Pa. Bar Association Ethics Committee Provides Guidance to Lawyers About Social Media

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility has released an Ethics Opinion on Social Media, explaining to lawyers what they can and cannot do when posting or responding to information and comments on social media websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Avvo and others. The Opinion, one of the first in the country to broadly address these issues, explains (1) the issues confronting attorneys who use social media, (2) the ethical obligations of attorneys using social media, and (3) what attorneys and their staff may and may not do when dealing with information that their clients post on social networking websites.

I am proud to be one of the principal authors of the Opinion, but must also give special thanks to many people for their invaluable input/comments and insight, including my law clerk, Nora Viggiano, and attorneys Jennifer Ellis, Thomas G. Wilkinson, Dan Harrington, Victoria White, Michael Reed and Michael Temin.

The opinion is the first in the country to broadly address these issues, including: 1. Whether attorneys may advise clients about the content of the clients’ social networking websites, including removing or adding information. 2. Whether attorneys may connect with a client or former client on a social networking website. 3. Whether attorneys may contact a represented person through a social networking website. 4. Whether attorneys may contact an unrepresented person through a social networking website, or use a pretextual basis for viewing information on a social networking site that would otherwise be private/unavailable to the public. 5. Whether attorneys may use information on a social networking website in client-related matters. 6. Whether a client who asks to write a review of an attorney, or who writes a review of an attorney, has caused the attorney to violate any Rule of Professional Conduct. 7. Whether attorneys may comment on or respond to reviews or endorsements. 8. Whether attorneys may endorse other attorneys on a social networking website. 9. Whether attorneys may review a juror’s Internet presence. 10. Whether attorneys may connect with judges on social networking websites. If you would like to read the Opinion, either click here or contact me.

Just Because You Have an IPad Doesn’t Mean You Need to Use It

Technology – such as iPads – can help attorneys be more effective advocates. But like any tool, you need to use it correctly, not just because you have it. Otherwise, the technology can actually weaken your position, and frustrate the judge, jury or arbitrator you are trying to convince.

I sat as an arbitrator today in a relatively routine car accident case, involving a side swipe at an intersection – I think. The reason I say “I think” is because the plaintiff’s attorney was so enamored of his iPad that he never asked his client, “Tell the panel, how did the accident occur?”

Instead, he fixated on using his iPad to display an image from Google Maps of the intersection where the accident occurred. He showed the iPad to his client, but the arbitrators couldn’t view it. In addition, his client was pointing to the screen and gesturing about going up or down. The panel of arbitrators just sat there. Making matters worse, the picture of the intersection was facing the wrong direction, and when he showed it to his client, the arbitrators had to look at it upside down. Overall, the use of the iPad was cumbersome and distracting.

Interestingly, the attorney did bring some photographs of the intersection with him, and would have been better served by showing them to his client and the panel. In fact, he would have been better served by just having his client draw a diagram on the white board in the room. Maybe then the panel would have had a clue what happened.

In short, just because you have a tool doesn’t mean you have to use it.

This is not to say that using an iPad, or other tablet or technological device, is a bad idea. There are many ways this attorney could have used the technology to his advantage. For instance, the attorney could have downloaded the image and created a pdf. Using that pdf, his client could have drawn on the image and presented a much clearer picture of how the accident occurred. Not only would this have made the plaintiff’s testimony clearer, it also would have helped the arbitrators to understand and evaluate the accident better.

Knowing when to use technology is like knowing which tool to use when fixing a loose screw. If the screw is made for a Phillips head screwdriver, then you shouldn’t be using a flathead screwdriver. You have to know when to use which type of screwdriver for which type of screw. Similarly, with technology, you have to know when and how to use technology to further your case and when it is simply a cumbersome and unnecessary distraction.

Fortunately, Integrated Technology Services can provide guidance in this area. As practicing litigators, we can show you how and when the use of technology can be beneficial to your case. Click here to read about Dan Siegel’s presentation, “Androids for Litigators” at Techshow 2014, which “Droid Lawyer” Jeff Taylor described as “an awesome presentation.” ITS helps lawyers and their staffs use Androids, iPads and lots of other law office technology.

Attorney Daniel J. Siegel Lectures About Technology & The Law

Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of Havertown, Pennsylvania, has recently presented a number of programs focusing on the intersection of law and technology. In particular, Siegel is scheduled to present a three hour program, “Android for Lawyers” for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on Friday, April 25, 2014 in Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1lNl6fb.

Siegel is also a course planner for and is speaking at “The Technology Institute,” to be held on June 11, 2014 in Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1eukiGY. Siegel will lecture on “The Paperless Office” and “Mobility, the Cloud, and Ethics” at this program, which is also sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

Siegel recently presented three programs, “60 Android Apps & Widgets,” “The Litigators Guide to Android,” and “What the Heck is this Case About?! A New Perspective on Using Timelines, Chronologies and Transcript Management,” at Techshow, the American Bar Association Law Practice Division’s major law and technology event, which was held in Chicago from March 27 to 29, 2014.

Attorney Siegel is the founder of Integrated Technology Services, LLC, a consulting service for attorneys based in suburban Philadelphia and in Maine. He is also the principal of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC. As a consultant, Mr. Siegel works with attorneys and their staffs to improve their workflow using technology. As an attorney, Mr. Siegel handles workers’ compensation matters and serves as a “second chair” for other attorneys – handling the matters that keep them up at night, such as preparing appeals court briefs and helping lawyers prepare cases for trial.

He is the author of Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers and The Lawyer’s Guide to CaseMap, both published by the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Division.

I’ll Take “Advancements in Legal Technology” for $1,000 please, Alex

Recently, there has been some discussion out of IBM about the possibility of using Watson-like technology for legal research, litigation and discovery. While this sounds like a great idea in the abstract, in reality, it remains to be seen whether Watson is capable of such an undertaking.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Watson is a room-sized computer created by IBM and named after its first president, Thomas J. Watson, that is capable of answering queries phrased in natural language. Watson became famous this past February when “he” prevailed on Jeopardy! against two of the biggest winners in the game show’s history.

According to IBM fellow Guru Rao, IBM is working towards being able to use Watson-like technology “to weed out relevant information from warehouses of data.” For lawyers, the thought of having a machine that can go through a mountain of discovery and almost instantaneously obtain the most relevant documents sounds like a dream come true. This technology could also be useful for pinpointing the perfect case or statute when engaging in legal research.

But will lawyers be willing to take Watson for his word when he is less than 100% confident in a conclusion? While Watson answered many clues correctly on Jeopardy!, he was actually less than 50% confident in many of his responses. Also, Watson’s confidence and accuracy improved with longer, wordier clues, and decreased with shorter clues with fewer words; thus, simple queries like “instances of malpractice” would be the least likely to produce reliable results.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where IBM is able to take this technology in order to help lawyers. Watson may be fully capable of winning a game show, but whether or not he will be a winner in the courtroom remains to be seen. 

Further Reading:

http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202481662966&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/050311-ibm-hopes-to-bring-watson.html?docid=050911i

Cell Phones are Computers – The Evolution of Technology

For most people, the word “computer” conjures up images of a traditional desktop computer and monitor, or perhaps a laptop or even a netbook. Few, if any, would associate the word with their cellular phone. However, it is undeniable that modern cell phones are, more and more, performing tasks for which we would ordinarily use our computers. We can check our email, surf the web, stream music and videos, and download software, all with a little device that fits in our pocket.

Recently, in United States v. Kramer, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 2367 (8th Cir. 2011), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that, under the definition provided by 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(1), even a cell phone used only to make phone calls and send text messages constitutes a computer. This statute defines a computer as a device which “performs logical, arithmetic, or storage functions.” The Eighth Circuit determined that a cell phone performs logical, arithmetic, or storage functions “each time an electronic processor performs any task—from powering on, to receiving keypad input, to displaying information.” According to the court, even the most basic function of a cell phone—placing a phone call (I forgot they could do that!)—requires the phone’s processor to perform logical, arithmetic and storage functions. Therefore, even cell phones without internet access and web browsers constitute computers under this statute.

The implications of this decision are far-reaching. First, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, the “Fraud and related activity in connection with computers” section of the Federal Crimes Code, now applies to fraudulent access and usage of cell phones. Additionally, as was the case for Neil Scott Kramer, defendants may face a sentencing enhancement for “use of a computer” to facilitate the commission of certain crimes. Further, this could open the door to new rules regarding searches and seizures of cell phones, and could broaden laws relating to computer hacking and internet crimes. It remains to be seen whether other courts, including the United States Supreme Court, will agree with the Eighth Circuit’s analysis.

Legaltech New York

Yesterday, my associates, Molly Gilligan, Diana D’Auria and I, spent the date (actually our annual jaunt) at Legaltech, New York, the large commercial legal technology show (not to be confused with the ABA’s Techshow, where I will be speaking in April). As usual, there were many vendors and we were able to visit with friends from our many partners, including LexisNexis TimeMatters, CaseMap and Concordance, Legal Files case and matter management software, AccessData Summation (I have just become a newly-minted Summation Support Specialist, which replaces my prior certification as a Summation Certified Trainer) and Payne Systems (Metadata Assistant). We also visited with our newest partner, Business Integrity, which markets Contract Express, an easy, user-friendly document assembly software program. It was particularly heartening to hear the totally positive feedback for my book, The Lawyer’s Guide to LexisNexis CaseMap. Users love it and apparently so do the people at Casesoft, the Lexis division responsible for CaseMap, TextMap, NoteMap and TimeMap.  Overall, a great day, some new friends made, some old aquaintances renewed.

One minor complaint. One of my associates tried to register online on the first day of the show. Because registration was closed, she was informed she had to register at the show. Lo and behold, the otherwise free registration was no longer available and we were hit with a $50.00 registration fee for attending the show. Nowhere on the Legaltech site can I find mention of this policy, and it’s not apparent (if it exists) on the portion of the site devoted to Legaltech in California. That just didn’t seem fair.

Websites Can Impact a Law Firm’s Malpractice Insurance Rates

Clients look at websites, other counsel look at websites and – not surprisingly – so do legal malpractice carriers. In fact, they use the sites as a way of verifying that the information contained in a law firm’s applicable for malpractice insurance is accurate and consistent with their marketing statements. According to an article, “The Underwriter Speaks, How Your Professional Liability Insurance Carrier Looks at Law Firm Websites,” published in the January 2011 newsletter from Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, “The website can be a great resource for underwriters to gather data such as lawyer’s bios and avoiding the need to go back to the applicant to obtain the description. It is also not uncommon for underwriters to discover inconsistencies with an application as well as omissions. These discoveries trigger underwriting red flags.” To read the entire article, click here.

Great Free Microsoft Office Manuals

Free is always a great price, but this time, free is not only a great price but a great product.  A company, Mouse Training, has release its training manuals and Quick Reference Guides for Office 2007, Office 2003, Office XP (2002) and Office 2000. The materials include Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, Project and Visio.

All of the documents are in pdf format. To get them, go to http://www.mousetraining.co.uk/ms-office-training-manuals.html.

Free CaseMap 101 Webinars

I am very pleased to announce that I will be presenting a series of monthly webinars about LexisNexis CaseMap, the award-winning litigation management software – the webinars are based on my book The Lawyer’s Guide to LexisNexis CaseMap, which was recently published by the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section. The series will provide numerous tips designed to help you get the most from CaseMap. There will also be ample time for Q&A. Webinar sessions are designed for beginners as well as longtime users. Register for one or all of the installments—and check back for new segments throughout 2011

Webinar

Date/Time  

Setting Up Your case in CaseMap, Best Practices, Tips & Tricks Wed, January 26 – 2:00 PM  
It’s easy to just dive in to CaseMap and begin entering and analyzing data. But the structure of your database and how and where you store your data can be vitally important when analyzing information, creating replicas and preparing for trial. With just a few easy steps, you can dramatically improve how your database is setup and how to get the most from the information you enter. In this program, you will learn how to make CaseMap work better for you. Among the topics to be covered are:

  • Customizing How CaseMap Looks
  • Why Short Names Matter
  • Ways to Get Started With Your Case – Do I Create Facts or Objects or Issues? And Why Every Case May Not Use the Same Methods.
  • Enter Data on the Fly
  • Creating the Cast of Characters
  • Naming Conventions – and Why the Defaults May Not be the Best for You
Writing User Friendly Chronologies Wed, February 23 – 2:00 PM
Cases are about facts, and a well-written fact chronology, one that uses other important fields for data, can be of vital importance when analyzing the strengths of your case. CaseMap can play a vital role in developing the facts of your case, allowing you to present information in a way that allows the judge or jury to understand the evidence. In this webinar, you will learn how to write facts well, and what to avoid, so that your Facts/Chronology can be a versatile repository that will improve your opening and closing statements, and will allow you to prepare motions, briefs, settlement memoranda and other documents that are more persuasive and more effective. The program will show examples of user-friendly chronologies, and how a well-written chronology makes searching, filtering and all other features of CaseMap work better for you.
Issues Analysis Wed, March 23 – 2:00 PM
Creating the Issues spreadsheet – and utilizing that outline to analyze the data in your case – is one of the most critical stages in the birth and development of a CaseMap outline. When examined at their most basic level, issues are those items that a party is attempting to prove or disprove. Or, issues can be a critical component when using the CaseMap Summary Judgment Wizard (to file or defend against motions for summary judgment) and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case. In this webinar, we will examine how to create issues, provide tips for making sure that your Issues outline contains the information you need, including how to analyze the Issues to determine where more discovery may be necessary, how to ascertain which claims and defenses are strongest, and which have the least evidentiary support, and other ways to be sure that your case is ready for trial.
Analyzing Your Case Wed, April 20 – 2:00 PM
As a database, CaseMap allows you to organize critical knowledge in your cases about facts, people (the cast of characters), and the issues in your case. The key to CaseMap is organizing this information, along with other data, so that you can analyze your case more quickly and more effectively than with traditional methods. This webinar will demonstrate the many ways CaseMap makes analyzing your case simple. Whether preparing for a deposition, drafting motions or defending against motion, preparing for settlement, or getting ready for trial, CaseMap allows you with literally the click of a mouse to analyze your data quickly and without having to review everything you have already done. This webinar will demonstrate how to get the most information from your database, how to analyze the data to its best advantage, and how doing so can help you win your case.

Click here to sign up for the webinars.

Click here to read the Table of Contents.

 

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

 

Click here to order the book.


Click here to visit the CaseMap Book website.

27 Inch Monitors Come Down in Price, Improve Productivity

For years, I have written and lectured about the bump-up in productivity that results when you use a large monitor. But, like many people, I’m not a big fan of dual screens, and the price difference between 22/23 inch and larger monitors has been dramatic. But not anymore. I just purchased a 27 inch Samsung monitor for $259.99 at BJ’s, and the display is gorgeous. More importantly, it’s obvious just how much more I can see and how much more productive it makes me (less scrolling up and down and less scrolling side to side) – something I emphasize in my program, How to Do 90 Minutes of Work in 60. In particular, it makes side-by-side viewing (the “snap” feature in Windows 7) extremely useful. 

For some programs – like LexisNexis CaseMap – the ability to see more is a big plus. One of the difficulties with CaseMap on a small screen is the fact that it’s hard to see all the columns and therefore harder to see the “big picture.” When I opened CaseMap on the 27 inch monitor, however, the result was “Wow,” not only by me, but by my associate, Molly Barker Gilligan, Esquire, who had been compiling a CaseMap database on her “puny” 22 inch monitor. Her eyes and mine “popped” at how much better the program looked and how much easier it was to view everything. This gives me a new suggestion in conjunction with my book, The Lawyer’s Guide to LexisNexis Case Map.

 I frequently suggest to clients that they purchase larger monitors but have, until now, generally recommended that 22 or 23 inch is sufficient. Not anymore. Now, with 27 inch monitors so cheap, they are clearly the way to go.

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