Spears Legal Technology


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If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.

Attorneys and technology specialists have more in common than you might think. Both groups spend a great deal of time troubleshooting an existing situation, or planning ways to prevent one from occurring. Both analyze the issue’s boundaries by referencing written standards and searching a vast history of prior cases to provide context. And both communicate in a specialized language filled with lingo that leaves everyone else scratching their head.

Unfortunately, they usually don’t speak the same specialized language.

As recently as a decade ago this wasn’t a problem. Businesses developed their own solutions to technical issues without legal considerations. However, the resulting hodgepodge of business practices became unsustainable in an increasingly connected world, and state and federal laws were developed that now require attorneys and technology specialists to be on the same page. Sarbanes-Oxley. HIPAA. Electronic discovery requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. PCI-DSS (which is not itself a law, but its principles have been codified by some states). Privacy laws.

The new laws are just the tip of the iceberg for lawyers and technology specialists. Laws we thought we knew are also being reconsidered in an electronic context. Are digital files property? If so, how do we determine their value when they can be replicated cheaply and exactly? Is it a copyright violation to embed an infringing video on a blog when the file was posted by somebody else onto somebody else’s server? What recourse does a business have when an employee posts negative things about his workplace on his personal Facebook account?

The answers to these questions will continue to evolve as laws and technologies change. But as an organization’s attorneys and technical specialists become increasingly interdependent, they must work together to develop a language that addresses their mutual risks. The goal of this shared language should be simplicity, defined by communicator extraordinaire Alan Siegel as a means to achieving clarity, transparency and empathy. Language should enhance the communication process, not complicate it further.

My experience suggests that this is a drastic shift for many businesses, even as more and more CIO (Chief Information Officer) positions pop up across the corporate landscape. Still, constructing this language shouldn’t be too far fetched of an idea. After all, lawyers and technical specialists already have so much in common.

Image Credit: ilco at stock.xchng
Video Credit: Alan Siegel: TED2010, Filmed Feb. 2010
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