4/22/14

LegalZoom Gets Nod From South Carolina Supreme Court

Image [cc] Rusty Tanton
The term "Access to Justice" (A2J) is tossed around a lot in the legal world, but as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. It is common for state bar associations to step up and use another phrase to shoot down A2J projects or non-lawyers' attempt to fill a gap in the legal process that is underserved. In most cases, it is seen as a ploy to protect the Bar Association's members… at the expense of those needing help with a complicated legal system. One of the most contentious issues is on basic legal forms. Companies like LegalZoom have stepped in to create forms for the individual citizen, and have found many states are very reluctant in approving of their products and services.

This morning, LegalZoom launched a press release that announced that the South Carolina Supreme Court approved of their business model and that its services of providing legal forms for individual citizens to use is not the unorthorized practice of law. The original lawsuit of T. Travis Medlock v. LegalZoom, Inc. brought the action requesting declaratory relief, injunctive relief and disgorgement of revenues, among other measures. This isn't the only UPL action that LegalZoom is facing, according to their SEC Filing, they are fighting UPL claims in Alabama, Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. On March 1, 2013, Nelson Mullins attorney, B. Rush Smith III, filed a pre-hearing brief that lays out what LegalZoom is doing is simply being "an online scrivener for a customer purchasing an online automated legal document."

Looks like, at least in South Carolina, LegalZoom has prevailed. The press release is listed below.




SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT APPROVES LEGALZOOM BUSINESS MODEL .
Apr 22 2014 11:00:10
 
South Carolina Supreme Court Approves LegalZoom Business Model

Demonstrates Commitment to Increase Access to the Justice System for all South Carolina Residents


GLENDALE, Calif., April 22, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court reviewed LegalZoom.com, Inc.'s business practices and, in an order issued on March 11, 2014, found that LegalZoom does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law, ensuring South Carolina residents the continued ability to access LegalZoom's services.
"We are pleased that the South Carolina Supreme Court has approved LegalZoom's business model allowing access to online legal documents," said Ken Friedman, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs at LegalZoom. "As with many state bars, when a record is made about LegalZoom's products and services, the result is that our fundamental business model is found to be legally sound."
"Everyone deserves access to the civil justice system. We look forward to continuing to serve our many customers in the State of South Carolina," added Friedman. "Whether our customers want one of the products reviewed by the Supreme Court, such as documents related to business formation, estate planning documents, or real estate leases, or they want the help of licensed South Carolina attorneys associated with LegalZoom's legal plans, LegalZoom will continue its business practices in South Carolina and all 50 states in which LegalZoom operates." The announcement follows the resolution of the lawsuit of T. Travis Medlock v. LegalZoom.com, Inc.

About LegalZoom.com
LegalZoom is the nation's leading provider of personalized, affordable online legal solutions for families and small businesses. Founded more than 12 years ago by attorneys with experience at some of the top law firms in the country, LegalZoom has helped over two million Americans become protected with binding legal documents. Although LegalZoom is not a law firm, it can help people access an attorney through its legal plans. The company has offices in Austin, Glendale, and Mountain View. For more information, visit  www.legalzoom.com.
CONTACT: Johanna Namir, (323) 337-0022

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4/21/14

Glass First Impressions: The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good

OK. I've had a couple of days to experiment with Google's Glass technology. It's still very early days, and I haven't come to any firm conclusions yet, but I'm ready to give my first impressions.

First, the bad. Glass is definitely not yet ready for Prime Time. To be fair, Google has never claimed otherwise. I am pretty sure they are doing this ridiculous expensive and slow roll out, because they don't want your average consumer to purchase a Glass thinking it should be something more than it actually is.  At $1500 only developers, or Google Fans, or die-hard geeks, will be likely to shell out the cash and each of those populations will be relatively understanding of the device's limitations.




There is no Glass app store.  After you register your Glass with your Google account, you get access to the MyGlass site.  Most of the setup, including wifi setup and app installation, is done on this site or on an Android or iOS mobile app. There a few dozen Google sanctioned apps that can be sent to your Glass with a simple authorization from this site. The apps vary greatly in usability and utility and there really is no "killer app" as yet. In the last few days, Google has added several new apps to this list, so I'm hopeful that that trend continues and is not just Google throwing a bone to all of the suckers new Glass owners who purchased a Glass last week.

If you are a developer or a die-hard geek, then you are probably fairly comfortable with a unix command line. This is where the interesting stuff is happening with Glass. If you turn on Debugging, and plug your Glass into your computer, you suddenly have the ability to install non-Google sanctioned apps.  These can be found on a number of sites dedicated to cataloging new Glass apps.  There is some "danger" in this process. You may install something that causes problems with other apps and you may have difficulty uninstalling some apps.  In my experience a lot of available apps simply do not work at all. (I suspect that's because Google updated the software version on Glass last week and a lot of apps have not yet been updated.) Thankfully, Google made it very simple to restore Glass to its factory settings.  I've already done this twice. This manual process reminds me very much of the early days of iPhone Jailbreaking.  It's easy to forget now that Apple has more than a million apps on their app store, but for the first year if you wanted the device to run more than the few included apps allowed, you had to do a little simple hacking.

Second, the ugly. This was the most surprising thing for me. I don't think they're ugly at all. I kind of like the look of them. Granted, I'm not exactly a fashion plate and I normally wear glasses so they just looked like glasses with a chunky right temple piece. I didn't get the day glow orange color, so I think my Charcoal Glass looks fairly classy (IMHO) and if I wear a ball cap, you can barely see it. I did wear it out for a walk on Saturday with my wife and she was only slightly embarrassed.  I went into a Starbucks and no one seemed to notice I had it on at all. Although, I live in Manhattan, and we tend to not look at each other much, so your mileage may vary. While I wasn't accosted by angry anti-tech mobs, or feverish fan-boys, I found I was still quite self conscious while ordering my latte. I didn't want anyone to see me. I'm not a flashy, out-going, look-at-me type, so maybe I had a look on my face that said, "don't you dare ask me about this stupid thing on my face!"

Finally, the good. I had a revelation on day two of playing with my Glass; my title from last week, Getting Google Glass All Wrong, was a little prophetic. I'm starting to think that everyone has Glass wrong. (Maybe someone else has said this, though I haven't seen it, so if this is not an original thought, please feel free deride me in the comments and send me links showing how derivative I am.) Google Glass is not a wearable smartphone, or Personal Electronic Device (PED) at all.  And I don't mean, it's not there yet, I mean, I don't think that's what this will ever be, or even what it should be.  I think Glass is the world's first Personal Internet Peripheral (PIP).

By internet peripheral, I mean, this device is a new method of interacting with the internet (obviously). But specifically, Google Glass has more in common with the computer mouse than it does with the smartphone. I don't mean that as an insult, I think that is actually quite brilliant. While there is some storage and processing ability within Glass, the real brains of the device are in the cloud and Glass requires an internet connection to do much of anything useful. And while the camera and the display will get smaller, and the storage will get bigger, over time, I don't see Google ever putting the brains in the device itself.  Why would they? They are an internet company and persistent connectivity will only become more common.

Most computer mice (mouses?) today use lasers to determine cursor coordinates, but they still work essentially the same as the old mice with two wheels turning at right angles to each other, to move a cursor on a screen in two dimensions. In the days of DOS, the mouse was of little use, but the Graphical User Interface quickly became the norm and computing changed forever.  In the same way that the mouse opened up new ways to interact with computers, I think Glass and its descendant technologies will create new ways to interact with the cloud.  Google Glass is an eleven dimensional mouse on the two dimensional web. It seems of little use now, but just you wait until the eleven dimensional online user interface becomes the norm. It's definitely not what I thought it was, but I am much more impressed with Glass after two days than I expected to be.

More to come...

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4/17/14

Getting Google Glass All Wrong

Image [cc] - Tedeytan
Last year it seemed everyone was gaga for Google Glass.
"Ooooooh, it's a computer for your face!  It's got a camera and can give you directions! It's just like your phone was permanently positioned 3 feet in front of your right eye! Woo hoo! I can't wait to get one!"
I wasn't so sure. I didn't jump on board. I just didn't see the utility. Yes, it's a cool concept, but the functionality wasn't there. Maybe in a few years it would become something functional and interesting, but I certainly wasn't going to waste my money on something that was little more than a half-baked concept.

A week ago Google announced that they were opening up Glass sales for one day only. On Tuesday, if you were willing to shell out $1500 dollars, this pre-beta, sub-functional, ugly cyborg technology could be yours! The one day sale was met with a barrage of negative press. Journalists and bloggers across the world almost universally decried this Google foray into wearable tech as not yet ready for prime time, or elitist technology, or as little more than a toy for wealthy geeks. One Business Insider journalist told his harrowing tale of being assaulted on the streets of San Francisco for wearing his Glass in public. Glass has been banned in some coffee shops and bars. Most tellingly, the term Glasshole has graduated from Silicon Valley/Northern California in-joke to official entry in the American Lexicon. I even heard Michael Strahan say it on Live! (Kelly was aghast.) Boy, when the pendulum swings, that sucker swings hard! By Tuesday morning, it was clear to me that everyone in the world finally agreed with my original assessment of Google Glass. So, I bought one.

You've heard the phrase "that many people can't be wrong"? Well, any time consensus holds that I am that right about something, you can be sure I'm going to seriously question that assessment. The "wisdom of the crowds" does not refer to the crowd's purchasing prowess after all. If that many people, most of whom have never tried or even seen the technology, hate it with such a viciousness, that is a sure sign that there is something there worth exploring.

So Hello World! I am about to become a Glasshole.

Now, I don't intend to wear the damn thing around all the time.  Mostly because I don't want to be beaten up by the poor disadvantaged proletarian children carrying their 1970s-era super computers in their pockets instead of wearing them on their face. ("Down with the face computers, long live the pocket!") But also because, I suspect they will make me look even dorkier than usual. And also, in a nod to all of my privacy lawyer friends who just crossed me off their Christmas Card list, because there are some real, gray area, privacy concerns surrounding wearable technology in public. Our social norms, let alone our laws, have not yet assimilated wearable, always-on, camera computers.

That said, this is happening people! Wearable computing is here. It will only become more prevalent, and we have to learn to live with it.  More to the point, we will have to learn to work with it. While I can imagine any number of futures for Google Glass and its like - everything from laws preventing its use in public, to public distribution for all school children - I have no doubt that one day I will start my working day, not by logging into my desktop computer, but by physically putting my computer on my body. And I would bet that that day is closer to 2020 than it is to 2030.

I understand that Google has a 30 day money back guarantee, so if it turns out that my original assessment (and the rest of the world's since Tuesday) is right, maybe I'll ship it back to Mountain View in the next month. In the meantime, please don't worry about people calling me a Glasshole, I've been called something very similar for most of my life and I probably won't even notice.


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4/15/14

So, What Is Wrong With Law Firm Libraries Today?

There was an interesting question asked on Twitter this morning by Patrick DiDomenico (apparently preparing for an ITLA presentation on the topic.) At first blush, it seemed to be phrased a bit on the negative side, but it really is something that those of us in law firm libraries do need to ask from time to time. "Tell me what's wrong with law firm libraries today."

This isn't about bashing Patrick for asking the question, quite the opposite actually. It is a legitimate question to ask. This is more about addressing what is wrong, while also addressing what is right in law firm libraries today. After batting the question around with some of my law library and law firm administrative colleagues, we thought that this question could be asked of any of the law firm administrative departments. The Library and the Knowledge Management (KM) groups are probably the most venerable to this issue, but all departments, including IT, Marketing, Accounting, Human Resources, Records, and others are under constant scrutiny from law firm leadership to prove our worth to the firm. If we aren't challenged, we become complacent. If we come complacent, we fail to see those changes we need to make until it is too late. It could be asked of any department, but this morning, it was asked of us in the law firm library. So, let's address it.

In defense of those of us that lead law firm libraries, as with most law firm administrative problems, there tends to be a lack of direction in the library as to where it fits in the overall strategy of the firm. For example, the push to "go online" has been the biggest issue for the past 15-20 years, and it has put the library leaders and staff in a situation that is unclear, and quite frankly, unobtainable without 100% of the partners all agreeing to go in one direction. We suffer from the “one-veto” effect of the partnership in that everyone can agree to go with or without a service, but if one partner votes the other way, we tend to get stuck supporting a service that is expensive, time consuming, and duplicate.
 
Hopefully this sets up the stage for a list of (very generalized) things that are wrong with law firm libraries today:
  • We are still debating formats within the library and keeping outdated formats in support of a minority of attorneys (example: formats now include print, e-books, online, databases, and on-demand… each with its own individual cost and demands from individuals within the firm.)
  • Law Firms have not decided how to bring the law library into the modern day structure of a 21st Century firm
  • The primary demands on librarians are to keep costs low, client costs low, and to watch out for the firm’s best interest
  • Librarians are not given the final word on what to buy and what to keep (that causes problems with the previous point)
  • Librarians tend to be the first to feel the cuts when times are bad, and the last to feel the benefits when times are good
  • Librarians tend to be team players and are willing to take a larger percentage of “taking one for the team” than other departments, this leads to libraries becoming easy targets
  • Librarians tend to be very tough on each other (publicly), yet very defensive when attacked from outside (think of it as “I can call my sister a name, but if you call her that, we’re going to fight!)
  • The current Directors of law libraries failed miserably in succession planning. We’ve been waiting for 25 years for the next group of leaders to bring in fresh perspectives and what resulted was the whole library structure got tossed out with the bathwater
  • Libraries (and Librarians) generally have a problem when it comes to the Return on Investment (ROI) piece of justifying their existence
What’s right with Law Firm Libraries?
  • Librarians are constantly looking out for the best interest of the firm
  • Librarians have kept very good control on overall costs (most libraries are less than 2% of revenue, some are less than 1%)
  • Librarians keep costs down to the client (usually by assisting attorneys that forget about those costs until they see it on the bill and have to write it off.)
  • Librarians are constantly looking for less expensive, or better resources that fit the needs of the firm’s practices.
  • Librarians are extremely good at risk analysis for the firm and help save the firm from itself (costs, copyright, access, correct resources, etc.)
  • Librarians share their experiences with each other. Most librarians do not have to trail blaze into a new product or mission or strategy, as we can stand on the shoulders of others that have tested the waters before and are willing to share those experiences (without exposing anything confidential, of course.)
Someone told me the other day that Librarians have a fear of strategy. Perhaps that is true of some, but no one that I would associate in the law library world is afraid of being strategic. I responded to this person that they were painting with a very broad brush and that the librarians I associate with have no fear, whatsoever, of strategy. However, I think we tend to be easy targets from other departments and law firm leadership, and that we roll over too easily at times. We’re at the end of a cycle where those in charge of libraries for the past 25 years are rotating out and failed to create an effective succession for the library to bring in those with the experience needed to understand the library structure, but with the fresh new ideas of where it needs to go from here. This left the door open for those outside the library to come in and have to start from scratch and think that the library needs to be rebuilt from the ground up rather than expand those processes that work, rework or remove those that don’t, and begin building new processes that make the library and the firm better prepared for the future.

So, what's wrong with today's law firm libraries? It's a question you have to answer and supplement with what's right. If you don't, someone else will come in and answer it for you, and they will not be nearly as aggressive on defending what the law firm libraries are doing well.

Thanks, Patrick, for asking the question. I hope this gives you a few ideas to process.

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4/1/14

Six New Geeks!

Before reading this post, please take note of the date it was published. :-)

You have probably noticed that for the last several years, the 3 Geeks have actually been 4 regular geeks and a slew of occasional contributors.  When Ryan came on as a regular geek, we briefly considered changing the name of the site to 4 Geeks and a Law Blog, or maybe just The Geek Law Blog. One of us, and I'm not naming names, lobbied pretty hard for Toby Brown and the 3 Geeks Blog.  Needless to say, we decided that 3 Geeks was a successful brand on its own and we would keep the name no matter how many geeks we ended up with.

Today we are announcing a number of new contributors to our little blog! Yay! We have had extensive conversations with each of them and you will be seeing those complete interviews in the coming weeks, but right now we want to introduce you to your new Geeks and to share a few excerpts from our initial conversations. 

First up is our new feature editor and archivist, Jeffrey Brandt!  In addition to his other duties, Jeffrey will be editing a new newsletter called, Geek Law Stuff You Might Have Missed. GLSYMHM will be a weekly digest highlighting the best of 3 Geeks and whatever Nick Milton writes at Knoco Stories. So, it's pretty much the same as his previous job at PinHawk.

[ed. Unfortunately, the audio and our notes of Jeffrey's interview were destroyed in an ensuing kerfuffle, but trust us, Jeffrey is very "excited" to be joining 3 Geeks.]

Next is Jordan Furlong!
Greg: Jordan, you have been called "Canada's answer to Toby Brown". Now that you're going to be working with...
Jordan:  Wait, who calls me that?
Ryan: Uh...now that you mention it, I've only heard Toby say it. 
Toby: Yeah, I say that all the time.
Greg: I thought it was a thing. It's not a thing? 
Jordan: Definitely not a thing!
Greg: OK.  Never mind.  Moving on...
Next up is Ron Friedmann!  Ron is a long time friend of this blog. Ron will not be writing his own articles for 3 Geeks.  However, as Ron has proven himself to be one of the few people willing to call out Ryan for the stream of unfiltered BS he regularly spews, Ron will be given a counterpoint section at the end of each of Ryan's posts.
Toby: Ron, thanks so much for coming. 
Ron: I'm happy to be here and to do my part to help the Geeks in any way I can.
Ryan: Do we really need this guy?!
Greg: Ron, as you know, we're having trouble keeping Ryan's ego in check.  We would have probably kicked him off of the blog already if it hadn't been for your insightful and intelligent public take downs. We hate to get rid of him, because let's face it, he is the funniest geek.
Ryan: Damn straight!
Ron: Yeah, you probably shouldn't get rid of him. Even though he is very often wrong, Ryan is pretty funny. Without him, you guys would just be a less funny Above The Law.  On the other hand, even with him you're kind of a less funny Above The Law.
Speaking of ATL, we have also managed to convince Brian Tannebaum to end his hiatus from his Above The Law column and to become an honorary Geek.
Brian: Geek!? I'm not a #%@(& Geek! I'm a %$#* Lawyer, you #%^&)!@ moron. What the #%)*$ to you know about lawyering? I've been an attorney for twenty #(!)&@* years. I know what my clients want and they don't need any !$&%*# %#&!)~@!$ technology, they just need a...
We are hoping that Brian will bring a certain je ne sais quoi to 3 Geeks that has been missing from the beginning.


And finally, Bruce MacEwen and Kingsley Martin will be jointly contributing a regular column called, Over Your Head.
Bruce: In order to enhance equity investments, it is absolutely necessary to aggregate annual revenue on an economically sound platform to create unique quality vectors within the firm.
Kingsley: Obviously, I couldn't agree more, Bruce. If we objectively target focused synergies into progressively incentivized alternative supply chains, then we can empower firms to produce standardized products, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity.
Greg: ... I... I definitely understood that last phrase.  Could we just go back... for a moment...?
So please give a warm and Geeky welcome to our newest contributors! Be sure to visit their blogs and follow them on Twitter. It might be a few more weeks before you see any of their brand new contributions on 3 Geeks.

Jeffrey Brandt @jeffrey_brandt 
Legal IT Professionals & PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest

Jordan Furlong @jordan_law21
Law21

Ron Friedmann @ronfriedmann
Prism Legal

Brian Tannebaum @btannebaum
Above The Law

Bruce MacEwen @BruceMacEwen
Adam Smith, Esq.

Kingsley Martin @Kingsley_Martin
KM Standards

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