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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles. 

This week’s highlights 

  • Increasing use of emojis stumping eDiscovery software providers and practitioners 
  • Legal services inflation muted in June in sharp contrast to wider economy 
  • Judges tell Congress: We need more academic diversity on federal bench 
  • Questions emerge over the admissibility of depositions recorded over Zoom 
  • Lawyer caught napping during Zoom hearing on Flint water crisis legal settlement 

Increasing use of emojis stumping eDiscovery software providers and practitioners 

“As e-discovery review platforms struggle to render new data formats without losing context for practitioners, lawyers will have to verify their provider’s capabilities.” (Legaltech News) 

The proliferation of instant messaging tools like Slack and Teams and the popularity of text messaging are creating new challenges for litigators. That’s according to experts speaking at a recent Legalweek(year) panel event that brought together experts from the eDiscovery industry to discuss the problem. 

eDiscovery software is more advanced than ever, but despite this, many tools still fail to place emojis, GIFs, and other non-standard communication in the right context, meaning that attorneys are potentially missing crucial evidence. For now, one expert said, the development means that we “still need human professionals to be involved in the review process.” 

Legal services inflation muted in June in sharp contrast to wider economy 

“The [Consumer Price] Index measures what consumers pay for goods and services, including clothes, groceries, restaurant meals, recreational activities and vehicles. It increased a seasonally adjusted 0.9% in June from May, the largest one-month change since June 2008.” (Wall Street Journal) 

Prices charged for common consumer legal services were flat in June vs. May, in contrast to a near-record increase in the wider economy. Consumer legal prices have barely moved during 2021 and have increased just 0.6 percent since June 2020. 

Corporate legal prices, as measured by the Producer Price Index, continued their upward trajectory, however. Prices paid by companies for legal services rose 0.2 percent in June vs. May and have risen 3.5 percent overall since last year.  

Judges tell Congress: We need more academic diversity on federal bench 

“Judges and attorneys told lawmakers Monday that the key to diversifying the federal bench is at the beginning: making law school admissions less homogenous, helping students from regional law schools get clerkships and making the nomination process accessible to nontraditional candidates.” (Courthouse News) 

On Monday, judges and legal experts called for diversifying the federal bench in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During a two-hour panel, speakers focused on changes to the selection process and a need to “end our additional to Yale and Harvard.” 

Speaking to Senators, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said: “I’ll be the first to say that (Ivy League) schools are great law schools, but diversity and inclusion cannot rely simply on the pedigree of the diploma from a particular school. It requires us to reach out proactively (and) invite more people to the table.” 

Questions emerge over the admissibility of depositions recorded over Zoom 

“With remote depositions having become the norm in light of COVID-19, some practitioners have assumed that because Zoom calls are recordable that such video captures will be admissible in evidence. However, courts which have considered the issue have required adherence to procedural rules for the admissibility for video depositions.” (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin) 

A lawyer is urging his colleagues to be cautious about assuming that a simple recording of a deposition conducted over video conference tools, such as Zoom, will be admissible.  

Writing in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Phillip J. Zisook warns that in many states, the rules of court mean that raw and unedited footage that potentially includes off the record audio will likely fall foul of admissibility rules.  

Read additional coverage on Law360. 

Lawyer caught napping during Zoom hearing on Flint water crisis legal settlement 

“An attorney who has repeatedly criticized a federal judge for her handling of the Flint drinking water civil cases got some payback Tuesday when he was caught sleeping during an online court hearing.” (Detroit Free Press) 

A U.S. District Judge has called out an attorney after he fell asleep during a fairness hearing on the proposed $640m settlement in a case related to the Flint water crisis.  

During the hearing, which took place over Zoom, the Detroit Free Press reports that the judge noticed the lawyer was asleep and “slumped in his chair with his eyes closed.” The attorney awoke a few minutes later and apologized to the court, saying he had taken an early flight.  

Author

  • Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.