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!

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!

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

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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.  Extremetech.com 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.

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

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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.

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

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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 attorneyatwork.com offering his thoughts on the new paradigm for law practice advertising.  Click here to read Print or Online Advertising: Getting It Right.

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

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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. . . .

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

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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:


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

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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.

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

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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

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