Legal Practice

Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "

Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources

 

The new year is upon us and it’s time to start planning for 2015. For solo and small firm lawyers, annual planning can be an arduous task. Not only do you have to stay abreast of changes in your practice areas — you are also tasked with making business decisions about the direction of your law firm.

The good news is that there are lots of resources out there for solo and small firm lawyers to help you stay on top of running your busy law practice. Here are a few to get you started.

First, there are lots of great books that cover the basics of running your law firm. There’s the recently updated “Solo By Choice: How to be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be” and “Solo By Choice, the Companion Guide,” both written by solo guru Carolyn Elefant. There’s also the more traditional stand by, “How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg.” Another great book for 21st century legal practitioners is “Limited Scope Legal Services: Unbundling and the Self-Help Client” by Stephanie L. Kimbro. And, of course, I think that my book, “Cloud Computing for Lawyers,” is a great technology resource for lawyers, but then again I might be biased.

Law blogs devoted to solo and small firm attorneys are another great way to find information to help you plan for 2015. First, there’s Attorney at Work, a group blog focused on a wide range of topics focused on running a small firm practice. Lawsites is a blog written by Bob Ambrogi and covers everything you need to know about the latest in legal technology. My Shingle is Carolyn Elefant’s long-standing and helpful blog dedicated to all things solo. Finally, there’s the ABA’s Law Technology Today blog, which addresses need-to-know technology topics for solo and small firm attorneys.

There are also a number of useful online forums available for solo and small firm practitioners. First, there’s Solosez, a free listserv for solos sponsored by the American Bar Association’s GPSolo section and where lawyers discuss all aspects of running their law firms. The Macs in Law Offices Google Group, is a great forum for lawyers who use Apple computers and devices in their law offices. Also useful is Solo Practice University, which is an online university designed to teach lawyers how to open up and run a solo practice. And last but not least, there is the Google + Community, Lawyers on G+, where lawyers gather to discuss the ins and outs of running their practices.

Finally, don’t forget about the vast assortment of legal conferences aimed at solo and small firm lawyers. These conference provide fantastic educational and networking opportunities, so why not invest in your practice and your future by attending at least one or two of these next year? First, there’s the solo/small firms conferences, which cover a variety of topics of interest to lawyers seeking to run their law firms more efficiently and economically and are always well worth the time spent attending them. The American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm annual conference is a great place to start. Also useful are the various solo and small firm conferences sponsored by state bar associations, And last but not least, consider attending ABA Techshow, a conference held in the spring in Chicago, which focuses on using legal technologies to run solo and small firm law practices.

So now that you are armed with law practice management resources, why not spend some time coming up with a plan to get your firm off on the right foot? Invest a little time up front and make 2015 the best year it can be!

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.


Ethics of VLOs and advertising in New York

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Ethics of VLOs and advertising in New York."

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

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The legal profession is in a state of flux. New technologies are changing the ways that lawyers advertise and deliver legal services. Internet-based tools, including social media and cloud computing, offer lawyers more choices than ever when it comes to running their practices and reaching potential clients.

As a result, innovation in the delivery of legal services, driven by rapid changes in technology, has increased greatly in recent years, with virtual law offices (VLOs) being a prime example. VLOs — where lawyers deliver legal services using an online portal — have become much more common, both because these types of practices are very flexible and cost-effective and because new cloud-based platforms have been introduced which are designed to support VLOs.

But as is always the case when lawyers innovate in the delivery of legal services, VLOs can trigger a host of ethical issues. Last month, the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics addressed some of those issues in Opinion 964 (April 4).

In this opinion, the committee addressed two questions asked by an attorney who operated a virtual law practice out of her home and provided legal services and interacted with clients primarily using the Internet or by other electronic means. The inquiring attorney sough clarification regarding two different issues: 1) Whether she could use a commercial mailbox service address, in lieu of her home address, as her only office address listed in advertisements, and 2) Whether she could use a commercial mailbox service address as the only office address listed on business cards and letterhead.

The committee first addressed the definition of the term “principal law office address” as set forth in Rule 7.1(h), which provides, in relevant part, that “[a]ll advertisements shall include … the principal law office address … of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.” The Committee reviewed past iterations of this rule, including the advertising rules adopted by the Appellate Divisions in 2007, which  changed the term “office address” as set forth in DR 2-101(k), the prior version of the rule, to “principal law office address” as it section now appears in DR 2-101(h), the current version of the rule.

The committee explained that it interpreted the fact that the term changed so little from one iteration of the rule to the next to mean that the Appellate Divisions’ intent continued to be that “all lawyer advertisements were to disclose the address of an office where the lawyers were present and available for contact, and where personal service or delivery of legal papers could be effected.”

Accordingly, the committee concluded that in order to avoid misleading the legal consumer, all advertising for legal services must include the street address of the lawyer’s principal office, even if that address is the lawyer’s home address, as was the case with the inquiring attorney. However, the committee also determined that so long as the attorney’s business cards and letterhead were not being used as advertising, but instead were being “used in the ordinary course of professional practice or social intercourse without primary intent to secure retention,” then a mail drop address could be listed as the sole address without mention of the attorney’s principal address — in this case, her home address.

I believe the committee’s conclusion in this case is misguided and fails to acknowledge the realities of a 21st century law practice. In fact, I criticized the requirement that a lawyer include the address of a home office in advertisements back in 2007 when the new advertising rules were enacted. As I explained in 2007, one way to avoid the risk of misleading the legal consumer regarding an attorney’s location while maintaining the privacy and safety of a lawyer with a home office is to require that attorney advertising list the county or city in which the attorney practices along with a mail drop address, but not the exact address of the home office.

This opinion surprised me, since more often than not, the New York State Bar is ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing the ethical issues triggered by new technologies. But in this case, the committee’s decision is surprisingly short-sighted and penalizes innovative lawyers seeking to serve legal clients more efficiently and cost effectively. This is an unfortunate decision that I don’t think will withstand the test of time.

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.


A Mobile Practice Management Infographic and a Giveaway!

First, the giveaway. Head on over to the MyCase blog to enter to win a free copy of the JuryPad app, compliments of the good folks at Bench&Bar, LLC. The JuryPad iPad app is designed to streamline the jury selection process by assisting lawyers during voir dire. Using this app you can create voir dire templates and then keep track of potential jurors’ demographics and voir dire responses using a customizable seating chart. Enter to win today!

Next, check out this great infographic that we created and published at the MyCase blog that is chock full of useful and interesting statistics about lawyers use of mobile law practice management tools. It offers lots of insight into how attorneys are communicating with their clients and managing their busy law practices while mobile and on the move.

 

mycasemobile2.image

 

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Win a copy of "Solo by Choice" or "Social Media for Lawyers"

Social media book cover
Each month at the MyCase blog, we hold a giveaway. Last month two Geminus Genius iPad cases were up for grabs. This month, don’t forget to enter to win one of two books:

If you’d like a chance to win, head on over to the MyCase blog and sign up!

And, while you’re at it, check out my past posts there about law practice management and legal technology issues, including mobile computing and cloud computing for lawyers.

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2012 technology trends for large law firms

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "2012 technology trends for large law firms."

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

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 2012 technology trends for large law firms

Earlier this month, the American Lawyer released its annual technology survey results. The Am Law Tech Survey 2012 compiled the responses of 83 Am Law 200 CIOs and technology chiefs regarding their law firms’ use of technology over the past year. The end result was clear — large law firms were no more capable of resisting the tidal wave of consumer-driven demand for cloud and mobile computing than any other industry.

For example, the most interesting trend from this year’s results was that law firms were giving in to the inevitable, shifting away from typical enterprise-friendly devices and toward those more suited for consumers, especially when it came to mobile devices.

Specifically, there was a decided shift from law firm use of familiar, clunky BlackBerry phones to the more nimble and consumer-friendly Apple and Android smartphones, with 88 percent of respondents expecting a decrease in BlackBerry users and 4 percent reporting that they would cease BlackBerry support altogether. Interestingly, iPhones were the most used device, with 99 percent of respondents indicating that there were iPhone users within their firms and 75 percent reporting the use of Android devices.

Tablets are also influencing purchasing decisions. When it came to new hardware, 37 percent of respondents indicated that there were plans to add a tablet to hardware purchasing decisions for individual attorneys in the near future, with 25 percent planning to issue attorneys a desktop and a tablet and 12 percent planning to issue a laptop and a tablet instead. And, 8 percent of firms reported that they already supplied their attorneys with tablet computers.

The use of cloud computing by large law firms is also increasing, albeit at a slower rate than that of solos of small firms. Nevertheless, there has been an uptick of cloud computing use, with 74 percent reporting using hosted computing services, a decided increase from the 65 percent that reported using these services in last year’s survey. And, 50 percent reported an increase in the use of cloud services compared to the prior year.

But how did respondents use cloud computing in their law firms? 63 percent used it for e-discovery and litigation support, over 37 percent used the cloud for human resource matters, 38 percent used it for email management, 13 percent reported using cloud services for data storage, 7 percent used it for billing and 8 percent used cloud-based platforms for document management.

The main cloud computing benefits cited by respondents were simplified support and maintenance (83 percent) and the reduced need for in-house servers and other hardware (44 percent).

Finally, the survey results indicated that social media use by large firms is also on the rise, with 75 percent of respondents indicating that their firms used social media as part of their firm’s marketing strategy. Of those firms, 90 percent used LinkedIn, 64 percent used Twitter and 61 percent used Facebook.

So the results are clear — like most other industries, large firms are not immune to the long-reaching effects of the Internet and mobile computing. These new tools are changing the ways that we interact, communicate and conduct business and ignoring the impact of these technologies upon our societal landscape is no longer an option. Accepting and embracing 21st century technologies is the most reasonable course of action and, at long last, law firms are doing just that. It’s been a long time coming.

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@mycaseinc.com.

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Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake"

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake."

A PDF of this article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake"

We’ve all enjoyed a cold milkshake on a hot day, but it turns out that milkshakes are far more than a dessert. Milkshakes, like most products, including legal services, are whatever the consumer needs them to be.

Clay Shirky, noted author and Internet and technology pundit, examines this idea in his book, Cognitive Surplus and Generosity in a Connected Age. In his book, Shirky, (who will be the a keynote speaker at the upcoming Social Media and Communication Symposium at RIT on September 29th), describes how Gerald Berstell, a researcher hired by McDonalds, was tasked to improve the sales of milkshakes.

Unlike the other researchers, rather than focusing on improving the product, Berstell focused on the consumer’s expectations and needs by tracking customers’ purchasing habits. As he did so, he noticed something interesting. Most milkshakes were purchased in the early morning by commuters. Even though McDonald’s marketed the milkshakes as a dessert, its customers disagreed. For most customers, milkshakes were a neat, tasty, convenient and easily transportable breakfast meal--more so than any of McDonald’s other breakfast options.

As Shirky explained: “Not one conventional breakfast item (fit the) bill, and so without regard for the sacred traditions of the morning meal, those customers were hiring the milkshake to do the job they needed done.”

Shirky referred to this phenomenon as “milkshake mistakes,” something that occurs when an industry adopts a narrow view of its products, while simultaneously ignoring the needs and expectations of its customers.

Shirky then turned to traditional media and applied the “milkshake mistake” concept to the changing viewing and leisure habits of consumers. He described how people are now foregoing television to create and consume content online. In other words, rather than watch shows or read articles created by “professionals”, many consumers are instead choosing to spend their leisure time watching YouTube videos or reading blog posts created by “amateurs.”

After noting that this change in viewing habits occurred in record time, he then suggested that perhaps the traditional media industry had never truly understood the needs of its customers: “But what if, all this time, providing professional content isn’t the only job we’ve been hiring the media to do? What if we’ve also been hiring it to make us feel connected, engaged and just less lonely?”

Most lawyers should be able to relate to this concept. How many times has this happened to you? After explaining to a potential client that litigation would cost more than the amount at issue, your potential client retorts: “I don’t care! It’s the principle of the matter!”

This is because although lawyers are purportedly hired to solve legal problems, we’re also hired to make the client feel better about their situation. In many cases the primary underlying motivations behind seeking legal counsel include reducing anxiety, mending bruised egos, satiating anger, achieving justice, and even obtaining revenge against perceived wrongdoers, no matter what the cost.

In other words, lawyers tend to overlook their client’s multi-faceted needs and assume that they’re only being hired for their legal expertise. For many potential clients, that’s simply not the case, and if there is an easier, cheaper way to ease their worries and accomplish their goals that isn’t as intimidating as hiring a lawyer, they’ll use it.  And, just as is the case with traditional media, online tools are a disruptive force that provide consumers with a variety of newfound ways to meet their needs through legal self-help.

The Internet offers legal consumers more alternatives to traditional legal services than ever before--smack dab in the middle of an economic downturn during which the average citizen is highly motivated to solve their own problems and avoid costly legal bills. Whether it’s virtual law offices, legal forms from LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, legal forms for uncontested divorces provided by state court websites,  or crowdsourced legal advice from LawPivot, more and more online platforms are emerging that offer an increasingly vast selection of low cost tools to assist legal consumers with commonly encountered problems.

Of course lawyers serve an important function in our society and I’m not suggesting that all forms of traditional legal services will ever be replaced by online tools or platforms. But the legal profession must avoid making the “milkshake mistake.” The delivery of legal services is changing and consumers now have more choices when it comes to meeting their needs. Astute, forward-thinking lawyers will recognize, not ignore this phenomenon, and find ways to position their law practice to meet the needs of legal consumers in the midst of this rapidly changing technological landscape.

If you’d like to hear more from Shirky and others (Nicole Black will be speaking on a panel as well) the RIT Social Media and Communication Symposium will be held on Sept. 29, 2011 and the cost is $35 for the day (www.rit.edu).

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney. 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.

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Getting Things Done Productivity System-The Weekly Review

RocketMatter Today, I bring you a guest post from my good friend, Larry Port, Founding Partner and Chief Software Architect for Rocket Matter, LLC (www.rocketmatter.com), a web-based law practice management system.  You can follow him on Twitter here: (www.twitter.com/rocketmatter).

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GTD For Legal: The Weekly Review

 As part of our weeklong legal efficiency-fest, we’re discussing the Getting Things Done productivity system in the context of a law firm.  Each day this week, we’ll write guest posts at prominent legal blogs exploring the system in more detail.

A perfect way to wrap our Legal Getting Things Done Week is a discussion of the Weekly Review, one of the most important ideas in the GTD system.  In fact, I would argue that if you were going to take away one thing from GTD, implementing the Weekly Review will keep you in touch with your priorities and prevent your organizational system from coming unhinged. 

What is the Weekly Review? 

It’s a simple concept, but harder than it sounds.  You need to find an hour or two each week.  Block off time on your calendar where the phone can’t ring and the door can’t open.  For a busy attorney this can be very difficult, since deadlines, opposing counsel, and judges can pop in at any time.  We have some ideas about scheduling later on in this post. 

In these review sessions, you must clear your head and process everything that happened that week.  Any notes jotted on legal pads, calendar appointments, or loose ideas need to be gathered up and captured.  It’s also a good time for a mini Mind-Sweep (click here to read our post on Mind-Sweeps). 

Once you capture all of your loose ends, take a look at upcoming calendar events and determine any actions they need.  Then, organize your inbox into lists and review everything.  According to the GTD book, you’re done with your Weekly Review if you can say “I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to” (Getting Things Done, Chapter 8). 

Review your projects and take note of their status.  Examine your Next Action and Waiting For lists to check off anything completed and note supporting actions that might need to occur.  Look at your “Someday/Maybe” lists and see if you’d like to promote a project or remove ones that no longer hold your interest.  If you missed our discussion on some of these list categories, click here for an explanation.

Why is the Weekly Review of such paramount importance? 

Busy lifestyles aren’t the problem.  It’s when an individual has a constant whirlwind of activity and doesn’t take time to organize action based on priority.  Attorneys, who live under the threat of looming deadlines, get called away to handle emergencies, and have family commitments, can quickly become overwhelmed by responsibilities. The result is that individuals constantly find themselves in “reaction” mode, leaving the individual unfocused, and when the dust clears, there’s not a system in place to handle activities in an organized way.  

The Weekly Review allows you to operate as your own CEO.  Your Next Actions will descend from your priorities, and you can see each project or matter from a clear perspective.  You will also permit yourself to play catch-up with all of the incoming bits of information you collect throughout the week (that you can’t possibly deal with as they stream in). 

I’m so busy.  How and when could I possibly schedule a Weekly Review? 

Since the Weekly Review is very important to your organizational life, you’re going to want to make a positive habit out of it.  Even if your life seems too crazy to accommodate a couple of hours a week, it helps to recognize “the value of sacrificing the seemingly urgent for the truly important” (Getting Things Done, Chapter 8). 

For attorneys, who often deal with mission-critical situations, you may need to find islands of time beyond normal work hours.  If you can swing Friday afternoon from 4-6PM or early Saturday morning, the extra time investment will pay dividends in the rest of your weekly operations.  At those periods at the end of the week, fresh from the week’s battle, you allow yourself to clear your mind, set up your next week, and focus on the weekend. 

Thanks For Reading! 

We hope our legal GTD week blog posts are beneficial to you.  For a list of all five posts for the week, click here for your future reference.  And thanks to our host bloggers, The Mac Lawyer, Grant Griffiths, Sam Glover, and Niki Black for allowing us to guest post on their sites this week! 

Purchase “Getting Things Done” at Amazon.com. 



Law Practice Management in the Cloud

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Law Practice Management 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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Software as a service (SaaS) is defined at Oracle.com as “[a] software delivery model in which a software firm provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client.”

At Webopedia.com “cloud computing” is defined as a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second."

The complexities of modern law practice are such that managing a law office in the absence of practice management software programs is nothing short of impossible. Traditional law practice management software can be expensive, however, cumbersome to navigate and prone to annoying glitches that occur so frequently that your IT consultant becomes a permanent fixture in your law office.

Sound familiar? Well, it doesn’t have to: Law firms today can avoid the headaches caused by traditional practice management software by using the services of any of a number of companies that provide SaaS.

Taking advantage of SaaS law practice management software allows firms to focus on the ever-important task of practicing law while the SaaS provider operates, updates and maintains the practice management software. 

Advantages include lower costs due to reduced overhead, less hassle related to maintaining the and upgrading the case management system and greater flexibility, since the Web-based system can be accessed anywhere, at anytime.

Before making the leap to a Web-based practice management system, however, there are a number of important factors to consider.

Learn how the company will handle confidential data, the portability of the data and the format in which information will be provided should your firm choose to remove data from the system.

The contract with an SaaS provider should address those issues and also include a non-disclosure clause that indicates that all data are the property of the law firm and may be exported in a readable format on demand.

The security of your firm’s data is of paramount concern. Security issues to consider include: What type of facility will host the data? How frequently are back-ups performed? Is data backed up to more than one server? How secure are the data centers? What types of encryption methods are used and how are passwords stored? Are there redundant power supplies? Is there more than one server? Where are the servers located? If a natural disaster strikes one geographic region, would all data be lost?

If, after balancing the benefits and drawbacks, you decide to use a Web-based practice management system, there are a number of excellent SaaS providers that offer software to manage law practices online, including Clio (www.goclio.com), Rocket Matter (www.rocketmatter.com) and LawRD (www.lawrd.com).

Each software platform offers unique and useful features, which I’ll be comparing and contrasting later in the month during a screencast at lawtechTalk.com.

When law practice management software creates more problems than it solves, it may be time to make a change. After careful consideration, firms may find that the affordability and ease of use of a Web-based practice management system make it a perfect fit.

Attorneys may just find themselves praising, rather than cursing, newfangled technologies.

Now that would be a nice change.


Save Time and Money: Use Technology Wisely

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Save Time and Money:  Use Technology Wisely."

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

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Save Time and Money:  Use Technology Wisely

Whenever I evangelize the importance of keeping up with technological changes, the most common response I hear from other lawyers is that they don’t have enough time to sort through the ever-increasing number of choices available to
them.

After I spoke recently at a legal seminar devoted to emerging Internet technologies of interest to attorneys, an audience member told me that although he really enjoyed the seminar, he was overwhelmed by the thought of sorting through the technologies discussed during the presentation.

He wondered whether I knew of someone who could help him determine the tools that would best supplement the systems already being used in his practice.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of anyone who offered such a service, so the best I could do was suggest that he use the information provided at the seminar as a
starting point, and conduct the research himself.

Since that time I’ve have many conversations with lawyers who are frustrated with the cost of running their practices, especially during the current economic downturn.

Their predicament is unfortunate, since there are many emerging Internet and Web 2.0 legal technologies that can save law offices time and money by increasing efficiency and reducing costs, including:

  • RSS feeds, to track the people and changing laws relevant to pending litigation;
  • Online to-do and reminder applications to assist you in keeping on top of your caseload;
  • Online applications for pretrial preparation, such as mindmapping and timeline programs;  
  • Figuring out which smart phone makes the most sense for you and your practice; 
  • Determining whether it makes sense to invest time and energy into social media and, if so, which platforms will be of most benefit to your practice;
  • Determining whether a law blog would benefit your practice and, if so, which blogging platform would work best for your firm;  
  • Figuring out whether online case management systems would make sense for your firm, and exploring the options; 
  • Exploring online back-up storage options and figuring out how to best use them in your practice;
  • Determining whether virtual assistants will make your practice run more smoothly; and exploring the options available; 
  • Exploring online e-mail and calendaring applications; and 
  • Exploring online collaboration platforms.

Sadly, the most common refrain I encounter after advising that there are many free or low-cost alternatives available is that practicing law is so time consuming that there simply isn’t enough time left over to devote to staying on top of the always-changing law practice management technologies.

After thinking about that dilemma, I decided that busy lawyers who are unable to find the time to sort through the new technologies should have other options.

That’s why I started my new consulting business, lawtechTalk (lawtechTalk.com). Essentially, lawtechTalk is the “Consumer Reports” of legal technologies. I research and compare different categories of free or low-cost Internet and legal technologies and show lawyers how they can fit into their practices.

My research, comparisons and conclusions are recorded and made available in the form of screencasts at the lawtechTalk.com Web site. I also provide recommendations specific to a particular law practice on a consultation basis.

Technology is here to stay and turning a blind eye to the reality of ever-changing technological advances is a costly mistake. 

Don’t let technology get the best of you; make it work for you. Choose to conquer technology and watch your law practice reap the benefits of that choice.


Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession."

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

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Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The times they are a-changin’ and lawyers aren’t immune from the global economic restructuring now underway.

Average citizens are worried about losing their jobs, keeping their businesses above water and making mortgage and car payments. Money is tight and people are  spending less.

Low on their list of priorities is shelling out money to lawyers for routine legal matters. Chances are, if a situation arises for which legal counsel may be warranted, they’ll no doubt attempt to handle it themselves.

I don’t think I need to tell you that’s not good news for the lawyers who prefer to continue doing business as usual.

With the large amount of law-related information available online, including an increasing number of Web sites offering free legal forms, potential clients no doubt will find it far easier to muddle through a legal matter than they did in the past.

With the click of a button, from the comfort of their own home, they can download wills, contractual agreements and more.

What’s a lawyer to do? How can we compete with the do-it-yourself mentality?

Those who are insistent upon continuing to practice law as it’s been done for the last 100 years won’t be able to compete. The recession has drastically changed the playing field and those who refuse to acclimate will see their law practice sink like a stone.

More innovative and adaptive lawyers will swim speedily toward the finish line.

Of course, the question remains: How does our profession adapt?

I’ve given that a lot of thought. I don’t have all the answers, but have come up with what I believe is a feasible idea that some lawyers —especially those who have been practicing for a few years —might want to try.

Innovative lawyers can create a niche practice by becoming, in essence, “general counsel” for the average citizen.

For a monthly fee, perhaps $200 or $300, you would be your client’s “go to” attorney. Clients would sign a contract that delineates the types of matters the “general counsel” agreement incorporates, such as one real estate closing per year, drafting one will or changing an existing will annually, and drafting other routine documents, such as a power of attorney, a living will, etc.

You, as the attorney, also agree to answer preliminary questions regarding more complex matters and either draft a separate retainer agreement for the matter, should you choose to handle it, or refer it to another attorney in the community.

In other words, the attorney also would serve as a con- duit to the legal community, For example, if you preferred not to handle criminal matters, your clients nevertheless would have someone to call when invoking the right to counsel. You could advise them not to speak to the police, then contact a criminal defense attorney on their behalf.

Such practice would provide a reliable client base and a predictable flow of income, which could be supplemented through handling other types of more complex legal matters under separate retainer agreements.

Another element to a successful general counsel practice would be the creation of a strong online presence using blogs and social media. Once accomplished, referrals from lawyers throughout the country undoubtedly would follow. You could handle those matters that interested you, and refer the others. Lawyers in your community would begin to appreciate the value of your practice and the referrals, perhaps in turn referring their clients to your “general counsel” practice. 

Granted, the idea is a diamond in the rough and such a practice must comply with applicable ethics rules, but I truly believe it has the potential to provide resourceful lawyers with a way to stay afloat in the volatile and changing legal landscape we now face.

Lawyers need to think outside of the box in order to survive and thrive in the upcoming year. Those who choose to do so will not regret it.