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Legal Research vs. Intellectual Technology

paralegalOne may argue that the backbone of law is legal research but what if legal personnel were no longer required to fill this need?

With technology making its way into every aspect of our lives, it isn’t surprising that incorporated intellectual technology is predicted to overtake simple legal research tasks and replace legal researchers.

On the one hand, this may be a relief to clients as they will no longer be billed for the long hours legal professions spend researching information. Clients will pay a fraction of the price as the intellectual technology will have the ability to obtain the information in a short time span. As legal intellectual technology progresses, the legal searches will become more complex and the answers will be provided much better. Everyone wins! Right? Not exactly.

moneyMany legal professionals, such as paralegals have dedicated a significant amount of their academic careers to master the art of legal research. In larger law firms, lawyers often rely on Paralegals to conduct legal research at a fraction of the cost the lawyers would charge if they had done the research themselves. For an illustration, imagine a lawyer who is paid $300 per hour he/she would charge that amount for every hour spent on finding the answers the client requires. Legal research can vary from a quick 30-minute search to 10 hours of research or more. That’s anywhere from $150 – 3000. Conversely, if a paralegal conducts the search, the lawyer will charge the client much less, for example $100/hr. Consequently, the client pays anywhere from $50 – 1000.

Although many clients believe that $100 for research is excessive, some legal professionals argue that it may seem simplistic but is far from it. Legal professionals are liable for the information they provide, so there is a need for thoroughness. Legal research requires reliable sources which can sometimes result in hours of reading through a statute, case law and government websites. Every issue is treated in a unique manner to assure the best results.

Furthermore, sources are then compared to check for consistency and address any gaps in information. After conducting research, the information is then simplified to ensure that the client can understand what is being conveyed.


What’s your opinion- would you prefer intellectual technology or individuals conducting research on your behalf?

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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about the progression of intellectual technology in the legal field?
 

 

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Legal Phone Applications

question markHave you ever found yourself in a situation where you wish you were aware of your legal rights? Individuals who feel targeted by practices such as carding: being stopped by a police officer and asked to produce ID due to your racial background. An individual who felt he was targeted due to his racial profile created a phone application to assist laypersons with navigating the legal system – he named LegalSwipe.

Christien Levien, the creator of the application, came across this idea while working in legal rights workshops and completing his Law degree; he realized that many individuals could not completely appreciate the advice being given or how to apply it.  Being a victim of carding himself, he advocates for the importance of such an application. The app is meant to assist individuals during interactions with the police. The app also videotapes encounters with the police and uploads them to Dropbox. The app allows the user to ask a question and have it answered almost promptly.

The application was launched in Toronto in July of 2015 and had about 10,000 downloads in the first day. Toronto and Quebec have had the most downloads for the app.
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What does this phone application offer you?

It seems relatively easy to navigate compared to searching for answers online. It is aimed to be easy to understand so the average person is not confused by the use of legal terminology. There is also a broadcast messaging factor that allows the users emergency contacts to be sent constant messages about the user’s location. Finally, the product also offers a Dropbox Audio and Video Recording that will be emailed to emergency contacts and uploaded to synchronized Dropbox accounts. That last part is still a bit confusing to me, to be completely honest.

Although I have not used the application myself, I cannot imagine a police officer responding well to someone pulling out their phone while being arrested or questioned. Mr. Levien acknowledges this issue and encourages individuals to familiarize themselves with the product before they may need to use it. I think it’s a fantastic idea to educate laypersons about the law, after all, that is the objective of this blog.

What are your thoughts?
How effective do you think this app can be?
Have you used the application?

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Terrorism in Orlando

This past Sunday, Orlando U.S was faced with an act of terrorism that left 50 individuals dead and countless individuals traumatized. The attack targeted the LGBTQ community at a nightclub known as Pulse. A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun began shooting in the nightclub during the late hours of the night.

LgbtqAccording to some sources, the man worked for homeland security in the United States. Thus, this man was legally permitted to carry the firearms.  The assailants’ co-worker explained that the assailant had a short-temper when it came to topics regarding women, homosexuality and religion.  The assailants’ ex-wife stated that she had divorced him due to his “bipolar personality” and physical abuse. She also stated that the assailant had a history of using steroids which she believes altered his mental stability. Media sources had stated that the shooter, Omar Mateen had allegedly pledged himself to ISIS.

Today it was revealed that the man had ties to the LGBTQ community, in fact he was a regular at the nightclub. He was also an avid user of gay dating apps. Mateen’s ex-wife later explained on a Portuguese media station that the FBI had asked her not to share that he was gay with media.

Many Muslims are outraged and feel the FBI is orchestrating a hate crime of their own as conflicting theories have been released stating that Mateen had connections with ISIS and Al Qaida, two ideologies that run parallel to each other.

americanIn contrast to Canada, Americans have a legal right to bear arms. June is recognized as PRIDE month in Toronto. The LGBTQ community floods the streets of downtown Toronto to celebrate liberation, acceptance and freedom to be who they are. However, this event in Orlando has left many individuals scared for their safety. In light of the fear, the Canadian government has agreed to provide more security during the PRIDE parade this year.

There have been many attacks against the LGBTQ community including bombings of venues, setting homosexuals on fire and targeted mass shootings. However, some argue that the distinct factor in this case is the high death toll. Members of the LGBTQ community often face stigmatization relating to HIV and AIDS; consequently, LGBTQ members are also more likely to become victims of physical abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, teenagers belonging to the LGBTQ community are more likely to be suicidal than their heterosexual peers. This group of individuals is considered a vulnerable minority due to this harsh reality.

Canada has taken significant steps to embrace the LGBTQ community by proposing legislation to help protect their rights and choices. To read more about the proposed legislation, click on the links below.

What are your thoughts on this incident? How do you think the media handled this tragedy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Transgender developments Bill C-16

The Liberal government promised equality and change, Bill C-16 may be a step in that direction. B C-16 was proposed by the Liberal party in the House of Commons this Tuesday. Simply put Bill C- 16 would help legally protect transgendered individuals.

Many individuals are not familiar with the differences between being a transsexual and being transgendered. Sexuality is related to biology, specifically genitalia. Conversely, gender is a social concept and allows an individual to choose what they identify with. Gender is rooted in social constructions of what it means to be male, female or genderless, irrelevant to one’s anatomy. Transgendered individuals usually identify with a gender that differs from how society may categorize them. Consequently, this leads to complex legal issues.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyBill C-16 proposes to protect transgendered individuals in the following ways:

  1. The Human Rights Act will expand to protect individuals based on their “gender identity” and “gender expression”. Thus, individuals would be protected from being discriminated based on how one chooses to express their gender and what gender they identify with. For example, if a female chooses to wear a tux to prom, she will not be removed from prom due to her attire (this is a real life example). Individuals will also be protected against being denied a job based on their gender expression; for instance, if a male chooses to express himself as a female, he cannot be denied employment on these grounds.
  2. The Criminal Code of Canada would also be amended to protect individuals from hate speech based on their gender identity and gender expression. Judges will be required to consider the use of such language as aggravating factors in a case. For instance, if someone is assaulted due to their appearance and are called words like “faggot”, “dyke” or “she-male” these terms will be viewed as aggravating factors and result in a more serious conviction.

This bill was proposed a half a dozen times before by the New Democrat party but it was shot down every time. This is the first time that the bill has been brought forward by the party in power. Many MP’s are hoping that the legislation will be passed this time. If this bill is passed, Paralegals will be able to defend victims at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Stay tuned to TSP for more developments!
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Drones and Privacy

untitledThe popularity of drones is undeniable; even legal shows are discussing the topic. Just last week in an episode of the popular show The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick argued a case on behalf of her client defending his right to privacy against drone invasions. Both representatives, the plaintiff, and defendant argued their cases vigorously turning to the law to defend their stance by exploring technicalities including height of the drone, location of the drone, purpose of the drone being used and so on.

As fascinating as technology is, it does have its downfalls including complicating legislation. Currently, there aren’t many Canadian laws dictating the use of drones and robots but this will likely change in the near future since technology seems to be evolving every day. Drone usage is far more regulated in the United States than in Canada. Canada has chosen to focus more on safety thus far, rather than privacy.

The Windsor school of law is the first to open its arms to a course about the legalities revolving around drones and robots. Robots have become such a large part of our lives we rarely question if our privacy is being breached. We are used to being watched while in public through CCTV’s in stores but drones flying over your backyard while your children are playing maybe more troubling. Robots unlike most technology, interact with their environment and have a physical impact.

Robots and drones can collect information from their surroundings to draw conclusions without our knowledge. For instance, Canadians are moving towards autonomous self-driven vehicles. These vehicles will detect the driver’s surroundings and speed which allows the driver to essentially be absent from the equation.

Conversely, we can be unaware of how this information is being used and for what purpose. For illustration consider a children’s toys that maybe collecting information for a marketing company without the purchaser’s knowledge. It may be monitoring the child’s preferences and choices to build specific types of toys for children. Collection of such information may seem harmless on the surface but it is still a breach of privacy.  Realtors for instance, find it useful to use drones to capture the condition of a home for potential foreign investors but at the wrong angle can easily look into a neighbour’s home without their knowledge.

While some individuals are excited by the use of robots in our daily lives while others worry about the implications of such technology. What are your thoughts?

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Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Points of Discussion:

  1. How are drones regulated in your country?
  2. What laws do you think should be put in place?
  3. Do you think drones are a threat or a step towards progress?

PTSD or Child Torture?

childrenI would like to begin this piece by explaining that this case is disturbing and heart wrenching.

On Feb 12, 2013 an eleven-year-old boy left his family home in search of water after escaping nightmarish conditions. The eleven-year-old boy had been shackled in his basement by his father with only a slop bucket; the boy was naked. He was approximately 50 pounds and had been imprisoned by his father for about a month before his escape.

The court viewed 45 minutes of video showing the father yelling at the boy to repent his actions and ask Jesus for forgiveness for his sins including kissing a girl’s hand in a tree house. He yelled at the boy to stop lying. The boy hopelessly pleads in the video that he can change and would stop picking at the padlocks on his chains. The boy was limited to 2 pita breads with peanut butter a day. The father tortured the boy by beating him, burning his genitals and keeping him chained at all times. All while the rest of the family including the boy’s step- mother continued their lives as normal upstairs. The father and step-mother have been charged with: aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failure to provide necessities of life.

prison The couple are currently out in the community on bail but are forbidden from communicating during their bail. Meanwhile relatives are appalled and in shock after hearing what took place as they were unaware of the torture. The father is a former RCMP Mountie who has argued that he is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His defense is that he did not have the mental capacity to make informed decisions let alone understand right from wrong. The father served in the counter terrorism sector of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The father admitted to torturing the boy and believing that the devil lived in him but when multiple videos of the father torturing the boy recorded on the father’s phone were shown before the court, the father argued he didn’t recognize himself and hated himself after watching the videos. If it can be proven that the father did not have the mental capacity to carry out these horrendous acts, then he will not be criminally convicted.

Why will he not be convicted?

A criminal act in Canada requires mens rea (guilty mind) and actus reus (guilty act). Both factors must be evident in order to convict someone of a criminal act. In accordance to Canadian law, if a person lacks the mens rea, they did not commit the crime with an intent; therefore, they are not responsible for their actions. The patient will likely be admitted into a medical facility to assist in the rehabilitation process.

Views

Some individuals are arguing that the father is hiding behind PTSD and show be held accountable for his actions. Others are arguing that the system failed as the boy had gone to a neighbour’s house at an earlier point and asked for food because he was being punished at home which resulted in a call to the police but no charge was made. Another group of individuals are stressing concern for the former Mountie and the child’s wellbeing.

The child continues to protect his father by arguing that his father was doing the right thing and knows what is best for the child because he is in the RCMP.

What are your views? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Security vs. Privacy

CCTV_Surveillance_Notice_svgEveryone wants to feel secure in their home and neighborhood. Many individuals and families take measures to help protect their families from harm including: locking their doors, installing security systems, and closed circuit video systems (CCTV). The presence of CCTV’s in particular, is used to deter perpetrators from committing crimes due to a fear of being caught. Although this mechanism can be effective for some, it can also create hindrance of privacy for others, especially neighbours.

Few individuals question the presence of surveillance cameras placed on their neighbour’s property, in fact, for some it is a sense of relief, especially if one does not have their own camera. These devices can help identify individuals involved in criminal or deviant behavior and serves as a reliable source of evidence in cases.

The issue arises when individuals who are not committing a crime or deviant act are under surveillance without their consent and without knowledge. Surveillance cameras often cover a larger portion of the premises than just one property or lot. Hence, many cameras will also capture the comings and goings of neighbours. Furthermore, some of these cameras can be angled to look directly into a neighbours home, through a window for example. Imagine someone being able to peer into your home without your knowledge – that’s a scary thought for many individuals.

Although cameras can violate a neighbours right to privacy, it also upholds the right to safety for the person installing the camera. With two conflicting rights – who would win? It is likely that the person who has installed their camera would be able to keep their camera so long as they agreed to not violate their neighbours rights to privacy. The complainant would likely be encouraged to shut their blinds to mitigate surveillance as well. Sometimes a discussion with your neighbor can help alleviate any tension and diffuse a potential violation of privacy law suit.

There are some parts of Ontario, such as Hamilton, that have in place by-laws to help regulate the use of cameras. Conversely, in B.C the laws are far less regulated and even ambiguous.

A CCTV system can assist police officers in solving issues far quicker than two individuals providing their verbal accounts of a situation. In fact, in dispute situations, police officers regularly check CCTV systems to gather information and draw conclusions.

What do you think – are CCTV’s an effective tool or a nuisance and violation of privacy?
What carries more weight, privacy rights or safety?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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