Sony Digital Paper, A Useful Tool

Michigan Bar Journal – November 2014:

As a child I thought my Swiss Army Knife was the most useful tool in the world. Packaged into one device were knives, a screwdriver, a can opener, a pair of scissors, a fork, a nail file, a toothpick, and, my personal favorite, a corkscrew.

As a nine-year-old scout, I used to sit and think of all of the awesome things I could do with this incredible tool. I would dream up situations where this knife could get me out of a tight jam and maybe even save my life. Perhaps one day I would be marooned on an island and, with this device, I could still enjoy the comforts of civilization with my fork, knife, and toothpick. If I was lost in the desert, I could rig some contraption that may help me collect water and save myself from dying from dehydration.

The reality is that while I could do many things with this marvel of all marvels, I never did. If we are really being honest with ourselves we would acknowledge that this Swiss Army Knife had a collection of things you would only use if it were the last option available to you. Why use a two-inch pair of scissors when you can have a real pair of scissors? Why use a tiny, weird little fork when you could just walk over to the forks and grab a real fork? This knife was a collection of bad options that technically would work, but which provided no enjoyable experience. The only way you would use this knife for these other auxiliary functions would be in situations where you literally had no other good options.

Tablets today are like this for lawyers. Tablets are great for taking pictures, keeping up with email, browsing the internet, reviewing documents, making minor edits to documents, and many other great functions lawyers need and want. However, while tablets do many things incredibly well, there are still many core-functions where they fall short — most notably, taking notes.

No matter how technologically advanced our workplace becomes, you still see lawyers everywhere sporting the same sleek, classic tool — the legal pad. Yes, when it comes to taking notes in a meeting there is just something special about taking notes with a fine-pointed pen on a physical pad of paper. I see it everyday, and I suspect you do too. However, physical paper does not connect with the electronic systems you rely upon each and every day. It would need to be typed up and entered into something in order for it to be truly useful.

Enter Digital Paper from Sony. It’s a tablet, but like none you’ve ever seen before. It doesn’t take pictures. It doesn’t play games. It doesn’t do email. It doesn’t tell you where to get a triple latte skim. It doesn’t remind you to pickup milk and bread on the way home from work. It doesn’t even surf the web. It does, however, give you the functionality and feel of physical paper combined with the connectivity and archival abilities of a connected tablet.

Yes, it is literally the electronic equivalent of a legal pad. It does one thing, and it does it with a level of elegance we don’t often see in non-Apple products. It is the exact opposite of my childhood Swiss Army Knife. It does not try to be a jack-of-all-trades; it is the master of one thing — being a beautifully functional digital paper device.

So what exactly does it do?

One of the finer points of this device is its included fine-point stylus which allows you to take notes and annotate PDF’s far better than any other device I have ever seen. Many other devices allow you to write with a stylus, but your writing ends up fat like you’re writing with a permanent marker.

In addition to handwritten annotations directly on your PDF’s and notes, you can also add sticky notes that are either handwritten or typed. You can also open multiple notes and documents into your workspace and switch between them quickly. This allows you to arrange and work with items in much the same fashion as you would on your desk.

Files are transferred between the device and a Box account over WiFi or directly to a computer with the included USB cable. Also, with a little bit of tinkering you can automate the transfer of documents between the device and your document management system, regardless of whether you use a dedicated DMS like Worldox or the DMS component of a practice management system like PracticeMaster or Time Matters.

Digital Paper is larger and thinner than a typical tablet; even slightly larger than a legal pad at 9.25 inches wide and 12.25 inches tall. The screen is just slightly smaller than 8.5 by 11 inches, so it actually feels like you are writing on a regular pad of paper. At just over a quarter of an inch thick, it’s about as thick as a full legal pad, and at 12.1 ounces, it’s just a little heavier.

While technically it is heavier than a legal pad, the odd thing is that most people have a first impression of it being lighter than a legal pad. I think it is because it plays tricks on your expectations. See, when you pickup a legal pad, you expect it to be light. When you pickup a tablet, you expect it to be heavy. When you pickup digital paper you are expecting a heavy tablet, but what you actually have is something considerably lighter.

The screen is plastic, which makes the device both light and very strong. At the ABA TechShow in Chicago last March, I watched two Sony reps toss it around the Worldox booth. They even threw it at the ground fairly hard, and it survived without a scratch. The display is an E Ink greyscale that is very readable from any angle, as long as there is light available because the device has no backlighting.

The lack of backlighting helps the battery last forever, or at least it seems that way to me. With everyday, all-day use, I only have to charge it once a week. I typically have it on either in full-power or standby mode for 10 or more hours a day, five days a week. The one thing that will kill the battery is forgetting to turn it off at night and instead leaving it in standby mode.

When it comes to actually using the device, you will love writing on Digital Paper from Sony. It feels like writing — real writing. If you’ve ever written on a traditional tablet, you probably are skeptical about Digital Paper. One of the main differences is the stylus that comes with the device. The stylus has a fine point and the only thing that will produce a mark on Digital Paper is the stylus. Yes, the only thing that will produce a mark on Digital Paper is the stylus. This means that you can rest your hand on the tablet as you write in the same way you rest your hand on real paper when you write.

Writing on a traditional tablet is quite a bit different because traditional tablets are touch sensitive. Therefore anything that touches the screen on a traditional tablet makes a mark. This is why I love showing my Digital Paper to someone who has written on a traditional tablet – they invariably will hold their entire hand up in the air as they attempt to write without actually touching the device. Needless to say, this is not a very comfortable way to write, and certainly not something you could sustain for any length of time for extensive notes. When I show them that they can relax and let their hand rest on the screen as they write, that is usually the tipping point – the point where they realize they are in love with a piece of hardware.

The love they feel for Digital Paper is sometimes enough to help them get over the price — sometimes not. Today’s price for Digital Paper is $999, recently reduced from $1,100 when it was released in April 2014. In spite of the high price, it seems to be picking up steam within the legal community.

Sony is currently selling the device to the legal community through its’ official resellers Worldox and William S. Hein & Company. Sony is also quietly selling it through its website, but is not offering customer support for units bought directly, according to CNet.

The question becomes, “Will Digital Paper make it in the long run?” I believe it carries potential to become widely adopted in the market. Sony Digital Paper has created a piece of hardware which gives the end-user the experience of using physical paper while maintaining the ability to have that information transferred and consumed by all of our other various electronic systems. For this, there is great demand. However, balancing this demand with an appropriate price is the challenge Sony now faces. The demand will not go away, and for that reason I believe Sony Digital Paper has a place in our hands, on our desks, and in our briefcases for many years to come.

Originally appeared in: Michigan Bar Journal

Published: November 2014

Link to article on publisher’s website: http://michbar.org/journal/pdf/pdf4article2484.pdf

Link to publisher’s website: http://michbar.org/journal/

Document Management Systems 101

Michigan Bar Journal – July 2014:

There is nothing worse than not being able to find the thing you need the moment you need it. A few weeks ago, I had to have my car towed. Just before the car was towed away, I went through my mental checklist to make sure I had everything I needed from the car. Satisfied, I signaled to the truck driver to take the car away.

The next morning when I searched for the headphones for my phone, I had that sudden feeling of panic when I realized my headphones were in the glove box of my car—the car that was towed the previous day. You know that feeling because you’ve likely experienced it when you’ve reached for your wallet and discovered it’s not where it’s supposed to be. From the moment you realize you don’t know where your wallet is to the moment you find it, your mind is in overdrive as you frantically try to remember where it might be.

Lawyers are a lot like this when it comes to documents. They want to store their documents so they will always be able to find them later. They also experience those brief fits of panic when they cannot find the document they need. In fact, in their efforts to find what they need when they need it, they end up making it more difficult to find a document.

A document management system elim­inates the need to put your documents in a specific location in order to find them later, and offers a variety of ways to return to those documents. In the traditional folder based approach, you must know where you put something in order to find it later. In a document management system, you “profile” a document the first time you save it and use that profile information to return to it.

A profile contains bits of information like name, client and matter IDs, date created and modified, document type (pleading, correspondence, discovery), author, typist, and document file format (PDF, Word, Excel). This information is collected when the document is saved and takes little additional time, if any, compared to the traditional method of drilling down to the right folder. In this process of saving a document, much of the information is pre filled or automatically stored for you.

When you want to find a specific document later, you can use any of the profile criteria to help locate it. You can start with a list of documents for a particular matter sorted by modified date. If that doesn’t result in the document you’re looking for, you can narrow the scope using keywords like “PDFs that are discovery documents” or “letters created by me,” for instance.

The pièce de résistance, however, is text searching. Maybe you’re looking for a document you prepared years ago dealing with “chronic pulmonary back palpitations” (I made that up). You have no idea which client it was for, you can’t pinpoint an exact date, and you don’t even remember if it was a Word file or if the document was created before you switched from Word Perfect. The only thing you know is that the document includes the words chronic, pulmonary, back, and palpitations. A document management system allows you to type these words into a search box and, seconds later, displays a list of documents containing those words.

The real value of a document management system becomes apparent when you realize the potential you have if you combine different search methods. A combined search would look something like this: Show me all the documents created by my paralegal or me after May 23, 2009, for Amalgamated Industries (regardless of matter) that include the words “pulmanative” and “fractation.”

The ability to pinpoint the documents you’re looking for is what you’re trying to achieve when you pigeonhole documents into specific folders using the traditional system most lawyers use today. The beauty of employing a document management system at your firm is eliminating the need to pigeon­ hole. Instead, you simply specify a few criteria when you save a document, and the system takes care of storing it appropriately.

There are two types of document management systems: those that are part of a practice management system (like Practice Master, Time Matters, and Amicus Attorney) and those dedicated solely to the task of managing your documents (like Worldox, iManage, and NetDocuments).

The dedicated systems usually incorporate more sophisticated features but also cost significantly more. The practice management based systems typically cost less and offer functionality a dedicated system would not offer, but their document management functionality is usually not as refined.

Which type of document management system should you choose? Though your current needs may change, don’t even begin looking before clearly identifying what you need from a system. This will help with the decision making process.

In my experience, compliance plays a significant role in whether you choose a dedicated solution or a practice management based solution. All dedicated systems are able to “own the save.” This means that when you save a document—no matter where you are or how you trigger the save—the document management system pops up in place of the usual save dialog box and prompts you for a few details like name, document type, and client/matter.

The practice management based systems can take over the save in a few select programs like Word and Excel, but even then, they usually don’t do a thorough job. Without the own the save functionality you get from a dedicated solution, you end up relying on staff to enter documents into the management system. The forced approach that dedicated systems employ eliminates the manual element.

While saving and finding documents are the two primary functions of a document management system, most systems offer additional valuable features that can be considered icing on the cake.

Versioning

Most systems offer some sort of version control, which allows you to save a new version of an existing document. When saving to a folder the old way, you must be careful when naming different versions of the same document so it will be obvious later that there are multiple versions grouped together. This is cumbersome and problematic.

In a document management system that employs versioning, a document and all its versions show up in search results as one document. The document displays with an indication of the number of versions, a way to open a version list, and the option to retrieve a specific version.

Document stamping

Document stamping creates those tiny, faint numbers you see in the corners of documents from other lawyers. These numbers represent the document’s number, or ID, that was automatically assigned by the management system. This identifier allows you to instantly locate a document in the system without knowing who created it or the associated client or matter. Of course, you can accomplish this with some fancy footwork in Word or WordPerfect without a document management system, but those programs don’t automatically update when you use a document from one client as a starting point for a different client. In a document management system, the stamp is automatic (if you want it) and always correct.

Archiving

Many dedicated systems automate the archiving of documents for inactive matters. Other systems allow for manual management of the archives. Some offer both. You can also find systems that incorporate management of a document retention policy, meaning they can handle a matter’s document needs through three stages: active with documents searchable and readily available; inactive with documents search able but stored in less accessible areas with fewer frequent backups; and destroyed, in which documents become nonsearchable, inaccessible, and, well, gone.

Tracking

Many systems offer the ability to track not only documents but also who did what with those documents and when. Some times called auditing, this feature allows you to see and search all sorts of actions: viewed, opened, saved, and edited, among others. With auditing, you can determine who looks at which documents or which doc­uments a specific person is working on, who deleted a specific document, and even how much time individuals spend on a document. Some firms use this information for billing, others to find missing documents that were deleted or put in the wrong place. Regardless of which document management system you decide is right for your needs, you should know that many options will improve the intelligence infrastructure you employ in your office. A document management system has the ability to eliminate the panicked feeling of a misplaced wallet. Except for when you lose your wallet, of course.

Originally appeared in: Michigan Bar Journal

Published: July 2014

Link to article on publisher’s website: http://michbar.org/journal/pdf/pdf4article2402.pdf

Link to publisher’s website: http://michbar.org/journal/

Mastering the Tools of Your Craft: The Five Don’ts of Billing and Accounting Software

Michigan Bar Journal – May 2014:

Have you ever observed a master craftsman at work? Whether watching a mechanic diagnose the problem with your car, listening to a musician produce hair-raising melodies, or witnessing a carpenter turn a pile of boards into a work of art, there is something special about watching a person create something amazing in his or her chosen field. Master craftsmen have incredible talents and skills, but they also take the time to care for and learn the tools of their trade.

Oftentimes these individuals do not have the fanciest or most expensive tools; they have the appropriate tools for their craft and have learned to use them at a master level. Each tool is carefully selected, studied, and integrated so it becomes an immediate extension of the craftsman.

It never ceases to amaze me that young lawyers or fledgling firms fail to establish their billing and accounting infrastructure. They fail to capture all their time, forget to bill for costs advanced, and can’t produce bills in a timely manner. It is in this spirit I present the five don’ts of choosing billing and accounting software.

1. Don’t use word-processing programs for billing.

Don’t use Microsoft Word or other word processing programs to create invoices. A word-processing program does not facilitate time collection. It does not remember who owes you money and for what. It does not send reminder statements. It does not print checks and automatically bill the client if it’s an advance. In short, it does nothing except print the bill. Also, resist the urge to use Word “just this once” to get that one bill out the door. The moment you do, apathy starts to take hold—“just this once” becomes two, three, four times, and so on. Before you know it, months or years have gone by and you’ve created a mess that’s hard to fix.

2. Don’t get software that is too complicated or too simple.

Solo attorneys first starting out tend to get software that is too simplistic—software that won’t handle their future or even immediate billing needs. Don’t overbuy, but make sure your billing software can do what you need it to do—now and in the foreseeable future. Choosing the right software boils down to three words: do your homework. Don’t become mesmerized by the shiny objects dangled in front of you by the salesperson. Focus instead on what you need the software to do. If your practice charges predominately flat fees, ask how the software handles that. If you need to compensate partners or associates based on time billed and paid, make sure the software can track these allocations and generate meaningful reports.

Firms that are splitting off from larger firms tend to live on the other end of the spectrum. A 12-attorney firm doesn’t need to spend $45,000 for billing and accounting software because the 125-attorney firm they are leaving uses that software. Sure, it worked for the larger firm and, yes, it will probably work for the breakaway firm, but it’s probably more than the smaller firm needs. Not only will the initial investment be higher than it should be, so will costs for ongoing maintenance. When the reality of these expenses sinks in, firms tend to stop maintaining the software, diminishing the value of the steep initial investment.

3. Don’t fail to see the benefits of tightly integrated accounting.

Yes, you can use Quickbooks to print your checks and, yes, you can even bill in Quickbooks, technically speaking. However, billing in Quickbooks rarely works out in the long run. You can use the program to cut checks and keep track of accounting, but by doing so, you miss out on the benefits of truly integrated accounting. Integrated accounting allows you to simultaneously cut a check and put it on the client’s bill, and you can post a payment against a client statement and deposit it to your bank account at the same time.

Properly integrated accounting saves time and eliminates the potential for errors associated with double entries of client advances and payments while streamlining operations and making it easier for people who aren’t accountants to perform routine tasks.

Additionally, if you have an IOLTA account, the problems are magnified; it is difficult to set up a trust account in Quickbooks separate from the firm’s general accounting system, as required by the State Bar. Even if you manage to set up the IOLTA account properly, it is impossible to reach the level of integration the Bar encourages—providing trust-account activity information on statements. The double-entry problem then becomes a triple-entry problem; money comes out of the trust account, payments are entered against the client’s bill, and money goes into the bank account. That’s three entries with three times the effort and three times the potential for error. An integrated accounting system requires just one entry.

4. Don’t forget to establish the right routines to capture every minute of billable time.

No matter how good you are at your craft, it is important to effortlessly capture every minute of billable time. There are some useful tools to assist attorneys in capturing billable time, from remote-entry apps like iTimekeep to plug-ins for Outlook that allow you to bill for receiving and responding to e-mail. Additionally, most practice management systems track what you do throughout your day—tasks completed, e-mails answered, notes taken, documents generated, and appointments attended and offer the opportunity to turn them into billable time. Take advantage of the opportunity to embrace new methods of capturing every billable minute of your day.

5. Don’t just fumble along learn how to use your software to bill clients.

To be a master of your craft, you must learn how to use your tools. Invest both time and money to learn how to effectively use your new software. You haven’t made it this far in your career without learning new things, so apply those skills to learning your software. Knowing how to operate your tools is every bit as important as knowing how to practice law.

Remember, a tool is only as good as the craftsman using it. When you master your tools, you’ll practice law more effectively. When you choose the correct tools and take the time to master them, you reach the level where those around you will take pleasure in watching you practice your craft. There is something special about watching a master at work.

Originally appeared in: Michigan Bar Journal

Published: May 2014

Link to article on publisher’s website: http://www.michbar.org/journal/pdf/pdf4article2370.pdf

Lind to publisher’s website: http://www.michbar.org/journal/

Defining the Cloud: Access to Everything Everywhere

GPSolo eReport – November 2013:

“What does he look like?” This is the question somebody asks you when they want to know what another person looks like. The problem is, it is nearly impossible to describe a person’s physical attributes in a way that the listener creates an accurate picture in their mind. In order to successfully create an accurate mental picture, you need to use visuals from some Rosetta-Stone of known visuals—like celebrities. You respond, “He is like a Danny DeVito meets Joe Pesci, but he has a Vince Vaughn sense of humor.”

By using celebrities that people are familiar with, you have a better chance of creating the right understanding about the person you’re trying to describe. You may be way off, but, in theory, you’ll get closer than if you were to just say, “He is mid-to-late-forties, with brown hair, a bit on the short side, he can get angry, but he is still a little funny.”

Describing how technology works, especially its innovations, challenges, and shortcomings, can be as slippery and elusive as describing a random stranger. However, it is important to thoroughly understand the legal technology landscape as it stands today in order for you to make important decisions which impact how you practice law.

One of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around now is the cloud. People use this phrase to describe many different things. Instead of trying to give exhaustive definitions of what people mean when they say “the cloud,” let us take a moment to explore the future of how technology will assist you in practicing law.

The future of legal technology will allow you to do everything you normally do in the practice of law everywhere you normally are while practicing law. What does “everything everywhere” look like? People who are totally devoted to Apple products are the closest to experiencing everything everywhere. The picture taken on the iPhone can be viewed almost instantly on your Macintosh, iPad, and even your Apple TV. The same is true for the song downloaded, the email sent, or the appointment scheduled. The things you use in Apple’s world transcend the device and can travel without boundaries.

The legal community does not have the luxury of operating in one closed system like the world of Apple products, and therefore experience challenges integrating with each other. Your programs and objects operate in different systems and on different devices, and therefore they do not coexist as well as they do in the Apple world.

Achieving an “everything everywhere” environment can still be achieved in a legal environment; I have spent the last 33 years of my life getting things to talk to each other. The platform I built has my billing talking to my practice management system, which simultaneously talks to my document management system. The contacts that live in my practice management system are the same people that I bill, the same people that show up in my phone, and the same people that I communicate with via email. The emails exchanged need to be tied to matters in practice management, and billed through my billing system. These same contacts need to be marketed to, wished happy birthday, and congratulated on special occasions—all while being tied to their respective matters.

Interactivity and interconnectivity between all of these functions, pieces of information, and tasks are the cornerstone of any infrastructure. Without it, we spend all of our time manually tying these things together.

How am I able to have everything everywhere if I demand integration? Simple: I give these programs a place where they can integrate and then I park that space itself in the cloud. I am referring to a thin client remote desktop.

Remote desktops allow you to park your desktop on a server farm somewhere in the proverbial cloud, and they allow you to access this desktop from iPad, offsite locations, and even from the computer that still sits on your desk. Having your remote desktop serve as your hub for all of your programs alleviates most of the integration challenges faced in the world of legal technology.

The same desktop that I work with when I am sitting at my desk is the same desktop I see standing on the street just seconds before I walk into a building for a meeting. Thirty-seven seconds after I leave the meeting, I’m using the same desktop to record my notes in my practice management system, send an email to follow up with the person I just met, profile the email and my document management system, and bill for my time.

I’ve heard a lot of invalid reasons why this won’t work: speed, keyboard, no mouse, and many others. However, these are not valid problems, they are just problems that remain unresolved. Nerds, like me, love to find solutions to these types of challenges, and you will absolutely see some innovative solutions coming to market in the next three to five years.

There are some who say that we will never be able to practice law in a totally untethered environment, but I say that the day is coming. It is coming much faster than we realize.

As you evaluate the technology at your firm, please remember the cloud is just a term people use to mean they are storing your stuff somewhere other than your desktop—it does not mean it can connect and interact with the other elements of your technological infrastructure. It does not mean you will have access to “everything everywhere.”

Instead of spending your time trying to learn all of the technology, just picture yourself doing all of the things you do throughout the day and doing them from wherever you find yourself at the present moment. This is where we are headed, and this visual can be your guide to building the best infrastructure for yourself and those who depend on you.

Originally appeared in: GPSolo eReport

Published: November 2013

Link to article on publisher’s website: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2013/november_2013/defining_the_cloud_access_to_everything_everywhere.html

Link to publisher’s website: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gpsolo_ereport/

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Legal Technology Questions

TechnoLawyer – October 29, 2013:

You probably joined TechnoLawyer at least in part because you have legal technology questions. In fact, TechnoLawyer publishes a newsletter called TL Answers entirely devoted to answering questions submitted by TechnoLawyer members.

As a legal technology consultant, I receive many questions from the lawyers and staff at small law firms. While I receive plenty of unique questions, I also receive the same questions. Therefore, in the tradition of the Internet FAQ, this issue of SmallLaw contains the top 10 most frequently asked legal technology questions I receive — and my answers.

1. My Accountant Says I Should Use QuickBooks. Should I?

No. QuickBooks’ billing features are not designed for a law firm. These shortcomings will reveal themselves very quickly.

Your accountant wants you to use QuickBooks so that they can use their free accountants’ copy to edit your journal entries. If you’re using a properly configured integrated accounting package for law firms, your journal will need very few edits.

What your accountant wants is a level of comfort with your books. Put them in touch with your legal technologist. When your accountant learns that your legal accounting software has the functionality of QuickBooks and then some, they’ll feel comfortable.

2. If I Implement a Legal-Specific Billing Package Like Tabs3 or PCLaw, Should I Integrate QuickBooks With It?

Still no. If you want to use QuickBooks as your accounting package, you’re better off not integrating it with your billing software. The difficulties and challenges far outweigh the benefits. For example, QuickBooks will want to incorporate your trust accounts into your regular books — a big no-no with the ethics rules of virtually all states.

The best choice is to pick a billing product that has integrated accounting. The TL Research Buyer’s Guide to Legal Billing Software (free for all TechnoLawyer members) has a chart in Chapter 4 that lists all the products with both billing and accounting.

3. Why Must We Customize Practice Management Software?

Practice management software does not know what you want it to do “out of the box” so to speak. Much like a carpenter uses tools to build a kitchen, legal technologists use practice management software to build infrastructure and workflows for your office. You would not go to a carpenter and expect him to know how you want your kitchen to look and function. Instead, you would meet with the carpenter to hammer out a blueprint. The same is true for how you build infrastructure and workflows for your law firm.

4. What Kind of Servers Should I Put in My Office and How Many?

None and zero. For solo practices and small firms, I have become a proponent of hosting your servers in a secure data facility where dozens of nerds are on call and on-site 24 hours a day. At these facilities, the power never goes out, servers are backed up every minute, and the Internet connection is blazingly fast.

You connect to the servers through thin-client protocols such as Citrix or Remote Desktop Services from any location — your office, your home, a hotel room, the courthouse, a coffee shop, etc. You always operate the same software on the same desktop, interacting with the same people regardless of where you are and regardless of where they are.

5. Will the Software Run on a Mac? Why Not?

I plan to buy a MacBook Air for my next laptop. And I work every day on an iPad. I saw the light and switched to the iPhone three years ago, ditching my Android smartphone that I faithfully stood by for years.

But finding any sort of legal-specific practice management or billing software that runs on OS X is a difficult task. Even Amicus Attorney, which started as a Mac app and which has always had a pretty and intuitive interface as a result, is now available only for Windows.

6. What’s the Difference Between Document Management and Practice Management?

Document management is a subset of practice management. Practice management incorporates many aspects of law practice, including calendars, contacts, notes, document assembly, task management, and document management. Most practice management systems have built-in document management capabilities. However, the sophistication varies from product to product.

Law firms that have more intense document management needs or multiple offices should consider a dedicated document management system. These products provide additional functionality such as archiving, automatic document stamping, audit trails and versioning, and more. The TL Research Buyer’s Guide to Document Management Systems (also free) lists all the key features of dedicated document management.

7. Why Do I Need to Pay Someone to Help Me Set Up Software or to Train Me?

You don’t! And I can get a Last Will and Testament online from Legal Zoom by filling in a few fields. My do-it-yourself Will will be valid. However, I probably won’t learn about all my options so it may not serve its intended purpose. On the bright side, at least I’ll be dead when all the shortcomings come to life!

By contrast, you’ll still be alive and well after you buy legal software, but without the help of an expert it’s likely you’ll experience buyer’s remorse.

8. I’m Leaving a Big Firm and Going Out on My Own. Money Is Tight So What Should I Buy First?

If money is tight, billing software must be your top priority along with email and word processing. Integrated accounting would be my next step, followed closely by practice management/document management.

9. What Is “The Cloud”?

Visible suspended water and other particles in the sky. That is the only definitive answer.

But you’re probably asking about the Internet variety. Used in this context, it may refer to accessing all your data from anywhere on any device using a variety of applications. Or it may refer to applications on the web that run in your browser — like ActionStep, Clio, Rocket Matter, and FreshBooks among others. While some prefer these browser- or app-based applications, others prefer to access a remotely hosted desktop of Windows applications (as I discussed in Question 4) such as Tabs3, PracticeMaster, Worldox, etc. (and Microsoft Office) because the latter tend to be more mature and offer a higher level of integration.

Beyond that, if you ask 10 people, you will get 10 answers. Like real clouds, “The Cloud” is a concept that changes daily, if not hourly, making it impossible to pin down.

10. What Is the Difference Between Litigation Support Software and Document Management?

One word: evidence. If the primary use for the documents that you want to organize is evidence in a courtroom, then you want litigation support software to review discovery documents for specific cases.

If instead you want to organize all the documents in your office — pleadings, letters, correspondence, email, outgoing bills, financial statements, etc., then you want a document management either within your practice management system or in dedicated form as discussed above.

Originally appeared in: TechnoLawyer SmallLaw

Published on: October 29, 2013

Link to article on publisher’s website: Not Available

Link to publisher’s website: www.technolawyer.com/smalllaw

The Ideal Technology Team

Technolawyer – September 25, 2013:

I was 17 the first time I experienced the truth behind the adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” A dozen of us in total spent months training at the outdoor camp preparing to traverse 72 miles in a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail. Our training was as diverse as our team — a blend of physicality, organization, and navigation. Each of the us had different talents, but it was teamwork we needed the most if we were going to succeed. Succeed we did. We overcame obstacles, communicated with one other flawlessly, and moved efficiently as a group. Even though the hike was 34 years ago, experiencing the whole as greater than the sum of its parts taught me valuable lessons about legal technology — lessons I use everyday in helping people use technology to practice law.

Meet the Technology Team
Instead of 12 young men preparing for a hike, let’s look at 12 lawyers starting their own law firm. This team needs another team to succeed — a group of integrated software products. Let’s get specific and build this law firm’s technology team right now. With so many individually talented pieces of technology available today, it’s important to look not just at the flash, but at the system as a whole as alluded to above. Building our utopian law office begins with a thin client suite of off-site servers running Microsoft Office 2013 and Exchange for email. All the talk right now is about the “cloud.” Some slick applications exist with some cool functionality. However, today’s cloud applications cannot come close to achieving the synergy you will achieve with a tightly integrated set of desktop applications working together. The thin based client approach enables our lawyers to operate on-the-move without losing any functionality. The remote desktop approach enables lawyers and staff to access their desktop from anywhere, and the desktop they use in the office is the same desktop they see at Starbucks, in the hotel room, at court, and at home. To round out the team, we add Tabs3 for integrated accounting software and back office management, PracticeMaster for calendaring and practice management, Wordox GX3 for document management with its new Enterprise Server platform for cloud-based document access, Symphony Suite to automatically OCR any PDF documents that get placed into Worldox, and Legal Anywhere to create portals (for clients and others involved in a matter) to access documents and data. Here’s an example of how these team members work together. When an email message gets sent, it’s automatically stored with the matter it pertains to in Worldox and billed to the client in Tabs3. As our lawyers view a matter in PracticeMaster, they can see all of the documents and detailed billing and trust account information. This is accomplished through synergistic teamwork operating on our thin client solution.

A Closer Look at the Players
We choose PracticeMaster because it tightly integrates with Outlook, Tabs3, and Worldox. It also has a powerful document assembly engine, a set of workflow development tools, matter-specific calendaring, and flexible contact management for marketing and client relationship management. Additionally, its “connect” module takes matters, calendars, contacts, and fee entry from the server to the cloud and back in milliseconds. PracticeMaster is a tool that can be used to build sophisticated infrastructures and is capable of managing any practice area. The system we’re building relies on Outlook to create a link between email and Worldox (for storing email to matters), and between email and PracticeMaster (for billing the time spent dealing with email). Hosting Exchange offsite with the rest of the server suite makes Exchange easier to manage and allows this magic to happen with less reliance on IT staff. Tabs3 and its integrated accounting software makes the team because it has been around since I took my Appalachian Trail hike some 34 years ago. It is tested and robust — a complete suite of software working together seamlessly that does everything the firm requires on the billing and accounting fronts. Worldox joins our team of individual stars as the solution for document management. It has all of the functionality that a firm this size requires in a document management system. Additionally, we’ll spend roughly 60% less on Worldox versus the cost to license, implement, and maintain any other document management system. With the new GX3 platform, Worldox offers technology that extends its desktop functionality beyond the network desktop to any computer with an Internet connection. To add some harmony to our team, we introduce Symphony to the mix. Symphony’s job is to sit in the background and make sure every PDF document created is searchable. With this type of security in place, we dissolve the need for staff to sit and wait for the OCR process in Acrobat. Symphony also ensures that the PDF documents dropped into Worldox from other sources are likewise searchable. Legal Anywhere makes the team because it facilitates integration with our clients. Legal Anywhere enables our lawyers to set up matter-specific intranets and deal rooms in minutes. With this functionality, we can place specific documents from Worldox into the cloud for sharing and collaboration with outside counsel, clients, adjusters, and others who may need secure access to these documents.

That’s Some Sum
Like our group who pulled together and pooled our strengths and resources to cover 72 miles on the Appalachian Trail in three days, these software packages together build a tight infrastructure that can make a small law firm run like a well-oiled machine. Each package stands on its own, and is well suited to its respective task, but it’s the integration, the way they work to pass information back and forth, that makes this system shine. When it comes to legal technology infrastructure, the sum really is greater than the parts.

Originally appeared in: TechnoLawyer SmallLaw

Published on: September 23, 2013

Link to article on publisher’s website: Not Available

Link to publisher’s website: http://www.technolawyer.com/smalllaw.asp