Tuesday, January 6, 2015

IMHO: Hits, Misses and Random Observations on Legal Information and Technology -- Highlights of 2014

 In my humble opinion....looking back on 2014 here are some standouts...for better or worse....

Worst piece of proposed legislation for law firms Award OK accounting is a snooze, but this issue has my attention. The  tax law amendment proposing mandatory accrual accounting for law firms could wipe out all the  staffing and process efficiencies law firms have gained since the recession with the stroke of a pen. According to the ABA  Section 3301 of the draft “Tax Reform Act of 2014”and Section 51 of a similar Senate draft bill would force law firms with gross receipts over $10 million to use the accrual method of accounting rather than the traditional cash method. Law firms would be forced to pay taxes on income long before it is actually received. The administrative overhead to implement and comply with these changes will bloat accounting staffs ...in fact law firms might as well just become accounting firms because that is the business they will be in if this law passes!

The Most Collossal Failure of Law, Technology and Common Sense.  The loss of Malaysia Flight 370 highlights the misplaced growth of technology to provide pervasive access to inane blathering while ignoring life saving communication systems for international transport. The airline industry has failed to self regulate and international regulatory bodies have failed to act for the public good. Google is developing cars. Maybe it is time for Apple to enter the airline industry -- at least we can count on them to develop a "find my airplane" app.

 The Most Famous Research Product Which Doesn’t Actually Exist Award goes to IBM's "Legal Watson."  Legal Watson got an awful lot of press ... considering that it is still more a concept than a product. Of course I want to see where this is all going, but hopefully I will be retired before it can take over my job.

The Longest Non-Rollout Award  Goes to Wolters Kluwer's new research platform called Cheetah. I wrote a post on it over a year ago... there were public previews at AALL in July and yet the curtain has not yet been raised. I am counting on a 2015 release.

The Bumpiest Rollout goes to Lexis Advance. Nuf said.

No No Not Another Award. For the past decade we were inundated with news monitoring products. This year it was Pacer/docket products. I don’t mean to discourage innovators, after all Avis did give Hertz a run for their money.

The Show Me the Data Award goes to Thomson Reuters Dealproof (Drafting Assistant Transactional )– I am actually serious here. Every vendor "talks the talk" about how they will help law firms become more efficient. Rarely do they ever deliver a piece of evidence. Thomson Reuters   developed one of the most compelling pieces of marketing documentation which shows the actual time savings achieved when a lawyer uses the Dealproof to review transactional documents. Don't talk to me about big data products if you can't deliver your own data on your own products.

Worst federal government technology roll out Award.
OK it doesn’t quite reach the level of the Affordable Care Act Website debacle. The Administrative Office of the  US Courts roll out of  the new electronic filing system (ECF) must have been developed with solo practitioners in mind. It is an administrative nightmare for large law firms looking to centralize and streamline workflows. Pacer was actually 214 systems cobbled together and YES something needed to be done. But we needed a solution that worked for both the government and the legal profession and we are not there yet.  So far the roll out has been marked by poor communication, confusing instructions and a failure to assess workflow impact  on large law firms.

Who needs archives Award? Goes to, oh no…. the Administrative Office of the US Courts  wins again for removing access to pubic dockets in 5 courts including the Second Circuit!!!!!
They seemed surprised that anyone noticed or cared. They have since announced plans to restore the missing dockets after a public outcry.

Legal Research Hall of Fame  goes to Martindale Hubbell. Baseball players get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame so lets give that old workhorse Matindale Hubbell a fond farewell and thanks for the memories.

Missed Opportunity Award
goes to Lexis, Westlaw , BloombergBNA and Wolters Kluwer for failing to purchase American Lawyer Media and giving it the technical infrastructure and substantive law context which ALM needs to expand. It would have been a win/win for ALM and any of the large legal publishers.  Instead ALM went to a venture group (again).

Man With A Mission Award goes to Bryan Garner with his spectacular rewrite of Black’s Law Dictionary… 50,000 legal definitions were completely rewritten and 16,000 new definitions added.

Reinvent Your Profession Award
goes to lawyer and legal consultant Susan Hackett who delivered a powerful message to legal information professionals as keynote speaker at the PLL Summit in July.

 Show Me the Money Award goes to the Australian Law Libraries Association which conducted a study which determined the ROI of law librarians. Law librarians deliver $5.43 in  value for every dollar invested. Congratulations and thanks to our colleagues “down under.”
 
Fire the Loose-leaf filer/Save a Tree  award goes to Bloomberg BNA for their "Streaming" Bankruptcy Treatise. It never was in print and no one will ever have to retrieve a missing binder for filing. Amen!

Crystal Ball Award goes to Lex Machina for giving us a glimpse of the predictive uses of big data in  anticipating lawyer and judges behavior in IP litigation.  

The Ticking Timebomb of Legal Malpractice Award goes to the evil cousins  “ Link Rot” and “Reference Rot” who were recently  "outed" in a program  hosted by Georgetown Law.

Fair Use Hero Award goes to Judge Rakoff for explaining why legal briefs submitted to courts can be made available and searchable on Lexis and Westlaw without violating copyright.

The  Secret CKO Award  goes to the late comedian Joan Rivers who cataloged  and archived over a million jokes.

The Beyond Words Award.  In October Nasa released an archive of sounds from outer space on Sound Cloud. The recordings include the sounds of Saturns rings, Neptune, Jupiter and Earth from outer space.
 
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2015.


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