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    The Growing Movement to Online Courts
    Thursday, November 19th, 2015

    ♫ Light gives way to darkness
    Unless we come alive.
    So be the change you need to see.
    Let yourself ignite…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Heartist.


    (image by Erralix)

    In the UK, “The Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, as Head of Civil Justice, have asked Lord Justice Briggs to carry out an urgent review of the structure of the courts which deliver civil justice.” As part of this review is the consideration of the creation of an on-line court (“OC”) for ‘lower value disputes’. (http://www.chba.org.uk/news/civil-court-structure-review )

    It is designed primarily for use by litigants, in person; it is to be ‘investigatory rather than purely adversarial'; it is to include conciliation, mediation and it is to be a mainstream rather than an alternative method of dispute resolution.

    Face to face hearings are to be used only if ‘documentary, telephone or video alternatives’ are unavailable.

    The issues that they will be examining and considering are:

    At what level of value at risk (or other criteria) to set the ceiling of the OC.

    Whether there are types of case which, regardless of value, are unsuited for resolution in the OC.

    Whether use of the OC (once fully tested and proved) should be compulsory.

    How to assist those for whom the conduct of litigation on-line is impossible or difficult.

    Costs shifting between the parties.

    A suitable rules regime for the OC.

    How to achieve the transparency needed for the process to comply with the requirements of open justice.

    The design of an appropriate appeals process.

    If this sounds at all familiar, it should. British Columbia’s Civil Dispute Tribunal will be coming on-line in the near future. The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act will require parties with minor strata (i.e. condominium ) disputes and small claims matters (expected to be $10,000 or less) to use the mandatory CRT. The CRT will be Canada’s first online tribunal.

    The CRT is intended to be a cost-effective and accessible process for resolving disputes. Parties will not be filing documents in a courthouse or indeed attending hearing or trials. They will be accessing the CRT online. No need for taking time off work to go to the court registry; the CRT website will be available 24/7 and asynchronous communications can be used.

    The CRT will consist of two systems: the Solution Explorer is intended to help people with tools to access their options and resolve their dispute themselves. The second system will be the Dispute Resolution Service which will enable early resolution options and adjudications if necessary. In this way it is similar to the online dispute resolution mechanisms of eBay which assist parties to resolve their disputes. eBay’s system works: they resolve some 60 millions disputes a year, of which  over 80% are settled by the two parties and the software.

    Indeed the Independent reports that the UK OC will be modelled on the eBay system:

    Thousands of legal disputes would be settled online each year under plans for an eBay-inspired revolution in the civil justice system.

    Judges would rule on cases involving up to £25,000 without the need for courts to be booked or for the parties involved to appear in person to give evidence. The proposed shake-up – which is supported by senior judges –  could also save large sums for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

    These innovations in civil justice are just starting. But the advantages of ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) as compared to traditional trials are quickly apparent. The Canadian Department of Justice lists the advantages of ODR as follows:

    • ODR is a generally informal, flexible and creative tool of dispute resolution which is not governed by strict rules of procedure and evidence. This may allow the parties to design or participate in a process which can be moulded to suit their needs and encourages a consensual rather than an adversarial approach.
    • ODR may reduce litigation costs: this is of importance both to corporate parties who wish to keep costs down and to parties who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost of litigation. The costs of the process or compensation given to the neutral evaluator are generally borne equally by all parties, providing all parties with an equal stake in the outcome and an equal sense of ownership.
    • ODR may be the appropriate option particularly for low-cost, high-volume transaction as it often allows for a timely, cost-efficient and efficient resolution to problems where the amounts in dispute may not be sufficiently high to justify the cost of a meeting-based mediation (e.g. consumer disputes).
    • ODR also allows for a more cost-efficient resolution of disputes where there is significant geographic distance between the parties and the amount in dispute may preclude the cost of travel.
    • ODR may be appropriate where there are sensitivities between the parties that may be exacerbated by being in the same room (e.g. matrimonial disputes).
    • ODR may allow for the participation of parties who could not otherwise attend an in-person meeting due to a severe disability.
    • ODR is confidential (unless agreed otherwise by the parties), subject to the application of the Access to Information Act and of the Privacy Act when the federal government is a party. The process is appropriate when confidentiality is considered important or necessary to the parties, which is often the case: parties utilizing DR mechanisms usually do so on the basis that they can discuss matters freely in the expectation that they will be disclosed, neither publicly, nor to a court.

    Certainly there are disadvantages of ODR, not the least of which is having those who are disadvantaged or with disabilities access the online resources necessary to participate.

    However, when it comes to increasing access to justice and moving the justice system into the 21st century, there is no question that greater online resources will play a big part. The challenge for the legal and the justice system is to be the change that we need to see and let ourselves ignite to the possibilities that change might bring.

    (published concurrently with tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Map Your Future
    Thursday, November 5th, 2015

    ♫ Is the glass half full or half empty ?
    It’s based on your perspective quite simply
    We’re the same and we’re not, know what I’m saying, listen
    Son, I ain’t better than you, I just think different…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Nujabes.

    mind map

    Image created by: Nicoguaro.

    “Think Different” was the slogan for Apple, Inc at one time.  Steve Jobs said in the “One Last Thing” documentary:

    When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

    That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

    The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

    I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

    OK so you want to poke life, you want to be able to change it, you want to make your mark and never be the same again. You want to ‘think different’.  Well, how do you, like, begin?

    One of the ways is to start listening to new voices. TED.com is excellent in this regard (watch the presentations that are tagged ‘jaw dropping’ for example. You will not be the same again).

    Another is by reading new books and publications. TIME.com for example, lists the Best Books of 2015 (so far).

    But if you want to start doing things differently you need new thinking tools. Mind mapping software falls within that category. Rather than listing ideas linearly, mind mapping allows you to graphically organize information by starting with a central idea and branching out from there. You create the relationships between concepts and relate them back to the central idea.

    According to Wikipedia:

    [T]he use of diagrams that visually “map” information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others.

    And now lawyers. I know colleagues who use mind mapping software to plan examinations for discovery, to lay out the theory of their cases and to strategically outline their business plans. They are excellent for brainstorming, for organizing large amounts of information, to visualize relationships between ideas and for helping to make decisions.

    Wikipedia states that mind mapping may be helpful in assisting with memory recall and can improve learning.

    Lifehacker (also another fabulous web site for helping you to think differently) has an article listing the 5 best mind mapping applications.

    Mind Mapping may be just part of the solution if we are going to look at change and in particular, think differently. As Steve has said, we must embrace it, change it, improve it and look for tools to help make your mark upon it.

    (published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Surveys and Law Firms
    Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

    ♫ I got something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire

    Tell me something good (tell me, tell me, tell me)…♫

    Lyrics and music by Stevie Wonder, recorded by Rufus and Chaka Khan,


    Lawyers are sensitive souls. No lawyer wants to receive a complaint from a client.  However, what you don’t know can, in this case, actually hurt you.  The failure to complain by a dissatisfied client may result in the client leaving quietly but then causing maximal damage to the law firm’s reputation by talking to others about their bad experience.

    When given a rational choice between hearing from a dissatisfied client 1-1 or having that client go out and speak to many others about their negative experience with a firm or lawyer, virtually everyone would choose to speak to the client and at least try to remedy their feelings.  Yet how many lawyers and law firms seek to find those unhappy clients and find out what went wrong before they cause damage?  We all know that word of mouth endorsements are worth their weight in gold; similarly negative word of mouth experiences can sink a firm’s reputation.

    Yet few lawyers conduct client feedback surveys.  According to Joel Rose, a management consultant to law offices:

    Information obtained from client surveys may be the most important marketing activity a law firm can undertake. Most firms that initiate client surveys have found their clients to be impressed that the firm cares about their opinions. Also, as the result of surveys, law firms may detect certain misunderstandings which, if not clarified, could fester and result in dissatisfied clients.

    There are many ways to conduct a survey. It can be a Word or PDF document mailed or emailed to clients; it can be conducted using an online tool such as SurveyMonkey. It can be a telephone interview with the client by a firm member. It could be done by inviting a small select group of clients one evening to come and talk confidentially with a few of the partners.

    The approach used can be reflective of the resources of the firm, the number of clients to be surveyed, the ability of the clients to navigate an online survey, the desire to meet with people face to face and the like.  However done, it does have the ability to learn more about how the firm and its services are perceived and more importantly, how you can change to better meet your desired client’s needs.

    I once read (unfortunately I can’t find the reference) that there are three essential questions to ask your clients.  These are:

    • What did we do right?
    • What did we do wrong?
    • How can we do it better next time?

    You can nuance these how you wish but the essence is to find out what clients liked about your services, what didn’t they like and how you can improve on the client experience.

    There are many other possible questions such as “How likely is it that you would recommend our services to others?” and “How do you compare the value we provide against other law firms you may have used?” and “How did you find out about our services?”

    In terms of general design, I believe a shorter survey is better and more respecting of your client’s time.  Many writers state that providing a reward for completing the survey could be useful (but ensure that the cost doesn’t balloon out of control).

    However you do it, you are sure to get some very valuable feedback and information.  If you can manage it, inviting clients to provide feedback immediately after closing a matter allows you to also repair any possible dissatisfaction before it is too late.

    Once you get that information and feedback, the onus then shifts to you to do something with it.  Asking clients for feedback and failing to implement change is only going to create an impression that you are going thru the motions without really desiring change.

    In fact the survey is an underused tool in most law firms. According to Quantisoft, there are many surveys that law firms can use to identify their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities such as:

    • Partner Evaluation Feedback Survey (Associate Attorneys evaluate Partners)
    • Associate Attorney Evaluation Feedback Survey (Partners evaluate Associate Attorneys)
    • Associate Attorney Development Survey (Associates provide feedback on their career goals and development, and workplace issues)
    • Administrative Staff Feedback Surveys (Providing feedback to Administrative Staff)
    • Opinion/Engagement/Satisfaction Surveys
    • Risk Assessment Surveys
    • IT customer satisfaction surveys
    • Other surveys designed to meet your Firm’s special needs.

    Whether you do surveys of clients or of people internal to the firm, you are sure to learn something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire.

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    We Need to Hear from You
    Thursday, October 8th, 2015

    ♫  I need to hear from You 
    Before this night is through 
    I need to hear from You 
    So I’m waiting, waiting just to hear from you…♫

    Lyrics and music by: Robert Hartman, recorded by Petra.


    This week, Garry Wise and I chatted about the possible topics that we could cover in this column (posted at slawtips.ca and on this site) over the next while.  Without being exhaustive, I pulled together the following list from our discussions. Now it is up to you. In the comments section, please indicate which topic(s) are of greatest interest to you!  We really want to hear from you and to write on the topics that you most wish to hear about.

    Here is the (incomplete) list of possible topics:

    New ways of working:

    • Virtual office examples
    • Virtual assistants
    • Virtual contract lawyers
    • Using Skype and other communication methods to reach out
    • Portals
    • Collaboration tools/applications/websites
    • Dragon Dictate and VR on the Mac
    • IBM’s Watson and AI: What are the implications?

    New Software/web tools:

    • Emerging Canadian software
    • Apps, Apps Apps!
    • Websites: Are they relevant anymore?
    • Blogs: Are they relevant anymore?
    • Vlogs: Are they the way to go?
    • Smartphones
    • Tablets
    • Sony paper
    • Microsoft’s Matter Center
    • Why use Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Other SM ?
    • Windows 10
    • OS X El Capitan
    • Do Process Software

    Capturing, Organizing and Using Information

    • Evernote and OneNote
    • Don’t Forget the Milk
    • Wunderlist
    • IFTTT recipes
    • Wikis and law firms
    • CanLII Connect
    • SurveyMonkey and lawyers/law firms
    • MindMapping: The New Way of Legal Thinking?

    Security and Privacy

    • Portals
    • Encryption
    • Cryptolocker and other ransomware
    • Ethical Hacking?
    • How do you handle a security breach?
    • Canadian Backup and Storage Services
    • Canadian Hosted and Managed Services

    Practice Management Software Reviews

    • CLIO
    • Amicus Attorney
    • MyCase
    • RocketMatter
    • PracticePanther
    • HoudiniESQ
    • LegalFiles
    • PCLaw
    • ProLaw
    • TimeSolv Legal
    • Synergy Legal Suite

    Legal Accounting Software and lawyers

    • PCLaw
    • ESILAW
    • Brief Legal Software
    • Quickbooks
    • Sage50
    • XERO
    • BillQuick
    • CosmoLex

    Stages in a Lawyer’s Life

    • Entering law school
    • Finding Articles
    • Life as an Associate
    • Life as a junior partner
    • Life as a senior partner
    • Life as a managing partner
    • Life as ‘of counsel’
    • Going out on Your own
    • Moving Firms
    • Finding an Associate
    • Office Sharing
    • Easing into Retirement
    • Moving an Office
    • Closing an Office

    Using Consultants and Service Providers

    • Bookkeepers
    • IT providers
      • In house IT
      • Managed IT services
      • Hosted services
    • Working with Security professionals
    • How to use IT Consultants to Max Advantage
    • Apple vs Mac vs Does it Matter Anymore?
    • Finding and working with an Office Administrator

    Setting up in Practice

    • Finding the right location
    • Finding the right staff
    • Working with staff
    • Balancing life and work
    • Hiring, firing and managing staff

    New Ways of Handling Legal Matters

    • ADR
    • ODR
    • Virtual courts and trials
    • Setting up a virtual practice/services
    • Taking Technology to Court/Mediations/Arbitrations
    • Taking Technology to clients

    Other Legal Software

    • Optinet Systems
    • Emergent Solutions
    • Tracument
    • Triage Data Solutions
    • Dye & Durham
    • Thomson Reuters
    • Lexis Nexis
    • Econveyance
    • Esentire
    • Worldox
    • Primafact
    • SAI Systems Auditing
    • LexBox
    • WordRake
    • SimplyFile

    Innovative ways of Practising:

    • Cognition LLP
    • Axess Law
    • ABS across the world

    New Ways of Thinking about Legal Practice

    Whatever we have missed.

    Please indicate in the Comments (below) the topic(s) that are most important. Or drop me a line at slawtips1@gmail.com. We hope to hear from you!

    Posted in 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, I'm a Mac, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 4 Comments »
    The Long Tail..Innovation in Legal Services
    Thursday, September 17th, 2015

    ♫ Where you lead, I will follow
    Anywhere that you tell me to
    If you need, you need me to be with you
    I will follow where you lead..♫

    Lyrics and music by Toni Stern and Carole King, recorded by Carole King.


    Lawyers, I surmise, believe with their long history and experience that they are the innovators of any changes in the legal/justice system.  However, that theory may need further examination. In fact it may have to be turned onto its head.

    There is a countervailing theory, promoted by Eric von Hippel and others, that users and consumers of services, (in our case, legal services) are actually the innovators of new services rather than suppliers of those services, or in our case, lawyers.

    For example:

    “User innovation doesn’t only extend to tangible products but also services. von Hippel found that eighty-five percent of individuals self-provided themselves with accounting and banking processes before banks offered this service.”

    Imagine. Clients finding and directing the changes that they desire in legal services and providing them to themselves.  How could this happen?

    “An extension of user innovations is the idea of lead users. These are the individuals who first feel the need for a product or service and create it for themselves. Lead user identification is an essential method used by companies to identify the newest innovations in their product areas giving them crucial insight on the needs of their users.”

    How many lawyers and law firms are focused on the idea of lead users and innovation? How many of us are focused on this innovation segment?   Indeed how many lawyers and law firms are actually focused on innovation in the delivery of legal services?

    Professor von Hipple:

    “finds it interesting that in the UK, 8% (3-4 million people) of consumers modify the product that they use.”

    In fact,

    “He stressed the fact that the number of consumers modifying products and thereby innovating outweighs the number of people doing this in companies”

    Perhaps we need to be listening to our clients …much more than we are doing right now.  The consumers of legal services may in fact be showing us the innovations that we as lawyers need to make to our delivery of legal services.

    In fact, they may just be showing us the way..

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    The 2015 Pacific Legal Technology Conference
    Thursday, September 10th, 2015

    2015 pltc logo

    On Friday Oct 2, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, the ninth Pacific Legal Technology Conference will take place. But it can also take place right in your office.  This year 13 sessions will be real-time webcast (the keynote will be recorded and made available for viewing after the conference due to logistical issues) allowing both in person and webinar attendees to fully participate in the conference.

    28 speakers from Toronto, New York City, Salt Lake City, Alaska and all across BC will speak on such sessions as “Blending Technology with Strong Advocacy Skills”, “Practice Management Tools: There has never been a better time”, “Securing Mobile Devices: Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones, USB keys and More”and of course the favourite “All the Gadgets, Sites and More we can Squeeze into 60+ minutes”

    One session will be a debate format: “How Tech is Changing the Practice of Law: Watson, AI, Expert Systems and More” and promises to be highly entertaining as well as deeply thoughtful on the future of the profession.  Simon Chester of Toronto will face off against Nate Russell of Vancouver in what should be a unique way to explore these emerging issues.

    The eight Tracks are focused on specific issues facing lawyers, such as the “Solo and Small Firm Track” (offering for example:  ‘No Brainer “Sweet Spot” Tech for Solos and Small Firms’), Front Office Technology: The Lawyer’s Desktop Track (offering for example: “Sharing Documents Securely with Clients, Lawyers and Others”), The Security and Threat Protection Track (offering: “What is an Appropriate Level of Protection and How to Achieve It”) and the Innovation and Advanced Track (offering: “Emerging Canadian Legal Technology”).

    Each edition of the PLTC is designed by the Advisory Board building an on-line survey of possible topics and issues and asking past attendees to tell us what they most want to hear about and see.  This results in the educational sessions being designed with the attendees needs uppermost.  This year the response was overwhelming:  Privacy and Security was clearly the #1 issue on everyone’s mind.  Accordingly our keynote will be Lincoln Mead, the IT Director of the Utah State Bar and a long-standing ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board Member, acclaimed speaker and expert on Legal IT and Security. His topic will be: Security and Privacy: Don’t be Worried, be Terrified! 

    There will be a discussion track of 4 sessions that will not be webcast due to their particular format.  Here the attendees will be joining our speakers to discuss issues of interest in such sessions as: “Going Beyond the Law Society of BC’s Cloud Checklist”, “Technology and Legal Ethics: What are a lawyer’s ethical obligations in connection with technology? How best can we meet these obligations?” and “The Strategic Reinvention of the Law Firm: People, Processes, Technology and Change”.

    At the CLC conference in Calgary this August, Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made it clear that resisting change is no longer an option.  LegalFeeds in writing about her speech, stated:

    “We’re part of it, and there’s no escape,” she said, referring to the technological changes making legal information available in other ways and players such as LegalZoom that are growing rapidly.

    In her speech, McLachlin focused on the major challenges facing the legal profession while outlining what she sees as new opportunities that provide some optimism for different ways of doing business, particularly for “nimble, tech-savvy lawyers.”

    We invite you to join your colleagues across Canada and participate in Canada’s online legal technology conference.  Sponsoring organizations this year are: The Law Society of British Columbia, together with the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, The Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association and the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association.

    The Sponsor floor is sold out and details of the sponsors can be found here, including our Platinum sponsor, Dye & Durham Corporation.  For the benefit of both in person attendees as well as webinar attendees, the last 10 minutes of each session will be allocated to one of the sponsors who will show how their product or service helps address the issues raised by our speakers in their presentations.  We are hopeful that this will allow all attendees to benefit in learning about the sponsors and the educational sessions and how they tie in together.

    The conference has been approved for 6 hours of CPD credit in BC which includes ethics and practice management credit.  Further MCLE credit approvals can be found here.

    Early-bird registration rates are available until Sept 12, 2015.

    I hope to see you at the Conference and join in with your nimble, tech-savvy colleagues!

    -David J. Bilinsky, Chair, The Pacific Legal Technology Conference. (posted concurrently with slaw.ca). 

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Change Management, Firm Governance, Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    How Long Should You Take to Return Phone Calls?
    Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

    ♫ One ringy-dingy…two ringy-dingies…♫

    Ernestine/Miss Tomlin (Lily Tomlin on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in).


    How long should you wait before you return a telephone call?  According to Debra J. Schmidt, Loyalty Leader:

    “Returning phone calls used to be a common courtesy. Now, busy people claim they don’t have the time. I don’t buy that excuse. I’ve found that the most successful, busy people I know are the ones I can rely on to return my call the same day. It’s a matter of setting priorities.”

    Indeed! What could be more important that meeting the expectations of those clients that have already sought your services and who are anxious to hear from you?  These are precisely the people who have placed faith and trust in you in meeting their needs and solving their legal problems. What kind of message are you sending them if you fail to return their phone calls promptly?

    Susan Dooley of the Dale Carnegie organization states that no response is a response. In fact, in failing to return a phone call promptly, rather than assuming you are busy with assembling the information to return their call (or you are away on vacation) the caller may assume something quite different:

    [T]here’s a risk that the person feeling “snubbed” by the offender may draw a completely different, and inaccurate, conclusion, such as:

    1. This is not a top priority to you
    2. You’re not a professional
    3. You’re a procrastinator
    4. You don’t have the answer
    5. I’m not important to you
    6. You’re disorganized
    7. You can’t be counted on
    8. You’re hiding
    9. You have bad news, but are not strong enough to communicate it to me

    Yikes! No professional would want to be labeled with these character attributes. Unfortunately, the wrong interpretation by the right person can harm business relationships and even careers.

    No one would intentionally send these messages to their clients that are noted above.  Yet by failing to return phone calls promptly, we are unintentionally sending these very negative messages…about ourselves and how responsible we are to our clients.

    So what to do?  There are a number of very good suggestions in these situations:

    1. The first thing is to recover your credibility. Acknowledge that the trust someone has placed in you has taken a hit. Your words and your actions have failed to align.  It is easy to lose credibility and hard to regain it afterwards. You made an explicit or implicit promise to your clients to care about their matter. Failing to return their phone call has broken that promise. Start by apologizing. This is NOT an excuse. Don’t say:  “I am sorry, but….” As soon as you say that word ‘but’ you have demolished any shred of credibility you had. Understand that you need to take ownership of the fact that you have disappointed your client and be real and honest to them. They are owed at least that much.
    2. Try to stop this from occurring in the first place by setting exceptions at the outset. If you are away from the office, on vacation, in court or on a personal matter, let your voice mail message shape the expectation of the caller as to when they can expect a call. If you have gone on an 180 day world tour, having your voice mail message state “Hi this is John Smith, I can’t take your call right now please leave a message” is completely different from “Hi this is John Smith. I am out of the office until March 2016. Please contact Jane Doe at extension 123 to discuss your matter or have this call answered by someone else at this office.”
    3. Ask yourself: “What kind of message do I want to leave with those who want to reach me?” If the answer to that is one of caring and commitment to their concerns, then you will implement policies such as having your assistant check your voice mail daily for messages and return your calls, if only to communicate that you are in trial and perhaps they could speak to someone else in your absence.
    4. Don’t wait to communicate bad news.  Failing to contact people promptly when things don’t go as expected sends a very powerful message – along the lines that  you are weak and don’t wish to face unpleasant facts and situations. Especially when things don’t go as expected is when clients will be looking to you as their source of strength to weather the setbacks.  If you fail them now, you will fail them in the long term.  Be their oak that stands up to the storm and let them know…in fair weather or foul ..that you will be there for them and be their source of strength.

    Above all, when that telephone rings…land line or mobile…recognize that you have a golden opportunity. You can build your reputation and your client trust or destroy it, one ringy-dingy at a time.

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Business Development, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    How to Avoid a Dead Cell Phone When Travelling
    Thursday, August 13th, 2015

    ♫ Cell phone’s dead
    Lost in the desert
    One by one…♫

    Lyrics and music by Beck Hensen.

    tossing cell phone

    [Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

    Having just returned from a long tenting camping vacation where my Blackberry was dead for most of the trip, I thought I would pass along some tips on how to avoid the kind of experience that I just went through.

    Notwithstanding that we were travelling with both an iPhone and a Blackberry and charging them equally in the vehicle when on the road (courtesy of having USB connectors that allowed us to use the 12 volt ports and plug in the phones to charge while the vehicle was running), the iPhone would have a charge of about 90-95% the next day and the Blackberry would be dead.

    Furthermore, the Blackberry kept on stating that it has exceeded its data limit plan (we were in the States for the most part and had data plans that had to be continually renewed) even when it was only ‘alive’ for 1 out of every 3 days (due to the fact that it would only be charged every 3 days due to our travel/camping schedule).

    What I found out on my return was that there was a big software update from Blackberry that it kept on trying to download when on the road.  If there was a notification of this, I have to say that I didn’t see it.  As a result the attempted download ate up the data limit on the plan and also ate up the battery life as well.

    So here is a collection of tips to hopefully avoid some of the problems encountered when travelling with a cell phone:

    • Get a data roving plan before you leave.  It is much better than getting hit with the pay-as-you-go rate in whatever jurisdiction you find yourself.
    • Use WIFI whenever possible and turn off the data on your phone.  Starbucks is my best friend on the road. For the price of a coffee you can connect to their Wifi network and check your email messages.  If you are lucky you can find a table with a power connection too and top up your battery charge.
    • If you can, use an unlocked phone or a small tablet that can accommodate a SIM card and purchase a SIM card in the jurisdiction of travel to cut down on your data costs.
    • Consider buying a disposable phone in the jurisdiction where you are going.  Often these are much cheaper than a roaming plan using a Canadian phone.  Furthermore, Canadian cell phones may not work in other jurisdictions.
    • Check to ensure that all software updates are installed BEFORE you leave.  Or if you find out there is one released while you are travelling, find a WIFI hotspot and do the update there, if possible.
    • Make sure you can charge your device wherever you may be. You may need extra plugs and adapters to accommodate the AC power in foreign jurisdictions.  See a travel store before you leave.
    • Get the apps, music and entertainment files you need before you leave.
    • Take photos of your passport, important documents, serial numbers etc and put them in the cloud where you can get at them in the event your device and such are stolen or lost.
    • Set up one HTML based email service with an easy to remember password that you can use in the event of an emergency, such as losing your device.
    • GPS applications are wonderful when travelling, but remember that they also eat up data at a horrendous rate (at least in my experience).

    I hope this helps ease some of the pain when travelling.  You don’t want to end up in the middle of the desert with your cell phone dead!

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    ScanSnap is a Snap!!!!
    Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

    ♫  Snap, what a happy sound
    Snap is the happiest sound I’ve found
    You may clap, rap, tap, slap but
    Snap… makes the world go round…♫

    Lyrics and music by Moosebutter.

    scansnap ix1500


    Continuing with the theme of technology that just works, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.

    This little scanner punches way above its weight.  In fact in the years that I have been talking about scanners and going paperless, no one has ever said that they have regretted purchasing one of the ScanSnap line of scanners.  They have been a hit with every size firm, with every practice area and every type of lawyer right across North America.  Why?  They do their job simply, quietly, quickly and very efficiently.

    What do they do?  Here are the specs:

    • 50 page automatic sheet feeder
    • full duplex scan
    • 25 pages per minute in full colour, faster in B&W
    • works with Windows and Mac computers (I use mine with my MacBook Pro)
    • works with Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets
    • comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard (for Windows PCs only, regrettably for us Mac users) as well as other bundled software
    • comes with a ‘carrier sheet’ – a dual layer clear plastic sheet that allows you to scan loose papers and receipts
    • can be set to OCR (optical character recognition) files automatically
    • detects colour, greyscale and black & white
    • you can create a PDF, text-searchable PDF or JPEG file
    • using Wi-Fi, you can scan directly to a personal computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device
    • if you wish, you can scan directly to your existing Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, SugarSync and Salesforce accounts

    The ScanSnap iX500 comes with a set of bundled software:

    • ScanSnap Manager (Windows and Mac)
    • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows)
    • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows and Mac)
    • Adobe Acrobat X standard (Windows)
    • PFU CardMinder (Windows and Mac)
    • Rack2-Filer Smart and Magic Desktop (Windows) – Available only with iX500 Deluxe
    • ScanSnap Folder (Windows)
    • Scan to SharePoint (Windows)
    • Scan to Mobile (Windows and Mac)

    Full specifications can be found here and system requirements here.

    I have a ScanSnap at home and love it. It has allowed me to take my paper files and digitalize them and eliminate the need for paper files.  I also upload my documents into Dropbox and this allows me to have a full cloud-copy as well as a local copy of all my documents.  Have a hard drive failure?  No worries…get a new PC or Windows, link it to your Dropbox account and ZIP…your documents are now dowloaded on your local computer.  I know ..I experienced this.  Everything in my Dropbox account was quickly and easily recovered notwithstanding the HD crash (unfortunately I found out to my regret that my photos..that I thought were backed up in iCloud ..were not.  Now all my photos are backed up in Dropbox).  For important documents and folders, I use third party encryption that creates encrypted volumes within Dropbox for security.

    In my world, Snap makes the world go round.

    (published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    What’s Your Bag?
    Thursday, June 25th, 2015

    ♫  He ain’t no drag 
    He’s got a brand new bag… ♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by: James Brown.


    solo ultracase

    This post continues the ‘no brainer’ posts about technology.  This time it is about a bit of technology that most people don’t put much thought into, I suspect, namely their computer laptop bag.

    Now some people will say that a bag is a bag is a bag.  I am not one of them. In fact I can say that I am quite particular about my bag.  I had a nice laptop bag given to me by our local Continuing Legal Education provider for being a volunteer that fit the bill nicely, but when it finally wore out after many years of hard use, I started looking for a replacement.

    I first settled on an Eagle Creek bag – the “Strictly Business” carryall.  Prior to this purchase I had had a number of bags from Eagle Creek of various sorts and liked them all. However, I discovered that the handles on the Strictly Business were too long…the bag almost dragged on the ground when carried by the handles rather than the shoulder strap- and I am a fellow who is 6’2″ tall.

    But when the zipper blew after only 6 months of owning the bag, I went in search of an alternative bag.

    What are the features that one looks for in a laptop bag?  To me the important features are:

    •  Size: Look for a nice padded internal compartment for the laptop that is well-padded and once inside, won’t allow the laptop to slide around much.  The compartment should be wide enough to take your laptop without a lot of extra room. The standard is to fit a 15″ laptop…if your laptop is bigger or smaller you may want to consider a larger or smaller bag.
    • Durable construction.  The bag that I received from CLE-BC lasted years of heavy use.  That was my measure of durability. Look for good padding, stout seams and good hardware, especially the zippers.  If you live in an area of significant rainfall or other harsh weather, ensure that the laptop will stay clean and dry inside.  I prefer a soft-sided laptop bag but some may prefer a harder case.  Personal preference.  Velcro should close easily and be secure. Magnetic fastenings should stay closed.  Seams should be well-sewn.
    • Style:  You are going to be taking this laptop bag to business meetings, on airplanes, checking into hotels and generally having it with you most days.  Accordingly the bag should match your style.
    • Weight: Leather may be a good choice in terms of durability and style; personally while I like the look and feel of a great leather bag, weight was also a consideration.  I carry a great deal of ‘stuff’ and the extra weight of a leather bag was too much for me since I walk to and from the office.  Accordingly, a fabric bag that is largely waterproof is high on my list of requirements.
    • Size: As I mentioned, I carry a lot of ‘stuff’ from the laptop power cord to various other cords, papers, USB drives, my chequebook etc…so I want a bag that has lots of compartments, pockets, internal zipped pouches etc to organize things such as your cell phone, business cards, pens, a chocolate bar or two, your wallet and passport and even your toothbrush and toothpaste. Ensure that your laptop bag meets the new restricted size limits if you plan to use it on airplanes.
    • Color: I am not referring to the color of the outside of the bag…that is a matter of personal preference.  But the new bag that I acquired..the Solo Urban 17.3″ Ultracase, while black (with orange trim) on the outside is bright orange on the inside. If you are accustomed to ferreting around trying to find something inside a black bag you will totally appreciate the difference a bright orange lining makes.  Finding something is now effortless.  Plus the bag is perhaps one of the sharpest I have seen for looks.  It it is a joy to carry and easily organizes and stores all my ‘stuff’.

    A laptop bag can be one of the most important overlooked items in your business life.  When it works well it is practically invisible since it performs its duties effortlessly and in a way that matches your lifestyle.  I am quite pleased with my Solo Urban Ultracase…Daddy’s got a brand new bag!!!

    (published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »