On Sunday, November 5th, LegalRnD had the honor of hosting Pamela Morgan, Founder, and CEO of Third Key Solutions. The theme of the morning workshop was educating future attorneys on what they need to know about Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Smart Contracts. “Bitcoin, blockchains, and smart contracts are coming to disrupt the legal practice. These technologies provide new ways of delivering services that are faster, more secure, and often eliminate the need for “trusted” third parties. They’ll impact the way lawyers, and their clients, do business.”

The workshop provided law students with a practical understanding of what’s happening now (and what’s just hype); what students, as future attorneys, and potential clients need to know about the technology and the laws that govern them; and how to further develop your practice in this niche area.

What is Blockchain

“A blockchain is a decentralized distributed public ledger, accessible to all nodes connected to the blockchain (Nodes are individual computers that contribute computing power to the blockchain). Each transaction is stored on several computers connected to a common network, which individually validates whether each transaction should occur. For information to be included on the blockchain, the network (comprised of all the nodes) must reach a consensus, usually at least a majority. The transactions are then aggregated (“batches”) into blocks for organization. Then each block is connected to the previous block, hence the name blockchain. Each block is accessible to each node on the blockchain. The block becomes an immutable record and ultimately secure.” – based on research from Danielle Chirdon and Justin Evans

Workshop Take-Aways

Students learned that when advising future clients about blockchain applications and platforms, they should consider some key questions:

Is the blockchain public or private (DLT)?
Blockchains should be established as a Peer-to-peer network. Blockchain systems are stronger when connected to other computers and consistently being validated. If the blockchain is closed and secure behind a corporation’s firewall, it is subject to attack.

2. Who can change the future/past?
When analyzing the closed blockchain platform being proposed, we must identify those who have the ability to change transactions on the blockchain? Under the traditional system, the content on the blockchain remains an unchangeable transaction and requires the introduction of a new block to update terms amongst the parties.

3. At what cost?
Can a member of the blockchain easily alter the material incorporated on the closed blockchain platform? Under the traditional system, the ability to change material on the traditional blockchain requires a large computational feat. Because the traditional blockchain requires a large computational feat, the material added to the blockchain is considered largely immutable (secure/unhackable). Clients need secure blockchain platforms, securing their data and transactions.

5. Who will know and how?
If the material on the blockchain platform is altered, who will know and how will they be notified that the material is changed? Clients need the security of knowing that their material is secured and not easily altered by the members of the closed blockchain platform.

ICO Crowdsourcing

Students learned that many startups are using Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), rather than the capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks, to fund their companies. For example, Martin Köppelmann, 31, Stefan George, 29, and Matt Liston, 25 sought to use the ICO platform to raise 12.5 million for their startup, and did so in 11.5 minutes!This works by the startup offering its coin, in which investors can purchase, giving the early investor a stake in the company. To help assist in crowdfunding for ICOs, the DAO, which stands for digital, decentralized autonomous organization, was created to act as a form of investor-directed venture capital fund. Recently, governing bodies such as the SEC have come out and ruled the offering of coins for a stake in the company as securities. As ICO crowdfunding continues, 21st-century lawyers are needed to help startups adhere to potential laws that may govern them.

Co-written by Danielle Chirdon

The 2017 Financial Legal Technology Conference at Chicago-Kent College of Law was a high intensity day packed with information from over twenty leaders in the crosshairs of technology in the legal and financial industry. In order to attempt to give a more accurate overview of the day’s events, [-] and I will be releasing a series of posts summarizing some of the main themes we saw throughout the day.

“Innovation means people sitting at the same table, talking the same language, with a common set of goals.”

“The field of law is moving too [slow],” David Cambria, Global Director of Legal Operations for Archer Daniels Midland. “The law looks like finance 50 years ago” Dan Katz, Director of the Law Lab at Illinois Tech Chicago College of Law. Katz opened the conference with establishing two major branches of Fintech: (1) removing the socially meaningless friction of “that’s the way we have always done something” and (2) how to characterize (price) risk using legal technology. Lawyers tend to think of themselves as risk adverse, but “it is meaningless in business to say something is risky.” Being a lawyer means helping to decide which risk is worth taking. Corporate clients need attorneys who speak their language and who understand their goals. Unfortunately, attorneys have not been properly trained during law school for optimal use by their corporate clients. Throughout the day, the need for law schools to alter their approach to training law students by freeing up the capacity for alternative streams of courses was a reoccurring theme. Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft, spoke on how the traditional education of law and constraints on the unauthorized practice of law is a huge impediment to innovation. Why should educators care? Because they are preparing for their future careers

(Law + Tech + Design + Delivery) = education for the 21st century lawyer, Alexander Rabanal, Associate Director of The Law Lab at Chicago-Kent.

The delivery of legal services is evolving due to changes in market demand. Business partners and in-house legal teams are redefining the relationships with outside attorneys, requiring them to embrace the use of technology and improve their current processes. These clients are asking for greater value, mutual benefits and risks, and multidisciplinary teams. Is the current way things are done, the best way? The whole goal is to do the work better, faster, and cheaper. “Sometimes the best lawyer, is no lawyer at all.” Stephanie Corey , Chief of Staff and Legal Operations Senior Director, Uplevel Ops. Whether the tasks assigned to certain roles, in a current process, is the most efficient method of conducting a legal service is a question law firms may benefit from asking in the wake of changing demands from their clients. “You don’t need a surgeon to draw blood at clinic, like you don’t need a partner to do the work of a paralegal.” Applying process improvement techniques like lean thinking and putting people in leadership roles to work alongside attorneys, may help to improve current processes and help law firms maintain clients. “But please, stop using the term non-lawyer. They are the secret sauce.”

Corporate legal clients are using new technology to innovate and need trusted advisors who understand the technology and laws that govern them.

“The use of technology like Blockchain will revolutionize how corporate clients conduct business, increasing the need for attorneys who understand the technology and have the ability to address potential risk,” Justin Steffen, a partner of Jenner & Block. We can not advise clients on technology that we do not understand. Eric Woods, a partner of Chapman and Cutler, highlights that the use of smart contracts presents several issues that must be addressed before it’s widely implemented; what happens if a smart contract that is uploaded to the blockchain contains a bug or either party files for bankruptcy? What will be the fiduciary duty of the smart contract developer who codes the contract for you? “The current state of smart contracts is good for if-then statements, but are not coded for best judgment,” Justin Steffen. “Lawyers need to be able to collaborate with the clients and coders to properly move the technology forward,”Wulf Kaal, An Associate Professor and Director of the Private Investment Fund Institute.

Alternative legal groups are using technology to bridge the gap for access to justice

“Access to Justice should be frictionless for those who need legal services. The fact that legal service has such a high price tags illustrates one of the many potential frictions that exist for those needing these services.There are approximately 4 billion people on the Earth who live on less than 10$ a day. The legal infrastructure is too expensive for these individuals to obtain an attorney,”Eddie Hartman, Co-founder of LegalZoom.

“There are over 25,000 pages of immigration law, which means that those needing immigration help need attorneys to help them with the paperwork. Only 15% of the individuals who need immigration help have the necessary funds to access it, leaving 75% underserved,”Javad Khazaeli, Founder of Road To Status LLC. In an attempt to bridge the gap for access to justice, companies like Road to Status and Paladin are using legal technology tools to serve the underserved population better.

Road to Status –

The goal of “Road to Status” is to assist those in need of help with citizenship with obtaining and filling out the necessary documents.Road to status has created an online platform that allows the client to complete all of their administrative work themselves. Road to status has provided pictures that illustrate the required information needed for each form, these forms are written in a way the best explains the information that is needed. To ensure that clients have submitted the necessary forms correctly, Road to Status uses of artificial intelligence to flag potential issues. Clients are also provided with attorney to support them and provide further review before submitting their documents.

Paladin –

There are more than 1.3 million American Attorneys who are required to perform at least 50 hours a year of pro bono work. This means that there are at least 65,000,000 hours that could be used to help bridge the access to justice. However, the legal system and profession does not provide a viable solution for how to effectively use these hours for representation of the unrepresented. Paladin is using technology to make pro bono easy, by working with law firms, in-house legal teams and law schools to reduce the administrative costs of pro bono to improve outcomes. Paladin provides personalized opportunities for these organizations to streamline, coordinate, and automate legal representation through workflow management.

Law firms and consultants are using technology to invest in litigation selectively

“Legal risk is similar to a toddler in that if you do not pay them the attention they will get into trouble. The legal industry should model themselves after CPAs, who have been managing and mitigating clients’ risk for years” Jillian Bommarito , Principal Consultant & Treasurer of LexPredict. Collection and mining of big data will change the way the legal industry approaches to risk and litigation. “Big and small data will be used by attorneys to put into a predictive modeling, scenario testing, and litigation decision tree modeling to provide strategic advice to clients on how to avoid and manage risk,” Eric Blinderman, Chief Executive Officer of Therium Inc.

Nearly 90% of U.S. corporation will be engaged in some litigation in the lifespan of the company, many cases simultaneously. In America, there are thousands of civil lawsuits that are filled annually, costing corporate clients billions annually.The use of technology in combination with the practice of law attorneys can use modeling processes to help their clients decide whether to allocate resources to litigating a course. “Litigation finance is growing and changing the way corporations pursue commercial litigation,” Russell Genet, Director of Longford Capital Management. Companies like Longford Capital management are revolutionizing the way litigation financed. Litigation finance firms provide non-recourse capital to (i) companies to pay attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred in litigation and (ii) invest in portfolios of cases managed by leading law firms.

On October 17th, Carl W. Herstein, a Partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn and its Chief Value Partner, led the firm’s periodic value initiative meeting at Michigan State University Law School. Mr. Herstein opened the meeting by discussing the changing environment of law firms and corporate legal departments. Mr. Herstein also discussed his firm-wide efforts to deliver greater value to its clients through means such as Project Management, process improvement, and the implementation of technology.

This meeting will also include presentations by MSU Law students and LegalRnD Director Dan Linna and Innovation Counsel Jordan Galvin about how they are using the same disciplines to improve legal-service delivery and create value for clients through a “people, process, technology” approach.

(The Innovation Index will open deep discussions between firms and clients to improve legal-service delivery)

Dan Linna presented alongside Anita western, Sean Acosta, and Jameson Joyce on an index of legal-service delivery innovation, which they created to identify legal innovation and technology adoption in 260 of the world’s largest law firms. To determine the level of innovation in the legal industry, the team first created a catalog of 205 innovations implemented in law firms. Second, the team identified ten categories of legal-service delivery innovation and ran advanced Google searches across law firms’ websites to identify evidence of legal-services innovation and technology adoption.

(Using LegalRnD disciplines in the 54A district court we can save citizens’ homes)

Jordan Galvin, Nick Gamber, and Drew Sanders spoke about the core LegalRnD disciplines and how they’re being applied to an Eviction Diversion Pilot Program at the 54A district court. In the implementation and assessment of that pilot program, they are using discliplines such as process improvement, design thinking, and data analysis to create a more user-centric approach to legal service delivery. A core principle is to do test potential solutions and get feedback from users while gathering data about outcomes, not just efforts, to assess the program’s effectiveness.

(Using skills learned in Quantitative Analysis class we can better deliver legal services)

Dierdre McKinney presented on her project with Michigan Legal Help. Michigan Legal Help is a free legal information website that provides resources to pro se litigants. Using empirical research skills from Quantitative Analysis with Professor Linna, Dierdre is assessing information from users to determine which legal issues litigants need additional help with. This data will help provide Michigan Legal Help a better understanding of what additional resources they should make available on their website.

(“Blockchain, more than any other technology, will drive the next wave of legal innovation and transform the business of law”-Bob Craig, CIO at Baker Hostetler)

Danielle Chirdon and Jay Evans spoke on how emerging technologies like blockchain are revolutionizing the way clients conduct business. Clients are asking for and need trusted advisors who not only understand these technologies but also understand the laws that govern them.

We would like to provide a special thank you to Sarah McCormick, a 2017 LegalRnD MSU Law grad, who recently joined Honigman as a project manager and helped coordinate this event and helped make it possible. We would also like to thank again Carl Herstein, who also spoke at MSU Law last year. We appreciate his support of the program. He repeated this during the program, emphasizing the need for law schools to have programs like LegalRnD. He stated that programs like LegalRnD train not only nontraditional lawyers for positions like a legal project manager and legal solutions architect, but also trains traditional lawyers, who need to understand how to leverage project management, process improvement, metrics, data analytics, and technology to deliver better solutions for their clients.

As Mr. Herstein and Professor Linna pointed out, during their introductory comments, clients now expect their lawyers to be able to answer the question: “How are you using innovation and technology to improve not only efficiency but also substantive outcomes.” We would also like to thank the [10] Honigman lawyers and other professionals who attended this event in person. Finally, we would like to thank the Honigman lawyers and professionals who watched the event live from Honigman’s offices in Detroit, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders and chief legal officer Bob Bailey explained in a recent interview, that they are being forced to have to protect their patents against what the company considers to be “double jeopardy” in patent disputes.

Should pharmaceutical companies be subjected to double jeopardy? The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that “No person shall … be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Are corporations considered to be a person by the court? The Supreme Court seems to have supported this theory in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and doubled down in ATM v. Bullock. In the United States Code, 1 U.S.C§1, it is stated that “[when] determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise—the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”

So why are pharmaceuticals not protected by this law?

Allergan pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Botox and Restasis, is currently defending its therapeutic Restasis in a Texas Federal court against the generic giants Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Apotex, Inc., Akorn, Inc. and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Interestingly, Allergan is also defending Restasis against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Akorn, Inc. and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. through the U.S. Patent and Trade Office’s inter partes review (IPR) process. How is it that a pharmaceutical company, which is considered a person, is having to fight the same companies in both federal court and patent court to protect its patents?

Earlier this year Allergan reached a settlement with another generic pharmaceutical, extending the protection of its patent until 2024. In an attempt to protect its patents from litigation on multiple fronts for the next 7 years by another round of generic pharmaceutical companies, Allergan has decided to assign its patent rights to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of Upstate New York. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will in return license the patent back to Allergan for about 15 million dollars annually. The legal counsel for the tribe said that the new funding source will help bring much needed resources to the tribe.

Tribal Sovereign Immunity is a doctrine that states that Indian tribes are immune from judicial proceedings without their consent or Congressional waiver. In a recent Supreme Court Case, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, the Court reaffirmed the doctrine tribal sovereign immunity. The decision upholds Indian sovereign immunity against lawsuits brought by state governments, reaffirming that the Congress, not the court, can decide when Tribes can be brought to court.

Tribal Sovereignty has been instrumental in the establishment in many of deals that have lead many tribes to establish gaming enterprises. It has been reported that the gaming industry has helped Indian tribes decrease unemployment from 70% to 13%. The gaming industry and now pharmaceutical licensing could potentially help tribes “[break] debilitating economic dependence on federal spending programs and replenishing the social and cultural fabric that can support vibrant and healthy
communities and families.”

Pharmaceutical companies could potentially benefit, depending on the regulatory response from the tribe’s sovereign immunity by allowing them to avoid unfair and unnecessary disputes at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and elsewhere in the federal courts. The current system allows for competitors to challenge patent validity before a panel at the PTAB and before a judge in federal circuit court. The chief executive, Brent Saunders, at Allergan calls the process double jeopardy for having to fight the same issue in two different venues. I would be inclined to agree if these were criminal suits, since both are civil suits, I believe that this violation is protected by Res judicata. Res judicata protects a defendant from having the same matter raised again, either in the same court or in a different court once the matter has been determined. Once the Texas federal court has handed down its decision, if there isn’t an appeal, Allergan should raise the issue of Res judicata in relation to the pending case at the PTAB. The supreme court has granted certiorari in Oil States vs. Greene’s Energy Group, et al, to determine whether the PTAB is unconstitutional by not allowing defendants trial by jury.

Ironically, the spokeswoman for Teva Pharmaceuticals, Denise Bradley, argues that the licensing patents from tribes will delay access to high-quality and affordable generic alternatives. I believe that allowing for lawsuits in multiple venues over the same issue will drive cost more than anything. These lawsuits are not cheap for a pharmaceutical company, who is already trying to see a return on its investment. Pharmaceutical companies, like Allergan, spend millions in research and development of new therapeutics to help improve global health. Generic pharmaceutical companies are not required to conduct these intensive studies to bypass regulatory approval. Generic pharmaceuticals make their profits off of the investment of other pharmaceutical companies’ research and development of therapeutics. If the Supreme Court wants to continue to support globe health, it should prevent pharmaceutical companies from being hailed into federal court and the PTAB for the same issue. If pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies are forced to fight on multiple fronts for the same issue, we will see an increase in drug prices or a decrease in innovation in the health industry.

“Artificial intelligence [will] be the ultimate version of Google. The ultimate search engine that [will] understand everything on the web. It [will] understand exactly what you want, and it [will] give you the right thing ” —Larry Page

On September 25th, LegalRnD will be hosting Brian Kuhn, Global Leader and Co-Creator of IBM Watson Legal, who will be speaking about Artificial Intelligence. If you are anything like me you might be wondering what artificial Intelligence (AI) is and why as a lawyer or potential lawyer, should I care? Some lawyers, like my coworker this summer, believe that AI will replace lawyers in the coming years and therefore, oppose the implementation of it within the legal industry. Others like Dan Linna Jr., Director of LegalRnD at Michigan State University College of Law, and Andrew Arruda, CEO of Ross Intelligence, have written articles, where both have agreed that use of AI will result in attorneys being more effective and efficient. 1,2.

Why should the legal industry concern themselves with AI?
In several recent studies, it has been reported that attorneys with 0 to 4 years of experience spend a third to three-fourths of their week conducting legal research. Startup companies such as Ross Intelligence have decided to use AI to address this waste. 4,5.

Ross Intelligence, an AI start-up company, helps lawyers find relevant cases using natural language search. The application allows you to ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and ROSS then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed. The application is not designed to replace lawyers, but rather help them with knowledge management: keeping up with all the latest legislation. 6.

There are other types of startups, like Law Pocket, that are using AI to help consumers structure their legal questions and then connects them to the best-equipped attorney to handle the issue. Law Pocket is developing an app that would help bridge the gap for access to justice by placing justice in the palm of consumers’ hands. 8.

In the United States, there is no right to counsel in civil disputes. Each year as many as 80% of low-income people who face civil legal problems that can threaten home, family stability and livelihood are unable to obtain assistance in resolving their problems. Meaning a majority of low to moderate-income Americans are left to face their legal problems alone. 7.

Mr. Kuhn mentioned during an interview with Legal Talk Network, that America is ranked last when it comes to access to justice. Fortunately, AI technologies that are being developed by companies like Ross Intelligence and Law Pocket have the potential to be used by attorneys to assist clients, in need of legal help, in a more effectively and efficiently.

Also in the interview with Legal Talk Network, Mr. Kuhn stated that lawyers should care about the usefulness of AI for three reasons: 1) there is a lot of data that exist from cases and negotiations that lawyers have conducted, 2) this data can be used for to the advantage of lawyers for improving service to the client, and 3) clients are beginning to require it from law firms. Interestingly, he stated that Watson legal can be used to analyze court cases to provide data for likely outcomes, which would be of interest for litigators and their clients. He also pointed to the fact that Watson legal could also reveal own biases in court decisions.

What was AI?

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that deals with the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines. This process includes acquiring information and rules for using the information, using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions, and self-correction. For a more in-depth understanding of AI and how it is being utilized by Watson Legal, you should register below to attend Brian Kuhn’s discussion on Watson Legal on September 25th!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/legalrnd-speaker-series-brian-kuhn-ibm-watson-tickets-37803615632?aff=ebdsorderfblightbox

1. http://www.legaltechlever.com/category/artificial-intelligence/
2. https://www.iltanet.org/viewdocument/beyond-the-hype-artificial-intelli?ssopc=1
3. http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/AI
4. http://www.aallnet.org/sections/all/storage/committees/practicetf/final-report-07102013.pdf
5. https://www.law.gonzaga.edu/files/Rebooting-Legal-Research-in-a-Digital-Age.pdf
6. https://medium.com/cognitivebusiness/how-watson-helps-lawyers-find-answers-in-legal-research-672ea028dfb8
7. https://blog.rossintelligence.com/how-to-leverage-legal-technology-and-bridge-the-justice-gap-3d63f096b32a
8. Law Pocket Startup: Jordan Gaither, CEO Founder & Mark Harris, CTO.

“Every business in the world needs to innovate in order to gain competitive advantage and survive in the marketplace—and lawyers are no longer an exception to this basic rule.” – Kathy Burns

Recently, Kevin O’Keefe, founder and CEO of Lexblog, published an article discussing Michigan State University College of Law’s growing recognition amongst the legal community for its Legal Research and Development Program “Legal RnD”. He highlights how using technology has played a role in the accomplishments of several recent graduates of the program, giving MSU Law national recognition usually reserved for those such as Harvard, Yale, or Michigan. As a result, Jay Evans and I wanted to write a blog post to explain what LegalRnD is and how it has benefited us so far.

What is it?

LegalRnD is a program that provides courses, lecture series, and networking opportunities to assist law students in their development as future lawyers. The program seeks to educate and train future lawyers on how to improve the delivery of legal services using technology. Technological innovation in the legal space is not meant to be “lawyer-replacing”; rather, innovation is meant to be a “lawyer-strengthening”. Learning the skills and technology available to enable processes improvement can help the legal profession automate monotonous tasks while reaching a broader client base, including those who may traditionally lack access to justice.

More recently, the center has published research on legal innovation. Dan Linna, Director of LegalRnD and Professor of Law in Residence at MSU, published Phase 1 of the Legal Services Innovation Index with the help of MSU law students. This detailed data collection was designed “to add to and improve legal-industry discussions about legal innovation and technology” and opens the doors to quantifiable analyses.

Jay Evans and I joined LegalRnD in September of 2016 as 1Ls. To illustrate the importance and benefits of LegalRnD we would like to share our experiences.

Why we joined LegalRnD?

Danielle – I first learned of LegalRnD while attending the 2016 Lean Law Process Improvement Workshop. Following the workshop, I decided to join LegalRnD because of the great value that it provided its members, including opportunities to learn about the law outside of the classroom and opportunities to network with forward thinking legal professionals. I am currently interning with an innovation based organization and creating a brand for myself through social media.

Jay – I decided to join LegalRnd because I knew that it would help me learn the best way to bridge my technical background with my interest in the legal field. After attending several meetings and programs, I quickly realized that I wanted to improve my chances of being a T-shaped lawyer and I knew that LegalRnD was my best opportunity to accomplish this goal. Because of Professor Linna’s encouragement to blog about emerging legal topics in my areas of interests of interest and his encouragement to use social media to promote my brand, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for my dream company this past summer.

How did it influence our summer?

Danielle – The internship that I obtained through attending a Spartan Hack-a-thon, as a LegalRnD representative, solidified the value of the program. This summer I witnessed how learning and using technology could positively affect in-house legal processes. Because my mentor, senior corporate counsel, had taken coding classes and dedicated time to learning technology she was able to more efficiently and effectively create contracts for the tech team; she could “talk tech”. Additionally, I was able to have in-depth discussions with the IT department about how blockchain could better improve the functions title industry because LegalRnD had introduced me to the technology.

Jay- As a member of LegalRnD, you are encouraged to brand yourself through social media and other networking events. During the spring semester, several of the LegalRnD students attended the ABA Legal Tech show to learn about rapidly evolving trends in the legal field. This summer, I had the opportunity to see how legal divisions within companies use many of the tools discussed at the tech show to streamline their legal processes. I had the opportunity to participate in on a number of meetings in which we discussed ways to use technology to streamline legal matters.

2L year

As second-year law students and members of the executive board of Legal Launch Pad—LegalRnD’s student group—we look forward to the upcoming events and opportunities to dive further into topics such as artificial intelligence and e-discovery. We invite you to come to our meetings to learn innovation in the legal field.

Also a great reads:

Michigan State College Of Law Ranks Number One

The Legal Services Innovation Index (021)

ABA Innovation Center Urges Lawyers to Try New Things, Identifies Innovative Law Schools

http://appraisinglegalrevelations.lawschoolblogplatform.com/

http://legaltechlever.com

“Our probably fastest-growing sector right now is the legal sector” J. Paul Haynes, eSentire’s CEO


Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts users’ ability to access their computers or data and demands money to release it. Specifically, in a large law firm setting, ransomware can prevent litigators from accessing motions on a deadline, trial lawyers from obtaining key documents needed for preparing arguments, transactional lawyers from communicating with clients during the closing of multibillion-dollar deals.


Ransomware targets vulnerabilities that exist in computer networks and software like Microsoft Windows or other Windows administrative tools. Once a computer is infected, the ransomware spreads rapidly across the organization’s network. The ransomware encrypts confidential documents and then demands a ransom, typically in Bitcoin, in exchange for a digital key to unlock the files. 1

eSentire is a Canada-based cyber security company that has seen a spike in investments and its clientele over the past three years. eSentire states that one of the sectors that it saw a surge in clientele is in the legal industry. eSentire’s increase in law firm clients is because of cyber attacks that have plagued the law firms in recent months. Recently, law firms have experienced some targeted ransomware attacks that have been designed to capture clients’ data or disrupt services at the firm. Because of increasing attacks, clients have pressured law firms to improve their cyber security.


Clients have grown increasingly nervous after DLA Piper, one of the world’s largest international law firms, was a victim of a ransomware attack. The ransomware resulted in the international law firm having to shut down operations and work from their cell phones temporarily. The ransomware was designed to lock firms out of its computers and requests a payment of $300 in Bitcoin to obtain a “decryption code” that unlocks the firm’s files. DLA Piper has not stated whether it paid the ransom but does say it was able to isolate the ransomware by shutting down its systems and working with forensic specialists. The attack was a blow to DLA Piper because it holds its self out as a law firm with a specialty in privacy and security. The DLA Piper attack was the first time that a ransomware attack publicly crippled the daily operations of a large law firm.

Law firms are repositories of their client’s most sensitive information, which makes them likely targets for ransomware attacks. For example, one of the largest ransomware attacks resulted in the leak of information that is now known as the Panama Papers. During this leak, hackers targeted the large international law firm Mosack Fonseca and leaked 11.5 million emails, contracts, scanned documents and transcripts of celebrities and public officials.

Ways Law Firms Can Strengthen their Network Security

To ensure the safety of clients data, law firms should first hire a Chief Information Security Officer or outside cyber security firms, such as eSentire, so that the firm’s network traffic, systems, and IT infrastructure are being monitored, which will help uncover breaches and neutralize cyber attacks.

Law firms should continually update and patch all company software, like Microsoft Office, so that ransomware cannot target this vulnerability. Firms’ IT departments should work closely with the Chief Information Security Officer or outside counsel to ensure that network systems and software are up to date. The Chief Information Security Officer or outside counsel should consider working with hacker firms to test the companies’ cyber security protocols annually.

Firms should provide training to its employees so that they have the skillset to be best able to recognize potential cyber threats. Employees should be regularly updated and tested for their ability to identify suspicious materials. For examples, many corporations randomly send out suspicious emails to various employees to test their ability to recognize potential threats.

Firms should require employees to use password generators or password strength gauges when developing passwords, to help prevent hackers from taking advantage of weak passwords. Many organizations such as the National Institutes of Health require badges and passwords to be used in combination to access computer systems. This method would prevent outside hackers from using employees’ passwords to access company data remotely.

Firms should apply the 3-2-1 back up storage method to help protect against ransomware attacks. The IT department should set systems so that data is backed up and stored in two separate mediums within the firm and one air-gapped copy (offline) should be stored offsite. Ransomware attacks can result in files being damaged or held hostage, so having backed up versions of your data will help your firm continue business as usual as the repairs to the system are being done.

Finally, Firms should purchase cyber security insurance to help handle with the mitigation of potential losses from the cyber-attack. Cyber security insurance will require the adoption of pre-emptive measures, along with an implementation of best practices. Cyber incidents are often excluded from general commercial liability and property insurance policies, leaving firms to pay out of pocket for data “destruction, extortion demands, crisis management, legal claims for defamation, fraud and privacy violations.”2

1. Aristedes Mahairas, a special agent in the cyber division of the New York City’s FBI field office, reported that ransomware attacks have increased, resulting in law firms having to pay ransoms for its clients’ confidential information.

2. Cybersecurity Insurance, Homeland security, (August 26, 2017) https://www.dhs.gov/cybersecurity-insurance.