In September of 2015, the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society’s World Economic Forum predicted that by 2025, 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains or blockchain related technology. If you are a Chicago business owner and you are unsure what that means or how it might affect your company, you want to speak to a Chicago business attorney as soon as possible to learn all that you can about this rapidly growing technology.
What Is Blockchain Technology?
While nearly everyone has heard of crowdfunding, the concept of equity crowdfunding is not as well known. For those Chicago business owners that are new to this developing area, prior to May 2016, crowdfunding was available only to accredited investors or those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of more than 1 million, not including the value of a primary residence. Although the 2012 federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) provided for non-accredited investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not authorize equity crowdfunding to begin until May 2016.
Since that time, Article III of the JOBS Act has seen 49 successful offerings with 11.5 million dollars committed according to a November 17, 2016, Forbes report on the state of equity crowdfunding. While the report suggests that the large majority of startups are not yet using non-accredited crowdfunding under Title III, it is anticipated that equity investment platforms will see tremendous growth moving forward.
Luddites and technophobes have no place in the modern practice of law, as least not according to recent changes in the rules of professional conduct. Technology has found embedded itself into the practice of law.
Technology advances are constantly changing the way we practice just as technology is changing our lives in so many other ways. One law firm recently brought a new associate into the firm and its name is ROSS, the artificial intelligence that does research to help with its research issues. E-filing is being adopted in every court system. E-discovery is changing the litigation paradigm. Cybersecurity has become a concern of every law firm. And Legal Zoom is dominating the legal services marketplace.
In looking to the future, we must think exponentially. The law of accelerating returns is bringing more advanced changes and technologies sooner than we can anticipate. Lawyers can no longer afford to be sluggish in learning and using these new technologies.
Dentists face new problems with overtime for their employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets forth standards for both minimum wages and overtime pay as well as record keeping for businesses. Whether your dental practice consists of two employees or a hundred employees spread across three office locations, federal law requires that all dental offices comply with FLSA overtime regulations by December 1, 2016.
Exempt Versus Non-Exempt Employees
In order to determine if you are in compliance with FLSA regulations, the first step is to review which employees are designated as exempt, and not owed overtime wages, versus non-exempt. FLSA rules establish three types of exempt employees which are defined by an individual’s employment description rather than their job title including:
It seems that every other news story involves Hillary Clinton, emails, and the use of private servers, putting the topic of email deletion at center stage. But what can a Chicago business owner learn from the Hillary Clinton email story?
There was a time when owning a business did not include words such as hard drives, flash drives, magnetic tapes and USB ports. Now, every company has a fleet of computers, a server, and a complex back-up system. Most businesses even have a least one IT expert on staff. Computers have replaced typewriters, emails have replaced snail mail, and hard drives have all but replaced filing cabinets filled with documents.
When it comes to email communications, the use of cell phones and laptops has made them commonplace in and out of the business world. It is almost expected that a business owner will send and receive emails over lunch, on-the-go, and over the course of the weekend. For more than a decade, business owners have been warned regarding the pitfalls and dangers of electronic communications. While those earliest concerns centered around the receipt of spam and the use of secure e-mail accounts to preserve secret corporate information, the retention and deletion of e-mails was also discussed.
The Democratic National Committee is not the only victim of computer hacking. In June of 2016, Bloomberg reported on black market access to 70,000 hacked corporate and business servers. Even LinkedIn was victimized by computer hackers who obtained 117 million passwords.
To further complicate things, these types of cyber attacks oftentimes have a global connection. On September 28, 2016, one of the FBI’s former most wanted hackers pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive extortion proceeds and illegally accessing computers. Peter Romar, who had been arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States, was a member of a hacking group known as the Syrian Electronic Army. The group hacked into the computer systems of The Washington Post, CNN, the Associated Press, Harvard University and many others, then threatened to cause damage or sell data unless the business paid a ransom.
Types of Ransomware
A law firm recently announced that are employing IBM’s Ross to work in their bankruptcy practice, which currently consists of 50 lawyers. What is interesting is that Ross is “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney” combining apple’s Siri voice technology with IBM’s Watson cognitive computer. According to the firm’s website, “You ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and ROSS then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly.” Ross will be able to eliminate some of the preliminary research done in cases within 30 seconds.
Artificial Intelligence in law has become a larger topic in the last decade. The first sighting of Artificial Intelligence in law was in 1999 when Jay Leib and Dan Roth created “Discovery Cracker’ which helped lawyers manage electronic documents for litigation. Instead of sifting through piles of paper, lawyers now deal with terabytes of data. E- Discovery is now becoming more sophisticated due to this massive amount of data. Then in 2013, Jay Leib once again saw a need in the market. He and Dan Roth created NexLP, a company that used artificial intelligence to analyze data and identify trends. NexLP uses predictive coding, where the computer is able tell which documents are useful and which ones aren’t. This process reduces the time needed for e-discovery and document review since the program is looking for actual concepts and not just keywords.
Currently, nearly 80% of all Americans who need a lawyer cannot afford one. This is despite the United States having a mass amount of attorneys. With Ross, attorneys currently out of work will be able to use the AI’s services to create a lower barrier of entry into the market, and will create cheaper and more affordable options for prospective clients. On top of this, the addition of Ross into a law firm will enable the firm to lower some of its fees as they wouldn’t be paying humans for cases. When it comes to opposing law firms battling, it doesn’t matter if there are 30 associates researching a case, or one Ross, the result will be the same. Artificial intelligence will allow the human attorneys to think of creative solutions or focus specifically on the client’s needs instead of leafing through textbooks and clicking hundreds of links looking for precedent or an obscure court ruling. Ross will also keep you up to date on court rulings to do with the case that is currently being worked on. It can also narrow down the results to the most relevant answers and presents the answers in an understandable language as opposed to passages of law spoken word for word.
Small investors in Illinois will soon be able to invest in start-up businesses in exchange for a piece of the action, but without some of the onerous oversight previously required by regulatory agencies. Signed by Governor Rauner in July, 2015 the Equity Crowdfunding Act (HB 3429) is a game changing piece of legislation that leverages the crowdfunding platform to the benefit of small investors and companies. Waiving many of the regulations that govern traditional securities markets, Illinois’ intrastate crowdfunding law authorizes non-accredited investors (also known as “the little guys) to acquire equity in small business without all the red tape.
The law allows individuals with a net worth under $1,000,000 and annual incomes under $200,000 to contribute up to $5,000 per company in any given year. Creative business types will have access to capital that might been unavailable previously, broadening the choice of funding sources beyond the often burdensome small business loans offered by banks.
The law will also allow founders of startups to maintain tighter ownership control of their enterprise. Typically, venture capitalists who invest in new companies demand excessively large chunks of the business in return for their capital infusion. The Act opens doors to a broader lender base while creating the potential for a more even distribution of profits. In general the legislation should improve liquidity across the board.
It’s almost never a compliment when someone is referred to as a troll, but in the case of patent extortionists, it is an accurate and richly deserved description. Patent trolls are technically called “non-practicing entities” (NPE) or Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), but these euphemisms provide only a dim definition of what they are all about. And they pose a unique challenge to small business owners.
Whatever you call them, they all have a common business model: they purchase patent rights with the intention of generating fees through sketchy lawsuits or the threat thereof. The patents themselves are generally obscure, shaky or acquired from bankruptcy. Virtually none of them have ever been deployed legitimately in the marketplace, but that is not the intention of the trollsters. Rather, these organizations exist to exploit weaknesses in the U.S. Patent Office and legal system to generate bogus licensing revenue from legitimate businesses.
Generally, patent trolls have no assets other than the patents they intend to “protect.” They manufacture nothing and render no services. Many of the acquired patents were granted due to the Patent and Trademark Office’s systemic failure to keep up with a rapidly changing world over the past 30 years. Quite simply, the federal agency has lacked the resources to determine what is really an “invention” in the context of the onslaught of digital technology. In particular, the class of business method patents that arose that have arisen since 1998 has proven to be a thorn in the side of honest commerce.