Briefs: ROSS Lands Its First Client, Yet Another Jobs Report, Etc.

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You Might Need to Start Authenticating Social Media Screenshots

A few weeks ago, a Louisiana appellate court issued a decision barring Facebook screenshots for lack of authentication. In a criminal case, the prosecutor sought to introduce Facebook posts of the defendant holding a revolver and making threats. The district court let the evidence in, but the appellate court reversed.

“We find the social media posts the state seeks to introduce at trial were not properly authenticated, as the state presented no evidence in order to carry its burden at the hearing on Mr. Smith’s motion to exclude.” The Appellate court noted that such evidence could include testimony or computer data obtained from the purported creator of such posts, or by demonstrating that specific information or identifying characteristics contained within such posts could reasonably authenticate its original creator.

IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Technology Now Available for Lawyers

There is a Canadian startup, ROSS, that has been working on using IBM’s Watson supercomputer technology to answer legal questions in natural language and monitor developments in the law for you. We have written about ROSS before, but that was when it was in the very early stages and not yet available to the public. Last week, however, ROSS announced its first law firm partnership.

ROSS Intelligence is proud to announce that AmLaw100 law firm BakerHostetler has agreed to retain use of ROSS Intelligence’s artificial intelligence legal research product, ROSS. ROSSIntelligence Co-Founder Andrew Arruda officially announced the partnership at Vanderbilt Law School’s “Watson, Esq.” conference in Nashville, Tennessee in April. BakerHostetler will license ROSS for use in its Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights team.

This is definitely going to be something to keep an eye on. ROSS has a crowdsourcing-style element in that it works better the more that lawyers use it. Hopefully the technology will become more widely available and perhaps be something that non-Big Law lawyers could use.

Google Slides, Now With Q&A Support

Google Slides is the behemoth search engine’s free web-based version of Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation software. It just got updated with some features that might be handy for CLE presentations and the like.

Google updated Google Slides with a new Q&A feature, the option to present directly from an iPhone or iPad to a Hangout call, and a laser pointer option. […]

Slides Q&A doesn’t require setting up microphones or hiring moderators. […] Google Slides now makes it easier to present from iPhones and iPads. This means that just using your iOS device and the Slides app, you can present to any screen using Chromecast, AirPlay, or Google Hangouts.

If you are already committed to the Google ecosystem, this is welcome news. If you’re not, this might be a reason to give Slides a try for your next presentation.

Michigan State Bar Offers Free Online Scheduling

If you’re in Michigan (and a member of the state bar association, obviously) you can take advantage of a free web-based scheduling program that might result in new clients.

The State Bar of Michigan online member directory, powered by Zeekbeek, now offers attorneys an online appointment scheduling feature, allowing them to make their services available in an innovative, on-demand way.

The appointment scheduling tool allows clients and potential clients to request an in-person or phone appointment with attorneys based on their availability in just a few quick clicks online. Clients can set appointments to occur as soon as within the next four hours, on the following day or on selected future dates. Once a client sets an appointment, an email is sent to the attorney, who can then decide to accept, reject or reschedule the appointment.

Time for Some Bad News About the Legal Job Market

We know, we know. The job outlook seems to change every week, particularly given that there are a million ways to slice and dice the data. This time around, things look grim if you take a look at last month’s Department of Labor job reports.

The legal services sector lost 1,500 jobs in April after gaining jobs in March, according to seasonally adjusted employment figures released on Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Labor Department’s jobs report for April estimates that 1,122,500 people worked in the legal industry during the month. The preliminary figures, which could be revised, include lawyers, paralegals and others working in the legal sector. The agency revised March’s preliminary figures downward to 1,124,000 from its initial report last month of 1,124,800 people working in legal services.

Well, that doesn’t look good. But wait!

Despite the month-over-month drop, April’s preliminary figures mark an increase of 3,300 legal sector jobs over the same time last year. The revised, seasonally adjusted total for April 2015 was 1,119,200 legal services jobs, according to BLS data.

So, we’ve had an OK year but a bad month. Got it. Maybe. Until a new report comes out and changes everything.

Proposed Antidiscrimination Ethics Rule Causing Controversy

The ABA recently proposed an amendment to Model Rule 8.4. That amendment adds a new provision to the rule that defines what constitutes professional misconduct for attorneys. Here’s the proposed language:

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: […]

(g) harass or discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This Rule does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline, or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16.

Because lawyers are lawyers, of course everyone is fighting about this.

More than 500 lawyers, bar groups, judges and legal organizations flooded the ABA with comments on an early draft of the rule, which would serve as a model for states to choose to adopt but isn’t binding. Many eagerly support the proposal, saying it’s long overdue and that lawyers need to be held accountable for discriminatory behavior. Others strongly oppose it, saying it would inhibit the ability of lawyers to practice law as they see fit.

Comments in favor of the rule contend we need the rule because discrimination is pervasive and discrimination undermines the credibility of the profession. Anti-rule comments range from saying there’s no widespread discrimination (so no problem to be remedied) to stating that federal, state, and local laws already cover discrimination by attorneys.

The ABA’s House of Delegates is set to vote on the proposed language in August.

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