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!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Solid Portable Printer

I practice out of more than one office.  My home base is in Pleasanton.  My satellite office is in Walnut Creek.  Our Walnut Creek office is within a Pacific Workplaces executive suite. I pay a small monthly fee then I rent a day office by the hour whenever I need it.  It is an affordable alternative to renting full-time space that would only get used a few hours a month.

The day office that I use is clean, nicely furnished, and big enough to not be embarrassing.  However, it is spartan. Simple furniture and a phone. I move in by bringing my laptop so that I can log in remotely to the Pleasanton office.  If any particular meeting is going to require the signing of documents I try to have them done well in advance.

Pacific Workplaces offers an industrial size copier/printer that I can connect my computer to.  Given that the machine is in a different area of the floor that is not always convenient. Instead I bring my own 3-in-1 machine with me, and set it up on  the credenza in the day office.

I recently got to go shopping for a new mobile printer, and found one that I am pretty happy with. The HP OfficeJet 150 is a color printer, scanner, and copy machine.

The best thing about it is its smallish size. At 14 inches by 7 inches by 4 inches it really isn't much bigger than a loaf of bread so it is easy to throw into a brief bag. The 150 has made my office portable. I could see having it with me as part of my trial kit, using it at depos, and at other off-site events. It has a battery (should I ever find myself without a plug). It has Bluetooth wireless. The 150 is a portable printer.

cnet.com


It allows you to scan to your PC, a memory stick, or a memory card. With a 50 page paper tray I have yet to run out of paper. It is an ink jet, but that is not a problem for me.  The print (black and white and color) is crisp and vivid.You may have to shop around a bit but you can find an internet price hovering around $250. That makes the 150 kind of affordable, and a fair enough price for what you get.

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

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Pebble Smartwatch Out

The new Pebble Time lineup
Pebble is one of the pioneers of the smartwatch world, having launched its first product in 2012. The latest offering from Pebble, the Pebble Time is out. It has some nice new features as the startup gears up for its impending battle with Apple.

The PT will have a color screen (a first for Pebble). The watch will be 20% thinner than Pebble's first model, and the PT will also claim a 7 day battery life. It will have a microphone for voice replies and notes. It will be compatible with the more than 6000 Pebble apps out there.

Here is what is interesting, the first release of the new PT is via a Kickstarter campaign. For $159 you can be one of the first to get a PT on your wrist when they start shipping in May. Click here for more info.

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

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Client Portals

We went paperless at our law firm years ago. With the passing of those years email has become the communications channel of choice for our firm and our clients. When a piece of paper comes in on a case it is scanned into an electronic file cabinet and a pdf copy is mailed to the client. Same thing for paper we generate. Scanned into an electronic file cabinet, and a copy emailed to the client.

A divorce case can generate a lot of paper. Keeping all of that paper organized is not a skill that many clients have or want. We repeatedly get requests from clients that we send them second and third copies of their documents. When we meet with clients the files that they bring with them to the meetings . . . well . . . let's just say some are more organized then others.

That got me thinking, how could I make all that paper handling easier for our clients? The answer was pretty simple: a secure online file cabinet for each client's matter, that the client could log into to view and download copies of all of the pleadings, discovery docs, correspondence, and records for their case. I cannot claim credit for the original idea in this regard. Client portals have been around for years. They just haven't been practical for small law firms to set-up. Fortunately, and as with all things tech driven, that has changed. Dropbox, Box, SugarSynch, iCloud, Google Synch have all transformed the way stuff can be stored online. These online storage services have for a while now been making it easy for you and me to save our stuff online. The client portal that I am writing about here is more than just an individual Dropbox account. I wanted something that could be personalized for each one of my clients, and something that each one of those clients could take ownership of.

A couple of days of pleasant online research empowered me with the knowledge that there are an abundance of providers delivering limitless storage capacity for a system like the one I was envisioning. I settled on ShareFile from Citrix (a preferred vendor of ours thanks to their great GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting products). Impressed by the friendly sales and support personnel, the extensive video training and documentation on their website, and the comfort that I had with the system when reviewing it, I made the jump.

So far so good.  I paid the $1200 for an annual plan and set things up. First, with ShareFile's help, we created a main law firm site. A nice little extra touch from ShareFile, when they set up our site they even personalized it with our law firm logo. Then we slowly began rolling out individual boxes for each of our cases (indexed by the last name, and then first name of the client). We call each of these boxes file cabinets. We created a default template that is inserted into each new case's file cabinet. The sub-folders for that template include pleadings, discovery, client communications, correspondence, recordsuploads from client folder (so that clients can deliver stuff to us) and a few others.

We are rolling it out slowly. As a new case comes in we set up the file cabinet for that client. Then we start uploading pdf docs into each specific sub-folder within the file cabinet. The client receives an email from us with instructions on how the system works, and with a temporary password. The client then logs into the system, creates a permanent password, and begins accessing his or her stuff in his or her file cabinet. This client portal process does add a couple of extra steps to our usual scanning and indexing of stuff, but not a real bother.

The response from our clients has been overwhelmingly fantastic. Every single client loves it.!Their file cabinet keeps things organized for them. The docs are available 24/7. The clients can download the docs to their computers, or print out paper copies. If they have stacks of documents and records that they need to send to us, they can scan them at home, upload them to their file cabinet, and not have any size limitations that they might run into when trying to transmit via email. When we upload a doc to a client's file cabinet the client gets an email letting them know. When the client downloads that doc we get an email letting us know. Really cool. And it is not just pdf files that can be saved. Any file type is doable. Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Pages docs, Numbers spreadsheets, PowerPoints, Keynotes, these client portals (be it ShareFile, or Box, or Dropbox, etc., etc.) are compatible with all of them.

These client portals are web based, so they are accessible wherever you have internet access and a browser, Citrix is a big company and so far we have not suffered from any down time at its end. Another nice feature for us is the ShareFile app. This password protected app allows us and our clients to log into the system remotely with our smartphones and tablets. These features enhance the mobility of our practice and facilitate my obsession with practicing law remotely. Of course all of the cloud storage vendors have similar apps.

$1200 may sound like a lot, until you think about it. We get unlimited boxes/file cabinets and unlimited storage. UNLIMITED. From now until forever everyone of our cases will have its own online file cabinet that will never fill up! And the price is only going to come down with time. Combine that with how thrilled our clients are with it and it is money well spent.

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tablet Sales Waaayyyy Down

As reported by USA Today tablet sales are way down, including the iPad.  According to the report: "Fourth quarter and year end tablet shipment figures . . . show that growth has nearly evaporated for the iPad, the iPad mini, and competing Samsung and others."

Let me say that I have always been a huge fan of the tablet platform. I was carrying a Motion Computing slate computer  (as they were called then) more than a decade ago. I have been singing the praises of tablets, and especially the iPad, for years. I still use my iPad frequently. However, I understand why sales are down. My iPad has never fully replaced my Mac Book Pro as my go to road warrior machine.  And now that I have an iPhone 6 Plus I can do everything on my phone that I can do on my iPad. Those are the same causes for the downturn highlighted in the USA Today article.

Are tablets going to disappear anytime soon?  I don't think so. Sales are flat but not gone. And there are millions of units out there. Apps will still proliferate, they are simply going to be written cross-platform for smartphones and tablets.

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

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

EMail Hosting

Email is vital to today's law practice. It has become the default channel for lawyer to client communications, lawyer to lawyer communications, and even lawyer to court clerk communications. You simply have to have email in your practice if you want to survive. That necessity being a fact, as our own law practice managers we must have some basic email IT knowledge.

If you are a smallish shop (i.e., a sole proprietorship) you can get away with the one email box that you have in life with @aol.com (yes they still exist), or @comcast.net, or @yahoo.com. As your practice grows and becomes more sophisticated you are probably going to want to get away from those fun addresses and get a more sophisticated and professional email address (like jharding@hardinglaw.com).

That means you are going to have to create a domain name. This is easily done, and usually a part of the backbone for even the most rudimentary of websites. You go to Domain.com or Go Daddy or any of the other innumerable domain name services, pay your $5 and get a domain. As part of the package that those companies provide you can also get them to host your email.

The road maps and traffic controllers of the internet need to know where to zap emails that are addressed to you. That is where email hosting comes in. Those emails addressed to you are received by the servers of your email hosting company. You then set up your Outlook, or Yahoo, or Airmail, or any other email program or app to send and receive emails through that host. Just like your website lives on a server somewhere out there, so to do your emails.

Another nice option provided by some email hosting services is spam filtering. These hosts maintain sophisticated algorithms on their servers that scrub your incoming emails, reroute ads to your spam folder, and send the legit stuff on to you.

For years we had been using Fusemail as our email host, and paying $30 a month for the privilege. With the passage of time a few new developments came along. Fusemail grew, and got sloppy.  If its service went down we could not send and receive emails.  That's a BIG problem  More and more their service did go down, handicapping us!  Along with the reliability of the service going down, the wait times for technical support went way up. Another problem.  Also competition in the market place was bringing competitor's prices way down.

Last week we moved our email host to Rackspace.  Love the technical support. Short waits times and very friendly. They have a track record of close to 100% up time. And we are paying less than $10 per month total for all of our mailboxes at the firm. That is a 66% savings! Yippee! Free market economics win again.

Don't be afraid to grow your technology. Most of the companies want your money, and are willing to work for it. Most email hosts strive for 100% up time, and are happy to patiently teach you how things works and how you set it up. Go for it. Look like a big shot and lost the AOL address.

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

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

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Microsoft About To Launch Law Practice Management Sfotware

Leave it to Robert Ambrogi to break another big legal technology story. Microsoft is going to launch its own law practice management software.  Over at his Law Sites blog Robert details Matter Center for Office 365.  Microsoft describes the program as an intuitive document management and collaboration solution accessible from any device at any time, all delivered in a secure and easy-to-manage package. Lawyers will be able to organize files by client and matter, review documents, and find information when needed without ever leaving Microsoft Word or Outlook. 


Looks like the the target date for the release is April, 2015. Want to learn more, click here for Robert's post.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waiting On My iPhone 6 Plus

My iPhone 5s works just fine. In fact it works better than fine. The problem is my eyes. As I foray into middleagedom I find the need for the Costco cheater glasses to be going way up. Even with the stylish magnifiers resting on my nose though, it is getting harder and harder to read the screen on my phone.

No problem. There is a solution. The iPhone 6 Plus! I decided to go for it. Since I was making a big life change I figured I would go all in and dump my AT&T data limits plan and switch to an unlimited data plan from TMobile.

I went to the TMobile website. Placed the order. And now I am waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  10 WEEKS AND COUNTING, and still no phone. How can this be? Three months to get a cell phone. Sure I appreciate that the 6 Plus is in high demand. I also understand that the full blast 128 memory version is also in short supply. But give me a break! Apparently I am going to be opening the box for my 6+ about the same time that Apple announces the iPhone 10!

Hey Tim Cook did you stop making the maxi 6+ all together? And John Legere is this the new business plan for TMobile USA? Get the order and then just forget about it? Yet again I thought I had justification for new found hope in the cell phone industry, and yet again I get kicked by the horse. So much for salvation...

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

#Apple #TMobile #iPhone6Plus #Harding&AssociatesFamilyLaw #californiafamilylaw #divorce #family law #superlawyers #americanacademyofmatrimoniallawyers #Pleasantondivorce #AlamedaCountyDivorce #ContraCostaCountyDivorce #lawyers