First impressions and shiny things

Like you, I’ve heard about artificial intelligence before. I’m a big science fiction movie fan and prefer it over rom-coms. But lately, the terms “artificial intelligence”, “machine learning” and “neural networks” seem to be cropping up over and over in my Twitter feed. I have never been one to jump into hyped tech because a lot of it can lead you down rabbit holes where you end up with something shiny, but not useful.

So I approached with caution… this was what I kept hearing in my head, with Dorothy’s voice saying, “Artificial intelligence and machine learning and neural networks, oh my!”

I signed up for bootcamp courses online, both free and paid. I watched videos and read content. And one thing I learned is that much of this new terminology is a re-hash of old terminology.

Whispers… machine learning is often just plain ole statistics.

Yes, there are changes that are new, and most of what I’ve found so far is the amount of data that can be used now can be huge (big data is the buzzword here). Also, there is a lot of free stuff or open source content. So the knowledge you can obtain about shiny new tech is not behind ivory towers. However, you may have to sift through content because a lot is junk, or old, or not helpful in any way.

So I’m learning again, and that makes me happy. I’ll post more about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neural networks because I *DO* believe in their usefulness. I do think they are more than hype. And just like Dorothy, I say, “Oh my!” but now in an excited-eager-confident way.

Older Adults’ Internet Access

I wanted to build off of my dissertation by focusing on older adults’ uses of the Internet. But I didn’t want to collect my own data so I found a dataset onine called the Core Trends Survey. It is available from Pew Research here: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/dataset/core-trends-survey/ .

The Core Trends Survey was conducted Jan 8 – February 2019. The original sample had 1502 adults. I downloaded the csv dataset in Excel (because the sample size and file sizes were small) and only wanted older adults ages 55 and up.

My final sample was 465 older Americans, ages 55 and up.

  • All used the internet or email, at least occasionally
  • All had either a smart phone, a tablet, or a computer or a combination of these devices All had either high-speed internet access (like DSL,cable, fiber optic) or cell phone or tablet access at home (no dial-up). So either high speed or cell connection (note the difference of these with latency and fog computing in the future)

I cleaned the data, created new variables, and analyzed it using Excel and R. I created some image files using various packages in RStudio, and saved some stacked bar charts as pngs. These were a high level overview of my findings.

My Github has the CSV files, the R code, the pngs, and a read me file: https://github.com/sarakubik/Older-Adults-Internet-Access-in-Rural-Urban-Surburan-Locations.git

I was not happy with the stacked bar charts, so I went to Tableau to see if it could produce something better.

I created data vizualizations and a dashboard using Tableau. The files are…

  • Breaking apart where the older adults lived: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/sara.kubik/viz/OlderAdultsInternetAccessinRuralUrbanandSuburbanLocations/Dashboard1
  • Separating the data by gender and technology ownership: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/sara.kubik/viz/OlderAdultsandInternetUse/Dashboard1

Re-focusing

It’s been a while since my last post. A LOT has happened since then. Most noteably, the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, my life was radically changed because of this. It was a period of triage for many of us, and that resulted in my radio silence on this blog.

But, I’m back.

What has not changed is that I’m still an Illinois-licensed attorney mainly focusing on family law. I own my own law firm and that has allowed me the incredible flexibility to be with my children. I can always work more; I can never get back the time I have with my children as they grow up.

So this has re-focused me on my career path. I will always have my law license and actually aim to get licensed in more states when I can. I love learning. The more I learn, the more I want to learn more. (LOL at my grammar but you get my point!)

One common area that I’ve always been interested in is technology. Technology changes so rapidly and that is exciting to me. Throughout my time as a lawyer, I’ve been learning about new technologies and new applications of the technologies. New development. I’ve even taken online courses to keep my skillset current and understand how I can use these tools (used by data analytics and data scientists) in combination with what I already know (stastical analysis, research, content creation, the law).

So you’ll see a change in the posts I’m going to make. They’re going to be more data-focused because that is what I’m into now. I’m exploring data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. They are technical and can be complex, but I aim to be able to explain my thoughts as clearly and efficiently as possible.

How-To Tutorials for Unrepresented Litigants

I’m making a list, you’re checking it twice. We’re going to get you through the divorce process without having to hire an attorney. That’s nice!

I am a family law attorney who represents people in Chicago and the surrounding counties going through divorces and child custody lawsuits. When an attorney is hired by a Petitioner (or Plaintiff) or Respondent (or Defendant), that attorney normally only represents one side in the lawsuit. Not both sides.

Yet I’ve encountered many cases, especially in divorcing couples, where the party I represented WANTED me to work for her (or him) AND the opposing party. Maybe they thought hiring one lawyer means they pay one attorney to do everything, for everyone, in the lawsuit. 

This can be very problematic to say the least.

I had a pro se/unrepresented opposing party shout at me (while in the courthouse, no less) to “do all the f***in paperwork”. His wife, my client, supported this and she, too, ranted to the Judge that she only hired me to “do paperwork”. 

The legal divorce process is more than just “doing paperwork”, so it was obvious that both parties had no idea what an attorney does, or that some attorneys, MOST attorneys, will not represent both sides in a lawsuit.

I used this recent hailstorm as motivation for developing something to help me, opposing parties, other attorneys, etc.

First, let’s look at the problems:

Problem 1: The divorce process is not clear.

Going through a divorce and working with the Courts, judges, and clerks can be a daunting process. One person I represented asked where the checklist was for her to file for divorce by herself in Cook County, Illinois. There wasn’t one.

Problem 2: The e-filing process is not easy to understand.

Although e-filing has eliminated the need to travel to the courthouse and physically give someone legal documents, the e-filing process is not easy to understand.

We live in an age where we expect to be able to instantly learn and understand how to navigate around websites. Shopping online, watching videos, reading online news content… we expect to be able to quickly know how to use their sites. When a person is unable to understand how to navigate through a site, they will abandon it.

Yet people who e-file MUST use the sites. Because in Illinois, all legal documents must now be e-filed.

When you combine problem 1 and problem 2, you normally get frustrated and angry pro se litigants. Sure there are websites that contain pdf forms that these litigants can download, but there is a lack of good, clear educational content on:

A. How to understand what these forms mean

B. How to fill them out

c. How to e-file them

I was a professor who taught students software, and I now am an attorney who has helped many people get divorced in Illinois. So I made some videos for pro se litigants going through divorces in the Illinois courts.

The first few videos are free and are on YouTube:

1. What is an Appearance and How to Fill it Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_eWIbsmYJI

2. How to e-file an Appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQHjmWNnWxM

The next set of videos is bundled into an online course. I’ve created a series of videos for someone who wants to file for divorce in Cook County, IL. The course is (creatively) entitled “How to File for Divorce in Cook County, IL” and is priced at $64.99. It’s located here. If you click that Udemy link, you can preview a lesson and see how I’ve broken the course down. I’ll walk you through how to fill out all the forms you need to start a divorce lawsuit in Cook County, IL. I’ll also provide you with the forms, and show you how to e-file them.

Finally, if you have legal questions and Google your legal question, you will get flooded with results. And so much of those results will not pertain to you AT ALL. Divorce and family law is different in every state. But Googling results does not necessarily tell you that. People get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information online. I’ve learned that lawyers often have really good blogs with helpful content, but our blogs do not end up on page 1 of a Google search. So if you’re reading this, certainly check out the rest of my blog. But head over to another Chicago divorce attorney’s blog that I think is super informative, https://rdklegal.com/blog/. Attorney Russell Knight churns out content quite frequently. And I’m all for boosting another attorney’s work that can help demystify the legal process.

Can law firms operate without having a law office?

When I was an attorney at various family law firms, I rarely met with my clients in my office. There just wasn’t a need for a client to travel to my office in order for me to work with them. I called them. We emailed a lot. We met at court before and after any court appearances.

When I formed my own solo practice, I wondered, “Why do family law firms still have physical offices when most of what we do with clients can be done remotely?”

Maybe law firms have formal physical law offices because that is as it has always been. The stereotypical image of a lawyer is someone standing in front of a row of law books, crossing their arms in front of them and looking serious. And what is true is that the legal profession does not accept change very quickly.

But you know who pays for law offices? Those beautiful offices with leather chairs and mahogany furniture? Ultimately, the client does.

law library
Who ends up paying for a law office? The client does.

If it’s not necessary for a law firm to have a law office, and if the cost of having a law office is something the clients end up paying for, let’s get with the times and operate in a more streamlined way.

Lawyers are providing a service to their clients. Who else provides services? Plumbers, electricians, teachers. You get the idea. Unless you need to buy a product from these service professionals, they do not need public offices.

However, if you want to meet with them, you can. You can meet with an attorney in an agreed-upon location. And how much more convenient is it to meet with your attorney in an area closer to you? 

Driving in an urban area can be hard to do, costly, and there may be a large distance between you and the law office. Or maybe there is a short distance but the travel time is still big (especially during rush hour commutes).

My law firm is called Kubik Legal. It is a family law firm so many of our clients have younger children. We know that you have familial obligations and have taken this into consideration regarding how we work with our clients.

Because we don’t have an office, we don’t have office hours! So we’ll work with your time schedule when we represent you. Whenever we can, we’ll work in a way that you prefer to communicate.

When you work with a lawyer, you will develop a professional relationship with them. So much of what we do involves communication. And in today’s technology-driven world, we can communicate in different ways. The idea that a legal client has to always drive into a law office in order to meet with their lawyer is outdated. Plus, it’s probably going to cost a legal client more when they work with a law firm who operates in this way. Consider working with Kubik Legal. We are an efficient and effective law firm.

Introducing Kubik Legal

Kubik Legal Logo and Information

This month I decided to become a solo practitioner practicing family law in Cook County, Will County, Kankakee County and Grundy County, Illinois. Introducing Kubik Legal! https://kubiklegal.com

It’s time that I’m my own boss. Also, I know I can do this. I can excel at having my own law firm.

Many people stay in one profession their entire lives. I have jumped career tracks more than once.

But each jump, each experience, is going to play a role in how I operate my law firm. In how I work with clients. In how I practice law.

I’ve worked at law firms that barely use technology, to those that over-use technology. There is a better way, and my approach is to use technology in a way that makes my practice beneficial for both the client and for me.

The legal world is slow to change. The technology world changes rapidly. People use technology in their everyday lives and have the expectation that this lifestyle caries over when working with lawyers. Sadly, it does not.

old flip phone

Most family lawyers practice in a way that has been the same for years. I was shocked to witness this. Can you imagine using a cell phone that hasn’t changed in 20 years? (Even flip phones have evolved within this time frame.) Even if you say that the legal process has not changed, the tools we use to communicate have. And lawyers are most certainly in the field of communication!

Yet many lawyers won’t grow, or adapt. I believe this is a disservice to clients. It’s also a way to NOT focus on their needs, or what they want to achieve by hiring you.

I look forward to taking a different path with my own law firm. For more information on Kubik Legal, click here.

A plain language post about cryptojacking (that anyone can understand)

cryptojacking

What is cryptojacking?

Current technology trends and buzzwords include bitcoin, blockchain, artificial intelligence, etc. It can be overwhelming to keep up; one can be intimidated by the tech lingo. I’ve written about tech before and try to explain it in a way that is simple and understandable.

One article I wrote in this plain-language style was about fog computing.

I like to teach lawyers about technology, especially technology that is new and relatively unknown to the masses. So with this in mind, here is what lawyers should know about cryptojacking…

What is cryptojacking?
Think of it as hijacking your computer. To understand cryptojacking in a comparative way, think about when your car is running and you’re parked in neutral. Your engine is running but you’re not revving it.

You wouldn’t rev the engine while in neutral because it doesn’t make sense. You’re in neutral.

Now imagine that a person wearing a ski mask comes along, jumps into your car and and stomps on your gas pedal (I know this is weird …just hang with me for a bit). The act of pushing down on the gas pedal revs your car’s engine. Additionally, you don’t know who that someone is and you have not consented to this action. Why is this intruder revving your car engine? He or she has hooked your car’s engine to a generator! The bandit wants to rev the engine so that they can steal power.

Another comparison was given by my friend, attorney Marc Whipple (his insightful blog is here). Marc said the principle behind cryptojacking is similar to when somebody parks outside your house and uses your WiFi. Then you wonder why your router is so slow and/or get notices you’re downloading pirated stuff.

This basic theft/tort principle of someone stealing something without your consent is the principle behind cryptojacking. The bandit is stealing your computer’s resources and your electricity.

Consider this: You are web surfing and your computer is operating as it normally does. Upon visiting a particular website, your computer’s hard drive suddenly maxes out at 100% capacity. You don’t know why your computer maxed out. And although you may hear your computer whirling and grinding, you may not be aware that the excess computing power of your computer is being used without your permission. That, my friends, is cryptojacking.

Your computer is being used to mine a cryptocurrency for an unknown person who is going to make real money off of this transaction.

Cryptocurrencies + hijacking = cryptojacking.

When is cryptojacking done?
Whenever a person goes to a webpage that has the cryptojacking code on it. This code is normally in the form of a JavaScript (js) file, which is an extremely common web file. JavaScript is everywhere online, and is considered one of the three languages that all web developers must learn. So we can’t get rid of JavaScript. And although web developers can include these files on their own websites, other people can attack the website and maliciously insert code into the webpage to active a cryptojacking. The original site’s owners may be unaware that this has happened!

In that case, you don’t know who is cryptojacking your computer and neither does the website’s owner!

Why is cryptojacking happening?
To make money for whoever has hijacked your computer. The money is made by mining digital cryptocurrencies at your expense. And you pay for it by increased electricity bills as well as using (without your consent) your computer’s hard drive. Hard drives are mechanical and wear out over time. Again, think back to revving your car engine. A little rev may not hurt the car considerably but extended use of the engine may cause it to be overheated. This is the same for cryptojacked websites… the longer you are on them, the more money the hijacker is making and the hotter your computer, and even your phone, gets.

As cybersecurity expert Scott Hemle explains, when your computer is being cryptojacked, you are inadvertently financing a criminal gang.

We are seeing a surge in cryptojacked websites for many reasons. The cryptocurrency that is most commonly being mined is called Monero, and it is hard to detect who is behind the cryptojacking when this type of currency is being mined. Simply put, it is hard to find the bad guys.

Who is installing the cryptojacking code on a website?
Who knows! As explained above, it is hard to find the attackers in this scheme. The important thing to remember is that the malicious code can be installed without the website owner’s knowledge. So you can’t blame the owner of the website. Shift of liability?

How do you know if a website has cryptojacking on it? I’ll give a step-by-step but it is only for people using a PC that has Windows and Chrome as their browser.

1. Open up your task manager by doing any one of the following:
a. Right-click the Taskbar and click on Task Manager or
b. Open Start, do a search for Task Manager and click the result or
c. Use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut or
d. Use the Ctrl + Alt + Del keyboard shortcut and click on Task Manager

2. Click on the Performance tab and note the CPU percentages. Probably less than 100%. Also, notice how the chart to the right is probably jumping up and down but not at constant 100% utilization.

3. Find a webpage that has been cryptojacked. To date thousands of websites have had the JavaScript code in them that cryptojacks a computer. One long-standing example can be seen on http://www.ronpaul.com

cryptojacking

Look for a continuous 100% CPU reading. Your computer is being cryptojacked.

4. When you are on that cryptojacked site,
a. Take a look at your Task Manager and see that the CPU % is peaked, and may be constantly at 100% (look at the chart to easily see this) = JACKED!!!

How (2) do you protect yourself from having your computer by cryptojacked?
1. Install browser extensions to stop the execution of the code. Some popular ones are
a. No Coin
b. minerBlock
c. ublock
d. Adblock Plus

To find these extensions, just do a Google search for them.

How(3) do you remove the malicious cryptomining code from your website?
1. First find the person who has control over your website. If you’re a solo or small, that may be you (congrats on more non-billable-hour work). If you’re lucky enough to have an in-house IT person, call them, thank them, buy them a coffee and nicely ask them if they know about cryptojacking. If they do not, don’t insult them. Cryptojacking is a new thing and not yet widely known. Show them this blog and politely say, “I think our firm’s website may have been cryptojacked.”

2. Then read this page on what to do. Simply put, you need to remove the JS file that is probably called “coinhive.min.js”.

Some additional things lawyers need to consider:
1. All kinds of “computers” can be cryptojacked. Not just your desktop or laptop, but also you smart phone! And yes it affects Macs and PCs.

2. Can you opt-out of being cryptojacked? Short answer- no. You’re probably unaware that either your site has been affected or your computer has been hijacked.

3. Is bitcoin mining the same thing as cryptojacking? No. Words matter here. Bitcoin mining involves using computers to mine digital currency but it is not operating in an unknown way. Cryptojacking is like a trespass to chattel. It’s not on the up-and-up. It also probably violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), as pointed about by attorney Vince Polley.

cryptojacking violation

Cryptojacking likely violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

4. To date, there are over 100 law firms that are running JavaScript files that cryptojack the computers of people who visit their site. How do I know this? I went to https://publicwww.com/ and searched by “coinhive.min.js” “law firm”

5. Other than understanding that YOUR firm’s website may cryptojack visitors (also known as potential clients), people who have been cryptojacked may want to file suit. It will be hard to find the attackers, prove damages, and where the claim falls (trespass to chattels, neglience?), but for those lawyers focusing on cybersecurity, be aware that cryptojacking will increase.

If you want to learn more, here are some resources
1. A good video explaining cryptocurrencies

2. A video of an interview with Scott Helme about the government sites that were cryptojacking visitors this year

3. For the technical bits, look at Troy Mursch’s work with cryptojacking here and follow him on Twitter @bad_packets.

Good luck, and contact me if you have any questions sarakubikphd@gmail.com, or on Twitter @sarakubik. And if I e-mail your firm and tell you your website’s been cryptojacked, please look into this. So far, I’ve contacted two law firms and neither has fixed the problem. Their site still cryptojacks you when you visit them. Not good!

Building my first chatbot

I am studying for the bar exam.

It is not fun.

I have learned that when I need to do something I really do not want to do, to do that awful something in stages. And to reward mysellyf with each mini-finish.

So my reward for each legal chapter I complete is to work on building a chatbot. Seriously. Really. Stop laughing.

I am using a chatbot builder through the company called Motion.ai. But it is not easy. And the examples and documentation are skeletal at best. This company is new and the technology is new.

My goal for this first chatbot is for it to give an estimation of a child support amount. The chatbot user would not have a court order yet, nor would they have already talked to an attorney. They would not need to input any confidential or identifiable information either. 

In many states, child support is based upon a formula. But it’s not always straightforward. Texas seems to have one of the simpler formulas (Michigan’s is anything but simple)…. so I started here.

  1. The Texas Code that explains, in writing, how to calculate child support
  2. A web page on the Texas Attorney General’s website that is called a calculator

The problem with the Texas Code is it is legal writing and very, very long. You most definitely have to hire a lawyer to go through the Texas Code to give you your child support amount.

The web page calculator is pretty straightforward, but you need to have a child support order already. So in this case, you’ve already been to court and are NOW using a calculator? Weird. Confusing.

My chatbot was made to be used by either a non-custodial or custodial parent. It does not include every possible way to calculate child support. But it does give a person a beginning value. And then, the chatbot advises that the parent contact an attorney.

That is how I envision chatbots to work for lawyers. As an entry point. Not as a replacement.

To see my Texas child support chatbot,  click on the floating image on the right side of the screen that says “Bot”.


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A Long Read on Help the Lawyers LLC

A background on Help the Lawyers LLC and thoughts on where we may be headed…

The company I formed is called Help the Lawyers LLC. The website is http://www.helpthelawyers.us

The only job listed in the U.S. Constitution is that of a lawyer. Lawyers are critical to who we are as a nation.

Our nation is built on three separate but equal branches. The Executive Branch, Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch. Lawyers work in all three, but are most apparent in the Judicial Branch.

I formed a company called Help the Lawyers, LLC this past Valentine’s day with a goal of helping lawyers. Here is my story…

_______________________________________________

About three weeks ago I was studying to take the Bar exam in Michigan. After the president signed an Executive Order, that many called a travel ban, I saw the news on Twitter of the lawyers rushing to the airports and standing with hand-written signs saying they were there to help.

I kept reading tweets that said, “How can I help the lawyers?”

I answered these tweets with something like, “Get the coffee” or “They might need food” or “Just say thank you”. I began searching for the terms “help” and “lawyers” and would reply to the tweets and add a hashtag #helpthelawyers. To my surprise, this became a trending topic.

A day later, a gal named Natalie Lyda created the Twitter account @helpthelawyers. She was not as Twitter-savvy as I was, and agreed to let me come on board and help run the account. I have been on Twitter for many years and had about 1000 followers under my own account (@sarakubik). My background is technology, marketing, business, and the law, and I had tweeted and published in these areas.

On Twitter, I called myself a technical translator of different languages and skills. My degrees include a PhD in technology, a JD in law, an MBA in marketing and management and a BA in graphic design.

I began tweeting and producing content behind @helpthelawyers that utilized my skills and knowledge in unique, exciting, and novel ways.

The Nitty Gritty of @HelptheLawyers

Right now, Help the Lawyers LLC is only on Twitter under the account called @helpthelawyers

I am now running this account by myself. And I need help, here is why…

~ Getting food and coffee

It started off that @helpthelawyers would help coordinate getting coffee to various airport sites or specific lawyers on the ground. We used volunteers to help us as we were not located at any airport (I am actually living in rural Michigan and am using a pre-paid TracFone to coordinate most of this). Everything was done to help the pro bono lawyers at the airports.

Various Twitter accounts started emerging for the different major airports affected by the travel ban. Dulles, Ohare, Newark, Logan, Seattle-Tacoma, Los Angeles, San Francisco, JFK.

~Helping with tech

I began to pull content from the various sites and help develop the smaller sites by connecting them to the on-line resources I now had developed. Needs at the airports moved from getting coffee and food to getting wi-fi hotspots so the lawyers at the airports could file their briefs. To be clear- I am nowhere near an airport, so many volunteers were scrambling around at this time. I was one of them.

We started seeing how the tech community wanted to help @helpthelawyers, so we did things like asking about tech issues happening at each airport site. I also translated many tech tweets to our lawyers so they could understand the content better.

~Teaching lawyers how to use Twitter.

As the days went by, I started turning to educating the lawyers who were on Twitter but were not at the sites. Again, I tried to make the focus be on rule of law to differentiate us from the more political places.

Not only would I tweet basic instructions (like putting text into your bio saying, “I am a lawyer”) but I would tell lawyers how to engage with others on Twitter.

Beyond that, my interests are technology. I was actually building my own Twitter bot before the ban began. Because I can see how bots, and their natural language interface, can help lawyers in many ways.

So it delighted me to pull content from Twitter bots and place it in front of the HtL audience. These bots were built to pull digital filings from the various lawsuits, which normally are harder to access. So having the filings on Twitter was incredible. I had to teach many lawyers what a bot was.  To help the public understand what the filings meant (which were 45-page briefs, etc.), I asked the lawyers to translate the filings into Tweets! What a challenge! Asking lawyers who were new to Twitter to translate a 45-page brief into 140 characters in a way that an everyday person could understand!

But the lawyers did it! They were just on fire!

In order to produce more content and have an active twitter conversation under the @helpthelawyers account, I taught people to tweet to me so I could decide what content is appropriate for the vision I see as HtL. These people include the general public as well as lawyers. All are volunteers, which makes my role of being the gatekeeper very challenging. Because many people are angry right now. And many people want HtL to move to more of a social justice role. My goal is to keep it focused, as much as I can, on the rule of law. The rule of law means our country follows laws. Often times the social justice warrior and rule of law can overlap. But they are different concepts.

Finally, I would send out tweets and ask the lawyers active under HtL to reply. They were tweets where I (almost always) knew the answer, but I wanted people to see the attorneys who were answering, not @helpthelawyers. This gave the attorneys a larger platform and helped connect them to the average Twitter follower.

Who else is on Twitter for the airport lawyers movement?

There are many airport hubs (like @ORDlawyersHQ) who are focused on the various airports. I aggregate content from them as well as try to help them by boosting their messages to our followers.

There are also some airports that are managed, for the most part, by non-profit organizations like the ACLU.(@OneJusticOrg is at LAX)

There are one-man shows at some sites. Some sites have on-call lawyers. A few individual attorneys have also emerged as leaders at the various sites.

Almost all of this type of content is political. Many tweets are rough, profanity laced.

I will not support profanity and hysterics under HtL. Even though Twitter can be a mean place, and even though many feel a sense of frustration and fear that I do not have the right to denounce, I will not endorse it under HtL.

I can’t control who tweets to us; I can control who I endorse. But this is an unsustainable model. And I am really quite exhausted.

So what is next? Why is HtL needed

~Lawyers are a really, really, really tech-adverse group

Under @helpthelawyers, I teach lawyers how to use Twitter by tweeting about it. I was a professor before this and am used to communicating to non-designers. Here, I am teaching lawyers how to use Twitter through tweets.

Lawyers are a very tech-resistant group. They don’t trust new technologies that are being pushed onto them where the promise of the tech is to make their lives easier. Many don’t trust legal tech consultants who are not also lawyers. And the legal system often requires lawyers to file in paper-based ways;  many lawyers fax and many do not use e-mail.

The legal industry is incredibly old and well-established. It is not unreasonable to think that a lawyer may ask, “If it has worked for so long, why change?”

With that in mind, having a lawyer come to Twitter (especially because of @helpthelawyers) is a huge endeavor.  I tweet to many new lawyers to get them up to speed; I have direct messaged many lawyers and groomed them in a way that they tweet content under our account. They are smart people, and the ones that have moved from Facebook to Twitter are especially quick to learn.

I have seen no other entity do this. I have seen no other entity help get lawyers onto a public platform that they would normally dismiss and rapidly get them up to speed to the point where it benefits them and their legal practice.

Of course HtL, alone, is not the sole reason why lawyers are moving onto Twitter. I repeatedly tweeted that we are in a unique time when both sides of the v (Plaintiff and Defendants) are openly talking on the public communication channel that is Twitter. Never before have we had a president who tweets out his thoughts. I often say, “All eyes on Twitter,” because the discussion and dialogue are there.

And Twitter provides quick and easy access to content. My dissertation was a usability study on while older adults use cell phones (and this was 20 years ago, http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI3330291/). When my mother told me her cell phone was so important to her but she didn’t know how to use it, I knew I had a dissertation topic. Older adults didn’t use cell phones back then. So why was my mother saying this? Older adults were at tech-adverse group using technology because it provided/solved something important to them.

I can draw a direct parallel from my dissertation research to what I am doing now… helping a tech-adverse group (lawyers) use a social media technology (Twitter). I believe that lawyers are using Twitter because it provides/solves something important to them.

And little do they know, they are using in a disruptive way!

Where I could be headed with Help the Lawyers, LLC

~First, I can make this my job. But I need to find funding.

First and foremost, I need to secure an income for me. I can’t do this for free forever, and it is a full-time job. So I’ve set up a Patreon page here http://www.pantreon.com/sarakubik

Patreon donations are for people who produce content. It is different than GoFundMe and I have been told that this is the best way to go right now.

This is money will be to help me, which in turn helps me grow Help the Lawyers LLC. I know that a start-up based upon one person is totally unsustainable. So I need to address this first.

~To Twitter, and Beyond!

But where is Help the Lawyers LLC headed? It seems to be changing rapidly. I am working on getting a pitch deck created so I can secure investor funding for my start-up.

To date, HtL is just on Twitter. But that could change. Twitter happens to be the technology that is needed right now. And it is critical to lawyers and providing them with a means that they did not have before. It is open, efficient, and connects people in fast, efficient ways. There is not a lot of bloat like there is on many web pages, so people can use mobile devices to access it.

From a usability perspective, it doesn’t take people ten clicks to get to the content they need. The hashtags and lists can be explained to users by HtL tweeting them information.

And Twitter allows someone to engage in dialogue yet be hidden behind a profile picture of a dog. I have seen many egghead Twitter accounts that are lawyers; you can tell by what they write. I have seen profile pictures and names that are vague and used by lawyers who do not want to be known. And there are many people who are outwardfacing… they have a profile picture that is of their face and looking all lawyerly, and they say they are lawyers.

 

Lawyers have hard and stressful jobs. Yet they are so needed in our country.

Technologies are often developed for them that are just way too complicated, or not relevant to the challenges lawyers face. Tech solutions for having the public interact with lawyers also tend to be overbuilt and bloated. My frustration comes because I sit at the nexus of many industries and see this happening.

I get excited by technological solutions that work. That are useful.

It just so happens that lawyers are using Twitter in a disruptive way. I feel that lawyers using Twitter and following the @helpthelawyers account are disrupting the broken, slow legal system that many call horrible, but also the best in the world.

Why wouldn’t I want to help the lawyers with that?

 

 

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A plain language post about fog computing (that anyone can understand)

Is fog on the ground? Or can fog be on the ground AND in the clouds? Just when you got used to the term “Cloud Computing”, we now have “Fog Computing”. Hang on! Before you bounce, let me explain how this is important for lawyers (or others that are not into tech). My goal is to get people to understand the concepts first, and then fill in the concepts with the techno-terms, which are listed in parentheses.

But I explain things simply by testing concepts on my 6-year-old son. If I can explain things to him, I can explain it to most anyone.

When I talked about cloud computing to my son, he said, “Clouds are up in the sky.” To illustrate cloud computing, I mimed the act of taking something in my hands (data or information) and throwing it up into a cloud.

But this is only one part of cloud computing; the second part is where the data sent up comes back down to another computer. Conceptually, cloud computing is a rocket ship blasting off and then return to earth.

I asked my son if he knew of any problems with all of this up and down. Other than crashing (which dovetails nicely into computing issues), he mentioned the time it takes to make the trip. True! That travel time causes a delay from when data is sent to when it is received. (latency)

Next, I asked my son what fog is. “Clouds that are on the ground,” he said. Yes! But again, it’s not this simple for fog computing. When we say fog computing, it really includes cloud computing. A better way of understanding what fog computing is to change “fog computing” to be “anywhere-along-a-continuum computing”. Seriously, though, fog computing sounds much nicer.

Fog computing is a continuum; it’s a range that goes from the cloud to the ground-level, where our computers and devices are located. The main reason for this continuum is because not everything should go up to the cloud.

fog computing

Fog computing is a range from cloud, to edge, to a device.

Fog Computing is a continuum or a range of computing that goes from the cloud, to the edge, to the devices. 

  • Sometimes, we want information sitting within a smart device. Or maybe we want our devices talking to other devices. (device computing)
  • Sometimes we want information just above the device but not quite at the cloud-level. (edge computing)
  • Sometimes we want information shooting up to the cloud. (cloud computing)

Fog computing includes cloud computing, edge computing, and computing done at the device level. And this is the next push that is going to affect lawyers in many ways.

But let’s get back to what is mainly happening now, which is cloud computing. In cloud computing, we are sending information from a device up to the cloud and then down to another computer to process this information.

The big problem is, as stated above, latency issues. Delays. And not everything NEEDS to go up to the cloud. This is becoming more and more of an issue because our things are generating more and more data.

What is creating this data? Computers, smartphones, smart devices (IoT), cars, airplanes, basically anything with a computer in it.

Future tech developments like driverless cars (autonomous vehicles) will produce so much data that it is impractical to send it all up to the cloud. The data needs to be aggregated closer to the car to avoid delay (latency) issues.

Connected devices used in our homes don’t need to send all their data to the cloud either. If Alexa talks to your toaster and fridge and television and hair brush and personal assistant (seen at the recent CES show), this talking could remain at a lower level. Terabytes of data where the devices say,  “I’m ok”, could be compressed at the lower level and batch sent to the cloud. Or only abnormal data could be sent to the cloud.

Fog computing has other benefits like:

  1. Data security: If you’re not sending as much information up and down a network, the data is more secure. This is a topic that many are aware is important yet most do not address or feel they are ill-prepared for breaches.
  2. System reliability: If you’re not sending information up and down a network, there are fewer chances of the data becoming corrupted so the system is more reliable.
  3. Less power needed to run devices: Fog computing includes the sharing resources at or near the edge of a system. By sharing resources left to right versus up and down, we need less power in each device as the devices work together.

Now, where do lawyers come in?  If lawyers understand the concepts behind this technological movement, they can drill down to addressing the practical legal aspects. Here are some nuggets to get you started:

There’s the obvious topic like data security. What data is being sent where? How will the data be stored?

In terms of liability issues, who is legally responsible if a product gets hacked? Who pays for damages?  Who is responsible for patching devices? Consider that a product could be as simple as smart hairbrush (Iot) or as huge as a driverless truck. (autonomous vehicles) Who has liability for failures in these very complex meshes of computations?

In terms of privacy, how will lawyers help draft privacy agreements in an age when surveillance IS the service? Will we get to a time when we, as a society, change the expectations of privacy (the second prong in Katz’s expectations of privacy test)?

There are contractual issues as well; contracts need to be written between all of the players in this system. And the companies that are developing partnerships are not between the same partners in the past.

In terms of intellectual property law, what if I learn new things from your data and patent the findings? Do I really own this?

But let’s not forget evidence! If you have it, lawyers will try to subpoena. And it won’t be in criminal trials alone. This evidence will also appear in civil lawsuits. Think again how ignorant it would be if a lawyer subpoenas “any and all data” from an entirely connected system.

Techno-speak can be off-putting. But so can legal-speak. Hopefully, this article gives lawyers an understanding of the next technological movement, called fog computing, so they can better prepare for the whirlwind soon to come.

Special thanks to Matt Vasey at Microsoft (@mvasey) and with the Open Fog Consortium (@openfog) for helping me out with this article.