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?      

Monday, March 25, 2013

Does Alaska have rules on the use of cloud-computing by attorneys?

Our northernmost state has yet to speak on the issue.

The Alaska Bar Association has not issued any formal opinions on cloud computing; however, Alaska’s version of the Model Rule 1.6 modifies the duty of the attorney from keeping client’s “information” confidential to keeping a client’s “confidence or secrets” confidential, because the state felt “information” was overly broad.  It is reasonable to conclude then that should Alaska issue an opinion on cloud computing that it would almost certainly follow the American consensus that it is permissible, especially as that consensus has arisen largely from states with a broader view of the duty of the attorney confidentiality.

If and when Alaska does issue a formal opinion on the subject, we'll let you know.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

What the heck is the cloud?

As lawyers, we have a tendancy 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 audiance.

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 - generally a big server somewhere.

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 untethers 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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Technology doesn't have to be your enemy

We happened to see a recent blog post by a reformed technophobe and had to chuckle.

Lots of the attorneys we talk to aren't really comfortable with technology.  We get it.  While the younger generations have grown up with computers and technology since they were in diapers (or at least in elementary school), that's certainly not the case for those of us with a few more gray hairs.  Of course, we adjusted - you have to, really (although I'm sure there are still some of you, albeit not likely to be reading this blog, still using a typewriter), but when you hear about "cloud solutions" you tend to dismiss the idea out of hand.


The beauty of our system, at least, is that it's designed for attorneys and focuses not on the latest bells and whistles (which isn't to say we don't have our share).  It's designed to be user-friendly and intuitive  so that you don't need to be a real techie to understand how to use it (and our one-on-one training and continued support ensures you do.)

Give it a try.  You might be surprised just how easy the cloud can be.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Florida Bar gives the OK to cloud-computing

Last year, the Florida Professional Ethics Committee recommended that that a formal ethics opinion be prepared in light of the growing use of the cloud by attorneys in the state.

And so it has been.  As was widely expected, Florida held with the growing consensus of states in finding that cloud-computing is ethically permissible.

Specifically, "lawyers may use cloud computing if they take reasonable precautions to ensure that confidentiality of client information is maintained."

We'd be happy to show you how we can help your practice be more efficient.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Google Reader is no more

There been a lot of buzz over the fact that Google is shutting down its RSS app, Google Reader.  This includes, of course, discussion on what, if anything, this means for lawyers.

Carolyn Elefant, at MyShingle, opines that this could mean a decline in the utility of blogging.  Others disagree, and point out, with some merit, that it simply reflects a change in the way consumers collect information - i.e., that instead of using RSS to "subscribe" to blogs, many just use twitter to do the same thing.  Given that it is pretty much standard practice to cross-post blog posts to twitter and the rest of the social media, twitter can indeed fulfill much of the same function.

Of course many lawyers probably are tuning all of this out - but there certainly is merit in taking part in social media conversations, even for a solo who is lucky enough to obtain most of her clients "the old-fashioned way" - while you might not get many direct clients from twitter or a blog, you never know who might be listening.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Soda bans and Legal Software: peas in a pod?

Online Legal Software sits in midtown Manhattan, so Mayor Bloomberg's ban on over-sized sugary drinks, which was scheduled to go into effect yesterday (but did not, due to a local judge finding it unconstitutional, is on top of many of our local news feeds.  But the story has gone national (and international), so chances are you've heard of it regardless of where in the world you are.

This isn't, of course, the place to discuss the merits, or lack thereof, of such a ban; but as we got to thinking about it, the more we realized that this ban and many purchases of legal software actually have a similar practical effect.

None, none at all.

The stated goal of the ban is to help combat obesity, which it blames, at least in part in over-consumption of sugary drinks.  Now people can argue until the cows come home as to whether or not the ban is an overstep of the nanny state, proper use of government's power to regulate health and safety, blah, blah, blah - the biggest problem is much more basic - groceries, bodegas, quick-e-marts, etc. are exempt (since the City doesn't regulate them) - which means you can still walk over to the corner market and get a giant plastic tub filled with 64+ ounces of sugary soda pop.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Much legal software purchases are similar.  Similar in that they may have good intentions, but in the end have no consequence.  Not, of course, because you can still get your sugar fix, but because attorneys don't use what they buy.  It's actually pretty easy; you buy it, you install it; and there it sits - maybe you try using it for a couple days, but without support, without ease of use, it's far too easy to just slip back into your old ways and write-off the cost.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Online Legal Software doesn't want to be that sugary drink.  We want you to use our software.  That's why we designed an easy-to-use, intuitive system that makes managing your day-to-day tasks simple.  Moreover, and just as important, we have individualized customization and one-on-one training and support that guides you as you come aboard.

Give us a try today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Metrics start with data

A recent post on attorneyatwork got us thinking.

Yes, determining profitability and analysis of your metrics is critical to continued success - after all, you can't stay in business without money coming in the door.

But from many of our conversations with solo and small firm attorneys, that's almost putting the cart before the horse - because, frankly, they are having trouble keeping accurate billing records or determining if the flat-fees they charge properly account for the time actually spent on the matter.  While there is an important discussion that can be had about the utility and logic of flat-fee billing, it's not uncommon for it simply to be the refuge of the attorney who doesn't have a good timekeeping system in place.

We've been there.  I don't think anyone (OK, maybe masochists) ENJOY time-keeping, but it's critical, regardless of how you decide to charge your clients.  All the advanced metrics in the world can't help you if you don't have the original data to drive them.

We can make it easier.  Let us show you how.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Does the practice of law need to be "reinvented"

Many of the players in the legal software field talk of "reinventing" the practice of law.  Maybe it's because many of us are former attorneys, as opposed to technology evangelists, but regardless of the merits of this claim (and that is surely a discussion for another day), we don't see ourselves as "reinventing" anything.

Telephones, facsimiles, copy machines, computers - none of these "reinvented" the practice of law.  They are tools, adopted and used by attorneys; with both positive and negative aspects - but none changed the fundamental and time-tested practice of law.

We see our software much in the same vein.  It's a tool.  Hopefully, it helps you become more productive and better organized, but it doesn't reinvent how you will practice law: you're not going to turn into Atticus Finch overnight.  But maybe less time spent on the administration of your office means you'll be able to spend more time actually practicing, actually reading cases, actually observing court, actually doing all the things that will turn you into the best lawyer you can be.

We don't want to reinvent the practice of law, we just want to help you practice it better.

What do you think?  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Don't fear the cloud

Ernie the Attorney recently had a thought-provoking posting on his blog regarding the, for lack of a better word, double-standard, that many attorneys have regarding the cloud.

Essentially, many attorneys are fearful of the cloud and using cloud-based systems, like Online Legal Software, because of the perceived security risk.

While the security of your data is important, many of these same attorneys don’t think twice to use cloud based email providers or calendars, or use unsecured wireless connections, to talk on cell phones in public regarding their client matters, or fail to back-up (or meaningfully back-up) their data.

Every single one of these actions could be more problematic then using a cloud-based practice management system.

Don’t be careless, of course, but don’t fear the cloud.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Hampshire latest state to rule on the ethics of 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.