Legal Briefs: A Quick Tour of Tech News
Catch up on legal-related tech news from across the internet
The world moves fast these days, thanks to technology and globalization. It seems like the legal industry always has more to learn and know and do, and it can be hard to keep up with the outside world while also holding down a life and a career. However, staying abreast of legal news is part of your profession if you work in a law-related practice. We’ve collected a sampling of summarized stories about tech trends to keep track of, so you can stay on top of your professional game.
Texas ethics panel says lawyers can use Internet forums for legal questions
The State Bar of Texas’ Professional Ethics Committee recently tackled the question of whether or not seeking advice from other attorneys online followed the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
Because lawyers commonly have informal consultations with colleagues about client-related issues, doing so in online discussion groups, CLE seminars, or with a trusted mentor is permitted as long as the lawyer does not reveal confidential client information, which would break Disciplinary Rule 1.05 which prevents lawyers from sharing information protected by attorney-client privilege.
However, the opinion notes that disciplinary rules allow exceptions, such as Rule 1.05 (d)(1), which allows such revelations when necessary to carry out representation effectively.
“It’s a balancing situation that is very perilous because, on one hand, lawyers supporting lawyers by being mentored is strongly in a client’s best interest, but protecting a client’s confidential information is also in a client’s best interest,” said Scott Rothenberg, the Houston attorney who posed the question to the committee and teaches a State Bar of Texas CLE course on legal ethics.
He suggested that lawyers become familiar with what information is available on the district, intermediate appellate and Supreme Court websites about a case to make sure they do not accidentally reveal identity. Rothenberg also said lawyers may want to include verbiage in their employment agreement that informs clients that social media or informal consultations with other attorneys may be used to better serve their interests.
The human challenges of implementing artificial intelligence as financial services counsel
The age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here, but the laws are still forthcoming. Among the challenges of utilizing AI in the legal industry is the hard-to-duplicate value of the human eye. For example, if there’s a question about a subjective decision in regard to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) regulations, the governing laws are based out of wherever the decision was made – as in a physical location, with a person in charge. But what if there is no person?
Mayer Brown partner, David Beam, said, “There you have an ambiguity because the OCC rules and guidelines don’t address what happens in there. They don’t even consider the possibility that it’s a machine creating these underwriting standards.” He also pointed out that regulations predispose human error. How will that be handled when humans are no longer part of the equation when it comes to error?
Most AI systems will involve some sort of licensed software or technology, and often include a warranty that the software is in compliance with laws. However, AI evolves in a way that most software doesn’t since the machine develops protocols and algorithms as part of its process, which the vendor may not be aware of.
So, if the machine violates fair lending laws, for example by discriminating against a protected class, does liability fall with the person who licensed the technology or the person who used it?
Because of the rapid development and legal ambivalence around AI, there’s a possibility that courts will be addressing issues around artificial intelligence before legislatures even get the opportunity.
Do employers own social media accounts established as part of the job?
The Roanoke Times recently sued a reporter for keeping his Twitter account after leaving his job there, in a case that may have consequences for the future of social media accounts used for business.
BH Media Group has brought a lawsuit against a former employee and sports journalist over his continued use of a Twitter account they claim to own, citing employee contracts signed by the reporter.
BH Media charges that the reporter violated the Defend Trade Secrets Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Stored Communications Act, as well as state laws in Virginia, by continuing to use the account.
However, the reporter, Andy Bitter, claims he is the only person who has used the account since 2011 and was the only one who knew the password and login information.
The lawsuit may help define how a social media account related to a business should be treated under the law, or at least bring more awareness to employers regarding how to protect their interests related to social media accounts after employee termination or resignation.
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