When last we checked in with the legal struggle over Occupy Wall Street and Twitter accounts, it didn’t look great for anyone looking to keep their DMs out of court. At issue: The state wants data associated with a protestor charged with disorderly conduct. A judge ruled the defense can’t fight a subpoena, because–as the legal thinking went–the information on Twitter belongs to the company, not to the individual user. And Twitter’s policies seem to suggest they’ll hand material over in the event of a subpoena.
But it appears it won’t be quite that simple for the DA’s office. Rather than complying with the order, Twitter just filed a motion to quash it.
We reached out to Twitter for comment and received a statement from Legal Counsel Ben Lee: “As we said in our brief, “Twitter’s Terms of Service make absolutely clear that its users *own* their content.” Our filing with the court reaffirms our steadfast commitment to defending those rights for our users.”
A few weeks ago, Betabeat jumped down the rabbit hole of legal starts that were trying to bid farewell to the billable hour by making it cheaper and easier to get legal advice and legal documents.
At the time, we had a heaping handful of signs that the venture capital market thought the time was ripe for legal disruption. Just last year, Nolo.com was acquired for $21 million, LegalZoom picked up $66 million (and rumors of an IPO), local TechCrunch Disrupt winners Docracy raised $650,000. Google Ventures led a $1 million round in LawPivot and an $18.5 million round in Rocket Lawyer.
But apparently that was just the beginning.
Question: What’s wrong with lawyer jokes?
Answer: Lawyers don’t think they’re funny and no one else thinks they’re jokes.
Of late, that punchline is less amusing than prescient. Over the past year, a new batch of startups have launched out of New York with the notion of using technology to bridge that disconnect between a client and her counsel—and perhaps inspire fewer contributions to the annals of pettifogger humor in the process.
Historically, the legal profession has been somewhat sheltered from the democratizing wave of the internet that drowned revenues in the music industry and media. Lawyers can’t claim as esoteric a skill set as, say, doctors. But the years of specialization and investment required to practice—and lawsuit-happy instincts of its practitioners—seem to have kept starry-eyed startup founders at bay. (Perhaps another reason being a lawyer makes the short list of professions your mom would be proud of.)
Economic upheaval, however, has a way of exposing inefficiencies.