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3 Tech Lessons for Lawyers, From 2016

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

2016 may be the Worst Year Ever, but there are plenty of lessons scattered throughout this year's rubble. And no, we're not talking about learning from dead celebrities, international political espionage, or Olympic doping scandals.

We're talking about learning how to be a better, or at least a better-informed, attorney. Here are some lessons we're taking away from the past year.

1. Don't Trust Your Email and Don't Hide If It's Been Compromised

Email isn't exactly on the cutting edge of legal technology, but alongside word processing and electronic research, it's probably one of the technologies lawyers most use. (Electricity, fire, and the rest, excepted.) And 2016 reminded us that email can't always be trusted. In May, a British solicitor's association advised members against using email for sensitive communications following a rash of email fraud. A few months later, a district court in Virginia ruled that lawyers must alert opposing counsel when they've learned that their email has been compromised, after one attorney had a settlement payment stolen by phishers.

You probably don't need to get rid of email, but you should be aware of its vulnerabilities, your responsibilities when email is compromised, and more secure alternatives.

2. Start Learning About Artificial Intelligence

"Will Robots Replace Lawyers?" is a perennial press favorite, and plenty of ink has been spilled over AI and the law in the past decade or five, but 2016 started to see some actual AI inroads being made in to the profession. This summer, BigLaw firms DLA Piper and BakerHostetler announced they would start using AI-powered research technology in some practices, while K&L Gates recently donated $10 million to study AI and ethics. It'll probably be awhile still until most lawyers begin using AI in their practice, but the smart ones will want to start preparing sooner, rather than later.

3. Fix Your Passwords, Please

From DNC emails to Russians going after Chicago law firms, 2016 has been the year of the hack. And this year's major hacks aren't isolated to BigLaw and Big Politics. Recently revealed hacks to services like LinkedIn, Drobox, and Yahoo had compromised user names and passwords for over a billion (yes, that's billion with a B) accounts -- possibly yours. So if you're still using the same username and password for, say, your bank account, social media, and email as you used for your 1998 Yahoo account, well, you might want to consider changing things.

If there's anything you've learned in 2016, hopefully it's the value of using a hard-to-crack, unique passwords across multiple accounts. Password mangers can be a bit of pain to use and sync, but they can create and manager strong, unique passwords way better than you can manage them on your own, so try one out if you're not using them already.

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