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Online tools to streamline your email

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled " Online tools to streamline your email."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Online tools to streamline your email

These days we spend an awful lot of time sorting through and responding to emails. Oftentimes, email ping pong can take up a tremendous amount of time as we attempt to schedule meetings or phone calls on dates and times that work well for a group of invitees.

Another problem often encountered is that, for many of us, our email operates as a “to-do” list, which can sometimes become overwhelming since email wasn’t intended to be used this way. As a result, emails can often accumulate in your in-box incredibly quickly, making you feel overwhelmed and disorganized.

Fortunately, there are online tools designed to solve these problems by integrating with your Gmail account. I recently discovered a few new ones that I find to be quite useful and thought it would be helpful to share them with you, my faithful readers.

First, there’s Streak (streak.com). This is my new favorite email management tool. This Gmail add-on is billed as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, but doesn’t need to be used for that purpose. Personally I only use it for two of its features, both of which I have become increasingly reliant on.

First, it has a built-in email tracking tool. This means that once you send an email, the app tracks it and advises you when the recipient has opened it. Sure it sounds a little creepy, but it’s a feature that I find to be incredibly useful. No more wondering whether you’re being ignored. With Streak, you can confirm that suspicion and move on with your day! Truly though, knowing whether an email has been opened really does help in terms of assessing whether you need to send a follow up email.

Another great feature that Streak provides is the ability to “snooze” an email. This means that you can temporarily archive an email and remove it from your inbox, but before doing so you can set the parameters for when it reappears in your inbox at a later date. So you instruct Streak to archive it for any time period that you desire. You can also set the requirement that it reappear only if no one replies to it. This is a really handy feature that helps to keep your inbox less cluttered, but still allows you to stay on top of emails that require a reply or that require some other action on your part.

Assistant.to (trybetty.com) is another great Gmail extension that integrates with your Google calendar and is designed to reduce the number of back and forth emails when trying to schedule a meeting date. The way it works is that any time you respond to an email, a prompt appears at the bottom of the email which allows you to choose the meeting length and location and then connects to your calendar so you can select a few dates and times that work for you. Once you’ve done so, you’re then returned to your email and the app inserts text into your email that lists your available times. It’s that simple!

Alternatively, if you don’t use Gmail and Google Calendar or prefer not to grant an app access to your calendar, another free and simple option for scheduling meetings is When Is Good (whenisgood.net). You go to this website and then simply choose the dates and times that work for you. Once you’ve done so, a special link is created for your event. You then send the link to the other attendees and they can then visit the website using the link and indicate which dates and times that you’ve chosen work for them as well. Again, this is another useful app that simplifies the meeting scheduling process.

These are just a few of the great email add-ons available for Gmail users and others. Hopefully these ideas will help to streamline your daily workflow a bit. After all, we could all use a little more simplicity in our online — and offline — lives!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled " Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?"  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?

 

Technology is changing at a rapid clip. Devices that were once a marvel less than a decade ago, like e-readers, smartphones and tablets, are now commonplace. Cloud computing is on the rise and social media use and postings, whether by parties, witnesses or jurors, is now a factor in the vast majority of cases being litigated in courtrooms across the country. The times the are a changin’ — and quickly.

The good news is that in some cases, lawyers are adapting quite well, especially when it comes to mobile computing. In fact, according to the results of the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, nearly 91 percent of lawyers use smartphones in their practices and 48 percent use tablets.

That’s an incredible amount of acclimation in a very short period of time given that the first smartphone, the iPhone, was released in 2007 and the first tablet, the iPad, was released in 2010. In other words, lawyers — who are traditionally slow to adopt new technologies into their practices — seem to be taking to mobile like a fish takes to water.

Well get ready, fellow attorneys, for the next stage of the mobile revolution: wearable technology.

And, it’s not just coming soon — it’s already here. Google Glass is now available to the public, smartwatches have been available for a number of months now, and Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch, was just released, with rumors of an iWatch release in the fall.
That means you can pick your wearable poison. Apple or Android? Smartwatch or glasses? Or perhaps you’ll choose both.

I predict that for most lawyers, smartwatches will initially prevail and that we’ll see a quick uptick in use once the iWatch is released, since the vast majority of lawyers still use iPhones (62 percent according to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey results).

The reason smartwatches will be so popular with lawyers is that they offer an easy and unobtrusive way to filter only the most important information received on your smartphone. So if you’re expecting a priority email or phone call, you can program your phone to forward it to your smartwatch so that you’ll receive a subtle vibration on your wrist. This will come in handy when you’re in court, for example. So instead of causing a disruption in the proceedings, you can leave the room quietly and tend to the matter in the hallway with no one else the wiser.
Google Glass won’t be as popular at first, but over time I suspect that as new legal specific apps are released (the folks at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute are already working on some) and as forward-thinking lawyers find creative ways to use Glass in their practices, we’ll see lawyers increasingly using this technology as well.

I speak from experience. I recently obtained a complimentary pair of Google Glass for review purposes thanks to a helping hand from the kind folks at Justia, including Tim Stanley, Nick Moline and Vasu Kappettu. Glass is an incredible technology that offers tremendous potential.
Much like the iPhone when it was first released in 2007, Glass is a diamond in the rough and its utility will no doubt change over time as more apps are developed and users find creative ways to make it work for their needs.

So mark my words: The next stage of the mobile revolution has arrived. Learn about wearable technologies and be ready. Sure it takes time to keep up with rapidly changing technologies, but even so, it will pay off in the long run. Rest assured the time spent keeping up with new technologies will pay off down the road and is a far better option than the alternative: being left behind in the wake of inevitable change.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled " Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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 Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers

 

Every year I write about different legal technology surveys that are released. Many focus on how lawyers are actually using legal technology, such as the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey. But it’s also helpful to know how solo and small-firm lawyers envision using technology in their practices.

That why the results of two legal technology surveys about lawyers’ plans to use legal technology in their law practices are so interesting (disclosure: they were conducted by MyCase, the company for which I work). They offer a glimpse into the businesses of solo and small firm lawyers and provide indications of their assessments of the value that different types of technologies will bring to their law practices.

The first survey was conducted earlier this year. A large sampling of lawyers were asked about their key business challenges for the coming year. From the responses, it was clear that one of their highest priorities was to grow their practices and that implementing new technologies, such as mobile and cloud computing, into their workflow was an important part of achieving that goal.
According to the survey results, 35 percent wanted to grow their business by using technology to increase efficiency, part of which included streamlining their billing practices and making it easier for clients to pay them; 31 percent hoped to become more organized by better utilizing technology to move to a paperless office and by managing their time more efficiently using mobile billing tools; 12 percent sought to become better lawyers by becoming better organized and improving client communication; and, 11 percent planned to move their law firm to the cloud as part of their efforts to better manage their practice by becoming more mobile and facilitating more flexible client communication.

The second survey asked lawyers in firms of less than 50 people about how they planned to use new technologies in their law firms. The respondents were nearly evenly split between solo practitioners (57 percent) and larger firms (43 percent). In particular the survey focused on learning more about how and why lawyers planned to use technology to increase productivity.
The survey results indicated the majority of respondents planned to invest more in technology to help them run their practices over the next year. Like the earlier survey, respondents indicated that the biggest planned technology investments revolved around going paperless and increasing efficiency: 73 percent reported that they were moderately to extremely likely to increase reliance on technology over the next year and 33 percent were likely to increase reliance on mobile in the coming year.

In terms of the specific technologies most likely to be implemented, 35 percent reported that they planned to digitize documents and 16 percent planned to start using comprehensive law practice management software. Also interesting was that respondents reported that they hoped to use new technologies to decrease inefficiencies related to client communication (31 percent) and time entry (25 percent). And, the traditional method most likely to be abandoned in favor of new technologies was the pen and paper appointment calendar, with 60 percent of respondents indicating that they planned to stop using it.

Other interesting findings included the fact that 64 percent of respondents agreed that there was a connection between increased mobility and profitability and only 37 percent respondents were not optimistic about increasing profits despite the less than robust economy and increased global competition for legal services. And last, but not least, when it came to increasing profits by bringing in new business, 46 percent of respondents agreed that word of mouth remains the best way to get new business and 29 percent agreeing that referrals from colleagues were one of the best sources of new business.

So that’s how some solo and small firm lawyers plan to grow their law practices by using technology in the near future. Are your goals for your law practice aligned with the survey results? What types of new technologies will you use in your law firm over the next year?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 bereachedatniki@mycase.com.