For the last two years, some of the best legal research and technology tips from our Legal Sourcery team have also been featured on SlawTips. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, SlawTips features advice you can use on technology, practice and research. If you want to receive these tips directly, you can sign up with email or RSS, and you can follow @SlawTips on Twitter. Excerpts also appear each Tuesday on Slaw.ca for the week’s most recent entries.
Recent SlawTips include:
A full list of all 125 of our legal research tips so far can also be found under the ‘Tip of the Week’ category on the right hand side of our blog or by following this link. Our technology tips are listed under ‘Technology’ or can be found here.
By Ken Fox
You know what really grinds my gears? When I open a PDF file containing what appears to be digitally-formatted text and find that it is non-copyable and non-searchable. The ability to search, copy and paste text are essential functions of digital communications – so the idea that a text is born digitally and therefore ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) encoded, and that somebody wittingly or unwittingly should remove that functionality – it leads to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.
Well just last week I was sent a large PDF document with more than 70 pages of text. So I opened it in Adobe Acrobat, and tried to execute a search for a key term, and found that it was (you guessed it) another one of those documents that had signs of ASCII-formatted text in its progeny, but through the manipulations of some kind of monster, been reduced to the mere semblance of text, no more searchable than a stack of paper.
So naturally I commenced with my usual process of wailing and gnashing, but after a few minutes of that I got a notion that maybe I should try something different. In near desperation, I got the idea that – just maybe – if I “select all” and paste it into a text editor then some hitherto-hidden ASCII-encoded text might appear. Worth a try, right?
So I hit control-A, and THIS happened:
“Why yes,” I said out loud, “in fact I WOULD like to run text recognition to make the text on this page accessible – THANKS for asking!”
I clicked Yes.
Then I got asked for some settings, which I ignored and just clicked OK – opting for the default option in my excitement.
Adobe Acrobat then leapt through my document, systematically performing the miracle of breathing life into the dead letters at the rate of about a page a second – slightly faster for the “born digital” main portion, and a bit slower for some appendices that bore the stigmata of pre-digital technology.
The result was perfectly copyable, pastable, searchable text in the main body of the document. As for the typewritten appendices, Acrobat almost flawlessly converted them into digital text as well, while maintaining the visual features of the original typed text. Basically, the document looked identical to how it had looked prior to the procedure but was now digitally functional. The only letters and numbers that resisted the resurrection were data from a single table with a very small typeface – those few characters remained a heretical community of graphics in the midst of a near-universal mass conversion.
Optical text recognition technology has come a long way in a few short years.
Now if you work anywhere in the legal industry (or do any kind of office work), then there is a good chance you have been able to follow right along, and to some of you, this is already old news and why am I boring you. But if there are any among you who don’t know what I’m talking about with text that can be searched and copied – you need to learn a few tricks that will make your life a whole lot easier. Begin with learning these commands, which work on almost all text-editing software:
CTL-F … Find text in document
CTL-A … Select All
CTL-X … Cut selected text
CTL-C … Copy selected text
CTL-V … Paste the last text you cut or copied
CTL-Z … Undo last operation
CTL-Y … Redo undone operation
CTL-H … Find all identified text in document and replace with other text
You can use point-and-click menus for these operations as well, but I find the keyboard shortcuts easier. These features, and many others, are now standard practice in office work – so learning them will not get you ahead so much as get you caught up with the rest of us.
And if you ever come across a text, especially a longish one, for which the above commands do not work, try to do minimal weeping & wailing and tooth-gnashing. And when you are done that, wipe the tears off your keyboard and try the simple operation described above. Failing that, try something else. And if all else fails, ask your friend in IT to perform a miracle. Because there is no reason to tolerate text in a digital file that cannot function as digital text.
By Greg Hluska
Everyone has heard the phrase “don’t reuse your password”, but that is such an abstract warning that it’s hard to understand why password reuse is such a dangerous thing. However, I know a lot about security and password reuse is honestly one of the threats that keeps me awake at night. I would like to take this opportunity to help provide a better understanding of how a password breach can occur and how criminals exploit the information obtained with a view to encouraging everyone to use best practices with their passwords, so we can all sleep a little bit better.
Despite the fact that we are all told not to reuse passwords, we are all, in the interests of short-term convenience, tempted to do exactly that. Many websites impose rather onerous password requirements. You need a password that is at least eight characters with at least one upper and lowercase letter, a number and a special character. It is hard enough to come up with and remember one password like that. It’s nearly impossible to do that for 25 different websites.
Passwords themselves aren’t even a very logical way to secure a system. Good passwords are good because they’re hard to guess, but to be hard to guess, a good password must be hard to remember. Following the best practices (set out below) for password management is hard, but it is vital to lessening the ever-growing risk. Fortunately, there are ways to make implementing best practices more manageable.
But first, let’s look at an example of a major password breach and how criminals gain access to an exploit personal information.
LinkedIn Breach – 2012/2016
LinkedIn was hacked on June 5, 2012 and cybercriminals were able to steal what was first reported as 6.5 million passwords. This leak was particularly dangerous for two reasons:
1.) Because of LinkedIn’s nature, many people use their work addresses to sign up for their LinkedIn accounts.
2.) LinkedIn used a very weak hashing algorithm to scramble their passwords so they did not appear in plaintext. They used an algorithm called SHA-1, which was deprecated by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2011. However, SHA-1 was considered unsafe against well-funded opponents as early as 2005.
Because LinkedIn stored their passwords using a very weak hashing algorithm, the net effect was that by June 6, 2012 cybercriminals had access to millions of plain text passwords alongside work email addresses.
Then things got much worse. In 2016, the mainstream security community learned that the attack on LinkedIn was far worse than feared. Researchers discovered that criminals had actually stolen over 100 million email addresses and password combinations. A massive file of greater than 100 million email addresses and poorly hashed passwords had been available for almost four years. This was an absolute disaster from a security perspective.
Exploiting the Data
How would criminals respond to a breach like that? First off, they’re keenly aware that 80 percent of people reuse one password across multiple sites. Armed with a set of work email addresses and passwords, they would likely start trying to access those work email accounts with the plaintext passwords from the LinkedIn breach.
To illustrate the danger of this, let’s consider a fictitious example. John Smith is an IT Coordinator with a major national law firm. His email address is email@example.com. John Smith wanted to be able to network, so he set up a LinkedIn account under that email address, and he secured it with a really good password – 123+pa$$worD. Because it was a really good password, John Smith also used that password on his email account.
Then, the LinkedIn attack happened.
A criminal started off by finding the webmail login for the firm and tried to access the account using that email address and password – success. John Smith used the same password for LinkedIn that he used for his email account. That one hack however, lead to other types of equally dangerous information. You see, John Smith used firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for a web hosting account, a domain registration account and for administrative access to the firm’s Office 365 subscription.
With that one breach, criminals would have complete access to the firm’s website, domains and every single email that the entire organization received. Thankfully, this is only a made-up example, but it demonstrates the power that one password can yield when it is used across multiple platforms.
How can we protect ourselves?
In general, there are a few best practices that you can employ to protect yourself from this kind of an attack.
1.) Do not reuse or duplicate your passwords across platforms. Using different passwords across platforms will ensure that if one platform is breached (be it LinkedIn or your fitness tracker) the damage will be contained to the data lost in that breach, and it will not be able to be reused to further compromise other platforms.
2.) Do you really need that account? Here is an unfortunate truth about data and data breaches. The more accounts that you sign up for, the higher the probability that one account will be breached. And, the more breaches that your data is caught up in, the higher the probability that one will yield dangerous information, like a plaintext password. Consequently, before you sign up for anything, ask yourself if you really need to sign up for that service. If the answer is no, you might be happier (and you will be significantly more secure) if you don’t sign up for it. And it will be one less password you have to remember.
3.) Use multiple email addresses. The LinkedIn breach would have been much less dangerous if people did not use their work email accounts. If you decide that you do need to sign up for a new service, ask yourself if you need to use your work email account. In some cases, yes you should. In other cases, it’s just as useful if you sign up with an alternate email account that you use for less sensitive information.
4.) Use a password manager. Critics rightly point out that password managers do not protect against every kind of attack. However, all password managers make it easy to use strong, unique passwords on every website and service that you use.
5.) Change your passwords regularly. Most organizations will force password resets every two or three months on their systems. Why not force password resets on all your accounts every two or three months? Good password managers can automate this process for you. The point of changing your passwords regularly is that if you are breached (and you will be), the probability that you will be victimized in a new breach is relatively low.
6.) Use two factor authentication for extra sensitive accounts. Two factor authentication (2FA) is a system where you will enter something you know (ie – a password) and then receive another challenge. Most commonly, this second challenge is that you will receive a temporary PIN number to your mobile device. Or, other services use an app called Google Authenticator to generate a unique six-digit PIN number on your mobile phone. The point of 2FA is to make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to your most sensitive accounts.
7.) Hack yourself…sort of. A security researcher and educator named Troy Hunt runs a wonderful service called “Have I Been Pwned”. The premise is simple. You can go to their website, type in an email address and find out if that email address is included in an ever-growing collection of breaches. The address is https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and I strongly encourage everyone to try it out, particularly with highly sensitive accounts.
Password reuse is such a major issue in our society because hackers can easily steal passwords from data breaches and use that information to get access to many other services. Because of this, it is important to use unique, strong passwords for every service that you sign up for. It’s hard to come up with a good password for every website that you use, creating a need for password managers, which make it easier to track your passwords and change them regularly. You can also use a second factor to authenticate for access into particularly sensitive accounts. By applying these practices and by simply being aware of the associated risks the likelihood of a breach will not cease to exist but can be minimized by a considerable amount.
A quick scan of the Law Society CPD Past Activities webpage reveals the extent technology has influenced our programming in the past few years.
The use of new and innovative technologies in the practice of law has provided the opportunity for educating our members on how their time, money and resources may be better spent if they are properly informed of the technologies that exist to aid their daily operations and processes. To this end, we have utilized specialists in these matters to share their expertise with our members. These sessions have always been well attended and received as our members recognize the necessity of embracing the changes to the profession that advancements in technology will always yield.
Some examples of these activities, which are available to purchase on-demand through the CPD Recorded Versions webpage, are offered below with a brief description:
Webinar – The Use of Technology in Evidence:
Technology is an integral part of our lives and the legal profession. It has become critical to understand what technology exists, how it can be used and the value it presents in the Courtroom. Technology can be the evidence as well as the tool to present the evidence. This presentation discusses the impact of technology on evidence and how technology can be used to fulfill the role of advocate.
This webinar was presented by Loreley Berra, a Senior Crown Prosecutor with the Ministry of Justice. She has experience in prosecuting a wide variety of criminal matters and is currently the dedicated Crown for the Saskatchewan Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) in Regina. Saskatchewan ICE deals primarily with criminal offences committed with the use of electronic devices.
Webinar – Creating and Managing a Digital Practice:
Lawyers are swamped in paper. We generate and receive reams of it. We chase it, try to keep it organized, are slaved to our desks so we can access it and when it is no longer needed we store it, sometimes at pricey, downtown, lease rates. If you are tired of this drain on your resources then this is your opportunity to learn how to “kick the habit”. Not only will you learn how to actually create a paperless practice but also best practices for managing it. Who should view this webinar? Anyone who is finally tired of the daily paper-hunt.
The webinar was presented by Jeff Scott, Q.C., Practice Advisor and Colin Clackson, Q.C., Committee Member with the Electronic Office Working Group for the Law Society of Saskatchewan.
Panel Discussion on Technology and the Changing Legal Landscape:
The focus of this CPD session was technology and the changing legal landscape. We were fortunate to have a panel of esteemed lawyers from across the country who addressed the inevitability of change and the impact that technology will have on the legal profession, and more broadly, on the legal system. Fred Headon is Assistant General Counsel, Labour and Employment for Air Canada. As Chair of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Legal Futures Initiative, Fred discussed innovation in the practice of law and the role of technology in creating opportunities for the profession.
Karen Dyck is the Executive Director of the Manitoba Law Foundation, has been involved with various not-for-profit organizations, and is a member of the Futures Initiative Steering Committee. Karen discussed technology and the opportunities it can create from an access to justice perspective. We also heard from Dan Pinnington, President and CEO at LawPRO. Dan is a prolific writer, speaker and blogger on legal malpractice, risk management, legal technology and law practice management issues. The aim of this session was to leave attendees with a better understanding of what they and their firm will need to do to adapt to the changing legal landscape.
Recorded Seminar – Technology Academy for Saskatchewan Lawyers and Legal Professionals 2018:
Barron K. Henley is one of the most popular CPD instructors in North America and an expert on technology solutions for lawyers. Barron presented to Saskatchewan members of the bar in 2012, 2016 and in May 2018. Barron’s classes are designed by lawyers for legal professionals making them some of the most relevant training you and your staff can receive in the legal technology area.
In his 2018 program Barron took us back to basics in hopes of allowing members and their staff to fully utilize the software they work with (and pay for!) every day, with sessions titled:
• Microsoft Word Power Tips
• Using Outlook To Get Email Under Control
• A Lawyer’s Guide to PDF Files
He then switched gears to discuss that ever-present concern when considering technology for lawyers – security. His session Cyber Security – Legal Tech Security Measures Every Lawyer Should Take, provided practical measures members and their staff can take to manage their high-risk digital environments. Barron completed this seminar with a session entitled, 8 Things Hurting Your Law Firm – And How to Eliminate Them.
The flip side to any advancement in legal technology is the greater risk for security breaches. With ever increasing effort and imagination, hackers and fraudsters continue to target lawyers and law firms. Daily, phishing emails, bad cheque scams and other sophisticated frauds are being used in attempts to breach law firm systems and steal trust funds. The Law Society has been, and remains, cognizant of these very real issues. We have worked hard, with various partners, to offer CPD programming focused on how to recognize these threats and how to react to them in order to minimize the disruption to your practice.
The most recent programming offered in this area, including a description of the session, is listed below:
Webinar – “Surf the Net and Lose Your Trust Funds” – Cybercrime and Law Firms:
As the face of Claims Prevention and practicePRO at LawPRO, Ian Hu speaks, writes and blogs about practice management, claims prevention and lawyering issues. We worked with Ian in 2016 to offer a webinar designed to educate our members on:
• phising scams, cyber criminals and malware;
• horror stories from real firms;
• the steps you need to take to secure your data and systems;
• proper use of passwords;
• technology use policies;
• responding to a cyber breach; and
• tech tips to help manage your practice.
Webinar – Common Cyber Dangers and How to Avoid Them:
In order to keep our content current, we followed up Ian’s session a year later with a presentation from Dan Pinnington, President and CEO of LawPRO. He has been teaching lawyers about technology and malpractice dangers for almost 20 years. Dan provided an overview of the most common cyber dangers and showed how you and your staff can recognize and avoid cyber scams.
Free Webinar – Cybersecurity Webinar and Training Introduction:
In April we partnered with our information technology (IT) Support provider, MicroAge, and their cybersecurity training team, KnowBe4, to offer our members a short, free introduction webinar. This webinar introduced attendees to an intuitive, IT-focused approach to cybersecurity problems and how you can teach your entire company to spot the warning signs of a cyberattack, and how to train your users with safe, simulated attacks to avoid these threats before cybercriminals target you.
[Originally published in Benchers’ Digest, Summer 2018]
By Melanie Hodges Neufeld
The Law Society of Saskatchewan is currently updating its communication processes for members and the public to better meet information needs. Thank you to those members who took the time to complete the recent survey. There were 340 responses between May 4 and 18, 2018 and we are pleased to share some of the key findings:
Approximately 90 per cent of respondents noted they receive the information they need from the Law Society.
More than 90 per cent of respondents preferred to receive time sensitive information via the weekly email updates. For more detailed information, the top preference of respondents was email (85%), with Benchers’ Digest and the Legal Sourcery blog noted as good channels to continue.
Over 40% of the respondents visit the LSS website weekly, about 33% monthly, 12% other and about 10% daily. Some members have incorporated the LSS site or library page as their home page.
More than half of the respondents note the current website meets their needs well, emphasizing the importance of keeping the information current. More than 60 per cent felt the information on the website was either very easy or extremely easy to understand; and the vast majority found it somewhat or very easy to find what they were looking for. About half of the respondents use the site’s search function.
There were several examples of areas members wanted on the home page including: latest news, calendar of events, and a series of quick links. There were also suggestions to consider improving detail related to CPD, provide an improved search function, and enhance the Find a Lawyer function, to note a few.
The most frequently visited subpages off the LSS home page for respondents were: Members’ section, continuing professional development, lawyer regulation, library, publications and information for lawyers and students. Their most common comments focused on career opportunities and Casemail, as well as some recommendations on how to improve the login process for CPD members.
In terms of desired direct links off the home page, respondents’ suggestions included: CanLII, job postings, legal research, Legal Sourcery, and additional reference to CPD programming.
Slightly more than half of the respondents would recommend the website as a reference for a friend or colleague, that they typically spend about the expected amount of time finding detail they are looking for.
While there wasn’t significant interest in the visual aspect of the website, there were areas identified for consideration for any website renewal. This included making sure the site was presented in an organized way and making sure functionality and navigability were kept as priorities. Some members referenced the importance of the visual renewal to keep the process current and not to cause search delays with overuse of visual elements.
What is being done to better meet members’ communication and information needs?
Although not all comments can be addressed immediately, this insight will help to address communication channels and improvement as well as website renewal with the new site expected to be launched later this year. As part of the website renewal, we are looking forward to:
• Providing an improved “Find A Lawyer” link;
• Delivering enhancements to the CPD area of the website for members;
• Improving our weekly email bulletins to members and begin an archived area of this detail;
• Continuing to provide important professional information and trends through the Legal Sourcery blog;
• Scheduling the annual communication update survey of members for May 2019;
Over this year, we will also be updating our visual identity process which will include an updated logo, address numerous inconsistencies and provide for standardized print elements and templates.
All efforts align with our value of open communication and help to meet a goal of providing information in a manner that is in the preference of the user and in a most user-friendly format, whether for our members or the public. Thank you for your patience while we make these improvements. If you would like any further information throughout the process, please contact Melanie Hodges Neufeld at email@example.com.
[Originally published in Benchers’ Digest, Summer 2018]
By Tim Brown, Q.C.
Executive Director, Law Society of Saskatchewan
We live in a world where advancements in technology have reached the mind-bending level of science fiction. When I graduated from Law School in 1991, it would have been impossible to imagine a world on the verge of self-driving cars. Today no one disputes that we will share the roads with driverless vehicles very soon or that those vehicles will be built on automated assembly lines by robots.
At the same time, not long ago in our history, the hardware necessary to land on the moon was housed in buildings worth millions of today’s dollars. Now, that level of computing power is found in cell phones which are virtually given away in exchange for entering a usage contract with a cellular service provider and can be found in the hands of our children.
This de-escalation of the cost of computing power per-dollar is a massively dramatic evolution that has happened very quickly. It is also a measurement that helps to describe how computing technologies have exponentially increased the speed at which humans acquire and implement knowledge, which by some estimates, presently roughly doubles each year.
These estimates also suggest that advancements in computing power occur at this pace. Although widely debated, the information leads many to conclude that the “singularity” (the point at which technologically-created cognitive capacity surpasses that of humans) will occur sometime in the middle of this century. Against this backdrop, it comes as no surprise that technologies now exist, and will continue to develop to have the potential to transform many traditional processes associated with the delivery not only of legal services, but also services in every sector of the economy.
In June, the Benchers met in Elk Ridge to discuss strategic directions for the Law Society over the next three years. It is fair to say that emerging technologies were high on the list of key drivers of change for the profession in the years to come. (It is impossible to predict what the world might look like 10 years from now, but the technologies of today were reflected upon to better understand the world of tomorrow and what must happen from a regulatory standpoint to prepare our way.) Here are some of the highlights of an environmental scan that was prepared for the Benchers on the impact of emerging technologies.
Now, almost any legal form you could want is available online and can be customized based on the user’s preferences. Add to this, artificial intelligence platforms are a keystroke away and can create lengthy, complex documents, including such things as: partnership agreements, confidentiality agreements, prenuptial agreements, etc. 
There are several such online services available to the public, and there is no reason to believe that this progression will subside. Online services such as Rocket Lawyer, LegalZoom and Avvo are providing a new method for providing traditional legal services directly to consumers. When I wrote my environmental scan for strategic planning in June 2018, I reported that these services had not yet targeted the Canadian market.
A search performed less than one month later reveals that LegalZoom.ca is now open for business in Canada. These service providers do not shy away from expressing that their services represent disruptive innovation in the traditional legal marketplace. They are bold in maintaining that this disruption benefits people who could not otherwise hire a lawyer by expanding access to legal services; in fact, it is their corporate mantra.
Communities of Legal Experience
Instant online communities are available for every subject matter and legal knowledge is no exception. These “communities of legal experience” are online gathering places where non-professionals share practical past legal experiences and crowd-source legal information and opinions. It is essentially a user-built “wiki” approach to the creation of bodies of knowledge intended to augment, or potentially replace traditional forms of legal advice for those who can’t, or choose not to, afford advice from a lawyer.
Online Reputation Systems
We are growing accustomed to providing instant feedback about our online experiences. For lawyers and firms this can include price comparisons and information about the availability of different fee arrangements. These services provide venues for “shopping” that both provide opportunities for lawyers to, in effect, lease space in the “online mall” and put consumers of legal services in touch with lawyers on terms that are appropriate for them. This is likely to place downward pressure on fees and cause innovation in traditional practices and modes of delivery for lawyers competing for visibility in that space.
Legal Tech Start-ups
There is a rapidly growing number of start-up technology companies at various stages of development. These new ventures can quickly offer, create or beta-test new products and services targeting the legal services market. Many of these “start-ups” are receiving venture capital injections from established companies in the legal tech space and others.
At the same time, we’ve witnessed the emergence of innovation zones and incubators at legal educational institutions . Many such start-ups will target lawyers as customers with the hook being increased return on investment (ROI) through efficiencies and profitability.
Others are developing applications directly aimed at the provision of services to the public — including those who are currently receiving these services from lawyers, under-served segments of the population, and unable or unwilling to afford traditional forms of legal assistance.
Artificial Intelligence or “A.I.”
According to Merriam-Webster, A.I. means “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior”. It becomes possible for computers to imitate human cognitive functionality when different component processes of A.I. work together.
While the ultimate potential of A.I. is debated, extrapolations based on its current capabilities are mind-boggling. For example, A.I. is currently being used in the creation of “expert systems” — systems which mimic some level of human expertise designed to perform tasks normally done by people. There are several illustrations of expert systems now in law:
• eDiscovery tools have already demonstrated the ability to outperform junior lawyers and paralegals at identifying relevant and privileged documents ;
• Contract review tools can, within moments, sift through contracts identifying types of clauses, preparing summaries of key terms and heat maps which identify which party to the transaction enjoys the better end of the bargain;
• Some legal research applications are outperforming lawyers. Treating written judgements as data, A.I. applications drawing on entire bodies of case law (a much larger body of knowledge than human lawyers would be capable of reading in a year) can analyze and draw meaningful correlations in a matter of seconds. Blue J Legal uses an A.I. platform which scans case law and can provide tax law opinions and notice periods in employment law and produce a brief which categorizes all relevant case law according to high and low outcomes and those that are of the most tactical significance in under a minute.
• Online dispute resolution platforms, an example of which is the eBay Resolution Center which resolves over 60 million disputes a year – without human intervention; and
• Litigation strategy software “…like Lex Machina can analyze a set of facts against a collection of past decisions and give a prediction of the likely timing and outcome that is more accurate than an experienced counsel can give” . Technology has the potential to fundamentally change the ways in which common law will be interpreted to generate opinions and, from an objective standpoint, weighed against the heuristics of lawyers or teams of lawyers, produce products that are quite clearly faster and more comprehensive.
Blockchain is a revolutionary way to structure data, and the heartbeat of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, though its transformative potential as a discreet technology beyond cryptocurrency, is proving to be revolutionary. This coding breakthrough consists of connected blocks of transactions and has a public digital ledger which allows information to be shared without need for a central authority. No single party has the authority to tamper with the records and cryptography authenticates the entries. It is immutable, unforgeable and can execute smartcontracts.
Blockchain technology is receiving a lot of interest from big business. It has the potential to provide many new solutions for old problems in the market. Large consortiums are working to examine the various use-cases and permissions for blockchain applications in almost every area of human endeavor. This technology is also leading the way for patent applications in the U.S. There are many practical examples of how blockchain might be used to replace traditional processes, facilitate transactions in a secure and independent way, while structuring data to create immutable, searchable, public registries in almost any context.
Recently, at the Law Society of Alberta annual retreat in Jasper, Jason Moyse, CEO of Law Made  provided a simple example of smart, or self-executing contracts at work in the context of supply chains. His example was of a shipping container of avocados. Using a self-executing blockchain contract, two parties can agree the avocados will arrive at a specified time and temperature.
A failure of either of these conditions automatically triggers a default and causes a previously agreed-upon abatement of price to occur automatically within a chosen cybercurrency environment – all without the time or cost associated with traditional dispute-resolution methods since there is no human intervention. Supply chain management now has an effective real-time method for disputes to be resolved. Simply put, it is revolutionary.
Blockchain provides a very concrete example of the types of new competencies we should be focussing on as regulators of the profession. We will provide ongoing commentary with respect to the progress of this technology in our twitter feed and our blog, Legal Sourcery.
Our Path Forward
Some technology will augment and assist traditional processes, while others will transform. There are many sophisticated entrepreneurs working in the legal-tech space and interested venture-capital to fund the effort. In fact, Canadian technology firms are currently regarded as worldleaders in the legal-tech space. Although the focus may initially be on larger potential profits in the U.S. market, Canada isn’t immune to global shifts. Afterall, our profession is a $25 billion domestic industry. We need to be at the forefront of leading change in service delivery.
At the same time, the regulation of the profession must keep pace to support this unprecedented evolution. While conversations about change may feel unfamiliar, the Law Society of Saskatchewan is committed to the process of providing information in a timely way.
• We are making efforts to re-examine the basics: from the competencies and supporting education which will be required to support the mission of the profession to sustain relevant, highquality and accessible services; to the liberalization of regulation which will be required to match our collective imagination as we seek new opportunities and new horizons to serve the public interest in the years ahead.
• We are launching a renewed website this fall to provide updated, relevant information and enhance usability to support your practice and the public we serve. It is a necessary shift.
You can be assured that as the profession evolves, our team continues to listen carefully so we can be quick to respond to what you may need. We want to ensure our delivery model is aligned with your preference for communications whether that be through e-newsletters, webinars, online dialogue forums, onsite workshops or other.
We are at an important historical junction for our path ahead. Our profession is ultimately responsible for some basic fundamentals in a free and democratic society: the flow of commerce and the enforcement of society’s constitutional guarantees, to name a couple. We serve society’s most vulnerable citizens and sometimes in their most vulnerable moments. Serving the public interest makes us the honourable profession that we are. Advancements in technology will bring change, but it won’t change any of that.
1 See Law Depot, online: https://www.lawdepot.ca and Wonder Legal, online: https://www.wonder.legal/en-ca
2 Data Fox, “Rocket Lawyer,” (Date of search: June 14, 2018) online: Data Fox: https://datafox.com/rocketlawyer
3 Wikipedia, “Rocket Lawyer,” (Retrieved on June 14, 2018), online: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_Lawyer#Growth
4 Wikipedia, “LegalZoom,” (Retrieved on June 14, 2018), online: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LegalZoom
6 Stanford has an incubator called the Stanford CodeX which is promoting new solutions for old legal problems. At CodeX, researchers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and technologists work side-by-side to advance the frontier of legal technology, bringing new levels of legal efficiency, transparency, and access to legal systems around the world. CodeX‘s emphasis is on the research and development of computational law — the branch of legal informatics concerned with the automation and mechanization of legal analysis. See: https://law.stanford.edu/codex-the-stanford-center-for-legal-informatics/; Ryerson’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) is a co-working space and the first legal tech incubator with a focus on building better legal solutions for the consumers of legal services. The LIZ helps support, foster and develop solutions and techniques to improve legal services and the justice system. See: http://www.legalinnovationzone.ca/
7 Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts, (Oxford University Press, 1st ed.), 2015) at p. 23 (quoting Andrew Abbott, The System of Professions: An essay on the division of expert labor (Chicago, IL, US: University of Chicago Press, 1988) @ p. 69.
8 Dan Pinnington, Perspectives on the Future of Law: How the Profession Should Respond to Major Disruptions, (Toronto: LawPro Magazine, Vol. 17.1, February 2018) online: SLAW
9 Law Made is focused on the legal space with a particular emphasis on supporting entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, online: https://lawmade.com/about-us/
10 Ibid. @ p. 8.