Using Technology to improve legal services? Submit to the Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase! Deadline 9-29!

Is your firm combining technology and innovation to serve clients? We want to know about it! The Chicago Legal Tech Innovation Showcase, brought to you by the Chicago Bar Association’s Future of the Profession Committee and Chicago Kent School of Law is October 24th.  Submissions are due by September 29th, 2017.

A panel of distinguished judges will choose five “Best in Show” awards in each of the 2 awards categories: Law Firm/Legal Services and Company/Product/Service. Each award winner will present a 5 minute pitch at the Chicago Kent Auditorium on October 24 and have an opportunity to exhibit during the event. All submissions that meet the criteria will be listed in a Chicago Legal Tech Showcase Guide 2017

 

The Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase will promote the law firms, legal aid orgs, and companies that are using technology to improve legal services in the Chicago area and highlight those whose innovations are exceptional. Whether the end result is better legal knowledge management, more affordable legal services, or improved metrics for decision making and analysis—and regardless of how the services are delivered—we want to hear what you are doing and so does Chicago’s legal community!

 

To learn more and submit go to: http://lpmt.chicagobar.org/chicago-legal-tech-innovator-showcase/

 

Parties Discuss Privacy Issues in Advance of FTC, NHTSA Workshop on Connected Cars

Automated vehicle technology is accelerating, and regulators are racing to keep up.  On June 28, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) will hold a workshop to examine the consumer privacy and security issues posed by automated and connected vehicles.  The workshop comes several months after the Department of Transportation and NHTSA promulgated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would require all new passenger vehicles to be capable of vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) communications by the early 2020s.

The FTC and NHTSA have raised several questions to be addressed at the workshop, including:

  • What data do vehicles with wireless interfaces collect, store, and transmit, and how is that data used and shared?

  • What are vehicle manufacturers’ privacy and security policies and how are those policies communicated to consumers?

  • What choices are consumers given about how their data is collected, stored, and used?

  • What are the roles of the FTC, NHTSA, and other federal agencies with regard to the privacy and security issues raised by connected vehicles?

  • What self-regulatory standards apply to privacy and security issues relating to connected vehicles?

Car manufacturers, tech organizations, privacy organizations, and other parties filed comments in advance of the workshop, responding to these questions and more:

  • The Association of Global Automakers, a group that includes Aston Martin, Ferrari, Honda, Toyota, and others, said that V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure (“V2I”) communications do not present a significant privacy risk to individuals because they do not collect or store PII or information that can be linked to a particular vehicle. The organization stated that the method of communicating between cars—dedicated short range communications (“DSRC”)—“already has layers of security established into its design.”  The group did acknowledge that privacy and security issues “may be exacerbated” by wireless-enabled aftermarket products connected to on-board diagnostics ports, and said that developers and third parties should therefore take appropriate steps to design and manufacture secure products.

  • CTIA praised the safety benefits that connected vehicle technologies could provide, highlighting how 5G network speed, capacity, and location can improve autonomous vehicle safety and efficiency. The wireless group spoke to both its sector’s experience in addressing data privacy and security across the Internet of Things, and urged the agencies to refrain from imposing vehicle-specific privacy or security regulations which “could be redundant to or conflict with existing privacy and data security protections enforced by the FTC and the Department of Homeland Security.”  CTIA instead said the agencies should promote and expand industry-led initiatives like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and self-regulatory principles like the auto industry privacy principles.

  • In contrast, EPIC said that “meaningful oversight and enforcement mechanisms” would be necessary to protect consumer privacy. In its discussion of federal policies, the organization stated that enforcement would “require[] a private right of action against companies who misuse and fail to secure personal information.”  The organization also opposed the NPRM’s proposal to create a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (“FMVSS”) which would preempt state regulations, arguing that historically, while the federal government has enacted privacy laws, more robust privacy legislation has been implemented at the state level.

  • The Future of Privacy Forum, which runs a Connected Cars Working Group whose members include Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Lyft, Toyota, and Uber, urged the agencies to focus on transparency around consumer data use, including the provision of resources that are publicly available, accessible before purchase, and reviewable throughout the life of a vehicle as well as the incorporation of consumer privacy controls when appropriate. The group urged the agencies to encourage industry self-regulatory efforts, saying that they can be enforceable when companies publicly commit.

To IT or Not to IT: Why Your Firm Needs to Hire a Legal IT Consultant

Legal IT ConsultantWhether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer through all the bad things luck throws at you, or to take arms against all those things that trouble you by putting an end to them? Yes, I am being a bit pretentious. But, Shakespeare’s words are relevant here. How do you deal with the day-to-day challenges of running your firm? Should you put up with it or do something about it? Simply put, if you want your firm to grow you have to take action. A legal IT consultant can help solo and small firms put an end to the challenges that are keeping them from being competitive with larger firms.

Why You Are Hesitating, Hamlet?

I have already argued in an earlier article that solo and small firms must embrace new technology in order to stay competitive. Nevertheless, I understand even a tech-savvy lawyer’s time is better spent being a lawyer than updating a website. Moreover, it does not matter if you have the latest software if no one can use it properly. So, who is going to train your employees to use the shiny and new technology? Set up, implantation, and training is a major time-killer. Add to this every other challenge that comes with running a firm.

The goal is to get lawyers back to practicing the law. This cannot be done without directly tackling the things draining your time. The fact is, technology can and will make your life easier and save you time. A legal IT consultant will use their ability to take some of the weight off your shoulders. Let them handle all your technology needs, therefore you can get back to your clients.

Bring an Objective Eye

I get it, Hamlet. Your firm is your baby. You have invested a lot of time and money in it. You want your firm to succeed, so it is hard to trust someone else with it. But, this is exactly what makes an IT consultant so beneficial. Sometimes, you are too close to something to see it objectively. An IT consultant is a neutral party. Vital changes will be made by someone who is objective. IT consultants are not yes men or untrustworthy. You can trust them to give you their fair thoughts on how to improve your firm.

You may already be using technology like case management software. However, one of the most common ways you waste billable hours is with bad software. You may choose your current software because a sales rep gives you a good pitch. It is difficult to realize why your current software is not saving you time without testing each one yourself. This trial-and-error process is just too time-consuming.

An IT consultant is not a salesperson. You can trust that they will recommend the best case management software for your needs. An IT consultant will learn what you and your staff need out of the software. They can assess which software meets those needs and ask the right questions to a salesperson. This process could take you weeks to complete on your own. Your consultant will handle the grunt work. You do not need to divide your time between cases and trial software.

Save Time and Money

Training is also not an issue. Lawyers tend to stick with bad software because it is inconvenient to train themselves and their staff in the software. The consultant will choose software that is the easiest to use and direct training themselves. Again, this is another task you do not have to deal with. You also save time spent on training, getting schedules in order, and implementing the new software. Overall, this is a much less stressful process for you and your staff.

IT challenges do not end after you install all the fancy hardware/software. We can look forward to AI solving this problem for us one day, but not yet.  IT consultants stick with you until the needed changes are complete. IT consultants do not just make suggestions and leave the rest to you. An IT consultant will develop a long-term strategy and work with you on how/when to best to make changes. There is no need to ask a ghost for advice. You can rely on regular updates from the consultant to make sure they are meeting goals.

Therefore, the most important part of an IT consultant’s job becomes to reclaim your billable hours and personal time. You have a dedicated professional handling all IT issues and implantation of new technology for you. Your firm can only grow if you are doing your job and helping your clients. The IT consultant eliminates the extra work that is important for growing your firm, but distracts from your billable hours.

Moreover, as you begin to add more technology you will also have to keep up with updates and changes. This is a difficult task even for fresh-faced lawyers. Technology is simply advancing too quickly to consistently stay up-to-date. Very few lawyers can dedicate the necessary time to keep up with all the changes, work with their clients, run their firm, and complete other tasks.

The IT consultant’s job is to keep up with the pace of change and trends. They will update your firm and guide you and your employees through those changes. Likewise, the shiniest, newest technology is seductive. IT consultants know what will work best for your firm. They will recommend only the technology your firm needs. You can rest assured that money is not being wasted on useless tech. The consultant will give you a detailed explanation on how/why the recommended changes will meet your firm’s needs.

Meet Goals with Less Stress       

One of the biggest challenges to meeting goals are employees. You can trust your employees to do the jobs you hired them to do. Employees, however, hate to have new tasks added to their workflow if they need to learn new skills. Employees are resentful of having to do a task they have little experience with or knowledge of. This creates extra stress on them and slows down the progress of their work. You cannot blame them for this. IT consultants realize it is a lot to ask of employees to add more duties to their plate.

An IT consultant will use their knowledge and resources to help your employees as well. The consultant does not simply train employees to use new technology. They serve as a guide and teach skills. The IT consultant will come up with a plan for helping employees adapt to their new tasks. This is especially helpful considering how multigenerational firms are becoming. Some employees will adapt quicker to their new tasks. The consultant will create specific schedules and strategies for these employees. Once the employees understand the changes, they will feel less resentful of the new work. This relieves stress and work gets started sooner. Thus, the IT consultant saves time and money in the short and long run.

There is no excuse not to take action. You should hire a legal IT consultant because they will help you grow your firm. Take your rightful place as king of all firms. The rest is silence.

© Copyright 2017 PracticePanther

Browsewrap Agreement Held Unenforceable – Website Designers Take Note!

browsewrap agreementIn Nghiem v Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., No. 16-00097 (C.D. Cal. July 5, 2016), the Central District of California held browsewrap terms to be unenforceable because the hyperlink to the terms was “sandwiched” between two links near the bottom of the third column of links in a website footer.  Website developers – and their lawyers – should take note of this case, part of an emerging trend of judicial scrutiny over how browsewrap terms are presented. Courts have, in many instances, refused to enforce browsewraps due to a finding of a lack of user notice and assent. In this case, the most recent example of a court’s specific analysis of website design, a court suggests that what has become a fairly standard approach to browsewrap presentment fails to achieve the intended purpose.

In Nghiem, the plaintiff brought claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) seeking statutory damages and an order certifying a class action.  The defendant Dick’s Sporting Goods (DSG) moved to compel arbitration based upon the DSG’s website terms of use.  The court denied the defendant’s motion, ruling that the plaintiff had no knowledge of the website terms and was not bound by the arbitration clause contained in DSG’s browewrap agreement.

The terms of use on DSG’s website were not presented in the typical clickthrough arrangement, where users are expressly presented with and required to assent to the terms before completing a purchase or registration.  Rather, DSG’s terms were presented as a browsewrap agreement, where a website’s terms and conditions are posted on the website via a hyperlink at the bottom of the screen and users are presumed to manifest assent to the terms by use of the website.

The district court noted that browsewrap agreements are enforced with “reluctance,” and only when a consumer has “actual or constructive knowledge of a website’s terms and conditions.”  Interestingly, DSG argued that because the plaintiff was an attorney whose former firm handled TCPA cases (including litigation against DSG), he should be charged with knowledge of the terms and arbitration clause.  The court rejected the argument that the plaintiff should be deemed to have actual knowledge of its terms based upon his vocation:

“[A]ctual knowledge is not something to be ‘safely assumed,’ as Defendants would have it, based on a plaintiff’s occupation. Instead, Defendants were required to put forth ‘evidence’ that Plaintiff had ‘actual knowledge of the agreement’ at issue. Defendants’ speculation regarding whether Nghiem reviewed, at some point in the past, DSG’s website Terms of Use is insufficient to meet this standard.” [citations omitted].

The court performed a detailed review of the website design to determine whether the plaintiff gained constructive knowledge of the website terms based upon, among other considerations, the placement of the link to the terms.  The court noted that DSG’s terms appeared at the bottom in the website footer of the home page (and on the page about its mobile alerts), and within a grouping of 27 other hyperlinks arranged in four columns that covered a variety of diverse topics (e.g., careers, gift cards, find a store, etc.).  The court noted that the hyperlink to the terms was “sandwiched between ‘Only at DICK’s’ and ‘California Disclosures’, near the bottom of the third column of links.”  As such, the court ruled that the placement was not conspicuous enough alone to put consumers on inquiry notice of the terms.

The ruling was not necessarily surprising in light of other recent decisions examining browsewrap agreements. For example, a recent California appellate court decision affirmed a ruling denying a motion to compel arbitration based upon website terms that were only viewable at the bottom of each page via a capitalized and underlined hyperlink (“TERMS OF USE”).  The hyperlink was displayed in a light green typeface on the site’s lime green background, and was among 14 other hyperlinks of the same color, font and size. (See Long v. Provide Commerce, Inc., 200 Cal. Rptr. 3d 117 (Cal. App. 2016)). The appellate court followed well-known precedent in reaching its holding.  See e.g., Nguyen v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 763 F.3d 1171, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2014) (“[W]here a website makes its terms of use available via a conspicuous hyperlink on every page of the website but otherwise provides no notice to users nor prompts them to take any affirmative action to demonstrate assent, even close proximity of the hyperlink to relevant buttons users must click on—without more—is insufficient to give rise to constructive notice”); Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp., 306 F.3d 17 (2d Cir. 2002) (declining to enforce an arbitration provision contained in a software licensing browsewrap agreement where the hyperlink to the agreement appeared on “a submerged screen” below the “Download” button that the plaintiffs clicked to initiate the download).

These recent cases should prompt companies to reexamine electronic contracting practices to ensure that consumers are offered notice sufficient to understand that use of a website will constitute agreement to the terms. One solution is the use of clickthrough agreements, which are generally upheld based upon now fairly-standard procedures for gaining notice and assent during user registration or purchase confirmation.  Ultimately, however, in designing a site, companies must balance concerns for user flow with the protections that come with an enforceable terms of use (though, it should be noted that in May 2016 the CFPB proposed a rule that would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent class actions).

© 2016 Proskauer Rose LLP.

Recent IT Outsourcing Study Finds Continued Growth Led by Large Organizations

A recently released study assessing current trends in the use of IT outsourcing found that spending on IT outsourcing is rising at a rate in step with IT operational budgets as a whole, led by large organizations (those with IT operating budgets of $20 million or greater) that spend 7.8% of their IT budgets on outsourcing at the median. The study’s findings also highlight a number of trends within organizations’ IT outsourcing priorities:

  • Shifting Trends in Some IT Outsourcing Functions. The study found that the outsourcing of some IT functions is growing, while outsourcing of other functions is shrinking. For example, more organizations are outsourcing IT security, e-commerce systems, and application hosting, while fewer organizations are outsourcing help desk, desktop support, and application maintenance functions.

  • Continued Growth of Software as a Service. Application hosting was the most frequently outsourced IT function identified in the study. It found that 65% of organizations that currently outsource application hosting intend to increase the amount of work outsourced for that function.

  • Outsourcing Versus In-House. Among organizations that outsource IT functions, the study showed help desk and web/e-commerce operations were the IT functions with the largest percentage of work moved to outside service providers. Application hosting and IT security were the IT functions for which organizations tend to perform the most work in-house.

  • Potential for Cost Savings and Value. Among the functions examined by the study, outsourcing of disaster recovery and desktop support were found to have the greatest potential for reducing costs. The outsourcing of web/e-commerce, desktop support, disaster recovery, and IT security were found to deliver the best overall value for organizations by saving money and improving service levels

Copyright © 2015 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.

China Proposes “RoHS 2” Framework for Comment

On May 15, 2015, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology  (“MIIT”) released a latest Draft for Comments (“May 2015 Draft”) of the “Management Methods for the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and  Electronic Products” (“Methods”) (Draft for Comments in Chinese). The new Methods is designed to replace the existing regime, promulgated in 2006 and commonly referred to as “China RoHS.” The May 2015 Draft is now open for public comments until June 17, 2015. It makes several important proposed changes to the existing China RoHS regulation.

Since 2010, the Chinese government has attempted to push forward an updated RoHS regulation, and MIIT has released several draft revisions, but none have been enacted. The May 2015 Draft generally retains the requirements on both materials restrictions and information disclosure, but makes several important changes:

  • It aligns its scope with the EU RoHS 2. The new open scope of covered “Electrical and Electronic Products” (“EEP”) is not limited to “electronic information products” but would now extend to all electrical and electronic equipment (“EEE”) that meets voltage specifications. The definition is almost identical to that of EEE in the EU RoHS 2 Directive, except that it excludes “devices involved in electrical power production, transmission and distribution.”;

  • The May 2015 Draft will remove the current “manufactured for export” scope exclusion;

  • The renamed “Compliance Management Catalogue” will likely, once issued in the future, include the hazardous-substance content limits (to date not yet imposed under China RoHS 1).

  • With respect to certification, the May 2015 Draft proposes a new, multi-agency, two-step system to replace the current program. Products on the “Compliance Management Catalogue” will first go through a “conformity assessment” process. After the conformity assessment, that assessment will be subject to a subsequent verification mechanism, which will be developed later by MIIT along with Finance and other ministries.

It remains unclear how the new conformity assessment and the following verification mechanism will operate in practice. The language implies that the MIIT may need to take further actions to specify the details of these programs;

  • The May 2015 Draft will remove the disclosure requirement for product packaging materials from the existing regulation.

It remains to be seen whether this May 2015 Draft will be finalized as the new China RoHS 2 regulation and whether the above changes will remain in the enacted rules.  Parties that are interested in submitting comments on this Draft may do so via either of the two approaches listed here (in Chinese).

Mr. LaMotte graciously acknowledges the assistance of Shengzhi Wang, a summer associate with the Firm, in the preparation of this Alert.

Is Your Firm Prepared for Google’s Newest Algorithm?

RW Lynch Company, Inc.

‘Mobilegeddon’ has been taking over the internet this week. On Tuesday, Google announced a big change to its search algorithm. What does that mean for your law firm website?

Google’s newest update will essentially give a boost in organic (non-paid) search results to websites that are mobile friendly. The idea is to encourage website developers to create websites that are more user friendly on smart phones. The more mobile friendly and content rich the website is, the higher it will rank in Google’s organic search results.

Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi explained, “As people increasingly search on their mobile devices, we want to make sure they can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.”

According to NPR, Google stated that as soon as a website is made mobile friendly, its position within the search results will begin to improve. This is excellent news for law firms that have not yet made the move to a responsive, mobile friendly, website. Google’s latest news is saturating the internet.

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