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Free resources to help you manage your law practice

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Free resources to help you manage your law practice."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Free resources to help you manage your law practice

 

It’s common knowledge that law schools rarely do a very good job of preparing lawyers to run their law practices. Instead, many law schools have curriculums designed to groom their students to become associates in law firms. For that reason, many law school graduates emerge from the hallowed walls of law school with very little business or technological know-how.

As a result, solo and small-firm lawyers are typically left to their own devices when it comes to managing their law practice and choosing the right technologies for their law firms. The good news is that there are lots of great — and free — resources available to get you up to speed and help you make the right choices for your law firm’s needs.


The American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Resource Center is a great place to start. It offers a wealth of information on the nuts and bolts of setting up your own law practice, including links to webinars, articles and conferences devoted to all aspects of practice management, marketing and technology. It also includes a very useful interactive guide that helps you locate the resources for solo and small-firm lawyers available to you by your state bar association.

Another way to gain information to help you make the best decisions about running your law practice is to attend free webinars that are regularly broadcast online and cover topics such as moving to a paperless office, social media for law firms, website tips for law firms, free online research resources for law firms and more.

One of the best ways to locate these webinars is to follow the blogs of the different legal software companies that offer law practice management tools, since they often host webinars. Companies that host free practice management webinars include MyCase (the company for which I work), Avvo, Clio and Rocket Matter. I think you’ll find that these webinars tend offer lots of useful, actionable information with minimal promotional material.

Podcasts are another great way to learn about the ins and outs of running your law practice. Legal Talk Network offers a number of free monthly podcasts from noted experts in the field on an assortment of topics related to running your law firm. The Lawyerist blog also recently launched a free podcast series covering lots of useful information about practice management issues.

Finally, there are a number of great legal blogs that will help you make decisions about the business side of your law practice. For law practice management topics, consider the Mass. LOMAP blog, My Shingle, Solo Practice U, LawBiz Blog, Oregon Law Practice Management Blog, Solo in Colo and Thoughtful Legal Management.

For marketing and business development, read Divorce Discourse, Cordell Parvin’s Blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Strategist and The Enchanting Lawyer. For legal technology topics, follow Law Technology Today, Family Law Lawyer Tech and Practice, Future Lawyer, iPhone JD, The Droid Lawyer, Lawsites and The Cyber Advocate.

In addition, some blogs cover not just one, but all of these topics, including Above the Law, Lawyerist, Attorney at Work, the MyCase blog and Sui Generis (disclosure: I have written or currently write for all five of these blogs).

So what are you waiting for? Take steps to remedy that law school knowledge gap. Now that you’ve got the inside scoop on free resources to help run your law practice, start taking advantage of them!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist 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 be reached at niki@mycase.com.


California Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "California Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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California Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads  

 

When blogging started to become commonplace a decade ago, it wasn’t something many lawyers concerned themselves with. Eventually, lawyers began to blog and many began to wonder whether blogs constituted lawyer advertising and thus required disclaimers.

Over time, a number of jurisdictions have addressed this issue, with California weighing in on it just last month in proposed Formal Opinion Interim No.12-0006. In this opinion, the California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct considered the circumstances under which a California attorney with a blog is subject to the provisions of the Professional Rules of Conduct relating to attorney advertising.

The committee considered four different hypothetical blogs: 1) a standalone blog written by an attorney where the majority of posts heralded his courtroom victories and comments to the posts are not permitted, 2) a blog embedded in a law firm’s website that includes substantive law posts written by various members of the firm and invites readers to contact the post author for more information, 3) a stand-alone blog where the attorney writes about substantive law issues and the blog includes a link to the law firm with which the attorney is affiliated, but readers are never invited to contact the firm, and 4) a stand-alone blog where an attorney writes about jazz and the blog includes a link to the law firm with which the lawyer is affiliated.

In assessing whether the various blogs constituted attorney advertising, the committee noted that their analysis revolved around the answer to this inquiry:

“Whether a blog post is a “communication” subject to regulation under rule 1-400 therefore will depend on whether it meets the second part of the test: Is the post “concerning the availability for professional employment” of the member or her firm?”


The committee emphasized that when determining whether a blog post constitutes a “communication,” it is important to consider the nature and features of the blog. So, a blog that is embedded in a law firm’s website, by its very nature, includes communications that suggest availability for professional employment.

In comparison, stand-alone blogs must be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine whether rule 1-400 applies. The committee noted that an explicit invitation on the blog or in blog posts asking the reader to contact or hire the attorney constitutes a communication. In comparison, the Committee explained that a blog that invites readers to comment on the content of a post is evidence that the blog posts are non-commercial commentary rather than a commercial pursuit.

The committee then applied that analysis to the blogs at issue and concluded that the first two blogs (the stand-alone blog showcasing courtroom victories and the blog embedded in the law firm’s website) were “communications” whereas the other two (the substantive stand-alone blog and the jazz blog) were not:

“Attorney blogs are subject to the requirements and restrictions of rule 1-400 and the related provisions of the Business and Professions Code if the blog expresses the attorney’s availability for professional employment directly through words of invitation or offer to provide legal services, or implicitly through a description of the attorney’s legal practices and successes in such a manner that the attorney’s availability for professional employment is evident. A blog that is a part of an attorney’s or law firm’s professional website is subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising to the same extent as the website of which it is a part. A non-legal blog by an attorney is not necessarily subject to the rules or statutes regulating attorney advertising because it includes a hyperlink to the attorney’s professional Web page.”

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist 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 be reached at niki@mycase.com.


A look at 4 of my favorite apps and extensions

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "A look at 4 of my favorite apps and extensions."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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A look at 4 of my favorite apps and extensions  

I’m a big fan of technology and am always looking for new ways to incorporate technology tools into my daily workflow. As a result, I often find myself experimenting with new apps and browser extensions. Here are a few of my latest discoveries, including iOS apps and browser extensions that simplify my life and streamline my workflow.

First, there’s the GoogleNow iOS app. This app is an intelligent personal assistant that responds to voice commands and also provides “information cards” catered to your needs. The information is gleaned from your phone’s GPS data and the data that Google has collected from your search history and your Gmail account. It then personalizes the results and predicts which “information cards” will be most useful to you, such as traffic directions and conditions from your current location to your home, information about the delivery status of packages, the status of flights you’re scheduled to take, news items of interest, the weather for your current location, restaurants and attractions located nearby, and more.

Of course, in order to increase the usefulness of the app, you must necessarily give up some of your privacy to Google. But even so, for many, myself included, the convenience and utility of the app may outweigh that concern.

Next, the Tempo smart calendar iOS app. After much searching, this is my smart calendar app of choice. This app connects with the native iOS app, Google calendar, or any other calendar that you’ve set up on your mobile device. Once installed, it’s a simple matter to input an event. You simply type in “Meeting with Mary Smith at 3 at Mac’s Diner” and the app does the rest. It automatically creates an event at the specified time, locates and links to the contact(s) you’re meeting with, and suggests businesses that match the location, giving you the option to include a map with a navigation button, so that you can then pull up turn-by-turn instructions via Google Maps.

It also includes a reminders feature, allows you to search for and link to emails that might be connected to the event, offers the ability to include a free conference call link with just the touch of a button, and allows you to send a pre-written text message to the contact you’re meeting with indicating that you’re running late. There are other smart calendar apps that include many of these features, but I prefer Tempo because it includes a search function and has a clean, intuitive interface that permits the calendar views I find to be most useful.

Next, there’s Oyster, an iOS, Kindle and Android app that offers a reasonably priced e-book lending service. For the small monthly subscription fee of $9.95 per month, you receive unlimited access to over 1 million titles. There are a handful of other similar services out there, but I prefer Oyster because of its simple reading interface. And, the app does a great job of suggesting books that might be of interest to you based on your past reading habits.

Finally, there’s my newest email add-on, MxHero, which works with both Gmail and Outlook. This is a free tool that adds all sorts of optional features to each email that you send. You can track emails to see if and when the recipient opens them, you can schedule emails to be sent at a later date and time, you can send self-destructing emails, and you can send group emails that, to the recipient, appear to have been sent to only him or her. It’s a great tools that gives you lots of control over the emails that you send.

So those are some of my latest discoveries. They work for me, but you won’t know if they’re a good fit for your needs unless you give them a try. So why not download a few to them today and see?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist 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 be reached at niki@mycase.com.