Friday, December 21, 2012

Visual Note Taking

True story.  Some years ago I was handling a multi-day family law trial.  We were fighting over which spouse would have day to day control of the family owned winery.  I was representing the wife.  The husband was represented by a friend of mine.  He was, and still is, an icon of our family law bar.  He had associated another lawyer who "specialized" in civil trial work (I never understood why because she was not nearly the trial lawyer that he was).  During the trial the husband's family law lawyer and I were sitting right next to each other at the crowded counsel table.  On the third day of trial that "trial specialist" was pouring through financial statements with the husband's accounting expert.  I was bored.  The judge was bored.  Apparently the husband's family law lawyer was also bored.   I looked over at his legal pad, and he was fast at work drawing a sketch of a military jet plane zooming in to bomb a tank.  It was the kind of stuff I remember drawing when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.  What was different was that scattered on the page he had written keywords and brief snippets and notes of the direct examination that was being conducted.

"Having fun?" I whispered in his ear.
"My trick for staying focused" he whispered back, looking at me with a grin.
He saw the quizzical look on my face.  "Sketching keeps me moving.  I am not really aware of what I am drawing.  But somehow it helps me to listen.  When I hear something important I write it down.  Then for some reason the artwork helps me to remember the notes."

This fascinated me.  I tried it.  He watched.  (Note: we both knew what the witness was going to say, so it was not as if I was missing anything, or sharing any secrets with him).  I didn't have my friends forty years of experience as a lawyer, so the "important stuff" wasn't as easily perceptible for me; but the sketching really did not compromise my ability to pay attention to what was going on.  Rather than drawing airplanes and tanks I drew bunches of grapes, and dollar signs, and a tractor like the one they had at the winery....

This was my earliest adoption of visual note taking, and it would become a skill that I would apply to everything I do as a lawyer.  It would also evolve into my adoption of mind maps as a thinking and practice tool.  Some may say I am making an excuse to try and be a comic book illustrator.  I am not.  Visual note taking is a serious tool!

Mike Rohde has written a book entitled The Sketchnote Handbook: the illustrated guide to visual note taking.  In fact, he even has a website and videos dedicated to visual note taking.  His book and website offer solid examples and methods of developing the technique for visual note taking.  If you want to expand the power of your brain, you should check this stuff out.  Click here to visit Mike's website.  This is good stuff!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Strunk and White Still Rules

As a group we lawyers are not identified as great writers.  Even though writing is the bulk of what we do, our letters, pleadings, briefs, and articles are not always artful.  The plain English movement begs us to write better -- but artful legal writing still remains elusive.

Unfortunately this vacuum of style isn't going away.  If anything, younger lawyers are as awful at writing as their predecessors.  It seems that writing is being neglected in our schools and colleges.

For this post I am going very low tech.  As a liberal arts major in college, reading and writing is what I did.  Tests were essay based.  Homework and class projects were essay based.  We wrote papers.  Written words were the wings that carried me through college.  Beyond religious texts, the bible in my education was The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.  I did two things every day during my student life.  I put on fresh underwear, and I made sure I had my copy of Strunk and White.

In 2011 Time Magazine named The Elements of Style one of the 100 most important books of all time!  As explained in Time:
Reading the “Little Book” is almost like sitting in an elementary English class, which seems to be how the authors intended it. Strunk and White waded through the totality of our vast and complicated language and boiled it down to a terse 105 pages, including a glossary and index.
So powerful, so important, so essential is The Elements of Style, that it has its own Wikipedia article.

Of course there are critics everywhere, and Strunk and White do have their detractors.  I am not one of them.  The Elements of Style is only 105 pages.  Think about that. . . The power to master the written word in such a tiny package!  That is magnificent!  If you don't own The Elements of Style you need to buy it today.  Get the paperback copy.  Read it.  Press it open on your desk while you write.  Refer to it constantly.  Your writing will improve, and so will your lawyering.  You can buy it for ten bucks.  Go to Amazon, or your neighborhood bookstore, and get a copy.

Want a second option, consider  Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Scalia (Yes, that Scalia) and Garner.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Amicus Attorney Is In The Cloud

Amicus Attorney is one of the stalwarts of law practice management software ("PMS").  A cloud based version of the product has recently been released.

Amicus going to the cloud could be a good thing, and it could be a bad thing.  Undoubtedly Amicus Attorney will eventually become a cloud only platform.  If you are an Amicus user, or thinking about adopting Amicus keep this in mind.

The new product does require Microsoft exchange for email processing, which could big a big step up for small firms; and some reviewers report that the conversion process can be daunting.  For the most part though the reviews of the Amicus cloud platform are most positive.

Amicus Attorney is created and sold by Gavel & Gown software.  GG has done lots of great things in the PMS biz.  It's transition to the cloud is a big deal.  Over at the Legal Loudspeaker blog there is a great review of the new cloud platform.  Please click here for a visit.  Of course there is also plenty of additional info at the Amicus Attorney website.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Smartphones & Sprint

I have been using iphones for years now.  I have been more than content, so I have not studied the alternatives, other than to know that there is a lot of great stuff out there.  Which phone is best?  To me that is kind of like comparing pink cotton candy and blue cotton candy.  It's all good!

LG Optimus G from Sprint
That doesn't mean that there aren't other folks out there that do pay a lot of attention to smartphone options.  One of those people is Zach Epstein.  Zach writes for the Boy Genius Report.  He has recently posted his end of year 2012 review of the best smartphones available from Sprint.

Samsung phones dominate Zach's list.  Of course that list includes the iPhone.  Zach also sings the praises of the LG Optimus G.  If you are looking for a new phone, and perhaps considering Spring as your carrier, take a look at Zach's very helpful article.  There are also links to his reviews of the phone available from the other flagship carriers.

Please click here to read Zach's original article.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aren't You Stylus!

I have actually done a bit of research into the tablet computer.  Depending on which myth you believe, Bill Gates could have been the first, biggest proponent of the platform.  Then again Steve Jobs, and Apple, got the revolution rolling with the iPad.  As for Mr. Jobs, his vision of the tablet was clearly one where finger replaced pen.  Fingermanship is certainly a viable option with touch sensitive tablet screens.  I usually resort to the primary digit to navigate through my iPad screens and to type on the built in keyboard.  For heavy duty work though, and particularly for writing on the screen, I find that a stylus is better than the finger.

Like everything else, there are plenty of stylus options to choose from.  Today I want to share my two favorites with you.  First on my list is the Bamboo stylus.  There are three versions, the Solo (closest thing to a full size pen), the Duo (a combination stylus and ink pen), and the Pocket (with a telescoping body)

Bamboo Solo
Bamboo Duo
Bamboo Pocket
I prefer the Bamboo because of the circumference of the body, and the sensitivity of the writing tip (called the "nub") when it is on the screen.  Having used Bamboos for more than a year, I have also found them to be well made and sturdy.  My particular favorite is the Duo because of the ink pen feature.  Ink is still necessary in the lawyer world.  With the Duo I am not scrambling for an ink pen when I need one.  Price range on the Bamboo is $29.95 to $39.95.

My second favorite stylus is the Jot.

The Jot's innovation is in the flat plastic disc (Jot calls it a "ballpoint") that makes contact with the tablet screen.  By this ballpoint the Jot delivers the most precise writing experience.  It is the mechanical pencil of the stylus world.  Jotaholics love their Jots like few other accessories.  It is second on my list because I find it too precise, and because I am not fully invested in the sturdiness or finger feel of the disc.  Like the Bamboo, the Jot also has multiple models including the original, smaller with mobile clip, rubber grip and magnetic cling, precision stylus and ink pen combo, and bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus.  Price range on the Jot is $19.99 to $99.99.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

A New Take On Newspapers

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a huge newspaper fan.  That may not have a lot to do with family law, but I have come across an iPad app (also available for android, Windows 8. . .) that is helping me to rethink my love for turning the paper pages of my beloved newspaper.

My local newspaper has been gobbled up by a national media company.  Our local news is now part of a regional newspaper.  Rather than in depth community reporting, we get small news bites tucked in amongst a plethora of stories that have nothing to do with where I work and live.  On top of that we have a new delivery person who tends to run a bit late.  The paper is now hitting my driveway after I leave for work.  As such, my beloved morning papers is now an evening paper because I don't get to read it until I get home from work.

Ray Wang from PressReader sent me an email offering me a test drive of the PressReader app for tablets and smartphones.  I accepted his offer, and man was I impressed!  I have used other newspaper apps and have always been disappointed.  Not with PressReader.

PressReader lets you download, disconnect and read the world's most popular full-content newspapers on your favorite Android operated device, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone or Smartphone. Not only can you search, share and discuss articles from thousands of titles, the publications you access via PressReader are enhanced with interactive features such as clickable URLs, telephone numbers, email addresses and "continued on page…" links.

Powered by NewspaperDirect’s technology, PressReader provides access to over 2,200 full-content newspapers and magazines from 97 countries in 54 languages.  100 magazines are also available.
With every article, advertisement, crossword puzzle and cartoon presented in its original context, PressReader offers many of the same rich user interface and intuitive interactive features users have come to love.
And with the added convenience of being able to hold your favorite publication directly in your hands and read it from cover to cover just the way you would in-print, PressReader makes reading full-content digital replicas an absolute delight with features such as:
  • Auto-delivery of your favorite publications
  • Attention-grabbing SmartFlow stream (iOS & Android)
  • Printing full pages or articles
  • Sharing stories by email or on Facebook or Twitter
  • Saving articles to Evernote or Instapaper
  • Listening to articles using on-demand audio
  • Copying & pasting entire articles into note taking applications
  • Sharing your opinion by supporting or opposing a story
  • Adjusting font size and type
  • Automatically aligning with the beginning of an article using the option SmartZoom feature
  • Cross title search
  • Authorization of PressReader with a subscription
Watch this video for a demo:

To begin using PressReader, simply download the appropriate, free version of the app on the supported platform you’d like to use.  

Now the bad news.  The app is free.  A PressReader subscription so that you can download the newspapers to the app is expensive. $29.95 per month.  That is what I pay for a whole year of my superficial, tardy, hometown newspaper. For my area I would end up reading the San Francisco Chronicle on PressReader.  I can buy it off the rack for fifty cents per day.  That is 50% cheaper than a PressReader subscription.  Home delivery of the Chronicle would cost me $99 per year.  For that price I would also get the Chronicle's own iPad subscription as well.  My favorite newspaper in the world is The New York Times.  It is not available on PressReader.  The Wall Street Journal is also a no go.

True, for thirty buck I will have access to 2,200 newspapers and 100 magazines.  Realistically though, I don't need that many.  At most I could see getting through 2 or 3 papers per day on a consistent basis.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Origami iPad Keyboard Case

I was in Chicago (I love that town!) last week for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.  I was stunned by how many of my colleagues are now carrying iPads.  I would go so far as to say upwards of 50-60% of the crowd.  This is a huge uptick from a couple of years ago.  It gave me a great opportunity to learn about new gadgets and apps for my beloved iPad.

The first gadget I want to mention is the Origami iPad Keyboard Case from incase.  Saw dozens in Chicago, and everyone who had one was in love!  Inspired by the Japanese art of paper-folding, the Origami Workstation provides complete protection for your Apple Wireless Keyboard. It also folds quickly and easily into a stand that offers both horizontal and vertical iPad positions for flexible viewing options. Even better, it works with most iPad cases, so you can keep your iPad in its own case while you type.  At $29.95 the price isn't even that bad for an Apple accessory.

Click here to check it out.  Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shred, Shred, Shred!

Shredder Envy!  The Swingline 250x
Do you have a shredder?  I do.  In fact I have two.  Everything that does not go in to a client file goes into the shredder.  Draft documents, extra photo copies, notes that are no longer needed.  In to the shredder it all goes.  In fact I even shred junk mail.  Why bother?

First, to maintain the confidentiality of my clients' information and my work product.  Take a look at the dumpster outside your office.  I bet you will see nice, readable pieces of paper laying on the ground -- paper that did not make its way into the dump truck hopper.  Drive behind a dump truck some day.  You will be surprised how much pristine paper flutters out of the back.  Go to the dump.  Reams of confidential information lying all around.

Second, while we may not deal with a whole lot of corporate espionage in family law practice, I can assure you that disgruntled spouses are hacking in to the email accounts of their exes, conducting surveillance on their computers, and going through their mailboxes and mail. What's to stop an obsessive ex from going through your garbage looking for info about an estranged spouse or a case?

Third, identity theft is a real problem.  Legal documents are not immune.  How many of you still leave social security numbers and bank account numbers un-redacted on your court filings? Not too many of you.  Failing to take the same precautions with your garbage is an oversight.  And don't forget about the junk mail!  How many pre-approved credit card mailings do you get per month?  Credit report ads?  Mortgage insurance solicitations?  Many times that junk mailed is filled with confidential information about you.  Information that identity thieves can exploit.

Am I being paranoid?  Perhaps.  I prefer to think of it as cautious vigilance.  The shredders we use cost about $75 each.  They can handle about 10 pages at a time.  They can also chop up expired credit cards, and DVDs that we no longer need.  For mega jobs we call in a shredding service.  The shredder truck arrives, and for about $10 each a bankers box full of documents is obliterated in a couple of seconds, right there on site.

Next up for me will be a more robust shredder. At the futurelawyer blog Rick Georges sings praises about the Swingline 250x shredder.  At $1250 it ain't cheap.  However, it can chomp up to 250 pages automatically.  Just dump the stack in the tray, and let 'er rip!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No Love For Windows 8

Windows 8 has hit the street, and the initial reviews are less than flattering.

There are actually two W8 operating systems.  One for PCs, and another for tablets and mobile devices. David Pogue at the New York Times writes: "Microsoft has combined [two systems] into a superimposed, muddled mishmash called Windows 8."  PC World says this: "Windows 8 isn’t for everyone. If you’re mostly a desktop PC user comfortable with Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 8 is probably not worthwhile."  The dubious reviews don't end there. has this to say:  ". . .by shipping an operating system with an identity crisis Microsoft has put itself in an almost untenable position. Barring a miraculous intervention by third-party app developers, Windows 8 looks like it will be a jack of all trades, but master of none. On mobile, iOS and Android’s ecosystems will prevail; on desktop, Windows 7 will be hard to supplant."

Are you sensing a pattern here?  Seems the two-fold approach that Microsoft has taken is leaving everybody looking for more, and asking "why?"  Early adopters may want to exercise patience and let the market evolve around W8.  I can assure you from personal experience with every other Microsoft product, release 1 will be bug laden, and ridiculously unreliable.  Let the marketplace smooth over the rough edges of the first release.  The W8 find itself, and let it merge its multiple personalities with some time on the road.  If W8 is any good today, it will get better with subsequent releases.  In the mean time don't sacrifice the reliability and familiarity of Windows 7, Android, and iOS.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Fire v iPad Mini - Let the Battle Begin

The iPad mini is on the street, and Amazon has launched its marketing blitz on the new competitor to its Kindle Fire.  From the look of the ad, it looks like Amazon has some legitimate advantages.

Click here to take a look at Amazon's new comparison advertising.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts On Print Advertising

I love old fashioned, printed on newsprint, newspapers.  I love the ceremony of spreading the daily out on the table and drinking in all the words and pictures along with my morning coffee.  A newspaper is tangible.  I can touch it and smell it.  I can turn the pages.  I can fold it.

Unfortunately for me, the paper newspaper is going the way of the Dodo bird.  Production costs, and competition from electronic media for advertising dollars is making newspaper journalism a dying media.  Much of the printed paper advertising industry (newspapers, magazines, phone books, etc.) is heading toward extinction.  I have raised this topic before.  If you are spending your law practice advertising money on phone books and newspapers, you are probably wasting that money.

Josh King has posted an article on offering his thoughts on the new paradigm for law practice advertising.  Click here to read Print or Online Advertising: Getting It Right.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

iPad Mini

Apple is scheduled to release its iPad Mini today.  The new tablet has a smaller screen and footprint, designed to compete with the smaller e-readers that are on the market.

For me this is a no brainer -- I don't need smaller!  The idea of anything smaller than the iPad's current dimensions doesn't make sense to me.  As a real mobile computer I need the extra screen size of the iPad.  Anything less would mean getting out a magnifying glass.  In fact, I have a smaller screen at my disposal.  It's called my iPhone!  One of the reasons I was so excited about the iPad when it was originally introduced is because it was bigger than my iPhone, but smaller than a full sized laptop.

Even with the standard iPad I found myself reaching for my cheater reading glasses more and more.  If I just wanted to read books on my iPad, I wouldn't have an iPad.  I would have saved hundreds of dollars, and bought a Kindle or a Nook.  I don't just read books on my iPad.  It is a full blown computer for me.  For that I need the bigger screen size. Particularly for courtroom use, the idea of going any smaller than the current iPad screen size would seem to me to be a real handicap.

Don't forget, I love Apple!  But, for real mobile trial lawyers too much of a small thing may not be a good thing. . . .

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Signing Documents When Away From The Office

I was out of the country a couple of weeks ago.  My paralegal emailed me with a reminder that a questionnaire was due to the court.  She had drafted it, but it needed my signature.  Problem?  No way.  Here is how I signed.

Step 1.  My paralegal saved the draft as a pdf document, and then emailed it to me.

Step 2.  I opened the email on my iPad.

Step 3.  I highlighted the attachment, chose the Open In option on my iPad; then I selected my PDF Expert app.

Step 4.  I scrolled to the place in the document where my signature goes.  I held my finger on the screen, and PDF Expert's signature window opened.  I selected "My Signature."  Onto the document went a blue ink copy of the signature that I had previously saved in the app.

Step 5.  I selected to email to option, sent the document back to my paralegal, and she filed it with the court.

PDF Expert is a great app.

Here is a great video review of the app:

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Accepting Credit Cards

Being a lawyer is my job.  It is how I earn my living.  It is how I pay my bills.  My law practice is intended to be a for profit venture (although as a family law lawyer that can be challenging).  I began accepting credit card payments a few years ago, and it has proven to be a boon for my bottom line!  I accept credit cards for client payments on outstanding balances, and I also accept credit cards when clients deposit their retainers.

In my case I utilize Intuit GoPayment Merchant Services.  The service integrates with Quick Books, which we use in our office.  There is a clean, easy to use interface with Quick Books.  I have a credit card swiper attached to my computer and I can process transactions right from my desk.  Alternatively Intuit has a mobile reader and smartphone app called GoPayment that allows me to swipe credit cards right from my iPhone or iPad.  The mobile app is pretty sweet, and clients get a kick out of being able to sign with their finger on the iPad screen.  When I swipe a card the merchant fee (i.e., the commission that I pay to Intuit) is less than 2% of the value of the total transaction.  Square also has a convenient credit card processing service, include mobile apps and swipers.

Accepting credit cards makes my collections efforts much easier.  Everyone has at least one credit card, so it is hard for the client to avoid pulling it out and using it to pay me.  If a client has a credit card, they almost always have it with them.  If a client owes me money, I can insist that the credit card gets put on the table right then and there.  That differs greatly from the "I forgot my check book" line.  The credit card money gets deposited into my bank account in a day or two, and I don't have to make a trip to the bank to deposit the check.

Sure clients will complain about the high interest that the credit card company will charge them, but that is for them and the credit card company to fight about.  I need to get paid to stay in business, and the client needs to appreciate that.  As a business operator I am giving the customer alternatives for paying for my services.  They have to choose which option to utilize.  Not paying is not an option if the client wants my continued representation.

A word on trust fund deposits/retainers.  When you receive a credit card payment that pesky merchant service fee comes right off the top.  For example, if you are paying 2% to the credit card company a $1000 charge results in $20 going to the credit card company, and $980 getting deposited into your account.  This can give rise to commingling and mishandling of trust fund money problems.  If you collect a $1000 retainer from a client, you need to post $1000 to your IOLTA account.  You want to make sure you have a dual transaction merchant account.  My account with Intuit GoPayment it is set up so that the full amount of the transaction is deposited into my trust account, and the service fee is withdrawn from my operating account.  Using our $1000 example, the full $1000 is deposited into my IOLTA, and the $20 merchant fee comes out of my operating account as a second transaction.  No commingling.  No premature or inappropioate charge to the client (and no, you cannot pass the merchant service fee throught to the client as a cost).  Many merchant service providers have this dual service, you just have to make sure to set it up that way.  As I mentioned, GoPayment has dual transactionLawPay is a service specifically for lawyers, and it does dual transactions.  As of the date of this post Square does not, so that service will not work for retainers.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adobe Acrobat Pro XI

I love Adobe Acrobat and you should too!  There are so many fantastic features for lawyers.  Adobe has announced a new version:  Acrobat XI (11). The latest version of Acrobat offers many new features that will be valuable to legal professionals.  My favorite, an add signature feature.  I have been waiting for this for years.  Of course, there are many more great features. PDF Editing, Save to Power Point, Forms Central, etc., etc. . . .

For a great review we turn to our old friend Rick Borstein at Acrobat For Legal Professionals.  Click here to read:

Top Ten New Acrobat Pro XI Features for Legal Professionals

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Google Set To Enter Market With $99 Tablet

For all you folks considering shelling out big bucks for an iPad, hold on a minute. . . .
Boy Genius Report is reporting that Google is about to hit the street with a $99 tablet.

Working with its hardware partner ASUS, Google will have two models, a thinner version of the current $199 Nexus 7 and the second will be a new $99 model.

Is this the start of the big price war that will compel Apple to lower the price on its iPads?  I doubt it.  But it sure sounds like there will be an affordable alternative available soon.

Please click here for the BGR article.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Table of Authorities in Word

Call me strange, but there is something visually appealing about a well laid out brief.  The ruled and numbered lines give structure and design.  The even spacing creates a nice balance of black on white.  Case citations bring reliability and precedent.  The table of authorities makes finding and citing the relevant authorities a breeze.  When everything is laid out all nice and even and straight, it is pleasing on my eye.

If you have ever worked on a brief with any number of cases and codes cited you know that generating that oh so important table of authorities can be a real challenge.  Microsoft Word has a pretty good table of authorities generator, if you know how to use it.  Over at Deborah Savadra gives us a great step-by-step tutorial on how to make Word's table of authorities feature work for you!  This is a great instructional  Click here to learn!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The New iPhone Is Here, The New iPhone Is Here!

The new iPhone is here!  I don't have one (yet).  Still, we should all have the latest word on the latest phone.  The has an excellent review of the latest Apple wunderphone.  Click here for all the details.  There is also a separate article from Verge with more specs, that you can see by clicking here.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Social Media Ain't Easy

I am on the website committee for a lawyer organization that I belong to.  The organization is redesigning its website.  The membership of the organization is comprised, for the most part, of lawyers who have been practicing a long time.  Translated that means they are not in their twenties, and social media is very new and bewildering to them.

This web site committee had a meeting recently to review the rough draft, live website.  Prominently displayed up in the right hand corner of the new design were the one-click buttons for Google+ LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.  All the committee members liked how the buttons looked.  However, things got a bit complicated once the question was asked:  "who is going to post the content to the social media pages?"

"Post content?"  "What do you mean?  "I thought stuff just appeared about us when we put the buttons on our website?"  It became very clear in short order that no one on the committee had the foggiest idea what LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter did.  A dialogue ensued by which it was explained that clicking on the social media buttons allowed the visitors to subscribe to, and/or visit the organization's LinkedIn page, or the organization's Facebook page, or the organization's twitter page. However, no one was aware that unless you had someone writing articles, and posting content to each of those pages there would not be anything for the visitor to see on her visit, and nothing to receive through her subscription.

Another very good question that was asked was:  "why do we need a Google Plus page if we already have a website?

Here is what you need to know my friends:  Goggle+ pages, and LinkedIn accounts, and Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts are nothing more than blank billboards.  If you want your message to get out, the first thing you have to do is write your message.  Then you have to post your message to your social media page.  Then you have to create and post a new message.  And then another one.  And then another.  And so on, and so on.  You want a Facebook page or a Goggle Plus page in addition to a website to get your message out to a broader audience.  Just like you might have a billboard downtown, and one in the suburbs, or a Yellow Pages ad in the Chicago phone book and a second ad in the Joliet phone book.  A website, and a social media sight increase your audience; increase your exposure to search engines, and act as a cross-pollinators for your internet presence.  People viewing your website then click over to your LinkedIn page, and people viewing your LinkedIn page then click over to your website, etc., etc.

Nothing comes easy though and social media is no exception.  The ultimate goal of social media for lawyers is to draw attention to yourself and your law practice, so that people will hire you to be their lawyer.  This happens through people subscribing to your social media site so that your freshly posted content is sent directly to them.  It also happens when the search engines perceive that your social media account has been updated with fresh content so that you move up higher in the search engine rankings.

Take a look at this post.  It is filled with words, and it has a picture.  It took time to write this article.  When I clicked on the publish button in my blog software this article was posted on my blog.  A summary of the article, along with the picture were simultaneously posted to my Google+ page, my Facebook page, my Twitter page, and my LinkedIn page.  The people who are subscribers to this blog automatically received a copy of this article in their email inbox.  Because there are a bunch of words in this post, and a picture, it will draw the attention of Google and Yahoo.  When someone does a Google search of, for example, "social media for lawyers," all of those word are in this article, Google will do the math, and it could then very will post a link to this article in response to that search.  In a few days I will generate a report to see how many people read this article.  It will probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 to 200 people.  200 people might read this article!  That means 200 people will be thinking about me because I am the author of this article.  200 people will read the name John Harding.  200 people will read the name Harding & Associates Family Law.  200 people will have the opportunity to click on the link to my website that appears at the bottom of this story.  Guess what?  About 75 to 100 people actually will click on that link to my website.  There they will read all about me and my family law practice.  That increased traffic on my website is also something that stimulates the search engines and helps my website pop up in Google when some searches for a divorce lawyer!

For the more senior set or readers out there, let me draw an analogy for you.  75 to 100 people will have opened up the Yellow Pages and studied my ad, and thought about hiring me as their family law lawyer.  That's pretty good!  But it took some effort on my part.  I had to come up with an idea to write about, and then I had to spend about 15 minutes doing the writing.  Not a lot of time, but I did have to make the effort.  And that is the key to social media.  You get out of it what you put in to it.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tom Cruise's Divorce Lawyer Gives Sound Advice On Settlement Strategies

Tom Cruise's New York divorce from Katie Holmes was resolved in remarkably swift fashion.  That is no doubt the product of having two motivated parties.  Just as important though, the attorneys in the case utilized exemplary strategies and practices to get the case done.

Marilyn Chinitz, Tom Curise's New York lawyer shares her thoughts about the Cruise/Holmes case and about effective handling of family law cases in a great interview on Bloomberg Law.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two Step Authentication For Dropbox

If you hadn't heard, Dropbox got hacked recently.  To be more precise hackers found a security vulnerability in the cloud storage service by which they could sneek into and peek around user accounts (so the users got hacked).  In response Dropbox has implemented an optional two step security protocol.The setup however can be a bit tricky. 

Thanks to the folks at for putting a tutorial up.

Click here for the step by step instructions.

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Going Paperless With A Mac

I don't write enough about the Mac in the law office.  There is a simple reason for that:  I don't use a Mac in the office.  I don't use one in the office because my most essential software programs (AbacusLaw, Dissomaster Suite, Attorney's Assistant, Attorney's Briefcase) are not Mac friendly.  I use a Mac at home, and I love it!  Mostly what I do with it is log onto to my office computer remotely, and surf the internet, so the PC only software thing is not a problem.

Well for all of you who are Macophiles this column is for you.  I have forever praised the joys and wonders of the paperless office.  Today I came across an eBook targeted at the paperless Mac office.  Paperless by David Sparks takes the mystery (and fear) out of going paperless with your Apple technology.  To quote from the iTunes listing:
The book includes 32 screencasts, 4 movies, over 26,000 words, and other rich-media assets to turn you into a paperless ninja. The material is accessible to beginners and power users alike with a thorough explanation of all the hardware, software, and workflows necessary to finally conquer paper.

Chapters include:
1. Why Paperless
What is the big deal with paperless and why do so many of us struggle with it?

2. Paperless Overview
Get an idea for the big picture before diving into the nitty-gritty.

3. Capture
Discover how you can capture paper and other digital information with the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. This chapter also demystifies optical character recognition and explains how you can put it to work for you.

4. Process
Learn how to reliably name, index, and store your paperless documents. This chapter also covers your questions about cloud storage and backup.

5. Use
Now that you've created a paperless workflow, learn how to access your paperless documents from anywhere on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. This chapter also explains how to sign digital documents on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

6. David's Paperless Workflow
The author explain his "go-to" applications, hardware, and tricks for managing paperless documents.

7. Appendix
Learn more about Apple Automator, cloud storage, and other helpful resources.

This is the first book in the MacSparky Field Guide Series. This book is a large file (850 MB) and includes over 1.5 hours of video and screencasts. This books runs on all versions of the iPad.

By the way, the eBook format is way cool!  You can only read it on the iPad, but it is cool.  Click here to check it out.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Social Media: What Is It Doing For Me?

Social media can be hard to track as a marketing tool for your practice.  Here is what I know. . .

I am actively engaged with LinkedIn; and am frequently asked to comment about my experiences.  Here is what I can say.

In the three or four years that I have been actively engaging with LinkedIn I have landed two paying clients solely from LinkedIn.  That is clients that found me first, foremost, solely, and directly through my LinkedIn profile. Not overwhelming, but better than nothing.

What I am more impressed with is the traffic that LinkedIn directs to my website.  I am able to review statistics for my website, and at present we are getting one to two viewers per day directly from LinkedIn.  That may seem like a small number, but it really is not a bad return on a free investment.  As a comparison, my Facebook posts do not even average one viewer per week clicking through to our website.

My social media observation?  LinkedIn works modestly.  Facebook, not so much.

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Facebook Book

Lots of colleagues ask me for my thoughts on facebook.  I tell them I engage on it, but that I am not overwhelmed with it. Mine is just one opinion, and the fact that facebook has about a billion members would suggest that it has some cache (eve3n if the stock price continues to wither and advertising revenues on the site dwindle).

Allison Shields publishes the Legal Ease Blog, which I enthusiastically read. She and Dennis Kennedy (another legal blogger whom I enthusiastically follow) have published Facebook In One Hour For Lawyers.  Part of the "One Hour" series from the American Bar Association, this book is sure to offer wonderful insights and tips.

On her blog Allison has this to say:

Law Firm Facebook Pages

WEB_Facebook_OneHour_bigFacebook use continues to rise, and many lawyers are using Facebook in their personal lives to connect with friends and family, but Facebook can be a valuable business building tool, and another way to communicate and engage with colleagues, law firm employees and even clients. One way to do this is by creating a Company Page for your law firm.

What can you do with a Facebook Page for your law firm?

Define Administrator Roles

 In the past, Facebook pages had only one level of administrator, but Facebook has recently created administrator roles, allowing firms to give different levels of permission to different people who have access to the firm's Page. This avoids the problem that arises if only one Page administrator has access to the Page, and that administrator leaves the firm. It also will aid firms who have employees who are interested in contributing to the firm's Facebook presence, but who the firm may not want to have access to all aspects of the 'back end' of the firm's Page.

View insights

It is often difficult to determine whether your social media and other efforts are reaching the audience you would like them to reach, or if your are engaging your audience. Facebook administrators (depending on the Role they have been assigned) have the ability to see 'insights' that show how many people your Page is reaching on a weekly basis, and how many people are "talking about this" or engaging with your content by liking, commenting or sharing it with others.
In addition to these 'big picture' stats, page administrators can see how many people have been reached with an individual post. For each post, you can find out:
Reach: The number of people who have seen your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)
Engaged Users: The number of people who have actually clicked on your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)
Talking about this: The number of people who have liked, commented, shared, responded to an event or answered a question you posed in an update (within the first 28 days after the post was published
Virality: The percentage of people who have engaged with the post in any of the ways mentioned in 'talking about this' above, out of the number of people who have seen the post.
Schedule posts
Another relatively new feature of Facebook pages is the ability to schedule posts in advance. This means firms can create a number of posts about newsworthy issues, firm happenings or events all at once, but schedule them to post in the future. Since batching or 'chunking' similar work together is one of the best ways to be productive, this can help firms to ensure that their message is getting seen by their connections and colleagues - or to their employees - without needing to constantly go back to update the Page. This allows the Page administrators to concentrate on engaging with others by spending only a few minutes a day on Facebook, with one weekly time set aside for creating updates.
 Offer Valuable Information to Your Audience
With Facebook's "apps" or "tabs," you can create calls to action. For example, if you offer free information or downloads from your website, such as a personal injury guide, FAQs on divorce in your state, a guide to the court system, etc., you can direct Facebook visitors to your website by creating a custom App. Upload an appropriate image and a link that directs visitors to a landing page you designate.

Use Your Timeline Effectively:

  • Create Milestones, which are to Pages what Life Events are to personal Profiles. Milestones are designated with a flag icon and are the full width of the page (843 x 403 pixels), rather than the smaller size of regular posts (520 pixels wide). A Milestone must include a title, but it can also include other details. Mergers, office moves, and the addition of a new partner are events you might want to include as Milestones.
  • Star stories to expand the post to widescreen and make it more prominent.
  • Pin a post to the top of your Timeline for up to a week—after that, it returns to its chronological place in the Timeline.
  • Backdate posts for special events in the life of your firm that occurred before you started your Page. 
Want more tips on what lawyers can do with Facebook - both as individuals and with law firm Pages? Take a look at Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers, my latest book with co-author Dennis Kennedy, now available for pre-order, with a 15% discount.
I'd love to hear how you and your firm are using Facebook, too! Leave a comment and let me know.

Please click here for Allison's original post.  To learn more about facebook buy her book, and visit her blog.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Lawyers Need To Be Tech Savvy

The ABA House of Delegates approved changes to the ABA's model ethics rules "to acknowledge that information is stored digitally as well as in paper files, clients communicate electronically as well as by phone calls, and email isn’t the only method of electronic communications."

According to the post on,:
[T[he technology-related amendments go further, requiring lawyers to keep current on more than just changes in the law. Lawyers also have a duty to keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with technology, according to new commentary language added to Rule 1.1 on the duty to provide competent representation. Click here (PDF) to see all of the amendments added to all of the model rules at this year's annual meeting.
These changes reflect the increasing prevalence of technology in law practice, and the emerging techologies that we all must keep pace with.  Please click here for the original article from

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advance Sheets Free Online

When I started as a lawyer our firm had a very nice law library.  Every couple of weeks a paperback book would arrive in the mail.  That book was a collection of all of the published appellate court opinions issued since the preceding book was mailed out.  We referred to these books as the "advance sheets."  Several times a year all of the cases in the advance sheets were re-printed in hard bound, leather volumes that then took their place of privilege in our library.  These hardbound copies were referred to as the "official reports" or "the case law."

I am now able to identify several problems with this timeless process. 1.  All those books require physical space for their storage.  Bookshelves and library floor space are expensive.  2.  A physical library requires maintenance.  Books have to be organized and indexed.  Advance sheets have to be rotated, and thrown out when they are replaced by hardbound volumes,  3.  Only one person can read each book at a time.  If two people need a case from the same book?  The second person waits.  4.  All those books were ridiculously expensive.  The publishers made a killing!  You needed the advance sheets so that you could stay current on the latest law.  You needed the hardbound volumes, because you needed the law.

Fortunately technology has evolved to the point that a physical law library is really a waste of space and money for most law firms.  Every California statute and every California appellate opinion is now available on line.  There are free options, and there are subscription options.  Regardless, the cost has come way down from the paper days, and the convenience has gone way up.

There is still a time lag though as appellate opinions are released, and until they get online with some commercial providers.  Also those advance sheets that showed up every several weeks were a convenient way to stay abreast of the latest case law.  They were the place you knew where to look for the latest law.  You just grabbed the d\advance sheet and read.  Where can we turn now?  Why the internet of course.

The Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts' California Courts website is now the web based publisher of the advance sheets.  All published, and unpublished (i.e. not citeable as authority, but valuable nonetheless) opinions, hit the CC website first.  And guess what, they are right there for your review for FREE!

Want to do a daily review of new cases affecting your practice, go to the CC website and read away.  Click here to visit the site.

The site keeps the opinions online for 120 days.  Conveniently, the opinions released in the preceding 100 hours have their own screen.  There is no indexing by type of law, i.e., family law, probate, criminal, etc.  However, with a bit of practice it becomes fairly easy to find the family law cases.  Here are a couple of tips, look for the cases that have "Marriage of" in the title.  That's a pretty good indication that it is a dissolution action.  Also look for cases where the last names of the parties are the same (i.e., Smith v. Smith, or Hansen v. Hansen).  Also look for cases with surname names rather than corporate names.  The case of Wesson v. Peterson is more likely to be a family law case than is Xerox v. IBM, or Greenberg v. Form Motor Co.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Office Phone Systems

For two decades we ran our office with a reliable phone system from Nortel Networks.  The system included an big, impressive phone switching box, and another big, impressive box that housed the voice mail system.  Both hung from the wall in our junk room.  At every desk sat a handsome Nortel desk set filled with fun buttons to push.  The system was very expensive, and worked very well.  We could call out, people could call us, we had voice mail, etc., etc. (although I never quite got the hang of transferring calls or making conference calls).  You needed to be a computer programmer to make any adjustments to the system, but that was the price for technology. 

The Nortel hardware cost thousands of dollars.  The hardware was supported by four voice land lines, and one fax land line, for which we paid the phone company a hefty check each month.  On average our phone bill (including long distance) was running $300 to $500 per month.

With time, the system began to wear down.  Handsets started losing their connection.  Buttons on the desk sets didn't always click.  Voice mail messages began disappearing.  I had heard of VOIP technology as the latest, greatest thing in telephones.  I did not know much about it other than the fact that you make phone calls over the internet via your computers internet connection, rather than over phone company landlines.  I was already paying for internet service, so a new VOIP system would not add to my internet cost.  However, I might be able to eliminate my bill from AT&T.

After some light research I called a company named 8x8.  I spoke with a very helpful sales guy named Jonny Manik.  He explained he could sell me a phone for each person in the office for about a hundred bucks.  Then for $45 per person per month we could have unlimited local and long distance calling.  On top of that we would have efaxing capability, and call recording.  The system would support computer chatting amongst all the people in the office.  We would each be able to forward calls to different telephone (our cell phones for example).  We could keep our advertised phone number, and cancel all the AT&T landlines.  All we would have to do is plug the phones into the back of each person's computer, and we would be off and running.  Are you kidding me?  I would have all of those features, and be able to reduce our monthly phone bill by at least 66%!

I jumped at the hook.  A few days later the slick Polycom telephones arrived.  We spent about a half hour on the phone with 8x8 tech support, and lo and behold Jonny's promises were realized!  The system works great.  Sound quality is perfect.  There are more bells and whistles then I think I will ever be able to use.  The learning curve is modest.  We can send faxes right from our computer rather than walking down the hall to a fax machine, and we received faxes right at our computers, rather than walking down the hall to the fax machine.  Plus, I have severed all ties with the more expensive AT&T. 

We have no regrets.  The new system works brilliantly.  If you are looking to make a change, get touch with Jonny at 8x8.  Remind him that I am supposed to get a $100 credit for every referral!

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

eFax Software

Our fax machine is part of a business hub copier, scanner, fax unit.  Wouldn't you know it, the fax part of it went down this week.  We are still trying to figure out what the problem is?  Phone line is live.  We can receive faxes.  Unfortunately we cannot send anything out.  When you lose the function, you appreciate how much you actually use it.

Coincidentally, I just received a press release from eFax, an online fax service provider touting its service.  I have actually been contemplating such a service for some time, but I am not fully understanding how it works.  Perhaps the answers lie in this release.  Admittedly this is blatant advertising from the provider.  That does not mean that it is automatically inaccurate.  Here we go:

The halls of justice are increasingly being taken to the streets as legal professionals use cloud computing and mobile solutions to un-tether from the traditional law office. According to the 2012 survey from the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center, 38 percent of lawyers have already migrated to laptops as primary computers. And with today’s feature-heavy, app-ready tablets and smartphones, legal professionals may no longer even need a laptop to conduct business on the fly.

eFax®, a provider of online fax services since 1996 and a brand of j2 Global, Inc. (NASDAQGS: JCOM), understands the critical business needs of on-the-go legal professionals and provides the ability to send, receive and manage faxes from anywhere. According to the 2012 National Study of Employers, 77 percent of companies surveyed allow or encourage flextime and nearly 66 percent let employees sometimes work from home. While working remotely, it is essential for legal professionals to have access to critical documents and the ability to receive and respond to communications from multiple devices.

“Using eFax, I’m able to stay on top of developments in legal matters from my smartphone anywhere in the world, any time” said Scott Brenner, Esq. “Since I’m constantly working on the go at client offices and remote locations, I’ve found that eFax is an indispensable tool. It enables me the important convenience of sending and receiving critical documents and correspondences from my mobile device and tablet when I’m working away from my office.”

eFax has many features and benefits that eliminate the paper chase for busy law professionals and help them work efficiently while on-the-go:

·         Freedom and flexibility — The eFax Mobile Apps enable legal professionals to send a fax of any photo from their iPhone or other smartphone. The simplicity of point, shoot and fax allows busy legal professionals to send critical documents to clients, staff, counsel or even the court, whether or not they are in the office. Learn more about the eFax mobile app for iPhone in this YouTube video.

·         Easing the burden of e-discovery — Complying with e-discovery requests can be time-consuming and costly for busy lawyers. eFax incorporates search tools into faxed documents, allowing a proactive approach to managing information to handle any potential e-discovery requests. Lawyers can search for faxes using names, topics or other keywords to find a specific document or group of documents. Tags can also be used to support a records classification scheme so that documents are retained or properly disposed of according to policy. Learn more about how to tag and search faxes in this YouTube video.

·         Eliminating document disorder — The paperless office is a reality with eFax. Rather than carting around large boxes of files of critical documents, eFax offers legal professionals unlimited lifetime storage and securely archives faxed documents online. Documents, which can be digitally stored on secure file servers, can be retrieved at anytime from anywhere.

·         Confidential and secure — eFax Secure encrypts faxes and stores them as a TIFF or PDF in a secure inbox. eFax improves the privacy of critical documents from lawyers’ clients by eliminating the risks inherent in having confidential faxed documents sitting next to a traditional fax machine.

·         Signed, sealed and sent — Time is money and in today’s environment there is no room for waste. eFax eliminates the need to print, sign and scan documents by providing digitized signature capabilities. Client engagement letters, contracts, or other documents that need a signature, can be faxed to a user’s eFax account where a digitized signature can be added in a snap from a computer, tablet or smartphone. The approved document can then be sent along via email or fax. Learn more about how to use eFax digitized signatures in this video.

With eFax, busy legal professionals are able to easily send, receive and access critical documents on demand. eFax supports the move to a paperless office with time and resource-efficient features that make it easy to store and access documents. For a free trial of eFax please visit

The eFax branded service is a pioneer in the fax business, with a string of technology and business firsts dating back to 1996. Individuals and small businesses can learn more about sending and receiving faxes online at For medium to large businesses with 10 to 10,000 employees or high volume faxing needs, more information is available at

For more information please visit the eFax blog at or watch these videos on the eFax YouTube channel. To listen to a Podcast interview with Scott Brenner, Esq. go to

About eFax
eFax is a brand and registered trademark of j2 Global, Inc. (NASDAQGS: JCOM) and is online at

About j2 Global
Founded in 1995, j2 Global, Inc. provides cloud services to individuals and businesses around the world. j2 Global's network spans 49 countries on six continents. The Company offers Internet fax, voice and email solutions. j2 Global markets its services principally under the brand names eFax®, Onebox®, eVoice®, FuseMail®, Campaigner®, KeepItSafe® and CampaignerCRM.
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Solo nets Supreme Court win!

I know this has nothing to do with technology, but I think it is pretty cool. Andrew Simpson is a sole practitioner in the U.S. Virgin Is...