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Legal Shark Week: 3 Ways to Be a Tech-Savvy Shark

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 12, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's FindLaw's "Legal Shark Week" which means, like it or not, you're going to see a lot of shark-themed posts. If you were traumatized as a kid by the movie "Jaws," we apologize in advance.

Today's topic? Three ways you can be a tech-savvy shark, starting with social media, and continuing with metadata and e-discovery. And as you'll see, these tips aren't just for the fiercest predators -- some of them are actually necessary to be a competent guppy:

1. Know How to Stalk Prey on Social Media.

How can social media help you? Let us count the ways: investigating opposing counsel, doing background research on jurors (and making sure they aren't tweeting about the case while the trial is pending), and of course, there's the whole stalking the opposing party in family law cases -- so much evidence of bad conduct is posted online for a savvy shark to find.

Last year, we asked whether it would soon be malpractice not to be social media savvy. Looking back, it almost seems like a stupid question -- of course you or someone on your firm should be versed in social media research.

After all, Comment 8 to ABA Model Rule 1.1 states:

"To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject."

Heck, forget about calling yourself a shark -- you might need to know social media just to be considered competent.

2. Dig Your Teeth Into Metadata.

We'll remind you of the cautionary tale of Jeff McGinness, a who was certainly not a metadata shark, but ran head-first into one:

"After discovering, a few days before his client was set to be deposed, that he forgot to send out discovery requests, McGinness emailed opposing counsel and demanded responses. When he received a confused response, he attached copies of the discovery requests, along with certificates of service signed by his assistant. Opposing counsel checked the metadata, which indicated that the documents had been created months after they were supposedly served."

As we noted at the time, metadata, which is the information stored in your files besides the content, such as the date it was created, last modified, etc., is very easily manipulated. It's also easily overlooked and easily discovered by opposing counsel. McGinness learned this the hard way, and was given a six-month suspension for his deception.

3. Be an eDiscovery Shark.

We won't rehash one of our most popular posts in full -- it's worth the full read. But you may recall that last summer, FindLaw's Brett Snider provided a number of tips for being an "e-discovery shark," beginning with this wise nugget: Focus your requests only on gathering discovery that is material to your case.

Why? As Snider notes, "It may be easy to forget that millions of pages can easily fit on a few PDFs, but the costs for either side of processing, producing, and reviewing them can make unfocused fishing expeditions using e-discovery just as expensive."

Does your online advertising strategy keep up with the latest tech and SEO trends? Let our experts take a second look.

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