Friday, December 19, 2008

Digital Signatures With Adobe Acrobat

I frequently transmit letters and documents in electronic form as .pdf attachments to e-mail and as fax transmissions straight from my computer (rather than scanning into a fax machine and then transmitting). During this process I utilize Adobe Acrobat and its digital signature tool. What I end up with is my name in big letters, and the a bunch of date, time, official business stuff in little small type automatically inserted by Acrobat. This certainly works to authenticate my signature, but it isn't very personal.

To the rescue comes New Orleans attorney Ernie Svenson. Ernie has posted a great article on personalization of digital signatures with Acrobat. In his article Ernie teaches us to take a digital signature like this:


And he turns it into a signature that looks like this!:



For step by step instructions click here to read the entire article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Going On and Offline in Amicus Small Firm Edition

If you are a laptop user that has Amicus Attorney Small Firm Edition, V, or V+, you can take your Amicus with you when you leave the office. While you are at your office, you can go to Office –> Go Offline. You will have the option of copying your document templates down for use. If you do not use Office –> Go Offline and bring your laptop away from the office, you will still be offline. Click here for the entirety of Craig Bayer's article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blogs, LinkedIn, & Twitter. The Holy Trinity of Online Marketing.

Kevin O'Keefe is one of the pioneers of internet marketing by lawyers. His Prarielaw was one of the first interactive portals for lawyers and legal consumers (and yes, I was there on the electronic prarie interacting). Kevin was also one of the first folks to extol the virtues of blogging as a marketing tool for lawyers. Now, he is in love with Twitter.

In a recent post on his Real Lawyers Have Blogs blog Kevin writes about blogs, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Kevin on blogs:
Blogs? Got to have one. How else can you develop a central place where clients, prospective clients, and the influencers (bloggers, media, and social media hounds) pick up on your passion, philosophy, reasoning, and skill? How do you get seen when people search for info? You think I'm picking a pig in the poke by reading a lawyer profile on a website or Martindale? That's nuts.

Kevin on Twitter:
Twitter? Single biggest learning, brand building, network expanding, and reputation enhancing tool for me this year. Twitter's influence is what took me off this blog so much in the last couple months. Twitter is no longer an experiment for me. . . I'd rather go without my cell phone for a week than Twitter.

Kevin on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn? LinkedIn has won the professional social networking/directory space. The race is over. I get invites from professionals inviting me to join their network elsewhere. Other than LinkedIn and Facebook I ignore them.
This guy makes his living from online marketing. He lives and breaths the stuff. If you are A family law lawyer looking to build your practice, and yet you are having trouble drinking the internet marketing Kool Aid, Kevin's article will give you compelling reasons to climb on board. Please click here to read the entire article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Blog Review: Chuck Newton's Third Wave Lawyer

I just came across a very intriguing blog targeted at technology thoughts for solo lawyers, telecommuters, etc. Chuck Newton's Third Wave Lawyer has some great articles on technology, blogging, marketing, and on and on. I particularly like his "carpet commute" ideas. Where else are you going to get musings on Alvin Toffler, new apostolic reformation, ice cream, and texting. Good stuff. Give a visit by clicking here.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hey You! Lawyer! You Need Adobe Acrobat!

I am a huge fan of Adobe Acrobat. It is the critical software in our paperless office. With the release of Version 9 Adobe has given us an epic product. This industry standard enables me to convert all communications (letters, pleadings, e-mails, and on, and on....) into one stable, universal format. Every piece of paper that comes in or goes out of my office is converted to a pdf, and stored in the electronic file for the related case. This process makes it less necessary (English majors don't attack me!) to walk down the hall to the file room to grab the paper file. With a simple mouse click any and all docs are visible right on my computer monitor. This electronic availability also allows me access to my work when I am at my desk, and when I am away from it. I can drag and drop a matter to my laptop and take it with me, or I can log into the office via remote computing technology and have access to all my files.

In our effort to "go green," we have adopted a policy of not even printing out a paper copy of the correspondence that we transmit to our clients. I write a letter, mail a hard copy to the client, and make a pdf copy for our records. I can foresee a time when I may expand the scope of this policy to include all correspondence (practically speaking there will always be a need to keep hard copies of pleadings and discovery).

But there is more to Acrobat. With its built in Bates numbering tool the software quickly and easily affixes sequential numbering to anything. Imagine the old days when you literally stamped for hours to index a thousand pages of discovery documents. That same task is now completed in seconds with Acrobat. The program also has an easy to use redaction tool. The program can search out particular words, phrases, numbers, in a document and then black them out. Or, you can manually go through a document on your screen, highlight content, and black it out. This is a great tool for redacting social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc.

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, Adobe has identified lawyers as a target market for Acrobat. As such, the company is adding features that lawyers want and use. Adobe likes us, and listens to us! The company also has a blog called Acrobat for Legal Professionals that includes a series of training videos created for lawyers.

There are lots of programs on the market that can convert stuff into pdf format. However, for ease of use, robustness, and scope of features, I have not come across anything that matches the superlative Acrobat. There are three versions: Pro Extended, Pro, and Standard. Standard lacks some of the features that will be widely used in a law office, and the Pro Extended version may be more than most of us need? I would suggest the Pro version as the best investment. Yes, the program is expensive (street price of $175.00 at nextag.com; $239.99 at baselinesoftware.com; $429.99 at amazon.com), but worth the investment.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Amicus Mobile

For years and years I have utilized Amicus Attorney as the practice management software in my office. It has often been a love-hate relationship. Gavel & Gown Software, the makers of the product, have long been on the cutting edge. However, in my opinion, they rush releases to market prematurely, and leave their customers to suffer with mountains of bugs and deficits with each new release. Their technical support has also been loathsome. There was an uptick of improvement for a short while last year. However, there seems to be a return of late of the long wait times and annoying process of answering the call just to explain that a call back will be required.

That having been said, I still stick with AA. I have recently implemented Gavel and Gown's Amicus Mobile add-on, and loe and behold I only have good things to say about it. Amicus Mobile is a minature version of the AA product that you install on your smart phone. At this point in time it is only available for the Windows Mobile platform, but there is a rumor that there will be a Blackberry version soon. The product turns your phone into a condensed version of the Amicus Attorney installed on your desktop computer, and it allows for real-time connection to the Amicus server at your office.

So far the application is actually working as promised! If it keeps performing as promised, my efficiency as a raod warrior will go way up. I will be better able to bills for client calls and e-mails completed on my cell phone; and will will have real time case and calendar information at my fingertips.

For example, here's the Amicus blurb on the phone call function:



I'll keep playing with it and report my findings. In the mean time you can get more info by visiting the Amicus web page.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Paperless Office Podcast

Lee Rosen is a North Carolina family law lawyer. He is also a nationally recognized innovator when it comes to family law practice management and marketing. Lee has created a podcast detailing how his office has gone paperless. Instead of reinventing the wheel, let Lee lay your foundation for you. Sit back, listen, and learn from Lee's podcast and presented on his Divorce Discourse blog. Click here for more.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Marketing Your Family Law Practice

Grant Griffiths runs a neat little blog called "blog for profit." Today he features a great article entitled Marketing a Professional Service Firm. Written by guest contributor Mark Merenda, it includes basic concepts that we may tend to overlook. For example:
1. Invest in a great image.

Most of your prospective clients are not qualified to judge what you do or how good at it you might be. They don’t have X-ray vision, and will have to judge by other things. Appearances will play a huge role in that. Don’t fight this phenomenon (“What should matter is what a good attorney I am!”) — accept it. Think about the role of appearances in buying a car, or choosing a mate. Pretty important, right? Your business card, your website, your brochure, your suit all send messages about who you are. When a product is invisible (like a professional service), in the eyes of the consumer, the package becomes the product. I am not saying that it isn’t important that you be a good attorney/accountant/financial advisor/whatever. I am saying that it is very important that you look as good as you are.

2. Show up

Woody Allen said 80 percent of success in life is showing up. Your would-be clients are not hanging around in your reception area. They are out there. When people buy professional services, they buy the person providing the service. They don’t the ACME law firm. They buy Jim, the lawyer. In marketing lingo, this is called a “relationship buy.” And the biggest obstacle in any relationship is the first one: I don’t know you. That’s why seminars, speaking opportunities, and networking events are so important. Most people do not consider themselves qualified to judge your abilities as a professional. But everyone considers him- or herself eminently qualified to judge who they like and trust.

3. Build your referral network.

Referred business is the best business. It comes in the door pre-sold with third-party credibility. It has a very low acquisition cost, and psychologically, it’s so much more satisfying to be sought out, than to have to pitch yourself. Also, each professional referral source can send you not one client, but many clients, and not just this year, but for many years. Building a strong referral network can take enormous pressure off your marketing.

The problem is that most professionals build their referral network by happenstance: “I happened to meet this guy down at the courthouse, we happened to have a drink together, now he sends me a client every now and then.”
That’s not the way to go about it. The right way is systematically and continuously.
There are four steps: Define the target universe (who can send me business?); identify the members of the target universe (get a list.); initiate the relationship (break the ice); drip (periodically, everyone in your universe gets something from you).

4. Get all over this Internet thing.

It is difficult to overstate the importance or influence of the Internet revolution. Many scientists believe it to be the fourth most important development in human communication (first being the development of spoken language; second being the development of the alphabet and written language; and third being the invention of the printing press).

That means you must participate in this phenomenon, or be left behind. Recognize that this presents you with a wonderful opportunity to level the playing field with big firms.
What to do?

Have a great website with lots of good content. Write a blog. (Some experts believe there is no need for a “static” website, if you have a good blog.) Practice good search engine optimization. Have a conversion strategy. Try new things like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Read and comment on the blogs of others. Create value and be willing to share.
Please click here to take a look at the entire article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chicken Soup for Divorce

The folks behind the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul book franchise are offering their tips for families of divorce. The publishers contacted me recently to explain their new book. Here is what they had to say:

Attitudes about divorce have changed as it has become more common in our culture: 40 to 50 percent of first marriages today will end in divorce, and about 10 percent of adults are currently divorced and single, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From divorce parties, to post-breakup getaway packages, to custom-made divorce cakes, filling the needs of divorcees celebrating their split has become a booming cottage industry. But while many modern singles may feel relieved following the dissolution of their marriage, divorce remains a painful, shocking experience for millions of Americans, who still believe in the words "'til death do us part."

Recently divorced from her husband of 27 years, Chicken Soup for the Soul® co-founder Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen knows all too well the life-changing effects of divorce. As editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery (Chicken Soup for the Soul, October 2008, 978-1-935096-21-4, $14.95), Hansen shares her personal story, along with tales of others who have divorced and emerged stronger, healthier and even happier.

"[My ex-husband] and I still love each other, but it has morphed into something other than a husband/wife kind of love," Patty writes in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery. "We share a history and our children, so we will always be connected in a way. I admire his energy and his dedication to making the world a better place. I know [he] cares for me -- after all, I am the mother of his children and someone that he can depend on if he needs me. We just don't belong together anymore."

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery shares stories of real men and women who each experienced their own, unique version of divorce. Like the Hansens, some found a way to remain friends with former spouses, while others were able to finally find their true selves in single life.
"Through my divorce, I learned to become the person I was meant to be," writes contributor Catherine Graham. "I went on a journey, deep into my soul and met the me who I had left behind so many years ago. I realized I am beautiful, capable of love and of giving love in effortless amounts."

In Divorce and Recovery, you'll read about:

• How author Marcy Darin and her ex-husband decided to switch residences twice a month, rather than shuttling their children back and forth
• Author Laurie Perry's "Cheat Sheet of Grief" for helping a loved one in a dark, post-divorce period
• How author Steve Hern and his wife remained committed to each other's happiness, even after their marriage had ended
• How author Melinda L. Wentzel learned to trust again after divorce, and find love again

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Patty Hansen) released October 7, 2008. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, publishes all the latest titles in the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series which are distributed through Simon and Schuster, Inc. Since 1993, books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series have sold over 112 million copies, with titles translated into over 40 languages. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing also licenses the right to use its famous trademark to high quality licensees through IMG, the world's premier licensing agent. The company is currently implementing a plan to expand into all media, is working with TV networks on several TV shows and is developing a major Internet presence dedicated to life improvement, emotional support and inspiration. In 2007, USA Today named Chicken Soup for the Soul one of the five most memorable and impactful books in the last quarter century. For more information visit: www.chickensoup.com.


Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Acrobat Training Videos Available Online

Adobe Acrobat is a wonderful product for lawyers, and getting better all the time thanks to the fact that Adobe has identified the legal profession as a target market. In our office we have moved heavily toward the idea of the paperless office, and Acrobat is the critical component of the plan. All documents in and out of our office are converted using Acrobat into .pdf format and then saved electronically. We also used Acrobat to apply "bates" numbers to documents, and to create settlement packages, and other documents combining text and graphics.

The Adobe Corporation has created a blog entitled "Acrobat for Legal Professionals." It is chock full of tips and tricks, including a series of self-help training videos that I am frequently viewing. You can check them out too, by clicking here.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tech Is Gonna Help You to Know Your Judge

To this day -- 30 years later -- I remember a story my law school civil procedure professor told us about his first attorney job. 20 years...