Welcome

Thank you for visiting the Family Law Lawyer Tech & Practice blog. My name is John Harding. I am a family law lawyer practicing in northern California. Long ago I realized that I could practice law more effectively and more efficiently (i.e., better and easier) by availing myself of the technological tools that are out there. I also learned that a successful law practice requires successful marketing. Hardware and software working together make me a better lawyer, and make my life easier. Marketing helps to bring in the business necessary for professional survival. By this blog I hope to share the tips, tricks, and technology that I have learned about so that others may benefit!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Huge Legal Software Merger


Big news from the law practice management software world.  Abacus Law has acquired Amicus Attorney.  That's right, the two biggest providers are now One.

Way back when Amicus Attorney was founded by Toronto lawyer Ron Collins, and Abacus Law was founded by San Diego lawyer Judd Kessler. They are now in the rear view mirror as Wall Street takes over law practice management.  Heck, "Law" does not even appear in the name of the new company!

Here is the email I received from the New, Combined Abacus Data Systems:

Dear John

It is our pleasure to share some exciting news with you!  

For over two decades AbacusLaw and Amicus Attorney have stood together in the legal space as the pinnacles of case management solutions. Today, we are delighted to announce that Amicus Attorney will become an integrated part of the Abacus family. 

With our combined technology and expertise we will continue to expand our Best in Class practice automation solutions powered by compliance-ready, Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) workspaces designed to eliminate capital expenditure and the burdens associated with IT management.

Our Clients are at the center of everything we do! We will continue to offer and support all products and services. Our commitment to YOU is to consistently raise the bar and provide you with the most comprehensive, fully managed, legal technology solutions that cater to the success of your practice in today’s highly digitalized world.

As always, we thank you for your continued patronage and remain at your service.

Click here to read the full Press Release

Warm regards,

  
Alessandra Lezama
CEO


On to the Press Release:



Abacus Data Systems and Amicus Attorney Join Forces to Transform Practice Automation
Two of Legal Tech Industry’s Most Influential Players Together Deliver One-Stop-Shop Legal Technology Solutions
SAN DIEGO, CA, May 17, 2016 -- Abacus Data Systems, Inc. (Abacus), the premier provider of fully managed legal technology solutions, today announced that Amicus Attorney® (Amicus), one of the world’s leading practice management solution for lawyers, will become an integrated part of the Abacus family.  
Abacus and Amicus serve hundreds of thousands of attorneys in the US and around the world. By combining their collective technology and expertise, the newly integrated group will deliver the widest range of Best in Class practice management, time, billing and accounting applications powered by compliance-ready, Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) workspaces designed to eliminate capital expenditure and the burdens associated with IT management. 
“We’re proud of Amicus’ strong innovation history and the extraordinary work of the Amicus team to provide award winning practice management software,” said Alessandra Lezama, CEO of Abacus. “This transaction is the culmination of those efforts and the logical next step for Abacus. In joining forces with Amicus, our customers, employees, and stockholders will benefit from being part of a more diversified industry leader with significantly greater market opportunities. Our combination creates a more influential industry player with a commitment to product innovation and integration, which is key to the success of legal professionals in today’s highly digitalized world that has redefined the practice of law.”
Amicus’ CEO Ron Collins stated, “For over two decades Amicus and Abacus have stood together in the legal space as the pinnacles of case management solutions and superior customer service, and now together, this group will create synergies that will bring even greater benefits to attorneys all over the world.”
Abacus recently announced a majority investment of Providence Growth Equity and the opening of its new Headquarters in La Jolla, California adding more than 50 new technology positions. The integration of Abacus and Amicus reflects their commitment to the fast-paced technological evolution of the legal market and to providing unparalleled resources in support of its customers’ ever-changing practice automation needs.
“Both companies will continue to offer all products and services with no changes made to either company’s staff or management team,” explained Lezama. “The joint strengths and values of both our companies equal a superior breed of service provider and will benefit our customers, partners, and employees across the board. We are proud to welcome Amicus’ talented team into the Abacus family,” Lezama concluded.
About Abacus Data Systems, Inc.
Abacus Data Systems is the provider of the first to market case management, time billing and accounting software designed to easily automate law practice operations, ensure best possible outcomes, and increase profitability. In 2014 Abacus launched Abacus Private Cloud, a compliance ready, Turn-Key Desktop-as-a-Service solution (DaaS) to help attorneys bridge the gap to private cloud environments that guarantee security and ultimate performance to help legal professionals and others alike quickly build and grow their practice successfully.
 
Founded in 1983, Abacus has over 250,000 clients worldwide, is headquartered in San Diego, California, and operates three fully redundant data center footprints in the United States specifically engineered to host and safeguard sensitive data for professionals. Robust security and compliance policies, including two-factor authentication, five tiers of physical, network and data security and information handling and data privacy protocols in accordance with NIST standards ensure a safe and compliant environment for even the most confidential data. Please call 1-800-726-3339 or visit http://www.abacuslaw.com/ to learn more.
About Amicus Attorney 
Amicus Attorney is practice management software that works the way lawyers do. It’s an easy, lawyer-friendly solution that serves as the hub of a law practice. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Toronto, Amicus is made by Gavel & Gown Software. Tens of thousands of law firms worldwide use Amicus Attorney. Gavel & Gown's numerous achievements are recognized through the success of its customers and through its alliances with key strategic partners. As a measure of this phenomenal success, Amicus Attorney has won more than 30 prominent industry awards, has been endorsed by major law societies and has been recognized by independent surveys as one of the most widely used practice management software in the USA. For more information, please call (800) 472-2289 or visit www.amicusattorney.com.
About Providence Equity 
Providence Equity Partners is the world’s leading global private equity firm focused on equity investments in media, communications, education, and information companies. The firm manages funds with over $40 billion in commitments and has invested in more than 140 companies globally since its inception in 1989. Providence is headquartered in Providence, RI and also has offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Delhi. Visit www.provequity.com for more information.
- See more at: http://www.abacuslaw.com/resources/blog/abacus-data-systems-and-amicus-attorney-join-forces-transform-practice-automation#sthash.gvkEIrZs.dpuf



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

#Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let the Migration Begin

It has been a while since my last post. I have been very busy working for clients, moving kids home from college for the summer, unsuccessfully training Bear the chocolate lab, and so on. Also consuming a lot of my time is our firm's implementation of Rocket Matter as our new practice management software platform.

First let me say this. The people at Rocket Matter have been first rate. My colleagues and I have been burning up the phone lines to the tech support department, and in every instance the technicians at the other end of the line have been pleasant, knowledgeable, and able to solve our problems.  Absolutely top notch! Kudos RM!

Less pleasant has been the physical experience of migrating our data from AbacusLaw into Rocket Matter. That is not a criticism of RM, it is just a fact of moving twenty years of data from one software platform to another. In my experience, having transitioned from Amicus Attorney to AbacusLaw, and now to Rocket Matter, the process just is not seamless. Every product is different, and while there is some degree of fluidity to the exercise, there is no clean and easy way to migrate the data. Success is contingent on rolling up your sleeves and pounding away at the keyboard and mouse for days and days to move and reconcile all of the data from one product to another.

That is where we are at in our process. We have imported more that 2500 contacts into RM, but then each of those individual contacts has to be opened up and corrected manually. As an example, salutations do not move over from AbacusLaw to Rocket matter. That has to be fixed one contact at a time. While addresses and phone numbers do move from AL to RM they do not automatically reconcile as home or business addresses, and they don't categorize as home, business, or mobile phone numbers. We are having to go into each contact and manually make those corrections.

The same goes for cases. We are moving almost 700 matters from AL to RM. The title of the case moves over just fine. The names of the parties do not move over cleanly. We are going to have to go through each matter one by one to designate who the client is, who the opposing party is, who the opposing attorney is, etc., etc. The process will take months to complete. No need to be frustrated by it. It is a necessary evil that we have to work through.

Of those 700 cases, roughly 50 are pending matters. Our migration is focusing on getting all of the contact cards cleaned up first. We need to get all names properly updated and indexed so that we can stay on top of conflicts, and to stay current with our lines of communications with people. For the matters we are focused on indexing the cases as open or closed. For the matters that are not pending we are associating the client name to the matter, and then closing them. That will leave us with just the pending matters on the opened matters screen. We will next perfect those pending matters by finalizing the associated contacts and related data.

After all of that work we will start thinking about the other invaluable features of RM such as time and billing and work flow. In all honesty, at this point I can say very little about those other features because we are not at a place where it makes any practical sense to try and utilize them.

I do have to bring some tough love to the table. So far I am very happy with Rocket Matter. My only frustration is the lack of support for the product beyond calling tech support.  The latest version of Rocket Matter is the Atlas version. There are significant layout and programming differences between Atlas and its predecessor. Unfortunately RM has yet to produce and put online any real library of video tutorials for Atlas, there is limited user manual documentation, and only an infantile FAQ space on the RM tech support page. Unlike AbacusLaw, a lot of the functionality, design and workflow processes are left to the customer.  RM relies on the old marketing hook and says they sell a product that is highly customizable.  I do not want customizaable. I want a product that is out of the box ready to go for my family law practice. RM does not offer that. Fine enough, I made that sacrifice when I made the choice to move to RM (none of the other programs I considered were any better). If I am going to have to do my own programming RM you at least have to give me a full slate of manuals, guides, and tutorials under the heading Rocket Matter for Dummies! Stay tuned for more venting from me on these issues. . . .

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

#RocketMatter#Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dropping AbacusLaw

Unfortunately my recent misgivings about AbacusLaw seemed to have been warranted. The sales department recently contacted me to advise that my annual service agreement would be expiring and that renewal would be at at roughly a 100% price increase!  Also quite frustratingly the tech support department has taken a rapid turn for the worse. Four of my last five calls to tech support have been answered by brand new techs who know nothing about the program. My calls have resulted in me sitting and watching the remote sessions as the techs clicked around my computer learning the program, and repeatedly putting me on hold so they could (presumably) receive training from a supervisor. Suffice it to say that in the last two months my customer satisfaction quotient has gone way, way down.

That got me looking for other options.  I called colleagues for recommendations. I skowered the internet. I came up with a list. It included MyCase, CosmoLex, HoudiniEsq, Rocket Matter, Clio, Practice Panther, Perfect Practice, and Firm Central.  All of these are cloud based products, as compared to the AbacusLaw that I am currently running from my own server. Given that maintenance on the AbacusLaw that I have installed on my server would soon cost more than any of the above listed cloud products the time finally seems right to move my practice management to the cloud.

Next I started signing up for trial versions and demos (or at least trying to sign up, as I shall explain).

Clio is a program I have been following for years. I love the interface, and it has rules based calendaring which is a HUGE plus. Unfortunately the on line reviews I found were not encouraging: repeated price increases and abysmal customer and technical support. My call to the sales department did nothing to contradict those reviews. I contacted the sales department to do a little brain picking, and to find out if they have hosted demos, or if I could have a conversation with someone about the product.  I was told they don't do either, and that I should just sign up for the free trial and play around with it for a while. Scratch Clio from the list.

Firm Central is the product Thomson Reuters has released. From what I could see on the website it looked awesome. The reviews I found were also very flattering. I called TR sales. I was told that no questions could be answered overe the phone and that my dedicated sales rep would have to call me. I then asked how I could make that call happen. The telephone sales rep asked for my account information and then put me on hold. I am not kidding here, 5 minutes later he got back on the line, told me he could not figure out who my sales rep was and then suggested I call back later when they were less busy.  Wow! Being determined, I did call back. The second time the telephone sales person took down my number and said my sales rep would give me a call. A week later, still no call. Scratch Firm Central from the list.

CosmoLex, HoudiniEsq, and Perfect Practice all looked like great products, Each was a bit more complicated than I would like, and I just didn't comfortable as I was playing with them. Scratch them from the list.

That left me with live, sales department hosted demos of MyCase, Practice Panther, and Rocket Matter. Each of the demos was great. The sales reps working with me were all top notch. They knew their products, they wanted to help me, and they were each very enthusiastic.  I could have easily settled on any of the three products.

MyCase was my leading contender heading into the demos. I have many friends who swear by it. The company is a real moving and shaker in tech circles. I wanted it to be my winner. Two things eliminated MyCase. First it has also (like AbacusLaw) gone through the merger and acquisition cycle recently. The parent company has also gone public. That usually means dollars before customers while it finds and solidifies itself. I don't need that anxiety. Second the email integration components of the product were lacking. Given that probably 90% of my law firms communications are by email, that was the real deal breaker. Scratch MyCase from the list.

Practice Panther was the real surprise! It is an easy to use, graphically pleasing program that I really liked. I scratched it from the list because, unlike MyCase and Rocket Matter, it does not include document storage as part of its program.  Instead you have to integrate with box, and use it as your storage portal. Criticize me if you will, but I just don't like box. It does not play nice with me. I have repeatedly tried to make it work for me (including while testing Practice Panther) and it just has not worked. Plus I did not fancy the idea of paying for a box subscription in addition to the Practice Panther subscription. Scratch Practice Panther from the list. I will say this though, had it not been for the box issue Practice Panther likely would have been my winner.

That leaves us with Rocket Matter, and that is the company I signed up with.  How is it going? That is for future posts. Stayed tuned....

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

#Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My New iPad Pro

I was a HUGE early adopter and fintroduced iPad. It was a revolutionary product and I incorporated it into every facet of my practice. I even tried cases with nothing more than my iPad in hand. Then something inevitable happened: I turned 50 (or was it 49? 48?). Along with that maturation my 20/15 vision became something less than perfect. The age of the cheater reading glasses was upon me. The small screen and the small type of the iPad became a disability. My beloved iPad became an expensive paperweight, banished to the land of misfit tech gadgets, along with countless wired mice, old keyboards, bulky monitors, etc. The iWatch? Forget it! Never an option... My Mac Book Pro, with its 15" retina screen became my one and only mobile device. It never failed me. My Apple Love never waned. Still, I yearned for the days of the keyboard optional tablet with its light weight and thin profile. I needed a large format iPad, but it just didn't exist. I was encouraged when Sony introduced its Digital Paper viewer, but there never ever was a there there for the DP.


Then it happened. The folks at Apple gave the iPad a big dose of growth hormone. The iPad Pro was born! It was all me. Huge 13" retina screen. 128GB of memory. Lightweight. Thin. Holdable. Of course, given it was an Apple, very expensive. I waited a few months, but eventually did succumb to the seductive fruit. I put on my football pads and crashed head first into the frenzied mob at my local Apple store. After pressing more than a grand on to the AMEX I exited the madness with a shiny gray iPad Pro, keyboard, and pen. AWESOME!



The good old days are back. My IPP has re-relegated the yellow legal pads to the storage room. Case files are once again traveling with me in digital, rather than paper, form. Entire case files go to court with me, rather then a selection of most relevant docs in one or two binders. Was doing the same thing with my Mac Book Pro, but now in  less cumbersome, more efficient, faster and easier process that is the IPP.



I'm giving my IPP 5 Stars!

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

#Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Website For Support Payments


Supportpay.com is a pretty nifty web portal that assists parents with their child support obligations. As the folks at Supportpay.com explain it, child support is not just a single monthly payment but also a broad collection of shared expenses. Parents must continually manage, communicate and negotiate over child related expenses. The entire process is complex, time consuming and very stressful. Supportpay seeks to eliminate child support conflict and enable collaboration with an easy to use online application, providing both parents transparency while saving time & money. Parents can now spend less time managing child support and more time focused on raising happy, healthy children.

Sounds pretty good to me! Here's how it works:



There is a free version, a Premium version at $14.99 per month, and a Lawyer version at $19.99 per month (discounts available if you pay for a year in advance). At the Premium level you get the ability to enter transactions from your mobile device or computer; attach receipts; historical tracking; scheduling of base support; wage assignment tracking; and dispute items.  The Lawyer version gets you that plus certified documents for court filings and Certified reports for taxes; and a back door for the lawyer to go in and review (without being able to make changes).



I would love to hear from folks that are using the service!  Send in your comments!

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


#supportpay #Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LegalTech Is Coming To San Francisco

For legal technophiles LegalTech is a big deal. Along with the ABA Techshow it is one of the Big Two events in legal technology.

This year's San Francisco event will be June 13 and 14. The venue will be the Hyatt Regency Hotel.



How about these topics:

  • Corporate Legal Operations
  • Advanced IT
  • Compliance, Risk and FCPA
  • What’s Next for eDiscovery?
  • Predictive coding and data analytics/Robots
  • Strategies to Reduce Total Cost of Review
  • Meet the 2016 In-House and Litigation Department of the Year Winners: How Technology Impacts Success
  • Information Governance
  • Government Investigations and High Stakes Litigation
  • Law Firm Practice Management
  • Cybersecurity for Corporate and Outside Counsel
    • Responding to data breaches
    • Best practices for protecting law firm client data
  • The Impact of the FRCP Amendments on eDiscovery and Litigation
  • Strategies Post the EU Safe Harbor Ruling
  • Litigation Funding

  • For those of us with just a passing fancy for technology and for most family law practitioners, LegalTech is probably too much graduate level stuff, particularly for the whopping ticket price ranging from $725 for a one day pass to $1295 for full access.

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

    #Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers

    Sunday, February 21, 2016

    I Just Switched To LogMeIn

    I have been remote computing for more than 20 years. Having the ability to operate my office computer 24/7 from anywhere in the world (or at least anywhere that I have internet connectivity or a cell phone signal) is a huge quality of life and quality of practice benefit. I have spread the word on remote computing in articles and presentations for decades. For many of those 20 years my service of choice has been GoToMyPC. I have always loved it, and enthusiastically endorsed it.

    Recently the performance of my GoToMyPC account has been deteriorating. Connections have been slow, interruptions have been frequent. Disconnections have been happening with shocking frequency. The problems were significant enough that I began testing other options. Microsoft Windows has its own resident remote desktop feature. I quickly eliminated it because it will not work with the multiple monitors I have on my office computer. Also, I wanted an app that was Mac friendly (rather than having to run it exclusively through the Parallels Windows virtualization software that I have on my Mac). I tried Splashtop. It was okay, but not great. The refresh rate lagged, and the screen resolution was fuzzy.

    Next I tried LogMeIn. I was familiar with the product, having used it on a trial basis when it first came out years ago. At that time it was inferior to GoToMyPC, so I moved away from it. My how it has improved. I gave it a hearty test drive this weekend. I appreciate the improved layout of the program. It connects fast. It runs fast and steady. It's smooth. The screen resolution is sharper than any of the competitors. It looks good. It has a multi-screen feature. For me it runs better than the other options I have tried, particularly on my Mac. The Pro version for two computers runs $149 per year. That price is nominal relative to the convenience and utility the service provides. I have made the switch to LogMeIn.

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

    #LogMeIn #Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers