Attorney@Work says Make the New Year YOUR Year!

Everyone talks about New Year’s Resolutions. My favorite joke is about the New Year’s Resolutions Gym concept. It is a gym during January and February, then converts to a bar & night club for several months until just before Thanksgiving. Then it becomes a holiday buffet for the rest of the year. Interested investors can contact me.

Be it resolvedAttorney@Work has decided to suggest some good resolutions for lawyers. Every work day this week for their Be It Resolved feature, they have posted suggested resolutions from practice management advisors, technology experts and other lawyer coaches. Today’s final offering includes “global strategy and marketing expert Gerry Riskin, practice management advisor Jim Calloway, ethics counsel Megan Zavieh, legal marketing consultant Susan Kostal, and New York lawyer and wellness writer Jamie Spannhake.” This is a diverse group and I am sure we can all agree that Attorney@Work saved the best for last. The week’s resolutions have been excellent and Attorney@Work has combined all 22 ideas into a free downloadable ebook, Be It Resolved.

 

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Attorney@Work says Make the New Year YOUR Year!

Echos of Police, Privacy and Alexa

The last part of December contains many slow news days because so many people take off work during the holiday season. This week there was a collective sadness with the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. (RIP Princess.) This week there was also a collective “freak out” over coverage of a 2015 Arkansas murder investigation where the police were attempting to obtain sound recordings that an Amazon Echo owned by the suspect might have preserved from Amazon. Amazon said no, citing privacy concerns. (The threat to future Amazon Echo 2sales of a very popular product was not cited.) Many of us heard echoes of the Justice Department earlier this year attempting to force Apple to unlock an iPhone owned by the San Bernadino shooter.

A lot of hyperbola in the legal blogosphere, social media and even broadcast media followed the initial coverage. Even lawyer who were supposed to be able to research and analyze before commenting were tripping over themselves with references to Big Brother and statements like “these things are always listening” or “you would have to be crazy to own one of these.” Above the Law had a great clickbait headline “Echo Knows What You Did Last Summer, But Can The Cops Know What Echo Knows?” The short column even had a Nixon reference with a warning not to install recording devices in your office.

Since I am now blogging about the Echo this week, I cannot claim complete purity. But after all of the hype, a fact-based post is warranted.

Most reviewers have dubbed the Amazon Echo the best voice-activated home assistant. It has been available since 2014. Google has recently released Google Home, a competing voice activated device that allows access to Google Assistant, so we will see future competition.

At our home, we love our Echo. It was a part of our Christmas fun, playing our Christmas Spotify playlists, trying out the free trial of Amazon Music, enjoying an eclectic Spotify Christmas playlist shared by a friend from Chicago and asking “Alexa” all sorts of interesting questions. Like everyone I have ever talked to who has tried the Amazon Echo, we love ours and are definitely keeping it. It also provides the home tech tool I have long wanted, adding things to your grocery shopping list by voice command only.

It is only technically true to say that the Echo listens all the time. It listens for “wake up words” or more technically stated, activation phrases. For Echo that is “Alexa,” and for Google that is “OK Google.” (If someone in the household is actually named Alexa, you can change the activation word to Amazon.) When it hears the phrase, it beeps and lights up, waiting for a request or command. Often this can be something as simple and useful as “what’s the weather?” or “what are the sports scores?” The Echo records these commands and quickly sends them back to an Amazon data center to interpret them. Yes, they are saved, long with any ambient noise in the background, like a crying baby. For a detailed discussion of how and why this happens and what control you have over it, see this feature on Wired “Alexa and Google Home Record What You Say. But What Happens to That Data?”

Suffice it to say, the smart people at Amazon and Google designed these products to protect basic user privacy because to do otherwise could hurt sales. As the Wired article linked above notes:

“The audio zipping from your home to Amazon and Google’s data centers is encrypted, so even if your home network is compromised, it’s unlikely that the gadgets can be used as listening devices. A bigger risk is someone getting hold of your Amazon or Google password and seeing a log of your interactions online.

“There are also simple measures you can take to prevent Echo and Home from listening to you when you don’t want them to. Each device has a physical mute button, which cuts off the mic completely.”

But there is a microphone and so the chance of compromise is not zero. You can also log in and delete all of your saved audio clips to either service. But one of the questions of life today is Google homewhen is deleted really deleted. I would suspect at least the verbal purchase orders of big ticket Amazon products are saved for some time in case there is a dispute.

I seriously doubt that the Arkansas investigation would find any useful data since it is pretty unlikely Alexa was asked any incriminating questions or there is useful ambient background noise. (By the way, if you are an iPhone user and haven’t asked Siri where to bury a dead body, the reply is quite humorous and, given the millions of us who have asked the question by now, probably not incriminating.)

There are incidents of unintended activation such as someone talking about Alexa on television and Alexa waking up in response. The most interesting topic for lawyers is not whether Alexa will record evidence to solve crimes, but whether it might retain ESI (electronically stored information) that could be useful in civil litigation. One can foresee a divorce lawyer seeking the stored recordings of one who used Alexa 100 times a day, hoping to catch the voice of a paramour in the background. E-discovery expert Craig Ball blogged about this possibility back in March and his “Alexa. Preserve ESI” post is great reading on the subject.

Craig also notes that the recordings might be beneficial to the Echo user as well in case one’s tech savvy friends add “buy heroin” to your shopping list and you accidently email it to local law enforcement.

By the way, Keith Lee wrote a great post on his Associate’s Mind blog titled Amazon Echo Legal Documents where he provided us Alexa Terms of Use, Amazon Privacy Notice, Amazon Conditions of Use and Amazon Law Enforcement Guidelines. It is unsurprising these were drafted to protect Amazon by its lawyers. But one of the comments is, to put it charitably, silly where it says it is “dangerous” for a lawyer to listen to music while doing research. I’d recommend the lawyer use Sonos speakers in the office rather than an Echo, primarily because an unintended activation while a client was in the office might be embarrassing. But I’ve always found research to be a solitary and quiet activity.

At this point, it is safe to say webcams are a far greater security risk than Echos. The odds of something significant being captured and preserved as ambient noise in a quickly spoken query or command are very small. Meanwhile most business class laptops have webcams built in. A hacker who could record video and audio constantly via your webcam is definitely invading your privacy and could cause embarrassment at a minimum. I’ve long counseled that if your kids have a webcam their room, it should be covered with a cover or a band-aid on their laptops when not in use. Just a few months ago, hacked webcams were used in a denial of service attack that shut down Amazon and Twitter temporarily.

Fastcase founder Ed Walters is a thoughtful legal technologist. He posted series of tweets this week about what public policy of the privacy of your personal data should be. Your phone’s GPS can retain a map of every step you took during the day. Should that be discoverable in a routine lawsuit about something that happened at work? As the Internet of Things gains steam, your connected devices will have a frighteningly complete view of everything you do – your thermostat raises the home’s temperature as you drive home, your refrigerator knows what you ate on a given date and your home entertainment system knows what you watched and how often you switched the channels.

In 1988, the Congress passed and President Regan signed into law, the Video Privacy Protection Act, forbidding video tape rental stores from disclosing what videos citizens rented. Obviously that has decreasing application today.

Ed Walters asked how current consumer data uses square with a legal doctrine called the Third-Party doctrine, which, according to Wikipedia says “that people who voluntarily give information to third parties-such as banks, phone companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and e-mail servers-have ‘no reasonable expectation of privacy.’ A lack of privacy protection Amazon Alexaallows the United States government to obtain information from third parties without a legal warrant and without otherwise complying with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against search and seizure without probable cause and a judicial search warrant.”

Ed thinks deep thoughts. I just know I am keeping my Echo and will unplug it or use the mute button only rarely. But as we move to a society with many self-driving cars and devices we have not yet thought about, there will be more questions than answers because history tells us that law develops much more slowly than technology. It is no longer the stuff of fiction when most of us will be using voice-activated assistants and Self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill.

Echos of Police, Privacy and Alexa

The Basics of a Lawyer’s Smartphone

Somewhere a lawyer has just gotten his or her first smartphone. Maybe they received it as a Christmas gift. Maybe they were goaded into it by family, friends or co-workers. KeyboardsMaybe they grew tired of being handed a spouse’s phone to look at pictures posted by children or grandchildren. Maybe their flip phone just finally died. Regular readers probably don’t appreciate how intimidating it would be to convert from a flip phone to today’s generation of smart phones. You may not think you are a smart phone expert, but you have amassed a huge smart phone use knowledge base over the years from trial and error, doing some online researching and perhaps even some tips at a legal technology CLE program.

At a recent CLE program I taught, I mentioned how convenient it is to dictate text messages and short emails into a smart phone (when appropriate) instead of typing on the phone’s tiny virtual keyboard. A couple of lawyers sitting at the back of the room found that idea so new and empowering that they had to quietly try it out then with a cupped hand over their phones. (See graphic at right above if you have never tried it.)

My Oklahoma Bar Journal column, The Basics of a Lawyer’s Smartphone, should be perfect for the new smart phone user, so feel free to share it if you know one of these people. And maybe, like the attendees at that CLE program, you will find something “basic” in it that you have missed as well.

For those who have received new tech devices as a gift this month, your attention is directed to Wired Magazine’s The Master Guide to Setting Up All Your New Devices.

 

The Basics of a Lawyer’s Smartphone

Why Lawyers Don’t Run Startups (or Don’t Tell Me I Can’t, Tell Me How I Can.)

I would like for every one of my regular readers to read Why Lawyers Don’t Run Startups. It is a bit unfair to lawyers and even includes a sentence about entrepreneurs hating lawyers. But we’re tough and we can take it.

Batter SwingsThis is important for you to read even if you never intend to advise a startup. It highlights the challenges of our profession’s traditions versus today’s business climate of often risky entrepreneurship. Lawyers are trained to deliver perfect “bulletproof” legal work to their clients. It is our goal to eliminate all risks. When new challenges occur or new risks are identified, we try to protect our clients against those risks. That is how standard business agreements that used to be four or five pages have now evolved to agreements of fifteen or twenty pages. It is not uncommon to see a “simple” thirty page contract. But there’s a cost to all of that fine tuning. Clients and their counsel have to spend more time reviewing these longer documents and time is money.

Entrepreneurs and startups are like home run hitters at the plate swinging for the fence. Many entrepreneurs have several previous failures on their resumes. But if you hit the home run, you could be set for life.

A law firm that “hits” a .325 success rate would likely soon be out of business.

So we have this conflict. In the real world and in our personal lives we all constantly make decisions that have a 70% chance of success. A lawyer sees that as 3 out of 10 clients achieving a bad result and then firing the firm, bad mouthing it or perhaps even suing their lawyers. So the understandable reaction is to tell the client to avoid the risk entirely (“don’t do the deal”) or to prepare onerous provisions for a document that hopefully reduce the risk.

Many lawyers who advise startups have internalized and deal with these challenges. For lawyers who are concerned about too much risk, clear communication and documentation is very important. Avoiding risk is why many civil litigation cases settle on the eve of trial or, as we lawyers say, “on the courthouse steps.” We may have to re-examine some of our traditions and appreciate that a five-page contract with a 10% risk is a better client service than a forty page contract with a 9.5% risk. This is easy for a blogger to discuss in a blog post and much harder for a law firm to put into action, especially when all of those percentages of risk are educated guesses to begin with.

Why Lawyers Don’t Run Startups (or Don’t Tell Me I Can’t, Tell Me How I Can.)

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Criminal Lawyer Norman OK 405-673-8250 Criminal Attorney Norman OK

Oklahoma Interstate Drug Lawyer connects you to experienced Oklahoma lawyers that can defend you against your drug-related charges. Our listed Oklahoma attorneys will meet your expectations as they are knowledgeable and experienced in drug related charges like:

Drug Trafficking Charges

Stop & Search Drug Busts

Drug Traffic Stops

Transportation of Controlled Substances

Drug Possession Charges

Interstate drug trafficking charges

For more information please visit: http://oklahomainterstatedruglawyer.com

Oklahoma Interstate Drug Lawyer

6957 NW Expressway # 118

Oklahoma City, OK 73132

(405) 673-8250

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Service Areas: Bryan OK,Canadian OK,Carter OK,Cherokee OK,Cleveland OK,Comanche OK,Creek OK,Garfield OK,Grady OK,Jackson OK,Kay OK,Muskogee OK,Oklahoma OK,Osage OK,Payne OK,Pittsburg OK,Pontotoc OK,Pottawatomie OK,Rogers OK,Stephens OK,Tulsa OK,Wagoner OK,Washington OK,Ardmore OK,Bartlesville OK,Bixby OK,Broken Arrow OK,Del City OK,Duncan OK,Edmond OK,Enid OK,Lawton OK,Midwest City OK,Moore OK,Norman OK,Oklahoma City OK,Owasso OK,Ponca City OK,Sapulpa OK,Shawnee OK,Stillwater OK,Tulsa City OK,Yukon OK

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Large- and Small- Firm Lawyers: New Similarities Emerge

There is clearly a difference between a lawyer who shows up at work at a law firm employing hundreds of lawyers and scores NovDec2016Coverof support staff and a lawyer who shows up at his or her solo practice and greets his or her legal assistant, the only other employee of the practice.

While those differences still exist, today the lawyer’s personal skill set for success is becoming a more similar regardless of firm size. At least that is my observation as outlined in Large- and Small- Firm Lawyers: New Similarities Emerge, my column in the November-December issue of Law Practice Magazine. Hopefully this will help lawyers assess their skills.

Large- and Small- Firm Lawyers: New Similarities Emerge