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    July 28th, 2009

    ♬ It won’t be long yeh, yeh,
    It won’t be long yeh, yeh…♬

    Music and lyrics by Lennon & McCartney.

    This interview is with Paul Hergott of Hergott Law, a solo practitioner in West Kelowna, BC. This interview forms part of the “30 Questions for Busy Lawyers who use Technology” thread on this blog in advance of The Pacific Legal Technology Conference, to be held in Vancouver on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 at the Vancouver Trade & Convention Center:

    2007-paul-hergott-cropped.jpg

    1.    Could you briefly describe your firm (number of lawyers, staff, areas of practice etc):

    We have one lawyer – doing real estate and personal injury. In the personal injury area, we have 4 staff. Conveyancing has 1 staff member.

    2.    When was your firm established?

    In Sept 2007.

    3.    Where do you practice (one office, multiple offices, virtual offices, regional, national, international)?

    Regarding the conveyancing side of the practice, the admin is done in an electronically linked home office. Everything else is done in the main office.

    4.    What are the demographic backgrounds of the lawyers and staff in your firm?

    Most senior staff been at it for 30 years…probably early 40 legal assistant and mid 30’s secretary and receptionist is early 50’s.  Wife mid 40’s.  I am a very old dog!

    5.    What prior degrees and/or experience do the lawyers and staff bring to your firm?

    Staff has long standing legal experience.  I have a business admin degree  where I took high level programming (C++ and Pascal), quantitative analysis, and 400 level business admin courses. My wife entered the legal world with a computer programming course and started in the area of real estate conveyancing. She was a programmer of Blue Screen, a word perfect based conveyancing package.  3-4 months ago she took training in HotDocs and uses MS Word and HotDocs.

    6.    How would you describe the culture of your firm?

    The focus is on the long-standing friendliness of the firm. Staff get their birthdays off. There is no overtime work without overtime pay.  We have flexible hours.

    7.    Can you describe the firm’s management style?

    I would say we are ‘participatory’ – we seek input on decisions that impact people.

    8.    Does technology assist you in the management of your firm? If so, how?

    We are not utilizing these tools – not there yet. But I intend to be.

    9.    When did you first embrace technology?

    First time I was in a position to embrace tech was when I opened my new firm – with new systems and equipment.

    10.    Can you describe the strategic advantage(s) that you feel that technology offers to you and your practice?

    There is efficiency in access to the file data.  For example it is straightforward to find out what is going on in the file. This produces efficiency and avoiding mistakes and reducing errors. Furthermore, the actual administrative processes are reduced.

    11.    Are you a PC or a Mac office or both?

    PC.

    12.    Which accounting system do you use?

    PCLaw

    13.    Do you use a case management application? If so, which one?

    We do not use a case management.  We have CaseMap as litigation tool but will be phasing out of it.

    14.    What off-the-shelf packages do you use?

    CaseMap, Excel, Adobe Pro, Word, PCLaw.

    15.    Do you use MS SharePoint or similar collaboration technology?

    Never heard of it.

    16.    Do you have a web page?

    I do – www.hergotlaw.com

    17.    A blog?

    I do not.

    18.    Do you use any social networking  sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter etc.) in connection with your practice?

    I use Facebook but only on a personal level.

    19.    Do you custom design any legal technology?  If so, what?

    My paperless system is deceptively simple and intuitive using Excel and Adobe Acrobat.  I designed an Excel workbook platform to make that happen – which mirrors the paper world.  Staff have taken to it intuitively – as it mirrors what they are doing in the paper world.  Each workbook has 10 worksheets. Worksheet 1 is the intake form – name, address, emails, MVA date  – all the information that would appear on a file opening sheet.  Sheet2 is a correspondence list with hypertext link to the correspondence. It is identical to the paper brad.  All correspondence is converted to PDF and hyper linked. Another Wordsheet is for pleadings, another for documents etc.  I started with just implementing going paperless with the correspondence on the file and expanded it. It works!

    20.    Are you a paper-less firm?

    Yes! One thing that I came across was the hyperlink – line on the Excel spreadsheet. Clicking on this link pulls up the document which is great.  But my concern was: what if I wanted to put it on a laptop and take to court? I didn’t want to trust a remote connection.  My concern was the link would not be found but Excel finds it- it is cool!  I have a paperless directory – I can take the directory and email it to someone or put it on a USB flash drive and it continues to work. Very cool.

    21.    What other technologies do you use?

    Basic online research – Quicklaw and accessing the Supreme Court web page etc.

    22.    What specific technology is essential to your practice? Why?

    My system requires Excel and Adobe Acrobat. We are moving to implement HotDocs and Word in the litigation area now that we have the conveyancing side working.

    23.    Are you contemplating any changes to how you use technology in your firm?  If so, what are you considering?

    My paperless system is a work in progress.  Just started in March and it is going very well but I expect modifications and changes. My major change at the moment is moving away from CaseMap to a user defined Excel spreadsheet.

    24.    How is your practice different from other practices in your area?

    It is very PI focused and not many lawyers have such an emphasis on PI. I am very very busy.

    25.    Do you support telecommuting or other alternative work arrangements?

    I have a staff member who does transcription work off-site – she works from home. I support this. Once the paperless system is in place for all the files, there will be no need to be sitting at a desk in the office. i am open to telecommuting.

    26.    Do you think there is a barrier to lawyers adopting technology? (age, gender, geographic area, practice area, etc?)  If so, do you have any recommendations for overcoming these barriers?

    I see the main barrier as the classic old dog, new tricks thing. The administrative practice of law has been the same for the last 100 years or so.  This is how things have been done.  I remember 15 years ago being in a co-op in Sask and filling out carbon time sheets.  In converting to the computer world, we are still doing the same processes.  I think lawyers and law offices are difficult to change.  Perhaps the biggest problem is that the technology isn’t all set up yet – we are still changing processes and procedures.  We can’t go to something like a duotang and folders and apply the same procedures that you have been using for the last 100 years – we have to change the work processes.

    Terry Napora is using expensive technology to do the same thing that I am doing.  The systems need to be figured out as these systems were not designed for law practices; they need to be modified.  What needs to happen is the development of a proven, easily implemented system. I think I am on the edge of this with my system.

    27.    What about barriers for staff adopting technology? Do you have any advice to offer in this regard?

    The staff need to see that it will be of some benefit to them. They need to see that it has value and that it will make their job easier.  They have wonderful ideas!!!

    28.    Do you find that clients appreciate your use of technology?

    I don’t think they have a clue yet. They haven’t felt it yet. Not sure to what extent the clients will feel it.

    29.    What advice do you have with regard to other lawyers adopting technology?

    There is a problem in jumping into technology without fully understanding it and wasting time and energy unless it is used effectively.  I would say have a plan and a vision before you jump in.  It takes time and energy and you have to be prepared to put the time and energy into it, but it is so worth it.  I would let other people invent the world.  I was so frustrated 1.5 years ago trying to go paperless  – and I see myself creating the wheel with this system.

    30.    Where would you like to see the profession go with regard to legal technology?

    There are so many efficiencies to be had. We need to come up with systems – for example, the kind of thing that the TimeMatters people are doing: they are making money trying to make systems for lawyers. If we ever invented an easy-to-use administrative system for law offices that was as simple to figure out as the highway/road system for example, it would just take off.  It would be so cool if we could combine bright lawyers and staff with the assistance of programming people who can apply all this new tech – help us figure it all out – after all there is all this tech sitting there to use to build systems.  Rather than paying vendors, I would like to see Law Society come up with systems that work at a much more efficient and cost-effective basis.  I am putting a lot of time and energy to put this together for example.  I am not really spending money but I am spending time.  Each office is having to come up with different systems – it would be so cool if we could come up with a common system.  I would like to see us put some thinking into this.

    It won’t be long before The Pacific Legal Technology Conference will be held – Friday Oct 2, 2009. We look forward to seeing you there!

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 11:19 am and is filed under 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Budgeting, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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