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The iPad: The Future of Personal Computing

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The iPad: The Future of Personal Computing."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The iPad: The Future of Personal Computing

Approximately 14.8 million iPads were sold in 2010, with 7.3 million being sold in the last quarter of 2010. One year ago, industry experts predicted far smaller numbers ranging from 3 million to 9 million. In 2010, iPad sales were so high that its revenues for actually surpassed Apple’s portable computer revenues last year. 

Earlier this month, the iPad 2 was released. It sold out in the United States during the first weekend, with analysts estimating that between 500,000 – 600,000 units were sold. 70% of the purchases were made by first time buyers. By the end of 2011, sales of the iPad 2 will no doubt surpass the original iPad’s. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that by the end of 2011, Apple will have sold over 22 million iPad 2s.

Last Tuesday, I joined the throngs of iPad 2 owners. Nearly one week and a half after the iPad 2 was released, I stood in line at the Apple Store at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday with approximately 100 other anxious Rochestarians. Three hours later, I left triumphantly with my new iPad 2 in hand, affectionately naming it “Dorothy” once it emerged from its packaging.

Now some have asked me why I bothered to buy Dorothy when I already own “Alice”, my first generation iPad. The reason is simple: I am tired of constantly battling my family for access to Alice. My husband and 9 year old are now regularly reading books using the Kindle app. And, both of my kids love to play games on the iPad. So, I decided to buy Dorothy for my own use and gave Alice to my family. Now we’re a two iPad family, as I predict many families will be within the next year or so.

I am very confident in this prediction, given that my predictions regarding the original iPad, made last year in this very column just a few weeks before it was released, came to fruition. In my column published on March 16, 2010, I concluded that the iPad would change the way we obtained and consumed information:

“The iPad will not fill an already existing niche — it will create a new one. It will be ever-present in our homes, during daily commutes and on airplanes. The iPad will be prevalent where people tend to read books or magazines, but will be far less visible at locations where people mostly work or socialize. It will be our conduit for media consumption and our interface of choice. The iPad is a game changer of epic proportions — of that I am sure.”

I also asserted, correctly, I believe, that the iPad would not replace laptops or smart phones:

“It won’t be a portable work station. Laptops will continue to serve that function far better than the iPad. The iPad will suffice for composing e-mails and short documents but, for most businesses, laptops and desktop computers will remain the interface of choice. Likewise, the iPad will not replace the iPhone. Smart phones will continue to function as miniature connectors to the information super highway. Their smaller size and GPS functionality make smart phones ideal for certain tasks that the larger, less portable iPad will not be able to duplicate.”

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to make these predictions. Many industry experts and analysts came to the same conclusion—just as others claimed, vehemently and incorrectly, that the iPad would be a tremendous failure.

Industry experts aside, even my decidedly non-techie husband accurately predicted the iPad’s importance last April when, after he’d had a few minutes alone with the iPad, he handed it back to me and said, “I totally get it now. In a few years, every member of the family will have one of these and will use it as their own personal computer. And people will pass iPads around the family room like a magazine or book.”

My husband was right. The iPad and other tablet computers will soon be mainstays in most middle-class American homes and will be the personal computing device of choice. Mark my words—within two years, at least one member of your family will own one, if not more.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.


Confidentiality, Smart Phones and Lawyers, oh my!

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Confidentiality, Smart Phones and Lawyers, oh my!"

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Confidentiality, Smart Phones and Lawyers, oh my!

Just like the general population, more lawyers are using mobile devices than ever before and their use of smart phones and mobile devices is increasing every year. According to the American Bar Association’s 2010 Legal Technology Survey Report, which was released in July 2010, 76% of responding lawyers reported using smart phones, up from 64% in 2009.

As reported in the survey, lawyers use their smart phones in a variety of ways, not the least of which is in the courtroom. In fact, lawyers use of smart phones while in court increased in 2010 to 71 percent from 60 percent in the 2009. And, while in court, lawyers perform a variety of function using their phones: 64 percent of respondents reported using their smart phones to check e-mail, 60 percent used their phones to send e-mail, and 46 percent perform calendaring functions on their phones.

Of course, as smart phone use increases and lawyers send, receive and store confidential client information on their mobile devices, legal ethics obligations are triggered and lawyers need to understand how to meet their ethical duties when using these devices.

Last September, the Professional Ethics Committee of the Florida bar considered this very issue in Opinion 10-2, which addressed the ethical obligations of lawyers in regard to data stored on the hard drives of “storage media”.

As defined in the opinion, “storage media” includes any media that stores digital representations of documents, including computers, printers, copiers, scanners, mobile devices such as cellular phones or personal digital assistants, flash drives, memory sticks, facsimile machines.

Importantly, the Committee emphasized that lawyers using these devices must familiarize themselves with new technologies and “have a duty to keep abreast of changes in technology to the extent that the lawyer can identify potential threats to maintaining confidentiality.”

The Committee also explained that lawyers choosing to use mobile devices and other storage media in their law practices must take reasonable steps to ensure that client confidentiality is maintained. One important part of this duty includes the obligation to identify any “potential threat(s) to confidentiality along with the development and implementation of policies to address the potential threat to confidentiality.”

The Committee noted that lawyers who use mobile devices also have a supervisory responsibility that extends to not only to the lawyer’s own employees but to “entities outside the lawyer’s firm with whom the lawyer contracts to assist in the care and maintenance of the Devices in the lawyer’s control.” Part of the lawyer’s supervisory duty requires that the lawyer obtain assurances from any nonlawyers who will have access to confidential information that confidentiality of the information will be maintained.

Interestingly, the conclusions reached by the Professional Ethics Committee of Florida regarding lawyers use of mobile technologies mirror the conclusions reached by the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics in Opinion 842, also issued in September 2010, which addressed the ethical obligations of lawyers who choose to store confidential client information online using cloud computing services.

In Opinion 842, the Committee concluded that: “A lawyer may use an online data storage system to store and back up client confidential information provided that the lawyer takes reasonable care to ensure that confidentiality will be maintained in a manner consistent with the lawyer’s obligations under Rule 1.6. In addition, the lawyer should stay abreast of technological advances to ensure that the storage system remains sufficiently advanced to protect the client’s information, and should monitor the changing law of privilege to ensure that storing the information online will not cause loss or waiver of any privilege.” The Committee also noted that lawyers must ensure that their cloud provider has an enforceable obligation to preserve confidentiality and security.

Mobile devices and cloud computing are becoming ubiquitous in our culture and it is increasingly difficult to avoid the use of these technologies in one’s law practice. As a result, ethics committees across the country are wisely requiring lawyers keep up to date regarding new technologies in order to comport with their ethical duties to maintain client confidentiality.

The ethics committees are facing reality and so should you. Don’t turn a blind eye to technology; learn about and embrace emerging technologies. You owe it to yourself, your practice, and your clients.


Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Back to the Basics

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Back to the Basics."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Back to the Basics

When I tell people I’m writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers, oftentimes, I’m met with a confused look from lawyers and non-lawyers alike. It seems that most people have heard the term “cloud computing” bantered about, but few know what it actually means.

So, I figured it was time for a back to the basics primer on cloud computing for my readers, since the concept is quickly picking up traction. It’s important to understand what it is, why it matters and how you can use it.

First off, you may not realize it, but you already used cloud computing in one form or another. In fact, many lawyers have been using cloud computing in their law offices for years. For example, if you use Westlaw or LexisNexis for legal research, then you’ve been conducting legal research in the cloud.

Similarly, if you’ve ever used an Internet-based email platform, such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail as your email platform, then you’re using a cloud computing service. And, even if you don’t personally use an Internet-based email service, if you’ve exchanged emails with a client who uses one of these email platforms, then the emails that you’ve sent to your client are now stored in the cloud.

If you store and share your photos online using Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly, or Snapfish, then your data is stored in the cloud and you use cloud computing.  When you search for information using Wikipedia, you’ve accessed an encyclopedia based entirely in the cloud. When you interact with online music or videos, such as listening to music on Pandora, watching a television show on Hulu, viewing YouTube videos or streaming a movie from Netflix, you’re consuming media stored in the cloud.

I could go on, but by now it should be obvious that cloud computing has been part of your life for some time now, even if you weren’t aware of it.

Of course, that begs the question: What exactly is cloud computing? Simply put, when you access data stored on someone else’s servers, then you’re using cloud computing.

For a more “official” definition, let’s turn to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), widely recognized to be a leader in the cloud-computing field.  NIST recently defined cloud computing as follows: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

In other words, cloud computing allows you, via an Internet connection, to access software or data that is stored and operated on someone else’s computer systems. The cloud computing provider, in turn, uses shared computer resources, including software and servers, to deliver information and services to you, the end user.

So, while “cloud computing” may at first blush sound like a foreign concept, it’s actually more familiar than you might think and is undoubtedly the next stage of computing. For that reason, it’s important to learn about cloud computing and ensure that you have a basic understanding of it.

Of course, using cloud computing services into your law firm is not without risk. As is the case when implementing any new service or product into your law practice, it’s important to exercise due diligence by carefully researching the product or service, considering your options, and weighing the risks against the benefits. Only after doing so will you be able to make an educated decision as to whether using a cloud computing product makes sense for your law firm.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.


Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Billing in the Cloud

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Billing in the Cloud."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Cloud Computing for Lawyers: Billing in the Cloud

A regular Rochester, New York reader recently emailed me and suggested that I write an article about cloud-based billing and time tracking software. He explained that while he wasn’t quite ready to move his practice management software to the cloud, he was considering the option of billing in the cloud.

Like most lawyers, this attorney is understandably cautious about the idea of moving all of his confidential client data to the cloud. For lawyers like him, a viable option is to forego SaaS-based law practice management systems, while handling certain types of less sensitive data in the cloud, like billing. Law firms that go this route will continue to manage their law practice using traditional, server-based software, but will benefit from the flexibility and convenience of utilizing cloud-computing platforms.

For most attorneys, billing and time tracking, while sometimes an arduous task, is a necessary evil. However, at the end of a busy day, it can be difficult to recall the exact tasks completed throughout the day, including how much time was spent on each task--a frustrating situation, since lost time is lost money.

Billing and time tracking software can help to alleviate some of these problems, since an intuitive, easy-to-use time tracking and/or billing system can make all the difference when attempting to account for lost billable hours.

Most web-based law practice management suites incorporate billing and time tracking software right into the platform. However, if you’re not in the market for a full-fledged law practice management suite, there are a number of good, cloud-based legal time tracking and billing services available that can supplement your current system.

Some services even offer smart phone applications, making it even easier to keep track of and bill for your time on the fly. For many lawyers, this added convenience is a deal breaker. Access to a smart phone app means that you can fire up the app and bill for the time spent in court before you’ve even left the courthouse.

A few of the more well known online billing products include Time59 (www.time59.com),  TimeSolv (www.timesolv.com) , and Bill4Time (www.bill4time.com). All three companies offer a 30-day free trial.

Time59 is a web-based time and expense tracking software product that also offers LEDES invoicing and Quickbooks-friendly exporting. Time59 is geared toward solos and is designed for use by a single user versus multiple users. It allows users to input and keep track of hourly billing projects. Time59 costs $49.95 per year and can be accessed via a mobile phone.

Another service, Bill4Time (www.bill4time.com), offers web-based billing software that can also be accessed using a mobile phone. Bill4Time allows use by multiple users and tracks time, provides invoicing and integrates with Quickbooks. Using Bill4Time you can bill hourly matters, flat fee matters or a combination of the two. Depending on your needs, Bill4Time costs between $19.99 to $39.99 per user, per month.

Finally, TimeSolv Legal (www.timesolv.com) provides a legal billing and time tracking system that is accessible via your desktop and using the web interface. Timsolv integrates with QuickBooks, MYOB, and Timeslips and offers LEDES invoicing. Timesolv allows for multiple users and billing methods and the company offers assistance in exporting data from a server-based billing system via an online session and will then import the data into Timesolv, at no charge. TimeSolv offers a base plan of $14.95 per user per month, with volume discounts available.

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Legal blogging isn't dead, it's just changing.

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Legal blogging isn't dead, it's just changing."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Legal blogging isn't dead, it's just changing.

I’ve written quite a bit about legal blogging over the years. Since 2006, I’ve been following legal blogs, tracking the trends and predicting the future of blogging for lawyers.

Last summer, I concluded that legal blogging, while not dead, was changing, in large part due to the influence of social media. Social media sites have replaced some of the functions of blogging, since many such sites are more effective at achieving some of the benefits blogging used to offer, such as professional networking. On the flip side, social media sites provide newfound and very effective forums for promoting blog posts.

A recent report (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Generations-2010.aspx) issued by the Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center supports my conclusions. According to the report, for the younger generation, blogging is being replaced by posting on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In comparison, the older generations, always the last to latch onto new trends, are finally beginning to blog.

The statistics regarding blogging from the report indicate that between 2008 and 2010:

  • Blogging dropped 2% for 18-33 year olds
  • Blogging increased 6% for 34-44 year olds
  • Blogging increased 5% for 46-55 year olds
  • Blogging increased 4% for 56-64 year olds
  • Blogging increased 2% for 65-73 year olds.

These statistics are striking for any number of reasons. First, for the older generations, the increase in blogging is only between 2-6%, which is, all things considered, a fairly small increase for a 2 year time frame. This is so especially given that the use of social networking sites increased between 12-32% for those same age ranges during the same time frame. 

Also significant is that blogging is decreasing for the younger generation. This matters for two very important reasons. 

First, this generation’s behavior is predictive of the general trends regarding the use of technology in the future, so more likely than not, two years from now, blogging will decline amongst the older generations as well.

Second, 18-33 year olds are the consumers and business people of the future. For that reason alone, their habits and choices are important. Businesses need to understand this generation and will want to be present online wherever this generation spends its time.

Of course, just because members of generation are choosing not to blog, doesn’t mean that they’re not reading blogs. As I’ve oft repeated, blogging is not dead, it’s simply changing. People will continue to read and consume blog posts.

However, one trend that I think will become more evident over the next year or so is that individual blogs will decline and group blogs will become the blogging standard. Many individual blogs will continue to succeed, but group blogs will dominate. This is because group blogs provide more varied content, different viewpoints, and draw in more eyes, since the individual bloggers can promote the group’s blog across their own social networks.

For lawyers, the most effective group blogs will consist of blog posts from geographically diverse lawyers focusing on the same practice area, such as criminal law, environmental law or personal injury law.

Generally speaking, group blogs from lawyers within the same firm are far less effective, in my opinion. Often, these types of group blogs consist of posts drafted by associates who are required to post and thus have no true passion for their subject matter. For that reason, these types of group blogs tend to fall flat.

And, it’s passion that separates the good blogs from the bad. If you enjoy writing and have a passion for the topic about which you are blogging, your blog, whether it’s a group blog or an individual one, will be a success.

Passion is the key element; if your passion shines through, people of all ages will want to read, discuss and share your blog posts. And, after all, isn’t that the point of blogging in the first place?

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.