Season 3 Serial

If you haven’t yet listened to season 3 of Serial, I highly recommend it.  While the podcast itself is great and well reported, what I find interesting is the Sarah Koenig’s surprise at what she finds.  This is exactly how the legal system works.  It’s ugly.

Sometimes I feel like lawyers are all in on a great secret that we’re all ashamed to talk about. That the legal system is meant to handle volume, not individual cases.

Legal Tech by Students

I know very little about CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, but I vow to you dear reader that I will start looking into this.

I fear the technology they are building is probably not quite on point.  I have this theory that legal technology sucks (legal definition) because it is built by people who don’t practice law – or at least practice law in the practical way outside and in-house lawyers do.

And, by the time those outside and in-house lawyers have the practical experience to make a decent legal product, they are making too much money to just give it up for a startup.

It’s a weird feature of law.

These sentences have no meaning

From Law360 (paywall):

“The data-driven lawyer is the lawyer of the future,” said Josh Becker, Lexis head of legal analytics and chairman of Lex Machina. “This is still very early days and these pioneers are critical. They’re evangelists within their firms and they bring data with them each step of the way.”

To save you the subscription, Law360 (which is owned by the same parent as Lex Machina), says lawyers using data is the future.

Just so you’re aware.  Lawyers have always used data, and those that used it better usually got ahead.  In 2007 you might build a script to download info from the USPTO, and in 2018 you now might pay a subscription fee for someone to do that for you.  This has been going on forever, you’ve only added marketing.

And, from what I’ve seen from Lex Machina (which is now dated by a few years) I’m unimpressed.  At that time, it could tell you an insight such as: only 10% of motions to dismiss have been granted in a certain jurisdiction.  So what?  That’s still a 10% chance.  It’s a shot on goal.

The future for lawyers is competency and intelligence. Let’s make that happen.

Timing and a prediction

My belief is that Trump now sees his trade war with China as costing him votes because of it’s purported negative effect on the stock market.  Trump now needs to rev up the stock market for his 2020 race.  Self preservation at its finest.  If he wins, assume the trade war will commence post reelection.

I do not think a new trade deal with China (if one is cobbled together) will be better than what we had.  But it will stabilize the economy and boost the stock market.

That said, I do think any new deal will have language protecting US intellectual property.  But this is a hollow pledge because most of the intellectual property worth protecting was stolen long ago.

The truth is more complicated

The push against arbitration clauses has been gathering steam over the past few years.  It has now found momentum with law firms. (Paywall, but you can see enough to get the point.)

I understand the push back against arbitration clauses because many arbitral bodies are thought to be unfair (not great data on this – and there are some very good ones) and many people think it allows companies to hide their dirty laundry (which does happen).

I only wish the law students took a more nuanced position.  Mandatory arbitration clauses can be a godsend to those who are afraid of facing public scrutiny about what happened – it is not always fun to face both the perpetrator and the public when bringing a case.  The public (or a vocal part thereof) does not always treat the victim with much kindness or understanding.

Also, taking this out of the sexual assault/harassment realm.  Bringing a public lawsuit may have consequences on who will hire you in the future.  Even if the claim is completely legitimate.  That’s the world we live in.

A more nuanced approach would leave it open to the victim/aggrieved party to decide whether they want to file a public lawsuit or private arbitration.

Perhaps the law firm agreements do this.  But this is not what the law students are pushing for.

AI and Tattoo Identification

Somewhat of an old story raised anew this past month.  The use of AI to identify tattoos and what they mean.  This raises all sorts of serious concerns as pointed out in the article (but take with a grain of salt given the advocacy group behind it).

I just like the idea of this needing to be explained in court as a way to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  There are ways to get around that need by just using police officer testimony, but someone is going to go after the algorithm.