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Browser add-ons to simplify, secure your online life

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "

Browser add-ons to simplify, secure your online life." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Browser add-ons to simplify, secure your online life
 

Since we all spend so much time these days using the Internet, both during work hours and during our free time, I’m going to focus on browser add-ons today. With the right browser extensions, your Web surfing can be far less aggravating—and safer.

It’s been a while since I shared my latest technology tips and tricks to help streamline and secure your online experience, so I figured now was as good as time as ever. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites, all of which are available for Google Chrome (my browser of choice), although most are available for other browsers as well.

First, there’s Adblock. If you don’t have that installed, do it — now. This add-on effectively blocks nearly all ads and increases your browsing speed — and enjoyment.

Next up, Web of Trust. This extension warns you when you attempt to visit websites that have been reported as unsafe. The app explains what the safety issues are and then you are given the choice to either abandon ship or visit the site 

Another great add-on is LastPass, a password manager. LastPass stores your passwords via encrypted files and automatically populates sites with the correct passwords when you visit them. It also pre-populates Web forms for you and generates and stores secure passwords for you.

Next, Any.do, my to-do app of choice and one of the Web extensions that I use often. It allows me to add to-dos to my current list and I can also create to-dos directly from my Gmail inbox and then link the newly created to-do with the email it relates to. Any.do is also available as a mobile app so you can add tasks to your to-do list regardless of how you’re accessing the Internet.

Diigo is my bookmarking tool of choice. Diigo stores your bookmarks in the cloud so you can access them from any device. It allows you to save links to websites of interest and tag them with descriptive keywords so that they can be easily located at a later point in time. Another nice feature is that you can highlight Web pages and add sticky notes to them — in other words, mark them up — and save them in that format to your Diigo bookmarks.

If you often find yourself frustrated when trying to print out a clean copy of a website, then the Print Friendly & PDF extension is for you! It converts websites into printer-friendly PDFs thus eliminating that problem.

Next up, if you often shop online, then PriceBlink is a great add-on to consider. Whenever you’re on a shopping site, it automatically provides links to available coupons along with information about lower prices for the item that are offered elsewhere.

Another extension I use frequently is SimilarWeb. This browser add-on provides you with links to other websites similar to the one you’re visiting, along with page ranking and other traffic information about the page you’re currently viewing. I often find the feature that provides links to similar sites useful if I’m interested in locating similar content or sites that offer similar services.

And, last but not least, there’s Streak for Gmail. Although billed as a customer relationship management tool, what I use it for is its ability to track emails and advise me when the recipient has viewed my email. Sure it’s a little Big Brother of me to want to know this, but you’ve got to admit — it’s useful information to have.

So those are the browser extensions I find myself using the most frequently. My hope is that you’ll find a few of them to be interesting enough to download and that the add-ons will improve and simplify your online experience. Happy surfing! 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. 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 niki@mycase.com.


Why not disaster-proof your law firm today?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Why not disaster-proof your law firm today?" My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Why not disaster-proof your law firm today?

According the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey results, 58 percent of lawyers surveyed cited security concerns as the top reason that prevented them from using cloud computing in their law practices. 

The problem is, the current file storage arrangement and IT set up of most law firms is anything but secure. Case in point — a Pennsylvania law office that literally went up in smoke last month, when the building in which their firm was located was destroyed in a fire.

As reported in the ABA Journal article about the fire, the building and everything inside of it was destroyed: “(T)hey felt fortunate there was no loss of life and only physical damage to cope with. However, at least one of the buildings appears likely to be a total loss, following a roof collapse. Inside were … documents and legal work that (would) have to be re-created.”

In other words, the firm apparently had no offsite backup for their client files and each and every file would need to be re-created from scratch. Unfortunately, this firm discovered the hard way that the failure to properly back up a law firm’s files offsite in digital format can lead to disastrous results.

Also reported last month by the ABA Journal was the story of another law firm that learned of the perils of failing to have an adequate backup plan. In this case, a North Carolina law firm stored its data on its computers’ hard drives. But, as explained in the article, a computer virus completely disabled the firm’s computers, making all of its files inaccessible: “Attorney Paul Goodson and his staff were unable to access his Charlotte, N.C., law firm’s files after they were locked up by a computer virus … Like other businesses in the city, the firm was targeted via email. Once an attachment was opened, the Crypto Locker virus took over. Thousands of documents stored on his computer were made inaccessible.”

Like many lawyers, Goodsen’s only copy of his firm’s data resided locally. So unfortunately for Goodsen, since the firm’s data had not been backed up offsite, there was no way to access it once the virus had infected his firm’s computers. Goodsen was out of luck.

This wouldn’t have happened if the firm’s data had been backed up to the cloud. Doing so would have created redundancies, which would have allowed him to recover recent copies of his firm’s valuable client data. Offsite data backup would have allowed his firm to conduct business as usual instead of being held hostage by malicious data hackers.

The good news is that many lawyers are beginning to understand the importance of off-site backup as a way to disaster-proof law firm data. In fact, according to the results of a LexisNexis report on cloud computing that was issued in January, 40.5 percent of lawyers using cloud computing services cited disaster recovery and data backup as the impetus behind their decision. 

So word to the wise: If a disaster can happen to these law firms, it could happen to yours. Why not take the time to reexamine your law firm’s file storage and data backup policies today to ensure that you’ve got a foolproof disaster backup plan in place? Your clients — and your malpractice carrier — will thank you.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. 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 niki@mycase.com.


Self-help legal sites: How do lawyers compete?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Self-help legal sites: How do lawyers compete?" My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Self-help legal sites: How do lawyers compete?

I was recently asked to speak to a group of lawyers about the Legal Zoom phenomenon and how lawyers can compete in the age of the self-help legal consumer.

It’s an interesting issue and one worthy of discussion. And it’s an important one for many transactional lawyers these days, since the legal landscape is in the midst of dramatic change — spawned in part by globalization and technological innovation — and as a result competition for legal clients is increasingly fierce.

So what can lawyers do about low-priced legal document creation services offered by websites like Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer and Biz Filings? How can lawyers compete?

First and foremost, lawyers need to understand why these sites — which have been around since the late 1990s — are suddenly so appealing to 21st century legal consumers. Simply put, it’s a confluence of 3 events: widespread Internet access, the ailing economy, and legal consumers’ corresponding ability (and expectation) to access all types of information 24/7.

In other words, legal consumers now have access to all types of information, whenever they want it, with just the touch of a button. Money is tight and many consumers figure why hire a lawyer when they can do it themselves? And judging by the rising popularity of do-it-yourself sites, more and more legal consumers are going this route — and as a result these sites are siphoning off the bread and butter of many transactional lawyers’ practices.

The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to better position your law firm in this increasingly competitive legal marketplace.

First, understand that the primary difference between your services and the services offered by these websites is — at least from the legal consumer’s perspective — that do-it-yourself websites do not guarantee results. Instead, the sites include disclaimer language similar to this: “We cannot guarantee the results or outcome of your particular procedure. We do not guarantee the results or outcomes rendered by our legal plan attorneys or attorney-assisted products. Problems like these are beyond our control and are not covered by this guarantee.”

While no lawyer can guarantee an outcome, you can guarantee that, unlike do-it-yourself sites, you will use your expertise to craft a document that meets their specific needs and that you will do your best to ensure client satisfaction.

Next, market your firm as one that “fixes the mistakes” of do-it-yourself websites — and specifically list the different sites when you do so. By doing this, you indicate to potential clients that your expertise will assist them in preparing proper legal documents while implying that by using do-it-yourself sites, they run the costly risk of a “do-over.”

And, if you market your services as a firm that fixes their mistakes, not only will you convince clients to choose your services over  those of the do-it-yourself sites, you’ll undoubtedly end up with clients who need to have their do-it-yourself documents fixed, something that has already happened to many transactional lawyers with whom I’ve spoken.

Finally, understand why many legal consumers flock to these sites. It’s not just affordability — it’s convenience and 24/7 access to information. To combat this you need to change the way that your law firm delivers legal services in order to better meet the needs of 21st century legal clients. They want instant access to case-related information at any time, day or night. They want to be able to securely communicate with you at their convenience, not just via telephone calls during office hours.

In order to meet their expectations and compete with the convenience of do-it-yourself sites, you have to make your legal services and your expertise more accessible. One of the best ways to do this is to use web-based tools to collaborate with and interact with your clients. There are many different alternatives available, ranging Google Docs or Dropbox to full fledged web-based law practice management platforms with built-in client portals which facilitate secure collaboration and communication with legal clients.

The bottom line: self-help legal sites aren’t the death knell for transactional lawyers. Instead, their current popularity is simply a sign of the times and an indication that many transactional lawyers need to step up their game and tweak their law practices to keep up with the changing expectations of 21st century legal consumers. While not always an easy task, it can be done.

So seize the day! Reexamine your law practice. What can you do to bring wanna-be self-help legal clients in the door?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. 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 niki@mycase.com.