In May 2014, the Texas Bar Association’s Professional Ethics Committee released Opinion 642 barring law firms from using the title “officer” or “principal” in non-lawyer job titles such as Chief Information Officer. Shockingly, the opinion unleashed a howl of protest from lawyers—even…
Cybersecurity Resolution Adopted
The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a startling resolution on cybersecurity at its August 2014 meeting. The ABA resolution urges all businesses, law firms, government agencies, and organizations to take cybersecurity seriously and to conduct regular reviews of security posture. But, the most import aspect of the resolution is,…
Cybersecurity Basics for Pennsylvania Law Firms
Most Pennsylvania law firms either misunderstand cybersecurity [computer and network security] or significantly underestimate the threat of data breaches at law firms. Successful “hacks” can result in the loss of client confidential data or even losses of escrow funds. Considering the November 2013 updates to the…
Droning On: Drone Aircraft Activists’ Arguments Unravel
On June 23, 2014, the FAA issued a Federal Register Notice for the operation of model aircraft (drone) aircraft. The Notice repeats the long-standing rules regarding operating model aircraft and addresses the new rules mandated by Congress—ironically, Rules necessitated by…
The Next Battleground for Data Breaches…Shareholder Lawsuits?
Companies ill-prepared for data breaches and failing to take reasonable steps to secure data and computer systems face increasing and serious risks to the business. Specifically, companies, officers, and boards must start taking data and computer-systems security seriously or risk shareholder lawsuits. Shareholder Lawsuits for Data Breaches In two…
Commercial Drones Pose Confirmed Dangers?
Drone aircraft crashes and personal injury may no longer be speculation. In Australia, a triathlete was apparently struck by a drone aircraft after radio interference destabilized the drone. See, e.g., Australian triathlete injured after drone crash, BBCNews (Apr.7, 2014). Even military…
Pennsylvania’s New, Technology-related, Ethics Rule Changes for Lawyers
Fifteen pages of changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) went into effect in November 2013. The changes primarily reflect the increased roles of technologies in law practice—both as important lawyering tools and as material to legal matters. Put simply, the Rule changes make express that every attorney…
Not So Fast…Commercial Drone Legality Still Remains Unclear
On 6 March 2014, in FAA v. Pirker, a NTSB Administrative Law Judge dismissed the first complaint brought by the FAA against the operator of a commercial drone for reckless operation of an aircraft. While some claim that this opinion means that the commercial drones are absolutely legal, serious…
A Fair Approach to Drone Regulation
Drone manufacturers and would-be manufacturers paint a picture of skies filled with drones—unmanned aircraft (and other machines). Media and advocacy groups cite First Amendment rights to the use of drones. Police seek drones despite prohibitions by federal and state constitutions. But, serious issues related to safety (what happens when…
Restrictions on the Commercial-Use of Drones
Many vendors currently offer various types of drones. Increasingly, some use drones for commercial purposes. But, the FAA currently restricts the commercial use of drones. Put simply, persons wishing to use drones for commercial use must obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA before deploying the drone.
Federal Appellate Court Affirms Warrant Required for GPS Tracking
UPDATE: Government attorneys continue to press for warrantless searches in GPS cases and significant, and unconstitutional, expansion of the so-called Good Faith Doctrine. On December 12, 2013, a majority of the Third Circuit agreed to re-hear the matter en banc and vacated the earlier, October 22, 2013, opinion. The information below still deals with the vacated opinion.
An Introduction to Malware for Lawyers
The FBI recently warned that law firms are specific targets of computer criminals (cybercriminals) seeking unauthorized access to data. Pending changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct re-state the lawyer’s duty to reasonably secure computers to protect client confidentiality. Thus, cybersecurity emerges as a law practice issue.
Warrant Necessary to Obtain Cell Phone Tracking Data
The New Jersey Supreme Court held that government agents must obtain a warrant, supported by probable cause and issued by a neutral judicial authority, before obtaining cell phone tracking data (unless exceptional, exigent circumstances apply). State vs. Earls, A-53-11 (N.J. Sup. Ct., Jul. 18, 2013)(slip opinion).
Send in the Drones—Flying in the Face of Danger?
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS—the current, official FAA designation), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones. All describe remote-controlled aerial vehicles of various configurations and various sizes. Current FAA regulations and FAA guidance prohibit the commercial use of UASs without a FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate–Experimental Category (SAC-EC). Considerable controversy surrounds the use of drones and privacy, financial liability, regulatory authority, and Constitutional issues remain.
Emerging eDiscovery Tools and the New, Technology-Augmented Lawyer
New legal technologies deliver potential solutions to data overload in eDiscovery. Lawyers will need to learn how to use an emerging class of “data analysis technologies”—called predictive coding, Technology Assisted Review (TAR), Computer Assisted Document Analysis (CADA), or legal analytics.
Potential Problems & Perils of eDiscovery Outsourcing
Predictive coding, technology assisted review (TAR), computer assisted document analysis (CADA), predictive analytics, document review, eDiscovery software. Important new tools for the legal community. Deep (and probably a little disconcerting) technology for many lawyers.While outsourcing eDiscovery seems compelling, eDiscovery outsourcing can pose some potentially serious ethical problems for an attorney and law firm.
Getting Office Software Into Shape—Windows XP Demise for Lawyers
Many law offices run Microsoft software—Windows, Word, Outlook, etc. Over the next year, Microsoft continues an aggressive set of upgrades to its core software and, perhaps more importantly, will be retiring all support for many well-used software packages. Continuing to use software after vendor support ends places law firms at significant risk. That risk should not be casually dismissed
Head in “the Clouds” … And Don’t Know It?
Pennsylvania Lawyers Must First Assess Whether the Lawyer Is “In the Cloud” Before Complying with a Lawyer’s “Reasonable Efforts” Ethics Obligation When Using the Cloud
Is your firm using Gmail, Google Calendar, Dropbox, Hotmail, Windows LIVE!, GoogleDocs,
A Snapshot of Pennsylvania Social Media Cases—Winter 2011
An Overview of the State of Social Media Evidence in Pennsylvania—Winter 2011 Update
The law of social media evidence in Pennsylvania continues to develop. To date, the focus remains on civil matter, discovery issues. Issues of authentication and issues in criminal matters (such as resistance by social media providers citing the Stored Communications Act to defense access to social media for impeachment) remain open.
DeSoto-Thinking-in-an-iPad-World: Another Pennsylvania Social Media Case—Largent v. Reed, Etc.
A new, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas case, Largent v. Reed, No. 2009-1823 (C.P. Franklin Cty., Nov. 7, 2011) (attested true copy reviewed by author), dealt with social media discovery in Pennsylvania. The 14 page opinion and two page order compelled the plaintiff to turn over the plaintiff’s “Facebook username email” (sic) and password for full access by defense counsel for 21 days. (emphasis added)
Decrypting Encryption for Pennsylvania Lawyers: Understanding Encryption Basics Before Considering Cloud Computing
Pennsylvania Lawyers Should Understand the Basics of Common Encryption Algorithms Before Engaging in Cloud Computing
You are considering cloud computing. The cloud provider ad reads:
Your cloud data is protected with military-grade, 256 bit, AES encryption.
“Wow!,” you think. Military grade. Sounds impressive. That must be good [enough]. But ….
Data Backup Basics for Pennsylvania Lawyers
With the recent massive flooding, a hurricane, and an earthquake in Pennsylvania, lawyers may be re-evaluating data backup plans (you DO have a current, data backup plan). This article provides basic information for creating backups for solo or small law firms.
Navigating the Fog of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing may raise ethical questions. It also requires technical competence. Are you ready?
Published as: Shannon Brown, Navigating the Fog of Cloud Computing, The Pennsylvania Lawyer 18–22 (Sept./Oct. 2011).
Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Understanding the Difference Between Private and Public Clouds
Not All Clouds Are Alike—Cloud Computing Architectures May Influence Lawyer Duties and Obligations
Cloud computing may pose challenges for the Pennsylvania legal community just as cloud computing poses challenges for any highly regulated profession. “Normal” businesses might be able to jump into cloud computing. For lawyers, however, cloud computing must be carefully analyzed within the context of a lawyers special, regulated duties—especially competence and confidentiality. General purpose cloud computing “solutions” might not recognize or understand the special challenges that lawyers face—and the lawyer, not the cloud computing vendor, pays the penalty for failing to fulfill the duties.
A Snapshot of Social Media Cases in Pennsylvania—Summer 2011
An Overview of the State of Social Media Evidence in Pennsylvania—Summer 2011
Pennsylvania lawyers face obstacles when grappling with social media. While social media, outside the legal field, spread like wildfire, the legal community must address social media within the context of a heavily precedential system—a system that does not necessarily handle the “new” well. Social media in a legal context triggers formidable ethical issues, moral issues, and fairness issues. Nevertheless, social media will remain a potent facet of life for the foreseeable future.