Tag Archives: Google

Scientific Discovery Named After Supreme Court Justice & Other Things You Should Google

What happens when you google Supreme Court Justices? Today, enter a search for “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg” and the results may bug you.

Instead of being associated with women’s rights or fighting for female equality, quite literally, Justice Ginsburg is now associated with bugs, the Ilomantis ginsburgae, to be exact. The scientific discovery of this species is notable as Sydney Brannoch, a Case Western Reserve University Ph.D. candidate, recently used the genitals of female praying mantises to distinguish it from other species.

Like other praying mantis’s, female Ilomantis ginsburgae take their male counterparts and rip off their heads. Now, the feminist insects share headlines with one of the most renowned courtroom warriors.

But, it may be Justice Ginsburg with the last laugh. What happens when Supreme Court Justices google you?

It turns out that Supreme Court Justices have been supplementing legal 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.

Fair or not, do you know what Justices will find when they google you or your client? More importantly, do professionals at your firm possess the technological skills to do the same due diligence?

So, before your brief gets beheaded by the prying eyes of praying judges, find out what’s online and how it could affect your case—before it’s too late.

-WB

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized