eLife After Death

Who Gets Your Facebook, email and Twitter Accounts after you die? Will your privacy be maintained? Will your accounts be accessible by those you chose?

That E-Life after death question is growing more urgent as millions move to the internet for finances, personal development, and intimate communications.

The law determines how the property you have accumulated over a lifetime is distributed after your death.   But social media, such as Twitter, and email and Facebook accounts, are so new the courts have not yet developed rules.   So if your social media possessions are valuable, you need to take steps to make sure your secrets don’t follow you to the grave.

For the growing number of Americans who spend more time in front of their computers or grasping their mobile devices, the legacy of virtual life is growing in significance.   Many people now keep all their important documents on their computers, and no longer keep paper records.   People need to think about what they want to happen to their virtual assets, and that depends on knowledge of PINs, user IDs, and passwords.   Wills need to include directions for these virtual assets.  Some have suggested writing down all access codes and phrases, placing them in a safe deposit box, and providing access to a trusted friend or relative.
If the law doesn’t say what happens to twitter accounts, Flickr photo albums, Facebook profiles, YouTube videos, who does?   According to a roundup in an Australian publication, the policies vary.
No transfer is allowed by Yahoo and a user’s rights to their Yahoo! ID and contents terminate at death. Once Yahoo! receives a death certificate, it terminates the account and deletes all contents permanently.
Once a death has been verified, Facebook will memorialize the account and allow posts in remembrance. When an account is
deactivated, the profile disappears.

Accounts deactivated by Twitter public tweets are no longer available. Data is generally deleted after 30 days.
Google may provide access to the Gmail account content of a deceased user in rare instances. A death warrant is required.

Microsoft will place all Hotmail emails and attachments, address book and contact list on a DVD and ship to the next of kin, after receiving proof of a family member’s death and of the relationship.

The fact is that normal estate planning hasn’t developed easy ways to handle a person’s valuable
“digital assets” such as email accounts, websites, social networking profiles and online store

“If I died tomorrow, my heirs would be hard‐pressed to recover the hundred or so
dollars left in my I‐tunes and pay pal accounts and more importantly, the precious mementos of
my life such as the pictures located in my snapfish.com account and the messages in my gmail
account,” one estate planning lawyer acknowledged.

Account providers, of course, are limited by a myriad of state and federal privacy laws governing what they can and cannot disclose.

If you are wealthy enough, have your estate planning attorney a list all computer passwords, all relevant information regarding his digital assets, and the names and
contact information of the individuals with whom this information should be shared. Keeping the information current is another story.

For the rest of us, here’s some advice that costs less to follow: List all the electronic information and accounts with login details, passwords, and key numbers on a sheet of paper. Cut the page in half and give each page to a trusted friend or relative.

Need a lawyer? Why not let them bid on your job!

That revolutionary idea is being forced on blue-ribbon law firms by one of their once-coziest and most lucrative corporate clients, according to the New York Law Journal.
GlaxoSmithKlein, the pharmaceutical giant, is moving to an electronic auction to select law firms to handle some of its business.

The procedures, which At GlaxoSmithKline calls “auctions,” typically, draw bids from a half dozen firms. They are given access to the low bidder, without identifying the firm. Each participant then is given 24 hours to decide whether to change their offer.
“There have been times we’ve had over 50 or 60 [different] bids,” an official said.
The company doesn’t always select the lowest offer, but looks for a quality firm with the best chance of success. The firms not chosen are given feedback on what they could improve, according to the company.

If a market giant like GlaxoSmithKline wants to make sure it’s getting its money’s worth for lawyers, why can’t consumers get the same good deal?
Although the British legal system is changing, it still, like the American system fails to encourage innovation over the internet, fails to make service to the average consumer of legal services a key goal, and has failed to foster quick response to a changing marketplace. The lawyers’ guilds still control both the profession, and as a result, the marketplace for legal services. Bar groups say they do it to protect consumers, but more and more critics – many academics and attorneys themselves — say lawyers are simply attempting to keep their business monopoly.

Glaxo is certainly not a typical consumer. The British giant recently announced it would cut 100 million Euros after taking in 13.4 billion Euros in a recent profit reporting period.
GSK is the Official Laboratory Services Provider for the London 2012 Olympic under a groundbreaking partnership with King’s College London to provide facilities and equipment to enable expert analysis for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) during the Games.
The company says it is committed to making the London games “the fairest Games in history. As a great British company, we are proud to be supporting the spirit of fair play for London 2012 through science.”

Glaxo has launched a heavy media ad campaign featuring its Olympics role, built around premier sprinter Marlon Devonish.

Full story here

State Regulation Stifles American Ability to Compete Globally

Monday, July 26, 2010

State-based regulation of the legal profession threatens to irreparably damage the ability of American lawyers to compete in a revolutionary global marketplace.  And there is only one path forward, according to a provocative, new analysis by Anthony E. Davis, partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson

“Our state-based regulatory system made sense when the fastest means of communication–for lawyers and their clients–was on the back of a horse, but it does not make sense today,” Davis writes.  “The solution? Replace our existing regulatory patchwork with a single national regulator and uniform rules of professional conduct.”

Davis suggests that major United States law firms, acting in concert with Association of Corporate Counsel and business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce,  has the clout to defeat predicted opposition from the ABA and state bar associations and supreme courts.

Action Needed to Protect American Competitiveness

“It will make for an interesting debate,” according to Davis.

The article focuses on how 21st Century competition in a growing global marketplace demands more flexibility than current state-based regulation can provide.  American lawyers are doomed to lose unless they can compete and respond to  their clients’ “understandable desire for seamless service across jurisdictional borders.”

For instance, this lack of uniformity makes it difficult, if not impossible, to predict whether a client’s chosen law firm will be able to act without the expense and delay of a disqualification motion whenever there is a current client conflict involving unrelated matters

United States Firms Forced to Competitive Disadvantage

Competition from London-based multinational law firms can now tap new sources of capital, including outside investors. Under the Legal Services Act, English firms are allowed to enter into alternative business structures with nonlaywers.

Such practice  is prohibited in every American state.

Davis points to the inability of United States firms to effectively negotiate liability for malpractice.  He argues that sophisticated clients may want to trade  waiver of some measure of that liability for lower fees.   Reduced malpractice insurance rates makes such an arrangement possible.

Outdated State Regulatory Restrictions Inhibit Competitiveness

“Solicitors in England and lawyers in Australia thus have a competitive edge that U.S. lawyers will be unable to match so long as the rules of any state where they operate prohibit such limitations of liability,” Davis writes.

American state rules that cause significant problems to lawyers “in practices of all sizes” include varied restrictions on interviewing witnesses, rules governing investigations, and of course, rules governing lawyer advertising.

Davis suggests that one alternative to a national unitary model would be a two-tier system.   National regulation would be imposed on firms pursuing multijurisdictional practice.   Either approach requires a new system ”designed in light of how legal services are actually provided in today’s world.”