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The newest risk management tool — OSINT

By Diane Karpman

HUMINT is the contraction for “human intelligence,” information obtained from spies in the intelligence community. That community also relies heavily on OSINT, or intelligence obtained from “open sources.” OSINT might be the cheapest, quickest risk management tool in the universe and the best source for it is Google.

Diane Karpman

Spies don’t necessarily give their handlers the whole story, and sometimes our clients don’t give us the whole picture. They may inadvertently fail to connect their problems to other relationships or entities that could create conflicts. Just as the intelligence community fills in the information holes, we can also fill in the cracks in the mosaic stories presented by clients. OSINT is the cement that fills in the cracks.

Google new and existing clients to see what undisclosed relationships they have. Google opposing counsel, judges and pending cases. Just about every court releases decisions on the Internet.

Looking for ethics opinions? Put the rule number in Google, plus “California,” and they all appear. For example, inserting “Rule 3-310” (the generic conflict rule) and “California” will provide more than 100 hits. To check out how the California rule might differ from another state, just include “Model Rule” and the state, which may resolve multijurisdictional practice issues.

Need a definition? Just type in: “define: word.” Google will immediately access numerous dictionaries. How about a jazzy quotation for an appellate brief? Use what words you can remember and Google it. It is so powerful that you can even find the late, great Julia Childs’ favorite Mexican Restaurant in Santa Barbara with an unlisted address if you use those terms in your search. (By the way, it’s La Super Rica.)

“Google News” provides articles from thousands of newspapers, which means that you can ignore The Los Angeles Times (except for the horoscope) and read The New York Times or Xinhau from China. Google “News Alerts” allow you to designate terms that will trigger a specific e-mail, notifying you when a story appears using those terms in the press. My favorite alerts are “legal malpractice” and “legal ethics,” but I am also partial to “judicial ethics.”

You can also find forms, complaints, answers and Hollywood contracts, all freely available in the open source world of intel provided by Google. “Google Earth” zooms in from space to a specific address anywhere on the planet. You can literally look at the roof of your home, do a 360 and decide that you need to have the leaves removed before it rains. You can also get directions to a location and actually “see” the roads to that location.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, in a leaked memo (check Google), is worried because Internet-based services create a new business model. Rumor has it that even Wal-Mart is watching. We live in the information age. You need to harness it, in order to decrease the risks inherent in practicing law.

Google even offered to “wifi” all of San Francisco.

Diane Karpman, a legal ethics expert, can be reached at 310-887-3900 or at

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