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.