News

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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In-House Legal Departments Switch to Encrypted Email Communications

The fear of law firm data breaches has led some in-house lawyers to use encrypted emails to communicate with their firms on important matters like mergers and high-stakes litigation, the ABA Journal reports. Encryption allows for sensitive documents to be locked with passwords. Current users of the technology say that once an information technology specialist sets the system up, it becomes “invisible” to the user.
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Modern Law Practice Series Examines Artificial Intelligence

The third CLE in the Modern Law Practice Series was held this morning in Nashville. The program examined artificial intelligence (AI) in the practice of law and featured presentations from Thomas Hamilton of ROSS Intelligence, Andy Daws of Kim Technologies and Larry Bridgesmith of Vanderbilt Law School. The CLE was produced by members of the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market and like others in the series is available on demand as online video
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‘TBA Mashup’ Coming in 2017

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program. During the day, you'll be able to learn about the current state of health insurance for small firms, how to get involved in pro bono activities, how to use the Fastcase TopForm bankruptcy filing software and more. At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need.

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ABA Reports on Top Legal Tech Trends

The American Bar Association (ABA) has released the fourth annual TECHREPORT, its annual report of top legal technology trends. The report explores how attorneys are using technology in their practices based on the results of a survey of practioners. The report is divided into 10 topics, each of which can be downloaded for free in pdf format. The topics are: planning and budgeting, technology training, security, cloud computing, mobile technology, practice management, blogging and social media, virtual law practice, litigation and T.A.R. and solo and small firm technology. One finding: 14 percent of respondents overall, and one in four from firms with 10-49 attorneys and 500-plus attorneys, reported a data breach.

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Opinion: Technology Can Narrow the Justice Gap

Lawyer and journalist Robert Ambrogi writes in Above the Law that technology has become a powerful tool for enhancing access to justice. While he cites a number of government studies that show this to be the case, he primarily writes about real-world applications that are being created by legal aid groups across the country. Through special grants from the Legal Services Corporation, local agencies have created a number of online and mobile services to connect lawyers with remote clients, provide free legal resources to at-risk population groups and promote pro bono work. LSC recently announced the latest round of technology grants with $4.2 million going to 27 legal services organizations. Ambrogi looks at several of the projects that received funding.

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CLE Examines Legal Services Management Companies

The TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market (ELM) held its second CLE in the Modern Law Practice Series this morning. The program covered legal services management companies, such as Counsel on Call, Latitude and Cobra Legal Solutions, and their role in the changing legal market. Professor Milan Markovic from Texas A&M University School of Law also spoke on the ethics of alternative legal service providers like LegalZoom and Avvo. The program is available on demand as oniline video.

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CLE Series Kicks Off with Look at Online Dispute Resolution

The first CLE in a four-part series hosted by the TBA’s Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market (ELM) premiered Thursday to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The program, part one of the “Modern Law Practice” series, covered online dispute resolution (ODR) and its influence on the practice of law. It is now available on demand from TBA CLE. Learn more about this program and others in the series.

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Are Legal Services Management Companies Changing Law Practice?

The second installment in the TBA’s ongoing Modern Law Practice CLE Series is planned for Dec. 2 as both an in-person and webcast program. During the three-hour session, speakers will examine the ways legal service management companies -- including those outsourcing work and those providing temporary staff -- are expanding and affecting the modern law practice. The course will be offered at the Bar Center in Nashville and as a live video stream.

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CLE to Focus on Online Dispute Resolution

On Nov. 17, the TBA will present a three-hour CLE on online dispute resolution. The sessions will cover the new world of online dispute resolution, which allows users with civil disputes to forgo court proceedings and instead use web-based technologies to resolve conflicts. Get details and register for the in-person CLE. Those who cannot make to the Bar Center for the course can tune in for a live webcast. Register for the simulcast here.

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Mediation Webcast Series Coming in November

Starting next week, a series of webcasts produced by the TBA’s Dispute Resolution Section and Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets will offer CLE and CME credit. On Nov. 2, the series will kick off with a focus on creating and managing productive relationships in mediation. On Nov. 17, the series will look at the impact of online dispute resolution tools on the practice of law. Then on Nov. 29, the series will wrap up with a session on mediation in juvenile court. Learn more or register for the courses at the links above.

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Regulators Allow Beauty App to Operate

The Tennessee Cosmetology and Barber Examiners Board has dropped its complaint against Belle, a new app that connects users with licensed beauty and fitness professionals, Forbes reports. The board had threatened the company with a $500 fine and a cease-and-desist order for lacking a cosmetology license. The board ultimately decided Belle was a technology company and not a cosmetology shop, and closed the complaint. It also dropped a complaint against a similar app, Stylist on Call. Belle says it plans to work with legislators next year to ensure regulations “keep pace with evolving markets and technology.”

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Opinion: Cabs, Law Firms Traveling Same Road

Lawyer, law professor and legal innovator Mark A. Cohen writes in Legal Mosiac that the taxicab and legal industries share eight commonalities, including that both are in the throes of “disruptive innovation.” What Uber is doing to the taxi industry, Legal Zoom is doing to the traditional law firm, he suggests. Lawyers can learn a number of lessons from the Uber experience: it has created a paradigm shift in business structure; changed the way providers work, customers buy and technology is used; connected buyers directly to providers; decentralized control of delivery; and aligned the interests of buyer and seller. Law is headed down the same road, he predicts

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Baker Donelson Creates Innovation Post

Baker Donelson has named shareholder William S. Painter as its first chief innovation officer, a new position created to focus on innovation in the delivery of client services and technology. Painter, who works in the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi, office, previously served as the chief strategic planning officer. In his new role, he will oversee legal project and knowledge management, information technology, pricing, eDiscovery/practice support and the firm’s consulting subsidiary. He also will work closely with fellow attorneys to streamline processes and develop and implement new and innovative ways to provide client value, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Federal Court Rules Avvo Lawyer Listings OK

A federal judge has tossed a Chicago lawyer’s class action lawsuit against online attorney directory Avvo, Cook County Record reports. The court found that Avvo’s lawyer listings are protected by the First Amendment and do not break an Illinois law that forbids the use of personal information, without consent, for profit. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman sided with Seattle-based Avvo Inc. and dismissed the legal action saying Avvo’s listings should not be considered “commercial speech,” like an advertisement for a specific product, brand or retailer. Rather, he said, the listings should be considered more akin to publications in which advertisements can be placed like newspapers, magazines or professional directories, like the Yellow Pages.

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UT Law Prof Reacts to ABA Futures Report

University of Tennessee College of Law professor Ben Barton provides his take on the ABA Report on the Future of Legal Services in a recent article for Bloomberg Law. While he praises the committee for recognizing that technology, self-help and court reform will be required to solve the profession’s problems, he says the “solutions half of the [r]eport is less encouraging.” Barton explains why he is not in favor of greater regulation as suggested by the report.

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TBA President Praises Lawyers' Contributions at EJU

TBA President Jason Long today voiced gratitude and admiration for the legal services professionals and pro bono volunteers gathered this week at the Equal Justice University, and emphasized that the Tennessee Bar Association’s initiative focused on the Evolving Legal Market has much to offer the access to justice community. Three Tennessee lawyers were recognized for their commitment to access to justice during an Awards Dinner Wednesday night. Craig Barnes with Memphis Area Legal Services and Russell Fowler from Legal Aid of East Tennessee both received the B. Riney Green Award for their work with their organizations and throughout the community. The award is named to honor Nashville attorney Green’s collaborative efforts to prevent cuts to legal aid funding in the late 1990s and is presented to individuals that promote inter-program cooperation and strengthen access to justice across the state. Zac Oswald with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands also was honored with the New Advocate of the Year Award.

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ABA Unveils New Tools for ATJ Efforts, Solo Lawyers

The ABA this week announced two new efforts. The first, a new Center for Innovation, is designed to increase access to justice and improve the delivery of legal services through innovative programs and initiatives. The second is a new web-based tool to help solo and small firm lawyers manage their practices. The ABA Blueprint program will launch this fall and offer information on technology, marketing, retirement and insurance services.

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Fee-Sharing Opinion May Signal Bad News for Avvo

A South Carolina ethics opinion on fee-sharing highlights a potential obstacle for services like Avvo, which match lawyers willing to provide defined legal services with clients who pay a fee up front. The July 14 advisory opinion targets variable marketing fees, saying such arrangements amount to a “contingency advertising fee” rather than a “cost that can be assessed for reasonableness.” Such services might also violate rules that ban lawyers from sharing fees with non-lawyers or paying for a referral, the opinion suggests. The ABA Journal looks at the issue.

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ABA Panel: Delivery of Legal Services Needs Major Changes

Unmet legal needs require innovation and other efforts to bolster access to affordable legal services, according to a new report from the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services. The commission this weekend released findings from a two-year study, offering 10 recommendations aimed at ensuring meaningful assistance to those with legal needs. A news release from the ABA summarizes the recommendations, which call for changes to both the civil and criminal systems of justice. Read the full report here.

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Long Talks in Knoxville about Evolving Legal Markets

About 60 members of the Knoxville Bar Association gathered yesterday to hear TBA President Jason Long talk about the evolving legal marketplace. Long, who took office in June, is supporting the work of the TBA’s Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets (ELM), which was created last year under the leadership of President Bill Harbison. Long writes about the committee and its work exploring the changing legal landscape and new ways legal services are being delivered in his Tennessee Bar Journal column.

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Libel-Proof Plaintiff Doctrine Featured in July TBJ

What if a person has no good reputation to protect – does defamation law still apply to her? David L. Hudson Jr. looks at the Libel-Proof Plaintiff Doctrine in the July Tennessee Bar Journal while Charles L. Baum examines the details of calculating loss from wrongful incarceration. TBA’s new president, Jason Long, writes about the TBA Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets (ELM) and its explorations into the changing legal landscape and new ways legal services are being delivered. Read these and other stories in the new issue of the journal.

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New TBA President Outlines Initiatives in Convention Speech

New TBA President Jason Long outlined his plans and objectives for the coming year after being sworn in to office during the TBA Annual Convention last week. Long brought special attention to the work of the recently created Evolving Legal Marketplace Committee, which is analyzing the landscape of legal services delivery in Tennessee and will lead educational efforts and other projects to help Tennessee lawyers thrive in this environment. View Long's speech now.

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Conference Explores Artificial Intelligence and Law

“Will your next lawyer be a machine?” A two-day conference exploring the use of artificial intelligence in law wraps up today at Vanderbilt Law School. The Tennessean reports Richard Susskind, an expert on the intersection of technology and the law, encouraged attendees to consider the various ways technology could impact their profession in coming years. He said that successful lawyers should begin preparing for the impact computing could have on their research and decision-making.

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