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    Archive for January, 2010
    WestlawNext..other Perspectives…
    Friday, January 29th, 2010

    ♫ You see more than I
    Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky…♫

    Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin, music and recorded by Elton John.

    Subsequent to the early glimpse into WestlawNext that Thompson Reuters provided to a group of us in Eagan, Minnesota, many of that august group have now posted their views on WestlawNext on the web. So without any further ado, here is a look at what they, and others, have seen:

  • My fellow www.slaw.ca colleague Simon Chester has posted an extensive review of the product along with screen shots on Slaw.
  • Robert Ambrogi (who unfortunately wasn’t in Eagan) posted his look at WestlawNext on his blog Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.
  • Jason the Content Librarian (Jason Eiseman) sat down with Tom Boone, Greg Lambert of 3 Geeks and a Law Blog and Jason Wilson who were at the preview and recorded a 40 minute video of their impressions of the product (note that each of them have posted their thoughts on their own blogs).
  • Robert Ambrogi has also posted additional views on legal blog watch on www.law.com (note – his last blog post on law.com has just been posted! We are going to miss you Robert!).
  • The New York Times as well as the ABA Journal have posted reviews.
  • Carolyn Elefant posted her views on www.myshingle.com.
  • Betsy (Elizabeth) McKenzie has posted on Out of the Jungle.
  • Laura Bergus of Legal Geekery has posted a “WestlawNext: Special Edition Legal Geekery Podcast“.
  • Lisa Solomon posted a review exploring pricing and other thoughts on her blog Legal Research and Writing Pro.
  • You can sign up for a launch day alert here.
  • I hope I haven’t omitted anyone who has posted their early views and thoughts on the new WestlawNext. In the interests of fair disclosure, Thomson Reuters did pay expenses to travel to Eagan to see the preview (brrrr…it is cold there compared to warm Vancouver!).

    By visiting these other sites hopefully you will gain perspective by reading the thoughts of other legal bloggers, writers and videographers who are stars in the face of the sky.

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Dave’s Top 10 List about WestlawNext
    Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

    ♫ Baby lovin’ you
    Is how it’s meant to be
    It’s something that is oh so natural to me
    Natural…♫

    Lyrics and music by: Cathy Dennis and A. Todd, recorded by S Club 7.

    WestlawNext is about to be released. Courtesy of Thomson Reuters, I was given a sneak peak at this new legal research offering. So without further ado, here is Dave’s Top 10 list on WestlawNext:

  • 10: You no longer have to select a database. Choose your jurisdiction (say California or Alabama) and the search engine under the hood will pull together relevant hits from all of West’s legal databases that are relevant to your search criteria. Considering that Westlaw has over 40,000 databases, this is a marked improvement. Furthermore, you get to see the results of all the hits in the Westlaw system and not just in the databases that you traditionally searched.
  • 9: You do not need to know Westlaw syntax or use boolean search logic (‘search terms and connectors’). Natural language searching is just fine. Of course you can use boolean search terms if you wish
  • 8: That search engine under the hood has been considerably enhanced. You do not need to spend time considering the precise language in framing your search. You can search by factual description (“right to trim tree when tree debris falls on neighbor’s property”), by legal concept (“res ipsa loquitur”) or statute terminology to retrieve your search inquiry.
  • 7: Your search term does not need to appear in the hit to be listed. For example, “DWI” is only one way of classifying driving under the influence. Behind the scenes, the search engine recognizes the variations and pulls up cases, statutes and relevant secondary materials related to the concept rather than the actual wording. This ensures that your searches are more effective than under the traditional way of searching.
  • 6: You can customize the search to display cases, statutes or briefs etc as your preferred search result.
  • 5: It provides you with “related topics” to your search which may assist in understanding your search query to lead you to resources that you may not have considered. This allows you to understand and comprehend the wider context of your query.
  • 4: WestlawNext has on-line folders in which you can store your search documents and results. Here the added benefit is that if any new materials are added to Westlaw, your online folder will contain the new items. Furthermore, other than the cost of subscribing to WestlawNext, there is no cost to searching all the databases in Westlaw. If a document in your hit list is part of your existing Westlaw plan, then you don’t pay anything to view that document (or place it in your folder). If the document is outside of your Westlaw plan, then you only pay if you choose to view the document. This way you can use the search power of WestlawNext and only pay for what you wish to see. When you place a document in your online folders, there is no additional charge to go back and view it. However, someone with whom you are collaborating may have to pay to view that document, depending on their Westlaw plan.
  • 3: Collaboration and workflow tools have been added. You can now share research with others in your firm.
  • 2: When you view a case, your case results are automatically KeyCited with that information displayed at the top of the screen. Case warnings are prominently displayed.
  • 1: Along with your preferred search result (cases, statutes etc) a panel on the right side of the screen brings up secondary materials related to your search. This way you can expand your research without having to do the search again, this time selecting another database.
  • WestlawNext has been designed under the hood to use the power of the West Key Number system along with other search algorithm improvements combined with human tweaks on how to improve search results. Not all improvements are in how WestlawNext functions. The way that WestlawNext displays its search results has also been tweaked based on customer insights, log analysis, eye tracking, design reviews, performance testing, usability testing, workflow observations and focus groups.

    The people at Thompson Reuters state that WestlawNext works best using Google’s Chrome browser. If you don’t use Chrome, users are advised to upgrade to the latest versions of their browsers to attain the best results.

    I do like the fact that all searches in WestlawNext are included in your existing plan; only viewing results comes at a charge. This feature that allows you to see the full extend of the resources available to you is a significant improvement, in my opinion.

    WestlawNext is clearly aimed at those lawyers who are more familiar with a Google search than a traditional Westlaw search. The appeal of WestlawNext to me would be the efficiency/effectiveness gains in using WestlawNext as compared to traditional legal research. Another appeal would be WestlawNext’s ease of use.

    In order to gain market share, a user would have to gain confidence that the results in WestlawNext are not just as good as, but in fact superior to, a traditional search; the people at Thomson Reuters confidently assured us that this is in fact the case.

    Given Google Scholar, Westlaw has to raise the bar to beat the competition and justify their value-added services. It looks like they have a winner on their hands.

    My only question is when is this coming to Canada? I am told it will be the last quarter of 2010 or the first quarter of 2011. Like most new technologies, those of us in the frozen white north will have to wait a bit before we see this in Westlaw Canada.

    It is something that is oh so natural to me; it will be worth waiting for.

    Posted in Dave's Top 10 Lists, Law Firm Strategy | Permalink | 4 Comments »
    A New Fraud Attempt on Lawyers
    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    ♫ Go on take the money and run
    Go on take the money and run..♫

    Lyrics and music by: Steve Miller, recorded by the Steve Miller Band.

    A lawyer in BC has reported that the fraudsters have a new tactic in their attempts against lawyers and their trust accounts.

    Past fraud attempts have aimed at trying to have a lawyer immediately forward funds to a client resulting from a ‘collection’ against a debtor that is paid by a forged certified financial instrument that is deposited into the lawyer’s trust account. Now the fraudsters have changed tactics.

    Rather than try to convince the lawyer that he or she has just collected a large debt and he or she should send over large amounts of money forthwith, the fraudsters are now simply forging cheques that appear to be trust cheques drawn on the lawyer’s trust account. This way they bypass the lawyer and their firm controls entirely.

    This is a straight cheque forgery. In one case that I am aware, a bank cashed one of these forged cheques, only to reverse the withdrawal shortly afterwards and restore the funds back into the lawyer’s trust account.

    This behooves lawyers to go online and check their trust account activity on a daily basis…just to ensure that someone hasn’t taken the money and run….

    Posted in Firm Governance, Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Aim for the Stars..
    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    ♫ Time now to spread your wings
    To take to flight
    The life endeavor
    Aim for the burning sun…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones recorded by Savage Garden.

    Every so often, all of us are looking for a bit of inspiration – a few uplifting words to give flight to our ideas and our lives. Accordingly I was pleased to receive an email from a colleague Patricia Yevics pointing me to a graduation address by Steve Jobs at Stanford University on “How to Live before You Die”.

    This particular video clip is hosted on: www.ted.com. I had visited TED before but this last visit brought home the full extent of the number of inspiring and truly great and inspirational clips on this site. TED calls itself: “Ideas Worth Spreading” and I couldn’t agree more. I like to think of TED as YouTube that has been moderated.

    I hope that we can spread the word about TED to those who may be looking for an updraft when they are aiming for the stars.

    Posted in personal focus and renewal, Technology, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Human Rights, Google and Internet Explorer…on Slaw.ca
    Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

    ♫ A moment of despair
    That forces you to say that life’s unfair
    It makes you scared of what tomorrow may bring
    But don’t go giving into fear ..♫

    Lyrics and music by: Stone, Greenberg, Daniel Pierre, recorded by Joss Stone.

    This is a post on Slaw.ca today:

    You may wonder what human rights has to do with Internet Explorer. Prior to the earthquake in Haiti, the news was filled with the cyber-attacks on Google. The latest attacks on Google’s network appear to have originated in China, reported ComputerWorld in a post dated Jan 12, 2010 and were directed at the Google accounts of human rights activists in China. ComputerWorld stated:

    In a blog post Tuesday, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said that attacks have forced the company to “review the feasibility of our business operations in China.” Google, continued Drummond, is “no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.”

    Read more here: http://www.slaw.ca/2010/01/19/human-rights-google-and-internet-explorer/

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 2 Comments »
    2010 ClawBies – A Prediction!
    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    ♫ Baby, baby, I’m out on a limb
    I’m giving in to you again…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Teena Marie.

    I wanted to say a most gracious thanks to Steve Matthews and his crew at Stem Legal (Jordan Furlong, Emma Durand-Wood, and Laurel Fulford) for my 2009 Clawbie in the area of Practice Management (tied with Avoid A Claim Blog – Dan Pinnington the Director of PracticePro’s new risk management blog). I also wanted to say a hearty “Congratulations” to all those who won and who were nominated (a complete list of winners can be found here). Well Done!

    I didn’t want this to be a typical acceptance speech (which can be rather boring) so I am giving into the urge to go out on a limb (which usually means someone comes after me with a chainsaw….but I digress…) and make some predictions for what will be seen in the 2010 ClawBies and legal blogs in general.

    First of all, I think 2010 will be the year of the collective blog. www.slaw.ca is one shining example of what can be achieved by a powerful group of bloggers who have multiple eyes and ears and who are watching the world. Slaw has been recognized internationally for the quality of its work. Frankly I don’t know how a Canadian lawyer can practice today without following it – it is a great way to stay on top of current developments not only across Canada but in the international legal world as well. Hats off to Simon Fodden for herding this particular group of legal cats!

    Another great group blog is Lawrence Gridin and Omar Ha-Redeye’s Law is Cool.

    Second, individual bloggers will make more extensive use of guest bloggers on their sites. This adds variety and new voices to the mix (and also helps create cross-links). It also builds on the social aspect of blogging.

    Third, 2010 will also be the year that legal organizations recognize the value of a blog. The Stream, a collective blog hosted by the BC Courthouse Library Society, illustrates what happens when an organization recognizes the informational value in hosting a blog and looks at how it can provide information differently. Johanne Blenkin and Mandy Ostick are leading the way here. Lang Michener LLP, Davis LLP, Clark Wilson LLP and other law firms fall into this emerging category.

    Fourth, I would like to mention a few people to watch in the Canadian legal blogging community:

    Doug Jasinki’s new blog: http://legalmarketing.ca/ is one to keep an eye on (disclaimer: Doug and his team designed my blog for which I am eternally grateful). Doug is a very bright light when it comes to online legal marketing and he and his company Skunkworks Creative Group Inc. are doing some truly innovative things in the legal marketplace (see his list of clients here).

    Individual bloggers that I find particularly inspiring: Erik Mcgraken, Donna Seale and Jordan Furlong are three to watch, in my humble opinion.

    Lastly, there is Steve Matthews. He is a true Canadian visionary when it comes to understanding the entire online social matrix in which lawyers and law firms are working. His work is international in scope and light-years ahead of the competition. He senses oncoming transformation from the briefest puff in the winds of change.

    So there they are…baby, baby I am out on a limb again…

    Posted in Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 6 Comments »
    A New Year, Same Old Frauds?
    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    ♫ Everyone of them knew that as time went by
    They’d get a little bit older and a litter slower but
    It’s all the same thing, in this case manufactured by someone who’s always
    Umpteen your father’s giving it diddly-i-dee
    District was leaving, intended to pay for

    Number 9, number 9

    Who’s to know?
    Who was to know?…♫

    Lyrics and music by Lennon & McCartney, recorded by The Beatles.

    A bookkeeper of a San Francisco Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury firm Bostwick, Peterson & Mitchell was sentenced just before Christmas to 10 years in State Prison for stealing $9 million US from the firm since 2005 reported Legal Pad in a post on Jan. 6, 2010.

    He will go to prison for 10 years; his thefts took place over about 9 years. He stole $9 million; he was ordered to pay $8.7 million in restitution.

    Legal Pad stated:

    ‘While it’s mostly “water under the bridge,” said partner James Bostwick, it does offer some relief. “It took way too long, but of course it’s good to see him transferred from county jail to state prison.”

    Bostwick said the firm uncovered Thomas’ transgressions in 2005, when he started acting suspiciously during an audit of the firm’s finances. “He caused a lot of harm along the way,” Bostwick said. “He was a person we trusted for 10 years.” ‘

    Such stories make a rather convincing case for good law firm audits on law firm’s trust and general accounts. After all, in every year its all the same thing – a trusted person at the center – who’s to know without an audit?

    Posted in Firm Governance, Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Ethics and the On-line Storage of Client Documents
    Thursday, January 7th, 2010

    ♫ What makes you think that you are invincible
    I can see it in your eyes that you’re so sure
    please don’t tell me that I am the only one that’s vulnerable
    impossible…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by John Vesely, under the pseudonym Secondhand Serenade.

    The State Bar of Arizona has issued one of the first Ethics Opinions on preserving client confidentiality when placing client documents for access over the Internet. Arizona stated:

    “Lawyers providing an online file storage and retrieval system for client access of documents must take reasonable precautions to protect the security and confidentiality of client documents and information.”

    What is interesting in the Opinion is not the fact that the electronic storage of client files was permitted as long as lawyers and law firms “take competent and reasonable steps to assure that the client’s confidences are not disclosed to third parties through theft or inadvertence” or that ‘reasonable precautions’ was the standard that was set forth; but rather that the ethics opinion specifically approved the manner in which the remote access could occur:

    The rest of this post can be found on slaw.ca.

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Technology, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »