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, January 29, 2009

More On Clio Practice Management

I am continuing with great interest to follow the evolution of the Clio web-based practice management application. More specifically, I am desperately looking for a replacement for Amicus Attorney, that means Clio gets my attention. Now I get more news that Clio may make my eventual choice. They have announced ClientConnect which is a secure web-based client portal, allowing Clio users to share information and collaborate with clients through an easy-to-use online interface.

But it doesn't stop there. ClientConnect also enables online bill-paying for the attorney’s clients. Attorneys simply send their clients a link to an outstanding invoice, and the client can easily pay the invoice via PayPal or other online payment systems.

From my TechnoLawyer.com newsfeed comes a fresh Clio press release about ClientConnect (I tried to find the actual press release on the Clio website without success, which I find odd?)

January 29, 2009 — Vancouver, BC — Continuing the momentum of their highly successful October 1st launch of Clio, a web-based practice management application for solo and small law firms, Themis Solutions Inc. announces launch of Clio ClientConnect, a secure web-based client portal, which will be introduced at New York LegalTech (February 2-4). Clio ClientConnect will be available free of charge to all Clio subscribers.

Clio ClientConnect works seamlessly as a value-added feature of the main Clio system. It allows Clio users to share information and collaborate with clients through an easy-to-use online interface. ClientConnect will also enable online bill-paying for the attorney's clients. Attorneys simply send their clients a link to an outstanding invoice, and the client can easily pay the invoice via PayPal or other online payment systems.

Highly secure, Clio ClientConnect is password-protected so only authorized parties, namely Clio users and their clients, can access sensitive client information. This means that, rather than managing large quantities of non-secure e-mail, lawyers can leverage Clio's bank-grade security technology to safely share information and collaborate on key aspects of a case.

CLIO CLIENTCONNECT HIGHLIGHTS

* Document Sharing and Collaboration with Clients: Clio ClientConnect allows attorneys to give clients password-protected access to documents, and to collaborate on revising documents. The following information can be shared using ClientConnect:
o At-a-glance information on a file/matter, including recent activity, outstanding balances, etc.
o Notes/Correspondence
o Documents, such as Word, Excel and PDF files
o Comments on Documents
o Bills/Invoices

* Online Bill Paying: Attorney can use the ClientConnect e-mail system to send clients links to outstanding invoices. Clients can then use online applications such as PayPal to remit payment.
* Rigid Security and Password Protection: ClientConnect is highly secure, incorporating leading edge security and encryption tools to protect communications and sensitive client information. Client documents and data are safely stored and accessed within ClientConnect's easy-to-use interface.
* A No-Charge, Value-Added Addition to Your Clio Subscription.

ABOUT CLIO

Clio, a comprehensive web-based practice management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering for lawyers, is specifically designed for solo practitioners and small law firms using PCs and Macs. It can be accessed from any Internet enabled computer and from mobile devices.

Secure and easy-to-use, Clio provides case/matter management, time tracking, billing/reporting, client contact and document management, task scheduling, trust accounting, and performance metrics for independent lawyers to benchmark their business goals.

SPECIFICATIONS AND PRICING

Clio and Clio ClientConnect are operating system-independent and can run on PC, Macintosh and Linux computers. Both systems support Internet Explorer 6.0 and 7.0, Mozilla Firefox 2.0 and 3.0, Safari 3.0 and Google Chrome.

Clio is affordably priced by monthly subscription, and ClientConnect access is included in Clio's subscription fee. Pricing is $49/month for lawyers and $25/month per support staff member. This cost includes all technical support, maintenance and upgrades.

Clio people be sure to let me know when you have e-mail integration and smartphone synchronization and I will be hard pressed to say no to at least the 30 day free trial.

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

More Lawyer Love For Adobe Acrobat!

Yes I do love the folks at Adobe. Why? Because they love lawyers. They even have a blog for us called Acrobat for Legal Professionals. They are also mind readers! Case in point: I have written of the value of tablet PCs. I have written of the value of Acrobat Professional. I have written of the value of an Acrobat plug-in called Auto-Ink so that you can use your tablet pen to make handwritten annotations in Acrobat on your tablet. Shazam! What does Adobe do? They publish an on-line instructional video (targeted directly at lawyers!) showing how to use Auto-Ink with Acrobat on your tablet pc!!!!

I have watched the video. I have learned from the video. THIS IS GREAT STUFF! Thank you Adobe. Here's my love right back at you! Click here so that you can watch the instructional video and feel the love.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Document Management Overview

Document Management is a unified system of managing the storage of digital media on a computer, network or web-portal. The system may be further broken down into 4 basic categories:

(a) Manual Management -allowing users to decide not only where documents will be stored, but what the document naming convention will be. In most circumstances, each user has a very loose and inconsistent method of naming and storing documents. Problems include:

i. The proverbial hodge-podge of document names and locations;

ii. Relying on staff to store documents logically without policy;

iii. Wasting a ton of time finding documents;

iv. Undeveloped scanning/imaging policy (or relying on the 'copy guy' to set your policy).

v. Emails are stored by manually storing emails by subfolders in individual Outlook data files on local computers

(b) Firm Enforced Protocols -a system where users are told where/how to store and name documents, but a policy that relies upon user compliance, whether voluntary or somewhat enforced. For example, the firm will teach a new employee to store a word document, as [\SERVER\DOCS\CLIENTNAME\MATTERNAME\YYYY-MM-DD-NAME.DOC]. But this, again, requires employee compliance. There is no guarantee that a rogue employee will not store version 4 of a complex contract on her C: drive in \MyDocuments. Other issues range from lost documents still wreak havoc on productivity time; and scanning/imaging policy under development or underdeveloped (possibly relying on the 'copy guy'). And, as with the situation, emails are stored by manually storing emails by subfolders in individual Outlook data files on local computers;

(c) Using non DMS software to function as DMS software. This is a hybrid between (a) and (b). Most case management systems have some cross reference system to where a document is stored. For example, both Amicus Attorney and Lexis Front Office/Time Matters feature COM ADD­IN buttons (tool bar buttons) in Word and Word Perfect that allow users to manually store and then cross reference the location of a document to its case management file.

(d) Using full DMS software. Firms that deploy and employ software to store documents away index every word of every document and retrieve the documents by easy search terms. Document Management software captures all the content associated with a file or matter for requirements such as improved regulatory compliance, enhanced knowledge sharing, and document retention policies (when to keep and when to discard a document). Most DMS systems feature secure content for better protection of confidential information, reduced unnecessary access to sensitive content, and increased control of core assets and expertise. In other words, software centralizes project/matter management for faster access for everyone who needs to view a document, spreadsheet, graphic image, email, presentation, etc whether on site or extremely remote. These firms generally embracing the technology available; properly integrate the technology with other 'sister' software packages; invest in proper training for staff; and they have or will develop a true and robust scanning and imaging policy.

Please click here the the entirety of a comprehensive analysis of document management from Law Practice Today.

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, January 21, 2009

Consider OpenOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office

I hate Microsoft! Its software sucks. It's expensive, it's buggy, its unreliable. Support? What support? Unfortunately the company is the 800 pound gorilla that I cannot escape from. Don't let yourself become an automatic victim There is a alternative. On his Futurelawyer blog Rick Georges reminds me of OpenOffice, a free suite of office productivity software that replaces Microsoft Office. Here's Rick's thoughts:
The Frugal Lawyer - OpenOffice Is a Microsoft Office Killer
Listen to this article.


New Features in OpenOffice.org 3.1, an Early Look - OpenOffice.org Ninja.

I have an old copy of Office XP, that came with a Dell computer I purchased years ago. I have been using OpenOffice, a free, open source Office clone, for several years. It has gotten better and better, as more in the open source community have used and improved it. The new Alpha version makes even more improvements; and, it deserves a download. While I still use WordPerfect for most law office functions, I must occasionally defer to those of you who are using Microsoft Office, and email documents in that format. Why are you, and your law firm, paying hundreds of dollars per seat in licensing fees to Microsoft? I have a feeling that the watchword in the next decade will be frugality. Whether you are frugal out of necessity or patriotic fervor, you owe it to yourself to take a hard look at open source software that gets the job done. OpenOffice is the place to start.
I should have remembered OpenOffice! I have it installed on my tablet (and I don't have Microsoft Office installed on my tablet.) It really is good software! And it is free! Now if I could only find a replacement for Outlook!

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

Clio Practice Management Software

I am always on the prowl for new software. During one of my frequent surfs around the internet I came across the website for Clio. Clio is practice management software. Think Amicus Attorney, Abacus, Needles, etc. What's different about it is the fact that it is web based. Rather than installing the software on your own computer(s), the program resides on Clio's company servers and you access it by logging on via the internet. Instead of buying the software you pay a monthly access fee. In theory this type of product has appeal for several reasons. First, you have access to the program from anywhere you have access to the internet. Second, in theory, you always have the latest, greatest version of the software because updates, patches, fixes are installed on the server side by the vendor. The down side would be the cost. $49 per user. In my office that would be $200 per month, $2400 per year, to utilize the software. At that price point it becomes roughly double the annual cost that I pay to be continually frustrated with Amicus Attorney. Another concern, what if the company goes out of business?

I took a look at the demo at www.goclio.com. Things look good, but the website doesn't really give a great look at the actual program. It appears that a sign-up for a free 30 day evaluation is required before you get a good look under the hood. However, as fate would have it, I recently engaged in an e-mail exchange with Jack Newton, one of the thinkers behind the Clio software. I asked him for insight regarding the product, and in particular how us family law lawyers would benefit. Below are Jack's thoughts:
In terms of features that would most strongly benefit a family lawyer, I think Clio's "go-anywhere accessibility" is a major boon to the typical family lawyer. Perhaps even more so than most lawyers, family lawyers have to access their practice information from a wide variety of locations, including their office, their home, one the road, maybe even their client's home. With Clio's web-based nature, getting to key matter and contact information can be done easily and securely anywhere there's an internet connection (or even from a mobile device, such as an iPhone).

We also have integrated document management, which we've received a lot of positive feedback on. This allows lawyers to attach documents (up to 50MB in size) to a matter, and access this document from anywhere they have access to Clio. The document management system also has an integrated versioning system, so keeping track of multiple document edits is easy.

The third thing we've done with Clio (which, admittedly, is important to all lawyers, not just family lawyers) is put a strong emphasis on security. We've posted a three-part blog series (Part I , Part II, Part III) outlining what we're doing on this front.
I am intrigued by Clio. A few questions come to mind as I measure this web based software. I will let Jack know of this blog post and perhaps he can provide answers in the form of comments?

First, how would I transfer, synchronize, move the megabytes/kilobytes of Amicus Attorney data to Clio?

Second, does the time and billing module of Clio include attorney-client trust fund management? I think it does, but wanted to make sure?

Third, will Clio work for a law firm with multiple lawyers, or is it designed more so for the solo?

Fourth, my office converts every document (letters, discovery, pleadings, etc.) to .pdf format. Is this paperless system fully available on Clio? The website only mentions "correspondence."

Fifth, does Clio have e-mail integration?

Sixth, does Clio synchronize with PDA, smartphones, etc.?

Seventh, is Themis Solutions, Inc. (the company behind Clio) going to be around for a while? Is it a sustained growth compay, or does the mission statement include a sell off/acquisition goal? In other words, the last thing I want to do is start writing another check to Lexis/Nexis for software I didn't originally buy from them....

You can take a good hard look at this intriguing product by visiting the Clio website at www.goclio.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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

LinkedIn for Lawyers 101

LinkedIn is presently the most popular networking site for professionals with over 30 million registered users spanning over 150 industries (in contrast to sites like Facebook, which are used more for social networking). As explained by Wikipedia, LinkedIn allows registered users to maintain a list of people they know and trust in business, called " first degree connections." Since, in most cases, you are able to see the "connections" of your connections (called "second degree" contacts), the site provides an opportunity to expand your network of professional contacts by requesting introductions to other users, inviting other users to become "first degree" connections, or contacting other users via LinkedIn's email system (called InMail).

As an example, there may be someone who attended the same college as you many years ago (let's call him "Jim"). You and Jim were quite close, but haven't spoken in years. One day, you notice that Jim is a "second degree" connection through one your first degree contacts. You also notice that Jim is now a partner at a major law firm. Since you're quite certain Jim will remember you from your college days, you can ask Jim directly to join your network in order to reconnect (you'd want to make sure to mention your common alma mater in your invitation to Jim).

But more than just networking, LinkedIn is about "getting things done," as explained in this entertaining video from CommonCraft. As an example, suppose you need to locate an advertising firm to design the creative for a campaign you've conceived. You can query your connections on LinkedIn, and will likely secure referrals to one or more advertising executives within your extended network who can meet your needs. At the same time, in addition to asking for assistance, professionals can provide assistance to other users by responding to questions, thereby highlighting their expertise. We'll further discuss these tools later in the post.

Given these benefits, LinkedIn is becoming increasingly popular among lawyers. According to one of the service's biggest fans, Kevin O'Keefe (a former trial lawyer and founder and president of LexBlog), it's actually more like an avalanche.

The remainder of this post after the jump summarizes the steps a lawyer should take to begin using LinkedIn effectively as a marketing and business development tool, and provides links to numerous online resources that attorneys will find helpful as they being their "LinkedIn" journey.

Please click here for the entirety of Steve Imparl's informative 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, January 19, 2009

Handwritten Notes with Adobe on My Tablet

I am still in love with my Fujitsu tablet convertible laptop! It goes to court with me. It goes to settlement meetings with me. It goes home with me so that I can telecommute. One of the coolest functions of the tablet is the ability to make handwritten notes. That great functionality goes even farther now! Evermap Software has released Autoink, a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat that brings all the pen system sets to life: handwriting recognition, inking, etc.

Great stuff. And at $69 this is a bargain (at least until Adobe gets around to adding this functionality as part of the core features of Acrobat). For those of you who follow this blog with any regularity you will remember that I was reviewing a product called Bluebeam PDF Revu. That software offered the same tablet functionality for pdf docs. I chose not to buy that product because it would have been a replacement for Acrobat. It would have worked just fine, and the $149 price point was reasonable. But I did not want to replace Acrobat. Autoink solves my dilemma.

I've tried Autoink. I love it. I'm buying it. Click here to visit the Autoink website.

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, January 16, 2009

What To Look For In A Professional, Trade, or Service Organization

From the ABA's Law Practice Management Section, Bob Weiss gives his thoughts on joining profession, trade, or service groups as a method of practice development.

After attending a meeting, if you can’t answer “yes” to at least eight of these questions, the group is not a good investment of your time.

1. Frequency – Does the group meet at least monthly?
2. Philosophy – Is your networking philosophy compatible with both the members and the organization’s?
3. Size – Is the group large enough, or sufficiently segmented, to offer a diverse base of contacts?
4. Prominence – Are the members prominent, can they influence others and become key contacts for you?
5. Redundancy – Is the group diverse enough so that the members lead you to different resources and other groups of contacts?
6. Dimension – Are the interests of the membership diversified? Can they offer information or access to resources you cannot otherwise obtain?
7. Accessibility – Are the members accessible outside of regular meetings once a relationship is built?
8. Reciprocity – Does the group understand the concept of interpersonal debt?
9. Compatibility – Do you and the members have a high degree of similarity, especially age, occupational prestige, socio-economic status?
10. Continuity – You will be investing your time over time to build key relationships. Is membership turnover low?
11. Structure – What types of leadership opportunities are available for you to build prominence within the group, such as serving on the board, on a working committee?
Please click here to view 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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Amicus Attorney Upgrade Info

Here's the latest info on my search for rational thought at Gavel & Gown Software, Inc., the publishers of Amicus Attorney software, and the company's policies and practices regarding maintenance and upgrades. As you will recall, on Monday of last week I was charged more than $500 to renew my annual maintenance contract. Then on Wednesday I learned that there is a 2009 update to the software. I contacted Gavel & Gown software, and was told it would cost me $901.20 to upgrade my 4 seat licenses. And by the way, that upgrade does not come with support! From past experience I can assure everyone out there that when you buy an upgrade from Gavel & Gown it just does not install problem free, and there are always several calls to technical support.

So, the bottom line is that what amounts to nothing more than an annual upgrade would cost me more than $1400. Basically ransom money -- buying the 2009 version to fix the bugs in the 2008 version and get some modest new features as a throw in. I'm not gonna do it. I'll live with the old bugs I have in the old version of Amicus Attorney, rather than pay thousands of dollars for the new problems.

Incidentally, regarding that $500 maintenance contract. It sucks! The last three times I have called technical support I have had to leave a message. Only one of the calls was returned. Somewhere around the beginning of last year G&G had launched a PR campaign proclaiming that they had resolved the long hold times, dropped calls, and failure to return call problems that were plaguing the technical support department. I believe the company even hired a new technical support manager. For a couple of months there was actual improvement. Now, unfortunately, I must report that the bad old days have returned, and G&G's technical support once again gets critical marks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Adobe Presenting Online Seminars To Lawyers

Adobe Corporation is continuing its drive to bring Acrobat into the law office with a series of online seminars for lawyers. Here's the details.


Acrobat 9 for Legal Professionals: Save Time, Meet Deadlines

January 15, 2009 -- Online - 1PM-2PM ET

Dive into Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Pro Extended software and learn how to share and manage your legal documents more securely. See how to create forms and PDF Portfolios and use legal specific features such as Bates Numbering and Redaction.



Legal Redaction and Metadata Removal using Adobe Acrobat 9

February 12, 2009 -- Online - 1PM-2PM ET

Ethics rules require law firms to zealously protect the confidentiality of client documents. Firms must guard against the accidental release of sensitive information in document metadata. In discovery, sensitive information must be securely and permanently removed via Redaction. Discover how to use Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro to ensure that your documents are safe to send or share.



Creating and Working with PDF Forms for the Legal Market

February 19, 2009 -- Online - 1PM-2PM ET

This educational eSeminar will illustrate best practices for creating and using PDF Forms in the legal market. Learn how to enhance legal workflows using Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Pro by creating forms that can be filled in using the free Adobe Reader.



Creating Electronic Closing Binders using Adobe Acrobat 9

February 26, 2009 -- Online - 1PM-2PM ET

Learn how to enhance legal workflows by using Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Pro software to efficiently distribute PDF closing binders to clients. This eSeminar will show you how easy it is to create and send a single PDF Portfolio containing many types of documents, add sortable information so clients can work with multiple documents as a set, and present a branded experience by including your firm’s logo and colors.


For more information, or to sign up, click 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, January 9, 2009

Concerns About Amicus Attorney Failing To Serve Its Customers

I run Amicus Attorney as my case management software. The product is put out by a Canadian company by the name of Gavel & Gown Software. We have had it in place for approximately ten years, and switching to another product isn't a practical option. Basically, our firm is a slave to the product. I like the software, but hate the company. Let me give you an example.

We run the Premium Edition (PE), which is there top of the line product. PE auto installs updates. Over the New Year break the program did an auto update. When our office re-opened on January 5th, Amicus Attorney would not run -- because of a flaw with the auto update. That meant we had to call technical support. We made the call, only to learn that our technical support contract expired on January 3. Interesting coincidence? I doubt it. So, we pay the $500+ to extend our service contract, and resolve the bug in the software. Frustrating.

Another example. The PE has a nice feature called the "mobile edition." This is an add-on. Basically it installs the program on my Window Mobile cell phone. Then I have light copy of the entire software on my phone. I can bill, attach calls to files, etc., all from my phone. Admittedly great stuff. I paid roughly $200 a month ago for the upgrade.

Today I get a sales e-mail from Gavel & Gown. They have released a 2009 version of PE. Don't know what it costs. But the sales materials would suggest that the mobile edition is now a free component. If it is I am pissed because the sales department should have told me to wait a month for the 2009 version. I am also frustrated by the possibility that the upgrade to the 2009 version may include technical support, which I just shelled $500 for earlier in the week. I have left a message for the sales department. Will let everyone know what I hear back.

Amicus Attorney is notorious for releasing product to market before it is ready. Several of us tech crazy family law lawyers have resorted to calling it Mini Microsoft. You can't live with it, but you can't live without it. This corporate model forces you to maintain expensive support, and leaves you wanting for the next version so you can get past the problems of your current software (think Vista!).

On the whole I like the product. Then again I don't have any other option. If you are considering practice/case management software into your practice, consider Amicus. But make sure you compare it to other products, and appreciate that it is buggy, and it is expensive to maintain. There is definitely a very high price($$$) beyond the money you are going to pay to buy the product.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Praise for Twitter

Larry Bodine predicts that Twitter will be the business development story of 2009. According to Bodine:
Attorneys are part of a massive increase in professionals using the website Twitter.com as a marketing tool, according to Lawyers USA. Twitter had 282,000 users at the end of 2007, but will boast over three million by the end of 2008, according to the third party site TwitDir.
He continues:
Twitter is valuable to legal professionals as it shows reaction with current trends, many of these posts are made from mobile handheld devices, so not having access to your desktop is no longer an excuse to blog. There has been a lot of reaction from lawyers on the global recession and how it has affected the legal world. It’s not all legal talk on twitter. It is not uncommon to see legal professionals tweet about their hobbies or funny family stories from the holidays.
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.

Twitter As A Brand Builder

From the Grow My Law Firm blog Christine Pilch writes:

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... your brand isn't your logo and stationery, although they are elements of it. Your brand is the feeling that people have when they see your logo, hear your name, or are reminded of your product or service in any way. Your brand is completely about the emotion evoked.

Twitter is one of the most powerful branding tools available these days. Are you building your brand on Twitter? Is it possible to build a brand in 140 character bursts?

Case in point: Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh is on Twitter. Now let's face facts, the man sells shoes. What's so exciting about that? He tweets about his day. He tweets about meetings he has. He tweets when he is interviewed by the press. He tweets about making green tea, and what he had for dinner. He tweets when he sees a movie. What's so exciting about that? Individually, maybe nothing, but all together, they gave his followers...all 27,615 (as of now) of them, insight into Tony, the person.

I'm one of those followers, and when I read regular stuff about a regular guy who is excited about Christmas and spending time with friends, I think, "He's okay." Then I read the impressive stuff that he's doing with is company, and I am inclined to check out his website and maybe do a little shopping.
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.

How About Hiring A Marketing Expert?

Carolyn Elefant provides some great insight regarding marketing consultant in a recent post on the Nolo's Legal Marketing Blog. Do you know what a consultant costs? How do you pick the right consultant? What will a consultant do? Carolyn answers these questions and many more. Please click here to read the entire post.

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