Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alexa in the law office is a Bad idea.

One of my favorites shows to watch on television as a kid was Hogan's Heros. My how it amused me as time and again the misfit prisoners befuddled the hapless Nazis. One of my favorite bits was when Hogan and the boys would gather round the coffee pot that they had transformed into a receiver, to listen in on the bug they had placed in Colonel Klink's office. The intel gathered from that bug -- at least by Hollywood standards -- doomed the war for the Germans.

Guess what? If you have an Amazon Echo (commonly referred to as Alexa) in your law office, you are as vulnerable as Colonel Klink, and possibility violating your duty of attorney-client privilege to your clients.

Alexa is a powerful electronic device (along with its Google cousin Google Home, and others in the commerce pipe....). It is on all the time. It is listening all the time. It is processing all the time. No my dear friend it is not just on when you say the prompt word "alexa"). It must be on and listening at all times to hear that alexa prompt, and then rise to its next level of response. Once that magic word is spoken, Alexa really turns on the hearing. And she does not always stop. I have found that with my Echo (which is not in my law office) I have to frequently tell her "alexa off" or "alexa stop" to make that blue listening ring go off. While Amazon has never said as much, rumors are that all the sounds going in to every Alexa device world-wide are stored digitally on Amazon's servers. Giving a third party an invitation to record the privileged conversations occurring in your law office should give you pause to think about your possible breach of your attorney-client privilege. Consider this: audio recordings collected by an Alexa device have already been used as evidence in a murder case. They are hearing a lot!

Appreciate also that Alexa runs over your wi-fi network. If there are security breaches in your wi-fi, those vulnerabilities extend to Alexa. I remember watching a demonstration on television once by a hacker who was able to breach a wi-fi network, and then sit there while his computer acted as a mirroring screen for the computer that he had hacked. The same could easily enough happen with Alexa. If breached, she could become the bug in Colonel Klink's office, providing a stereo broadcast of everything said in your law office.

The device itself is also vulnerable. Last week the Amazon network went down so that Alexa devices could not talk back to their owners. They were still listening mind you and recording, but you would have never known it because she could not respond to what she heard and that blue recording circle was not illuminating. As more Alexa devices proliferate, you can be sure that hackers will accept the challenge and find ways to break-in.

Don't get me wrong, I Love my Alexa. But there is a right time and place for everything, and wrong time and place for everything. There is never a right time to have an Alexa in your law office.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thinkin Bout Practice Management Stuff!


If you know me, you know I love practice management systems (what we used to call case management software in pre-cloud days). Some folks still call it "case-management." That's a gross misnomer, cause the stuff does so, so, so much more. Make the mistake of asking me a question on practice management systems and I'll talk to you until your ears bleed (just ask my friend Shane who bought me coffee yesterday morning and then asked....)

Anyway, Aaron George recently written a great article at Lexicata giving an overview of the current big players in case management software. You should check it out. I agree with everything he writes.

Aaron has his own preferences, that you can read about. As for me, I place Clio and Rocket Matter (we use Rocket Matter in our practice) at the top of the heap. CosmoLex and Practice Panther are moving up the mountain with impressive strides. MyCase is an old timer that is still relevant. Abacus and Amicus? Forget about 'em.

There are some other players that Aaron does not mention, but that I will:  HoudiniEsq, Smokeball, LexRex.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

What's New With Office Telephones ...

Remember this Merlin phone?
I can remember the first telephones I bought for my fledgling law office years ago. It was a Merlin system from AT&T. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world, and at the time it was. Sleek phone sets. Two big hardware boxes hanging in the utility closet. Music on hold, call transfer, do not disturb, voice mail. It rocked! And it was expensive!

We used that Merlin system for decades (heck you can still buy used sets online to this day!). Then newer stuff came out. Stuff that was affordable to buy, and cheaper to use on a monthly basis. We went with an internet telephone system from 8x8. It too had all the latest bells and whistles. On the software side it still does, because that stuff lives and grows in the cloud. The hardware still works just fine but, of course, newer stuff has hit the street since we transitioned six or seven years ago.

Over at Law Technology Today there is a nifty little article on new phone technology. Please click here to check it out, and for a quick read on what is new and great, include free phone technology.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Fringe Benefits of Being a Family Law Lawyer

Family law is an intriguing practice area. As a family law lawyer you must be an expert in multiple areas of substantive law: family, civil procedure, evidence (yes, evidence, if you are good family lawyer!), tax, probate, even criminal. You need to be adept at negotiation. And, you must be a skilled trial lawyer. Poo-poo on those in the legal profession who say family lawyers don't need skills...

Depending on how you craft your practice, you can do a lot of traveling for work, or very little. I have friends around the country who maintain statewide practices. By choice, those folks live out of suitcases. Alternatively there are people like me, who limit their practices to one or two counties, thus avoiding the work-hotel life (though for me, practicing in the commuter hell of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties does present its challenges).

On the plus side, when I do travel for work, it is usually fun travel. As a Fellow in the AAML and the IAFL, there are a plethora of conferences available. Throw in the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association, and you can really travel for work and pleasure. And why not?
If your budget allows, work/CLE conferences expand your professional skills, expand your business network, and expand your personal horizons. They are a wonderful distraction from the day to day rigor of practicing law.

Recent work travels have provided a rewarding life balance for me. London, Bahamas, Lisbon, Chicago, Savannah, Tokyo, Stuttgart. That's about 50,000 airplane miles, and three, four weeks of time. But it is professional time mixed with personal time. That is a great combination.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

As family law lawyers we all work very hard. We need to reward ourselves, and maintain a degree of separation from the emotion of our clients' worlds. Take a breath, step away. Find a conference. State bar associations put on great programs. The ABA puts on great programs. State Chapters of the AAML put on great programs, and you don't have to be an AAML Fellow to attend. In States that have them, certified specialist organizations put on great programs in great locations. Treat yourself!

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Does Anyone Dictate Anything Anymore?

I have watched movies from bygone eras where the boss man speaks into a microphone, then the recording is handed over to his female secretary for typing up. To me these were extra steps that just were not productive, nor did the exercise foster creativity through reflection.

I have never, ever dictated anything (okay, about 15 years ago I tried Dragon Speaking, but it didn't work as well as typing, so I tossed it).  For me, it has always been faster and better to type it up myself. Now that 99% of my written communications are electronic (either as emails or pdf), that practice is even stronger.

Apparently, though, the idea of dictation is not dead. Over at attorney@work, Eric Wangler has a nice little article on the continued viability of dictation. And, it looks like today's dictation platforms are a far cry from those tape recorders of yesteryear. Please click here to read Eric's article.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sending Text Messages From Your Computer

Happy day after Christmas. I hope everyone is taking a few days off, and looking forward to the New Year. I know I am. Well, not completely. I had to procure some emergency orders for a client last week, and now I am needing to communicate with the other party. The only means available to me is the sending of text messages. But I want to make sure I have a record of the communications, and I don't want to be sending from my very private smartphone.

I learned this morning that it is possible to send messages from my computer to a cell phone number.  Mark Coppock has a great instructional article at Digital Trends. From your Outlook, or Gmail, or other email program, in the "to" box you simply enter the recipient's cell phone number followed by the designation for the recipient's cell phone service provider, and off you go.  For example, would get your email to an AT&T subscriber with the phone number (925)123-4567.

Here is a table for the most popular cell phone service providers:

  • AT&T:
  • T-Mobile: [You may have to put a 1 before the number for it to work with Mobile]
  • Verizon: (text-only), number@vzwpix (text + photo)
  • Sprint: or
  • Virgin Mobile:
  • Tracfone:
  • Metro PCS:
  • Boost Mobile:
  • Cricket:
  • Ptel:
  • Republic Wireless:
  • Google Fi (Project Fi):
  • Suncom:
  • Ting:
  • U.S. Cellular:
  • Consumer Cellular:
  • C-Spire:
  • Page Plus:
The beauty of this system is that I have a record of the message in the sent folder of my email program. I don't have to take a screen shot of my phone, I don't have to run an app to archive the message. Very handy...

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

USB Connections

It is amazing how much stuff I have plugged in to my computer. There is my internet phone. My webcam. Speakers. Multiple monitors. Wi-fi. A scanner. A printer. Chargers, and on and on.

Fortunately, someone somewhere invented USB ports. I have four built into my computer. What is great about USB, is the expandability. Each of the USB ports on your computer can be expanded, like a tree growing branches. Plug a hub into a USB port, and you create more capacity. Plug a hub into a hub, and you create more capacity. You can daisy chain to your heart's content, and expand your capacity without limit. Heck, I may plug a blender into my computer and make some margaritas!

I needed more USB capacity, so I went shopping. Turns out Amazon has its own 4-port hub, and it's quite good.

This little guy turns one USB port into four. It draws its power from your computer. And it works great. I am very happy with mine. Here's the best news: it costs $6.99 at Amazon Prime. That's a great bargain.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Alexa in the law office is a Bad idea.

One of my favorites shows to watch on television as a kid was Hogan's Heros . My how it amused me as time and again the misfit prisoners...