Law and Conversation

January 14, 2012

My BigLaw column: Five tips from the bench

Filed under: judiciary,Law,lawyers,Technology — Helen Gunnarsson @ 4:41 pm
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In December 2011 I wrote a column for TechnoLawyer’s BigLaw e-mail newsletter, “Goliath v. David: Five Tips From the Bench for Large Law Firms That Square Off Against Solos and Small Law Firms.” I based it on my experience as an administrative law judge for the Illinois Human Rights Commission for nearly a decade as well as on conversations I’ve had over the years with judges from a number of different tribunals. (It was a lot of fun to write.)

Now, TechnoLawyer is soliciting reader votes for the best BigLaw column of 2011. The winner gets (1) an ego boost and (2) a virtual TechnoLawyer badge to display on his or her blog, toward bragging. (See below for the badge I received in August.) Since I’d love to have both the ego boost and the virtual badge, I’m asking anyone and everyone as well as their spouses, kids, law partners, and friends, to please vote for my column. You just have to sign up for a TechnoLawyer account if you don’t already have one, which doesn’t cost anything, and then click to vote. Here’s the info on how to do it, copied and pasted from TechnoLawyer’s e-mail; MANY THANKS to all for clicking for me.

HELEN W. GUNNARSSON’S BIGLAW COLUMN …

Goliath v. David: Five Tips From the Bench for Large Law
Firms That Square Off Against Solos and Small Law Firms

Vote for This BigLaw Column:
http://www.technolawyer.com/r.asp?L26119&M62987

Read This BigLaw Column:
http://bit.ly/x7Ax6f

TechnoLawyer, incidentally, is well worth signing up for if you’re a lawyer. It provides useful articles for lawyers in all different practice settings, focused, of course, on how to use technology to help you practice law more efficiently. And it’s FREE (at least, the current e-mails are; if you want to read an archived article in the library, you’ll have to pay). I’ve had warm and fuzzy feelings for TechnoLawyer ever since August 2011, when the company picked my cover story for that month’s Illinois Bar Journal, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet: Twitter For Lawyers,” as BlawgWorld’s Pick Of The Week!

August 17, 2011

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet? I’m TechnoLawyer’s Pick of the Week!

Wowie zowie–TechnoLawyer chose my cover story, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet,” in the current issue (August 2011) of the Illinois Bar Journal, for BlawgWorld’s Pick Of The Week!

BlawgWorld publishes newsletters for lawyers. Its editors cull what they judge to be the best articles from legal publications all over the web for a handy weekly e-mail newsletter. (I don’t know how those editors work, but by even a conservative measure, that’s a LOT of articles to weed through every week. Lawyers deal in words, after all, and there’s a legal publication for practically every state, every local bar association, every national bar association, and every area and size of practice within those locales. There are also legal publications for gadgets and software that lawyers use. Then there are legal blogs, also known as blawgs–hundreds of those, at a minimum, many of which contain superb writing and insights.)

From all of those articles, the editors at BlawgWorld choose around a hundred each week to link to. From those top 100, they select ONE to excerpt and feature at the top of the newsletter. For the week of August 9, it’s mine! My head is still spinning.

The best things in life are free, and that includes BlawgWorld’s newsletters. You can subscribe by hitting the nice badge above that they sent me and following the instructions on the page it takes you to. Thanks so much to BlawgWorld’s great newsletter editors, Adriana Linares and Liz Kurtz, as well as to Neil Squillante, BlawgWorld’s publisher, and Kathryn Hughes, who writes the TechnoLawyer Blog, for choosing my article to feature. Thanks to all the lawyers I interviewed for the article and for the related , who provided terrific insights and commentary; I’ve included all of them, as well as many more, in my Illinois Lawyers Twitter list. Special thanks to Sonya Olds Som,  a lawyer and business development specialist at the legal search firm Major, Lindsay, and Africa, and Carol Ross, a career coach in Boulder, CO and fellow Northwestern alum, who gave me good insights into social media back in 2009 for my article, “Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, Oh My!” that appeared in the June 2009 issue of the IBJ. And thanks to my own wonderful editor at the Illinois State Bar Association, Mark Mathewson, for all of his work and support!

March 25, 2011

Literature, law, and technology: a connected lawyer

I think I’m pretty good at both using the English language and getting my computer to do the fairly limited number of things I want it to do.  But I can’t count the number of times I’ve read an error message, or a warning, or an instruction regarding our computers or programs, and, though the message was clearly written in English, understood it no better than Sanskrit.

Those frustrating experiences, which I suspect many lawyers and others share, underscore why I always appreciate reading and hearing advice from Illinois lawyer Bryan Sims.  On his blog, The Connected Lawyer, Bryan provides pithy tidbits of information and advice on gadgets and software in plain, easy-to-understand English.  Though he directs his advice to lawyers, anyone can benefit from it.

Bryan has a good article in the current issue of Illinois Lawyer Now, published for members by the Illinois State Bar Association, on how to integrate technology into your law office without spending a bundle.  He addresses different, cost-effective options for printers, faxing, and phones and provides examples from his own practice to explain why his own chosen options work best for him.

Bryan speaks on these matters at conferences and always gives a great, informative presentation.  I’ve interviewed and quoted Bryan in articles I’ve written for the Illinois Bar Journal and learned quickly that he’s a very nice and approachable person (as true superstars tend to be).  Bryan also loves to read and posts occasionally about the books he’s read on another blog, I Would Rather Be Reading (great title, Bryan!). I was interested to note Bryan’s post some time ago about how much he and his family love their Kindle e-readers, which, along with many other recommendations and a loan from another generous friend, is inspiring me to try one out.

In related news, the New York Times has an article on which gadgets we can get along without. What sites with technology tips do you find useful?  How about book blogs?  And for those of you with Kindles or other e-readers, do you love them as much as everyone else I  know does?  Anything you don’t like about them?

February 1, 2011

More on court opinions on the Internet

Yesterday I posted about the distinction that a decreasing number of jurisdictions, including Illinois and the federal courts, make between “precedential” and “nonprecedential” opinions, historically referred to as “published” and “unpublished.”  Today brings word of an interesting new article by Peter W. Martin of Cornell Law School, “Abandoning Law Reports for Official Digital Case Law.” The article, which you can download without charge from SSRN, discusses Arkansas’s cessation of publishing its state courts’ opinions in the Arkansas Reporter, which had been the official record of those decisions, in favor of posting them on the Internet, where the state’s Reporter of Decisions maintains them as official records, and “explore[s] the distinctive alignment of factors that both led and enabled the Arkansas judiciary to take a step that courts in other jurisdictions, state and federal, have so far resisted.”  Thanks to Prof. Martin for making this article freely available, and a Hat Tip to Paul Lomio of Stanford Law School and Legal Research Plus for posting and tweeting about it.

On still more breaking electronic legal news, congratulations to young legal research provider FastCase on inking deals with the D.C. and Georgia Bars.  I wrote in 2009 about the company’s service, which the Illinois State Bar Association provides to its members as a free benefit, for the Illinois Bar Journal.  As part of preparing the article, I interviewed Fastcase’s CEO, Ed Walters, whose business acumen so impressed me that I interviewed him again and got more great commentary for a subsequent IBJ article on social media for lawyers.

And in other news related to the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent amendment of SCR 23, the state court rule that distinguishes precedential from nonprecedential appellate opinions, my profile of Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride in the Illinois Bar Journal, which includes a sidebar explaining the justice’s leadership with respect to the court’s action, is now up.  (Link may not work if you’re not a member of ISBA, and, if you’re a lawyer or a judge, you really ought to pony up and join 😉 .)  The justice has a fascinating and inspirational story, and I was honored to get to tell it in the pages of the IBJ.

On a completely different subject that has nothing to do with the law or court opinions, here’s a link to a LadyGagaLicious video:  Zheng Lab’s hilarious “Bad Project.” Send it to your favorite scientist!  Hat Tip:  Freelance writer Sandra Boncek Hume.

December 17, 2010

E-readers and privacy

Filed under: Books and writing,judiciary,Law,legal technology,privacy,reading,Technology — Helen Gunnarsson @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , ,

No matter how much you love your old-fashioned paper books, it’s hard not to own up to a few little covetous twinges when you see people with Kindles or sleek iPads.

Students who download their texts on e-readers must love not having to carry around the extra weight of traditional texts.  They must also find being able to highlight, underline, or make notes in their e-books, as the Kindle application permits, incredibly convenient.  Those who commute or travel also love their e-readers, for the same reasons.

But those capabilities have legs which give e-readers a creepiness factor.  I took note some months ago of Gretchen Rubin’s post advising that if you download a book on a Kindle and highlight or take notes, the device reports back to Amazon about your highlighting or notetaking.  NPR now picks up on the issue by reporting on other data that’s transmitted back to Amazon, or Google, or Apple, or whatever other company manufactured your e-reader or the application you use.  Those companies know, or have the capability of knowing, when you read, when you stop reading, where you were while you were reading, and whether you read the whole book or stopped at page 45. 

This information may prove immensely useful to businesses who want to sell more products to consumers, of course.  But what might a government inclined to monitor its citizens’ activities closely do with information about people’s thought processes, I wonder?  Might the government of, say, China require all university students to use e-readers that report students’ reading habits and notetaking back to it, I wonder?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that at least two justices of the U.S. Supreme Court read briefs on their e-readers, as do an increasing number of judges on lower courts.  What if those judges highlight or underline the arguments of counsel?  Do the e-reader applications they use report that data?  What implications for judicial decisionmaking does that carry?

Of course, data about individuals’ browsing habits is already stored in multiple locations on different computers and servers.  When in doubt, you can assume that online publications generally know your IP address, which articles you’ve clicked on, and other information about you.  If you buy books online, or in a store using a credit card or frequent buyer program, there’s a record of the books you’ve bought.  If you check books out of a library, there’s a record.  Bottom line:  we trade our privacy for what electronic devices, applications, and the internet offer.

NPR quotes Stephen King on the data collection issue as follows:  “Ultimately, this sort of thing scares the hell out of me,” King says. “But it is the way that things are.”

In related news, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held this week that citizens have the same expectation of privacy in their e-mails as in their snail mail letters and phone conversations, so that the government must obtain a search warrant before seizing and searching e-mails held by private e-mail providers.  Hat tip for this and the WSJ Law Blog item:  Ed Walters of FastCase.

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