Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finally, a Legitimate Business Use for that iPhone...

According to an article out last night, a handful of bankruptcy courts are about to embark on a pilot project aimed at making mp3 audio files available of hearings, that can be downloaded in much the same way we currently use PACER to access dockets.

The project is reportedly the brain-child of Judge Rich Leonard of the Eastern District of North Carolina. Working in conjunction with Case Management/Electronic Case Files brutes, and those lovely people in the courts' Administrative Office, the program will feature a newly designed interface so that Internet users can listen to audio files of hearings.

Not only is it convenient for small budget constituents and the public at large, it also means that in future big cases, I don't have to listen to NYC lawyers complain about Ft Worth not having any decent restaurants... Even better, mis-informed types like Senator John Cornyn will have one less arrow to use in messing with existing bankruptcy venue provisions.

After the program is put together, apparently it is going to be tested in the following bankruptcy courts: Northern District of Alabama, District of Maine. Also will be featured in the district courts of Nebraska and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

During the test, lasting only a year, the cost to download a file will be 16 cents. Later, small concerns such as bandwidth may increase the cost for larger files.

Kudos to Judge Leonard. This is exactly the kind of forward thinking that our profession needs more of. Not only can I now justify buying that iPhone I have had my eye on, but also a new, sporty European sedan
that is .mp3 ready!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Word, or Three, about Technological Competence

First a programming note - I apologize for having been away for so long. Given the unprecedented rain that the North Texas region has been experiencing this summer, I have spent every waking hour learning all I can about Indoor Drag Racing. By all accounts, I should have plenty of extra resources to invest in this great new idea. If I can just figure out how to develop a practice near Grandville, MI, I could would dedicate all my nights and weekends to furthering the dream that is AYA Motorsports.

But I digress. Yesterday, my supervising partner came into my office with a pained expression, and holding a large box. I thought perhaps the box was heavy, given his obvious level of discomfort. Like any non-partner track associate who was passed over for a mid-year bonus, I tried to trip him and make it look like an accident. Alas, the box was nearly empty, having only a smattering of items inside.

"I need help with this stuff. This stuff was produced to me in an adversary proceeding yesterday. I didn't ask for it, I don't know what it is, none of it works with my iPhone, and I have a conference call with the client in 10 minutes to tell them all of the electronic discovery that is on here, whatever the hell that means." Said supervising partner dropped the box on my desk and left for a much needed two hour mid-day yoga retreat.

Peering over the edge of the box and casting my gaze upon its contents, I realized it was time to seriously consider quitting my day job to finish that All American novel hiding in the cob-web filled corners of my mind. The box held a small flash drive, a sushi-shaped USB drive, a USB controlled missile launcher (absent all but one of its missiles), a hand held blow dryer, a discharged nine-volt battery, and my missing remote control for my Playstation 2. I yelled down the hall at the retreating back of my supervising partner, " I have to hand deliver this to a digital gerontologist in Anchorage. I need two weeks and fifty grand!" Supervising Partner waved his hand in dismissive approval. Sometimes it is good to be king.

I continue to be distressed by the growing number of experts in electronic discovery and digital forensics. With a few exceptions, the most disconcerting groups are the former lawyers and the shuttered print shops that have entered this rapidly expanding segment of the market. The fear, at the outset, is not what these third-party vendors may do (or fail to do) that creates a problem, its the fact that too many of us may be willing to hand these experts the keys to inevitably more-complex bankruptcies without knowing what, exactly, these experts are doing for us (or to us, as the case may be).

Specific to bankruptcy, the simple fact is that the majority of us who do not reside in the rarefied air of "Biglaw" have not been able to keep up with, let alone afford, the capital intensive technological blessings of the business world. So many of us have yet to adapt and implement greater technological prowess in our own practice, there are probably few of us that have any business advising our clients on their own respective digital enterprises.

An article yesterday on InfoWorld is reflective of the majority of bankruptcy opinions that I have read to date regarding the use of technology in our increasingly digital practice. Rather than dealing with the substantive issues presented by the recent FRCP e-discovery rules changes, PACER and ECF still seems to be a challenge for some of us. The InfoWorld article details a firm in Aurora, Colorado that missed a hearing because the firm's email spam filter blocked the ECF notice of hearing. The article makes the same point that I have been making for the last few months that the federal judiciary appears to be getting this stuff much faster than the majority of practitioners, in that the federal judge on the case apparently pointed out to the lawyers that all they had to do was "white-list" the court, making them an approved sender. Eureka!

There are lots of resources to learn the implementation of this stuff. For instance, the ABI has a Technology and Telecommunications committee, which in part, explores how technology can best be applied by bankruptcy practitioners.
The ABA has some interesting resources through its Law Technology Today/Digital Edge page. on the practise side, the lovely and talented Steve Jakubowski just emailed to me a link for the free download of The Sedona Principles, Second Edition, Best Practices Recommendations and Principles for Addressing Electronic Document Production.

Join the ABI, listen to the ABA podcasts, read Sedona. In the mean time, I will be hopping a train North, so that I can increase my technological competence in the art and science of Indoor Drag Racing!