Archive for August, 2009
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Should Lawyers Be Wary of Saas?.”
Should Lawyers Be Wary of SaaS?
Online services for lawyers are becoming increasingly common and, for many lawyers, are an attractive alternative to the traditional law practice management software installed and maintained on a local server within a law office.
Online services available to attorneys now include law practice management systems, document management platforms, secure email networks, digital dictation services and billing/timekeeping services. The online platforms are attractive, economical and viable alternatives for firms of all sizes.
Online e-mail platforms also are increasing in popularity. Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail now are the top three e-mail service providers in the United States, and are used by lawyers and clients alike.
The one thing these various platforms have in common is that the data created and managed by these services are stored offsite, in the “cloud.” The offsite data storage issue has resulted in much speculation among lawyers regarding issues of data security and attorney-client confidentiality.
Before addressing those concerns, let’s define the concepts at issue.
“Cloud computing” is a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second.”
Software as a service —or SaaS —is defined at Oracle.com as “[a] software delivery model in which a software firm provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client.”
In my opinion, the data security and confidentiality concerns regarding cloud computing are exaggerated and overblown.
Of course an attorney has an obligation to research how an SaaS provider will handle confidential information, and should determine how securely the data is stored. It is important to ensure the company stores the data on servers that meet current industry standards, performs back-ups regularly, and that you are satisfied
data will not be lost should a catastrophic event occur.
Concerns that third parties could access the data while traveling through the “cloud” are downright silly, in my opinion. Third parties always have had access to confidential client information, including process servers, court employees, document processing companies, external copy centers and legal document delivery services.
Employees of the building in which a law office is located also have had access to confidential files, including the cleaning service and other employees who maintain the premises. What about summer interns, temporary employees and contract attorneys?
The employees who manage and have access to computer servers are no different. In order to practice law effectively, third parties necessarily must have access to certain files. Assurances that the company in question will make reasonable efforts to ensure employees will not access confidential information is all that’s required.
The New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics reached a similar conclusion in Opinion 820-2/08/08, where it answered: “May a lawyer use an e-mail service provider that scans e-mails by computer for keywords and then sends or displays instantaneously (to the side of the e-mails in question) computer-generated advertisements to users of the service based on the e-mail communications?”
The committee concluded: “Unless the lawyer learns information suggesting that the provider is materially departing from conventional privacy policies or is using the information it obtains by computer-scanning of e-mails for a purpose that,
unlike computer-generated advertising, puts confidentiality at risk, the use of such e-mail services comports with DR 4-101…A lawyer may use an e-mail service provider that conducts computer scans of e-mails to generate computer advertising, where the e-mails are not reviewed by or provided to other individuals.”
In other words, common sense prevails. Lawyers must resist the urge to overreact to emerging technologies.
Common sense dictates that the same confidentiality standards applicable to physical client files likewise apply to computer-generated data. To conclude otherwise would be to prohibit lawyers from using computers in their law practices —an unrealistic and, quite frankly, ridiculous alternative.
Posted on August 22, 2009. Filed under: Social Media |
On September 21, 2009, in New York City I will be a speaker at Social Media: Risks & Rewards.
This comprehensive, dynamic event will explore the inherent challenges of social media and will arm you with the specific tools necessary to protect your company, your intellectual property and your reputation in today’s virtual world. Find out how to safeguard yourself and your business through insightful sessions focused on:
- The Social Media Sensation: Pressure to Keep up in the Digital Age
- Exposure, Liability and Consequences of Your Business and Social Media
- Develop your Company’s Corporate Policy for Social Media
- Protecting your Company’s Identity in a Virtual World
- Risks from Employees Past, Present and Future
- Safeguarding your Company’s Intellectual Property
- Best Practices for Social Media.
Challenges from Social Media are only one inappropriate “tweet” away. Register for this timely program today and ensure you understand the inherent perils of the market and construct the proper policies to protect your company and ensure future growth.
I will be on this panel: Your Business and the Social Media Sensation.
There is a discount for friends and family (and blog readers). If you want to attend, just visit the conference website at www.corpcounsel.com/socialmedia and use the code SPK for $100.00 off.
It should come as no surprise to regular readers of my column that I’ve long been dismayed and downright mortified at my profession’s collective refusal to accept and incorporate emerging technologies into the practice of law.
In many ways, the legal profession’s response to technology, and online technologies in particular, can be likened to Kübler- Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.
The legal profession’s reaction to technology follows a similar path: denial, defiance, desperation, deployment, and then, at long last, dedication.
A few trailblazers, mostly solos and small firms, have worked through the process and are now reaping the benefits of technology and all that it has to offer. Unfor- tunately, the vast majority of the profession is currently stuck in the middle of the process.
Until very recently, the majority of the legal profession was blissfully clueless about Internet technologies, their collective heads buried in the sand. Most attorneys
seemed to think the Internet was a passing trend, and if they ignored it, it would eventually disappear.
By 2003, however, most lawyers gradually, albeit reluctantly, acknowledged the importance of a Web presence and e-mail correspondence, although a vocal minority steadfastly refused to do so.
Until very recently, all other forms of emerging online technologies, such as blogs, were first ignored, and later despised.
Lawyers expressed derision when faced with repeated media coverage of the business benefits of online interaction and advertising. Rather than embrace technological change, lawyers predictably and defiantly rejected it.
In the last year, some lawyers entered the desperation phase as they began to sense they were missing out on something big.
Opportunities they didn’t quite comprehend were passing them by. With minimal foresight or understanding, they dove into the world of social media, leaving abandoned, self-promoting blogs and Twitter accounts in their wake. Their hastily executed social media campaigns, launched in desperation, were doomed to fail from the start.
In the next year or so, a good number of large law firms will realize that, at the very least, it is necessary to understand social media. Large law firms will be the first to engage social media consultants, not just for the purposes of using social
media for marketing, but rather to learn how to successfully navigate social media when a potentially embarrassing situation goes viral. In other words, BigLaw will realize it is imperative to learn how to use and execute social media campaigns for damage control purposes.
At the same time, increasing numbers of solo practitioners and boutiques will begin to actively participate in social media by creating blogs, Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and establishing attorney profiles on sites such as Justia, Avvo, LinkedIn and JDSupra.
Those attorneys quickly will realize the benefits of marketing on a shoestring budget through targeted social media campaigns. Those who narrowly tailor their social media participation to meet their established goals will begin to see a steady flow of new clients as a result of their efforts.
By the fall of 2011 or so, law firms of all sizes will begin to establish a dedicated social media presence. Mid-sized and large firms, having felt the pinch as solos and small boutique law firms slowly, but surely lured away their client base through the use of successful online marketing plans, will finally succumb to reality.
The legal profession will, at long last, begin the process of accepting that technology and the Internet are here to stay. Lawyers will brush the sand out of their eyes, educate themselves about the future and actively engage potential clients online. The process of working its way through the 5 stages will necessarily be difficult, but the end result will be worth it.5
Posted on August 3, 2009. Filed under: Misc. |
This screencast (a recording of computer screen output along with video of me discussing what is seen) will focus on using online tools to assist you with brain storming and organizing your thoughts for all aspects of a case, from drafting a complaint to preparing for trial. We’ll discuss web applications for brain storming, mind mapping, creating flow charts, and time lines, among other things.
This episode is a little under one half hour long and is available for viewing for a limited time at no cost. Simply contact lawtechTalk for information regarding how to access this screencast.