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Weekly legal tech news – May 11th, 2020

This week’s legal tech news notes that the current situation with all its challenges – social distancing and remote work- could change the future of litigation for good. With the new trials going virtual and the digitalization which has started in courts around the world, the life of lawyers will most definitely change.  Could Litigation Change Forever? Zoom Trials Are Already Cutting Costs for Litigants, while remote depositions raise ethics considerations for lawyers.  With all of us adapting to these new challenges, especially digital transformation, lawyers and IT and legal tech specialists have become best friends. Discover the legal tech news in this week’s summary.

Could Litigation Change Forever?– Law.com asks. Zoom Trials Are Already Cutting Costs for Litigants since trials are now shorter and with fewer inconveniences than the offline trials. Now, the remote litigation is proving to be a boon for clients, who no longer have to pay witnesses to scale the state, search for parking or wait for hours in a hallway and attorneys adapt. For example, stay-at-home orders prompted the Florida Supreme Court to temporarily suspend rules requiring all parties to agree before witnesses can appear via video conference, but lawyers say the success of online litigation could make those rules redundant and will allow the court to make a decision whether they wish to accept testimony by video conference without the agreement of another side that maybe just wants to just delay the matter.

However, this kind of remote trials and remote depositions brings ethics considerations for lawyers, as Law360 notes. In the United States, clients are eager to see their cases move forward and courts are struggling with how (and when) to clear the backlog of cases from their dockets. But, with no clear indicators signaling an imminent return to litigation as we once knew it, attorneys and courts are being forced to think outside the box to identify the various ways in which they may creatively and meaningfully advance cases during these times of uncertainty and social distancing.  For civil litigators, one option is taking and defending depositions remotely. Of course, to some early adopters and tech-savvy litigators, this virtual option is not new. To many others, though, it presents a scenario that may have seemed unimaginable just a few short months ago. And as with any other unfamiliar area of law, utilizing virtual litigation technologies and participating in remote depositions require attorneys to adequately prepare and educate themselves in order to avoid inadvertently engaging in conduct that would violate their ethical duties and obligations, including the principal duty to provide competent representation. There are several risks associated with participating in a remote deposition without a working knowledge of the relevant technology. Read more on this subject on Law360.com.

4 Ways Legal Is Adapting to Life Over Videoconference – Law.com notes. In the absence of opportunities for genuine human-to-human contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal industry seems to have deigned video conferencing as the next best thing. It’s how lawyers are getting their face in front of clients, how e-discovery providers are running security checks, and how legal tech conferences are adapting to a world of social distancing. But embracing video isn’t as simple as creating a Zoom account. For one thing, Zoom has proven that video conferences aren’t impervious to hackers, meaning attorneys have to consider outlying security threats to client confidentiality. There’s also the overarching question of just how much video conferencing people will continue to engage in after weeks spent staring into a camera. Nevertheless, here are a few ways in which the rise of video conferencing is already changing the legal industry. Discover them on Law.com.

COVID-19 is making Corporate Law and IT friends with long-term benefits – Law.com quotes. COVID-19 forced corporate legal and IT departments to come together on remote working policies, but that relationship could carry over to the implementation of technologies after the shutdown ends.

Corporate legal and IT departments haven’t enjoyed much overlap throughout the years, something that may have impacted a business’ companywide outlook on important issues such as cybersecurity or information governance. But that may be changing as corporate attorneys and resident IT experts seek to address both the risk and technical challenges of moving towards the remote working environment necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out how former “enemies” are now working together.

The lockdown has raised another issue for law firms: how they will handle their summer associate programs. The COVID-19 pandemic is showing the limits of Big Law’s herd mentality—at least when it comes to summer associate programs. In the United States, Latham & Watkins, Ropes & Gray and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati confirmed this week that their respective summer programs will be held virtually this year, but each with its own twist. Wilson Sonsini, for instance, will give summer associates credit if they do six weeks of legal work for a qualified nonprofit organization of the associate’s choice, while Latham is trimming its program from 10 weeks to 8. Each of the firms said they will honor the financial commitments they’ve made to associates and first-year fellows. Meanwhile, Nixon Peabody announced this week it has canceled its summer program altogether, and will instead offer its summer associates a $5,000 stipend. First-year summer associates will be considered for automatic placement in next summer’s class, the firm said. U.S. law firms tend to take their cues from each other when it comes to such issues as compensation, new class arrivals and interview processes, said Scott Westphal, the director of Harvard Law School’s executive education program. But the pandemic has upended all of that. Read more on this subject on Law.com.

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