Flaw in PHP XML Processing Hits Drupal, WordPress. Time To Patch ‘em Up.

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 17:16

For the first time, the open-source Drupal and WordPress content management teams have coordinated joint security releases to fix a new vulnerability.

The flaw, first reported by security researcher Nir Goldshlager, is a potential denial-of-service (DoS) issue with PHP’s XML processing module. Drupal and WordPress use the same PHP module, which is why both content management systems are at risk from the same flaw. Drupal is particularly prominent because it is used on U.S. government sites, including WhiteHouse.gov, and WordPress is deployed on more than 60 million sites.

“This bug can be utilized without the aid of any plug-ins, and it functions smoothly on the default installation of WordPress and Drupal,” Goldshlager explained in an advisory (which is running on a WordPress site itself). “Only one machine needed to exploit this vulnerability.”

In an advisory on the drupal.org site, the vulnerability is rated as moderately critical. The Drupal advisory explains that the bug that Goldshlager found is within the PHP XML parser and could trigger CPU and memory exhaustion, in turn causing a DoS condition on the affected site.

via New Flaw Puts Millions of WordPress, Drupal Sites at Risk.

Patches are provided by Drupal 7.31, 6.33 and WordPress 3.9.2.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 08/08/2014

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

ABA Journal Access to Justice Hackathon: Hackcess to Justice 2014: Results, storify, links, and resources

Legal Informatics Blog - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 03:23

ABA Journal’s Access to Justice Hackathon — called Hackcess to Justice 2014 — was held 7-8 August 2014 at Suffolk University Law School, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Click here for the event schedule.

Twitter hashtags used for the event included #HackcesstoJustice and #hackjustice

Click here for a storify of photos and Twitter tweets from the event.

Here are the projects worked on or presented at the event, from the Submissions page:

Video of LSC president James Sandman’s opening presentation is at: https://suensemble.suffolk.edu/Watch/Hd39PyAj

Here is a description of the event, from the event’s Website:

Technology has taken a firm hold in the legal industry. Every day legal professionals use technology-enabled tools for discovery, litigation support, document assembly and information needs. But the promise of technology has been fleeting when it comes to the access to justice arena. Last year the Legal Services Corporation produced a seminal report outlining five key ways that technology can expand access to justice, especially through computers and mobile devices. [...]

We are challenging lawyers, law students developers, coders and others interested in improving access to justice through technology to devise a technology-enabled solution to one of the five areas outlined in the LSC report at two-day, judged hackathon.

Prize money will be awarded to the top three hacks. [...]

The judges for the event were:

A new post at ABA Journal describes the event and lists the winning projects: Victor Li: Winning apps in ‘Hackcess to Justice’ help write wills, navigate disasters and calculate jail time.

For more details, please see the event Website.

For more resources related to this event, please see the comments to this post.

HT @Molly_McDonough


Filed under: Applications, Conference resources, Hackathons, Hacking, Storify, Technology developments, Technology tools, Videos Tagged: #HackcesstoJustice, #hackjustice, #LegalHack, ABA Journal, ABA Journal Access to Justice Hackathon, ABA Journal Legal Hackathon, Access to justice and legal information systems, Bob Ambrogi, Divorce law information systems, Family law information systems, Glenn Rawdon, Hackcess to Justice, Hackcess to Justice 2014, Health law information systems, K. Krasnow Waterman, Legal document assembly systems, Legal hackathons, Suffolk University Law School, Technology for access to justice, Technology for self represented litigants
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Competitive Intelligence - A Selective Resource Guide - Completely Updated - August 2014

LLRX - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 17:40
Sabrina I. Pacifici's comprehensive current awareness guide focuses on leveraging a selected but wide range of reliable, topical, predominantly free websites and resources. The goal is to support an effective research process to search, discover, access, monitor, analyze and review current and historical data, news, reports, statistics and profiles on companies, markets, countries, people and issues, from a national and a global perspective. Sabrina’s guide is a “best of the Web” resource that encompasses search engines, portals, government sponsored open source databases, alerts, data archives, publisher specific services and applications. All of her recommendations are accompanied by links to trusted content targeted sources that are produced by top media and publishing companies, business, government, academe, IGOs and NGOs.
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 08/07/2014

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

MSFT Encourages Use of Latest Versions of IE, Urges Upgrades of Commercial Installations

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 07:36

Microsoft recommends enabling automatic updates to ensure an up-to-date computing experience—including the latest version of Internet Explorer—and most consumers use automatic updates today. Commercial customers are encouraged to test and accept updates quickly, especially security updates. Regular updates provide significant benefits, such as decreased security risk and increased reliability, and Windows Update can automatically install updates for Internet Explorer and Windows.

After January 12, 2016, only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. For example, customers using Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, or Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 SP1 should migrate to Internet Explorer 11 to continue receiving security updates and technical support. For more details regarding support timelines on Windows and Windows Embedded, see the Microsoft Support Lifecycle site.

As some commercial customers have standardized on earlier versions of Internet Explorer, Microsoft is introducing new features and resources to help customers upgrade and stay current on the latest browser. Customers should plan for upgrading to modern standards—to benefit from the additional performance, security, and productivity of modern Web apps—but in the short term, backward compatibility with legacy Web apps may be a cost-effective, if temporary, path. Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11, released in April 2014, offers enhanced backward compatibility and enables you to run many legacy Web apps during your transition to modern Web standards.

 

via Stay up-to-date with Internet Explorer – IEBlog – Site Home – MSDN Blogs.

Even though January 2016 may seem like the distant future, it’ll be here before you know it. If your still using apps that rely on IE 8 or 9 you’d better get those upgraded or risk running into issues later.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Be a Bike-Commuting Lawyer

The Lawyerist - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 06:12

Do you want to reduce stress, lose weight, and save money? I can tell you how to do so with one simple change of habit.

Ready?

Ride your bike to work!

I know, I know — I can hear the excuses already. But bear with me, six years ago, I was a forty year old lawyer with a bike gathering dust in my garage. Now, I am a year-round bike commuter riding 180-200 days per year. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

The Benefits of Biking

There are tremendous benefits to regularly commuting by bike. Here are just a few that I have discovered.

  • Regular exercise: A brief flat ride is a great way to ensure that exercise is always part of your day.
  • Cost savings: Driving a car is expensive, and parking in many urban downtown areas is over $300 a month. You can buy a lot of bike gear with that money!
  • Time savings: If your commute is less than five miles, it may actually be faster to bike than drive. My three-and-a-half mile commute through Seattle’s often-traffic-clogged downtown is definitely faster than driving. If you have a longer commute, you should still consider biking instead of slogging away on some soulless machine at the gym.
  • Predictability: Absent massive mechanical failure, riding to and from the office is more predictable than driving or taking the bus. Unexplained gridlock is completely avoided, and you can route around just about anything that comes up.
  • Stress reduction: There is nothing like an end-of-day bike ride to get the endorphins flowing. Depending on how your day went, you can opt for a blissed-out spin or a pedal-hammering rage sprint.
Getting Started

Circumstances matter: Life gets in the way, and a door-to-door bike commute is not going to work for everyone.  But do not let that stop you from riding as much as you can. For longer commutes, going multi-modal may be an option. When I lived in Berkeley, I rode my bike to the Rockridge BART station almost every morning. BART rented bike lockers for about $40 a year. Although it was a short ride, it made getting to the station predictable, and the ride home was one of my favorite parts of the day.

Start with commitment: When I first started commuting by bike in Seattle, I committed myself to two weeks of daily riding. I was really nervous, and not in top cycling shape. My commute featured over 300 feet of elevation gain on the ride home, with urban traffic to contend with.

That first day hurt. I can still remember how unprepared I felt for it. But I completed my ride without having to push my bike up the hill. The second day was hard, but more manageable. I knew what to expect and I picked out less-steep blocks to ride up. And after only a week, the ride was — if not a piece of cake — a more-than-acceptable way to get in twenty-two minutes of exercise right after work.

Committing myself to two weeks of continuous riding at the outset turned out to be a great decision. In that time, I had gone from churning breathlessly up the hill to looking forward to my heart-pumping evening ride. That made it easy to keep going beyond the two-week period and keep the habit.

What to wear: Depending on your bike, commute, and comfort level, you can wear anything from street clothes to full lycra. I am in favor of keeping it as simple and comfortable as possible. If you like wearing a lycra racing kit, go for it. Personally, I would rather wear urban cycling knickers (lots of pockets for cell phone, wallet, keys, etc.) and a t-shirt. Assuming your commute is short and easy enough, street clothes are an even better choice.

For many attorney bike commuters, an issue to contend with is dressing formally at the office. Those with long and sweaty commutes will need to include a gym stop or be lucky enough to work somewhere with office showers. It takes a few trial runs to figure out how best to work this part of your cycling routine, but many find balance by keeping part of their wardrobe at work. San Francisco attorney Jay Parkhill, who commuted for over 10 years in the city, told me he always kept a couple of suits and pairs of shoes at the office.

Add gear as you ride more: It is easiest to start your commute in the summer. You do not need much more than a bike and a bag. If you want to mitigate risk, a multi-tool and small crescent wrench can handle any minor mechanical issues on the ride. You can also bring a spare tube, small pump, tire levers, and water.  If the bike commuting habit sticks, adding bad-weather gear is an option.

Rain gear and shoes: Once you are hooked on bike commuting, you will not want to miss a day of riding just because it is raining. With the appropriate gear a ride in the rain can be great fun. If your ride is short, you can get by with cheap non-breathable clothing. Longer rides call for gore-tex or other breathable fabric. Do not be afraid of neon yellow, or other colors that enhance your visibility in dark and rainy conditions.

As for shoes, go with what you are comfortable with. If you already use clip-in bike shoes, fine. But if you are new to commuting, any old shoes will work. In fact, it is better to go with street shoes so you can seamlessly go from pedaling to walking.

Bag: When it comes to packing clothes into the office, nothing beats a good pannier or two. The Ortlieb backroller — a dead-simple, completely waterproof bag — seems to be the standard here in the Northwest. A backpack can work as well, and is a good way to get started. However, backpacks can make you suffer on hot days. Leave messenger bags with the messengers, as they are kludgy and awkward to ride with.

Simplify:  You could carry lots of gear against the possibility of a breakdown, but I have simplified over the years to the point where I only carry a multi-tool and small wrench. If I get a flat I can grab a bus, cab, or Uber (something I have had to do exactly once in 2000+ commute rides). But an even bigger simplification you can make is to your bike’s gearing.

After my first winter of riding, I found that the road grit being thrown up into my chain was causing havoc with my derailleur. I was constantly having to tweak, clean and adjust it. Although the daunting hill I ride up each day put me off it initially, I finally broke down and bought a single-speed bike. It took a week or so of pain, but after that transition period was over, I never looked back. It turns out that going single speed doesn’t just offer much lower maintenance — it is also a lot more fun to ride (not to mention being a better workout). Going single speed is a no-brainer if you pick the right gear ratio and live anywhere that is reasonably flat.

Do not ride tentatively: I hate seeing tentative riders out on the streets. Riders that are on the shoulder are in far more danger of getting “doored” — squashed by a car turning right or veering into traffic to avoid an animal or pedestrian. It is much safer to ride assertively, visibly, and predictably. This means staying a safe distance from the shoulder and not letting cars push you out of the way when it is unsafe to pass. And above all else, be willing to take over the lane whenever your safety requires it. It takes time to get used to riding your bike as a car, but as long as you do not get into “asshole cyclist” territory, it is the safest way to ride in the city.

Do not always follow the traffic laws: This is a tough one for lawyers, but remember that your personal safety comes before compliance with traffic laws. Those laws are designed for motor vehicles. Think critically about traffic laws rather than slavishly complying with them. An example of breaking the law in favor of your safety is using the Idaho stop.

Get out there on whatever bike you have got hanging around and start riding to work. And if you do not have a bike, I have plenty of suggestions — as long as you are willing to ride a single-speed.

Featured image: businessman cycling with a small bike

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Friday Fillip: Rain

slaw - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 06:00

“For the rain it raineth every day”

I like rain.

I’ve figured out that it allows me to escape the parental injunction to go outside and play when all I really want to do is curl up in a chair with my nose in a book. Funny how these things stick around from childhood. But they do, and for me a rainy day drops the curtain on the infinite horizon and snugs things up cosily, whether I’m out in the wet complaining about it or inside and dry.

We get plenty of rain here in Canada — though it’s not evenly distributed. And it’s difficult to tell exactly how much rainfall we get because the weather stats sites I could find lump all precipitation together. Whatever else you may say about snow, you have to admit that it ain’t rain. But as you might imagine the west and east coasts get most of the wet, with Vancouver and Halifax scoring highest among the major cities, and the far north — Whitehorse and Yellowknife — getting the least precipitation. But for the truly soggy Canadian experience you’d want to go to Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii which suffers an astonishing 6325 mm — that’s 20.8 feet — three and a half fathoms! — of preciptation a year, 99% of which falls as rain.

Whether it’s a downpour or a mizzle we’re talking about, most folks want to avoid getting wet. There are two principal ways of doing that: one is to anticipate the rain and take precautions; and the other is to fend it off.

When it comes to prediction, it’s the PoP data that counts. The “probability of precipitation” is given in percentages (in tens), but apparently has people confused as to what it means exactly (all part of our human difficulty with mathematical probabilities). According to the U.S. National Weather Service:

PoP = C x A where “C” = the confidence that precipitation will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and where “A” = the percent of the area that will receive measureable precipitation, if it occurs at all. [emphasis in the original]

So because there are two factors, a particular PoP can mean either of two different things. For example, if the forecasters say there’s a 40% PoP, it might mean either that they are 100% confident that it will rain in 40% of the target area, or that they are 50% confident (based on similar patterns in the past) that if it does rain it will do so in 80% of the target area. This seems to me to make it pretty much useless as a predictive device — are you in the affected area? how would you know? — so, against the advice of weather people everywhere, I take PoP to be simply a measure of the likelihood of rain — betting odds, if you will, that it will rain. In my simplistic version, then, 40% PoP means the odds are 2 to 5 that it will rain.

More reliable, perhaps, are tools to protect oneself from the rain. I offer you two, here, both picked by the stellar Wirecutter as the best in their category.* The best inexpensive rain jacket is the Marmot PreCip, a superb waterproof and breathable shell. And the best umbrella is the EuroSCHIRM Light Trek, an optimal combination of price, sturdiness, size when expanded, and smallness when collapsed.

If, however, you should find yourself in a cloudburst SCHIRM-less and sans PreCip, what’s the recommended action? Will you get less wet if you walk or if you run to shelter? The answer — proven by science (of sorts) — turns out to be walking:

That shelter I ran strolled to? Here in Toronto it might well be one of the “top 10 patios for a rainy day.” Few things are better than sipping a beverage while contemplating the rain from under a roof. I did try to find the equivalent information about other cities in Canada, but wasn’t able to come up with anything useful. So if you happen to have such useful information about your town, don’t hesitate to share it via the comments.

“…the small raine down can raine…”

________________________________

* Let it never be said that your Friday Fillip is not au courant (though you may say it uses double negatives freely): even as I write this (a week before publication) The Wirecutter has published an entry confirming their choices of jacket and umbrella because they’ve just been tested in a monsoon and found effective.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Marketing Begins at Home: Improving Internal Communications in Law Firms

slaw - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 06:00

If a client asked you what else your firm is good at besides the services you provide, would you know what to say? If they had a legal problem outside of your expertise, would you know who in your firm could help them? If your answer is “Of course!”—put it to the test.

At a recent law firm retreat that I facilitated, we did an exercise where the lawyers had to tell the rest of the group something about themselves (professional, not personal). The most common reaction was, “I didn’t know that!” The conversation in the break afterwards was electric: “Why didn’t you tell me you could…”, “If I had known that you had…”, “Did you know that I have a client who…”, etc.

I’ve met many examples where even long-time law firm management does not know the extent of the firm’s capabilities. I once sat in on a proposal meeting at a very well-known firm where the prospective client was looking for several different legal services, including advice on confidentiality of business information. The lead lawyer frowned and said, “We haven’t got anyone who can do that, have we?” Sitting just two seats down from him was a young partner who had just published a definitive textbook on the subject.

That’s just a big-firm problem, you say? Not so. When I was interviewing the managing partner in a six-lawyer firm (three partners, three associates), he expressed surprise when I complimented him on the range of expertise in his small group of lawyers. He had no idea that one of the associates spoke Italian fluently (a great benefit in their location) and that the business law partner was rapidly establishing a niche in a certain kind of deal.

Few workplaces are set up as poorly for good communication as is the average law firm, where lawyers are closeted in their own offices and have the chance to talk only to people they are working with directly or who are situated en route to the kitchen or the washroom. Punishing workloads, the need for confidentiality, and internal competition for clients all combine into the perfect recipe for silence, if not secrecy. None of those things help facilitate the flow of good communication, which is an essential ingredient of marketing.

I’ve found that if a law firm has a marketing problem, chances are it can be at least lessened, if not solved, by better internal communications. Take the case of a newly merged firm, for example. If the merger is to be profitable, everyone in the firm must quickly come up to speed on the new firm’s capabilities. The same is true when a new lawyer or group of lawyers join the firm, or when the firm is recruiting. Times of transition and organizational change need the most careful communications, but the need to communicate is always present. Tell people nothing and they will attempt to fill the vacuum.

So how do you improve internal communications? First, by recognising that any firm’s best referral sources will be found within the firm itself. It’s a question of strategy, not ego. Then, set up internal communication channels such as email newsletters, intranets, and blogs. Regularly used, these channels improve communication because they demonstrate that there is a place where information can be found—and sent. Keep the information short, light, and congratulatory wherever possible. But remember that this is a marketing initiative: it isn’t the births, deaths, and marriages column. The information shared should help everyone understand the firm’s experience and talents—and how they can be used to serve the firm’s existing and prospective clients.

As with external advertising, frequency and consistency are much more important than size and detail. And send it to EVERYONE—the people in the mail room are just as crucial to the firm’s success as is the managing partner, and are just as likely to have had a hand in that latest proposal win or court victory.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Hagan: Githubbing Law: Open-source legal doc repositories

Legal Informatics Blog - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 02:35

Margaret Hagan of Stanford University has posted Githubbing Law: Open-source legal doc repositories, at Open Law Lab.

Here are excerpts from the post:

[...] So could the Github model be applied to legal professionals’ work, or how the legal services that non-lawyers use?

My short answer to the visitor: there are an increasing number of Legal Document Repositories, many of them now overlaid with a user-friendly interface that allows the user to take the standard document and fill in the designated fields with their own information.

Thus, the user can take a standard doc and make it her own by simply entering in a few pieces of information (that she likely has at her finger tips). Some of these document repositories are even hosted in part on Github, so that any other visitor who signs up for Github could fork these documents & customize them for her own.

Here is a short inventory of projects that are creating such open repositories + form-filling interfaces.

One noticeable thing: most of them are aimed at entrepreneurs as the main user. The use case is someone setting up a start-up & trying to get right with corporate law. [...]

For more details, please see the complete post.

Earlier posts about using GitHub for legal information are available here, here, and here.

HT @margarethagan


Filed under: Applications, Others' scholarly or sophisticated blogposts, Technology developments, Technology tools Tagged: GitHub for law, GitHub for legal information, GitLaw, Legal document repositories, Margaret Hagan, Open Law Lab
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Share Files with Clients

The Lawyerist - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:23

Let’s say you have got a document with sensitive information in it, and you need to send a copy to your client or to opposing counsel. What is the best way to do that?

Here are a few options.

Not Good: Email, USB Drive

Unless you use encryption, sending an email is basically the same thing as sending a postcard. While there are efforts underway to change this, email remains pretty wide open. This is true and scary: anyone who wants to (not just the NSA) can read your email.

Sure, most of the time you can send a sensitive document through email and nothing will happen. But you are playing Russian Roulette (almost literally, given the recent theft of 1.2 billion email account credentials by a Russian gang). You may be sending documents straight to a criminal without even knowing it.

USB drives aren’t safe, either. A recently-discovered USB exploit means you could be distributing malicious code with your USB drive (or getting it from your clients) without ever knowing. While we don’t know if this exploit is being used, it is probably better to be safe than sorry, especially since better options exist.

Sometimes Okay: Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, Etc.

There are plenty of cloud-based file-sharing services out there, but I am just going to use the most popular — Dropbox — as a proxy for all of them. While I no longer think it makes sense to simply store all your files in Dropbox, I do think Dropbox can be useful for sharing specific files.

Related“It’s Time for Lawyers to Re-Think the Cloud”

=

You can share files either by sharing with another Dropbox user or by creating a public link to the file. Sharing directly to another user is by far the better option. While public links are not advertised, anyone with the link can access the file(s). Plus, you have to send that link to your client somehow (it is too long and complex to relate by phone), which makes it no better than sending an attachment to an unencrypted email. It is not a good idea to use a public link to share sensitive information.

If you do use Dropbox to share files with clients, don’t leave public links active indefinitely. Have your client tell you when they have the file, and then remove the public link. In fact, it may be best to remove the file from Dropbox entirely, if you share my thoughts on keeping client files in Dropbox.

Better Options: SpiderOak, Viivo

Zero-knowledge, cloud-based file-sharing services like SpiderOak and Viivo offer greater security than Dropbox (et al.) while still allowing you to share files. (I use Viivo with Dropbox to keep my client files and other sensitive information secure.)

Just as with Dropbox, sharing files with other users is more secure than using a public link. Even though the files themselves are more secure with SpiderOak or Viivo, that security does no good if you send a public link via email. If you share files with another user, SpiderOak or Viivo is absolutely superior to Dropbox. If you have to email a link, however, they are no better than email.

Best Options: Encrypted Email, CD/DVD, or a Secure Portal

The best options for sharing files do not require you to grant access to the file in an email.

Encrypted Email

For now, encrypted email remains clunky, and requires some tech-savvy on both ends. Fortunately, you don’t need to go full encryption to send files more securely. You can just encrypt the attachment. Here are instructions for Microsoft Word for Windows (Word 2013) and Mac (Word 2011). And here are instructions for Adobe Acrobat:

If you opt for encrypting the attachment, use a good password and just call up the recipient to give them the password over the phone. (Don’t leave it on voicemail, though; lots of people get their voicemail by email.)

CD/DVD

You can also just burn the file to a CD or DVD and mail it. This is often the best option for large collections of documents, but it is slow if you are trying to share something like a redlined contract. Still, plain old discs are as secure as the mail.

A Secure Portal

Most cloud-based practice management software now includes file sharing, so that you can share files with a contact. When you share a file, the software sends a notice to the recipient. In order to access the file, though, they have to log in, so it is much more secure than a public link from Dropbox or Viivo. Two-factor authentication, where available, ratchets up the security even further.

A portal also allows your client to access the files over time. Despite advances in search technology, people lose emails all the time. If they just have to log into a portal (assuming they can remember their login details), they can access the files you have shared at any time.

The weak link is the inconvenience of having yet another login. If you are just going to share one or two files with someone, an encrypted attachments is probably easiest. If you are going to share a huge set of files, a CD or DVD is probably easiest. If you are going to share lots of files with someone, one at a time, a secure portal is the best option by far.

Worst: an Email Disclaimer

First, email disclaimers are pretty pointless, period.

Second, disclaimers do nothing to secure your email, even though an alarming percentage of lawyers who responded to a LexisNexis survey apparently think they do.

Learn More

This podcast from “digital detectives” Sharon Nelson and John Simek, with Bob Ambrogi, is a very accessible discussion of client file security with those appalling survey results as a backdrop.

Featured image: “senior manager is Giving a lot of work” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Supreme Court of Canada Dismisses EI Case Based on Stare Decisis

slaw - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 08:00

The Supreme Court of Canada has released its decision in the case of the unions’ constitutional challenge to the government’s use of employment insurance surpluses. The Court dismissed the appeal by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux and Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec because it was clear the action had no reasonable chance of success. The Court already found in 2008 that the measures adopted in the 1996 Employment Insurance Act were valid and constitutional. In its new decision, the Court found that the 2008 ruling was complete, certain and final, and therefore, on the basis of stare decisis, the unions couldn’t revive their action.

Background

In 1996, the premium-setting mechanism of the Employment Insurance Act was amended in a way that made possible the accumulation of surpluses totalling many billions of dollars. A couple of years after the amendments came into force, major Canadian unions took the government to court arguing that the government was reallocating these surpluses from the Employment Insurance Account to its general expenses in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which constituted a misappropriation of moneys that were supposed to be earmarked for employment insurance.

In 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in Confédération des syndicats nationaux v. Canada (Attorney General), that the premium-setting mechanism in the 1996 Employment Insurance Act was valid—except for 2002, 2003 and 2005. The Court suspended the effect of the declaration of invalidity for 12 months to enable Parliament to rectify the situation. Importantly, the Court also confirmed that the government was not obliged to use the EI surpluses to pay employment insurance benefits.

In response, in 2010, Parliament enacted the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, which closed the Employment Insurance Account and created a new Employment Insurance Operating Account, retroactive to January 1, 2009. Interestingly, the 2010 Act did not specify that the balance of the Employment Insurance Account (over $57 billion at that time) was to be transferred to the new Employment Insurance Operating Account.

The unions responded by bringing a motion to institute proceedings to have certain provisions of the 2010 Act declared unconstitutional. The Attorney General of Canada argued that these issues had already been decided by the Supreme Court in 2008 and moved to dismiss the unions’ motion.

Quebec’s Superior Court granted the attorney general’s motion to dismiss. The court rejected the unions’ arguments because they disregarded the previous ruling on the necessary connection between the premiums being collected and the employment insurance program. The Supreme Court had already decided that the money from the program belonged to the government and not to the contributors. The surpluses form part of government revenues and do not have to be used only for the employment insurance program. The surplus funds did not constitute a debt owed to the program. Since the question had already been addressed in 2008, the action was unfounded and had to be dismissed.

However, the Quebec Court of Appeal set aside the Superior Court’s decision. The Appeal Court found that the unions’ action involved an issue that had not yet been decided. It was not about the use of the surplus that had accumulated in the Employment Insurance Account, but the effects of the Act eliminating the balance of the Employment Insurance Operating Account and the resulting accounting entries that flowed from the 2010 legislative amendment. Since this was a new issue, the Appeal Court decided, the action should proceed.

The Supreme Court of Canada decided to allow the attorney general’s appeal and restore the initial decision to dismiss the action, based on the following reasons:

  • Dismissing an action at a preliminary stage can have very serious consequences, so courts have to exercise caution. An action cannot be dismissed at this point in the proceedings unless it is plain and obvious that it lacks a basis in law. “Plain and obvious” can be ascertained from the allegations set out to institute proceedings and exhibits filed in support of it. Therefore, when trying to decide whether to dismiss an action, the question is whether the allegations of fact set out in the motion to institute proceedings are of such a nature as to open the door to the conclusions being sought by the applicant.
  • When dismissing an action based on stare decisis (an authoritative decision had already resolved the issue, and courts have to follow principles already established), the judge has to be satisfied in light of the record and the alleged facts that the precedent relied on by the applicant concerns the entire dispute that it should normally resolve, and that it provides a complete, certain and final solution to the dispute.
  • That said, the doctrine of stare decisis is flexible; courts can question the precedential value of a previous judgment if new legal issues are raised as a consequence of significant developments in the law or if there is a change in the circumstances or evidence that shifts the parameters of the debate. But where the legal issue remains the same and arises from a similar context, the precedent still represents the law and has to be followed by courts.
  • In this case, it was clear that the unions wanted the money in the account to be allocated exclusively to the payment of EI benefits. According to the union, this money was for the program and had to be used solely to finance the program. According to the union, this matter had not yet been settled. However, the Supreme Court found this action was bound to fail given that the main premise in the unions’ argument was that the balance in the Consolidated Revenue Fund constituted a debt owed to the Employment Insurance Operating Account. The 2008 case settled the law in this regard; the amounts collected as contributions to the employment insurance program form part of the government’s revenues and can be used for purposes other than paying EI benefits.
  • Although the connection between the EI program and the premiums is a factor in determining the nature of the levies, it is not correct to say that the validity of these levies depends on the existence of that connection. Also, no debt of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Employment Insurance Account ever existed, since the government cannot be indebted to itself.

Since the action had no reasonable chance of success, the Court had to dismiss it, even at this preliminary stage.

The decision presents a couple of interesting results. One, a law may seem unfair or prejudicial but still be legitimate. Citizens and organizations may seek to change such laws via the courts but there is no guarantee they will succeed. Two, complainants cannot hope to succeed in a case based on essentially the same facts and circumstances they have tried before. The principle of stare decisis binds courts tighter than mere precedent.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Access to Justice Commissions: Learning to Work Collaboratively on Difficult Justice Problems

slaw - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 06:00

Two weeks ago, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters released the Colloquium Report. This document captures the action-oriented strategies, reforms and innovations from leaders in the access to justice field in response to the recommendations made by the Action Committee in their final report, A Roadmap for Change (see a SLAW summary here).

One of the institutional and structural goals discussed in the Colloquium Report was to “Create Local and National Access to Justice Implementation Mechanisms”, such as the recently-formed Access to Justice Co-ordinating Committee in Nova Scotia. The report looked to the Access to Justice Commission (ATJC) movement in the U.S. as a successful example of meeting this goal, with the result being greater collaboration across jurisdictions and sectors to achieve access to justice.

The recent CBA report,Reaching Equal Justice, also evaluates the ATJC model and recommends “ongoing collaborative structures with effective leadership be well-established at the national, provincial, territorial and local levels”. It is clear from both the CBA and the Action Committee that greater collaboration is needed on access to justice issues, and that the ATJC movement is an excellent example of successful collaboration at work.

What Are Access to Justice Commissions?

ATJCs are state-based leadership bodies in the U.S, with the mandate “to expand access to civil justice at all levels for low-income and disadvantaged people in the state by assessing their civil legal needs, developing strategies to meet them, and evaluating progress.” They typically have three primary stakeholders: the court, the organized bar, and legal aid providers.

The idea of state-run ATJCs began over two decades ago, with the launch of the first commission in Washington State in 1994. Thirty-three states currently have ATJCs, the mostrecent additions being Oklahoma and Puerto Rico in 2014. Since 1994, the ATJC movement has learned a great deal about what makes a multi-stakeholder commission successful. The best practices below are taken from the American Bar Association’s “Hallmarks of Effective ATJCs” resource and the recent National Center for State Courts’ “Trends in State Courts 2014” report.

What Makes an Access to Justice Commission Effective?

1. Broad, Multidisciplinary Partnerships

The membership of the ATJCs is not strictly made up of core legal stakeholders. Others with a stake in the civil justice system are often included as commission members or partners. These include law schools, criminal and juvenile defense service providers, and representatives of the provincial legislature. Increasingly, commissions are involving members in the health care, education, social services, business, religious, and non-profit sectors. By meaningfully engaging multiple disciplines, a “big picture” perspective can be maintained in a manner that gives equal weight to various viewpoints.

Learning curve: Law professionals tend to cultivate a protective and thus restrictive boundary around their area of expertise (e.g., multidisciplinary practices are highly regulated and limited in Ontario). Yet the advantages of a multidisciplinary approach are significant and wide reaching. When specialists from various disciplines are put into conversation the walls between professions are diminished giving rise to nuanced understandings of complex issues. Broadening the circulation of ideas, approaches and experiences builds momentum for meaningful change across networks. The first step towards “achieving access to justice in its fullest sense” is equal representation from members outside the core legal community. For example, members of the Wisconsin ATJC Commission include an Aboriginal law attorney, a small business owner, a public interest lawyer, a district court administrator, a Norbertine minister, a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and a court of appeal judge.

2. Strong Institutional Support

Effective ATJCs have strong institutional support from key stakeholders, namely the judiciary, the organized bar, and civil legal aid providers and funders. Each of these three stakeholders brings something different to the table, as shown in “Twelve Lessons from Successful State Access to Justice Efforts” from the Access to Justice Support Project:

“The bar brings its volunteer base and professional structure, including the potential for staffing Access to Justice efforts. Providers bring their direct experience with the civil legal needs of low-income people, their expertise in developing and implementing effective delivery models, and their links to low-income communities. The judiciary brings its unique credibility and rule-making authority, as well as direct experience in responding to the growing number of self-represented litigants.”

Access to Justice Commissions are beneficial in that they bring together these stakeholders and others, such as law schools, for greater collaboration and sharing of assets and information. The commission puts forth focused access to justice improvements by uniting the strengths of separate institutions.

Learning curve: Collaboration is more than bringing stakeholders from different sectors together in the same room. It involves a bottom-up approach to decision-making, and the avoidance of “silo syndrome” where barriers form between an organization’s different parts. The challenge is to move information and decisions vertically, not horizontally, without compromising the ability to make decisions in a timely manner. For example, the Connecticut ATJC, in collaboration with local bar associations, formed various Volunteer Attorney programs in the state family courts that have served almost 640 self-represented litigants a little over a year.

3. Innovation, Leadership and Organizational Visibility

In order for ATJCs to gain the funding and support needed to advance access to justice, they must be credible innovators in their field. Successful ATJCs create goals not based on institutional self-interest or political gains, but rather the pursuit of creative and innovative solutions based on public-participatory and multidisciplinary research. ATJCs should communicate with stakeholders and the public through a variety of mediums to promote mobilization and awareness of access to justice goals.

Learning curve: With so many stakeholders from different sectors in the community, there are bound to be disputes, lack of adequate communication, and failures of cooperation. These can seriously damage access to justice efforts and undermine credibility. It is important that the commission be able to speak with one voice to the public, and maintain a larger perspective on goals and strategies everyone can agree on. For instance, each year, the ABA hosts a national meeting of stakeholders including Chairs of each state-run ATJC. This event serves to promote awareness of common areas of need and mobilization of innovative solutions. In 2014, the meeting included legal aid funding updates, breakout programs on a broad range of topics – including support of self-represented litigants – language-access projects, pro bono projects, innovations in technology and roundtables for new and more mature ATJCs.

Following the recommendations of A Roadmap for Change and the example of Nova Scotia’s recently-formed Access to Justice Co-ordinating Committee, we can expect more commission-like structures and other access to justice initiatives to form at the local and national levels in the coming months and years. In the face of evidence-based research by the Action Committee and the CBA that we are in an access to justice crisis, it is no longer possible to continue to work in our justice silos. We must look for new and innovative ways to work together – and access to justice commissions are part of this solution.

– by Hannah De Jong, CFCJ Communications Assistant
JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

ABA Journal Access to Justice Hackathon — Hackcess to Justice 2014 — 7-8 August 2014, Boston: Links and resources

Legal Informatics Blog - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 04:51

ABA Journal’s Access to Justice Hackathon — called Hackcess to Justice 2014 — is scheduled to be held 7-8 August 2014 at Suffolk University Law School, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Click here for the event schedule.

Twitter hashtags being used for the event include #HackcesstoJustice and #hackjustice

Click here for a storify of photos and Twitter tweets from the event.

Here is a description of the event, from the event’s Website:

Technology has taken a firm hold in the legal industry. Every day legal professionals use technology-enabled tools for discovery, litigation support, document assembly and information needs. But the promise of technology has been fleeting when it comes to the access to justice arena. Last year the Legal Services Corporation produced a seminal report outlining five key ways that technology can expand access to justice, especially through computers and mobile devices. [...]

We are challenging lawyers, law students developers, coders and others interested in improving access to justice through technology to devise a technology-enabled solution to one of the five areas outlined in the LSC report at two-day, judged hackathon.

Prize money will be awarded to the top three hacks. [...]

The judges for the event are:

For more details, please see the site.

HT Marc Lauritsen


Filed under: Applications, Conference resources, Hackathons, Hacking, Storify, Technology developments, Technology tools Tagged: #HackcesstoJustice, #hackjustice, #LegalHack, ABA Journal, ABA Journal Access to Justice Hackathon, ABA Journal Legal Hackathon, Access to justice and legal information systems, Bob Ambrogi, Glenn Rawdon, Hackcess to Justice, Hackcess to Justice 2014, K. Krasnow Waterman, Legal hackathons, Suffolk University Law School, Technology for access to justice
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ownCloud 7 Release Adds Many Features, Improves API

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 21:57

The best new feature on ownCloud 7, as far as I’m concerned, is that its new “Server-to-Server Sharing enables users on one ownCloud instance to seamlessly share files with users on a different ownCloud installation without using share links.” So, for example, you can share files with a business partner without a lot of fuss or muss while maintaining your own independent private clouds.
Frank Karlitschek, founder and leader of the ownCloud project, proclaimed that “Server-to-server sharing is a game changer, allowing individuals — and organizations — to more easily share across private clouds, while still maintaining complete control of their data.” I can certainly see companies with close partner ties really liking this feature.

via ownCloud 7 pulls in users and open source developers | ZDNet.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 08/05/2014

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Technology Projects to Decrease Passivity

An excellent article was published recently in Faculty Focus – Higher Ed teaching Strategies.

According the article, most college professors promote a very passive learning atmosphere in their classroom.  In other words, they are the “sage on the stage.” Even when they do use technology, the learning is still teacher-driven i.e. online exercises, watching a teacher-created podcast,  video or PowerPoint.

The author of this article, Dr. Ike Shibley, an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State Berks, proposes “letting students drive.” He suggests giving assignments where the students themselves are the co-creators of knowledge rather than the recipients and the students use technology as the vehicle to accomplish this.

Shipley also describes two projects that he assigned in his team-taught neurobiology course where the students used iMovie and Garage Band to teach their peers about course content.

It is mentioned, as well, that these technical skills are important for student to have when applying for jobs and students may even end up becoming more engaged with technology after having used it on their own to create learning content.

I know of some law students here, at Albany Law School, who have had to create PowerPoint presentations, others who have used wikis to create course outlines together, some who have used an online forum to lead discussions and one adjunct professor who had each of his students create a short video and submit it through TWEN.

Do any of your professors assign projects that have the students using technology? If so, which technology tool did the students use?


Categories: Teknoids Blogs

MerusCase Law Practice Management Software

The Lawyerist - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:49

MerusCase launched in 2008, but made it onto our radar only recently. Merus is a software development company that provides information technology consulting and builds web applications, and MerusCase is their practice management software. The software was built with California workers’ compensation attorneys in mind, but Merus is clearly making a play for the tech-savvy lawyer who wants a flexible practice management software package.

However, MerusCase is missing some features that are common among its chief competition; it doesn’t offer apps for iOS or Android, and it doesn’t integrate with external services like Dropbox or accounting software like Quickbooks.

Here’s what you need to know to make a decision about MerusCase.

IndexGetting Started With MerusCase

As is the case with most cloud software, you can begin using MerusCase by signing up via its website. MerusCase also gives you the option of calling to get things started or schedule a demo. The latter two options may be useful for someone who feels a bit worried about setting up cloud-based practice management software on their own.

Migrating to MerusCase

MerusCase boasts that it can migrate data from any system, including Outlook, Rocket Matter, Abacus, and Clio. That may very well be true, but you will not know unless you contact them, as the only migration option is to have MerusCase do a custom import. MerusCase does not disclose its prices anywhere on its website — and that should make you suspicious. In fact, you could pay around $2,000 just to get set up. That’s $2,000 more than competitors like Clio and MyCase charge for setup.

MerusCase does have an option to bulk import .csv files, which would allow you to import things like your Outlook contacts or your Google calendar directly into MerusCase without paying that huge setup fee, but that will not be as smooth as a complete migration.

Using MerusCase

Like a lot of practice management software, MerusCase opens into a dashboard designed to give you a high-level overview of your cases and deadlines.

From there, you can choose to look at your cases, your contacts, your calendar, your task list, your messages, or your documents.

Unfortunately, the user experience is not particularly smooth. When starting a new case, for example, the Save button is at the top of the input form, but by the time you are finished completing the form, it may not be on the screen any longer. After you create your new case, you’re presented with this screen without much explanation:

Task setup fares a bit better, as the system allows for easy creation of both tasks and subtasks without having to jump around.

The calendar feature should be familiar to anyone who has used any sort of computer-based calendar, with options to view daily, weekly, and monthly calendars and the ability to quickly create a new calendar matter just by clicking into the date of your event. MerusCase also gives the option to set up related events or follow up dates at the time you create your event.

MerusCase has invoicing capabilities built in, and the program will create a rudimentary but functional invoice for you. You will either need to use its built-in invoicing or export your billing, as MerusCase does not directly integrate with other billing software. It does, however, export to a number of standardized billing formats, including LEDES, ESIS, and Chubb.

MerusCase also has integrated email and will help you set up a macro that will allow you to save directly to MerusCase from Word, which is a nice touch for lawyers wedded to Word (i.e., most of us.

Mobile Apps and Extensions

MerusCase has no mobile apps. You can sync your calendar and contacts to your Android or iDevice via the CalDAV protocol. It is not a highly technical or difficult process, but it is a good deal more complicated than simply opening a mobile app.

MerusCase also does not integrate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or any other external data storage service. At first glance, this may be easy to ignore if you do not currently use any sort of cloud data service. However, the time is fast approaching when you will likely have cloud data stored somewhere whether you wish to or not, and being wedded to case management software that will not play nice with those services may be limiting.

MerusCase has been around for several years, and its website certainly displays a level of tech savvy that would normally indicate the development of a robust app and extension ecosystem. Their opposition to external integrations may be part of their security-mindedness, but the lack of convenience might be a tough tradeoff for a lot of lawyers.

Security

MerusCase is browser-based and uses SSL encryption end-to-end, meaning that all data passed between you and the MerusCase cloud is encrypted at bank-grade security levels. Data like passwords, social security numbers, and tax ID numbers are stored in 256-bit encrypted databases. Therefore, even if MerusCase’s first layers of security are hacked, only names and telephone numbers would be available in plain text.

This is a solid approach to security and a user of MerusCase could feel reasonably sanguine that their data is safe. It’s worth noting, though, that MerusCase takes an oddly hectoring approach to data safety, explaining (without any backup information) that it is safer than their competitors who store things in plain text, it is safer than your office, which might get robbed, and the only possible weak security link is you and your own weak password. It’s a bit more like getting lectured by a surly IT worker than the helpful tone you might expect from a company that is trying to sell you a thing to simplify your life.

Backing Up Your MerusCase Data

MerusCase will deliver a full backup of your data and documents for any media you’d like at any interval you choose. However, you will pay a “modest fee” to cover the cost of the media. Unfortunately, that is the only way for you to get a full backup of your data, which is particularly troubling as the actual fee is not divulged anywhere.

You can also download a document archive of individual cases — one case at a time — directly from MerusCase via the Files menu. However, when we tried to request document archives of some of the test cases in MerusCase, it took three tries. One try led to a 404 error message, another led to a message that the file we requested was taking too long to prepare because of its size and that Merus had queued the job and would send us a message when it was done. Twenty minutes later, it still wasn’t done. Thirty-six hours later, still no message. Finally, a third attempt got us a .zip archive with all the case material sorted into dated subfolders. Even if every attempt had worked, this is a clunky way to get your data out of MerusCase, particularly if you have a lot of cases.

Evaluating MerusCase for Your Practice

When you consider purchasing case management software, the most important thing to keep in mind is whether it will fit your unique practice needs. MerusCase was originally designed specifically for workers’ compensation cases in California, so it might be the best choice if that is your niche. Additionally, if you are tech savvy and looking for a practice management solution that runs swiftly and securely in the cloud and you are not overly concerned about mobile apps or integration, MerusCase may be a great pick. On the other hand, if you are already using Quickbooks or Dropbox or crave a feature-rich mobile platform, MerusCase probably will not work for you.

Normally, we provide a selection of reviews of each piece of case management software. However, in this case there only appears to be one review of MerusCase currently available:

Price

If you want to pay on a month-to-month basis, MerusCase costs $40/user/month. If you agree to a year-long commitment, that drops to $30/user/month. That makes MerusCase substantially cheaper than Rocket Matter or Clio and slightly less than even MyCase. However, measure that potential savings against the setup fee, which could be a couple thousand dollars if you need to migrate a lot of data.

Further, that savings is only worthwhile if you find MerusCase useful for your practice. The lack of mobile apps and integrations are limiting, especially if you want something that “just works.”

What MerusCase Does Well

MerusCase has a lot of nice little features, like the ability to print an envelope from any contact form and the ability to drag and drop documents into an e-filing packet for California courts. It lets you automate some key parts of your workflow in an “if this, then that” fashion. Mousing over documents or contact info brings up a preview, so you do not need to go hopping in and out of files to see if that is the thing you were looking for.

MerusCase is very clearly designed for the California attorney who practices personal injury law or workers’ compensation, and if you are that attorney, this software might feel purpose-built for you, with easy access to California e-filing, deadlines, and similar information.

Where MerusCase Needs Work

Overall, MerusCase feels like a piece of software that is still finding its way, even though it is several years old. MerusCase may be in the cloud, but it is decidedly old-school-feeling. It feels like using a database from ten years ago. That may not be an issue for many people, but if you crave an aesthetically pleasing piece of case management software, this is not it.

That aesthetic failure is not just cosmetic. It makes it difficult to find and use all of MerusCase’s features. I spent quite some time trying to figure out what type of billing software MerusCase might support, and finally decided it did not support anything because I could not find anything. I only figured out that MerusCase could export standardized billing formats from reading the company blog.

The lack of mobile apps presents a real problem for most practicing attorneys. MerusCase’s concerns about security with respect to integrations are well-founded, but most every lawyer seeks out practice management software to simplify their lives and increase their access to their case material. For a modern lawyer, that means robust mobile access.

Finally, MerusCase should be more up-front about its pricing, particularly the migration fee. It is tough to recommend MerusCase when the cost to get up and running is so obscure.

Summary

MerusCase may be a good option for some lawyers, but its lack of mobile access, opacity on pricing, and dated user interface mean there are better options.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MerusCase, reviewed by Lisa Needham on August 6, 2014.

Updates

Here’s where we will keep track of changes to this post.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Access to Justice Fatigue

slaw - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 08:34

I hope JP Boyd was right when he recently suggested there is a growing fatigue with the subject of access to justice in Canada. Boyd has recently launched a blog on the subject (lauded here on Slaw) that focuses on concrete steps lawyers and other stakeholders can take to increase access to justice in small but significant ways.

If there is growing weariness, I expect some of that is generated by those on the frontlines who continue to slog forward while waiting for those in governments and courts to finish “exploring initiatives” and start funding and implementing initiatives that actually do increase access to justice.

In Manitoba, there are efforts underway, though with no apparent urgency. In late June, Manitoba Courts issued a news release and held a press conference outlining the actions they are taking to achieve greater access to justice. Some of the steps being taken or considered to enhance access to justice through Manitoba Courts include:

  • In the area of family law and child protection work, initiatives will be explored which recognize that the adversarial system may not always be the best way to resolve these matters.
  • In the area of criminal law, initiatives will be explored with respect to the possible reform of preliminary inquiries, which will include reviewing the existing system which currently adds many months of delay to the final resolution of the matter.
  • In the area of civil law, initiatives will be explored which emphasize “proportionality” as a reference point for maximizing access to justice.
  • In all three areas of the law, initiatives will be explored to address delay issues which often arise because of unwieldy processes.
  • Public access to court information will be improved with the continuing development of the new Manitoba Courts website, found at www.manitobacourts.mb.ca.
  • The ‘Cameras in the Courtroom’ pilot project which began in April, 2014 will continue and evolve.

This is hardly an action packed list. “Exploring initiatives” that do this or that sounds rather a lot like “Review File” on a lawyer’s bill. It’s hard to say whether thinking about something, whether individually or in a committee really amounts to an action step, though of course sober thought is an important first step and often better than rushing off in all directions.

Meanwhile, those working on the frontlines are dealing with increased demand for services and reduced or static budgets. Working every day at the edge of the access to justice gap is rewarding in many ways, but not financially. This is where burnout and fatigue are probably most evident. The demand for their help continues to rise, while the resources available to deliver that help are fixed, or in some cases, diminishing.

Many of the frontline access to justice organizations, in Manitoba, are funded through the Manitoba Law Foundation, with the limited income earned from investments of lawyer’s trust account income (IOLTA). With interest rates at low levels for many years now, IOLTA incomes remain historically low and law foundations across the country are considering how best to allocate scarce resources to organizations on the frontlines of access to justice. These are established organizations that are mostly underfunded or not funded at all by government, including: Legal Aid Manitoba, Public Interest Law Centre, Community Legal Education Association, Community Unemployed Help Centre, Legal Help Centre, Pro Bono Students Canada and Manitoba’s law libraries.

If you’re not on the frontlines but are getting tired of hearing the cries for access to justice, you have a few options:

  • Subscribe to and read Access to Justice in Canada for practical tips on what you can do;
  • Volunteer your time with your local pro bono organization;
  • Give to your local pro bono organization. An amount as little as the equivalent of one billable hour from every practising Canadian lawyer would make a tremendous difference to the budgets of these organizations across the country;
  • Get involved in advocating for increased funding to access to justice work in your jurisdiction.

Until real progress becomes evident, lawyers must continue to advocate, whether with their time, their dollars or their voices, for access to justice for all Canadians. Getting tired of it only means we’ve still got work to do.

 

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Russian Hackers Amass 1.2 Billion Username/password Combinations

slaw - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 08:03

A New York Times story says that: “A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses…”. This was discovered by a company called Hold Security, that so far has not named the sites. I’m a bit skeptical of the news, however, when Hold Security has a paid service to find out if your site is affected by this.

This emphasizes yet again the importance of using proper passwords and taking advantage of multi-factor authentication wherever it is offered.

Since the only good password is one we can’t possible remember, and they should be different for each site, the best approach is to use a password manager. Password managers both create strong unique passwords and save them for you. Here’s a recent PC Mag article on The Best Password Managers.

Make sure your password to get into your password manager is a strong one, and take advantage of multifactor authentication for it. Make sure you have a backup copy of those passwords. And lets hope that the password manager sites have protected themselves strongly enough that they can’t be compromised.

 

Categories: Teknoids Blogs