Use of Technology for Advocacy

In a recent order from Livingston v. City of Chicago, Magistrate Judge Young Kim of the Northern District of Illinois provided useful guidance to litigants in the use of technology assisted review, or TAR. Importantly, Judge Kim affirmed what is known as “Sedona Principle Six,” the notion that a responding party is in the best position to design and evaluate procedures for preserving and producing its own electronically stored information, or ESI.   

In the latest piece to come out of the FTC’s new focus on emerging technologies, the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection issued new guidance on the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and algorithms. The guidance follows up on a 2018 hearing where the FTC explored AI, algorithms, and predicative analysis. As the FTC recognizes, these technologies already pervade the modern economy. They influence consumer decision making – from what video to watch next, to what ad to click on, or what product to purchase. They make investment decisions, credit decisions, and, increasingly, health decisions, which has also sparked the interest of State Attorneys General and the Department of Health & Human Services. But the promise of new technologies also comes with risk. Specifically, the FTC cites an instance in which an algorithm designed to allocate medical interventions ended up funneling resources to healthier, white populations.

Earlier this month, the Second Circuit ruled that Mount Sinai Health System did not violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) when it sent automated flu shot text message reminders to patients. The three-judge panel in Latner v. Mount Sinai Health Systems, Inc. affirmed the dismissal of the putative class action, finding that the lead plaintiff, Daniel Latner, had consented to receiving the messages.  As companies in the healthcare industry and beyond increasingly rely on automated communication systems, this case highlights the consumer privacy implications of using mass text messages to contact patients and consumers.

With bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies reaching shocking new prices seemingly every day, some people have finally started putting the new payment systems to real use – paying lawyers. Earlier this fall Nebraska became the first state to hand down a formal ethics ruling on the propriety of lawyers charging their clients using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In allowing lawyers to charge their clients via cryptocurrencies, so long as they then instantly exchange the virtual currency for U.S. dollars, the decision may be indicative of a larger trend in the legal industry.

The use of social media sites, like LinkedIn, can be a helpful tool to reach a customer base. But a recent district court case out of Minnesota exemplifies the need to ensure that LinkedIn usage complies with the user’s employment agreement. Specifically, in late July 2017, a Minnesota court in Mobile Mini, Inc. v. Vevea granted a preliminary injunction preventing a LinkedIn user from soliciting customers through the website in violation of non-solicitation clause in the employment agreement of her prior employer. The opinion differentiates between posting mere status updates and posting solicitations, the latter of which can trigger violations of non-solicitation clauses.

Through the help of artificial intelligence (“AI”), your smartphone can act as a GPS that adjusts its recommended route in real-time based on emerging traffic patterns. By adapting to changes in traffic, the smartphone is able to redirect a driver to a faster route. Now imagine these adaptive capabilities in the legal field. With the potential of AI growing rapidly, the use of AI technology, though still in its infancy, is gaining traction with law firms, helping to provide better outcomes for clients, faster. According to a recent survey by management consulting firm Altman Weil, law firms are beginning to explore AI’s potential. While only 7.5% of surveyed law firms are currently making use of AI, nearly a third of the surveyed law firms have begun to explore opportunities to use AI as a legal tool. The capabilities of AI, whether currently available or on the horizon, suggest that both lawyers and clients can benefit from the legal field’s embrace of AI. This is particularly true with respect to the use of AI in the many phases of contract review: contract creation, contract analysis, and contract due diligence.

In May, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) released a Formal Opinion 477, providing guidance on attorney use of emails in communication with clients. In doing so, the ABA has promulgated a new standard when considering the level of protections necessary while using technology to converse about a legal representation. According to the ABA, a lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the Internet when the lawyer has undertaken “reasonable efforts” to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access to information relating to the representation. Under this reasonable-efforts standard, however, the ABA explicitly warns that a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions, like the use of encrypted emails, when the information warrants a higher degree of security.

Law firms are slowly but steadily moving to the cloud. According to an American Bar Association report, 37.5% of lawyers reported the use of web-based software services or solutions in 2016, up from 31% in 2015, and 30% in 2014. A recent decision from a federal court in Virginia, however, highlights the substantial risks associated with the use of cloud technology. In that case, the court held that an insurance company had waived any claim of privilege with respect to its claims and investigation files, which had been posted to a publicly-accessible, non-password protected cloud account. Moreover, the court held that the privilege had been waived despite the fact that it was the insurer’s investigator, not the insurer, who had decided to use the unsecured account. The case serves as a warning that use of cloud technology demands that attorneys understand this new technology, and how their clients and agents are using it, in order to protect confidential information maintained there.