On June 6, 2016, the Ontario government announced that changes to the Customer Service Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will come into force on July 1, 2016, and apply to all organizations providing goods, services or facilities in the province.Some background
The general purposes of the AODA are to change attitudes and environments in the private and public sectors toward persons with mild to severe disabilities and to relieve the burden of requesting accommodation from persons with disabilities by obligating organizations to provide accommodation pre-emptively on or before January 1, 2025. Under the Act, organizations that provide goods and services and employ Ontarians are required to take proactive steps to eliminate or reduce the need for accommodation requests and remove any barriers, meaning anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society in the same way as a person that is not disabled. These steps include eliminating or reducing physical, architectural, information and communications, attitudinal, technological barriers, as well as policies or practices.
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service came into force for the private and non-profit sectors on January 1, 2012. Public sector organizations in the province of Ontario had to comply with the customer service standard by January 1, 2010.
The AODA customer service standard outlines what businesses and other organizations in Ontario must do to make their goods and services more accessible to people with disabilities. Every person or organization that provides goods and services to members of the public or other third parties, and has at least one employee in Ontario, must comply; this includes law firms.
The AODA requires that each accessibility standard be reviewed five years after it becomes law to determine whether the standard is working as intended and to allow for adjustments to be made as required.
On January 29, 2016, Ontario’s Regulatory Registry posted proposed amendments to the Customer Service Standard as well as resulting revocation of regulations and minor administrative and housekeeping changes to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation for public review for an additional 45 days, until March 14, 2016.
The draft Regulation amends the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (O. Reg. 191/11) and consequently revokes the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Reg. 429/07) and Exemption from Reporting Requirements (O. Reg. 430/07) since the substantive content of these regulations would be incorporated into the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
Therefore, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation now includes the customer service standard and is now Part IV.2, of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.Key changes to the customer service standard
Effective July 1, 2016, key changes to the customer service standard (summarized by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario with additional comments by the author) include the following:
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has prepared a Quick Reference guide to help organizations understand the changes.What do organizations need to do to comply?
All organizations in Ontario with one or more employees must comply with the changes effective July 1, 2016.
Organizations need to update their existing accessible customer service policy or policies to reflect the changes and train all members of their organization on accessible customer service. The Directorate has indicated that the organization does not need to train members of the organization who have already been trained on accessible customer service, however, they must be informed of the changes and trained on the updates.
All public sector organizations, and businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees must submit their 2017 accessibility compliance report by December 31, 2017. The 2017 report will include questions relating to compliance with the updated customer service standard.Last words
Not everybody is happy with these changes.
Many accessibility advocates (i.e., AODA Alliances and the ARCH Disability Law Centres) say that the changes do not go far enough to assist persons with disabilities with the day-to-day challenges they continue to face. They also say that changes to the definition of small organizations weakens accessibility protections. By removing documentation requirements for the huge number of private sector organizations with 20-49 employees made that regulations effective enforcement far more difficult, among other issues.
“[…] organizations with 20-49 employees.. no longer need to have the policy in writing, no longer need to provide it in writing to the public on request and no longer need to keep records of its employee training on it.”
“This will make the core part of this accessibility regulation very hard if not impossible for the Wynne Government to effectively enforce for the great number of private sector organizations with 20-49 employees. The Wynne Government’s main way of enforcing, in the paltry fraction of cases where it has done any enforcement at all, has been by the Government auditing an organization’s paper records. Yet if a private sector organization with 20-49 employees no longer needs to keep any paper records, there’s nothing for the Government to audit,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which leads Ontario’s grassroots campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. “If a Government auditor asks if a private sector organization with 20-49 employees has the required policy on accessible Customer Service, the owner can just point to their head and say: ‘It’s in here!'”
The Ontario government responded by saying that the AODA remains a work in progress as Ontario tries to make the entire province fully accessible by 2025.
“There’s more work to be done, but steps like these (new rules) are the foundation to developing a culture of inclusion, where economic and social opportunities exist for people of all abilities,” Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said in a statement
What do you think?
Email security starts with making sure you don’t accidentally download malware or unwittingly give away your personal information.
There are basically two kinds of unscrupulous emails. The first involves emails that seek to get you to do something that will trigger a malicious action, like run a program or open a document. These have been around forever. The most famous malicious attachment was probably Melissa, which you probably remember if you worked in an office when it hit in 1999.
Melissa was a virus, which meant its goal was to propagate itself. People using Microsoft Outlook received infected messages telling them a document they asked for was attached. When they opened that document, it triggered the virus to grab the first 50 email addresses in the user’s Outlook email address book and send copies of the same email to them, and so on and so on. Some corporate email networks had to shut down until the virus was under control.
The second, more recent kind of malicious emails rely on phishing. Phishing is all about getting your personal information.
Phishing plays on both trust and fear. Phishing emails purport to be from an someone or something you are familiar with, like your bank, and they often demand you take immediate action because something bad has happened, such as a data breach. The hope is that you will be worried enough to do it.
If you are trying to be vigilant (without going overboard and being suspicious of everything that comes your way) there are a few key characteristics of risky emails to keep in mind.Unspecific and Unverifiable
Is it ostensibly from your bank but addressed “Dear Customer” or with another generic greeting? Are you unable to determine what the email might be about because it only makes vague references to “your business” or “your account”? Is the signature lacking in details, such as missing the last name or a job title? These should raise red flags.
If the email purports to be from a company or organization but contains no way to contact them other than replying to the email, don’t reply. If you feel like you absolutely have to contact the organization, use Google to find the phone number. No reputable entity has only one way to contact it.Alarmist
Is the email pegged to a recent high-profile news story, such as ebola? Was there just an earthquake and you received an unsolicited email from a charity you have never heard of? Check a resource like Charity Navigator to see if it is legitimate. Natural disasters are also prime time for fraudulent email schemes. Snopes keeps a running list of real and fake charities, though it is unclear how often that list is updated. However, you can always just search Snopes to see if your latest urgent email is actually just the latest email scam.
Some emails are designed to be personally, rather than globally, alarming. Who wouldn’t be a bit disturbed by an email from the IRS that says you owe money? However, the IRS will never contact you (about your refund or anything else that requires your personal information) in this fashion. The same is true for problems with your enrollment in a health care exchange or being in trouble about jury duty. The government generally does not email you, period, and it will certainly not email you to threaten you with some sort of legal or administrative action. That’s what the mail is for.Requests for Personal Information
No reputable organization with which you already do business will email you and ask for your personal information. Not the government, not your bank, not eBay. Do not answer an email that asks for that information.
In the event one of the services you use is compromised, such as the recent release of 117 million LinkedIn emails and passwords from a 2012 breach, the service may send you an email. However, that legitimate email will never include a link. It will warn you of the breach and tell you to go log in and change your information over at the site.Requests to Take Action.
Similarly, beware emails that ask you to click a link if that link is related to your personal or login information. It’s just fine to click through the latest Brooks Brothers email advertisement because all that will happen is you will land at Brooks Brothers’ home page or find a particularly handsome sweater or something similar. On the other hand, if the email gives you a link that you are supposed to click to change or access your specific personal information, don’t. You can change that information directly on the site while you purchase said handsome sweater.Requests to Download Something
This is a bit harder to remain fully vigilant against. It is common practice to tell people never to click on any .exe file they may receive by email. An .exe file is a Windows Executable file. It tells Windows to execute some sort of action, such as running a script or installing a program. Once you click the file, the virus figures out a way to spread itself or wreck your individual machine.
If you work in a large office where you have an IT department manage your email, you may be blocked from receiving emails with .exe attachments so no one can inadvertently become Patient Zero for your firm. It is pretty easy to make a rule of thumb that no one send programs as email attachments, since it is also impractical in many cases. However, malicious code can lurk in other files. The Melissa attachment, for example, was a Microsoft Word document.
Here, some common sense about the sender is what comes in handy. If you have received a file from someone you don’t know and have no dealings with, don’t open the file. If it appears to be from someone in your address book, call or email them and ask if they’ve recently sent you a file. True, it’s clunky, but it’s far less embarrassing than being the person that brings your entire network down. To combat both these and the phishing techniques above, it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Despite recent years of decades-low law school application levels, law school seats are still heavily over-subscribed. Similarly, for those who graduate (which, to be honest, is nearly every single admitted student that manages to pay tuition), the opportunities to be called and to practice as a lawyer is case of too many grads and too few jobs. Yet when it comes to supporting the legal needs of the public, lawyers aren’t even close to filling the chairs that exist, much less the new ones added each day. Worse, we’re increasingly less interested in doing so.
Estimates and sources vary, but we routinely hear numbers in the range of 70-85% when people discuss the prevalence of legal or justiciable issues that could be but aren’t addressed by a lawyer. That’s a lot of empty chairs!!!
Our lives aren’t getting any less complicated, and the need for guidance on legal matters will not only remain significant but will surely grow. So if the same or even an increasing number of “chairs” are being added, who will step up to fill them?
With the exception of a closing thought at the end, I’ll refrain in this post from getting into the protectionist regulatory environments through which lawyers limit the opportunity for others to step in and serve the public need and the public interest. Instead, I’ll focus on the trends showing that fewer lawyers are seeking careers where we serve the public directly.17% decline in total number of solo practitioners and 10% decline among total number of licensees working in Ontario law firms
In the 2013 Annual Report of the Law Society of Upper Canada we learn that 9,072 lawyer licensees declared their primary business activity as operating their one-person law firm. In the 2015 report that number was down dramatically to 7,577.
Those same reports tell us that in 2013, there were 26,731 lawyers and licensed paralegals working in Ontario law firms. In 2015 we saw a surprising drop down to 23,938 licensees.
These numbers are all the more shocking considering that during this two-year period, Ontario admitted 4,200 new lawyers and 2,500 new paralegals. Even accounting for offsetting departures from both streams of the Ontario legal profession, the province still saw a net increase of 3,000 lawyers and 1,700 paralegals to the rolls of the Law Society.
When we note further that the population of Ontario increased by 241,000 people during this same period, it’s hard to avoid concluding that the chairs of legal need keep appearing, but our fellow licensees are not rushing to fill them.Barely half of Ontario’s lawyers are even insured to serve the public.
The law in Ontario provides that any lawyer who practices law must have malpractice insurance, yet there are many categories for which the lawyer is exempt from the obligation. These include categories for non-practicing lawyers as well as for lawyers whose practice is strictly limited to serving their employer – be it corporate, government, or other. LawPRO, the malpractice insurer for Ontario lawyers, reports that it provided Errors and Omissions insurance to 25,500 lawyers in 2015. Relative to the 49,040 Ontario lawyers on the rolls, that means just 52% of us are choosing to keep the door open to serving the public.
In terms of “full-time-equivalent” lawyers,serving the public, the number is certainly below 50% since within the insured cohort, a little over 7% are insured for part-time practice only. “Part-time” lawyers declare that they intend to allocate less than 20 hours a week to the practice of law. How many of those, like me, practice for well below the 20 hour limit is unknown.
Now, Ontario isn’t necessarily representative of the rest of Canada – or of the United States or any other jurisdiction struggling with access to justice challenges and an underserved population. But neither is Quebec, where we learn from the Barreau du Quebec that at the end of 2014, only 39.8% of lawyers are in private practice. Representative or not, it is remarkable that across Canada’s two largest provinces – which account for nearly 75% of the Canadian legal profession – the majority of lawyers do not serve the public directly.
When we see more and more people wanting to be lawyers, and most of them are choosing careers where they do not serve the public directly, it this the tipping point we needed to invite others into law’s game of reverse musical chairs? If not, what other signs could we possibly be waiting for to definitively conclude that the public’s need for legal assistance will not be addressed by lawyers alone?
A plea from Bob Ambrogi for more coverage of the legal tech industry:
What’s largely lacking … is a broader critical eye, looking not at specific products and apps, but at the companies behind them, the people behind those companies, and the industry overall.
Bob is right. The lack of coverage of legal tech companies (as opposed to legal tech products, which get plenty of coverage) is a problem for legal tech companies and lawyers.Why Legal Tech Needs Greater Coverage
The lack of coverage is a problem for legal tech companies because legal tech companies sometimes struggle to recruit investors and talent. At CodeX I heard a number of legal tech startup CEOs talking about the difficulty of convincing top machine-learning scientists (for example) to work on legal projects. Legal tech is small and unsexy (and full of lawyers who don’t really care for your shiny new product and will take years of convincing and maybe regulatory restructuring to even consider it).
More buzz around legal tech companies could help reverse that trend. Maybe building a predictive-coding algorithm will never seem as sexy as building an AI chat bot for Facebook, but a little buzz could make a difference.
The lack of coverage is also a problem for lawyers and consumers. There is little or no scrutiny of the movers and shakers in the world of legal tech. Bob Ambrogi’s ongoing coverage of what looks increasingly like the implosion of QuickLegal is a case in point. Lawyers and consumers need to know whether to trust the companies they do business with, which takes reporting and analysis.
Well I’m not willing to turn Lawyerist into a legal tech industry gossip rag (Valleywag for legal tech), but we have been covering the legal tech industry for years. So I’m going to take Bob’s plea as a challenge to do more to cover the legal tech industry, as well as a prompt to organize our archives so our past legal tech industry coverage is easier to find. From now on, you can find our posts under the Legal Tech Industry News tag.1Wait, What is Legal Tech, Anyway?
Good question. A lot of legal tech is happening at legal tech startups. There are lots of them, but for a long time we didn’t really have a good idea how many, since the only directory was on AngelList, and it had become lousy with spam and failed ventures. Then Bob Ambrogi started a list of his own. And Stanford recently launched its own legal tech startup directory.
Legal tech is also happening in other places. Legal hacking has become a loosely-organized movement of lawyers, coders, lawyer-coders, and others interested in developing novel solutions to legal problems.
Lots of legal tech is happening in small and large law firms all over the world, too, as law firms come up with technological solutions to their own problems. Maybe it’s not part of the legal tech industry, exactly, but the point is that legal innovation is coming from a lot of different places.
Sarah Glassmeyer even took a shot at mapping legal tech conceptually by identifying the various forms “NewLaw” takes:
Listing companies or categories are both exercises in futility, though. Legal tech is infiltrating just about everything about law and practice. New legal tech companies and projects start or stop just about every day. All we can do is keep an eye on the companies and trends that seem to be shaping the future of law and practice.
Stay tuned for more, or browse the Legal Tech Industry News archives to read our past coverage.
To start with, I tagged posts going back to 2014. I will go through the rest of our archives soon. ↩
I type a lot. More than most lawyers, I bet, now that my day job mostly involves writing and editing. That means my keyboard probably gets used more than anything else I own.
So I am particular about keyboards. I loved the heck out of the keyboards on my old ThinkPads, and I really liked the Apple Wireless Keyboard, too.
But I couldn’t fall for the newer Apple Magic Keyboard, which I bought shortly after Apple released it. The keys are just too shallow. It feels like typing on a granite countertop, and my arms were starting to show the strain.
When I mentioned this to our new Deputy Editor, Lisa, she offered to loan me a mechanical keyboard.Mechanical Keyboard Basics
Now, if you aren’t aware of mechanical keyboards, here’s the deal. Most of the keyboards that ship with new computers have a rubber sheet that looks a bit like bubble wrap. When you press a key, it smushes down the rubber dome underneath the key to complete the circuit and tell your computer what key you pressed. Rubber dome keyboards feel mushy, and it’s hard to tell how far you need to depress the key to type a character.
Mechanical keyboards use an actual mechanical switch. At right is the action of the Cherry MX Brown (the Keyboard Company has a page with all the Cherry MX switches). You get a tactile bump when the switch actuates. The rest of the key travel just gives your fingers a bit of cushion before the key bottoms out.
If you are currently using the keyboard that came with your computer, I am pretty confident you will be happier with a mechanical keyboard. Mechanical switches just feel better than mushy rubber dome keyboards and way-too-shallow laptop keyboards. There may be other benefits as well.Benefits to Typing on a Mechanical Keyboard
The first time you spend a day typing on a mechanical keyboard, the muscles in your forearms may get a little sore. That’s because you are actually using your muscles to press keys down instead of just hammering your fingers into a hard surface over and over again.
Many people who use mechanical keyboards believe it can stave off carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries. I don’t think there have been any major studies of this, so who knows if it is true. It does seem likely, though, that pressing a switch is probably better for your muscles than banging your fingers on an unyielding surface all day.
You can also probably type a bit faster and more accurately with a mechanical keyboard than with a rubber dome keyboard. The positive feedback reduces uncertainty, and that seems to make it easier to go faster. That said, if you are already typing on a good quality laptop keyboard (or a similar keyboard like the Apple Magic Keyboard) it probably isn’t a huge difference. I tested my Apple Magic Keyboard against my WASD keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches, and I was actually faster with the Apple Magic Keyboard by a couple of words per minute, on average. I think that’s because moving from one key to another is actually easier on the shallower keyboard, since my fingers never get stuck between keys.
However, in switching back and forth the difference between the two keyboards really became apparent. The mechanical switches are just more comfortable to type on. And they make a delightful clackity-clack that announces I AM GETTING THINGS DONE! to anyone nearby (although Cherry MX Brown switches are not loud enough to be rude in an office setting). Besides, I reliably type 85–90 wpm with either keyboard, so a few words here and there is no big deal.
So should you be using a mechanical keyboard? If you are using the keyboard that came with your desktop computer, yes. Absolutely. Those keyboards are pretty awful to type on. A mechanical keyboard is a big upgrade and well worth the expense.
If you are using a decent keyboard already, like the keyboard on a good laptop or the Apple Magic Keyboard, I still think a mechanical keyboard is a nice upgrade. Or at least a nice alternative for when your laptop is docked in your office. And if you type a lot—which you almost certainly do if you are reading this—I think you will enjoy having something to type on that doesn’t feel like smacking your fingertips against a board.Choosing a Mechanical Keyboard
Which mechanical keyboard should you get once you’ve decided to get one? The bigger choice is probably which switches to get. Cherry MX Brown switches are the best choice for most typists. Cherry MX Blue switches are also good for typing if you work alone, but they are really loud. If you really bang on your keys, you may want to look for a keyboard with Cherry MX Clear switches, which take a bit more force than Brown switches. Cherry MX Red and Black switches lack the tactile bump and are meant mostly for gaming.
You can also install o-ring silencers to keep the keys from bottoming out and clackity-clacking quite so loudly.
Having bought one, I don’t think you can go wrong with a WASD keyboard. They are rock solid, and you can customize all the key colors. Here’s what my WASD keyboard looks like:
If you don’t care about customizing your keys, the WASD CODE keyboard has LED backlighting and ships for free from Amazon. Plus, you can reconfigure a WASD keyboard for PC and Mac just by changing the DIP switches on the back. Not many other mechanical keyboards give you that option.
Still, there are a lot of mechanical keyboards out there, and there are some very cool options. Like the amazing rainbow-LED keyboard Lisa loaned me. Or “ortholinear” compact keyboards like the Planck. There is even a whole sub-industry for custom keycaps.
Each Wednesday we tell you which three English-language cases and which French-language case have been the most viewed* on CanLII and we give you a small sense of what the cases are about.
For this last week:
1. R. v. Olson, 2016 BCPC 150
 Mr. Olson’s entire relationship with the complainant, outside of the sexual one, was steeped in his role at the school: as a teacher, a house leader and as one of the group of teachers and house parents who stood in a parental role for all of the students. There was an inherent power imbalance in their relationship. The age difference between them, the evolution of their relationship, Mr. Olson’s status in relation to the complainant, and the expectations of, in particular, parents of students who attend boarding schools such as the one that this complainant attended, as well as the expectations of the accused, who believed that his conduct would attract criminal culpability if discovered, all lead inevitably to the conclusion that he was in a position of trust. I conclude that the evidence proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Olson was in a position of trust with respect to the complainant.
2. R. v. D.L.W., 2016 SCC 22
 Sixty years ago, Parliament added an offence called bestiality to the English version of the Criminal Code, S.C. 1953-54, c. 51, s. 147 (“1955 revisions”) but did not define its elements. Through successive ― and substantial ― amendments to the sexual offence provisions of the Code, Parliament has retained the offence of bestiality to the present day, but has never defined it. The crime is in fact a very old one which, at various times in its history, has also been referred to as a type of sodomy or buggery. But by whatever name it has been known in its long history, sexual penetration has always been one of its essential elements. Whether that is still the case under our present Code is the question that divided the British Columbia courts and now comes to us on appeal.
3. York University v Markicevic and Brown, 2016 ONSC 3718
 Over the period from 2007 to 2010, Mr. Markicevic held a senior and trusted position at York. He abused that trust for his own personal gain. He masterminded two fraudulent schemes, which he implemented through his subordinates. He used York employees to improve his personal residences, at York’s expense. He transferred those residences to Mima and Ms. Fleming to put those assets beyond York’s reach. He then accepted a severance payment of three years’ salary without disclosing any of his fraudulent activities.
The most-consulted French-language decision was Canada (Procureur général) c. Chambre des notaires du Québec, 2016 CSC 20
 Dans le présent pourvoi, le procureur général du Canada (« PGC ») et l’Agence du revenu du Canada (« ARC »), d’une part, et la Chambre des notaires du Québec (« Chambre ») et le Barreau du Québec (« Barreau »), d’autre part, s’affrontent au sujet de la procédure de demandes péremptoires prévue dans la Loi de l’impôt sur le revenu, L.R.C. 1985, c. 1 (5e suppl.) (« LIR »). Ces demandes péremptoires permettent aux autorités fiscales de requérir de toute personne des renseignements ou documents dans le cadre de l’application de la LIR.
* As of January 2014 we measure the total amount of time spent on the pages rather than simply the number of hits; as well, a case once mentioned won’t appear again for three months.
Several Slaw contributors have written recently about the use of artificial intelligence in law (Tim Knight here, Nate Russell here) with particular reference to the program on “Computers in Legal Research” at the conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries held in Vancouver this past May, moderated by Slaw’s Steve Matthews. I attended the program. I was disappointed though not surprised that none of the speakers was a librarian; and, while there was much discussion of the potential and possible consequences of artificial intelligence (AI) in legal practice, there was, aside from the moderator’s comments, no discussion of how AI might affect law libraries. So I’ve been asking myself: what are the possible consequences of AI for law librarians?
AI, Watson, ROSS and Legal Research
Every reader of Slaw will have heard of ROSS, being developed here in Toronto by a group of former University of Toronto students. Built on top of Watson, IBM’s cognitive computer, ROSS is a digital legal expert designed to power through legal research. ROSS claims its language processing capabilities allow it to respond “intelligently” to questions posed by lawyers. You ask your questions in plain English and ROSS then reads through the entire body of recorded law, gathering evidence and drawing inferences about the materials it has evaluated. It then returns a relevant answer with cited references and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly. Further, once the research is done, ROSS will keep you up to date on new court decisions that could impact open matters. Similar to Watson, ROSS learns from its interactions and reportedly provides better results after each use.
The law firm Baker & Hostetler has recently introduced ROSS as the “new associate” in its 50-lawyer insolvency practice. The press release from the firm insists only that “emerging technologies like cognitive computing and other forms of machine learning can help enhance the services we deliver to our clients.” There is no indication of what those enhanced services will be.
In view of ROSS, it is only natural that Thomson Reuters, the owner of Westlaw, is collaborating with IBM to integrate cognitive computing (ie, Watson) into its “customer solutions” and has established a data and innovation lab (Thomson Reuters Labs) in Waterloo, Ontario (Canada’s Silicon Valley) to “bring together our unrivalled information assets and industry expertise with experts who can help make those assets increasingly actionable for our customers.” It is certain that, in time, ROSS will not be the only AI-enhanced legal research service on the market and that AI will move into enterprise-level, in-house applications for knowledge management (KM) and practice management.
As a rule, technology has been used in industry not to enhance service but to realize economies. By implementing ROSS and sparing its lawyers the onus of research, a law firm should be able to handle more matters in the same amount of time, increasing the lawyers’ productivity and the firm’s profitability. Alternatively, with the competitive advantage provided by ROSS, a firm could lower its fees without reducing profits, a definite service to clients. Another possibility is that, with improved productivity, the firm would be able to maintain levels of profitably with fewer lawyers.
AI, Law Libraries and Law Librarians
AI in legal practice is not a “Future Shock” scenario. It is real, here and now. Richard Susskind has written several books on the implications for lawyers and identified several developing career alternatives – legal hybrids (lawyers taking on an added discipline as strategists, management consultants, psychologists, etc), legal project managers, legal risk managers and others. But what about law librarians? What are the chances of law librarians being made redundant by Watson or ROSS, and what are the qualities and skills that might allow librarians to work with AI rather than be replaced by it?
If ROSS or another AI-enhanced application can conduct legal research intelligently, eliminating the need for lawyers to do it themselves, how much legal research training will lawyers need? Most lawyers would be perfectly happy to let ROSS do legal research for them. If legal research is no longer a core competency for lawyers and provides them with no competitive advantage, should we be reconsidering now the need for dual-competency lawyer-librarians in our law school libraries whose primary responsibility is legal research instruction? At a panel held at Queen’s University law school in Kingston, Ontario, last year, on “How will artificial intelligence affect the legal profession in the next decade?”, Jordan Furlong (another Slaw regular) made the following observation:
“I’m inclined to think that a lousy lawyer with instantaneous access to all the legal information in the world is still a lousy lawyer. You still need to have the qualities we consider to be outstanding features of good lawyers, which include analysis, empathy, good judgement and all sorts of different things that Watson doesn’t pretend to have. But those are the qualities that are going to mark the lawyers who can work with Watson rather than the lawyers who will be shoved out of the way by Watson.”
Legal research skills may not be one of the qualities of lawyers who can “work with Watson”; while legal analysis, legal reasoning and client skills will be essential. Should the emphasis of LRW (Legal Research & Writing) programs in law schools be shifted to “Legal Reasoning & Writing” instead? And if there is a change if focus, will we still need librarians to teach in these programs?
Will law firms still need librarians for legal, business, competitive intelligence and current awareness research? If ROSS is good and keeps getting better, could it be that librarians’ research skills will no longer be enough to keep them as partners in or supports to legal practice? At that same panel discussion at Queen’s, Jordan Furling also made this comment:
“Data has been an issue for the law for quite some time. If you’ve worked in a law firm, you know how incredibly difficult it is to acquire, collaborate on and pull together knowledge in a meaningful and applicable sense. For a while yet the technology itself will probably be some distance ahead of the legal community’s willingness or ability to provide it with the information it needs, the fuel it needs to run.”
Artificial intelligence systems like Watson and ROSS, no matter how sophisticated their computing algorithms, will ultimately depend on good information to be successful. Information is what librarians “do”. As “information scientists” (to use a dated term), librarians are trained in the skills and also the arts of retrieving, analyzing, describing, organizing and structuring data. Added to these hard skills are the soft skills that have always been signatures of the library profession: teamwork, collaboration and a commitment to service. Librarians also realize the importance of context, ie, the need to understand the organizational cultures in which they work, adding to a better understanding of how information is used in their institutions. These skills foster a professional culture that attunes librarians to “acquire, collaborate on and pull together knowledge in a meaningful and applicable sense” (as Furlong described the process).
Law is a profession driven by information. As Steve Matthews commented in the program mentioned at the start of this column (as quoted by Tim Knight in a previous post), if librarians are to remain relevant in an environment where access to legal information is mediated by AI, they must re-engage with traditional library skills as collection builders, cataloguers, indexers and knowledge managers. But it will not be a cake-walk. These traditional library skills are not generally available or even promoted in academic law libraries, at least in Canada, where the “technical” aspects of law librarianship have generally been outsourced to central libraries and the focus is almost exclusively on legal research and reference. All librarians will need to improve their technological literacy, especially coding and text markup, better to understand and assist with the transformation of information into data. In both law schools and in law firms, librarians will also be in competition with lawyers seeking alternative careers in law as “legal knowledge engineers” (as Susskind calls them).
Is there a role for librarians in law post-AI? There can be if we begin now to prepare for that future by acquiring the skills that future will require, by focusing not on research but on information structure and systems, and by working with and not against the inevitable changes.
CaseFleet is case management software designed for litigators. In addition to deadline management, trust accounting, an integrated CRM, and other practice management features, CaseFleet comes with Timelines, a powerful tool that helps litigators organize their cases and prepare for trial.Details
In using case management software, litigators face some very specific and challenging problems. The sheer amount of material they accumulate during the course of case preparation can be overwhelming. However, litigators can get a handle on all of that data by using the Timelines feature in CaseFleet.
Of necessity, litigators always build timelines for their cases. However, those timelines are usually sketched out on a legal pad or stored in a word processor. This method does not work when cases are complex. Attorneys need to be able to create a chronology that incorporates multiple issues, people, and events. On many occasions, they need to be able to attach documents as well. This is impossible to do manually.
CaseFleet Timelines helps litigators build powerful fact chronologies. You begin by adding issues, which are broad categories that cover the key claims of a case. From there, you can link contacts, facts, and sources of evidence. As you accumulate more information, you can input it into Timelines in any order and it will provide an organizational scheme for your material.
Perhaps the most powerful feature of Timelines is the ability to filter. CaseFleet has built-in filters that allow you to zero in on key dates, issues, and people. By limiting the information you are viewing, Timelines helps you review a subset of your facts rather than constantly trying to juggle hundreds of pieces of evidence. With this, attorneys can begin to make key connections between seemingly unrelated facts.How to Get It
CaseFleet costs $39 per user per month. The price drops to $34 per user per month if you pay for a year in advance. CaseFleet also has a 30-day full-featured free trial that does not require a credit card.
CaseFleet Timelines: A Powerful Tool for Organizing Case Facts and Evidence was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
In both litigation and transactional work, formally and informally, lawyers spend a lot of time speaking in front of people. New lawyers may find themselves particularly uncomfortable in public speaking settings, but even seasoned lawyers likely have some bad speaking habits that have crept in over the years. Two new smartphone apps are trying to help people get over their nervousness and verbal tics and be better public speakers. [New York Times]
As you speak, the app listens and automatically logs the words, the number of pauses and the use of pesky filler words like … you know, like, right?
Ummo can show a transcript of what you have said on the screen. To improve, you can tell the app to beep when you use a filler word and edit the list of filler words to include ones you know you overuse.
Basically, Ummo will shame/nag you into dropping all of your uses of “umm” and “I think” and “you know” and the like. It will also tell you how often you reuse words, display your pace, and tell you if your volume varied too much during the speech. The upside of Ummo is that it is only $2. The downside of Ummo is that it is only available for iOS at this time.
If your issue isn’t that you have some verbal tics you’d like to eliminate but instead is that you are terrified of speaking in front of an audience, you might consider Public Speaking for Cardboard, which is available for both iOS and Android. Public Speaking is a more futuristic virtual reality type of speaking experience.
Public Speaking, which is a virtual reality app, delivers an immersive 3-D video that moves as you look around. The videos make you feel as if you are standing in different public speaking venues, like a podium in a small boardroom or a theater, sometimes with video of people listening to you. The idea is to get someone accustomed to what it feels like to be presenting to a crowd, and thus prepare for the same situation in real life.
In order to get that cool virtual reality feeling, however, you are going to need something besides just your smartphone. Enter Google’s ridiculously cheap VR device, Google Cardboard. It looks vaguely like one of those old ViewMasters and allows you to “see” the room you are speaking to when using the Public Speaking app.
You can choose from large audiences, small boardroom-sized audiences, and interview simulations, among others. The VR interface is in its infancy, so things look slightly cheesy, but if you need to practice in front of an audience and don’t have some real-life minions to gather to listen to you each time, it is as close as you will get right now. No matter what tools you choose to use, every attorney can benefit from spending time polishing their public speaking skills.
Your Smartphone Could Improve Your Public Speaking was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Every client expects you to deliver a win, and as a civil litigator it’s your duty to build the strongest case possible to ensure that this happens. Hours of your day are spent managing clients, court dates, and procedures, all while reacting to your opposing counsels’ various maneuvers. Juggling all these moving pieces requires a technological solution that seamlessly runs your firm and allows you to focus on winning cases.
Like many civil litigators, Michal Falkowski was frustrated by the time-consuming and tedious methods of running his firm while using a manual case management system. After struggling for months with impractical and inefficient processes, everything changed when he discovered Clio.
By centralizing all the elements of his workflow into one application and customizing them for his clients, caseload, practice, and state and federal courts, Clio helped Michal seamlessly strategize, execute, and deliver success in civil litigation.
Download our latest guide for Civil Litigation attorneys to discover the customizations that will streamline your practice and allow you to deliver the best possible client experience and outcomes.
Free Guide: Strategizing Civil Litigation with Clio (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
A look at the Elastic stack, a versatile collection of open source software tools that make gathering insights from data easier. Learn the capabilities, requirements, and interesting use cases that apply to each.
On this week’s podcast, Sam talks with Joshua Lenon, lawyer in residence at Clio, about how to assess legal technology through four lenses: price, user base, the interactivity of the company with the legal field, and responsiveness. Sam also talks about how to properly contextualize news about software security problems when that news is often poorly reported.Beware of Sensationalized Reporting about Software Security Issues
Sam recently ran across an intriguing news story where computer security researchers figured out that you could decrypt files by listening to a computer because the electronic pulses your machine makes can give away the encryption scheme. However, to make this exploit work, a parabolic microphone or a cell phone needs to sit (quite suspiciously) near your computer for a long time. It’s a cool experiment, but not a real security risk.
Similarly, Sam talked about a recent story about KeePass, a popular password manager. News reports stated that KeePass was insecure, but the actual exploit was not nearly as big a deal as the reports made it out to be. In theory, KeePass can be compromised when you update the program because a third party could fool you into thinking you’re downloading the proper update when you are really downloading malicious software. However, a careful reading of the story showed that simply paying attention to the Windows dialog box that asks if you want to install KeePass will allow you to be sure that the update is legitimate.How to Spot Fly-by-Night Legal Tech, with Joshua Lenon
Joshua Lenon is an attorney admitted to the New York Bar. He holds a J.D. and a Certificate in International and Comparative Law from St. Louis University. He also studied European Union Law at the University of Georgia School of Law’s Brussels Legal Seminar. Currently, Joshua serves as the lawyer in residence for Clio, a cloud-based practice management platform. As the lawyer in residence, Joshua provides internal guidance, thought leadership, legal scholarship, and assistance with product development and compliance issues.
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Podcast #72: How to Spot Fly-by-Night Legal Tech, with Joshua Lenon was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Law firms have found, by hard experience, that creating and then – more important – maintaining a precedent library is a challenging task. Some firms have foundered in the seemingly straightforward process of simply creating firm precedents. Others that have succeeded in that task have found that ongoing maintenance is, if anything, even more challenging.
One firm that seems to have got it right is Gowling WLG. The person primarily responsible for this task is Graeme Coffin, the National Business Law Precedents Partner, Mark Tamminga, who is Partner, Leader of Innovation Initiatives, is working with Graeme on further automating the Gowling WLG precedent asset.
I hoped that they might be willing to share some of their secrets with the Slaw readers, so I contacted them by email and asked if they’d be willing to outline some of what they’ve done and they graciously agreed to do so. For the benefit of those who might be interested in more details rather than less, I have not edited down any of their responses. (The text is primarily courtesy of Graeme, who speaks in the first person, with some additions from Mark.)
Gentlemen, can you describe the current state of your firm precedents and perhaps outline what your status was ten years ago?
Today we have a mature system of over 1,700 annotated model precedents, which cover the field from annual resolutions to syndicated loan agreements. There are still some substantive gaps to fill, but the system is now transitioning from being under construction to being maintained, what I call the “care and feeding” phase, which for a system this big is a substantial effort. The big effort going forward will be in finding new ways, technologically, to deliver the content and ease its use, through automated processes, and linkages to other systems, such as our legal project management software. A key component of that effort will be to “productize” bundles of precedents, by linking them to document assembly, data bases, and workflow tools.
Ten years ago? Ten years ago, though efforts had been made, we had literally nothing, no precedents, and no knowledge management generally (at least no firm-wide knowledge management). I was hired at the end of 2006 to do something about that. Gowling WLG has been extraordinary in giving me the resources I needed to give them the current system.
It seems to me that a good precedent process is the result of figuring out the proper interrelationship between four key aspects, namely content, people, process, and technology. Would you agree? Are there other key aspects?
I suppose those aspects are central.
But there’s something else – marketing and education. When we started this, internal PR was crucial, and you always have to be reminding people that the precedent system exists, that it’s always growing and changing, and how to use it. We hold quarterly training seminars on line for anybody who wants to get a refresher, and announce major changes and new documents.
Technology is now becoming prominent, but really wasn’t, over the decade in which we created the system. The documents respond to macros on a custom toolbar that strip out annotations and the like, but my slogan starting out was “so simple even a lawyer can use it”, and we always have to keep in mind that anything even remotely complicated to use will put most professionals off. It’s all I can do to get them to type a word like “indemnity” into a search engine, and look at a set of folders to find the one labelled “shareholders agreements”. No joke.
So we look for certain qualities in the software and systems we acquire – they should be attractive to the eye, and fun and simple to use. We can’t turn drafting into a video game, I guess, but we can make it, from the mechanical standpoint, almost as easy as buying a few books on Amazon, or at least that’s the goal.
Our KM system, “Gordon”, (where the precedent system resides) is accessed via pretty-looking tiles of several pleasing colours. The KM database you access has the colour of the tile, so you always get a visual cue as to which system you’re in – like Monopoly, you know that Park Place is deep blue and Kentucky Avenue is red. I once suggested that instead of an hourglass or rotating object to indicate the system was chewing on a task, we should have it throw Pong up on the screen. Pong is like watching a Zamboni; people like looking at it. This was rejected, of course, but quirky fellow that I am, I maintain that if it had been done that way, lawyers wouldn’t be impatient – they’d be sorry that the search engine was getting back to them too fast.
For me, though, this effort was mainly about building an expert team that could approach the drafting process with rigour and commitment to certain standards. The lawyers who work for me are not of the “square peg” sort who couldn’t really adapt to mainstream practice. They were all hand-picked, plucked from existing practices, and induced to change roles and come work for the team; and each was picked on the basis of being superior to his or her colleagues in the areas that matter most to precedents – drafting skill, rigour, work ethic, and legal reasoning, plus that special temperament that loves meticulous work and getting things elegantly right. They’re a special crew.
Process of course is central to this, see below.
I never found content much of a challenge. Even though we have a lot of documents, they almost all cover “meat and potatoes” aspects of business law, and the only somewhat esoteric items on the system are there because, while rarely used, they are things unusually likely to involve risk. We have an escrow agreement for use when we, the firm, act as escrow agents for any reason, something we heartily discourage, but just in case. We have special indemnities for use by our own lawyers when they serve on boards.
Could you describe what happens when you develop a new precedent?
The key questions before embarking on any project are who wants it, do we do much of that sort of thing, and will they use it if we give it to them? There is no sense drafting stuff nobody asked for, or isn’t really likely to be used much. That said, in general, if any group says they need a precedent, we’ll draft it for them.
If at all possible, we keep the drafting entirely within the group. The precedent team’s lawyers have a broad set of specialties, and generally we have all the expertise required to avoid resorting to busy practitioners at all, and if we do need outside help, it will usually be for discreet issues concerning things like tax.
The team member with the most relevant expertise gets to hold the pencil, and be the “primary” on the document. We gather all sorts of examples of the document at hand, many from our closing book collection (which per force contains documents drafted by other firms), and also from the DM system, and then do a compare and contrast, arriving at a consensus composite. I know that KMStandards has developed software to do the same thing, and we’ve looked at it (and will keep looking at it), but for now, we continue to do it manually – my people are extraordinarily good at it, and it never takes too long (though it would be nice to have a box with flashing lights do it for us, no doubt).
We have a particular team member whose responsibility is to act as “scrubber” – she cleans up the language, grammar, checks for mistakes, proofs, edits, makes sure the boilerplate conforms to our models, and generally cleans it up in both substance and formatting to conform with our models. She stays on board throughout, even if she’s not otherwise a drafter, keeping the document on the straight and narrow, and will check it one last time before we post it.
The “consensus draft” is just the starting point. It will still be nowhere near our standards, and we will end up redrafting pretty much all of it to some extent, augmenting it along the way, and adding detailed annotations. The annotations cover matters both practical and substantive, and I’ve always said you could get a pretty good legal education if you ever had the time to sit down with our collection and read their notes.
This phase is time-consuming, but the special value of our system is that the documents are not simply a composite of other people’s drafting. I guess that means there’s another quality I need in my team members – they have to be good writers. Most lawyers think they are, but, well, mine have to be able to write like they work for The Economist. I tell them, don’t bury the lead. Keep it snappy. Tell the folk why they care.
We have an evolved set of protocols that cover every phase of the drafting, posting, and up-keep of the documents. We literally have a rulebook in a binder. As an example, to maintain version control, every document in the drafting phase is stamped “PENDING” and marked with the initials of the primary drafter, while being saved under a specific document type. While we collaborate on the drafting, only the primary drafter can feed markups to our administrator, and only our administrator can make electronic amendments. The only lawyer on the team even permitted by our DM system to make amendments to documents is me, and I’m not allowed to. Every change is noted in a revision log, along with the reason behind it.
There are drafting rules too. We have a style guide that prescribes how we draft all sorts of standard contractual components. For example, plain language in all cases is mandatory. I have a list of “plague words and phrases” in our procedures binder, and not only do our drafters avoid them, but before posting a document our administrators do word searches to root out any that might somehow have slipped through. At training sessions we issue an open challenge to the users to find any instance of “whereof”, “hereinafter” and so on in any document.
When we think we’re happy and ready to post, there are a number of technology-based steps we take. On the mundane level, we check all spelling and formatting (and look one last time for any plague words to root out). Its document type in the DM is changed to the special category that applies to our models, certain things are added – every document gets a unique embedded tracking number, for example – and the various macros are run against the document to make sure all is in working order.
It then has to be inserted into our models database in the KM system, and we do this through a custom interface that allows us to place it in as many places on the folder tree as seem advisable, while applying tags, or “facets” to it that can be used to find documents. The existence of the new document is recorded in two master indices, one in Word and one in Excel, and a revision log, now blank, is begun.
When we amend the document the process is different based on the reason for the amendment. If it’s otherwise fine and we’re merely improving it in some way, the document remains accessible, but if the law has changed and the present draft is no longer correct, we lock it down and put a message to that effect in the document’s name on the interface.
All documents under revision are copies of the posted document, get their own distinct document type while work is done on them, are Labelled “REVISIONS TO: [system document number], again with the responsible lawyer’s initials on the cover page, and then all proceeds as with a new document, except there is a tricky process when we save the revised draft over the original, which tricks the system into believing that no new document exists. This is necessary to preserve the viability of internal hyperlinks between the documents.
In future, we will take a further step with some documents, and code them into document assembly software through which users will access and modify them. We have a number of promising proofs of concept about to go to market and we are committed to a putting great deal more effort into this obvious next stage in automation.
Here are excerpts from the most recent tips on SlawTips, the site that each week offers up useful advice, short and to the point, on research and writing, practice, and technology.
Research & Writing
This was my grade-10 English teacher’s expression for useless verbiage. Other ways to say it: throat-clearing, filler, circumlocution, BS. …
Is That an Assistant in Your Pocket?
I started this article a while back after reviewing a NY Times article entitled: “Siri, Alexa and Other Virtual Assistants Put to the Test” (http://ow.ly/XABKz) as it highlighted the issue I have with technologies employing the words “virtual assistant” to describe their product or gadget. …
In Ontario most court documents are filed in paper, with e-filing appearing mostly to be a distant dream. Similarly, court documents, other than originating documents, tend to be served by fax and not by email. Everyone loves that fax confirmation page despite the fact that emails can come with a read receipt.
So should we be allowed to communicate with the court through email? Should the court be encouraged to communicate with litigants via email?
Email is a blessing and a curse. It is easy to use. It is fast. It is convenient. But on the other hand, important emails get buried beneath the daily flood of messages, with each email appearing as important as the next.
But with the rise of self-represented litigants, the courts must be more accessible. In a recent court decision, Ontario Superior Court Judge Justice Fred Myers ordered that the registrar serve a copy of the endorsement and a Form 2.1A notice on all parties, including the self-represented plaintiff and defence counsel, by mail and by email. This was done to ensure that the plaintiffs and the defendants received notice of the fact that the court was considering dismissing the motion and possibly the full action for being frivolous, vexatious, or otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.
Ordering service by email was the right thing to do. Courts must reflect the times we live in. And today email is a common form of communication. People now check their emails far more often than their mailboxes. And when it comes to a potential dismissal of an action, it is crucial that notice is actually received. Especially for self-representated plaintiffs, who have a harder time navigating the complex legal system.
However, the chance of something important getting “lost” in an inbox can be high. That is why our courts should aim to eventually develop a system more sophisticated, like the Next Generation Court System in Israel. But for now email should suffice.
You can help the victims, survivors, and others affected by the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando by donating to the organizations helping them directly.
Equality Florida, which provides education about LGBTQ issues and advocates for equal rights for Florida’s LGBTQ community, set up a GoFundMe campaign to support the victims and families. (Be wary of other GoFundMe campaigns and avoid the usual raft of Twitter and Facebook scams.)
Blood banks in the area are full, but if you are in or near Orlando you should return in a few days. And since sexually active gay men can’t donate, others need to.
Remember that one-time donations are helpful, but only temporarily. Consider making an ongoing contribution if you can. Equality Florida, for example, offers a “Sustaining gift” option to commit to monthly or quarterly payments indefinitely or for up to one year. Ongoing contributions allow an organization to make budget decisions and do more good going forward, not just temporarily.
Thank you for helping.
How to Help the Pulse Nightclub Victims and Survivors was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
This article is by Ian Hu, claims prevention and praticePRO Counsel at LAWPRO.
We have received inquiries regarding whether a defendant’s counterclaim, crossclaim, or third party claim is also dismissed when the main action is administratively dismissed under Rule 48.14. The answer depends on the kind of claim. The defendant’s counterclaim and crossclaim will be automatically dismissed unless certain steps are taken within prescribed timelines. In the case of a crossclaim against the defendant, the dismissal order will need to be served on the crossclaimant. See the analysis below.
As we know, Rule 48.14(1) sets out the circumstances under which an action may be dismissed for delay. Actions that are not set down for trial within 5 years of commencement will be administratively dismissed without notice. Actions commenced prior to January 1, 2012 have until January 1, 2017 to set the matter down.
Counterclaims, crossclaims, and third party claims are dealt with under Rule 48.14(9), which states: “Rules 24.03 to 24.05 (effect of dismissal for delay) apply to an action dismissed under subrule (1).” This requires us to cross-reference Rules 24.03 to 24.05.
Let’s start with counterclaims, which is dealt with under Rule 24.03:
24.03 Where an action against a defendant who has counterclaimed is dismissed for delay, the defendant may within thirty days after the dismissal deliver a notice of election to proceed with the counterclaim (Form 23B), and if the defendant fails to do so, the counterclaim shall be deemed to be discontinued without costs. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194, r. 24.03.
This means when an action is dismissed under Rule 48.14, the defendant’s counterclaim will be dismissed without costs within 30 days absent a notice of election to proceed.
Crossclaims and third party claims are dealt with under Rule 24.04(1):
24.04 (1) Unless the court orders otherwise, where an action against a defendant who has crossclaimed or made a third party claim is dismissed for delay, the crossclaim or third party claim shall be deemed to be dismissed. O. Reg. 394/09, s. 10 (1).
(1.1) Where an action against a defendant against whom a crossclaim has been made is dismissed for delay, the crossclaim shall be deemed to be dismissed thirty days after a copy of the order dismissing the action is served on the crossclaiming defendant under rule 24.02.1, unless the court orders otherwise during the thirty-day period. O. Reg. 394/09, s. 10 (1).
This means when an action is dismissed under Rule 48.14, the defendant’s crossclaim and/or third party claim is dismissed at the same time. If the defendant is also defending a crossclaim, that crossclaim will be dismissed 30 days after the order dismissing the action is served on the classclaimant.
LAWPRO’s Rule 48.14 Transition Toolkit can help you navigate the new Rule 48.14 and avoid an administrative dismissal. The toolkit provides an analysis of Rule 48.14 and the relevant deadlines and timelines. We looked at why files stall and what you can do to prevent dismissals. A firm transition checklist can help you put in place firm-wide policies to ensure files do not slip through the cracks, and an individual file checklist can be used to ensure each individual file is properly tickled. A file progress plan can help you keep on top of all the steps in a litigation file, and is pre-filled with the basic steps
“But a breakthrough won’t be hard. We only need to look at things from a slightly different angle—which might happen in a hundred years or this afternoon.”—David Gelernter
One thing that came up during the “Computers and Legal Research” session that I reported on in my last post was the issue of copyright, specifically: Does AI create new, secondary IP rights? Or, will a machine be able to claim copyright? Very interesting questions. I’m not sure if this is what Nate Russell meant when he wrote at the end of his excellent post from last week, that plans to explore issues in copyright, but certainly a question worth exploring.
I was reminded of that short and inconclusive exchange when I saw this post from a couple of weeks ago by Peter Dockrill, “Artificial intelligence should be protected by human rights, says Oxford mathematician.”
Normally, and also something touched on during the afore mentioned CALL session, AI brings with it a healthy dose of FUD (that’s fear, uncertainty, doubt not Elmer) leaving us to wonder if we should be thinking about protecting ourselves from potentially harmful or dangerous AI or robotic activities. However, as Dockrill reported in Science Alert, the University of Oxford mathematician Marcus du Sautoy flips this thinking around suggesting that, “once the sophistication of computer thinking reaches a level basically akin to human consciousness, it’s our duty to look after the welfare of machines, much as we do that of people.”
du Sautoy, who has been Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford since 2008, notes elsewhere that consciousness is now measurable:
“The fascinating thing is that consciousness for a decade has been something that nobody has gone anywhere near because we didn’t know how to measure it.
“But we’re in a golden age. It’s a bit like Galieo with a telescope. We now have a telescope into the brain and it’s given us an opportunity to see things that we’ve never been able to see before.
“And if we understand these things are having a level of consciousness … we might well have to introduce rights. It’s an exciting time.”
Can a machine experience the world like a human?
“The spectrum’s top edge is what we might call thinking-about—pondering the morning news, or the daffodils outside or the future of American colleges. At the opposite end, you reach a state of pure being or feeling—sensation or emotion—that is about nothing. Chill or warmth, seeing violet or smelling cut grass, uneasiness or thirst, happiness or euphoria—each must have a cause, but they are not about anything. The pleasant coolness of your forearm is not about the spring breeze.” [original emphasis]
Since computers are all about, well computing, will they be able to take the data elements representing that summer breeze and then calculate a human “feeling?”
Dockrill’s post concludes with this statement from du Sautoy:
“Philosophers will say that [machine consciousness] doesn’t guarantee that that thing is really feeling anything and really has a sense of self. It might be just saying all the things that make us think it’s alive. But then even in humans we can’t know that what a person is saying is real.”
What do you think? Will machines be able to feel and then draw on their emotional experiences? If they do achieve this human like quality will machines need this kind of “human rights” protection? Maybe I should have called this post, “Questions, Nothing More than Questions.”