New Technology and the Practice of Law
The Hackathon phenomenon spread into the legal industry over the last few years as young lawyers in groups like Legal Hackers push to develop modern legal tools. The organization was formed in 2011 by Brooklyn Law students with help from Brooklyn Law School’s Incubator and Policy clinic. Its events have spawned numerous, diverse legal apps such as PaperHealth (creates living wills and health care proxies on a smartphone), Obsidian Redline (facilitates mutual document editing with colleagues or opposing counsel in one unified view that securely allows sharing of public and private comments) and SKerator (reviews securities filing drafts to ensure compliance with SEC disclosure requirements).
The field of legal analytics continued to evolve with Lex Machina’s recent unveiling of two new features to its IP litigation intelligence service. Case List Analyzer provides lawyers with more detailed filters (including damages type, patent findings, case resolutions, courts, date range, etc.) by which to analyze litigation results. Motion Metrics lets attorneys identify key motions in cases and track patterns in motion filings by opposing counsel or motion rulings by courts.
A law firm in Calgary is working on the first known personal injury case using data from a Fitbit to prove the effects of an accident on its client. While the plaintiffs in this case are presenting the data to the court, future cases may witness insurance companies or defendants requesting the data in discovery in order to discredit claims of injury or impairment. As technology continues to expand access to personal data in novel ways, courts, law firms and employers will need to rapidly prepare for the logistical difficulties and privacy challenges that will inevitably follow.
New Developments in Aereo
Several weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo violated copyright laws by streaming over-the-air TV channels to consumers on the internet, the company shuttered its doors for Chapter 11 restructuring. Aero initially attempted to recover from the ruling by admitting legal status as a cable company for copyright purposes, but denying its categorization as a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) and therefore avoiding retransmission fees. This would have placed it in the uncertain company of other popular services like Netflix and Hulu which currently avoid such fees as online video distributors. The US Copyright Office refused to process the startup’s request for a license to re-start streaming, however, until it received approval of its categorization by other lawmakers or judges. Judge Nathan in the Southern District of New York granted a preliminary injunction against Aereo on October 23, refusing to accept Aereo’s new legal argument. The order can be found here. The firm announced layoffs of the majority of its workforce in early November, and the letter announcing its bankruptcy reads more like a farewell than a promise of restructuring and rebirth.