Sometimes Law and Technology combine in ways that one does not immediately anticipate. Here are some recent items that have been in the news.
A hardware keyboard for lawyers
Lawyer Brian Potts got frustrated when he was writing a brief and had to insert a section symbol (§) into the text. As the symbol is not on the keyboard, it takes just enough steps that have to be undertaken to interrupt one’s train of thought. So, it dawned on him that having the section symbol as a key on the keyboard would be easier. He realised that there were other things, too, that lawyers use every day, which would make his life a lot easier if he could access that functionality straight from his keyboard.
Potts created the LegalBoard, which has specially designed function keys and keys on numeric pad that can be used to insert commonly used legal words or symbols, or to perform specific functions, like
- Adding a section symbol, a paragraph symbol or a copyright symbol.
- Or adding words and phrases that lawyers frequently use (like court of appeals, plaintiff, appellant, etc.) with a single keystroke.
- Adding a bullet.
- Turning italics, underline and bold on or off with a single keystroke.
- Changing the line spacing.
- Inserting a footnote or comment with a key stroke.
- Turning track changes on and off.
- Using the find function.
A software keyboard for lawyers
Emily Montgomery is an attorney in Las Vegas and a graduate of UCLA Law, who had a similar idea. She came up with the Citepad, which is a software (on-screen) keypad, rather than a physical keyboard. It also comes with buttons for commonly used tasks involving citing legal references, inserting some often-used symbols, and some formatting, etc. Citepad can work with e.g. Lexis Nexis and Word, OpenOffice, Google Docs, and is available for Mac OS and Windows 10.
Some big law firms in the US have been installing napping pods, and they are well-received. The “energy pods” are lounge chairs with a domed privacy visor and they can play “relaxation rhythms” while the user snoozes. After 20 minutes, the pods use vibrations and soft lights to wake the user.
Lawyers are using wearables, like smart watches, to help their practice, in three different ways. Smart watches are used to keep connected (retrieve email, etc.). Some law firms are experimenting with Virtual Reality Headsets, e.g., for interviewing witnesses, or for multisite meetings. Inspired by dash cams, some are experimenting with smart glasses to record evidence in situ.
An AI ‘Workspace assistant’ for lawyers
A legal software provider recently announced the launch of Workspace Assistant, which allows lawyers to perform time management functions using the Amazon Echo or other Alexa enabled devices. So, it is now possible for lawyers to just say, ‘Alexa, Track My Time,’ and it does. At present, it can perform time management functions like tracking billable hours and controlling time entry. As this functionality is hosted by an existing legal service provider, confidentiality aspects are covered by the agreement you have with the provider.
Did you know there already is such a thing as ‘Emoji Law’? At present, there are three relevant legal aspects to emoticons. A first is how the courts will deal with questions of interpretation raised by emojis used in communication. Courts have already ruled that emoji can convey content. (Noteworthy in this context is that Emojis change depending on the version of the OS of the device: one study showed that people interpreted an earlier implementation of a grinning emoji to mean “ready to fight” while the later version is more clearly smiling and happy. Therefore, someone on a newer iPhone sending that emoji to someone using an older version of iOS could unintentionally appear threatening).
A second aspect has to do with intellectual property that underlies the small, digital pictographs themselves. Emoticons are graphic works, and as such are protected by copyright.
Finally, the topic of emoji is also relevant in eDiscovery. Recent court decisions stated that messages sent by SMS, MMS or instant messaging all had to be included in the discovery process. At present, however, nearly all text-based legal research tools fail to capture visual communications.