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Archive for the ‘Cloud’ Category

Being in the legal technology field can be frustrating. Technology changes fast but the law moves slowly, deliberately, and often in convoluted ways. You have to somehow stay ahead of the technology curve while waiting for the courts to catch up. It wasn’t until 2006 that federal courts were able to get the basic rules in place regarding the handling of electronic evidence in litigation.

Social media is a particularly frustrating example. Several courts have issued rulings affirming that social media is discoverable in litigation. But for the most part, the case law has been evolving and maturing in spurts and stops. As we’ve noted before, the case law has been clearly evolving to indicate that social media is in fact discoverable in litigation.

No more ignoring social media in eDiscovery.

But there has been a lot of variance between courts in how much social media content is discoverable. Some courts have found only public profiles are discoverable and private messages were immune from disclosure. But for the most part, if parties could demonstrate that social media content is likely to reveal information about a party’s emotional, mental, or physical state that cannot be found through other means, that information is discoverable.

Lawyers Love Lists

The groundbreaking Zubulake case was important because it provided a complete and detailed list of factors to consider when producing email in litigation. In a series of five separate rulings across hundreds of dense pages of balancing tests, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin outlined in Zubulake v. UBS Warburg what electronic evidence was discoverable in an otherwise unexceptional employment dispute.

Similarly, in a recent employment dispute, Robinson v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00127-PK (D. Or. Aug. 29, 2012)the court has provided lawyers with a detailed list of factors to consider when attempting to acquire social media content for litigation. The broad discovery request in this matter included “photographs, videos, and blogs, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace” content that reveals the defendants “emotion, feeling, or mental state.”

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According to last years’ Midlevel Associates Survey at Law.com, associates were excited about all of the new gadgets and software being made available to them. For a brief period, it seemed like new devices, software, and even the latest Windows upgrade might finally give overworked associates the technology they needed. Predictably, this year’s survey found that associates are sick of all the tech upgrades.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Windows 7 upgrade many lawyers endured last year was more of a pain than a salvation. But there was plenty of exciting technology that should have at least made lawyers happy, right? Not really, the report found. “In short, associates were underwhelmed,” as one respondent from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld said in an interview. “We all get spoiled with so many tech advances and then, nothing really happened.”

We can’t help but point out that there is an easy way to avoid tech upgrade fatigue. Simply, never upgrade your software. Using cloud software has a lot of advantages over traditional software- lower costsecurity, no on-staff support, and unlimited scalability. But one of the best features is that users never, never, never, never, ever have to suffer through an upgrade. As long as your browser is up-to-date, you are always accessing the most current version of any cloud software.

Just because a software solution is built for the cloud does not make it best-of-breed. But a cloud solution will always be better than a software solution that is locally hosted and requires endless patches, updates, and upgrades.

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The iPad is now the primary computer for many people, and is rapidly growing up as a business tool. According to the new 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey, over 28 percent of all litigators now use a tablet device in the courtroom, mostly for checking email, although roughly 10 percent use it for presentation and litigation support in court.

Trial with iPad and Mac

The flexibility, portability, and accessibility the iPad delivers is a great tool for litigators, but it’s really not that powerful if your applications aren’t built for the Mac environment. Unfortunately, Trial Director, Sanction and Summation are not supported on a Mac. Nextpoint, however is a native, cloud-based technology provider, meaning it works on your iPad, iPhone, Windows or Mac desktop, or whatever platform you use. Additionally, in 2011 Nextpoint optimized all of its trial, discovery, and preservation applications for the iPad, meaning it will always look and run great on the iPad or any Mac device.

Native Matters

Optimization for the Mac and iPad matters most in the courtroom, where litigators need to know that their presentations and files look exactly right and they can access files quickly and easily. Most litigators know that many court reporters deliver deposition transcripts in the PTX format, which is a proprietary, encrypted file, only readable with RealLegal software. RealLegal is, of course, not well-suited for the Mac. As you can see in this tutorial on viewing transcripts stored in the PTX format, the format is a real headache for lawyers, especially if they need to quickly review a transcript in court.

One of the great benefits of web-based applications is the ability to be (largely) hardware/operating system independent. That’s why Nextpoint’s Trial Cloud is the only platform that supports PTX files for Macs, iPads, or any other platform you can think of. The Mac and the iPad are quickly becoming powerful tools for litigators. Unfortunately, it will be a long time before the rest of the litigation support industry catches up.

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Pricing for eDiscovery and technology services in litigation is not a straightforward matter. But it should be.

Unfortunately, many lawyers and corporations don’t know much about what eDiscovery costs or what services a vendor provides until after litigation begins. Thanks to a recent ruling, In re Aspartame Antitrust Litig., 416 Fed. Appx. 208 (3d Cir.2011)we have at least a peek behind the curtain. In this case, the court was asked to calculate recoverable eDiscovery costs, and in doing so, provided an itemized list of the costs three seperate parties incurred in one large, but fairly typical case.
Lawyers Wasting Money

In this matter, three defendants were awarded almost $800,000 in eDiscovery and related technology costs for services ranging from the restoration of backup tapes to data extraction. However, it’s not clear that all of these charges were necessary.

Fighting Over Pointless Charges
The eDiscovery industry is still very fragmented and there are a lot of companies that provide very limited services for what seems like an extreme cost. For example, there are companies in eDiscovery that create software products to solve just one problem- like identifying duplicate emails in a data collection. In this matter, the defendants paid tens of thousands of dollars to a large number of vendors for services that should be, theoretically, part of an integrated solution.

In the In re Aspartame Antitrust Litigation, much of the cost was associated with processing and production. One party paid over $34,000 just to use a software for data extraction and processing. Additionally, Bates Labeling, Confidentiality Coding and “Production Support Services”  are an additional line item on the list of charges. The same goes for OCR and conversion of TIFF to PDFs. All of these services are included with a Discovery Cloud license. Users can perform these functions themselves at no charge, or pay our services team by the hour to process data.

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For science geeks, the real Fourth of July fireworks was the announcement that the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland had found a particle likely to be the Higgs Boson, the last unobserved particle that completes the Standard Model in physics.

The discovery is a massive achievement that is the culmination of centuries of research, insight, sacrifice, and ingenuity. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland cost $10 billion to build and uses approximately 5,000 supermagnets to fire subatomic particles around a 17-mile, underground tunnel near the speed of light. The particles are smashed inside massively sensitive, 2,000 pound detectors designed to identify the atomic debris from these collisions.

Supercomputers for Supercolliders

The European Organization for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) supercollider is the one of the largest, most complex, and expensive science experiments in the history of the human race. But the real achievement is not simply smashing particles. We’ve been doing that for decades, with varying degrees of precision. This week’s announcement is in large part a triumph of computing power against massive amounts of data.

See the Higgs boson? Supercomputers say it’s there. Probably.

CERN is at the center of the LHC Worldwide Computing Grid, which connects scientific locations in 34 countries on a distributed computing and data storage infrastructure. To give a sense of the computing power needed, the Large Hadron Collider created 1 million atomic collisions per second for extended periods of time, and is trying to identify a particle that appears in perhaps 1 in a trillion collisions. At the end of 2010, the Grid harnessed roughly 200,000 computer processing cores to crunch 150 petabytes of collected data.

Physics for Lawyers

There are important lessons the rest of the world- including the legal community- can glean from this effort. The scientific world has long been a leader in pooling computing resources- it’s not an accident that the Internet as we know it was invented at CERN. Today, CERN is driving the development of next-generation cloud computing platforms with advanced research into grid computing.

The Large Hadron Collider was able to succeed by pooling the knowledge and resources of thousands of the best and most highly trained minds in the world, coupled with immense computing resources. Lawyers will likely never need to process the same volumes of data the LHC generates, but in many ways, their challenge is more complex. Lawyers are dealing with information generated by humans, which is arguably more unpredictable and subtle than subatomic collisions. (At least scientists know they’re looking for a particle with certain characteristics. No one knows what a smoking gun email looks like until they find it.)

When faced with a massive data processing problem, too many laws firm are still trying to buy the computers necessary to crunch the data themselves. That’s no longer the answer, not when there are commercial providers that offer computing resources that can be effectively deployed on demand. The scientific community understands the value of shared resources and cloud computing, and thanks to their efforts the technology is advancing at a rapid pace. The legal world must follow that example or lose the battle with big data.

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By this point, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of sensationalist news about cloud computing. That’s to be expected, as cloud computing represents a huge technological shift and will continue to demand a lot of attention. Yesterday, the Washington Post published this gem of an article based on a power outage that impacted one of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) data centers:

Friday’s storms raise questions about safety of cloud computing.

This is journalistic sensationalism at it’s worst. Yes, AWS had a power outage and it did impact some fairly well known web applications that utilize AWS like Netflix. But, as the article goes on to mention, there was no data loss or security breach. So in what way did the storm raise a question about the safety of cloud computing?

What makes cloud providers like AWS so exceptional is the fact that they run geographically redundant data centers. If one of their data centers loses power, 100 percent of the data will still be available in a geographically redundant data center. Not only that, but any servers that were impacted could be restarted within minutes in another data center. Even the best traditional hosting environments would be lucky to have a skeleton environment in a separate physical location. But for architectures like ours that leverage AWS, we can start up a the exact same environment in a different location within minutes.

Independent monitoring of the Nextpoint applications during the June 29th AWS incident.

When it comes to natural disasters, Cloud Computing isn’t the problem, but it is a huge part of the solution. You still need to design your application to take advantage of the redundancy AWS offers, and I’m certain that many providers are not doing that. We like to say that when it comes to things like data security or “safety” that perfection isn’t a realistic goal. There is only better and worse than the level of security that you have today. Nextpoint’s applications live in the cloud and experienced zero downtime and zero data loss during this power outage. If your data center had a power outage, would you be able to say the same?


Ben Wolf is Vice President of Research and Development for Nextpoint. He has been creating web-based legal technology products for more than decade, with an emphasis on building highly secure and scalable web-based applications. Previously, Ben was the Chief Architect for the industry-leading Thomson Elite Business Development product line which is currently used by over 30 percent of the AmLaw 100 firms, including Jones Day, Squire Sanders, Sidley, Loeb & Loeb, DLA, and White & Case. At Nextpoint, Ben pioneered the implementation of enterprise cloud computing and virtualization technologies that are the foundation of the company’s technology platform.

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Cloud computing has clearly changed the technology landscape. Most users are familiar with the decreased storage costs and productivity gains found in cloud solutions, but there are other, more subtle ways cloud platforms take advantage of the efficiencies of the Internet.

One of the most liberating aspects of adopting a cloud solution for hosting your data is that you are never tied to one installed, desktop solution, but choose the best of breed solutions for getting the job done. Like any revolutionary technology, powerful tools are available to maximize the benefits of the cloud and make them more accessible to the everyday user. For example, Cloudberry is a user interface for Amazon’s S3 tool meant to make cloud computing more accessible to corporations and individuals.

Nextpoint builds on Amazon Web Services S3, which stands for Simple Storage Service. S3 is designed to give developers a simple interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data from anywhere on the web. S3 is a highly scalable, reliable, secure and fast data housing infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites.

Because clients looking to move to the cloud need a fast and easy way to get their data there, Nextpoint’s software developers have developed a back-end data transfer option to work with S3. Nextpoint’s importer can be pointed towards a particular S3 folder and quickly import data. S3 is powerful and secure, but, as it’s built for developers, there is no easy user interface for the everyday user, making moving data to S3 and managing folders on S3 very tricky.

The power of the cloud is that there are a number of tools available for importing data to S3 and other platforms. Nextpoint’s preferred solution is Cloudberry. Cloudberry does not house, index or image your data. It is simply an interface to transfer your data to Amazon S3. Cloudberry allows the user to drag and drop many files into an S3 folder at once – the transfer will run in the background, freeing up the user and computer to do other work.

Cloudberry is simple to use and comes with an installer wizard for easy set up. If your firm prevents employees from downloading and installing programs, your IT department can assist you. Users tied to traditional, in-house litigation solutions have only one solution for importing and exporting data, and it’s rarely easy to use. But the combined power of Amazon, Nextpoint, and Cloudberry staff and resources make it possible for even non-technical legal staff to quickly upload data. And that power is just one more way cloud technology is solving data management issues in complex litigation.

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