Law Practice Management Newsletter
Alan J. Klevan Esq., chair, MBA Law Practice Managment Section Council
A Note from the Chair
by Alan Klevan, Esq.
MBA Law Practice Management Section Council
Welcome to the first edition of Practically Speaking, the Law Practice Management Section’s new e-zine. Look for us to bring you exciting news and helpful tips about selecting technologies that can make your practice more satisfying, effective and profitable.
My road to technological understanding was paradoxical, to put it bluntly. When I went into practice with my wife four years ago, I was armed with a laptop, copy machine and typewriter. Two years later, I was still armed with just a laptop, a copy machine and typewriter. Nothing had changed.
I found myself in a sleepy little town called Complacency where no one succeeded and no one failed. Everything was just, well, normal.
Later that year, on the recommendation of a friend, I went to the ABA Techshow and my life changed. I returned with a new commitment to learn more about technology available for the legal profession. And I promised myself to get to the technology “holy land.”
Since that time, I have realized that a lot of new and developing technologies have passed over the legal profession. Many Massachusetts lawyers still operate with only a laptop, copier and typewriter. Seeing this, I have vowed to encourage my fellow practitioners to learn about existing and developing technologies available to them.
That brings us to Practically Speaking. I have asked my friend and colleague, Alan Brown, to be the editor of this e-zine, and he has graciously accepted. In future editions you will see articles on topics such as:
Practical technology for the law office;
Helpful Web sites;
Law practice management tips;
Anything else we can think of to broaden your understanding of technology and its use in the practice of law.
If you like what we’re offering:
Forward this e-mail on to your fellow practitioners.
Attend our Law Practice Management Section meetings.
Tell us want you want to see in the e-zine or submit a contribution.
For more information on what the Law Practice Management section has to offer, you are welcome to contact me via e-mail. If you’d like to get involved with the e-zine, please contact Alan Brown via e-mail.
Thank you for taking the time to read our inaugural issue. We look forward to working with you towards making each and every one of your practices as enriching and fulfilling as possible. And remember, despite the diverse areas of legal practice, Law Practice Management encompasses them all.
Digital dictation – 90 days in
Can this technology improve your practice?
by Alan E. Brown, Esq.
Morrison & Mahoney LLP, Boston
Are you still using cassette tapes? Is your practice mobile but your dictation still tethered to your office? Cut the cord and check out what digital dictation can do for you!
I began using digitation several months ago and can’t say enough about it. Gone are the clumsy cassette tapes in my briefcase and bulky player at my assistant’s desk. In their place is a sleek digital recorder.
I can dictate up to 20 hours — way more than I need — with incredible clarity. Better yet, I can skip between dictated entries, inserting or editing anything I’ve said along the way if I need to make changes before something is typed!
Once I’ve dictated a day’s worth, I download these files to my computer and send them to my assistant or an online dictation service. This can be done from in the office or — coming soon for me — wherever I’m connected to the Internet. That means you can get documents typed in the office even when you can’t get there.
LPM Council Member and Worcester Attorney Channing Migner tells us:
I started using a Phillips Digital Dictaphone three months ago and it’s the best thing since sliced bread — I use it all the time! I can do dictation in court, fire up my laptop, and pop the file into my secretary’s computer in the blink of an eye. Today I did some dictation in a parking lot on the Mass Pike and it was transcribed before I got back to the office!
Using an online dictation service, such as Speak-Write.com, can be a great way to handle overflow if staff is busy or if you don’t have staff at all. You send audio files electronically to Speak-Write.com and they send you back typed word files attached to an e-mail. It just doesn’t get any easier than that!
Want to know more? Join us on February 27, 2008, 5:30 p.m., at the MBA Boston Offices, 20 West St., Boston for the next Law Practice Management Section Council meeting and a live demonstration of Dragon Naturally Speaking by attorney Chris Perruzzi. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition software that can take your digital dictation to an even higher level.
Also check out these sites:
Speak-Write.com – Internet Based Transcription Service
Nuance.com – Speech recognition software and makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking
Verdatumsys.com – An end-to-end digital dictation systemTechshow.com – ABA Techshow Presentation - Look Who’s Talking? What Lawyers Need to Know about Digital Dictation and Voice Recognition
, presentation on March 14, 2008
Six free software programs that get the job done
Critical function for the solo and small firm practitioner
by Rodney Dowell, Esq., director
Law Office Management Assistance Program
Although there is almost always some price to be paid for using free software, either in functionality or annoying advertising, the following programs provide sufficient benefits to get you past the limitations.
Note: Always use a little caution when installing free programs. Try to ensure they are from reputable sites and look for positive feedback about the software or sites offering them.
Free business accounting programs
If you are not currently using an electronic accounting software package, you may want to test two free products, one from Intuit, the other from Microsoft.
QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 (Intuit)
This free software has no expiration date. It includes basic accounting features, allows you to create simple financial reports, invoice customers, manage payroll, and write and print checks. It also allows you to set up two separate companies (one for your operating account and one for your IOLTA account). If used properly, the financial reports provided are sufficient to keep you in compliance with the BBO rules on IOLTA Three-Way Reconciliation.
This product is for first time users because it cannot import data from existing accounting programs such as Quicken or QuickBooks.
Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008 (Microsoft)
When working in Microsoft Outlook you can mark your tasks, appointments, meetings, etc. as billable, create time entries, import the billable events into Accounting Express, and invoice your clients.
Unfortunately, the software does not allow you to import the journal entries from Microsoft Outlook. This is an unfortunate failure since the journal provides a stopwatch and tracks time.
Accounting Express does allow you to import data from existing accounting programs such as Microsoft Money and Intuit QuickBooks. Like QuickBooks Simple Start 2008, it will also allow you to invoice customers, write checks, manage payroll, track expenses and reconcile online bank accounts.
Also like QuickBooks Simple Start 2008, Accounting Express allows you can create a separate company to track your business account and IOLTA account. The financial reports included create reports that comply with BBO rules for Three-Way Reconciliation. It is worth a look.
Free Web site development tools
I owe my use of Xenu’s Link Sleuth to my friend and Boston attorney Ken Rodriguez. This neat tool allows you to check for broken links, identifies the cause of the error, and provides a nice report from its simple interface. You may then take the information and correct your Web site.
When I added content to my Web site, I had included links to several other Web sites that did not work. When I was informed of the problem, this Web-based software allowed me to find the broken links in my web site and quickly told me how to identify and correct the errors.
If you are concerned about your Web site’s links, try this software. This tool will also make you sound knowledgeable when you talk to your Web site developer!
Free mobile synchronicity
For Windows users, I like SyncToy, to keep my laptops and server/desktop synchronized. For me, the critical question is ease of use with an intuitive interface. This product gave me the simplicity I need. As someone who constantly picks up my laptop and runs to the next meeting, this tool allows me an easy way to maintain a synchronized copy of the documents on which I am working.
I am now confident that I am using the most recent version and ready to go on the road.
BlackBerry Professional Software Express for Microsoft Exchange (Blackberry)
If you have a BlackBerry, consider this free (one license limit) tool. Click the link above for the software and an explanation of the technical requirements.
This software offers wireless synchronization for your e-mail, calendar, and address book. For example, if your staff enters a new contact and meeting while you are on the road, you will have that critical information within minutes. Also, if you delete an e-mail on your desktop or your BlackBerry, that action is reflected on both devices within minutes without requiring you to duplicate your efforts.
I hesitate to add this free software because of the technical difficulty of installing the program and the need for Microsoft Exchange 2003, but if you use a BlackBerry, this free software, which includes one free support call, makes using your Blackberry a true joy.
Free PDF creation
CutePDF (Cute PDF)
If you are looking to create PDF files for filing in federal court, to control the ability of others to make changes, or simply for electronic storage, you may wish to look beyond the major players (Adobe and Nuance) in the PDF file format industry. Although Adobe and Nuance both make excellent products, they can also be prohibitively expensive for some users.
There are a number of free and inexpensive alternatives that allow, at a minimum, the ability to create a PDF document.
My thanks to Christopher Morse, for letting me know about PDFCreator, a free program that generates PDF files from almost any Windows application. You can encrypt, send files by e-mail, and merge PDF files.
Although these products may not have all the features you get with purchased products, if you are willing to put in the up-front investment of your valuable time, these tools can provide an adequate substitute for the more expensive alternatives.
Questions? Contact Rodney at (857) 383-3250 or via e-mail.
Click here to visit the Law Office Management Assistance Program Web site.
Top legal blogs
“Blawgs” worth checking out
by Andrea Goldman, Esq.
Law Office of Andrea Goldman, Newton
When Alan Klevan asked me to write a feature on top legal blogs, I felt overwhelmed by the number of choices. After all, the ABA just ran an article about the 100 Top Legal Blogs in its December 2007 issue and it has a blog directory. For those of you who do not know, legal blogs are frequently referred to as “blawgs.”
Therefore, rather than try to come up with the best legal blogs, I thought I would highlight some of those that we legal techie types hear about on a regular basis. The ones that started it all and that occur on most lists.
The first is Jim Calloway’s Legal Practice Tips Blog. Jim is a great guy, and his blog is well worth reading.
Massachusetts’ own Bob Ambrogi reviews legal Web sites.
Legal Ease Blog
Helps “lawyers and law firm managers create more productive, profitable and enjoyable practices.”
Aimed at “preventing burnout & restoring sanity to lawyers and law firms.”
Finally, if you want to see a good example of a practice-specific blog, please have a look at mine: Home Contractor vs. Homeowner.
Alan J. Klevan Esq., chair, MBA Law Practice Management Section Council
Do you Woot?
Technology deals for your office
by Alan Klevan, Esq.
Klevan & Klevan, Wellesley
Do you Woot? If not, run, don’t walk your fingers, to Woot!, the original home of the “one deal, one day” Web site.
Founded in 2004 by Texas electronics wholesaler Matt Rutledge, Woot (Want One Of Those) offers one discounted product each day on its Web site. The products range from digital cameras to mp3 players to GPS systems, even DLP televisions, frequently at prices far below even the cheapest Web-based suppliers.
The product is available for 24 hours; it “expires” at midnight (U.S. Central Time) and is replaced by a different product for the next day. If a product sells out during its run, the next item still does not appear until midnight, except during Woot-Offs.
Products are never announced beforehand and can easily sell out in a few hours or even minutes of frenzied buying. In contrast to a market characterized by ever-expanding consumer choice, the Woot.com approach relies on the elements of simplicity and surprise.
Woot has an active community. To satisfy its customers, Woot’s site contains blogs and runs reviews of the item being sold. These days, Woot also offers wines (winewoot), cheeses (cheesewoot) and shirts (shirtwoot).
If one item per day doesn’t satiate your need for bargains, head on over to Overstock.com, where you can and will find just about anything you desire at deeply discounted prices.
Save the Dates
Join us at our next section meeting
Wednesday, Feb. 27, MBA, 20 West St., Boston
Featuring a demonstration of Dragon Naturally Speaking by Chris Perruzzi
Meet the members of the MBA Law Practice Management Section Council and other lawyers interested in technology.
Join Us at the ABA Techshow 2008
The World's Premier Legal Technology Conference & EXPO
Chicago, IL – March 13-15, 2008
Anything and everything about legal technology and how it can help you! Check out Techshow.com for more information!
Check out the New LPM Forum on the MBA Web site
Q&As, practice tips and more!
Have you been to the new LPM Forum yet? Open to all MBA members, you will find Q&As, Practice Tips and a discussion of all things related to Law Practice Management.
Feel free to go to the Law Practice Management Forum and begin a discussion thread!
Submit an E-zine article
Have a cool technology or practice tip to share? We want to hear from you!
Hardware or software, in the office or on the road, if you use a technology to make your practice more satisfying, effective or profitable, we want to know about it. E-mail your ideas, links, pictures or short article to Alan Brown.
Get your name out there!