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, October 29, 2009

Check Out Evernote

Evernote is a neat little application that I run on my Blackberry and my desktop PC. On the Blackberry it allows me to type notes, and then synch them with the application on my PC. Handy for jotting down new hearing dates when I get them in court, brainstorms, etc., etc. Erik Mazzone likes Evernote too. Here is an article he wrote about it in Law Practice Today.
I am not, by nature, an organized person. I am in a constant battle against entropy over all of the bits of information (particularly digital information) that comprise my work life. Over the past year or so I have recruited a new ally in my war against chaos and disorganization: Evernote.

Evernote is a note-taking software program. For those of you who came of age in the '70s and '80s as I did, think of it as a Trapper Keeper binder for your digital world. You can stick all kinds of information in Evernote: emails, pdfs, word processing documents and spreadsheets, digital photos, even Twitter messages. The ability to store lots of different file types in one application means that users can organize by subject without having to remember that Word documents are stored in MyDocuments, bookmarks are stored in a web browser, photos are stored in MyPictures, etc.

Evernote has three different incarnations: it can be downloaded as a desktop application to either Mac or PC; it can be downloaded as a mobile application on a Palm Pre, Blackberry or Windows Mobile Device -- and yes, of course there is an iPhone app for it; and it lives on the web as a software-as-a-service application.

Evernote is a "freemium" service; it is available as free, but many of its best features are only available with the paid version. As of May 2009, of the more than one million registered Evernote users, around fourteen thousand pay for the premium service.

The basic organizational unit of Evernote is a Notebook. Users can create as many Notebooks as they need to organize their information. When you add data to a Notebook, the data gets stored as a Note. Each note can be further organized using Labels. There is no folder structure in Evernote, so it is a bit of an adjustment (at least it was for me) to start thinking in terms of Labels instead of folders. There is also an excellent search function in Evernote to quickly locate Notes.

Getting data into Evernote is a snap. In its simplest form, a Note can be text document that you type directly into Evernote; the interface is bare bones and similar Notepad on PCs. The terminology evokes the apt metaphor of writing notes on loose leaf paper in a notebook.

Beyond typing directly into Evernote, users can also add data in several handy ways:

1) Email: each user receives an email address and can email information directly into Evernote.

2) Clip from the Web: Evernote also features a web clipper "bookmarklet" (available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome) that allows users to save a webpage directly into Evernote with a couple of clicks. Firefox has an Evernote browser extension that allows greater customization of the content to be clipped from a web page.

3) Drag and Drop: PDFs, Word and Excel documents can be dragged and dropped into the desktop as easily as they can be moved from folder to folder in Windows or OSX.

4) Scan: some scanners, such as the highly praised Fujitsu ScanSnap, can be set up to scan directly into Evernote. Setting the scanner to OCR incoming documents combined with Evernote's internal text recognition makes Notes easy to find.

5) Twitter: by following @myEN on Twitter and connecting it to your personal Evernote account, users can easily move content from Twitter into Evernote for reference, either through public tweets or private direct messages.

One of my favorite features of Evernote is its ability to sync across multiple machines and platforms. I use a PC at work and a MacBook at home. Evernote works equally well on both operating systems, keeps my information flawlessly synced between machines and backs up my data to the web.

Both the free and premium versions of Evernote synchronize across platforms and provide text recognition within the notes. Users of the premium version ($45 per year) also get a larger monthly upload allowance (500MB vs 40MB -- this applies to new data added to Evernote each month) to the Evernote web platform, the ability to text search within PDFs, SSL encryption, and no promotions or advertising. For lawyers who bristle at the idea of storing any data on servers not in their own office, Evernote does permit Notebooks to be designated as local rather than synchronized, though that diminishes some of the functionality.

So, what are some of the uses for Evernote? Personally, I use Evernote in a few different ways:

1) Projects: I create a Notebook for each of my projects and store all of the relevant support material in it, including emails, documents, PDFs and web clippings.

2) Article Archive: any time I come across an article or blog post I want to remember, I clip it into Evernote and Label it accordingly.

3) Medical Records: I scan and store all of my medical and dental paperwork into one Notebook.

4) Business Cards: I scan and store all of the business cards I receive into a Notebook; since the PDFs are text searchable I can search for a given name or firm, and also see the notes I write on the back of the card.

5) Travel Ideas: I clip articles, photos and ideas for future trips and into a travel Notebook; when I actually prepare to take a trip I create another Notebook to store my plane and hotel confirmation as well as any other data I will need while traveling.

I assume you already have a practice management software program in your office to manage all of the client and matter specific information - if you don't, do that first. Evernote is not a replacement for practice management software. It does, however, offer a solution for all of the information that is not related to particular clients and matters. Legal research, a document repository, articles that you've read online and want to keep - Evernote offers a place to store them all in one system.

Evernote does have some limitations: certain web pages (particularly if a user clips an entire page as opposed to an article) don't format nicely in Evernote. While it is convenient to store all of one's information in Evernote, Word and Excel documents are not as accessible as if they were stored in a MyDocuments folder (it requires several more clicks to launch a document).

All things considered, though, Evernote offers a great solution to help lawyers manage information and stay organized.
Please click here to read the original 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.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The art of a respectful social media connection request

9-23-09connections

When you send someone an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook and they think, "Who is this person?" you may be shooting yourself in the foot and missing out on connecting with a great resource. Some people have very loose connection standards, but many people are more careful about who they connect to. If you want people to be more receptive to connecting with you, be sure to give them a reason.

Let's start with LinkedIn. No matter how well you know someone, it's impersonal to just use the stock invitation, "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." Adding a bit of personalization is always a classy touch. Even something as simple as, "It was fun running into you this morning. Let's connect here," shows that you're thinking of them as a person rather than just as a connection.

Personalization is especially important if the person doesn't know you. It's a good idea to let that person know why you want to connect with them. "Hi, Joe. We both belong to the Social Media Mavens group, and I liked your response to... I've been reading your blog, and I like... I'd like to connect with you here now. You never know when our connection might become useful."

Few people would receive the preceding request and not accept. You have stated how that person came onto your radar, expressed interest in their work, and gave them a reason to connect with you.

On the other hand, if you receive a LinkedIn connection request from a stranger, you don't have to just archive it or accept it blindly. You might want to message the person something simple like, "I received your connection request, but please forgive my faded memory. I can't remember how we know each other." This provides the person with an opportunity to clarify the connection request. You can then accept or archive the request with better judgment.

It's also a good idea to handle Facebook friend requests similarly. Since Facebook is a "finding ground" for old friends and acquaintances, it's especially important to remind your new/old friend of your connection. Even something as simple as this works, "Hi, Lisa. Remember me from _____ High School? We were in Algebra 2 together. I'd love to reconnect and know what you're up to these days."

Facebook makes it more difficult to clarify a connection request from a supposed stranger however, because by messaging someone, you allow them access to some of your personal profile information for 30-days. That may make you uncomfortable enough to just ignore the friend request. On the bright side though, once you ignore a friend request, that person has the opportunity to send a new friend request, and perhaps this time, they'll send you a message to let you know who they are and why they want to connect.

Not everybody remembers everyone they ever encountered, so if you want the best possible chance of having your social media connection request accepted, make sure you refresh one's memory or give them a reason to get to know you now.


by: Christine Pilch
Christine@GrowMyCo.com
My LinkedIn Profile
On Twitter
On Facebook

Please click here for the original 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, October 21, 2009

There is No Shame in Being a Wealthy Lawyer

David Lorenzo had lots of good stuff on his Rainmaker Lawyer blog. Recently he posted his intriguing thoughts on thinking and growing rich. I like what he has to say.
Some lawyers don’t want to be wealthy. You read that correctly. They want to make enough money to be comfortable and they have no desire to grow their practice beyond that point.

That’s fine if the attorney really feels that way.

There is a disturbing trend in the United States today and I am seeing it more and more among lawyers. This trend is the disdain being expressed for wealthy people.

I’m not talking about an endorsement of redistribution of wealth and I’m not talking about forcing the rich to pay more in taxes. This is something much more sinister and debilitating. This is a mindset that will keep YOU from achieving financial success.

Why is this mindset dangerous?

Our subconscious minds control a good portion of our activity. If you actually HATE wealthy people you can rest assured you will never be like them. Your subconscious mind will reject everything about them – including money.

Every time you make a little more than your subconscious thinks is appropriate, your behavior will change to help you meet your lowered expectations. You will procrastinate. You’ll refuse to delegate. You’ll abandon your strategic plan in favor of the latest fad.

Sometimes your subconscious goes overboard. You shut down all productive business development activity when you hit the point your psyche has set for financial success. If you’ve ever had a month where you didn’t sign up a new client you understand what I mean.

What causes this?

There are three things that cause attorneys to behave this way:

Misplaced Ideology

In legal circles there are folks who do not view a law firm as a business. They view it as a semi-public service in which an attorney is allowed to make a comfortable living but he is looked down upon if he takes aggressive action to grow his practice and become a BIG LAW firm. In these circles, big is synonymous with bad. Like the Big Bad Wolf.

Once a sole practitioner decides to hire other lawyers and focus on business strategy he is viewed as a scourge by these ideologues. Those who sit in judgment forget that big firms often do good work. Big firms often charge fair fees. Big firms often zealously represent the client.

Being a good lawyer and getting rich are not mutually exclusive. You can grow a business – like a law firm – and be ethical.

Personal Insecurity

It happens in all professions. People who are not comfortable in their own skin often criticize those who possess the qualities they lack. Lawyers who work long hours yet do not know how to translate that effort into significant income often hate those who can.

If you find yourself gritting your teeth the next time a lawyer with more money walks into the room, do a self examination. What does that person have that you do not? What have they done differently than you? How can you bridge the gap between where you are and where you’d like to be?

Success starts by looking in the mirror and liking what you see. If you don’t like yourself you will never be successful.

Laziness

The disdain for wealth is often an excuse for lack of quality work or lack of effort. People who show disdain for the success of others are not performing the right activities or enough of the right activities to realize success for themselves.

If you don’t want to get off the couch and learn how to build a thriving law practice, that’s fine. But do not hate those who are putting in the effort and earning the rewards.

The bottom line: People who despise folks with money usually have none. There is no shame in being successful and making a great living.

Please click here to read the original 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, October 19, 2009

Using Kindle To Show Evidence

Sharon Nelson, Esq. writes the Electronic Evidence Blog. Recently she wrote about taking the Kindle to court.

I love my Kindle DX. But, silly me, I was thinking about all the books, newspapers and magazines I could now carry around on my Kindle, especially on planes, trains and cruise ships.

This morning, I met with one of my favorite litigators, David Oblon of Albo & Oblon LLP. I was fascinated to hear David tell me that he regularly brings his Kindle DX into the courtroom to show the judge demonstrative evidence (native PDF files), simply handing the Kindle over to the judge. So far, all the judges have been happy to review demonstrative evidence on the Kindle.

Who knew? Which is why I like hanging around an attorney as smart and tech-savvy as David!

So the next time you head to court, save yourself the trouble of lugging around a box of papers you don't need - bring your Kindle.

Click here for the original 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.


ABA Military Pro Bono Project Needs Volunteer Lawyers

The American Bar Association's Military Pro Bono Project connects active-duty military personnel to free legal assistance for civil legal issues beyond the scope of services provided by a military legal assistance office. The Project's web portal has been created to allow case-handling military attorneys to refer financially eligible servicemember clients to the Project, which will then make every available effort to place the case with a volunteer pro bono attorney qualified to assist the client with the legal issue.

Registered pro bono attorneys may also use this site to track their cases, find resources supporting their work, and connect with other pro bono attorneys representing military personnel. Military and civilian attorneys may click here for further information on how to get involved.

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

Specializing

I practice family law exclusively. It wasn't always that way. Commercial litigation, insurance defense, personal injury, jury trials, some transactional work all showed up in my lawyer life. Roughly ten years ago I made the decision to focus on family law, and only family law! It was the best professional decision I have ever made. By focusing on one area, I became a better lawyer, and I gained the marketing advantage of being able to say I specialize. Lee Rosen has similar thoughts, and writes about them on his Divorce Discourse blog.
I’m a huge believer in focusing on a single area of practice. I’m convinced that being focused, early, was the principal factor in my initial success.

We all need to be known, liked and trusted. Narrowing the focus of your practice will rocket you forward on the “known” front. It sure did for me.

Last week I was a guest on the premiere episode of The Un-Billable Hour with Rodney Dowell. We started talking about the reluctance of new lawyers to focus on a niche. They get nervous about turning away business, any kind of business, and they take cases that fall outside of their chosen area of focus.

Why do they do it? The money, of course.

I understand being scared about income. It’s tough out there and it’s incredibly tempting to take work outside of your niche when you’re having a slow month.

But, it’s important to let it go. It’s important to stay focused and build your practice by doing the work in the niche you’ve selected.

Why?

A bunch of things happen when you stay focused -

First, you have free time to dig deeper into your area of focus. You can spend more time on the matters you have and keep learning. When you learn more you (1) can charge more, (2) you become more efficient, (3) you can delve more deeply into sophisticated issues and cases within your niche by earning the opportunity to take on higher value projects.

Second, you keep building your reputation in the niche. The client’s you’re working with are spreading the word. You’ve got time to meet with referral sources. Everyone comes to know you as the “go to” person for your area of practice.

Third, you get the opportunity, with every case, to meet people that might refer to your practice. Even if you’re taking the cases at a lower fee than you’d like, you’ll be meeting judges, lawyers, clerks, experts and others that will refer business to you. They’ll know what kind of law you practice and they’ll likely remember you.

Finally, every time you turn away business you create a grateful person in your marketplace. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say someone calls you and asks you to handle a traffic ticket case. You respond by telling the caller that you aren’t really expert in that area of law, that you appreciate the call, but that your practice is limited to family law. You, of course, refer them to someone that can help.

The caller now gets that you’re the family law expert. They appreciate that you weren’t willing to take their money to do something you aren’t qualified to do. They appreciate your help in finding the right lawyer. They tell their friends about you because you did something remarkable – you put their interests above your own. You also generate goodwill with the attorney you referred the traffic ticket to. Win-win-win.

Bottom line – turn down the money. That’s how you make more money over the long haul.

Please click here for the original 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.


Friday, October 16, 2009

How Can LogMeIn Help Lawyers Become Untethered?

Remote computing is great stuff. Accessing your main office computer from anywhere in the world via the internet is great stuff!

I have just come across a great blog called The Unteathered Lawyer. And on The Unteathered Lawyer Roger Glovsky has a great review of LogMeIn remote computing software.
There are thousands of new web applications available and many of them offer incredible functionality for free. However, it is not easy to know which tools to use or how to apply them to the legal profession. It reminds me of an old expression about trying to read all of the information published on the Internet – It’s like drinking from a fire hose. Even as an engineer (turned lawyer), I find it impossible to keep up with all the new technology related to the Internet. But that doesn’t keep me from trying

LogMeIn is the latest technology that I have adapted for use in my law practice. In many ways, it is the critical piece for working virtually. Why? Because you cannot always bring your computer with you. LogMeIn allows me to remotely access my computer from anywhere using a standard web browser. LogMeIn is similar to GoToMyPC, which I used in the past. The key distinguishing feature between GoToMyPC and LogMeIn is that LogMeIn is free. Although LogMeIn offers a number upgrade options that cost money, the basic remote control functionality is available for free.

What is nice about “free” is that it encourages you to use the software on more computers. If I had to pay for each copy, I would perhaps buy copies for one or two computers. Free means that I can put it on all of my computers, at work and at home. Every time I install the software, I find it more and more useful.

What can you do with LogMeIn?

Remote Control. After you download and install the program on your computer, you can control your computer from anywhere. Simply open a web browser and go to the LogMeIn website. Enter your email address and password to access your computer and then follow the instructions. After a few clicks, your web browser becomes the desktop of the remote computer. If you maximize the screen it feels almost like you are sitting at the remote computer.

Access Information. By taking control of the remote computer, you can access any information on the computer. So, if you happen to be traveling in another state and suddenly realize that the address or phone number you need to reach a client is embedded in a document on your computer hard drive, you can get it. Or, if a client has an emergency and needs to ask you a question about an agreement you prepared, you can get it. Or, if forget to copy a document you were drafting at the office, you can get it.

Run Applications. Between work and home, I use at least four computers. There are many applications that I install on only one computer, either because I only have one license or because I don’t need the application on every computer. For example, I occasionally use Adobe Acrobat Pro to create fillable forms. Adobe has very strict licensing terms and technology that prevents the user from installing the software on more computers than the license permits. So, if I happen to be away from my computer, I can still access and run the application without physically being in front of the computer. I’m sure that Adobe would prefer that I purchase extra copies, but that is neither practical nor fair. I can only use one copy at a time.

Group Demonstrations. I recently relocated to Boulder, Colorado. My partner and other lawyers in my firm still work in Massachusetts. Almost every day we have firm meetings, conversing over Skype or by telephone. Often we talk about firm marketing, which inevitably leads us to reviewing various marketing plans or legal websites. Rather than each of us separately looking at the documents or websites, we use LogMeIn to share the desktop of the computer in our conference room. That way, we can look at the same document or website at the same time. Also, LogMeIn has a cool “whiteboard” feature that allows us to mark up the document in red. It is just like sitting next to someone and pointing at the relevant part of a document. As soon as the whiteboard feature is turned off, the marks are erased.

Remote Presentations. Today, I used LogMeIn to give a slide presentation for the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts even though I was in Colorado. It was quite simple. I prearranged with another attorney to install Skype and LogMeIn on their computer prior to the meeting. Then, I made my appearance using Skype video and remotely controlled the slide presentation using LogMeIn. Not only could I see and hear the audience and their questions, I could also use the whiteboard feature like a laser pointer. From my perspective, it was better and easier than actually being at the event.

Upgrade Options. LogMeIn offers some valuable upgrade options that enable file transfer and print functions. These are worth paying for if you need them. However, there are other ways to accomplish these tasks. If you have access to an email program, you can simply email the file to yourself and print it locally. Alternatively, you can use other “free” tools like Dropbox to transfer files.

LogMeIn Isn’t Perfect.

For the price, LogMeIn work very well. My biggest complaints are that LogMeIn requires a few more steps than GoToMyPC to take control of the computer and it has a few more bugs (particularly when using Vista). If I had to pay for it, I would probably use GoToMyPC, but because it is free I am using LogMeIn much more than I would have expected.

Drinking from the fire hose can be a challenge, but if that is the best way to get water, you do it. Today, learning to use and incorporate technology in your law practice is a necessity. This is a great time to try out new web-based applications. What new applications do you use? How do they help your practice of law?

Roger Glovsky is co-manager of Indigo Venture Law Offices, a business law firm based in Massachusetts, which provides legal counsel to entrepreneurs and high-tech businesses. Mr. Glovsky is also the founder of LEXpertise.com, a collaboration and networking site for lawyers.

Please click here for the original 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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Law Firm Communications Technologies that Simplify the Complicated

To succeed as an attorney, you have to communicate. Be sure the technology you’re using is not hindering that objective by taking advantage of services that give you greater flexibility and mobility. The following three technologies help you simplify and improve your legal correspondence.

  • Virtual phone services

For many years, the gold standard for business phones has been an expensive and inflexible equipment-based system. With a virtual phone service, you don’t have to purchase, install and store equipment. Instead, you pay a small monthly fee. It works with the phones you already own and isn’t limited to the four walls of an office. You can have one incoming local or toll-free phone number for the business, and then create extensions for branch offices or telecommuters. The find me/follow me smart call forwarding feature means you won’t miss an important call if you’re on the road or at a client meeting. The feature allows you to give callers your office number, then have the call ring your mobile and/or home phone – either in a sequence or at once.

  • Internet fax services

Faxing is still a big part of legal proceedings. Each year, thousands of pages of documents are sent that require signatures and/or handwritten amendments. Fax machines are always at the office, but the attorneys who need them are not. An Internet fax service allows you to send and receive faxes on a laptop or smart phone via your e-mail account or a secure online server, anywhere there is an Internet connection. Individual numbers assure the privacy of confidential personal or financial records. There’s no hardware to buy or maintain, and because the documents come in electronically—usually as a PDF although better services will give you a choice of format—you only print the documents you need. That saves money on paper and toner, while helping you go green. The cost savings reduce office overhead to help create more value for clients. The electronic format also means you can carry all your files with you and look them up instantly, without having to bring a stack of paper to every client meeting.

  • Email campaign management services

When it comes to email campaigns, law firms will attempt to use the usual office suite tools, i.e. word processing and/or spreadsheets. These tools are not designed for high-level campaigns and are ineffective at tracking results. An email campaign management service allows the creation of highly targeted and timely newsletters and email campaigns, manages opt-in lists, and produces easy-to-read yet detailed graphical reports of the results of each campaign and your overall marketing effort. Different service levels are available depending on budget and needs. The level of personalization also varies, from simple name personalization in the subject line and body to features such as geographic or other attribute-based list segmentation. Ultimately, an email campaign management service helps you target prospective clients and strengthen relationships with existing ones —all while allowing you to continually refine and improve your direct-marketing efforts.

Guest contributor Luc Vezina is a director of product marketing for Protus (www.protus.com), a provider of communications tools for small-to-medium-businesses and enterprise organizations, including the MyFax internet fax service; my1voice, a virtual phone service; and Campaigner, an e-mail marketing solution.

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, October 12, 2009

Are You Branded?

Branding. What is it? Do you need it? How do you get it?

About.com has a great article any the very important branding component of your marketing:

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

* Delivers the message clearly
* Confirms your credibility
* Connects your target prospects emotionally
* Motivates the buyer
* Concretes User Loyalty

To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It's important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It's a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.

The article also has a plethora of helpful branding links:
Please click here for the original 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, October 5, 2009

An Even Better Exhibit Stamp For Adobe Acrobat!!!

Once again Rick Borstein comes to the aid of Arobat users. On his Acrobat for Legal Profesionals blog he has updated his very popular, and very useful Exhibit Stamp. Now you can go multiple lines, so that you can include case name, or court name, or date, etc., etc.



Click here to download the stamp. Take your time and read the entire download page -- it can be a bit tricky.

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