Joe Ross

Links and articles on law and tech

OutBeat, America's First Queer Jazz Festival

I don’t usually write about events here, but since I wrote the article to which I link above, I thought it appropriate to share. I had several great conversations with Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way Community Center in Philadelphia, about OutBeat in writing the article. I’ll publish a Q&A with him next month, also at Geekadelphia.

Whether you’re gay, bisexual, straight or heteroflexible, and even if you don’t like jazz ( or don’t know yet that you do like jazz), the four-day festival is going to be fun and informative. With any luck, I’ll be able to stop by.

Millenials won't use subpar enterprise software

Paul Boag writes at Smashing Magazine:

Frustration will only increase as millennials enter the workforce. These people are digital natives, and they expect a certain standard of software. They expect software to adapt to them, not the other way around.

My generation were loud about the outdated software our employers used. We begged, insisted and shouted from the rooftops that efficient workload management demanded a higher level of polish, functionality and user experience.

Even massive software makers like Oracle do little if anything post-sale to ensure their products get the design and functionality upgrades they so desperately need. You can pay an army of contractor-consultants to customize the database architecture and processing flow, sure, but the interface is still all ’90s.

That was then, though. Today, the up-and-comers are just as unlikely to accept awful software and user experience. The difference is they won’t ask or shout at all, they just start using third-party tools. Sometimes this is fine, but other times there are serious security concerns with using third-party software for company work.

Read Boag’s article, especially if you manage any young folks, because this stuff is happening and you should take the opportunity to learn from them. They’re going to gravitate toward good user experience and efficiency, and that’s good for business.

The systemic failure of modern hiring practices

Laurie Voss, in a piece about technical hiring that is easily applied to the legal field and hiring more generally, on asking applicants questions to which they almost certainly don’t know the answer:

The weakest candidates will try to waffle or make wild guesses. This is a terrible sign, firstly because it never works, and secondly because they thought that it would. [ … ] Strong candidates say “I don’t know” as soon as they hit their limit, and may start asking questions. The very strongest candidates say “but if I had to guess” and then attempt to extrapolate.

Yup. And what’s more, most interviewers or hiring managers who ask such counterproductive questions are actually looking for the waffles and the wild guesses. They invariably want to see someone who can obfuscate without sacrificing an air of omniscience.

It’s an astounding feat of self-sabotage, and it makes it difficult for the truly intelligent among us (like myself, all arrogance aside…) to make an impression among the din of bloviating thought-sheep.

Privacy advocates, tech companies nudge Congress to protect ‘abandoned’ e-mails

The Email Privacy Act would prevent the government from using mere administrative subpoenas to access email older than 180 days. The distinction, included in the Stored Communications Act , was based on the need for users to access and download email from a service provider’s servers. The logic was that if someone hadn’t downloaded their email in six months or more, they had effectively abandoned it.

Of course, things are no longer that simple in the age of constant synchronization and push notifications on mobile devices.


How law firms can innovate by providing third-party services to other law firms

The Economist wrote in 2011 about the end of the legal industry’s lofty heights, saying of one large but ill-fated American firm:

Howrey’s boss, Robert Ruyak, blamed two new trends for his firm’s demise. Howrey had begun acceding to clients’ demands for flat, deferred or contingent fees, causing income to become clumpy and unpredictable. And the rise of specialised e-discovery vendors hollowed out another source of revenue.

Legal services continue to unbundle as traditionally firm-based work like document review is outsourced and electronic discovery becomes more complex. Chicago-based law firm Winston and Strawn is bucking both trends, performing e-discovery for not only itself but other firms and forgoing staffing agencies to directly hire and provide benefits to its document review attorneys.

Read more

Larry Lessig fighting for campaign finance reform with Mayday PAC

Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday PAC is using the very system it decries to attempt to bring that system down. In other words, Lessig et al are hijacking the virus (the influence of big donors on American politics via election contributions) to deliver the vaccine (funding for politicians committed to proposals which would limit big political contributions).

If you support the cause, be heartened: Lessig likes to fight, and is good at it.

If you don’t support the cause, it’s probably time to start taking Mayday seriously. Your candidate’s job may depend on it.

Facebook is not free

If you use Facebook, this article is a must-read. It’s now common knowledge Facebook is always watching and analyzing how you use the service. But the breadth and depth of the company’s participation in the data brokering economy is staggering. The worst part? You literally signed up for it.

Facebook obviously doesn’t charge its users money, but the mere act of creating a profile affirmatively grants the company total access and usage rights over everything you do on the site. It even shares its data about you with data brokerage firms whose business model is monetizing you.

This is all stuff I have personally known and accepted for a long time, but as the ability to easily aggregate dossiers on anyone and everyone increases, it’s more important than ever to educate yourself and those you care about. Facebook is not free, and in fact it’s worth asking whether the price most people pay by clicking a harmless-looking “I agree” button is really worth it.