Patents are intended to encourage innovation and invention. This way, a profit can be made on developing a good idea before giving free access to the rest of the business world.

So what happens when media mogul, Google, agrees to purchase Motorola Mobility for the use and legal access to its patents?

According to some, Google purchased Motorola Mobility soley to acquire its patents. It begs the question, should large monopolist companies be able to purchase good ideas just because they can afford to?

“It may be said that so-called “patent trolls”, or non-practising entities, which hold patents but do not themselves innovate or produce products, hinder the realisation of innovative products. However, again it may be debated whether the existence of such patent trolls discourages innovation,” writes John Tothill at Computing.co.uk.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility sends a message.

Technology startups and other companies should innovate and acquire their own patents. But knowing the caveat that, these days, large companies are trolling for savvy investments. And whether through litigation or purchase, one thing is clear: patents seem to be swiftly changing hands.

It’s a good time to be a small company with big (legally-backed) ideas.

-WB

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Google Gives Online Legal Services Company $18.5M In Venture Capital

“Finally. Easy and affordable legal help.”

That is the tag line for Rocket Lawyer, an online legal services company that provides legal documents and offers legal advice on the web. Yesterday, Google Ventures announced it belongs to a group that has infused $18.5 million into Rocket Lawyer. Leaving law firms wondering, have we finally been replaced?

It is the job of venture capitalists to recognize opportunities within a variety of business segments. Although the U.S. legal industry has managed to escape many of the more radical technology-based business models, innovation within law firms is not uncommon (see, Clearspire).

However, Google’s venture with Rocket Lawyer is a signal to this multi-billion dollar industry that change is coming.

Rocket Lawyer was founded in 2008 by Charley Moore. With 70,000 users online each day, Rocket Lawyer, Moore explained to Daniel Fisher of Forbes, has doubled revenue for four straight years to amount to over $10 million in 2011. This makes it quite the venture capitalist-catch. And Google has finally “made it legal.”

Rocket Lawyer distributes online legal forms, from wills to Delaware certificates of incorporation, that non-attorneys can fill out and then store and share on the web. For just $19.95 a month, customers can also have their documents reviewed by an actual attorney. Subscribers get legal advice at no additional cost.

This business model may sound familiar, but Rocket Lawyer is eager to differentiate themselves from a similar service and online competitor, LegalZoom. LegalZoom uses the expertise of lawyers and bar officials across the United States and has been sued for practicing law without a license. Rocket Lawyer, on the other hand, is only associated with actual attorneys, handles federal issues nationwide, and, when a consumer has a question about New York contract law, for example, assigns the case to a lawyer licensed in that state, Moore explained to Fisher.

“Rocket Lawyer gives consumers technology to do things themselves with no human intervention at all,” said Moore to Fisher. “When they do need help, and they do, they can consult with a lawyer.”

How did Google get involved?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that legal documents is one of the most searched for categories on the world wide web. Does this insider information give Google a competitive advantage when choosing smart business investments? Absolutely. And, it legitimizes the idea of online, pre-paid legal services, which has previously been shrouded in controversy.

LegalZoom, itself, recently raised $66 million. There’s opportunity and money to be had… so, the question is, how can your firm compete? Consider offering online forms and free consultations (if you don’t already) and stop delaying your entree into social media and blogging.

Google’s latest investment seems to prove that offering online legal services is now a permanent part of the industry.

-WB

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Lawyer App Of The Day: Smartphones, Cowboys, And Fee Payment Options

Collecting, managing, and dispensing of attorneys’ fees is a constant topic of discussion and source of contention. So what if a mobile app could make this process easier?

Typically the argument extolling the benefits of mobile apps surrounds social media, reference materials, firm exposure, or marketing. However, now there’s at least one direct financial benefit to downloading smartphone apps to your iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.

 Consider the following situation. A client walks into your office. After a few minutes of conversation, you seal the deal, so to speak, and a new account begins with a handshake.

 Unfortunately, we don’t all do business in Texas, and sometimes a gentleman’s word makes for an insufficient retainer.

 Luckily, Google—frequently at the forefront of technological innovation—has a mobile app that can transfer monetary promises straight to your pocketbook. Leave it to 3 Geeks And A Law Blog to highlight the legal applications for near-field communications (NFC) technology. Such as, for example, this Google Wallet app.

 Google Wallet uses any devise with an NFC chip to make financial transactions, whether that be swiping your phone to purchase a vending machine soda or swiping your phone to hire a costly private investigator in your contentious divorce case. Either way, good news for lawyers.

 Despite its diversity, Google Wallet not our mobile app of the day. Instead, let’s refocus attention onto another tool vital for the litigious, fast-paced attorney: caffeine. This time, Starbucks has a solution for you.

 Welcome, Starbucks Mobile Payment app.

 With this free app, you can check your balance, reload your Starbucks card, and  view and track your transactions via your iPhone, iTouch, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android phone.

 And, sneaking out of the office for a cup of Joe was never easier. All you need is your phone (and this app) to pay at the counter. Lisa Salazar of 3 Geeks And A Law Blog summarizes its application perfectly:

“At first, I was all, ‘why in the world would I want to download an app for coffee?’

Well, I will tell you why:

  1. When I leave my office to grab my afternoon fix, I don’t have to carry my purse with my wallet that holds my credit card and Starbucks card.
  2. I can budget my coffee addiction allotment.
  3. The app collects and monitors my rewards—no more carrying around the infamously losable Starbucks Card.
  4. In the event I am traveling, it loads up the closest Starbucks for my drinking pleasure.
  5. I get to look cool when I whip out my phone to pay.”

In the legal world of power suits, power ties, and power plays… how can you say no to that?

 Even if Starbucks is not your morning addiction of choice, it still serves as a wake-up call for legal trends. Methods of payment are being revolutionized, mobile apps cannot be ignored, and, finally, law firms on the cutting edge of technology will also be the first ones securing clients (that is, unless you prefer to practice in the Wild West).

-WB

Of course, there are always liability issues when it comes to data-sharing and smartphones. Attend C4CM’s training course, “Smartphones and the Law: Avoiding Legal Liabilities in the Workplace” to ensure your policies and practices are air-tight.

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Compassion and Money-Making—Surprisingly Not Opposites

A man meditates on the idea of compassion, and instantly brain scans label him as the happiest (measurable) man in the world. By simply thinking about one simple idea—compassion—Mathieu Ricard accomplished what most people aim to achieve in a lifetime, complete happiness.

Scientists can calculate degrees of happiness by measuring the relative activation of the left prefrontal cortex in the FMRI, versus the right prefrontal cortex. Surprisingly, more than millions of dollars or fancy cars, compassion was the motivator behind the highest measured level of happiness in a human.

Unfortunately for project managers and law office partners, compassion is not often linked with the word “business”. In fact, it’s more likely to find “business” linked to descriptors such as, “cut-throat,” or “competition”. Since compassion is not typically perceived as a commodity, few choose to value it highly at work. But, what if compassion could actually turn a profit?

Chade-Meng Tan gave a TED talk at the U.N. building in New York titled, “Everyday compassion at Google.” He reflected on Mathieu Ricard and on the ideas of happiness and compassion. If only there was a way to market them in more corporate-appropriate package.

Then he looked to Google. Having been employed by Google for over ten years, Chade-Meng Tan saw it as the perfect case study for is examination of compassionate companies.   

“Google is a company born of idealism. It’s a company that thrives on idealism. And maybe because of that, compassion is organic and widespread.”

Google works with a bottom-up corporate structure—one that relies on staffers to take initiative to develop an idea, sell to other people, and then create a full-blown product. For example, “three Googlers—a chef, an engineer, and, most funny, a massage therapist—three of them, they learned anout a region in India where 200,000 people live without a single medical facility. So what do they do? They just go ahead and start a fundraiser. And they raise enough money to build this hospital.”

The examples of grassroots efforts and corporate compassion at Google are endless. And the company, of course, is one of the most successful in America. Philanthropy is always a charitable thing to practice, but how is Google’s monetary success linked with it?

According to research by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, the most outstanding business leaders have intelligence and abilities, to be sure, but they also have humility and an ambition for the greater good. Effectively, the keys to compassion—empathizing with people and situations—are the same as those for humility. The desire for a greater good is also a component of compassion.

With formalized leadership trainings, companies can easily reinforce these ideals in their employees and hone these skills in their senior managers in order to create great leaders. “Google places a lot of emphasis on the inner qualities, such as self-awareness, self-mastery, empathy, and compassion, because we believe that leadership begins with character.”

Leadership training should be tailored to focus on three important steps. The first is attention training. Employees should work to keep their minds calm and clear. The second is developing self-knowledge and self-mastery. Instead of viewing events emotionally, employees should listen to all third-party opinions and gather objective knowledge.

Finally, the third step is creating new mental habits. Every time you greet a colleague, especially a subordinate, your first thought should be something like “I want you to be happy,” or “how can I make you happy.” By training yourself to instinctually aim for a happy workplace or environment, often that’s all you need to physically create one.

There’s no minor correlation between the business success of Google, its compassionate corporate culture, and the happiness of its employees. The Dalai Lama said “if you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Chade Meng Tan—on behalf of Google—says instead, practice compassion if you want to be profitable.

-WB

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