News

ABA Issues Formal Opinion on Lawyers' Duty in Case of Cyber Attack

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released a formal opinion today that reaffirms the duty of lawyers to notify clients of a data breach and details reasonable steps to be taken to meet obligations set forth in model rules. “When a breach of protected client information is either suspected or detected, Rule 1.1 requires that the lawyer act reasonably and promptly to stop the breach and mitigate damage resulting from the breach,” Formal Opinion 483 says. “Lawyers should consider proactively developing an incident response plan with specific plans and procedures for responding to a data breach. The decision whether to adopt a plan, the content of any plan and actions taken to train and prepare for implementation of the plan should be made before a lawyer is swept up in an actual breach.” Read more here.
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Avvo to Improve Lawyer-Rating Transparency, Pay $50K in Agreement with NY AG

Online legal marketplace Avvo has reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General’s Office to increase the transparency of the online legal directory’s lawyer-rating system, The ABA Journal reports. The changes include consumer disclosures about how lawyers are rated and how legal forms are posted to the website. The company will also pay a $50,000 fine to cover the cost of the AG’s investigation.
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Discount on Legal Innovation Program for Fastcase Subscribers

Through Fastcase, all TBA members can receive a 10 percent discount to Suffolk University Law School’s new Legal Innovation and Technology Certificate. This first-of-its-kind online program consists of six courses designed to prepare legal professionals to work more effectively and efficiently in a rapidly changing legal marketplace. It is designed for attorneys and other legal professionals (law librarians, paralegals, marketing officers, regulatory officers, etc.) who are dedicated to preparing their organizations, and themselves, for the future.
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LegalZoom Gains $2 Billion Valuation

LegalZoom.com raised $500 million at a $2 billion valuation to help pay out some investors, Bloomberg reports. The deal signals LegalZoom's progress since a 2012 initial public offering was aborted. The company is increasing revenue at about 20 percent a year with profit margins above 20 percent, according to its CEO.
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AI, Analytics are Changing Effectiveness of Online Legal Research

Above the Law’s Law2020 project takes a look at how artificial intelligence and data analytics are changing how attorneys conduct their legal research. Though the process of legal research has been greatly improved since the dawn of online databases like Westlaw, LexisNexis and Fastcase, sheer overload of information, lack of time to parse through data and lack of confidence in the results raise concerns. Artificial intelligence and analytics are beginning to be combined to in an effort to produce more relevant and predictive results for queries – a practice that will only become more widespread in the future.
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Music City Legal Hackers Meetup Set for May 24

The Music City Legal Hackers will host their May Meetup on May 24 at the Vanderbilt University School of Law’s Ray Room at 5:30 p.m. Join the legal hackers to recap their annual Hackathon.
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Federal Court Rules Against Google, Company Could Owe Billions

A federal appeals court has ruled that Google violated the copyright of another company by using its open-source code, the ABA Journal reports. The case has wide-reaching implications for software developers over the nature of copyrighting code. The company that sued Google, Oracle, is seeking $8.8 billion in damages. Google may ask the three-judge panel to reconsider its decision, request the case be reviewed en banc, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Man Who Violated Judge’s Order on Facebook Sent to Jail

A Florida man who was warned by a judge to stop harassing his ex-wife was sent to jail for criminal contempt after liking a post on Facebook, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Pasco Circuit Court Judge Lauralee Westine ordered that Timothy Weiner and his ex-wife must both refrain from disparaging or threatening each other on social media. A photo of the ex-wife soon ended up on a Facebook page called “Mothers who abuse kids,” which Weiner then “liked.” Weiner was sent to jail for 60 days, although the judge later amended her ruling to time served and he was released.
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Uber Self-Driving Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona

Marking a first for the technology, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, USA Today reports. A woman was crossing the street at night on Sunday when the car hit her. At the time the car had a safety driver behind the wheel, there to take control if an error occurred. The case raises questions in the debate regarding the legality surrounding this technology. It is unclear whether the safety driver, Uber, or anyone might be charged in connection to the incident.
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ICYMI: Video Snapshots TBJ Issue on Evolving Legal Markets

In case you missed it, this month's Tennessee Bar Journal is all about evolving legal markets and how technology plays a role in the practice of law. University of Tennessee Law Professor Ben Barton, who served as the issue's guest editor, talks with Tennessee Bar Association President Lucian Pera in this short video about what you can expect from the issue. There is some fun involved here, so check it out.

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Music City Legal Hackathon Set for Next Week

Lawyers, technologists, legal project managers and more will meet up in Nashville from March 15 - 17 for the Music City Legal Hackathon, where they will learn about new legal tech innovations. The conference will be held at Vanderbilt University Student Life Center, 310 25th Ave South. Register at the event’s website and contact Larry Bridgesmith for more information.
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Special Issue on Evolving Legal Markets: The Future of Law Practice

“Should we have a rule banning lawyer discrimination and harassment?” President Lucian Pera asks and answers this in his column in the March Journal, urging lawyers to study the issue and comment to the court on proposed Supreme Court Rule 8.4(g) banning discrimination and harassment. This issue, the Special Issue on Evolving Legal Markets and Technology, is packed with information examining the present and future of technology and how it affects law practice. University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Ben Barton is the guest editor who collected these tales of new models of lawyering and business incorporating technologies, Blockchain, how to get more value from the same amount of time, artificial intelligence – and more.

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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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