Daily Record--Legal Currents Column

Maintaining Your Sanity While Working From Home

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Maintaining Your Sanity While Working From Home

Last week, the world as we know it was turned upside down. Schools closed, businesses, including many law firms, were required to temporarily shut down, and the vast majority of federal and state court proceedings were canceled until further notice. In New York, “shelter in place” has become the new reality as we practice mandated social distancing for the good of the community.

These events are unprecedented. As a result most law firms - and lawyers - were unprepared for the sudden shift from business as usual while practicing law in an office to working remotely from home. In last week’s column I offered advice to assist firms in setting up their employees for remote work, and in today’s I’m going to share tips to help legal professionals work from home effectively while maintaining their sanity.

I’ve worked from home for more than a decade now, and for the last 7 years have worked remotely full-time for a California technology company, AppFolio. AppFolio is the parent company of MyCase, which provides cloud-based law practice management software for law firms, and I’m the Legal Technology Evangelist for MyCase. This means that the team I work with is based in California, and as a result, I’ve become very accustomed to working from home using the technology tools mentioned in last week’s article to communicate and collaborate with my team and ensure that I’m able to get my job done.

Here are some of my top tips for working efficiently and effectively from home. First off, stick to your normal routine. Get ready for work each day just as you would if you were going into the office. Follow your regular workday grooming routine, whatever that might be. Don’t avoid your typical weekday grooming habits, since doing so will make it all the more difficult for you to transition into “work mode” while working from home. Along those same lines, change out of your pajamas and get dressed. Don’t put on sweatpants or leggings. Instead choose a “casual Friday” outfit that is comfortable, but nevertheless feels somewhat professional. I know these might seem like a minor steps, but trust me, they make all the difference in your mood and help to put you into a work mindset.

Another important step is to choose one or two areas in your home from which you’ll work. Personally, I prefer to work in the kitchen at the island until my kids wake up. Once they’re awake, I shift to a more secluded room where it’s quiet and I have privacy. Every once in a while I’ll work from one of the couches in the family room or living room in the late afternoon just for a change of pace.

Next, make sure to establish clear-cut guidelines with your family from the start. Your kids are home, too, and for them, it may feel like a never-ending vacation. They’ll understandably want to spend time with you. Make sure to let them know when it’s acceptable to interrupt you - and when it’s not. Typically, if I would prefer not to be interrupted, I’ll close the door. But if it’s extremely important that no one interrupt me, I’ll go out of my way to let them know the timeframe during which I’ll be incommunicado. Sometimes I’ll even lock the door.

Also make sure to schedule time for breaks every hour or so. Get up, walk around, grab the mail, take a few stretches, grab a snack, or do some deep breathing. Anything you do for a brief change of pace can make all the difference to your productivity and sanity.

Finally, make sure you have communications tools available that make it easy to connect with your colleagues and friends. Chat tools like Slack, video conferencing tools like Zoom, and online portals and other messaging tools built into law practice management software can make all the difference when you’re working from home. Not only will they help you collaborate and communicate more quickly and efficiently with work colleagues, they’ll also help to make you feel more connected and less isolated.

I know it’s a tough transition, and maintaining your productivity and sanity while working from home isn’t always easy. But trust me - you can do it. I’ve been working from home for more than a decade and I promise you’ll find a routine that works for you. You may encounter a few bumps along the road, but I’m confident you’ll find your groove sooner rather than later!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


Ready or Not, It’s Time To Set Up Your Remote Law Office

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Ready or Not, It’s Time To Set Up Your Remote Law Office

You’ve resisted technological change for years and put off adopting new software into your law firm. After all, you were busy doing what lawyers are trained to do: practice law. You didn’t have time to learn about technology, research the legal software available, and then figure out how to use it in your firm. You figured you’d get around to it eventually, when the time was right.

I’ve got news for you: the time is now. As you know, earlier this week, the world as we knew it ground to a screeching halt. COVID-19 descended upon our country, and cities, counties, and states began to require most non-essential businesses to close in the name of public safety. Courts began to suspend all but the most essential proceedings, and many law firms were forced to shut their bricks and mortar doors. It is no longer business as usual, and experts are predicting that the disruption could last for a year or more.

Rest assured, that doesn’t mean that the business of practicing law will cease to exist. The technology tools you need to set up a remote law office (aka a “virtual law firm”) are readily available and affordable. It’s simply a matter of identifying the software tools your law firm needs and implementing them firm-wide.

For most law firms, you’ll need to invest in the following tools in order to run your law firm remotely:

• Video conferencing software: facilitates encrypted face-to-face video meetings with clients, work colleagues, and co-counsel;
• A VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone system: allows you to make and receive unlimited phone calls, conduct conference calls, and receive (and store) messages without needing a landline.
• Cloud-based law practice management software: provides a centralized location for contacts and calendars; invoicing and time-tracking; documents and other matter-related data; internal and external communications; financial data; and may also include built-in e-signature capabilities, lead management tools, integrated email, 2-way text messaging, and secure communication and collaboration tools such as a client portal.
• An online fax service: instead of using a landline-based fax machine, documents can be sent and received over the internet via email, an online portal, or a smartphone app.
• Document scanning tools: hardware and software tools, including mobile apps, that can be used to quickly and easily scan and digitize documents.
• Collaborative word processing software: cloud-based word processing software that makes it easy to collaborate in real-time with work colleagues.
• Speech-to-text dictation software: voice recognition technology that allows you to simply dictate and then the text contemporaneously appears on the screen in front of you as you speak.

You can find links to articles I’ve written about each of these technology tools here.

Once you’ve researched and chosen the software you’ll be using to set up your remote law firm, the next step is to train your employees and provide them with the information they’ll need to implement the software into their daily routine. Teach them how to use the features of each type of software and impress upon them the fact that client confidentiality rules apply no matter where they happen to be working.

No doubt you're feeling overwhelmed and concerned about the future of your law firm, but the good news is that the tools you need to practice law virtually are readily available and have been for years now. The technology is time-tested, trustworthy, and ethical. In fact, the ethics committees of more than 20 states, including New York, have deemed the use of cloud computing by lawyers to store confidential information to be permissible.

So what are you waiting for? Your clients are relying on you to get back to work - so get to it! Do your research, choose the right technology for your law firm, and start practicing law remotely. It really is that easy.

And, rest assured, there truly is no better time than the present.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


The Ethics of Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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These days the online world matters just as much as the offline world when it comes to conducting business. The Yellow Pages have been replaced by Google and apps, just as restaurant and movie reviews in newspapers have now been co-opted by the online reviews of actual customers. And just like every other technology-based trend, lawyers are no longer immune from the effects of the online review ecosystem.

In fact, for many small law firms, negative online reviews can be a big problem. I often frequent internet forums where lawyers will seek advice on how to handle a particularly negative and unfair online review. In some cases the person leaving the review was never even a client of the attorney’s firm, but the negative review left regarding an alleged unpleasant encounter with the attorney or law firm staff member resulted in a significant decline in the law firm’s rating. In others, a disgruntled client will leave a damning review grounded in untruths that drastically reduce the firm’s Google My Business or Yelp rating.

In cases like that, what’s a lawyer to do? What’s the best way to address the review both in terms of optics and ethics? While there’s no clearcut answer from an optics standpoint and there’s undoubtedly more than one way to go about effectively responding, the ethics of the situation is often more clear.

In recent years, a number of different jurisdictions have addressed the issue of how to ethically respond to negative online reviews, and one of the most recent to do so was North Carolina in Proposed 2020 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. As of now, this opinion is available for public comment and has not yet been published in final form. But the conclusions reached therein align with many of the opinions issued in other jurisdictions on this topic, so it’s illustrative of how to navigate the ethical issues when responding to a negative online review of your law firm.

The facts in the case at issue are simple: the lawyer’s former client posted a negative review on a consumer rating website that the lawyer believed was false. The lawyer was in possession of information that would rebut the allegations, but said information was confidential. The question to be answered was how the lawyer might ethically respond to the comments via a publicly viewable post.

At the outset, the Ethics Committee emphasized the importance of client confidentiality. The Committee explained that because confidentiality is a foundational element of the attorney-client relationship, lawyers are prohibited from revealing all confidential information acquired during the course of representation unless: 1) their former client consents or 2) one of the exceptions set forth in Rule 1.6(b) are applicable.

The Committee then turned to considering any applicable exceptions and determined that the only one that might apply to the situation at hand was Rule 1.6(b)(6), which “permits a lawyer to reveal information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary: [T]o establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client; to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved; or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.”

Next, the Committee examined the nature of online reviews and determined that a negative online review did not constitute a “legal claim or disciplinary charge arising in a civil, criminal, disciplinary, or other proceeding”, and thus did not fall within the parameters of that exception.

Accordingly, the Committee concluded that confidential information may not be used when responding to online criticism of a lawyer’s services: “(A) (l)awyer may post an online response to the former client’s negative online review provided the response is proportional and restrained and does not contain any confidential client information.”

In other words, think before you type, since the internet is forever. And if at all possible, take steps to move the dispute offline so that you can discuss it with the client face-to-face and attempt to come to an amicable - and private - resolution of any outstanding issues. That way you’ll hopefully end up with a happy former client who may one day send business your way, and at the same time avoid leaving a permanent online record that you might later come to regret.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


Gain technology competence: Attend a legal technology conference

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Gain technology competence: Attend a legal technology conference

If you read my column regularly, you’re no doubt familiar with my repeated mantra: lawyers need to maintain technology competence. Not only is it an ethical obligation in 38 states and counting, it’s simply common sense. We live in a world where technology has impacted nearly all aspects of our lives. Practicing law like it’s 1995 and ignoring technological advancements is irresponsible at best and arguably amounts to legal malpractice.

Even so, many lawyers continue to turn a blind eye to technology, in large part because the thought of trying to learn about it is overwhelming. This despite the fact that there are conferences and CLEs devoted to acquiring legal technology knowledge available to them both locally and nationally. But in my experience those conferences and CLEs are not nearly as well attended as those devoted to substantive and procedural law issues.

A decade ago, this fact disappointed me, but now it only serves to perplex me. Most lawyers readily admit that they know they need to learn more about technology, but only a small percentage of them actually make an effort to do so by taking advantage of the educational opportunities made available to them by local, state, and national bar associations.

It’s 2020 and it’s time for a change. New decade, new resolutions, and for those of you reluctant to embrace technology, there’s no better time than the present. There are plenty of ways for you to increase your technological know how at CLEs right in your backyard and at legal technology conferences on the other side of the country. Here are just a few great options to consider.

Check out your local and state bar associations and sign up for at least two different technology CLEs over the next year. If you’re a Rochester lawyer, you’re in luck. Kevin Ryan, the Monroe County Bar Association’s Executive Director is incredibly forward-thinking and as a result, you have many opportunities to learn about technology. For example, the Solo and Small Firm Section now hosts an annual conference (this year’s is scheduled for March 14th) and there are a number of sessions and workshops focused on technology issues.

There are also the technology CLEs sponsored by the MCBA’s Technology Committee that I chair. Our next CLE will occur on March 31st: “More Tech Tips You Need To Hear.” It’s a live CLE that will also be available via webcast and will provide you with 60+ technology tips to help you solve many of the day-to-day problems you encounter in your law practice.

On a state level, the New York State Bar Association now hosts an annual Tech Summit, which is devoted to legal technology issues. The second annual conference will be held on October 8-9th in New York City, so why not sign up?

You might also want to consider a national legal technology conference. Here are three major conferences focused solely on legal technology that are held each year that I would recommend.

The first is LegalWeek, a very large conference held in New York City that tends to skew towards larger law firm legal technology issues, but still provides lots of sessions of interest to lawyers from firms of all sizes. Next year it will be held from February 1st to the 4th.

Next is ILTACon, which will be held in Nashville. This conference has also historically been targeted more toward mid-sized and large firm legal technology decision-makers, but in recent years has broadened the focus to include content of interest to lawyers and legal technology decision-makers from smaller firms. This year’s conference will occur from August 23rd to the 27th.

Last but not least is ABA TECHSHOW, a conference that targets solo and small firm lawyers seeking to incorporate technology into their practices. It’s always held in Chicago and is scheduled to occur in 2021 from March 10th to the 13th.

So if you haven’t yet taken steps to incorporate technology competence into your 2020 plans, what are you waiting for? You’re ethically obligated to do so and there are plenty of opportunities available to learn about legal technology in the coming year. Sign up for a CLE session or two, or even an entire conference. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 

 


ABA Technology Survey Results: Cybersecurity Measures Taken by Firms

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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ABA Technology Survey Results: Cybersecurity Measures Taken by Firms

If cybersecurity isn’t on your radar in 2020, then it’s high time you made it a priority. The risk of a breach that could compromise your law firm’s confidential client data is an increasing likelihood, especially if your firm hasn’t enacted security measures designed to counter cybersecurity threats.

This is especially so in the wake of news, as reported by the ABA Journal in mid-February, that a Texas law firm’s data was hacked and then its data was published online. The confidential information disclosed included fee agreements and diaries from personal injury cases.

Earlier in February there were also reports that ransomware attacks hit three different law firms.These types of attacks occur when law firm employees receive an email that appears to be legitimate but was sent by a hacker and includes a malicious link. Once employees unwittingly click on a phishing link or a link infected with malware, your firm’s data can then be exploited.

If you’re still not convinced that cybersecurity should be a priority for your firm, then the results of the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report should do the trick. According to the Report, 26% of lawyers reported that their firms had experienced a security breach such as a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, an attack by a hacker, a break-in, or a website exploit. And, 36% indicated that their law firm technology had been infected with a virus, spyware, or malware.

If your firm doesn’t have a cybersecurity plan in place, rest assured you’re not alone. According to the Report, only one third of lawyers surveyed (32%) reported that their firms had a full security assessment conducted by an independent third party.

That being said, the survey results showed that most law firms overall were taking cybersecurity issues into account, but some were implementing more security precautions than others. One popular security measure enacted by the majority of law firms (86%) was spam filters. Others included firewall software (80%), anti-spyware (76%), pop-up blockers (74%), desktop or laptop virus scanning (68%), mandatory passwords (68%), email virus scanning (67%), network virus scanning (64%), and hardware firewalls (52%). Other less popular types of security tools used by fewer than 50% of the firms included file encryption (44%), email encryption (38%), file access restriction (38%), intrusion prevention (34%), intrusion detection (32%), web filtering (25%), whole/full disk encryption (22%), and employee monitoring (21%).

Another security measure increasingly taken by law firms is to use more secure online channels for client communication. After all, email communications and employee actions are often the weakest link when it comes to law firm security, so communicating using more secure methods simply makes sense. This is especially so in light of the issuance of Formal Opinion 477 by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in May 2017. In that opinion, the Committee opined that unencrypted email may not always be sufficient for client communications, especially when the information being discussed is of a particularly sensitive nature. The Committee concluded that in that instance, lawyers may want to consider more secure methods of communicating and collaborating with clients, including using a “secure internet portal.”

The good news is that in 2020 lawyers have more options than ever when it comes to securing their law firm’s systems and communicating securely. In recent years, technology has improved significantly, and more secure electronic communication methods have emerged. That’s why more and more firms are choosing to use client portals to securely communicate. According to the Report, 29% of law firms now offer clients access to a secure client portal, up from 22% in 2017. Some of the top ways that lawyers reported that their firms used client portals include document sharing (42%), messaging and communication (38%), invoicing and bill payment (34%), and case status updates (23%).

So if your law firm isn’t prioritizing cybersecurity in 2020, then what are you waiting for?          There’s no better time than the present. If your firm isn’t taking precautions to protect its data and educate employees about phishing and hacking schemes, then it could be the next firm to make the headlines following a breach or ransomware attack. Don’t be that firm. Instead, take steps to secure your firm’s data and make sure that the only reason it makes headlines is for winning cases - not getting hacked

.Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 

 


More of My Top Life Hacks and Gadgets

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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More of My Top Life Hacks and Gadgets

Have you noticed how it seems like there’s never enough time to get everything done no matter how hard you try? Rest assured, you’re not alone. In today’s hectic world, balance is a goal often sought but rarely achieved. In other words, the struggle is real.

The good news is that there are gadgets and other life hacks that can save time and reduce aggravation. The trick is sorting through all of your options and choosing a few that truly make a difference in your day-to-day life. Fortunately for you, I love learning about and trying new gadgets and technology tools and am more than happy to share the results of my search.

That’s exactly what I did in last week’s column: I shared a few of my favorite life hacks and gadgets. But guess what? There are plenty more where that came from and in today’s article I’ll be sharing a few more of my favorite time-saving and annoyance-reducing tips.

First, there’s Amazon Household. Do you shop on Amazon a lot? Do your household family members also use the same Amazon account? If so, I bet you’ve had more than one holiday gift ruined by Amazon’s shipping notifications and/or algorithms that suggest you view similar items to ones recently purchased. That’s where Amazon Household comes in. It allows you to create a “household” with two parents and additional children/teens. Every person has their own login with its own purchase history, thus ensuring that notifications, such as shipping status, are only sent to the person who ordered the item. Also useful is that Prime benefits can be shared with all family members. Finally, you can set up your kids’ accounts so that they can’t make purchases without permission from a parent. Sound interesting? You can learn more here.

Another useful Amazon tool is a gadget: AlexaAuto. Essentially AlexaAuto brings Amazon Alexa to your car, so even if your car’s system doesn’t have Alexa built-in, you can still take advantage of it. It’s super easy to insttall, and once you’ve done so you can ask it questions, tell it to play music, control your home’s smart home features, and more. This gadget’s value really depends on how “smart” and connected your car already is and what you’d like to use Alexa for. My car is 3 years old, I hate paying for Satellite radio, and I refuse to listen to commercials, so I find AlexAuto to be an ideal choice when it comes to easily playing music in my car. It connects automatically (most of the time), and then it’s a simple matter of asking Alexa to play whatever type of music I’m in the mood for. For me, it’s well worth the cost, which is $49.99.

Next up is Sugru. It’s a moldable glue/putty that is an absolute lifesaver. You mold it into whatever shape you’d like and then let it dry. Among other things, it can replace broken plastic parts, repair cracks and breaks, make do-it-yourself device stands, and protect cords. I’ve used it for a variety purposes, including fixing an exposed iPhone charging cord and replacing a leg that broke off of our toaster oven. It comes in a variety of different colors and an 8-pack costs just $15.99.

Last but not least, save time and money with one of my favorite shopping browser add-ons for Chrome: Honey. This tool automatically enters current coupons codes into the proper fields when you check out on merchant sites. Another added benefit is that when you check out on Amazon, Honey will let you know if there are other sellers who offer the same item at a lower price. And best of all, it’s free!

Those are just a few of the tech tools and hacks that I use all the time. Hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


Save Time and Aggravation With My Top Life Hacks ands Gadgets

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Save Time and Aggravation With My Top Life Hacks ands Gadgets

Usually I write about the intersection of law and technology in this column. One reason I’m so passionate about technology is because it saves lawyers time and money. After all, lawyers’ daily lives can be hectic and stressful, and anything that can be done to reduce some of that stress is well worth the effort.

That’s why I’m sharing some of my top life hacks and gadgets in today’s article. None of them are in any way related to legal technology, but all of them save me time and streamline my day-to-day life. Hopefully a few of them will do the same for you, too!

First up, my trusty robot vacuum cleaner: the Roomba. I don’t know how I ever managed without it. I currently own the Roomba 690, and it’s a lifesaver. We have 2 dogs, who seem to shed year round, and my Roomba manages to make life with them so much better. Every night we set our Roomba to run in our two most-trafficked areas - our family room and kitchen - and then wake up to clean floors. A Roomba can cost anywhere from $200 to $300, but trust me, it’s well worth the price you’ll pay!

Next up, my recently purchased Mirror. It’s a full-length, interactive gym from which you can play one of hundreds of pre-recorded or live workouts (and there are also live one-on-one training sessions available). It’s like having a boutique gym right in your house. No matter what your poison - yoga, boxing, barre, dance, Pilates, cardio, and more - the Mirror has you covered. You choose the class length (15, 30, or 45 minutes) and the difficulty level (1-4), and then start exercising, guided by the full-length image of the instructor and your own image on the mirror as you work out. You can exercise any time day or night, so it’s perfect for busy lawyers without much free time - especially those with kids. So if getting into shape is one of your goals for 2020, the Mirror might be just what you’re looking for. Sure it’s pricey ($1495 for the Mirror itself and $39/month for access to the classes), but it’s a great investment.

Another recent purchase of mine that I highly recommend for the home or office is the Google Wifi Mesh Router. One of the best parts about this router is that because of the mesh network, which is made up of individual Wifi points that “talk” to each other, it has extensive reach. Another added bonus: setup is a breeze. The router is controlled via your smartphone, so the first thing you have to do prior to setting it up is download the free Google Wifi app (available in iOS and Android). Next, you plug in your primary Wifi point. The number of Wifi points that you use is determined by the size of your home or office. For a smaller space (500-1500 square feet), you’ll need one Wifi point. For a medium-sized space (1500-3000 square feet) you’ll need two. And for a larger space (3000-4500 square feet) you’ll need three. Not only does Google Wifi provide reliable, consistent internet access - it also offers a number of other great features, including the ability to prioritize a specific device and built-in family control features. A single Wifi point starts at $99 and a set of 3 can be purchased for as low as $242 on Amazon.

Last but not least, my favorite laptop stand, the Moft “invisible” laptop stand. This laptop stand permanently attaches to the bottom of your laptop via an adhesive backing. When not in use it folds nearly flush to the bottom of your laptop, lays flat at 1/9”, and is barely discernible. It weighs only 3 ounces. Its dimensions are 170x224x3 mm and it’s designed for use with laptops with screen sizes between 11.6" and 15.6”. It can be folded into two different height settings, and costs only $24.99. So if you’re in the market for a lightweight and incredibly convenient laptop stand, I highly recommend it!

Those are just a few of my favorite life hacks and gadgets. I hope a few of them sound like a good fit for you. And stay tuned: in the near future I’ll share a few more life hacks. So keep an eye out!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


ABA Report: 2020 Legal Research Trends

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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ABA Report: 2020 Legal Research Trends

It used to be that legal research was expensive. There weren’t a lot of choices so most law firms simply paid exorbitant prices for access to case law, statutes, and treatises. But then along came the Internet, and it changed everything.

These days, with the rise of increasingly affordable legal research platforms and mobile apps, lawyers now have a  vast array of options when it comes to affordable legal research tools. Oftentimes, they’re even free. 

With so many choices available, it’s not surprising that the results of the American Bar Association’s latest Legal Technology Survey Report show that lawyers conduct legal research in a multitude different ways. Here are just a few of the interesting statistics from the survey on how lawyers perform legal research.

For starters, it’s clear that lawyers spend a good amount of time on legal research. According to the results of the Report, 17% of their workdays are devoted to legal research.

The legal research tools they used ran the gamut, with free legal research tools being the most popular. 65% of lawyers surveyed reported that they frequently used free tools, and 25% shared that they occasionally used them.

According to the Report, the top websites/tools used by lawyers for free legal research (in some cases the platforms were accessed for free via bar association memberships) were: 1) Findlaw (20%), 2) Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (18%), 3) Fastcase  (18%), 4) government websites 15%, 5) Google Scholar (13%), and 6) Casemaker (8%).

Lawyers reported using free online tools for obtaining information about: 1) general news (81%), 2) other lawyers (76%), 3) legal news (74%), 4) researching public records (70%), 5) companies and corporations (70%), 6) their state’s administrative, regulatory, and executive information (51%), 7) state legislation and statutes (50%), 8) case dockets (48%), 9) judges (47%), 10) legal forms (46%), 11) federal administrative, regulatory, and executive information (45%), 12) experts (42%), and 13) other state legislation and statutes (42%).

Of course fee-based services were also used often, with 57% of lawyers reporting that they regularly using them, and 17% occasionally using them.

When it came to fee-based legal research, Westlaw and Westlaw  Edge were by far the most popular, with 49% of lawyers reporting that they preferred them. Coming in way ahead of the rest in second place was Lexis Advance at 28%. Other tools used included Lexis Practice Advisor (4%), RIA Checkpoint (3%), Bloomberg Law (3%), Fastcase (3%), Practical Law (PLC) (2%), Casemaker (2%), CCH (1%), Casetext (1%), and HeinOnline (.3%).

Online fee-based tools were use most often to research: 1) federal case law (54%), 2) state case law from the state in which they practiced (53%), 3) other state case law (51%), 4) legal treatises and secondary materials (49%), 5) federal legislation and statutes (42%), and 6) legal citators (36%).

Some lawyers (44%) reported that they continued to regularly use print legal research tools. The information most often obtained using print materials were: 1) legal treatises and secondary materials (16%), 2) practical guidance (16%), 3) law reviews and legal periodicals (14%), 4) legal forms (13%), and 5) state legislation and statutes (9%).

Finally, when it came to the cost of legal research tools, the majority of lawyers (60%) reported that their firms either don’t bill clients for legal research or that the cost of legal research is incorporated into their hourly rate.  Surprisingly, 25% of firms still bill clients for the cost of legal research, with larger firms being the most likely to do  so. 37% of firms with 100 or more attorneys reported doing so, followed by 25% of firms of 2-9 attorneys, 21% of firms of 10-49 attorneys, and 16% of solo lawyers.

So that’s how your colleagues are using legal research tools. Do any of the statistics surprise you? How does your firm’s use compare?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


Make Technology Competence a Priority in 2020

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Make Technology Competence a Priority in 2020


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you already know that technology is changing the way that legal services are delivered. No matter what your practice areas, the impact of technology on the legal profession is inescapable, whether it’s digital evidence and ediscovery to data privacy issues and secure electronic communication. Technology is here to stay and ignoring it is no longer an option. That’s why technology competence is a requirement in the majority of jurisdictions in the U.S.

The American Bar Association first recognized the importance of technology competence for lawyers in 2012 when it amended the comments to Model Rule 1.1. This amendment imposed an ethical duty on lawyers to stay abreast of changes in technology. Since that time, the majority of state bar associations have revised the comments to their ethical rules to require that lawyers stay on top of changes in technology.

38 states now require it, with South Carolina, Michigan, and Texas adding a comment requiring technology competence to their ethical rules in 2019. Similarly, two other states, California and New Hampshire, while not formally adopting the duty to maintain technology competence, have confirmed in recent ethics opinions that lawyers have this duty. Notably, even Canada has jumped on the bandwagon, and on October 9 , 2019 the Federation of Law Societies of Canada amended its Model Code to include a duty of technology competence.

Of even greater import is that two states now require lawyers to complete technology CLE courses. These technology CLE requirements represent an important departure from business as usual and represent a clear acknowledgement that the legal profession is not immune from the impact of 21st century technologies.

Florida was the first to adopt new language into its Bar Rules to require lawyers to stay abreast of legal technology advancements by completing 3 credits of legal technology CLE per biennial cycle.  North Carolina followed suit in April of 2018, when the North Carolina State Bar Council voted to mandate that lawyers take one technology CLE credit each year.

Florida and North Carolina may be the first to enact these new CLE requirements, but they certainly won’t be the last. Rest assured, no matter what your areas of practice, or the size of your firm, the effects of technology are unavoidable, and ignoring it is no longer an option. In other words, your only choice is to commit to learning as much as you can about technology advancements, thus ensuring that you meet your ethical obligations and provide the best possible representation to your clients.

A great place to start is to read books on legal technology, follow blogs focused on legal technology issues, and participate in your local bar association’s legal technology committee—or start one if it doesn’t yet exist

Finally, consider attending a few legal technology conferences in the upcoming year. One conference to consider is ABA TECHSHOW, which is one of the most popular conferences for small firm lawyers seeking to learn about the latest legal technology tools and how to use them in their practices. In 2020 it’s being held in Chicago from February 26 - 29th, and I’m excited to be speaking at it this time around. It’s a great conference and with lots of educational and networking opportunities, so I hope to see you there!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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It’s already that time of year - time to start shopping for the lawyers on your holiday gift list. Time sure flies, doesn’t it? But, good news! I’ve done the work for you. Here’s my curated holiday gift list for the lawyers in your lives. All you have to do is choose which gifts to buy. So without further ado, here are my recommendations.

First, let’s take a look at a few books. If the lawyer in your life is struggling to understand new Millennial hires, look no further than this book: “What Millennial Lawyers Want.” In this book, author Susan Smith Blakely explains what makes this generation tick and how managing law firm partners can change their outlook and embrace the many qualities that make Millennial employees a unique and valuable asset for law firms.

Another book to consider is “The 2019 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide,” written by Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek, and Michael C. Maschke. Lawyers are incredibly busy, and as a result finding time to learn about technology often seems like an insurmountable task. That’s where this book, which is updated and revised annually, comes in. It helps lawyers sift through their technology choices, which range from hardware options to legal software tools designed to simplify the lives of solo and small-firm lawyers.

Finally, there’s a really interesting children’s book for the lawyer who also happens to be a mother to young children: “My Mom, the Lawyer.” This book was written with children whose moms are lawyers in mind. It helps them to understand what it means to be a lawyer and describes the many different jobs and the important work that their mothers do day in and day out.

For the mobile lawyer in your life I highly recommend my go-to portable laptop stand: the Moft “invisible” laptop stand. This laptop stand permanently attaches to the bottom of your laptop via an adhesive backing, and when not in use it folds nearly flush to the bottom of your laptop so that It’s barely visible and lays flat at 1/9”. It can be folded in two different ways, thus creating two different height settings: one at a 25 degree angle and another at a 15 degree angle. This stand weighs only 3 ounces, and its dimensions are 170x224x3 mm. It’s intended for use with laptops that have screen sizes between 11.6" and 15.6”. The most basic version, which is devoid of patterns and bright colors, costs $24.99.

Next up, if if the lawyers on your list doesn’t yet own a pair of Apple AirPods, then you know what to buy them this holiday season. I love mine and have a hard time remembering how I got by without them. The first time I realized their potential was when I was on a call with a colleague and stood up to get something and, out of habit, reached for my phone. Then I realized I could leave my phone right where it was and walk around while I talked since I was no longer physically connected to it while using my AirPods for the call. Granted, they’re not cheap, but they’re worth it. The cost for basic AirPods with a wireless charging case is $199 and with a wired charging case the cost is $159.

Another tech gadget for the lawyer in your life is the Google Mesh Wifi Router, which will work equally well in a law office or at home. I recently bought this router for my home wifi and setting it up was a snap. The router is controlled via your smartphone, and the number of Wifi points that you use is determined by the size of your home or office. For a smaller space (500-1500 square feet), you’ll need one Wifi point. For a medium-sized space (1500-3000 square feet) you’ll need two. And for a larger space (3000-4500 square feet) you’ll need three.

In addition to providing reliable, consistent internet access - this router also offers a number of other great features. First, you can prioritize a specific device right from your smartphone.There are also family controls that are built right into Google Wifi that allow you to, among other things, pause Wifi access on demand for any given device or group, schedule internet timeouts for specific devices or groups, and block chosen devices or groups from accessing millions of adult websites. Even with all those features Google Wifi is surprisingly affordable, starting at $169 for a 1-pack or $349 for a 3-pack.

And last but not least, a keyboard created just for lawyers: LegalBoard. This keyboard has built-in shortcuts and abbreviations for common phrases and words typically used by lawyers. The wired version has been around for a few years now, but good news! A wireless version was just announced, and you can preorder the wireless version for $85.

So now that you have any number of gifts to choose from, what are you waiting for? Start shopping for the lawyer in your life today!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.