News

Courts Now Using Computer Algorithms to Determine Jail Time

In some courtrooms across the country, artificial intelligence is being relied upon to determine whether a defendant may be released on bail or should remain locked up while awaiting trial, the Citizen Tribune reports. As the bail reform movement grows, court systems like that of the city of Cleveland are turning to algorithms to make decisions that used to be based on court files and the judge’s intuition. The algorithms scour through courthouse data to predict which individuals are most likely to flee or commit another crime. Critics of the process say that the algorithms could end up supplanting judges’ own judgment or else perpetuate the biases they were created to solve.
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Music City Legal Hackers to Host Meet Up Thursday

The Music City Legal Hackers have a meet up planned for Thursday at Vanderbilt Law School from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Planning for Nashville’s second annual legal hackathon, scheduled for April 14, is one item on the agenda.
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Avvo Acquired by Internet Brands

Online legal referral and attorney rating service Avvo has been purchased by Internet Brands, the ABA Journal reports. Internet Brands already owns Nolo.com and Total Attorneys, which are lead generators for attorneys. While the details of the deal have not been released, Avvo was valued in 2015 at $650 million. The company was founded in 2006 and employs about 350 people.
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Nashville Attorney Selected for Young Global Leaders Class

Samar Ali, international counsel at Bass Berry and Sims, was selected by the World Economic Forum for its Young Global Leaders Class of 2017. The 100 members of each class are selected from among professionals under age 40 considered the most innovative, enterprising and socially minded in their regions. Ali is the immediate past chair of the TBA's International Law Section and a member of the TBA's Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets. She is one of 24 selected for the class from North America.

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New TBJ: What You Should Know About Data Breaches

The General Assembly’s 2017 amendments to the data breach law are a step toward addressing the threats of cyber-theft and the challenges it poses to residents and businesses. W. Russell Taber III writes in the November Tennessee Bar Journal what you need to know to advise your clients in the event of such a breach. Also read Marshall L. Davidson III’s how-to for oral arguments so your appeals will stay on track. In his column, TBA President Lucian T. Pera addresses the problematic gap between existing legal needs of ordinary Americans and the ability of the legal profession to meet those needs.

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Pera Discusses Indigent Representation, Evolving Legal Market in Interview

TBA President Lucian Pera offers his thoughts on the legal profession, the importance of bar work and more in a series of web video interviews. The second video in the four-part series premiered today on YouTube. In the video, Pera discusses his goals for the TBA, as well as challenges and trends he sees emerging in the profession. Pera also highlights the “once in a lifetime opportunity” the legal community has this year to improve indigent representation. Stay tuned later this week for part three, in which Pera talks about lawyers becoming leaders in their own communities.
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Frost Brown Todd to Accept Bitcoin for Legal Fees

Regional firm Frost Brown Todd announced today that it will accept bitcoin as payment for legal fees. The firm already boasts a blockchain and digital currency group. That group’s co-chair, Nashville attorney Joshua S. Rosenblatt, said Frost Brown Todd would “be one of the earliest movers among law firms in Middle America” on the issue of bitcoin.
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Blockchain, Project Management, AI Lead List of Top Legal Innovation Terms

Blockchain, project management and artificial intelligence are tracking as the dominate legal tech terms of the moment, according to the Legal Services Innovation Index, reports the ABA Journal. The index measures what the legal community is buzzing about by tracking the frequency of tech terminology on law firm websites. It was developed by Michigan State University law professor Daniel W. Linna Jr., who aimed to find a way to measure innovation.
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New York Times Reviews UT Law Professor’s Book

In “Rebooting Justice: More Technology, Fewer Lawyers and The Future of Law,” authors Benjamin H. Barton and Stephanos Bibas examine the severe difficulties poor and middle-class Americans face in fully understanding and navigating the justice system. Published by Encounter Books, the book looks at ways technology and innovation might be used to simplify and change the process itself. The New York Times, reviewed the book, calling it “enlightening and well-written.” Co-author Barton currently serves as the Helen and Charles Lockett Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law.
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New York Bar Ethics Committee Says Lawyers May Not Use Avvo

The New York State Bar Association today released two ethics opinions on lawyers and "electronic marketing services," one of which found that lawyers may not ethically utilize Avvo Legal Services. According to the opinion, Avvo’s current structure requires the payment of a “marketing fee” by the lawyer, which the New York Bar’s Committee on Professional Ethics found to be an improper payment. To learn more about consumer-facing services and their use in Tennessee, check out the TBA’s CLE from the Modern Law Practice Series.
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August Issue: Meet TBA's New Executive Director

The August TBJ features the Tennessee Bar Association’s new executive director, Joycelyn Stevenson, as she steps into the role held for nearly 20 years by Allan Ramsaur, who is now executive director emeritus. Read about what makes her perfect for the job, as well as what her plans and dreams are for the association. In his column, President Lucian T. Pera asks readers to consider the possibilities that the changing market for legal services will bring. "Today we can visualize a time in Tennessee when 'going to court' might not mean walking to the courthouse on court square," he writes. "It might mean firing up your tablet and logging in to an online session with a judge, other lawyers, and even witnesses." Pera writes about Modria and companies like it, that provide online dispute resolution services, and what that and related technologies may mean for the practice of law.

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TBA Honored For Modern Law Practice Series

The Tennessee Bar Association's educational series on the evolving legal market today was recognized as the best in the state by the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The series was conceived and implemented by the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market under the leadership of former TBA President Gail Ashworth. The Modern Law Practice Series consisted of four programs educating Tennessee attorneys about online dispute resolution, legal services management companies (such as Counsel on Call), artificial intelligence and consumer-facing services (such as Avvo and LegalZoom). All programs are still available for viewing as webcasts.

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Ramsaur Named to Fastcase 50

Fastcase has released its annual Fastcase 50 list, and the 2017 class includes TBA Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur. Started in 2011, Fastcase 50 honors “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Of Ramsaur, the organization noted that he “built his career dedicated to helping those in need, including taking a leading role in the revision of Tennessee's conservatorship laws. A new focus of Allan’s leadership is helping lawyers and the legal system to adapt to the evolving legal market.”

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July TBJ: Mentors, Annuities and the Challenges of Change

Covington lawyer Amber Griffin Shaw writes about how having a mentor in Houston Gordon made all the difference in her law practice. Read her story — and his advice — in the July Tennessee Bar Journal. Knoxville lawyer Glen A. Kyle writes about planning options for spousal annuities. President Lucian T. Pera writes about the challenges of change – whether it be in the changing of leadership at the helm of the TBA, the need for improvements in indigent defense for Tennessee’s least-privileged citizens, or how lawyers respond to the dramatic changes “facing not just the profession or the business of lawyers, but the whole market for the delivery of legal services.”

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ABA Journal Profiles Nashville Legal Entrepreneur, Others Who Work in Managed Services

The ABA Journal this month reported on the growth of managed services business, which design, build and staff process systems that efficiently complete legal work. A leader in the industry profiled in the piece is Counsel on Call, founded by Jane Allen in Nashville back in 2000. The company started after Allen saw room in the market for attorneys who would work for a reduced hourly rate in order to accommodate more flexible schedules, and those attorneys could help firms with peaks in workflow or a need to fill temporary positions. Counsel on Call is now a $50-million-per-year business that employs more than 1,000 lawyers.
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Attorney’s Posts Under Fictitious Name Raise Questions on 6th Circuit Nomination

A nominee for the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and prominent Kentucky attorney admitted to authoring more than 400 blog posts under a pseudonym, the ABA Journal reports. Many posts authored by John K. Bush cover his personal thoughts on topics that are still under or subject to litigation, such as the Affordable Care Act and the public financing of political campaigns. The Alliance for Justice calls the nature of the posts “inflammatory and, often, offensive.”
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ABA Issues Clarification to Recent Guidance on Secure Client Info

The American Bar Association has issued a revision to its recent guidance on securing communication of protected client information. The revision clarifies that the opinion does not alter Formal Ethics Opinion 11-459 and notes that the change in Model Rule 1.6(c) supports that same opinion. The revisions do not substantively alter the opinion.
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ABA Issues Guidance on Electronic Transmission of Client Info

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued an opinion with guidance for lawyers on enhancing confidentiality for transferring sensitive client information electronically. The guidance recommends lawyers be trained in technology and information security and encourages attorneys to take a proactive role in ensuring communications are protected, among other edicts. The new opinion adds to one issued in 1999 that discusses protecting the confidentiality of encrypted email. Read the full opinion here.

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Online Forum Provides Platform for Members to Discuss Changing Legal Market

The TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market (ELM) has launched an online discussion forum on the changing legal marketplace and the technology helping shape it. The committee hopes the forum will establish an online community of Tennessee lawyers who can ask or answer questions relating to the modern legal landscape, review new legal technology, discuss innovative marketing and business strategies and much more. You can read, learn and join the discussion here.

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CLE: How to Change Your Practice to Meet Market Demands

The fourth and final CLE in the “Modern Law Practice Series” will explore emerging trends in the delivery of legal services and how focusing on consumer behavior could benefit your law firm. This session will examine the ways in which consumer-facing companies like Avvo and LegalZoom have capitalized on tailoring services to the needs of the modern legal client and how you can adjust your practice to meet those same demands. The three-hour program will be held April 13, and will be available in person and on-demand.

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Still Time to Register for 2 Nashville Legal Tech Conferences

Vanderbilt Law School will host the inaugural Music City Legal Hackathon and Unconference on April 7-8, as well as the Blockchain and the Law Conference on April 7. The Hackathon will bring together members of the legal community with coders, developers, programmers and more to “hack” solutions to challenges faced by Tennessee’s nonprofit legal assistance providers. At the Blockchain event, participants will explore what impact blockchain is having on the law and legal professionals. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology most often associated with bitcoin and other digital currency. 

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Vanderbilt Law Hosts Blockchain Conference

Vanderbilt Law will host the Blockchain and the Law Conference, where participants will explore what impact blockchain is having on the law and legal professionals. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology most often associated with bitcoin and other digital currency. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will serve as the conference’s welcoming speaker. To register for the April 7 event or find out more, visit the conference’s website.

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Artificial Intelligence Won’t Replace Lawyers – Yet

Recent research shows that while artificial intelligence has become more and more useful to the modern legal community, a robot is not ready to replace a flesh-and-blood lawyer, the New York Times reports. Advising clients, writing legal briefs, negotiating in court and more appear to be beyond the reach of computerization, at least for now.
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Nashville to Host Legal Hackathon

Vanderbilt Law School will play host to the inaugural Music City Legal Hackathon and Unconference on April 7-8, produced by Music City Legal Hackers. The event will bring together members of the legal community with coders, developers, programmers and more to “hack” solutions to challenges faced by Tennessee’s nonprofit legal assistance providers. For more information and to register, visit the Music City Legal Hackers website.
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Software Automates Hours of Legal Work in Seconds, Bank Says

JPMorgan Chase and Co. has begun automating legal work via a software program called COIN – short for contract intelligence – and can now process in seconds what would take lawyers hours to complete, Bloomberg reports. COIN interpretes commercial-loan agreements, which prior to the software’s development would take 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. The firm also touts COIN as helping cut down on mistakes caused by human error in wholesale contracts.
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