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Nicole Black

Nicole Black is an attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase. Her legal career spans nearly two decades...

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Samantha Meinke

Samantha Meinke is the communications manager at the State Bar of Michigan. In this role, she creates and oversees...

Rob Mathis

Robert Mathis is the pro bono service counsel for the State Bar of Michigan. Mathis’s past experience also includes...

Episode Notes

In this episode of On Balance from the NEXT Conference 2018, hosts Samantha Meinke and Robert Mathis talk to Nicole Black about artificial intelligence and other legal technology. She shares tips for automating your practice, with and without AI, and ethics advice to keep in mind when using the cloud and social media.

Nicole Black is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and the legal technology evangelist at, a law practice management software company.


State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast

State Bar of Michigan NEXT Conference 2018 Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Automation



Intro: Welcome to State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast, where we talk about practice management and lawyer wellness for a thriving law practice with your hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent, here on Legal Talk Network.

Take it away ladies.


Samantha Meinke: Hello and welcome to another edition of the State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast on the Legal Talk Network. I am Samantha Meinke, sitting in today for JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent, and joining me is Rob Mathis.

Robert Mathis: Good afternoon.

Samantha Meinke: Thanks for joining me, Rob.

Today we’re very lucky to have a very special guest all the way from MyCase. Niki Black, the Evangelist from MyCase.

Niki, do you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?

Nicole Black: Sure thing. I am a New York-based attorney. I’ve been practicing law since the mid 90s. I started out as a public defender and then I was in a civil litigation firm. I’m now the Legal Technology Evangelist for MyCase, you might be wondering what that means. What does someone with that title do?

I advise internally on product development, the hot features that lawyers will use and how they’ll use them and marketing, and then externally, I educate lawyers about the intersection of law and tech and how they can use tech in their practices. I’ve written some books. I write articles for a bunch of different outlets and I speak at conferences like this one.

Samantha Meinke: Yes and I should have said at the beginning that we’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the NEXT Conference which is a State Bar of Michigan’s Annual Conference, and we were very fortunate to have Niki join us to do three different sessions today. So we’re putting her on a marathon.

Niki, why don’t we kick off by talking about the plenary session you did which has such a really interesting concept behind it, talking about Artificial Intelligence in the law. What do solo and small firm practitioners need to know about that?

Nicole Black: Well, Artificial Intelligence is one of the emerging areas that I’ve really been focusing on and I think that it offers a lot of potential for lawyers in general and solos and smalls as well in terms of ways of increasing efficiencies in their practice and automating their practice. And one of the things, I’d really focused on during my talk, I really wanted to have them leave with an understanding of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the practice of law, but also, some practical ways they can automate their practices today without actually using Artificial Intelligence.

Samantha Meinke: So, what are some easy tips that they can — I imagine practicing attorneys thinking about this and feeling a little bit overwhelmed by this topic. So, what are some quick fire takeaways they can have about Artificial Intelligence?

Nicole Black: Well, so, there’s a bunch of different emerging areas where you’re going to see this technology playing out for lawyers, legal research, data analytics in terms of providing data about judges and opposing counsel and trial outcomes and also ways of analyzing contracts and providing lawyers who draft contracts with analysis of what paragraphs are missing or where the outlier paragraphs are.

So, those are some emerging areas, but another thing I’d really focused on was helping lawyers understand how to automate their practice today without using AI tools. There’s a lot of software out there that helps lawyers automate the fundamental things they do on a day-to-day basis to run their practices.

So billing — time-tracking, billing and invoicing, whether you’re using standalone apps, billing software or practice management software, you can enter time on a mobile device so that you don’t lose track of time, you’re in the courthouse and you speak to them, you’re there for a case, you run into opposing counsel and in another case and the hallway, you can build a time for both of those cases before you even leave the courthouse and you don’t lose track of it.

So, that was one area, and then you can automatically send invoices through the software to your clients, they can pay using a credit card or ACH and so you avoid all of the hassle of having to print out bills and having to send them and wait to be paid, and it can all happen almost instantaneously.

Samantha Meinke: You don’t have to remember to do that yourself, it just came takes care of it for you.

Nicole Black: Right and the software oftentimes fills a lot of the information in so you’re not drafting invoices from scratch.

So, that was one area, another area that I talked about was like document automation. We’ve all been doing document automation forever with word processing software, but when you attach other software to that, not only does it have a template but the information is automatically filled in rather than you having to fill that information in because it’s already part of the practice management system or whatever other software you’re using.

So those are just some ideas.

Robert Mathis: So, this is a new area for me and so, what is the difference between Artificial Intelligence and Automation, or are they pretty much the same thing?

Nicole Black: Well, Automation is really — it’s a very simplistic form of algorithms and software whereas Artificial Intelligence is the next level. So, I guess the example I used during my presentation was the difference between cruise control — dynamic cruise control in some of the newer vehicles versus self-driving cars.


So dynamic cruise control, what it helps you do is, when you’re using it on the highway, stay in your lane, stay at a particular distance between all the cars and stay at a certain speed. But what’s interesting to me, I recently drove a car that has that, not only does it keep you in your lane, it doesn’t just buzz when you go out of your lane, it actually steers. You’re supposed to steer as well, but it actually keeps you on your lane by steering slows down when you approach other cars and keeps this big distance and confuses the other vehicles at this point, I think.

Samantha Meinke: I think so too.

Nicole Black: But, that’s almost automation, right? You’re making the analytical decisions about whether to stop quickly but with the self-driving cars, the car makes that decision for you and one of the most interesting ethical issues that’s cropped up out of that is when the car is trying to avoid an accident does it preserve the lives of people in the car or preserve the lives of everybody generally and therefore kill the people in the car because more people will live if it makes a certain that are outside the car.

And then that comes into that issue of trust. Do you trust the car to make the decision that’s in your best interest and the same thing applies with legal software and that’s where a lot of lawyers run into some issues with trusting the output at this point. So, it’s going to take time to trust the output.

Robert Mathis: So another one of your marathon sessions today was lawyers, cloud and mobile computing and ethics, would you like to talk about that a little bit?

Nicole Black: Well, so I’ve been talking about and writing about the cloud since about 2008. I started writing articles and then I pitched a proposal to the ABA because I was already writing my social media book for them with Carolyn Elefant for a cloud book. So I wrote Cloud Computing in New York that was published in 2012 and so I’ve been following the cloud for years now and I’ve been convinced since 2008 or 2009 that lawyers are going to start needing to use the cloud that it was where computing was going.

And I think at this point it’s pretty clear that everything’s moving into the cloud, a lot of legacy premise software is moving into the cloud that lawyers have traditionally used, they’re getting rid of their premise-based products.

So, what lawyers need to — they need to learn about the cloud, try not to get overwhelmed, learn about it in bits and bytes, I really stress that throughout all my presentations, and then they need to understand how to vet the third party cloud providers because they’ve always outsourced their data to third parties.

They had outsourced papers, now they’re outsourcing data. You just need to make sure — you have to ask the right questions and make sure that your data is going to be safe and that you’re exercising reasonable care to preserve the confidentiality. You aren’t required to have absolute security, it’s just a reasonable level of security.

Samantha Meinke: Do you find that the ethical standards vary by jurisdiction when it comes to protecting your data in the cloud or is it kind of across the board the same kind of rules apply?

Nicole Black: Generally speaking, like more than 30, I think 35 to 40 jurisdictions have addressed it at this point, and they all pretty much say the same thing. You have to exercise reasonable care to ensure confidential client data. I mean confidentiality is maintained and they often stress the same things that lawyers need to look into when vetting the provider.

You need to understand the encryption levels and that it’s encrypted at rest and in transit, you need to understand geo redundancy, so you need to understand where the data is being kept and hopefully, it’s being backed up in two different parts of the country, so that even if one server is lost in a natural disaster, the other one remains with all your data.

You need to understand the company itself, how long have they been around, have they been funded, are they publicly traded, like how stable are they, how long have they been here, are they going somewhere, are they are here to stay, where are they located.

Another thing I always bring up is you need to think about integrations because more and more often, there’s integrations into software but those pose they offer a lot of convenience, but they also pose security risks, because it’s one more third party to vet, and then you have to regularly vet these third parties most the opinions say every year or so.

So there’s just a bunch of different considerations. It’s pretty consistent across the board in terms of what they all want you to take a look at to ensure that the data is still secure with that company.

Samantha Meinke: So, I think that is a good segue into the last session that we had you do today, which is, mining social media for evidence, the ethics and practicalities of that, and I understand that the ethics and practicalities of social media are a little bit more complex than they are for cloud computing, can you talk about that a little bit?

Nicole Black: Well, so, when it comes to mining social media, using it for litigation, there’s two areas, lawyers will mine it for evidence for litigation and matrimonial matters and that type of thing, and then they’ll also research jurors on social media and right now, only a handful of jurisdictions have addressed it either of those issues and on both sets of issues, they’ve come down in different –

Well, it’s particularly they are researching the jurors but they’ve handed down a couple different lines of opinions and analysis on it, and so, when you’re in a jurisdiction that hasn’t addressed it sometimes, it’s a little unclear how to deal with it, but I always tell lawyers that the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution.

When I was in law school a Martin New York Civil Procedure professor used to always say let it be SEC. Somebody else’s case that’s on the line. You don’t want to do something that you’re not sure about.


Let it be someone else’s law license on the line. If it’s unclear to you, which rule applies in your jurisdiction, err on the side of caution and just take the safer route.

Robert Mathis: Are there some recent ethics decisions about social media across the nation?

Nicole Black: Well, so, with mining social media for evidence, for the most part anything that — what almost all the jurisdictions say is whatever’s publicly viewable is fair game, even if the person is represented by counsel, but then when it’s behind those privacy walls and you have to be friends with someone who are connected with them to see it, then the majority have said that you can’t be misleading and you can’t be deceitful.

If you want to connect with that person to see what’s behind that privacy wall for litigation purposes, you or one of your agents needs to tell that person I’m so-and-so, I’m related to this law firm and this I want to connect with you because of this litigation and anyone who has half a sense, he is going to say, I don’t want to be your friends like.

So, that’s pretty simple when it comes to jurors and researching jurors on social media the biggest issue that — and it’s divided, the ABA has gone one way, the New York State Bar has gone another. And another jurisdiction showing the ABA, I can’t remember which one, but the biggest issue is you can only look at publicly available information because it’s jurors.

But then, if you look at them and they’re notified, which is what happens on LinkedIn, if someone looks at your profile, they’re notified, that’s a passive notification is that an impermissible communication with jurors. The ABA has said, it is okay that you can do that. The New York State Bar said it’s an impermissible communication and so in that case, you either need to log out of LinkedIn before you look so that that way they don’t know who looked at it or else change your settings so that you’re anonymous and it’s just as an anonymous person looked at it.

So that’s sort of in a nutshell, it’s a little more — a little more complexity but that’s sort of in a nutshell what the issues are with that right now.

Samantha Meinke: Very interesting. Well, I think we’ve come to the end of the time that we have for today. Thank you so much for joining us, Niki, that was really interesting.

Nicole Black: Thanks, my pleasure. A lot of information in a short amount of time.

Samantha Meinke: Absolutely, we’re excited that you are here to give it to us, so thank you.

Nicole Black: My pleasure.

Samantha Meinke: Thank you all for joining us here on the Legal Talk Network for another edition of the On Balance Podcast from the State Bar of Michigan. You can find the podcast in the Apple Podcast app or online on the Legal Talk Network’s website.

I’m Samantha Meinke, standing in for JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent.

Until next time, thank you for listening.


Outro: Thank you for listening to the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast, brought to you by the State Bar of Michigan and produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network.

If you would like more information about today’s show, please visit, subscribe via Apple Podcasts and RSS. Find the State Bar of Michigan and Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn or download Legal Talk Network’s free app in Google Play and iTunes.

The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network or the State Bar of Michigan or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.



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Episode Details
Published: October 30, 2018
Podcast: State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
Category: Legal Technology
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast

The State Bar of Michigan podcast series focuses on the need for interplay between practice management and lawyer-wellness for a thriving law practice.

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