Legal Practice

Law Practice Management in the Cloud


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.


Software as a service (SaaS) is defined at 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 “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 (, Rocket Matter ( and LawRD (

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

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


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.


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

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 ( 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 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


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.


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.

Promote Your Practice Through Social Media


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Promote Your Practice Through Social Media."

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


Promote Your Practice Through Social Media

Online identities are becoming increasingly important in the Web 2.0 world in which we live, along with the need to understand how to use social media to promote a law practice and manage online identities.

The Internet no longer is a quaint phenomenon, but rather an integral part of our daily lives, and the lives of our clients. People turn to the Internet for information, advice and social connections.

Career counselors were among the first to recognize the importance of responsibly utilizing social media and social networking to further one’s career. They continue to be at the forefront of the movement.

The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services, for example, recently hosted a program for alumni that focused on social networking and managing online identities. At that presentation, I served as moderator for a technologically astute panel of knowledgeable local professionals: Juli Klie, president of Veritor LLC and co-founder of Digital Rochester; Greg Taylor, the managing partner of Excelsior Search Partners, a recruiting firm;
and Steven Tylock, author of “The LinkedIn Personal Trainer.”

A number of the panelists said they believed a LinkedIn presence is the cornerstone of a professional online identity. Others, myself included, recommended the use of other types of online social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. All participants agreed each platform has unique benefits, depending on a user’s goal —obtain a job, promote a business or network with other professionals.

The legal profession slowly, but surely, is beginning to realize the importance of an effective online presence. When I began my first legal blog, “Sui Generis,” in 2005, only one other Rochester-based law blog existed. Since that time, a number of Rochester lawyers now blog. Two local law firms entered the blogging scene within the last year. Attorney Alexander Korotkin publishes the “Rochester Family Lawyer,"which discusses recent state family law decisions and provides practical advice for clients and lawyers alike.

The newly established law firm Easton, Thompson Kasperek LLC recently joined the blogosphere as well. Its “New York Criminal Defense” blog provides insightful commentary and analysis regarding New York appellate criminal law decisions from some of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in Rochester.

Another lawyer, Elizabeth Randisi, who is associated with the Rochester law firm WeinsteinMurphy, posts regularly at “Sui Generis”  regarding trusts and estates and elder law issues.

Local lawyer Gregory Bell, an editor at Thomson Reuters, blogs about law and technology at “Practicing Law in the 21st Century” and also about blogs and another passion of his, the local Rochester jazz scene, at “Jazz@Rochester."

Blogs are not the only way to create an online presence, but maintaining an online identity, in one form or another, should be the crux of any law practice’s marketing plan. People no longer reach for the Yellow Pages when they need an attorney. Instead, they ask friends for advice and seek information on the Internet. If your firm does not have an online presence that is easily located, without a doubt you are losing potential clients left and right.

Promoting a law practice online is a no-brainer. It’s easy to create and manage an online presence using any one of the many free or low cost online platforms I’ve discussed. I assure you, the minimal monetary and time investment will be well worth the effort in the end.

Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Drlogo11 This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Practicing Law in the 21st Century."  The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.

My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Rapid technological advancements have changed the way the world functions; the practice of law has not been exempt from this change. The landscape of the legal field has been dramatically altered by the advent of high-speed Internet, email, data phones, and remote office capabilities.  Law firms are now grappling with issues of e-Discovery and e-filing is becoming commonplace.

These issues have been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks, as I prepare for a CLE that I’ll be participating in at the MCBA on May 15, 2008, from 9 am-noon: “Practicing Law in The 21st Century — Practice Management and Substantive Law Resources on the Internet.” The goal of this CLE is to make technology more accessible and useful to lawyers in their practices.

Technology has made the practice of law simpler for some, while other attorneys find themselves struggling to keep up with the changes or, alternatively, ignoring technology in the futile hope that it will simply disappear.

The fact remains, however, that technology is here to stay. In order to succeed in a rapidly evolving marketplace, lawyers must embrace change and learn to use technology to their advantage.

Computers and the Internet can be used to improve all aspects of a law practice. The Internet and data phones allow lawyers to obtain information anywhere, anytime. Office servers can be accessed remotely on data phones or home computers, thus allow- ing lawyers timesaving flexibility. A lawyer in the middle of trial can now step into the hallway and conduct legal research via a data phone.

Vast amounts of information relevant to the practice of law can be obtained online. In addition to the traditional Web-based legal research companies such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, there are now low-cost Web-based research alternatives available.

And, if you know where to look, large amounts of information can be accessed online at no cost, including case law, both federal (1997-present) and New York (from 1995 to the present). New York and federal rules and regulations are also available, as are New York State Attorney General opinions and the 2007 Codes of New York State.

Online resources can keep attorneys current and on top of changes in their specific areas of practice as well. Online news articles and legal blogs are great tools in this regard.

There is also a vast assortment of cutting-edge resources avail- able on the Internet to assist attorneys in managing their productivity and their law practices. There are low cost Web-based practice management systems that can replace traditional software. Free Web-based email, calendaring systems, word-processing, and phone and fax sys- tems can replace traditional and costly alternatives.

Networking opportunities abound online. Between listservs, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and social networking sites such as Facebook, lawyers have more opportunities than ever to interact with and learn from lawyers across the country.

Of course, technological change has made certain aspects of legal practice more difficult and confusing. The most evident example of this is the ever-prevalent issue of E-discovery. Since the amendment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in December 2006, businesses and their lawyers have struggled to respond to e-Discovery requests and to alter their business practices in order to preserve e-data and thus avoid sanctions under the new rules.

Fortunately, there are a number of free and useful resources on the Internet, which can assist attorneys in complying with the new rules. In addition, there are companies that now assist businesses with the e- Discovery process, such as DocuLegal.

There is no question that technology has transformed the legal profession and will continue to do so in the future. Rather than keeping your head in the sand, why not embrace technological changes and learn to use them to your advantage? The short-term investment will be minimal and the long-term pay off will be huge — not a bad trade-off, all things considered.

Beyond These Four Walls

Drlogo11 I'm posting from sunny, albeit not exactly balmy, Florida.  The New York legal news round up and blog round up will follow later on this week.  In the meantime, enjoy this week's Legal Currents column, which is published in The Daily Record, is entitled "Beyond these four walls."  The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.

My past Legal Currents articles can be accessed here.


Beyond these four walls

“Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over.”


Businesses exist to make money and, as we all know, time is money.

The more efficient and productive a business is, the more profitable it is.

The business of law is no different. In the absence of prof- its, a law practice will fail. Therefore, it is surprising that law offices tend to be extra- ordinarily inefficient, in large part because the lawyers run- ning them stubbornly resist change.

In general, legal employers have been steadfastly reluc- tant to change the way business “has always been done.” Technological advancements are shunned rather than embraced, as lawyers cling to the traditional workplace structure.

The end result of this staunch resistance to technological change is a lower profit margin. The failure to adapt to rapidly changing technology costs law practices money. Likewise, overhead decreases when legal employers are willing to take advantage of the time- and money-saving benefits offered by new technology.

One simple way for law offices to save money is to offer lawyers the option to work from home or virtual offices. This makes economic sense since it allows firms to reduce costs by decreasing the square footage of office space rented. A telecommuting lawyer is able to make better use of time that otherwise might be wasted during a commute to work, thus increasing productivity. Readily available advances in technology make such alternative work arrangements possi-ble, and profitable.

More often than not, attorneys communicate with other lawyers in their workplace over the telephone or via e-mail or other internal written communication. Each of these methods can be used just as easily to contact lawyers operating remotely. Likewise, if electronic copies are made of every important document, lawyers operating remotely can access them whenever necessary.

Some employers resist this practice based on the mistaken belief that time spent scanning documents could be better spent elsewhere. This assumption could not be further from the truth.

Fiandach & Fiandach, the law office with which I am of counsel, keeps electronic copies of nearly every document that comes into the office, which saves time and money.

When speaking with clients on the telephone, our extremely adept legal assistants have all information regarding a client’s case readily available at their fingertips. There’s no need to waste time tracking down a client’s file, which could be in a filing cabinet, with an attorney in court or with another legal assistant. Instead, every document is available right on the computer screen and questions are answered easily and quickly.

With a touch of a button, an electronic copy can be faxed instantly, e-mailed or sent to a copy machine — another huge time saver. If the paper copy of a document is misplaced, there is a backup electronic copy available — yet another time saver.

The practice also benefits lawyers like myself, who work remotely. With my iPhone, no matter where I am, I have instant access to the office. I can send and receive e-mails on my iPhone or laptop. I can receive faxes from the office directly in my e-mail using eFax (an online service) and can instantaneously view them on my iPhone.

No matter where I am, I can use my iPhone or laptop to perform legal research on Westlaw and send the results directly to co-workers, whether they’re in the office, on the road or on trial.

When technology is used intelligently and creatively, there are no losers — only winners. Think outside the box. Recreate your concept of a law office and take advantage of increasingly affordable technology.

“Face time” is an overrated, archaic concept, which results in unnecessary expenses. Law practices that embrace technology are able to save time and provide greater job flexibility, resulting in increased profits and happier, more pro- ductive employees.


Food for thought:  the iPhone and its application to the law office, via Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS blog:

New NY Blog of Interest

CheckmarkI recently discovered a relatively new New York blog based on an interesting concept--summarizing all New York CLEs in one place.  It's called, not surprisingly,  New York CLE.  You can browse CLEs by region, topic or date. 

And, CLE providers can submit their upcoming CLEs by following this link.  It appears that there is no cost to list your CLE and that a fee is charged only if people register for the CLE using the web site. 

It's an unusual and creative idea.  I've added to my sidebar under New York Law Blogs for the time being.  I'm interested in watching the blog to see how it develops over time.

Some Useful New York Online Legal Resources

CheckmarkThe Indignant Indigent blog includes links to a few websites that may be of interest to New York legal practitioners that I wanted to highlight.

  • First, the Second Department now has appellate briefs for appeals calendared between January 2004 and approximately 6 months prior to the present date available online.  The briefs can be accessed here.
  • Next, there is a very thorough outline of Crawford issues here, prepared by Jeffrey Fisher.
  • Finally, the Center for Appellate Litigation provides a New York State Court of Appeals update here.  This update summarizes significant criminal cases pending before the Court.

New York Criminal Law Resources and Court Information

I discovered a number of interesting New York resources today the the New York State Unified Court System's web site.

First, the New York Criminal Jury Instructions are available here. Be advised, however, that for some reason accessing that link can cause your system to slow down dramatically.  You may want to close out any programs currently not in use.

The Domestic Violence Bench Manual is available here and the (annotated) Search Warrant Manual for judges can be found here.

A somewhat skewed directory of the addresses of all courts, including town, village and justice courts, located in New York state can be found here.  Similar information can be found here

And, a directory, again somewhat skewed, of all New York State judges, including phone numbers, can be found here.  An alphabetical directory of judges can also be found here.

A map of the New York State court system that illustrates which counties make up each judicial department can be found here.

New York State Unified Court System Style Manual Available Online

The New York Official Reports Style Manual, always a useful reference, is available online should you ever find that you need it and can't locate the hard copy.  It can be found here.

The Style Manual is intended for use by those drafting judicial opinions, but can certainly be helpful to anyone drafting a legal document.  As explained in the Style Manual:

This Manual supplements general citation and style authorities, providing more detail on New York materials and a more specific focus on judicial opinions. General authorities should be consulted on matters not covered by this Manual. These authorities include:

  • The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Colum L Rev Assn et al. eds, 17th ed 2000)
  • Association of Legal Writing Directors & Darby Dickerson, ALWD Citation Manual (Aspen L & Bus 2000)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed 1993)
  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1993)
  • Lebovits, Advanced Judicial Opinion Writing (7th ed)
  • Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (4th ed)

Also available online is the is the Cornell Legal Information Institute's Introduction to Basic Legal Citation, written by Peter Martin, which discusses the differences between the Bluebook and ALWD citation styles.

So many helpful legal resources available online for free.  Will wonders never cease?