♫ He ain’t no drag
He’s got a brand new bag… ♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by: James Brown.
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)
♫ I just want the simple things..♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Miguel.
This post continues the theme of innovative technology for lawyers. John Heckman, a legal technology consultant for whom I have a great deal of respect recently wrote in his blog “Does it Compute” a piece entitled:
Technophobe and Proud Of It — the Consequences. He states that there are “attorneys whose willful refusal to become conversant with their firm’s technology will drag down its productivity and ability to respond to client needs.” John then quotes Sharon Nelson, another good friend and legal technologist who is a co-author of the annual American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide (for which the write is a contributing author) put it bluntly: “The raw choice is that lawyers must choose between adaption and extinction.”
Well, fortunately there are technologies that are simple, effective and easy to use even for technophobes. SimplyFile is one of them.
This application which is a toolbar add-on for MS Outlook on the PC (not Mac..sigh!). It does one thing very very well. It is an adaptive program that learns from you where you like to file emails in your Outlook folders.
If you set up your Outlook folders to match your client files, then SimplyFile will help you quickly and easily move both incoming and outgoing emails into their proper file in Outlook. It learns from you and correctly guesses the correct folder 80-90% of the time. Moving the email to the right folder once Simplyfile guesses the folder is just a mouse click.
No longer will you end up with all your outgoing emails in the ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook.
No longer do you ‘drag and drop’ emails to organize them.
I have been using SimplyFile for years now and love it. There are companion applications that speed up other tasks and for those I refer you to Techhit’s web page.
If you use a Document Management System (we use OpenText) Simplyfile helps you move your emails into your profiled folders in Outlook and from there they are indexed into the DMS system. I understand it is equally effective with Worldox and other DMS platforms that work with MS Outlook (but you should check with your DMS provider first).
When it comes to legal technology there is no question that for maximum adoption by lawyers on all points on the legal technology spectrum, the applications should keep it simple.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Good lookin’, so refined
Say wouldn’t you like to know whats going on in my mind?
So let me get right to the point
I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see
Hey Big Spender
Spend, a little time with me…♫
This column starts what I hope will be a series of columns on new and innovative technologies for lawyers.
The kickoff column in this series deals with WordRake.
WordRake is editing software for lawyers.
Most of us have to write for a living. Contracts, pleadings, documents, memorandums – even blog posts – our ideas are as clear as the words, grammar, syntax and tone that we use to communicate our thoughts.
Other than hiring an editor to go over your work, we are pretty much on our own to do our own editing and proofreading.
That is, until WordRake. As Gary Kinder, the developer states, the secret to writing well is rewriting. WordRake will take your writing and suggest edits to remove unnecessary words, improve phrasing, improve your grammar and make dull sentences sparkle.
It allows you to write clearly, be understood and make things happen with your written communications.
If nothing else, you can improve your writing by subscribing to Gary Kinder’s Wednesday Writing Tips.
WordRake works in Windows and with MS Word and Outlook. Alas, it doesn’t work on a Mac or I would be using it to help tighten this column. There is a 7 day free trial at www.wordrake.com. So let me get right to the point, spend a little time with WordRake; it may be the best $199 (Word and Outlook for 1 year) that you spend this year.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
Lyrics and music by Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family).
Who knew that keeping track of your fitness could be addictive – and fun? Welcome to the world of wearable technology and in particular, the Fitbit.
The FitBit Flex is a wearable fitness wristband that helps you track your daily activity in terms of steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.
It tracks how long you slept and the quality of your sleep. It buzzes when you have achieved 10,000 steps in a day (the first time mine did this I almost jumped out of my skin!).
It synchs wirelessly to your computer and smartphones. You can log additional activities such as biking, skiing, running and more.
As you achieve your fitness goals, you get email reminders and badges that reinforce your progress. You can also track drinks of water and calories eaten in the food log section.
If what gets measured gets done, the FitBit is a fun and novel way to keep on top of your fitness goals and see how you are doing.
There are different devices ranging from the Flex (above) to the Surge that incorporates a heart monitor and is classified as a ‘Fitness Super Watch’ with GPS, notifications, music, Auto Sleep monitoring and alarms.
Since keeping fit is something that all of us need to do more of, it is good to know that the Fitbit can be a great little way to get that little bit of motivation to achieve your goals with a tiny bit of wheeeeeeeeee….
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Just a short note
You’ll find the key inside…♫
Music, lyrics and recorded by Matt Finish.
Having just returned from ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago my mind is buzzing with everything that I has seen and heard. One of the more interesting sessions was on how to use Evernote (https://evernote.com). Now I have been using Evernote for some time but it seems that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
I became curious about how to use Evernote to not just capture web sites, recipes, legal research and such, but to try to capture the tweets that I was creating while at Techshow.
So with a little research, here is how to craft a note in Evernote that captures all your tweets going forward…without your having to do anything more.
I only wish I knew how to do this *before* Techshow ..that way my Tweets could be a record that I could easily use to write a column…the next step is to figure out how to capture all the tweets that use a certain hashtag like #ABATECHSHOW!
Here is how to create a note to log all your tweets going forward:
1. Go to IFTTT to create an account. IFTTT is a service that allows you to create chains of commands..it stands for IF This Then That.
2. Once your account is created, go to: https://ifttt.com/recipes/114761-twitter-will-automatically-archive-to-evernote and install the ‘recipe’ that will automatically send your tweets to your Evernote account.
Voila! Your tweets will now be logged into Evernote. Just a short note with a key inside!
♫ To boldly go where no one has gone before…♫
Narration to the music by Alexander Courage.
In Chicago for ABA TECHSHOW I heard a presentation to my fellow Practice Management Advisors from Daniel Martin Katz on the future of law and legal eduction. Daniel’s thesis, as I understood it, is that law schools should no longer be liberal arts oriented. Rather they should be Polytechnic Law Schools. The reason for this change is that the future of lawyers is to combine analytics (i.e. computer reasoning) with a lawyer to produce better outcomes. And you can’t apply something that you really don’t understand. Lawyers need to have a solid grounding in legal technology, analytics and computer modelling to be better lawyers.
According to Daniel Katz, an associate professor of law at Michigan State University, computer modeling has proven “able to predict 70 to 75 percent of the cases correctly” in a given year. That compares to a 60 percent rating for legal experts who also predict outcomes.
We all know that IBM is working on Watson, which is “a cognitive system that enables a new partnership between people and computers that enhances and scales human expertise.”
But what you may not know is that IBM’s Watson is not alone. Microsoft and Amazon are undertaking similar research. Pretty soon every Tom, Bill and Jeff will have their own in-house cognitive learning system.
Furthering these ideas will be an exciting event held in conjunction with ABA TECHSHOW:
There will be a Legal Technology and Innovation Meet-up at Sadden Arps being held concurrently during TECHSHOW week. I expect to hear mind-expanding ideas from such speakers as:
- Jeffrey Carr, former GC at FMC Technologies (and one of the innovators in alternative billing systems for lawyers),
- Casey Flaherty, former in-house counsel (Kia Motors America) and creator of the Legal Technology Audit who will be speaking on: A Piece in the Metrics Puzzle: How Well do we Utilize Technology to Deliver Value and Quality?
- Ron Dolin, of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, legal technology consultant and investor and legal technology and informatics instructor speaking on The Importance of Measuring Quality
and many others.
Daniel is not alone in thinking that information technology is changing the face of law. Human enterprise and machine learning is taking the legal profession where no one has gone before.
♫ What’s left to lose?
I painted all these pictures but you couldn’t choose,
All of your company.
But is this distance, calling my name?
I think persistence is this price that we pay in the end…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by State Champs.
This is an image taken from a YouTube marketing video created by a Pittsburgh lawyer named Daniel Muessig. This particular video has been described as “clever, effective, legally ethical and thoroughly despicable” by ethicsalarms.com. They state:
Is this an ethical ad? According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, it is within the conduct permitted by the state’s legal ethics rules. The ad isn’t misleading. It doesn’t make promises the lawyer cannot keep. It doesn’t represent dramatic recreations as fact, or use broad metaphors and exaggerations. (Lawyer ads are held to a standard of literalness that presumes the public has never see any other kinds of advertising in their entire lives.) Once upon a time the various state bar advertising regulations included prohibitions on “undignified” communications, or those that undermined public trust in the profession, but those days are long past: the standards were necessarily vague, and breached free speech principles.
So we have this: a lawyer who appeals to his future criminal clients by saying that he thinks like a criminal, believes laws are arbitrary, that other lawyers will “blow them off” and that he visits jails frequently because that’s where his friends are. He attacks his own colleagues and profession, denigrates the rule of law he is sworn to uphold, and seeks the trust of criminals not because of his duty as a professional, but because he’s just like them. Muessig is willing to undermine the law-abiding public’s belief in the justice system and the reputation of his profession and his colleagues in order to acquire clients. I’m sure his strategy will work, too.
This YouTube video has received over 282,000 hits at the time of writing this column.
Daniel Muessig has no disciplinary history according to my colleague Nancy Carruthers, of the Law Society of Alberta, who incorporated this into her paper “Ethics and the Business of Law” and displayed the full video to The Business of Law conference by the Legal Education Society of Alberta where I am honoured to be a speaker.
What do you think? Is is over the top and beyond the bounds of ethically allowed marketing by lawyers in Canada? It is certainly creative and ‘in your face’ as Nancy has noted in her paper/presentation. Is it a sign of lawyers engaging in advertising that while undoubtedly effective and distasteful to some, is too close (or perhaps even over) the ethical line? Or is it a sign of lawyers saying, when it comes to the legal battlefield, what’s left to lose?
–Cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.
♫ Here’s to me, I finally passed the Bar…♫
Music and Lyrics by M. Peterson, M. Puryear, B. Brock and recorded by: Michael Peterson.
Joe Public had a problem. He was off to court in a week and he needed to learn what arguments he should advance to persuade the judge in his favour.
He contemplated heading to a lawyer’s office but instead he signed onto the website IBMLaw.com. A few minutes later he was answering questions put to him by the software. Shortly thereafter he printed up the arguments that had been produced for him by the website and whistled to himself, as he was now prepared for court, armed not only with the arguments he would be advancing but also the ones that he could expect to be advanced against him – with prepared responses.
Sound farfetched? Science fiction? Contemplate this: In June of 2014 Robert Weber, the senior vice president and general counsel of International Business Machines Corp. went to San Jose, California to watch a demonstration of the Watson Debater, according to The American Lawyer.
Weber watched Watson debate whether watching violent video games predisposes young males to be more aggressive. It didn’t just come up with answers to questions as an earlier version did winning on Jeopardy. Now it synthesized information to develop arguments on different sides of an issue.
Indeed, if you go to IBM.com you will find: “Watson is everywhere. Watson has been learning the language of professions and is trained by experts to work across many different industries.”.
Backed by the IBM Watson Group, 2000 employees and $1 billion in funding, Watson is but one of a growing number of ventures seeking to change the delivery of legal services.
IBM says: “Meet IBM Watson, a cognitive system that enables a new partnership between people and computers that enhances and scales human expertise.”
Many people believe that lawyers cannot be replaced by machines as the type of thinking that we do is different from computer algorithms.
IBM’s Watson employs a different type of programming called cognitive processing. Cognitive processing uses natural language and processes unstructured data just like we do. It reads and interprets a sentence as a person does and understands context. It understands legal terms, syntax and more. It collects the knowledge required to have literacy in a professional domain to build a body of knowledge. It curates the data, discarding out-dated information and concepts. As new information is published, it updates its knowledge. It can quickly provide responses to questions about highly complex situations in areas such as law and medicine and provide recommendations backed by evidence, and can find new insights into the problem (per IBM.com).
Science fiction? According to IBM, Watson is “discovering and offering answers and finding patterns we had not known existed, faster than any person or group of people ever could… in ways that make a material difference – every day. Most important of all, Watson learns, adapts and keeps getting smarter.”
The American Lawyers reports:
“In talking about Watson, Weber at times sounds like a proud parent bragging about his gifted child’s potential. ‘I think Watson could pass a multistate Bar exam without a second thought,’ he says.”
I wonder who will hold the party when Watson passes the Bar?
(this was originally published in PracticeTalk, in the Canadian Bar Association’s BarTalk magazine)
♫ Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged…♫
Tuesday March 31, 2015 is World Backup Day. I think it is important to focus on this often neglected task as it is often lost in the hustle and bustle of getting the work out. But with the recent attacks of ransomware on all types of businesses, law firms included, having a proper back up that is not infected has assumed increasing, if not vital, importance.
Furthermore, having a proper backup is not just for your business. Consider all your digital photographs and personal files..how would you feel if they were lost?
So the focus of this article is to motivate you to implement backup solutions at your office and at your home.
Why back up?
- Protection against malware, viruses and trojans including Cryptowall and other ransomware (1 in 10 computers infected with a virus each month, according to ICSA Labs/TruSecure, 2002)
- Protection against disasters, either man-made (pipes bursting and the like) to natural disasters such as storms, lightening and such.
- Preservation of precious memories that once gone, are gone.
What are the best practices when it comes to back ups? Here is a list of some things to consider.
- Have a data retention plan
- Without a plan, you are left to haphazard backups. The worst time to realize that you don’t have a current backup is precisely when you need it most.
- Plan for increasing amounts of data
- Your storage should be scalable since you will be generating increasing amounts of data in the future.
- Ensure that your current system can be scaled up to handle greater and greater amounts of data without any disruption in your office.
- Have a redundancy plan – backup your backup
- What if the same disaster hits your backup as well as your systems?
- Consider having both a physical backup in your office and a cloud based backup that is unaffected if your office is hit with a disaster.
- Have your data readily available
- Cloud backups are wonderful as a ‘last resort’ but they do take time to download.
- Consider having a local NAS or other device in the office just in case your servers fry and you need a fast locally accessible copy of your data.
- Data security and integrity are priorities
- Always consider physical security and data security.
- Follow best practices in data security.
- Consider backups and archival copies
- Backups are snapshots at any point in time
- Archives are historical records – unalterable and therefore important if you need to go back and show what happened when.
The important thing to consider is your risk management position. Have you considered the cost of restoring your data and the potential of losing vital data and having to explain that to your clients? You may perceive the incidence of loss to be low, but the cost of recovery can be very high indeed. In fact not having a proper backup may result in a significant disruption of your business or even its failure.
If you suffer such a loss, you certainly want to be able to go back to where you once belonged.
(posted concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ How can i go forward when I
don’t know which way to turn?
How can i go forward into something
I’m not sure of? oh no, oh no…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by John Lennon.
2015 ABA book Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide has just been published.
John Heckman, a long-standing and highly acclaimed legal technologist, has published a review of the book. I felt the review was a good one and here it is with his consent:
Does It Compute?
John Heckman’s Take on Practice and Document Management, and Other Legal Technology
February 23, 2015
Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide
This is the eighth yearly edition for the Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide by Sharon Nelson, John Simek and Michael Maschke. There are also very useful chapters by Jennifer Ellis on social media and in particular security, privacy and ethics considerations in using them and on the “iPad for Litigators” by Tom Mighell and Paul Unger.
Why should you read this book? There are two reasons. Obviously if you are starting up a small firm or considering upgrades it provides invaluable advice. There is a second reason, perhaps even more important. As Jim Calloway notes in his introduction, the ABA revised its Model Rules to require that lawyers be competent with the technology tools they must use today. If you sometimes wonder whether the technology you use is actually productive for your firm or if you are losing ground to competing firms, reading this book will bring you up to speed and give you a pretty good idea of where your firm stands from a technology point of view, even if you choose not to make changes. Once, when I was working a law firm I proposed to one of the name partners that the firm adopt a particular program. He thought about it, and then said, “no, I don’t think we can do that at this time, but keep the suggestions coming because every program I don’t use represents a potential competitive advantage for competing firms.” Good advice.
Sharon Nelson sums it up even more harshly:
“The raw choice is that lawyers must choose between adaption and extinction. They will no doubt choose the former en masse, but reluctantly. The slower lawyers are to adapt to the digital age, the harder it may be for them to survive as events overtake them.”
This is particularly important in the rapidly-changing area of social media and dealing with the implications of the fact that there is no privacy any more (the combination of Google, Facebook and the NSA has effectively eliminated privacy). Be sure to read Jennifer Ellis’ chapter attentively.
As the authors note, since the book comes out at the beginning of every year many chapters remain current, other items are only a few months behind (although it seems longer than that in Internet time).
The thing I have always appreciated about this book is that the authors actually have opinions and are not afraid to express them. Of course, it also helps that by and large I agree with them, although with the occasional caveat. In addition, they cover what is necessary for a complete office starting from scratch – hardware, operating systems, peripherals, printers, scanners, monitors, etc. If you follow their recommendations you may not make the best decision possible, but you won’t make a bad one. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
The only point I have a serious problem with this year is their recommendation of Kaspersky internet security. I switched to Kaspersky last year and when it came to upgrade to the 2015 version it was a disaster. It regularly choked on downloading Outlook messages (I am not using Exchange) and would not release the memory. As a result I had to reboot my computer two or three times a day. A call to the paid Kaspersky support (which was very good) wound up with their saying “nothing we can do about it.” So I had to switch to a different program.
A friend of mine used to say “every year I know 10% more and fall 15% further behind.” Reviewing software is like that. The book simply cannot provide detailed reviews of software, so the authors stress the need to get trial versions of anything you are planning to use and “kick the tires” a bit.
The book rightly pays a lot of attention to security issues, especially for mobile devices. They quote the rather amazing statistic that 12,000 laptops were stolen in U.S. airports every week in 2011 (with Chicago in the lead). At the same time, they are realistic (“we know so many lawyers will ignore our advice…”) and offer fall-back options that may at least deter casual hackers or simple thieves who grab your laptop or smartphone. They strongly recommend against using iPhones based on its woefully inadequate security provisions. They rightly insist that the main way to protect your data is to encrypt your entire hard drive. If you do any substantial traveling not to do this is like never locking your door. You should definitely change passwords periodically (they refer to a judge who has had the same password for 10 years!!) or use a password manager or program such as eWallet. I just bought eWallet based on their recommendation and so far have been very happy with it.
I thought the section on Time & Billing applications was somewhat weak (although I certainly agree that QuickBooks is not a good choice for lawfirms). You might want to consult the “Buyer’s Guide to Legal Billing Software” published by Technolawyer for more choices (you need to subscribe to Technolawyer to get it, but subscriptions are free). I agree with their assessment of the decline of LexisNexis products, first and foremost Time Matters. They note that they have not done a single new installation in about 10 years.
Lastly, the book contains a chapter on “favorite utilities” which can be useful. Note however some more industrial strength programs may include functionality provided by single-function utilities. Thus for example, the using Worldox document management system would eliminate the need for a separate indexer or viewer.
The book is available from the ABA store. If you are starting an office, are at a point where you need to make a decision about where to go next, or just to want to keep up to date on what is currently available, this will be an invaluable primer.
Thanks John for a great review! Full disclosure: I wrote the chapter on Going Paperless.
This is a great book for anyone looking at upgrading their current office technology and are not quite sure which way to turn.
-cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.
-cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.