Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The End of the World

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  For those of you who faithfully follow my blog, this may be the end of your world.  For this I must make a heartfelt appology.  Adam and Graeme, I am truly sorry.

For all others that may come across this, if you a law student, you should think of checking out this course.  You never know when this sort of thing will come in handy with the boss.  This subject may one day save the bacon.

Goodbye and farewell,

 LJ

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Comment on A.Shell’s post on UNSW Law IT

Below is a comment I made in response to A. Shell’s post on the UNSW 

 http://ashell.wordpress.com/2006/10/24/unsw-law-it-%e2%80%93-ignorant-technology-that-is%e2%80%a6/#comment-19

I agree with Adam.  UNSW did a shit job of designing their state-of-the-art new building for the realities of the modern world.  While our classrooms back at the University of Alberta resemble something out a communist nightmare, we do have plenty of powerpoints.  We also have FREE wireless connectivity throughout the law school, as well as most of the Uni.  To be quite truthful, this really didn’t matter to me much until I bought a laptop.  I found it annoying that those that did have them spent most of their class time clicking away on MSN messenger.  In retrospect, this was just jealousy.  Life definitely changed for the better when I bought my laptop.  Instead of having to pack around case books and statutes for 5 classes, I only had to pack my computer, as I could grab the materials off the web.  Further, I didn’t have to worry about loosing or ruining my notes, as I had them in e-format.  Easy peasy.  Coming here I expected more of the same.  I was shocked and annoyed to find out that the new building not only didn’t have plug-ins, but also didn’t have wireless.  I don’t know who made the decision, or lack their of, to exclude these necessities, but if it is the goal of the law school to “connect” with the community, maybe first they should connect with their students.

Comments on “AmLaw Tech Survey: Law Firms Play Variations on Old Themes”

http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1161162316587

This is an interesting little article that discusses the IT trends predominant with the big law firms out there.  Most appear not to be looking for the technology “paradigm” shift, but rather looking to improve on coordination of existing technologies.  Not a mention is given to expert systems.

Not surprisingly, the big firms are facing the same challenges that other big businesses have had to challenge.   Information streamlining, data storage, and wireless communication are all priorities.  While firms are spending more and more on IT, it will be interesting to see if any of this budget will lead to the adoption of technologies that will not only aid business, but change it.

 LJ

Legal Podcasts

I was cruising blog posts and came across a link below in regard to Starbucks podcasts and how tremendously dull they are.  It got me thinking, are any law firms/lawyers communicating in this way?  I decided to do a quick search.  What I found actually surprised me.  When I googled ‘podcasts & law’ I got a TONof hits.  It appears that there are a number of lawyers taking the time out of their “busy” schedules to create podcasts for those who choose to listen.  Why would they do this?  Well, there are a couple of reasons that come immediately to my mind.  So, here we go… 

First, they may just be looking for a soapbox to shout from.  Podcasts are an ideal way to get your voice out there.  Literally, your voice………..Uhhh, is this mike on?  Second, they may be doing it to build firm recognition.  Being the hip new thing, podcasts are a good way to build brand identity with those who are more likely to have iPods, the young power crowd.  Third, legal podcasters may actually be making broadcasts because they have something important to say.  Being that podcasts are a medium of the young up-and-comers (sorry to those who are over 50 and use iPods) , real institutions, with real things to say, can use this technology to reach an audience that may not always follow them.

Whatever reason a lawyer might choose to create a podcast, they should keep one thing in mind.  Keep it interesting! Podcasters are a fickle lot. Unless you want to end up on the bottom of the podcast list, like Starbucks, you will have to keep your audience not only informed, but entertained.

Until next time.

LJ

Below is a link to an article in regard to podcasts on law.com by Robert Ambrogi.  It has some good links to podcast sites.  Worth a look.

http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1109128217635

UNSW’s Plagiarism Policy

Hi All,

Below is a little fun that I’m trying to having with the UNSW in regards to their plagiarism policy.  Apparantly, on the eve of the eleventh hour for papers, assignments and the like, I am looking for things to amuse myself.   It will be interesting to see what they have to say.  I’m expecting the old, “Well, we didn’t really mean what we said we meant by ‘theft’, but if you f&*! up and get caught plagiarising, we will hang you out to dry anyway.” In all seriousness though, in a need to somehow relate this to computers and law, in this age of the internet, you never know who might be reading what you write and claiming it as their own.  Publish if ye dare!

LJ

  

To Whom it May Concern:

 I am a foreign exchange law student at UNSW.  I was checking the plagiarism policy of the Uni, as it is required that I have read it to hand in my papers.  I happened to notice two bullet points on the “What is plagiarism” page that surprised me.  They are:  ·  Firstly, it is unethical because it is a form of theft. By taking the ideas and words of others and pretending they are your own, you are stealing someone else’s intellectual property. ·  Secondly, it is unethical because the plagiariser subsequently benefits from this theft.  As I am in the process of writing a paper at home on copyright and plagiarism, I thought I would do a quick check into the legitimacy of these claims, as I happen to know that there is no case law in Canada to support plagiarism as a crime.  What I found is below.  1) NSW Crimes Act 1900:  Plagiarism is not defined in the act.  A quick scan of the act reveal no offence of plagiarism or academic theft.2) Crimes case law:  A quick scan of the case law reveals that there are no cases in which NSW has tried to convict someone of  ‘plagiarism.’3) NSW Copyright Act 1879:  Plagiarism is not defined.4) Case law: The short of it is, copyright only exists in the actual text, not the idea.  Ideas are protected by patent.   While plagiarism is immoral, it is not ‘theft.’  Theft is a crime and is punishable by criminal prosecution.  At best, plagiarism is copyright infringement, which is illegal, not criminal, as theft is.  In fact, the paradox is this.  If you quote and properly source an author, you may still be ‘guilty’ of copyright infringement, whereas, if you rip them off without quoting them, you haven’t done anything wrong from a copyright standpoint.  If you are going to shape them minds of young students, it would be noble to try to at least get the wording right.

All the best,

LJ

Re The Future of Law – Something to Ponder

This comment is in response to a blog post entitled ‘The Future of Law – Something to ponder…’ found at http://sachinsuch.wordpress.com/

 

I agree that publishers and firms will never be perfect rivals.  The legal profession is much too self important to be displaced!

 

Seriously though, I do feel that there will be a transformation in the type of work that law firms do.  Gone will be the simple transactional type legal functions, performed by an actual lawyer, which expert systems will be able to replace.  No longer will firms be able to “turn and burn” simple mortgages and residential leases, through brut force, for a quick buck.  That being said, I think that law firms may become the keepers of these systems, as the transaction may still need the legal ‘seal of approval.’  If the publishers become too powerful, I’m sure that law societies will find a way to slap them down.  The legal profession has been good at keeping others out for centuries.  I don’t see this changing any time soon.  Don’t take me as being too cynical about this point.  I’m not trying to beat them; I’m trying to join them!

If the above is true of expert systems and the law, then there is also something to be said about the changing tide of business models.  With the demise of the “lower” cost/high volume business model, another will step in to fill its place.  I predict that if this does occur, and this is a pretty BIG if, then there are greater possibilities for the high-end/specialty product business model.  With the cheap, easy transactions gone, firms will concentrate on the complex, high cost legal products that can’t be easily duplicated by expert systems.  Possibilities will also increase for small “boutique” firms with niche focuses.  The money will still be there; however, it will be further concentrated in the best of the best.  Regardless, as long as the “law” remains fair and just, who really cares who is making the money?

 LJ

Instant Messaging in the Law Firm

Below is a comment I made in repsonse to AShell’s post on e-mail security for solicitors.  The original blog can be found at  http://ashell.wordpress.com/2006/09/24/security-of-email-for-solicitors/#comment-9

 

What of instant messaging type communications?  When I sit down in the majority of my classes at home (unlike UNSW where the powers that be seem to feel that chairs and desks that look like trees are more important than wireless internet!), I can’t help but notice that everyone with a laptop (which is nearly everyone) has either MSN messenger or G-mail messenger open and ready to go.  While this undoubtedly leads to some mindless chit chat, it is also an effective medium for discussion.  As a generation of lawyers graduate from law school having used instant messaging networks, it is not a stretch to think that these lawyers will want to use this form of communication in their practice, but what of security of these systems?  When I went to the IT geek at my former job to ask her if I could install MSN Messenger on my work computer (It really was for work purposes! Seriously.) she nearly shat her pants.  Apparently having Messenger on a secure LAN is like waving a red flag to a cyber hacking bull.  I guess that this means that Messenger, in its current form, isn’t a good idea to sensitive legal material.  However, this doesn’t mean that ALL instant messaging networks need be insecure.  Personally, I think that messaging is a great form of communication.  Its quicker and more personal than e-mail, while less invasive than a phone call.  I, for one, hope that messaging evolves and sticks around. 

 LJ

Neural Networks and the Law

To over-simplify, a neural network is an artificial computer network that is modeled on the neurological structure of the biological brain.  The theory is, if a neural network is properly designed, it should be capable of learning and adapting in the same way that a human brain can.  When the network is properly “trained,” it will be capable of making complex and logical decisions without the aid a person. 

(For background on neural networks, please check out wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_network)

Criticism exists that neural networks are not yet “intelligent” enough to solve problems of any complexity.  I don’t want to debate this.  What I would like to debate is whether or not they will EVER be sophisticated enough to leave something as important as law to their purview.  Will we ever see a “neural network judge?” (thanks Adam).  As big a Trekkie as I am, I have trouble believing that we are going to see a “Data” any time soon.  Will a computer, as trained as it might be, be able to apply contextual argument?  Even if it could, should we as people relinquish the law to a machine?  Would it still be the law or would it at that point become something else?  I don’t have the answers and, as I said, I think it will be a long time until we have to confront these questions; however, it is something worth thinking about.

 Boldly going where no man has gone before….

 LJ

Decision Support Systems – Still a thing of the future or are they here now?

In his 1994 article entitled “Legal Expert Systems: A Humanistic Critique of Mechanical Legal Inference”, Andrew Greinke suggests three areas where he felt that decision support systems (DSS) would be useful in the legal profession.  These areas were: 1) for legal information retrieval, 2) for calculations and planning, and 3) for litigation support and jurimetrics.  This article was written over 10 years ago.  Has anything come of these three areas since the time of the article’s writing?  Initially, it seemed to me that all three areas would be of some use in the profession, with some having a greater impact than others, meaning that all three would be out there.  The answer?  I was kind of right.

Legal information retrieval has probably had the biggest impact so far and is definetly here, and here to stay.  One need not look very far to see that this is the case.  For better or for worse, law law libraries continue to shrink and the big publishing companies (you know who you are) are beginning to make their bucks by hooking law students into their retrieval systems right from the student’s first day of law school.  The fact that the publishing companies are at the helm, may be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.  Since the publishers are out there to make a buck and these monoliths realise that if the product sucks, people will switch, this should ensure continual improvement of the product.  The downside is that once a product has been accepted, the incentive to make incremental changes, rather than paradigm shifts, is encouraged.  There is way more money at the top of the bell curve than with the early adopters.  If you change the product too dramatically, even if it is for the better, you risk leaving your users, and cash flow, behind.

Grienke’s next category was calculation and planning.  To my surprise, I wasn’t able to find any readily available products.  As I hadn’t heard of any products through word-of-mouth, I did a quick “google” search.  After 5 different word combos and a bunch of drilling down, I still hadn’t found anything.  While there were a lot of products for small business and individuals, I couldn’t find any that were being targeted at lawyers.  Perhaps some tax and financial planning software incorporates some of what Grienke imagined; however, if I had any sort of money at all, I don’t think I would be entrusting my fortune to the likes of “Quicktax.”

Grienke’s last category was litigation support tools.  A quick search of this topic will get you all sort of hits.  Being a lowly law student, I am limited in my ability to test any of the programs I found.  However, you just have to believe that if there are more than a dozen companies out there doing it, someone has, or will, come up with something that isn’t complete crap.  Furthermore, there may be overlap with Grienke’s second category if some of the products utilize probability algorithms to help determine outcomes.

So…what’s the conclusion? While all three categories that Grienke noted in 1994 are present in some fashion today, not all of them have apparently lived up to the hype.  At the end of the day, while technology may be useful, it is only as useful as it is used.

Keeping it real…

LJ

Freemind – Why not? Its free!

In my last blog in regard to eGanges I stated that I didn’t know enough about AI programs to be able to make an informed comment as to their functionality.  Today I will begin to remedy that.  My first shot at it will be with a open-sourced, free of charge, mind mapping software program cleverly named Freemind.  The way I see it, if you have to start somewhere, starting somewhere free is as good as any.  Further, during my MBA days, I remember buddies of mine using the program to do this or that.  While I thought it was interesting, with a “stick a fork in my eye so I have an excuse not to do this shit” schedule, I didn’t feel I had the time to get into.  However, with a paper looming on the horizon on a topic associated with this very subject, I thought “WTH, let’s give it a shot!”  While I realize that Freemind is likely not as ambitious as eGanges claims to be, it will at least give me a point of reference for evaluating eGanges’ claims in the legal argument arena.

Stay tuned….

LJ