The Harris County Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute is pleased to announce a special visitor, D. Casey Flaherty, a recognized leader in legal tech innovation and the creator of the Procertas legal tech audit. Please join us on Monday, August 19 and 11:00 am for a CLE presentation called Legal Tech is not optional. Mr. Flaherty will share his insights about using technology in the practice of law and will highlight how the Procertas Legal Tech Assessment, which is available to all for free at the Harris County Law Library, can help attorneys work toward legal tech competence. Texas attorneys will earn one hour of CLE credit and .5 hours of ethics credit for attending. Join us!
With the recent election of 59 new judges in Harris County (civil, criminal, family, probate, and juvenile courts combined), notable changes in court policies and procedures have taken shape. As one would expect, each of the recently elected judges in Harris County has implemented specific rules for conducting business in his or her particular court. As a guide to understanding and meeting their new requirements, some judges have provided updated links to forms online; others have posted checklists of required documents; and several others are providing supplementary links specifically for self-represented litigants, including to the Harris County Law Library’s community resource guide, the Pro Se Litigants Handbook. The Harris County Law Library has been keeping abreast of and adapting to these changes in order to best serve our public patrons. We are also, as always, paying attention to any changes at the state level.
In late February, just shortly after the new Harris County judges were sworn in, statewide change was indeed taking place. Namely, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an order amending Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which now says that Texas lawyers must be aware of the benefits and risks of using technology in the practice of law. By adopting this standard, Texas joined 35 other states who agree that technologically proficient lawyers provide better, more efficient client representation.
Certain local court rules also require specific procedures that rely on technology. For instance, Judge Janice Berg, who presides over the 247th Family Court in Harris County, has included the following in her Court Policies and Procedures:
At final trial on divorce matters, parties must bring their proposed property division to trial in Excel or Google Sheets format on a USB drive.
Complying with the ethical standard and local rules may require both access and training on specific hardware and software. If it seems daunting, the Harris County Law Library is here to help! Our 25 public access computers have the software you need (including Excel) to draft and assemble all your legal documents. And, our Hands-on Legal Tech Training courses, which we offer, on rotation, every Thursday at 2pm, will give you the knowledge and skills (and one free hour of CLE credit for Texas attorneys) to use that software and easily meet the requirements of the courts. In January, we introduced five new classes, including a popular new offering, Microsoft Excel for Legal Work. It will be presented again soon on May 16. Don’t miss it!
For a detailed description of all our weekly classes, see the 2019 Legal Tech Institute Course Catalog. Classes always begin with a Getting Started portion. They gradually increase in difficulty until we Level Up. We then Go Pro, giving you an opportunity to build proficiency as the course progresses. We attempt to address every skill level in an effort to meet the needs of all attendees, and we’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about using tech tools and resources to strengthen your legal practice.
On February 26, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court took an important step in the advancement of legal ethics in Texas by amending Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule, which addresses the duty of all Texas attorneys to be competent and conscientious in providing effective legal representation, now requires that practitioners also be aware of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
By adopting this amendment, Texas has joined 35 other states who also require a duty of technology competence for lawyers. The significance of this new development cannot be overstated. By order of the Texas Supreme Court, attorneys must become aware of, if not proficient in, using technology to best serve their clients.
If you are a Texas lawyer who needs to brush up on your tech skills and learn more about recent developments in legal tech, the Harris County Law Library can help! Our Legal Tech Institute offers a variety of learning opportunities including our popular Hands-on Legal Tech Training courses every Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm in the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. We also provide access to free online CLE courses via our On-Demand Learning Opportunities page.
To find out more about what the Harris County Law Library offers through our Legal Tech Institute, visit the LTI page on our website. With so many free learning opportunities at your disposal, it will be easy (and fun!) to comply with the new Texas Supreme Court requirement.
The Legal Tech Institute at the Harris County Law Library has released a new video CLE. Fulfilling Ethical Obligations with Legal Research is the latest additional to our Learn On-Demand CLE library that lets you earn CLE credit in Texas while staying up to date on legal tech. Visit the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute page for more legal tech learning opportunities.
In Steven Spielberg’s 2001 movie, AI Artificial Intelligence, scientists program a robotic boy to understand and express a full range of human emotions, including love. The boy is adopted into a family as a test case where he learns to connect with the couple who become his parents. After a series of unexpected events, the family’s living arrangement becomes unsustainable. The mother begins to fear the boy and abandons him in the woods, consigning him to an uncertain fate. The boys sets out to navigate a complex world where he’s neither fully human nor fully machine.
Fast forward thousands of years to a time when alien life forms have arrived on planet Earth. Here, they discover the body of the robotic boy at the bottom of a frozen river and seek to reverse engineer his design. This quasi-human creation is their only connection to the Earthling inhabitants who preceded them, and they wish to understand his emotions. He was programmed by humans, they reason, so traces of their humanness still exist within his code.
In addition to film’s impressive special effects, its evocative music, and the spectrum of feelings it inspires, this movie also teaches a lesson: software bears the marks of the people who write the code. All of the assumptions, biases, and predetermined social perspectives that we possess get baked in to the algorithms, creating smart machines that lack the objectivity we expect them to exhibit. They inherit our prejudices and act accordingly. Nowhere is this being discussed more widely, it seems, than in the application of AI to the law. The articles listed here, found in popular magazines and journals, describe various ways that AI is being used — and misused — to predict crime, sentence offenders, and determine the likelihood of criminal recidivism. They also explore the limits of AI, the ethics of using AI to mete out justice, and the regulations that some are proposing to counteract the harmful effects of machine bias.
We Need an FDA for Algorithms (Nautilus)
Trust but Verify: A Guide to Algorithms and the Law (Harvard Journal of Law & Technology)
[VIDEO] The Truth About Algorithms (Aeon)
The Legal Tech Institute at Harris County Law Library is happy to announce that one of the most popular programs in our LTI Lecture Series is once again available on the LTI On-demand Learning page. The Robot Lawyer: Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law can be viewed on our YouTube channel, accessible via our Legal Tech Institute web pages. Licensed Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit from now until September 30, 2019. Guest speaker, Saskia Mehlhorn, Director of Knowledge Management & Library Services for Norton Rose Fulbright US, provides a basic overview of AI in the legal profession, gives specific examples of tools that incorporate AI technology, and discusses opportunities for lawyers and other legal professionals to benefit from the power of AI technology.
While visiting our On-demand Learning page, be sure to check out our other recorded CLE programs, which carry a total of 3.0 hours of CLE credit and .75 hours of ethics credit. Included in the series are the following:
Finding & Formatting Legal Forms (1.0 hour CLE)
Legal Practice Technology (1.0 hour CLE)
The Ethics of Cloud Computing (1.0 hoiur CLE, .75 hour ethics)
The Robot Lawyer (1.0 hour CLE)
Don’t forget that we also offer a Hands-on Legal Tech Training session every Thursday at 2:00 pm in the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. Join us!
The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section worked with TexasBarCLE to create a series of short videos on tech-related topics. The program, called Tech Bytes, launched just one year ago in the spring of 2017. Already, there are more than 40 videos available, and the collection is growing.
The videos focus on technology's role in the legal profession and its application to the practice of law, with a special emphasis on tech tools and trends that impact legal ethics and current Rules. Topics vary from simple (redaction) to sophisticated (cybersecurity) and from the everyday (legal apps) to the esoteric (EXIF data). There is something for everyone no matter your level of tech knowledge. Even the most cyber-savvy lawyers will learn something useful. In each 4-7 minute video, explore a new topic. Cloud computing, data encryption, metadata, forensics, electronic data preservation, ransomware, and the ethics of social media are just a few.
Whether you're simply curious about trends in legal tech and want to keep abreast of the benefits and risks of using technology in the practice of law, or you're interested in earning CLE credit through self-study, the State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section has a Tech Byte video for you!
Tomorrow, Friday, April 20, is the Texas Day of Civility in the Law. The State Bar of Texas calls upon legal professionals to observe this day by reaffirming their commitment to the Texas Lawyer's Creed, which calls for attorneys to conduct themselves with courtesy and professionalism toward judges, adversaries, peers, colleagues, and clients.
Local bar associations across the state will be celebrating, marking the day with a variety of events, several of which will offer free CLE credit in ethics.
The Dallas Bar Association, along with the Dallas Bar Foundation, American Board of Trial Advocates, AlixPartners, Inns of Court, and the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee will be hosting the Day of Civility at the Belo Mansion in downtown Dallas and offering 4.5 hours of CLE in ethics.
A live stream of the seminar will be available for those who are unable to attend. State Bar President Tom Vick will give the opening remarks. For more information, contact Kathryn Zack at (214) 220-7450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Houston Bar Association will be hosting a number of events as well, including an open CLE video-watching event, the perfect opportunity to earn CLE/ethics credit at no charge. Bring your lunch or snacks the HBA office between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to view the videos. The office is located at 1111 Bagby Street, FLB 200, Houston, 77002.
Whether you're approaching your birth date and need to earn CLE credit in a hurry, or you'd just like to log your ethics credit now in preparation for your Bar license renewal date, these offerings are excellent opportunities to reflect on professionalism and civility in the law as you learn.
Seeking to take the fear out of encryption and what it entails, the authors of Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers set upon the task of proving that encrypting information is not as complicated and difficult as it may seem to those not fully versed in the language of “techspeak”. From its earliest forms, e.g. ciphers and secret decoder rings, encryption has been used to make communications secret and secure, and in this age of cyberterrorism and data breaches, understanding how to encrypt confidential information has taken on even greater importance. The authors begin by explaining, in simple terms, the basics of encryption technology, such as the Data Encryption Standard algorithm, digital certificates, and symmetric and asymmetric encryption before discussing the nuances of encrypting laptops and desktops, smartphones, and portable drives. The authors also stress the need to protect data as it travels through various networks or into the cloud as well as the practicality of securing individual documents.
If you don’t think that you need to encrypt or further secure your documents, you may be mistaken. As the authors readily point out: lawyers have an ethical obligation to keep communications confidential. Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers can help you perform that duty or, at a minimum, convince you that you need to obtain the services of a qualified professional. Don’t wait until a data breach to take action.
Designed for the attorney who is new to the field of elder law, Ethics in the Practice of Elder Law, provides an overview of the unique ethical issues that may arise when handling matters for elderly clients and for the people who are acting on their behalf. Focusing on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (rather than individual state rules), the authors examine such topics as identifying the client and the parties to whom the attorney can speak and represent, acting for the client with diminished capacity, recognizing and handling ethical issues in guardianship practice, ascertaining the true client in complex fiduciary representation cases, and dealing with ethical issues during litigation, in the provision of ancillary, non-legal services, and in marketing the elder law practice. In each chapter, you will find a practical question checklist as well as a detailed analysis of the applicable Model Rules. The book also includes the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Aspirational Standards, pertinent ABA Ethics Opinions, checklists, and sample letters and notices.
So, if you are new to the practice of elder law or simply need a refresher on your ethical obligations, come to the Harris County Law Library and have a look at Ethics in the Practice of Elder Law as well as some of our other elder law resources, including CLE materials, Texas Elder Law and Elderlaw: Advocacy for the Aging.