Monday, December 30, 2013

New year: new opportunities

The end of one year and the start of another is a classic time to reflect upon one's personal and professional life and one that attorneys should not pass up.

As part of your New Year's resolutions, strive to improve an aspect of your legal or business skills.  Maybe it's time to delve into a new practice area, or start blogging, or try advertising, or network more to get more (or better) types of clients.

Maybe your resolutions are more concrete: raise your rates; lower your uncollectables; even dump a specific case.

Don't let your professional resolutions meet the same goal many personal ones do, though.  Stick at it and next thing you know, you're find you've accomplished your goal.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Change is hard

We know.  Change is hard.  And change when it comes to technology is especially hard.  If you've spent lots of money on a system, or are just comfortable doing what you've always done, the idea of using new technology or a new system may seem scary.

Maybe if you have a local monopoly or market power, like the agency discussed in the article linked above, you can avoid change.  

But for the vast majority, reality has a way of forcing your hand.  Clients, opposing counsel, and even now courts and bar associations require modern technology.  If you don't adapt, your practice will die.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reconsidering your marketing plan

Many attorneys use newsletters as a way to stay in contact with past, current, and potential clients and sources of business.  After all, they are inexpensive, effective (in that it provides an easy avenue to promote your firm and expertise) and different service platforms make managing the delivery of these newsletters easy.

Changes to the way Google delivers newsletters and other promotional materials, then, are an unpleasant development.  And, unfortunately for email marketers, that's just what Google has done (again).

In essence, after already routing much of this correspondence into a spam folder, it now is blocking images in the same, which are essentially, not only for formatting and design purposes, but also as the tags that allow the newsletter to be tracked and metrics to be complied.

For attorneys, the inconvenience is probably less, given that most aren't using their newsletters and other emailed communications as direct solicitations, but nonetheless, it may give you pause if you are considering (but haven't yet implemented) an email marketing campaign.

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Hampshire opinion on legal cloud computing

The New Hampshire Bar Association is the latest state to issue an advisory ethics opinion on the use of cloud-computing by attorneys. And once again, a win for the consensus.

In Ethics Opinion 2012-13/4, the state's ethics committee adopted "the consensus among states that a lawyer may use cloud computing consistent with his or her ethical obligations, as long as the lawyer takes reasonable steps to ensure that sensitive client information remains confidential."

The reasonableness standard has met with approval from the eleven other states that have considered the issue. Drawing upon these opinions, the New Hampshire opinion provides a helpful checklist of issues for an attorney considering the cloud to consider.

Here on Online Legal Software, we are happy to discuss any security concerns you have regarding use of the cloud - put simply, you can trust us with your data. With over 20 years experience serving the legal community as part of CompleteLaw, we understand the unique needs and concerns of attorneys.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Code Week

It's code week!

Lawyers might think that they don't need to learn to code, and to the extent that means they need to be master programmers, that's certainly true, but as LawLytics point out, that doesn't mean some coding isn't useful.

Especially when it comes to HTML (the language used for web-pages and the like) - knowing a little code is a major time and money saver: think of it as analogous to knowing some basic plumbing and construction skills: it's alot easier to spend a few minutes or so swapping out an outlet or fixing some borked code then pay someone else to do it on their schedule, especially early in a firm.

Best of all, the knowledge you gain stays with you and allows you to better evaluate vendors later on.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A weak legal job market...

For the second month in a row, the legal job market lost jobs.

This trend isn't very surprising to most, as cost-controls and poor allocation of lawyers have almost assuredly meant the golden days of the legal profession are at an end and new attorneys can't expect the "old ways" to lead to future success (or, increasingly, even subsistence)

Technology isn't an end-all-be-all solution, but using technology, like cloud-based legal software solutions, can give savvy attorneys a leg up on their competition (and make no mistake, other attorneys are your competition) by allowing them to provide better service at a lower cost; simplifying and standardizing your internal systems and freeing up your time to actually, you know, practice.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Better billing not just smart, but ethical too

The legal ethics forum recently had a piece (referencing a further discussion at Ethics Byte) about block billing.

No doubt, billing is fraught with pitfalls for the unaware (or unprepared). Avoiding these pitfalls is made easier with legal billing software: it can render the task of billing an easier one (and let's be honest: the block bill often exists because of attorney laziness or inability to itemize). By keeping track of time as it is being performed and automating the bill creation process, legal billing software is not just the smart choice, but an ethical one.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Learn more about choosing the right legal software

Interested in learning more about choosing the right legal software?  Our latest video might help:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is your firm in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA)?

Is your firm in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA)?  Never heard of it?  Well, if your computer data is stored in the Canadian province of British Columbia and subject to the provincial laws of British Columbia (as it is, of course, with Clio), you might want to find out!

While every state that has looked into cloud-computing has given it the O.K., this approval was not a carte blanche – but imposed the duty upon the attorney to do their due diligence into how and where that data was stored and how it was accessible.  See, e.g., Iowa State Bar ethics opinion 11-01.  This includes knowing how and where the data is stored.

Ironically, in summarizing the problem for Canadian lawyers, it was the Law Society of British Columbia that best stated the issue American lawyers using a foreign company face as well:

There are several problems with lawyers having their business records stored or processed outside British Columbia. Lawyers have a professional obligation to safeguard clients’ information to protect confidentiality and privilege. When a lawyer entrusts client information to a cloud provider the lawyer will often be subjecting clients’ information to a foreign legal system. The foreign laws may have lower thresholds of protection than Canadian law with respect to accessing information. A lawyer must understand the risks (legal, political, etc.) of having client data stored and processed in foreign jurisdictions.  Report of the Cloud Computing Working Group, The Law Society of British Columbia, pg. 8 (27 January 2012).

Online Legal Software maintains its primary and backup servers in the Midwestern United States.  We don’t play games with choice of law or venue selection clauses that force you to go to inconvenient (or foreign) courts.  The choice is clear.   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Massachusetts opinion on attorney use of cloud computing

As we've said numerous times, attorneys concerned with the propriety of use of legal software have no reason to be concerned, at least according to every published opinion on the subject by the various state bars.

In one of the more recent opinions on the subject, Massachusetts weighed in.  Massachusetts Bar Association opinion 12-03 gave no direct guidance to Massachusetts attorneys, but did, as in other states, emphasize that the attorneys’ responsibility was to ensure their data was reasonably safe from unauthorized access, interception, and there was not an unreasonable risk of inadvertent disclosure; specifically, that the cloud provider kept the data secure, private, and prevented unauthorized access.

Online Legal Software understands the need to protect sensitive data and takes this responsibility as serious as you do.  We utilize bank-level security and encryption, unique user-passwords, and US-based servers and backup servers.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stay safe and secure on the web (and no, we're not talking about legal cloud computing)

Attorneys are rightly concerned about security and confidentiality, after all, it is one of the primary responsibilities we have towards our clients.

This concern often manifests itself in (usually unwarranted) concerns about the security of cloud providers, such as Online Legal Software.  We're happy to talk about the ways we keep your data safe and secure, but that's not main point of this article.

Because what we often see is that the same attorneys who are skeptical about legal software in the cloud have bad internet habits.  A useful post from Google (via Futurelawyer) summarized some of the basic rules on how to stay safe on the web.

You might laugh at some of them, but chances are there are a few things you aren't doing.  And that's risky.  Scammers are increasingly targeting lawyers, realizing that they often make easy marks.  Don't make their job easy and tempt fate by doing the digital equivalent of leaving your door unlocked and open.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

California's opinion on cloud-computing by attorneys

Given its position as one of the prime information technology centers of the country, it is unsurprising that the State Bar of California has weighed in on the ethical use of cloud computing systems by attorneys.

California addressed the issue in the context of a larger opinion of electronic devices and communications; in Formal Opinion No. 2010-179, the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct set forth a list of factors to consider before using any technology:

  • The  attorney’s  ability  to  assess  the  level  of  security  afforded  by  the  technology, specifically: (i) Consideration of how the particular technology differs from other media use; (ii) Whether reasonable precautions may be taken when using the technology to increase the level of security; (iii) Limitations of who is permitted to monitor the use of the technology, to what extent and on what grounds.
  • The legal ramifications to third parties of intercepting, accessing or exceeding authorized use of another person’s electronic information;
  • The degree of sensitivity of the information;
  • Possible impact on the client of an inadvertent disclosure of privileged or confidential information or work product
  • The urgency of the situation
  • Client instructions and circumstances
None of these criteria stand out as being unusual or otherwise not in accordance with what has come to be seen as the general consensus on cloud computing.  Put simply, an attorney has to act reasonably.  If they don't understand the technology, they have to educate themselves, and they have to know the data is secure and safe.

With individualized one-on-one training (done by a human, not videos over the internet) and U.S. based servers, attorneys can feel confident trusting their data with Online Legal Software.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Technology is a key part of a new solo's tool-kit

Jim Calloway recently wrote an article in the Oklahoma Law Journal discussing the "Seven Deadly Sins" facing new attorneys who go out on their own.

Unsurprisingly, one of his points is a failure to focus on technology.

Young attorneys often have an inane advantage over their more experienced, but often less technological savvy brethren; having grown up with technology, they tend to be more familiar with its use and comfortable with how it can improve one's life.

Legal practice is no different.  Legal software, particularly, billing and time-keeping software, can streamline the admittedly burdensome practice (and, despite advances in alternative billing arrangements, a still necessary one) of keeping track of time on a minute-by-minute basis.

Online Legal Software allows attorneys to create billing entries from contemporaneous time records.  These contemporaneous records themselves ensure time is properly recorded, properly accounted, and properly billed; painlessly and accurately.

Starting smart is the key to starting right.  We can help you start smart.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Do you need an office?

Modern technology can render what used to be necessary obsolete.

A great example of this is the physical office.  A couple of decades ago, it was almost inconceivable that a practicing attorney wouldn't have an office.  Now, however, mobile technology and a rise in virtual legal office solutions have rendered the office almost superfluous.

This is especially true for newly-minted solos.  After all, keeping overhead low is one of the critical steps in any start-up business and with modern technology, including cloud-based practice management software like Online Legal Software, you can practice from anywhere with a laptop and scanner.

That said, it’s not the right choice for everyone.  Some people can’t effectively work from home; and certainly, not all prospective clients would want to meet in a coffee shop or library.  It depends too on your location – rent for a simple office might be inexpensive enough in your region to mitigate the cost – whilst in a big city, the opposite is true.

What do you think?  Does modern technology alleviate the need for a traditional office?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nevada opinion on cloud computing by attorneys

In a brief synopsis of the evolution of electronic media and resources by various bar association (and the growing acceptance of the same), the State Bar of Nevada held in formal opinion no. 33, that the attorney’s responsibility was to exercise reasonable care in the selection of the third-party contractor and that this responsibility would be met if the attorney has a reasonable expectation the provider will keep their data confidential and instructs and requires the contractor to keep the information confidential and inaccessible. 

With over twenty years of providing legal software and services to attorneys, Nevada attorneys can trust we are no neophytes in the field.  Online Legal Software provides bank-level encryption to ensure your data remains secure, in US-based servers and our promise of confidentiality is right there in our agreement. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Arizona and the cloud

The State Bar of Arizona Ethics Committee has addressed the issues raised in cloud-based solutions in a series of Ethics Opinions.  

Specifically, Arizona has addressed the issue of online storage.  Of course, issues of online storage go beyond just practice management software - virtually every e-mail program stores at least some of your data on-line and the growing trend is for more and more of the programs you may use everyday (such as word processing and accounting software) to store data online.


Frankly, if the computer sitting on your desk is connected to the Internet (and now-a-days, few are not), it is accessible over the Internet.


Given this reality, it is not surprising that when Arizona gave consideration to the issue of electronic storage in Ethics Opinion 05-04, the Ethics Committee held that electronic storage of client files is permissible, as long as the attorney takes competent and reasonable steps to safeguard client confidences.  


This opinion was clarified and expanded by the Arizona Ethics Committee in Ethics Opinion 09-04, which held that having online access documents was fine – again, so long as reasonable steps were taken to safeguard client data – SSL encryption and passwords were considered reasonable steps.  


Online Legal Software uses bank-level encryption  while every user has password-protected access to the system.  Your data is safe with us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Attorneys shouldn't ignore Twitter

Most attorneys don't like to market.  That's understandable, given that they went to school to practice law, not to be salespeople and marketers.

What many attorneys don't realize (until it is often too late) is that to succeed in law (at any size firm), you need your own book of business which requires sales and marketing.

Twitter, the micro-blog site, is one potential source of free and easy marketing exposure.  Many attorneys, to the extent they are on twitter at all, use it to cross-post their blog or other limited marketing ideas.  But if this is the only thing you are doing with it, you're missing out.

Especially if you are in a smaller community (or neighborhood-based), there is significant value in becoming a trusted source for local information - seek out local reporters, organizations, etc.  Follow them, re-tweet them, and you will almost always be rewarded in kind; moreover, you may find yourself receiving calls for comments and opinions and otherwise gaining free publicity.  And calls from potential clients.

We try to practice what we've said above.  You can follow Online Legal Software on twitter @OLSoftwareNYC.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Law blogs better than law review?

Back in law school, nothing was more prestigious than making law review.  Of course, once the student actually became an attorney, they realized that outside academia, few practicing attorneys could care less about the content of those law reviews, given how little relevance they have to the average practice.

In recent comments to the Wall Street Journal, no less than Justice Kennedy agreed with the common perception of law review, suggesting instead something that is of more importence to him and his clerks: the law blog.

The benefits to a lawyer blogging are well-known including, but of course not limited to: exposure to potential clients, establishment of an area, or areas, of expertise, and the ability to develop networks (including referrals).

Now, maybe that'll include a Supreme Court citation.

So if you're not blogging; ask yourself why?  For many attorneys, the answer is a variation of being "too busy," which often (but not exclusively, of course) is simply a euphemism for being unorganized.  Tools such as legal software can help an attorney in this regard, allowing them to better manage and organized their files and move beyond simply handling the crisis du jour to creating the groundwork for later success.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What is the cloud?

As lawyers, we have a tendency to use jargon unknowingly - that is, it is so commonplace to us that we tend to incorporate into our general speech without even pausing to consider if what we're saying even makes sense for the intended audience.

We realized that we might be doing the same thing with the buzz word du jour - "cloud"

So what the heck is the cloud?

Well, put simply, the "cloud" means something that, instead of being physically located on the computer you are using, the data, application, etc. is located somewhere else: that somewhere is usually a server farm, that is hundreds, if not thousands, of powerful computers that form the backbone of much of the Internet as we know it.

Legal software in the cloud is a relatively new phenomenon, however the cloud itself is not as radical new thing as some attorneys think.  Most people, even attorneys, are using the cloud, even if they don't realize it.  Do you have a Gmail account? Yahoo?  AOL?  All in the cloud.

The ubiquity of the cloud is one of the reasons why no state ethical committee has had a problem with the use of cloud computing to store client information.  Obviously, like anything else, this isn't a carte blanche, it's tempered by reasonableness - just like most things an attorney does.

Using the cloud can help your practice in many ways.  It un-tethers you from physical location, keeps you better organized, and helps you be more productive and make more money.  Our system, especially, keeps your data safe and secure in multiple U.S.-based servers.  Best of all, you can try it for free.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Technology and ethical opinions

Megan Zavieh had an interesting article on Lawyerist recently, making the point that State ethical boards shouldn't try to regulate specific technology use by attorneys directly, but instead posit general guidelines.

The thesis is a good one.  Her argument is rooted in the simple concept that the law is, by definition, a slow-moving process, whilst technology is the exact opposite.  As a practical matter, what this generally means is that often the specific technology being discussed may well be moot by the time a Court gets around to reviewing it.  Broad precepts, on the other hand, tend to better stand the test of time.

Within the field of legal software, specifically in regards to the issue of cloud computing, Ms. Zavieh's thesis seems to be in effect, with ethical opinions focusing on the idea of "reasonableness" without delving deeply into the morass of the technical nitty-gritty.  Although assuredly, some attorneys might prefer a touch more guidance (although the overall picture is clear), a series of quickly obsolete opinions would potentially do less to provide the same than broad ones.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pennsylvania Opinion on use of cloud computing

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, in Formal Opinion 2011-200, came to a similar conclusion as did the other states that have considered the issue, holding that Pennsylvania attorneys may use the cloud, as long as (1) all such materials remain confidential, and (2) reasonable safeguards are employed to ensure that the data is protected from breaches, data loss and other risks.

Online Legal Software understands the responsibilities inherent in providing solutions to law firms; with over twenty years’ experience in the legal software field and commitments to data security and confidentiality – including bank-level encryption and password-protected access.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Careful tooting your own horn

Making the rounds recently in the blogosphere is renewed discussion on the issue of attorneys using testimonials, customer reviews, and anecdotal evidence as part of a marketing campaign.

No doubt, positive reviews can be a powerful tactic to gain clients.  While decades ago, an attorney might have coveted an "AV" designation from Martindale-Hubbell, most attorneys today would likely see more benefit from a high AVVO rating or positive Yelp reviews.

This has, unsurprisingly, led to attempts to game the system.  Attorneys would write positive reviews for themselves or engage in review-swapping with other attorneys or professionals.

Now the review sites are fighting back.  Yelp recently sued an attorney for posting fake reviews, while in New York, the Attorney General has been waging a campaign against fake reviews as well.  Needless to say, the practice would also be dubious under any reasonable interpretation of most state's ethical codes.

The best way to get (real) positive customer reviews is the simplest: ask for them.  Most happy clients would certainly be willing to write a quick review: using practice management software can systematize the process so the request can go out timely and receive the proper follow-up as well.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Vermont ethical opinion on attorneys using the cloud

The Vermont bar Association, in opinion 2010-6, agreed with the national consensus regarding use of the cloud; holding that usage of SAAS (Software as a service) is ethically permissible, as long as the attorney takes reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of the data and ensure access to the materials.  

Although "reasonable" could be as vague as Justice Stewart's take on pornography, industry standards amongst legal software providers provide an attorney with the knowledge that their data is secure, such as bank-level encryption and password protected access.

Considering many attorneys fail to even have adequate off-site storage, or use unsecured portable computing (easily stolen or forgotten), the cloud can often offer a higher level of safety and security then many attorneys currently maintain.

While no legal software provider can guarantee 100% up-time, having multiple back-ups of data provides the ultimate ability to ensure an attorney's data is recoverable in the event of a primary server failure.



Friday, September 27, 2013

Flat-fee billling and time-tracking still go together

More and more attorneys are using flat-fee billing and it's easy to see why: for the client, flat-fee billing brings cost containment and certainty, while for the attorney, it makes invoicing easier and eliminates the need for detailed time-tracking

Or does it?

The problem with not tracking time in flat-fee (and contingency) matters, of course, is an analytic one.  That is, how does an attorney know if they're earning an appropriate fee from the work?

Simply put, if they don't track time, they don't.

For example - an attorney quotes a fee of $1000 to a client to handle what seems to be a routine matter.  If that matter takes the attorney an hour or two, then that is a pretty nice hourly rate.  But what if the matter takes 10 hours?  20?  What if the client calls five times a day for a month?  Before you know it, the attorney could have been better off working in Starbucks.

Maybe there are situations where the experience, or lack of other work, justify the lower rate.  More likely, though, is that the attorney could have been better off working on other, more profitable, matters.  Or networking.  Or being with friends and family.

And that's the rub.  While attorneys are traditionally known for working long hours, more and more, given the low quality of life of the average attorney, are seeking ways to work smarter, not just harder.

Legal software that allows you to track your time and bill, such as Online Legal Software, give an attorney the ability to track their time easily at the click of a button.  So with little effort, the attorney can build a database to allow them to analyze how much time goes where and the profitability of the same.  It may become obvious that certain types of cases aren't worth doing.  It will certainly give the attorney the ability to better structure their fee plans to reflect reality: hybrid flat-fee structures, perhaps, or task-based billing.

Giving attorneys the tools they need to improve their life and their practice.  That's the real benefit of technology.
  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Can attorneys safely use public Wi-Fi?

It's an issue that has aroused some passions amongst the cognoscenti: the appropriateness of an attorney using public Wi-Fi for legal work.  Technology has enabled an attorney to work productivity while mobile, using mobile or internet telephony, laptop computers, and the right legal software.

However, of course, this all requires an internet connection.  Some commentators have expressed the belief that using public Wi-Fi poses a security risk, as since it is generally unsecured (that is, not password protected and/or encrypted), a hacker could access potentially confidential attorney-client information.

A very informative article on Iphone J.D., by Professor Dane Ciolino analyzes a recent 9th circuit decision that directly tackles the question.  In short, Prof. Ciolino concludes that given legal safeguards against hacking and intrusion onto wireless networks, the Court held that there is reasonable presumption that these communications are secure.

One less thing for an attorney to worry about and another reason why the 21st century law office is increasingly less of a traditional office and more an "office from anywhere."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oregon opinion on online service providers for lawyers

Oregon addressed the issue of third-party vendors in Formal Opinion No. 2011-188.  

In consensus with other states, Oregon said that use of online service providers was fine, so long as reasonable steps are taken to ensure that client data is secure and confidential.  Online Legal Software understands this requirement and does take these steps.  Your data is encrypted with bank-level security, while access is limited only to those users you designate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Virginia ethics opinion on cloud computing

The Old Dominion has issued an opinion on the ethics of virtual law offices and cloud computing.

The opinion is a broad discussion, almost conversational in tone.  Cloud computing is briefly mentioned in passing as falling under the aegis of Rule 1.6, wherein, (as should be expected for anyone who follows the general trend of the ethics of cloud computing), an attorney has a duty to act reasonably in entrusting her data to the cloud and being aware of the policies and procedures of the cloud provider chosen.

One particular note of caution is for anyone planning a virtual law office in Virginia who did not take the Virginia Bar - the commonwealth has particular requirements for attorneys admitted on motion and/or with reciprocity that could prevent these attorneys from using a VLO.

Overall, however, is yet another acceptance of cloud computing - and by a state known for conservative bar regulation, to boot.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Iowa ethical opinion on cloud-computer services

Iowa specifically considered “software as a service” (Saas) in Ethics Opinion 11-01.  In holding that the attorney would need to do due diligence in using any Saas, the opinion gave “basic guidance” in the forms of questions that should be asked:

Access
Legal issues; including, but not limited to, the track record of the company, where it is located, choice of law and venue.
Financial Obligation
Termination
Password Protection and public access
Data Encryption

Iowa attorneys can be confident in Online Legal Software.  Our contract makes clear that your data is yours.  As a US-based company, with over twenty years of providing software to attorneys, our track records speaks for itself.  Online Legal Software doesn't play games with random choice of law, or venue clauses, or impose onerous obligations to cancel or retrieve your data, in the unlikely event of cancellation.  Most importantly, we ensure your data is secured; with bank-level encryption and password-protected access.  You don’t have to worry with us.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Alabama Disciplinary Commission opinion on cloud computing

The Alabama Disciplinary Commission, in Ethics Opinions 2010-02, updated their views on the responsibilities of Alabama attorneys vis-à-vis client file retention, storage, and destruction, and in so doing, examined the use of cloud computing by attorneys in the state.

The Commission held that and maintenance for Alabama attorneys held that “a lawyer may use “cloud computing” or third‐party providers to store client data provided that the attorney exercises reasonable care in doing so.”  Id. at 16.  Reasonable care, as defined by the Commission, means the attorney has to understand how the provider will handle storage and security of the data and that the provider will maintain confidentiality.  Id.  The Commission also held that electronic data must be capable of being reproduced in paper format.  Id.

Online Legal Software uses bank-level encryption to ensure your data is safe and secure.  Our servers are located in different areas of the United States; your data never leaves the country and is never vulnerable to a local catastrophe.  Online Legal Software is committed to holding your data safe, secure, and confidential.  The data you input in Online Legal Software can always be printed; our reports allow you to create printed copies on demand and with the press of a button.   

Friday, August 23, 2013

Innovation: bane of attorneys?

Great recent article by Jordan Furlong as to reasons why lawyers don't lead when it comes to innovation.

Admittedly, perhaps it's too much to ask a profession built on concepts such as stare decisis to innovate, but the simple fact (which at this point should be self-evident) is that lawyers are not immune to the same market pressures and economic realities as other industries.

A failure to innovate dooms many lawyers, as the old ways become less cost-effective and clients, who must work in a matter suited to the 21st century, demand the same from their attorneys.

Technology and software can be one way attorneys are able to better deliver their services.  We'd be happy to show you how.

Monday, August 19, 2013

New York restricts attorneys' use of LinkedIn profiles

Interesting ethics opinion from New York on the use of LinkedIn; in the opinion, the New York Committee on Professional Ethics held that neither law firm or a lawyer (save one specially licensed) may list practice areas under the LinkedIn heading "Specialties" because, says the Committee, that would be a violation of Rule 7.4

Many commentators discussing this opinion have criticized it, arguing that it does not reflect the reality of social sites like LinkedIn and the meaning said site uses the term "Specialties."  It also could put New York attorneys at a disadvantage when it comes to potential clients or employers using search features of LinkedIn to find attorneys who practice in certain fields.

Nonetheless, the State has spoken and attorneys in the Empire State must heed its command, regardless of the sense or the lack thereof.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Software can help solve your problems

Great article over on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog on some of the problems lawyers have regarding certain basic processes.

While some of these reflect attitudes or short-sighted thinking, it's interesting to note that many of them are concerned with organizational and management issues.

One of the easiest ways attorneys can help bring order to their organizational systems is with case management software, like Online Legal Software.  Systematizing and standardizing your processes, tracking every communication with a client (or potential client) and helping you bill more and find more money are just some of the tasks it can assist you with.

Interested in learning more?  We'd love to give you a demo.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lawyers must learn to market themselves

Solo Practice University had a good article recently on the fact that law schools still aren't teaching marketing to their students.  While some of the commentators did advise Ms. Liebel that a few programs are out there; her overall point is a salient one.

The fact is that, like it or not, today's private-practice attorneys need to know marketing and sales because they need to get clients.

Back in the day, it may have been possible simply to hang out a shingle, do no advertising, and build a successful practice.  Now, of course, that's a pipe-dream.  Lawyers are a dime a dozen.  Paying clients are dear.  Whether you practice in a solo setting or in BigLaw, without a book of business of your own, you are expendable and your work is a commodity.

If your school didn't/doesn't teach it, learn it on your own, but if you expect to succeed in what has increasingly become a harsh environment for lawyers, you can't just sit around for the clients to come to you.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Content is king

It's not a shocking revelation, but this recent post over at "Real Lawyers have blogs" just reinforces the truism that content is king - in this case, content on blogs, websites, etc.

Many lawyers seem to have a fear of giving away the milk for free - understandable, in some situations, if there is a potential for an accidental attorney-client relationship; but establishing yourself as an expert in a particular field of the law or particular geographic area (or both) is just good business.

Depending on your practice area, this work may or may not result in a ton of direct clients - but who else might see your work - other attorneys (looking for local/co-counsel or someone to refer a matter to); journalists (giving you free publicity), and so forth.

Quality content is the ultimate in passive marketing - and it doesn't cost a dime.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Detroit is a lesson for lawyers

Let's confabulate on a couple of stories recently in the news: if you've been following the news in any way, shape, or form, you know that the City of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy.

If you are a reader/follower of legal stories, you've probably also seen a recent article proclaiming the coming downfall of BigLaw.

Both stories touch on a central theme that is an important one for attorneys to internalize (with apologies to Darwin): evolve or perish.

Without a doubt, the Detroit story is a complex one that hits most of the problems that have plagued this country for decades, if not centuries: racism, classism and inequality, suburbanization and sprawl, corruption, etc., etc., touched with an ideological component that leads to different cosmologies with divergent explanations; one central tenant (and one most can actually agree on) is that failure to evolve - to move from the industrial powerhouse that won WWII, but couldn't deal with the challenges of subsequent decades is central to the fall of Detroit.

With BigLaw too, there is unmistakably a certain level of doom and gloom, which may in hindsight look silly (remember why Y2K was going to send us back to the stone age?), but there is an element that cannot be denied, again, that business models and practices once golden have atrophied.

The lesson to today's attorney should be clear.  It's easy to sit back when things seem to be good and ride your laurels (we have plenty of clients!); it's easy to fight change, or denigrate it (the state bar would never let non-attorneys practice!  Legal websites don't give you good documents!), but in the end, those who do not change will die.  It might not be immediate and certainly if you're getting ready for retirement, it might not be something you need to worry about, but if you're going to be around for awhile, you have to change with the times.  More mobile, more responsive, more organized - leaner (and cheaper?)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Do law schools do enough to train future lawyers for the reality of practice?

Albeit a broad question; one that most people would answer the same, though, and that is with a resounding "NO"

One of the deficiencies in legal education was recently discussed by Michael Fitzgerald, and that is the dearth of technology teaching in law schools.

Given both the ever-present use of technology in the law firm settings, as well as the changing bar regulations that require attorneys to be competent in its use; this is a potential problem.  Admittedly, of course, younger would-be-attorneys (and younger people in general) tend to be familiar with technology in general (especially compared to older attorneys), but this familiarity does not necessarily translate into technical competence when it comes to use of common attorney applications and programs.

 Change is coming, however slowly.

Friday, July 19, 2013

California to look at the idea of limited licenses for non-attorneys

We previously told you about the NYC bar's recommendation that non-attorneys be licensed to help deal with un-met legal needs.  Now comes important news out of our most populous state, California, that they are recommending the same thing.

On the one hand, there is undeniably a large segment of the population that has legal service needs and cannot afford the services of an attorney.  Moreover, it's also true that the economies of the profession (namely, the cost of obtaining a legal education) make it almost impossible for private attorneys to meet these needs, despite what many would say is the overpopulation of attorneys in this country.

This said, it is also hard to imagine how the idea of a limited license doesn't spend and both further commoditize attorneys (and their work-product) and erode the economic justification, and perhaps even the raison d'être of the profession.

Being better organized and more productive can help the modern lawyer (especially those in the solo and small firm setting) compete.  We can help.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Delaware forms a Legal Technology Commission

From the Legal ethics blog comes interesting news from the State of Delaware.  The state has formed a permanent Commission tasked with providing education and guidance to Delaware attorneys on issues of technology.

It will be interesting to see how this Commission, the first in the country, evolves.  Given the newly developing ethics rules (already adopted by Delaware) which require attorneys to be competent in the technology they use, it will indubitably provide some of the means to accomplish this competence, as well as issuing opinions and guidance on such matters as cloud computing.

It's an exciting development and one we here on Online Legal Software support.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Proposed changes to the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct

We've mentioned the issue before as it relates to the ABA's 20/20 Committee and with the new opinion in Connecticut, now Massachusetts has released proposed changes to its rules of professional conduct (you can read more on the proposals on Robert Ambrogi's blog) which impose upon Massachusetts attorneys a new duty to understand the technology they use.

Certainly, the Bar will likely hear from both sides of the issue and it will remain to be seen if these changes will be adopted in full, but attorneys in the Bay State might need to brush up on their technology.

We at Online Legal Software can help.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Web-sites and SEO

We're always shocked by the number of lawyers who don't have websites and don't understand a lick about SEO.  Admittedly, if you're busy practicing law, these shouldn't be the primary focus of your life - BUT, the reality today is that many potential clients will find you by searching the web and people will draw negative conclusions about your firm if it's not online and you're missing out on good potential clients.

The nice thing is that you don't need to spent a ton of money to have a web presence - you can usually register a domain name (the web address people type in their browser to get to your page) and get a host (the company that holds your web-site data) for $50-100/year.

What your domain name should be depends on your location, practice area, etc.  It's common, of course, to have your name or your firm name, however, if you focus your practice in a particular niche or particular region, it might make sense to think outside the box and have a domain name that reflects such a concentration (alternatively, you can always register multiple domain names and have your niche names forward to a more "proper" domain).  Although there are many options for domain names, generally the most important (and most professional) is the .com ending (it is usually the most expensive, as well).  While you might want to consider other extensions, such as .biz, .net, and so forth, these are often seen as "lesser" sites more common with spam sites.

More to come...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Connecticut joins the states giving the OK to cloud computing

Add Connecticut to the ever-growing list of states who have formally approved the use of cloud computing by their attorneys.

In Informal Opinion 2013-07, the Connecticut Professional Ethics Committee found, as have other states, that use of cloud computing is OK, provided that the attorney take reasonable steps to secure the data.

Moreover, the Committee recognized another issue we've been discussing in this blog - that is the duty of an attorney to "reasonably" supervise the cloud computing provider.  This second duty is not inconsistent with the duty, as elaborated in the Model Rules, to understand the technology you use.

Monday, July 1, 2013

56% of people use social media to find an attorney... really?

The numbers from a recent blurb at Kevin O'Keefe's blog seem shocking to us.  Over half of people looking for an attorney use social media to help their search.  What's even more shocking are the numbers for younger people: a whopping 81% of people 18-29 and 73% of 30-39 year olds.

Think about that if you DON'T have a presence on Facebook or Twitter; don't blog, or rely on a static website to draw clients.  How do you expect to get found?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NYC Bar recommends non-lawyers should be able to practice law

We've recently discussed the growing issue of cracks in the legal guild structure.  Now out of our home state of New York comes a report that may well mark the true beginning of what could become a major shift in the market, namely that the NYC Bar Association has essentially recommended that the state begin to allow non-lawyers to serve as advocates in court and give advice to clients.

The smart lawyer will understanding change and adopt.  We can help.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twitter: a good way to make contacts

If you're on Twitter (and you really should be), don't miss the opportunity to connect with reporters and become an important source of information, writes Kevin O'Keefe.

Lots of attorneys, to the extent they are on twitter at all, use it to cross-post their blog or other limited marketing ideas.  But if this is the only thing you are doing with it, you're missing out.

Especially if you are in a smaller community (or neighborhood-based), there is significant value in becoming a trusted source for local information - seek out local reporters, organizations, etc.  Follow them, re-tweet them, and you will almost always be rewarded in kind; moreover, you may find yourself receiving calls for comments and opinions and otherwise gaining free publicity.  And calls from potential clients.

You can follow us on twitter @OLSoftwareNYC.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Are the British coming?

An interesting read on Solo Practice University talks about the British adoption of rules that allow non-lawyers to form and manage legal corporations.  This trend, which began a few years ago in Australia is now commonplace in the UK.

Now jurisdictions in Canada and the United States (admittedly, much to the horror of many in the bar) are contemplating the same thing.

Many lawyers will dismiss the idea out of hand - but this is dangerous, because like it or not, the combination of cheaper services (and the success of Wal-Mart should demonstrate the American affinity for cheap over well-made, but more expensive, alternatives) and unmet needs (that is, the millions of people who could use legal services, but don't have the money to afford a traditional lawyer) suggest it will be here soon, sooner than one might imagine.

And it's almost a given that the impact will be felt disproportionately amongst solo and small firm attorneys - after all, AmLaw 200 firms aren't writing simple wills and performing other easily commoditized tasks.

The smart solo will adopt.  One potential way to adopt is to become more efficient.  Online Legal Software can help you achieve this goal.  We'd be happy to show you how.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Florida Bar Association to formally vote on cloud computing

We've previously discussed the ethics opinion from Florida formally OK'ing the use of cloud computing by attorneys in the Sunshine state.

Word from the state is that the Bar will formally adopt said opinion at its upcoming conference.

NO states have found cloud computing to be inconsistent with an attorney's ethical obligations (provided certain conditions are satisfied).  If you've been thinking about making the switch, we'd love to show you what we can do.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't make excuses not to be on social media

Kevin O'Keefe makes a good point over on LexBlog over attorneys finding excuses not to be on social media sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

This is the new form of networking.  Sure, some networking is still done face-to-face, but more and more is done online - and with online resources, you can reach a much larger audience.

Much like traditional networking, the results of such social networking aren't often immediately apparent.  But you don't know if that colleague you're bonding with over baseball might remember you when they have a referral in your jurisdiction, or a casual online conversation might lead to a writing or speaking opportunity.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The pin factory

Perhaps it was the fond memories of the familiar blue Adam Smith in college, but this recent article on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog was a good read.

To some degree, this specialization is already occurring - you have more and more attorneys specializing in certain discrete tasks - the appearance attorney, the research attorney, the appellate specialization.  But oftentimes this is more out of necessity then desire, per say.

Should law firms move to the model the Geeks envision?  On one level, it certainly makes sense - why shouldn't, say, the best writer in the field draft the pleadings; the best talker handle the court appearances, and so forth - of course, it raises some problems too - it only works with a bunch of people, for one, and it presumes you'd associate with other attorneys based on skills alone.

One of the biggest problems we envision is inspired by that equally familiar red book (we did have to read them both in college, after all).  One of the major shortcomings in the pin factory, and of Smith's specialization in general, is that it creates monotony which leads to dissatisfaction at best - this is, perhaps, unavoidable for routine, low-skill tasks, but the attorney is, by definition, not a low skill occupation.  Lawyers are unhappy now - but how bad would they be alienated from their own labor in this system?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A little melodramatic, but not something to be dismissed

The Canadian Bar Association recently published an article that asserted massive changes are needed for the legal profession to remind viable.

Much as Shakespeare might have wanted, lawyers aren't going anywhere.  But the general point is a valid one - the profession faces numerous challenges and how it both reacts to these challenges and is pro-active to confront them will determine what the profession looks like in 30, 40, 50 years.

It's not inconceivable that the "profession" will be deregulated and non-lawyers may provide some of the services lawyers do now - arguably, this is already happening.  Cost and utility of the traditional law school is also something that almost has to change.

It is easy, of course, to see today's problems as more fundamental or unique then the problems before.  There is no doubt the profession will change, but as always, it will almost certainly adjust.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Virginia opinion on virtual law offices and cloud computing

The Old Dominion has issued an opinion on the ethics of virtual law offices and cloud computing.

The opinion is a broad discussion, almost conversational in tone.  Cloud computing is briefly mentioned in passing as falling under the aegis of Rule 1.6, wherein, (as should be expected for anyone who follows the general trend of the ethics of cloud computing), an attorney has a duty to act reasonably in entrusting her data to the cloud and being aware of the policies and procedures of the cloud provider chosen.

One particular note of caution is for anyone planning a virtual law office in Virginia who did not take the Virginia Bar - the commonwealth has particular requirements for attorneys admitted on motion and/or with reciprocity that could prevent these attorneys from using a VLO.

Overall, however, is yet another acceptance of cloud computing - and by a state known for conservative bar regulation, to boot.


Friday, June 7, 2013

How often do you bill?

How often do you bill?

Silly question, right?  After all, we all know you should be billing monthly, or even bi-weekly, if you suspect your client might have trouble paying (smaller bills might get paid easier)

So how often do you bill?

If you're a solo attorney, chances are you don't always bill monthly.  After all, getting bills out isn't any fun, especially if you're trying to do them with an excel spreadsheet or a word file.  And that's before you take the time to comb through the bill and your records to make sure you accounted for everything.

Online Legal Software can help.  Bills are a-lot easier when you keep contemporaneous time records; when you can automate the double-checking, when you don't have to retype or play around with clunky document files.

And more regular bills means more regular payments.  Let us show you how.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Being a lawyer is not worth your life

There have been several reports on what seems to be a rash of lawyer suicides, recently, notably in Kentucky.

This trend is disturbing, but not shocking.  Attorneys have long had higher rates then the general populace for a variety of problems - suicide, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.  Nor is it difficult to see why.  Long hours, difficult, stressful work, financial pressures, the list of triggers is well-known and not likely to change.

So what to do if you or someone you know is in danger?  Most states have resources to help - help lines, counselors, etc. (and yes, usually you can remain anonymous).  Technology, such as Online Legal Software, can have a small part in the solution as well - being better organized can mean you have less hours to work and make more money, both of which can lead to increased happiness.

Most of all, don't suffer in silence.  You're not alone.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flat fee billing

Depending on your practice area, flat fee billing might make sense.  And by make sense, we mean that that it's not just easier (it always is easier then hourly billing), but is also financially prudent.

The ironic thing is that to make this latter determination, with any basis in realty, at least, you have to have underlying hourly data - that is, how do you know how much to charge, and make money, on a flat fee basis if you don't know how much time you generally spend on a case?

To illustrate, let's say you want to make about $200/hour, a reasonable billing rate depending on your area and expertise; your flat rate should basically be the time you can reasonably assume to spend on the case times your desired rate - but how do you know if you'll spend 5 hours or 50?

Online Legal Software can help.  Using our narrative system, you can easily track the time you're spending on your cases, regardless of whether you bill for it.  It allows you to build the base of knowledge upon which to base flat-fee billing decisions.

Interested?  Give us a try.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Are you ready for (more) competition?

We noted with interest this snippet from the legal ethics blog, remarking on how more states are starting to think about the idea of letting non-lawyers perform certain legal tasks - a thought that may be terrifying to some solo and small firm attorneys.

While it is hard to argue that the current legal market is ideal (specifically in the mismatch between people who need legal services vs. people who are able to afford the same), having already (and continuing) to weather the increasing commoditization of certain legal services, solo and small firm attorneys would seem to be hit the hardest should such efforts come to pass - after all, the average person isn't going to an AmLaw200 firm to get a simple will or legal advice.

Moreover, the particular economies of the legal profession would make it difficult for a solo attorney to compete with a para-professional on price, even if they wanted to.  Given that these realities aren't likely to change anytime soon, what are you to do?

One potential savior is organization.  By organizing and mechanizing your practice, with software like Online Legal Software, you can have more time to make rain, to handle more cases, and to provide better customer service - really, it's the linchpin of any realistic strategy to compete.

Want to learn more?  Our sales team would be happy to give you a demonstration of how Online Legal Software can help you.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How well do you know your tech?

Recent buzzing in the blogosphere was a demonstration that took place at the LegalTech West Coast Conference - showing that most BigLaw associates just don't know how to best utilize common computer programs and tools - costing time and money to themselves and their clients.

What is true for these associates is almost certainly true for most attorneys.  And that's a problem.  Leaving aside the potential ethical problems (which we wrote about before); the simple fact is that by not knowing your technology you spend more time doing routine tasks that you could and should be putting to better use -  be it networking, working on other cases, or simply spending time with your family or relaxing.

So what's an attorney to do?  Programs like Online Legal Software, of course, can help in some aspects, but the key is to take charge of it yourself.  Perhaps your local community college or library has classes on using popular software, like Word or Excel.  Or perhaps a younger colleague, friend, or relative, can teach you.

Like it or not, using technology is part of being a lawyer.  Treat it the same way you do other professional skills.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

Remember to give your thanks to a soldier today and have a happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bitcoins?

If you spend anytime reading tech or tech-related articles (such as this one by FutureLawyer) you may have heard of Bitcoins.  Essentially, it's an invented currency, which is gaining popularity in some circles, especially amongst those who dislike or reject governmental control over monetary policy.

Certainly, the idea is interesting and perhaps something might come of in in the future - but as an attorney, is it something you should be concerned with?  While no ethical decisions regarding their use have (or likely will, in the foreseeable future) come down - it would seem that there would be no ethical problem with accepting bitcoins as payment for services rendered (as opposed to holding them in trust - which, because of the nature of the bitcoin system would certainly be something you would be wise to await official guidance from your Bar - we strongly doubt it would be permissible)

As a practical matter, it doesn't seem like it would be something you'd need to be concerned with - use of bitcoins is still rather limited and unless you represent the types of people who regularly use them, it's probably safe to stick with cash, check, and credit cards.  That said, just like the few attorneys who created virtual practices on second life, you could find it to be a worthwhile niche.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

California gives the OK to Virtual law offices (VLOs)

California has already given the formal OK to using cloud-based systems, such as Online Legal Software, in an attorney's practice.  Now in a new formal opinion, 2012-184, the State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct has gone further and OK'd the use of virtual law offices.

A virtual law office is based wholly on the internet - not only is there no physical office, in the case presented in California, the attorney proposed a situation wherein she wouldn't even have phone or email contact with her clients, but that everything would be done through a secure client-portal.

Essentially, the Committee ruled that VLOs have to follow the same rules as traditional offices - and that nothing inherent in the concept and operation of a VLO would conflict with the ethical rules.

While VLOs may not be right for all practice areas or all attorneys, the decision demonstrates the increasing comfort ethics boards have with the cloud and technology.  It's here to stay and will only get more common.


Monday, May 20, 2013

An ethical duty to understand the technology you use?

Lawyers aren't historically known for being amongst the most technologically savvy consumers out there, but this may be coming to a change.

As discussed in this recent article, the ABA's Ethics 20/20 Commission made a change to the commentary on Model Rule 1.1 - specifically adding a duty for a competent lawyer:

[6] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to become a tech guru overnight - but does it mean that there will be a day, in the not so distant future where failure to use proper technology, in and among itself, be grounds for discipline?  It's not inconceivable.

Online Legal Software can play a role in bringing you into the technological present.  With an user-friendly interface and largely intuitive operation, combined with training that's there to answer each and every one of your questions, we can help even Luddites gain the benefits of the cloud.  We'd be happy to show you how we can help you.




Friday, May 17, 2013

Is your firm in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA)?


Is your firm in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA)?  Never heard of it?  Well, if your computer data is stored in the Canadian province of British Columbia and subject to the provincial laws of British Columbia (as it is, of course, with Clio), you might want to find out!

While every state that has looked into cloud-computing has given it the O.K., this approval was not a carte blanche – but imposed the duty upon the attorney to do their due diligence into how and where that data was stored and how it was accessible.  See, e.g., Iowa State Bar ethics opinion 11-01.  This includes knowing how and where the data is stored.

Ironically, in summarizing the problem for Canadian lawyers, it was the Law Society of British Columbia that best stated the issue American lawyers using a foreign company face as well:

There are several problems with lawyers having their business records stored or processed outside British Columbia. Lawyers have a professional obligation to safeguard clients’ information to protect confidentiality and privilege. When a lawyer entrusts client information to a cloud provider the lawyer will often be subjecting clients’ information to a foreign legal system. The foreign laws may have lower thresholds of protection than Canadian law with respect to accessing information. A lawyer must understand the risks (legal, political, etc.) of having client data stored and processed in foreign jurisdictions.  Report of the Cloud Computing Working Group, The Law Society of British Columbia, pg. 8 (27 January 2012).

Online Legal Software maintains its primary and backup servers in the Midwestern United States.  We don’t play games with choice of law or venue selection clauses that force you to go to inconvenient (or foreign) courts.  The choice is clear.   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What does the surplus of new lawyers mean to you?

There has been much talk (and hand-wringing) about the surplus of new lawyers and the often poor job and career prospects these lawyers have.

There is no doubt that the legal profession and the schools that create its rank have much to think about - and that it may behoove potential law school attendees to examine why they might be considering law school.

Meanwhile, this is also a potential opportunity for solo and small firm attorneys - more lawyers means a bigger labor market and likely cheaper labor - so your contract projects or even full or part-time associate positions may be easier and cheaper to fill.

Of course, some of these new lawyers will start firms of their own - and while it's tempting to see them as pure competition, there are also opportunities to develop mentor relationships and long-term, find referral sources and grow a network of colleagues.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wait on laptop purchases, says FutureLawyer

If you're in the market for a new laptop, hold off, says prominent legal technology blog, FutureLawyer.

Within a few months, new laptops will be rolling off the shelves that promise a major increase in battery life, long the bane of anyone who actually uses a laptop as a portable computer (we always seem to keep ours tethered to a cord.)

Combine longer battery life with a cloud-based system, like Online Legal Software, and you'll be in good shape to practice from the beach this summer!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The billable hour

Let's face it - nobody (okay, maybe a few people) like billing for time.  But, as this recent post shows, for better or worse, it's here to stay for the time being (at least in many practice areas).

So at least you can make it easier to bill your time with an integrated time and practice management solution, like Online Legal Software.

Our narrative system takes some of the guesswork and stress of keeping time.  No more furtive glances at the clock, or scribbled notes to account for those ever-present interruptions.

Is it right for you?  Let us show you what it can do for you.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Get your name out there

As if you didn't need any more evidence that attorneys need to be active on social media - this study comes out, showing 90% of the affluent use social media professionally.

These are your potential clients.  They will be looking for you on social media.  Will you be there?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be careful with Groupon

Groupon, and similar social media coupon sites (such as LivingSocial, Scoutmob, and many hyper-local sites) have become all the rage - generally, the sites work in a similar matter: consumers receive emails from the site promoting some deal on a good, service, vacation, etc. - these deals are generally good values (although not always) and usually have built-in expiration days and conditions.

These sites can be great for the customers, and arguably  help businesses drive new customers to them or get rid of surplus stock/rooms, etc.  It's natural, then, that attorneys (especially those handling consumer type cases) might consider signing up.

Be careful.  Unlike cloud computing, where you have a general consensus on the ethics; when it comes to "deal of the day" sites, you have sharp breaks.

New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina have found attorney use of the sites permissible.  Arizona and Indiana haven't said they are impermissible in toto, but impose significant restrictions.  Alabama, on its end, says they are totally impermissible.

So be careful and use common sense.  If the particular deal site you're considering requires pre-purchase (like Groupon) you may have more problems then if it's just a simple coupon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Join Online Legal Software at the Ohio State Bar meeting

Next week, Online Legal Software will be at the Ohio State Bar annual meeting in Cleveland, OH.  We invite our Ohio friends and followers to stop by, learn more, and meet some of our people.

Ohio has not issued a state-specific formal opinion on cloud computing, which is not particularly unusual or uncommon given the national consensus that cloud computing is permissible.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is twitter useful for me?


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you've probably heard of twitter.  But is it any good for legal marketing for the solo/small firm attorney?

Well, you’re unlikely to directly obtain clients through twitter – it can happen, of course, but don’t hold your breath.  Instead, think of twitter as a means to obtain information (by following thought leaders, news sources, and curators on topics of relevance to your life or practice) and help build your reputation as one of these same thought leaders – especially if you focus on a specific geographic or practice area(s).

Used this way, twitter is very useful for the busy attorney – you can quickly follow trends or important news, whilst building relationships with other attorneys and the broader community.

Give it a try – you might like it.  And of course, you can follow Online Legal Software at @OLSoftwareNYC.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ohio ethics opinion on attorney use of text (SMS) messaging


Ohio has yet to specifically address cloud computing in its’ ethical opinions, but recently issued an opinion that demonstrates how attorneys are changing with the times and technology.

Specifically, the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline held, in opinion 2013-2, that attorneys may solicit potential clients via text message without running afoul of ethical considerations, however, it also set forth conditions (the full text of the opinion is in the link above) in such solicitation that may well render it of little practical use; of course, many would argue that it is of little practical use regardless.

What do you think?

Friday, April 26, 2013

The busy attorney

Although not directed specifically at attorneys, this blog piece over at OpenForum is applicable to most practitioners.

Virtually every attorney will claim to be busy, and most truly are.  Oftentimes, though, this busy-ness isn't directly correlated with success - how much of your busy-ness is time spent spinning your wheels?  We've seen attorney spend hours looking for a misplaced file, or more commonly, the five minutes spent here and there because you're not organized well enough.  It adds up.

Practice management software, like Online Legal Software, can be the solution.  We can help tame the chaos and make simple "busy" into productive time.  Sound interesting?  We've love to show you more.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't be that guy


Kevin O’Keefe recently discussed an issue that is unfortunately common in much lawyer-to-lawyer marketing, spamming.

As O’Keefe explains in detail, whether out of deliberate thought process or just an ignorance of proper internet etiquette, mass posting of material, constantly deluging groups with content of questionable value, and otherwise making a nuisance of yourself is a generally bad idea.

Think about it: most groups on LinkedIn, for example, exist (in theory at least) to foster professional discussion and develop relationships.  These relationships, in time, hopefully lead to a good reputation and referrals from colleagues – similar to real-life bar associations.  You  wouldn't show up at a bar meeting and interrupt other attorneys to hand them your card and a writing sample, would you?  Don’t be that guy on-line either.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Office


Mark Bassingthwaighte, at Solo Practice University, recently had a posting regarding important issues to consider before entering into an agreement with other attorneys on sharing space.

Good points all.  For an attorney starting out, another important to consider is whether you even need an office at all.  After all, keeping overhead low is one of the critical steps in any start-up business and with modern technology, including cloud-based practice management software like OnlineLegal Software, you can practice from anywhere with a laptop and scanner.

That said, it’s not the right choice for everyone.  Some people can’t effectively work from home; and certainly, not all prospective clients would want to meet in a coffee shop or library.  It depends too on your location – rent for a simple office might be inexpensive enough in your region to mitigate the cost – whilst in a big city, the opposite is true.

What do you think?  Does modern technology alleviate the need for a traditional office?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Be wary of strangers

Sadly, scams targeting attorneys are on the rise, and even more sadly, attorneys can make easy targets.  A common one, which we saw ourselves in practice, is a variation on the theme of a company or individual (usually foreign) contacting you for help in collecting a debt against someone (individual or person) in your jurisdiction.

Given that many new client engagements do start with an email or call out of the blue, this isn't too far fetched for most of us, nor, in this era of globalization, is it uncommon for an attorney in one jurisdiction to represent parties in another state or even country.

In this case, however, the scam is a variation of the classic "Nigerian" scam - the potential defendant is in cahoots with the "client" and quickly offers to settle the case, in full, or near in full.  Payment is made via a counterfeit cashier's check (which generally takes the bank weeks to clear, well after making the money available).  If you had sent the client their share, well, you now have a serious problem.

One way to avoid the scam, of course, is not to take clients you don't meet face-to-face; but that's not always practical or advisable.  The better solution is due diligence.  Verify the existence of the people you're dealing with (off-line, ideally).  Be vary of any "corporation" using free e-mail addresses, or who refuse to talk on the phone.  Be suspicious of settlement offers that seem to good to be true, or clients that act a little too eager to pay.  Most of all, trust your gut.  If something feels "wrong" about the situation, better safe than sorry. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A differing view on technology

Above the Law had a recent piece reflecting well, a rather cynical view on the recently-ended ABA TechShow and, it would seem, many other conferences and experts on the "future of law."

We've made the point that for all the talk of "reinventing" law or the latest, greatest tool, most lawyers use (and should use) technology to supplement, not replace.

In fact, that's what we seek to do for our customers.  We're not trying to get you to reinvent how you practice, just make it a little better - hopefully making you some more money and saving you some time in the office to actually enjoy life in the progress.

Is Online Legal Software right for you?  We'd be happy to give you a demo to see.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blogging: Who is your audience?

Solo Practice University makes a good point regarding the use and utility of legal blogs.

Blogging is a great way to present information, have conversations, and of course, improve SEO; but if you, as an attorney, are going to blog with the expectation of obtaining clients, make sure you blog for your audience.

What does this mean?  Well, write at an appropriate level for your audience (remember, you're not writing a law review article); use appropriate keywords (after all, you want those potential clients to find your blog) and write about things your potential clients would find helpful or important in practice, not just in theory.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Start out right with the right software

The ABA's Law Practice Today had a recent piece which is key for newly solo attorneys to take heed of.

It's easy for attorneys just starting out to think that technology and case and practice management software can wait - after all, unless you're starting you firm having left another with a book of business, those first few months can be tough.

In the end, though, this kind of short term thinking can make your practice weaker - you want to start off on the right foot, and that includes having the right systems in place.  Grafting solutions later is universally more painful then doing it right in the beginning - and jury-rigged solutions pieced together from non-legal software and freeware might work when you only have a handful of clients - but you're not going to have a handful of clients forever, are you?

Online Legal Software is the kind of solution that more and more attorneys are finding works for them.  It lets you take advantage of all the benefits of the cloud while still being easy enough to understand without a computer science degree.  Is it right for you?  We'd be happy to have you take a look.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Penny wise can be pound foolish

We recently saw a recent blog post at lawyerist.com that was spot on.

It's easy for an attorney, especially a thinly-capitalized solo, to not spend money on things, such as Online Legal Software, that at first blush seem like unneeded expenses.

As the article makes clear, however, this is often false economy.  The money you "save" by not using technology that improves your productivity isn't really saved when you factor in the real cost of time wasted.

Online Legal Software can be part of the solution for many solo and small-firm attorneys.  It can improve your productivity, allow you to better capture your time, and find time you might have otherwise missed.  Is it right for you?  We'd be happy to let you decide for yourself.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Illinois opinions on the ethics of cloud computing

Actually, there are no Illinois opinions on the ethics of cloud computing.

At least it doesn't have any formal opinions.  However, ISBA Ethics Opinion 10-01 (2009) held that use of an off-site network administrator would not violate the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct as long as reasonable efforts are made to protect client confidentiality.

Given analogous facts to use of a third-party cloud computing service, such as Online Legal Software, it is reasonable to think Illinois would adopt the same logic as to cloud-computing (which is also in fact the universal position of all the states that have considered the subject)

Should Illinois come out with an opinion directly on the subject, we'll let you know.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Those who don't know their history...

It is a truism that those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it, and the legal profession is no different.

How/if the legal profession will change and react to new technology, new trends, etc. have been making the rounds in the blogosphere recently (including ours). A new book by Washington and Lee University School of Law Professor James Moliterno argues that this is nothing new.

In The American Legal System in Crisis, Moliterno argues that the legal profession is always facing "crisis," often of their own design, as traditionally (and arguably, still), regulators and legal organizations have a tendency to look backwards, not forward in the larger context of satisfying both time-testing ethical duties and the important societal role of attorneys being useful members of modern life.

For some attorneys, Online Legal Software is part of these new ways of thinking that combine both the modern and time-tested. Are we right for you? We'd be happy to show you around.

   






Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where is your data?

Most of the ethics committee that have looked at the issue of cloud-computing by attorneys has focused on the idea that an attorney has to take reasonable steps to know where and how their data is stored.

That knowledge includes where your data is stored.  Your data stored with Online Legal Software sits on servers we own in suburban Detroit, with instantaneous back-up to secondary servers in other parts of the midwest.

Many other companies aren't as forthcoming with the specifics of where your data is stored.  This is understandable when you realize that use of third-party servers (who often make use of data storage in foreign countries) and general storage of data in other counties, from Canada to India, is common-place.

Is this by itself a bad thing?  Not necessarily, but problems could arise should, say, the data be subject to subpoena, etc.  Is it subject to the foreign countries' laws?  What are those laws?  Have you satisfied your ethical duty if you don't know the answer?