Category: Technology

Law Practice ManagementQuality of lifeTechnology

Tips for Making Your Law Practice Less Stressful

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2010   April is Stress Awareness Month. I’ve been visiting lots of lawyers and gathering tips to help you make your law practice less stressful. Here is my first tip.

Tip 1. Going Paper-less is a great way to have a less stressful law practice. There is something inherently stressful about an overly abundant In Box. You know you’re in deep paper when your In Box is full of papers and magazines waiting to be looked at someday; your desktop has stacks of papers and files with post-it notes with coffee stains; and your chair is the spot where new mail or letters awaiting signature is placed to catch your attention. Lawyers especially are drowning in paper. A plethora of paper is a recipe for overload and disorganization which can lead to getting off track in running your practice and lead to bar ethics complaints for neglecting client matters and malpractice claims for overlooking deadlines.

Can you do paperless without creating an electronic nightmare? Yes. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. ABA Law Practice TODAY has had some great articles on going paperless. I especially like the ones Canadian paperless diva Donna Neff has shared, especially about her document naming protocols. I got to be a co-speaker with Donna at the Upper Law Society’s Solo & Small Firm Conference last year on going paperless and I can vouch that Donna knows what she’s talking about and truly lives the good life as a paperless attorney. The September 2009 issue of Law Practice TODAY is devoted to the Paperless topic. Read The Document Naming System in Our Paperless Office by Donna Neff and Natalie Sanna here.

Although having a document management program like Worldox is great, you can adopt strict document naming protocols such as Donna discusses and get organized using your basic Windows folder tree system. You just need to be disciplined. But be realistic. It may be too much to ask of you if you’ve got more than one person responsible for creating documents. How many different ways do you name a document when saving a new client letter? You might really need a document management program that takes charge of what documents are named: there is no room for creating multiple names for saving the same type of document. I looked at Worldox again at the recent ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago. It certainly seems to live up to its reputation that no Worldox user regrets implimenting it.

If you need another reason for convincing yourself that going paperless is way to combat stress and get a better night’s sleep, read Jim Calloway’s article in the paperless issue, The Paperless Office as a Risk Management Enterprise here. Jim point out that going paperless is the only foolproof disaster recovery plan. Boxes of paper files stored in the basement of your office can become a soggy mess if your basement floods due to a storm. With so many lawyers needing to plan ahead for the winding down of their law practice, going paperless will certainly streamline organization and it is much easier to store an additional hard drive containing closed electronic client files rather than 100+ banker boxes containing closed paper client files. Downsizing during retirement should be a problem for the paperless lawyer.

CAVEAT: you can make a mess of your electronic client files if you haven’t been storing files – folders and documents– in an organized fashion. If you need more help thant sn just reading the document naming protocol article I mentioned above, you may need to get a good document searching tool. I recommend looking at Copernic Desktop Search Professional which will allow you to find the proverbial needle in the haystack on your desktop or on your server. We have all had the unfortunate experience of dropping a document into the wrong file or just forgetting its name. A document search tool is the solution to this aggravating problem. If you are an ABA member, you can purchase the program for a 50% discount which I was happy to find out on the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center page. Check their Tech EZ page for discount information.

Stay tuned for more tips to help make your law practice less stressful in April!

Law Practice ManagementMentorsTechnology

Can we collaborate?

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2010    I am down at University of Oregon School of Law teaching an intensive one-week Law Practice Management course on how to launch your law practice. This is the first time in its history that U of O Law has offered intensive one-week classes. The students are enjoying it because they can focus their attention on one class. I think the January term idea is a good one. I still remember my own January term course at Mills College : Translating Anglo Saxon Prose to read Beowulf: unforgettable, though it was the first and last Anglo Saxon I read… I dare say this course will be far more useful. For me it’s a fantastic experience working with enthusiastic bright 3Ls, using PBWorks as a collaboration tool in a state-of-the art law school. I have used Google Docs and enjoyed using it to collaborate. But down here in Eugene, I have been steeped in PBWorks in a community of learners– truly the best learning is learning together.

Hmm, I think I might be turning into a Duck. I just might be tempted to buy the Oregon Ducks wireless computer keyboard I saw in the Court Cafe…

Seriously, mid-way through the week, I know that the Oregon legal community will be enriched by this group of entrepreneurs who are looking forward to becoming this decade’s newest members of the Oregon Bar.

Jay Foonberg’s helpful book “How to Start & Build a Law Practice (5th Edition) has been the course text, offering lots of ideas to ponder. Tonight, my favorite is Project Reverse Mentoring: pairing senior lawyers with young lawyers. Win-win. I hope we can see this happening here in Oregon! (See The senior lawyer can have a technologically savvy highly-motivated mentor and the young lawyer can have a practice-savvy seasoned mentor who may be wanting to have someone help with the caseload and wondering how they can keep up the pace of a busy practice as they get closer to retirement. Pairing up with a young lawyer may be just the ticket to feeling re-invigorated. It has been for me. If any Oregon senior lawyers are interested in this idea, get in touch.


Deputy LoJack Leads to Retrieval of Stolen Laptop in Oregon

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   By Sheila Blackford   ©2009   What a great story to read in the News Times of the Oregon Central Coast: “Laptop Software Leads to Arrest.” A laptop that had LoJack anti-theft tracking software installed on it was reported stolen May 11 in a burglary in Otis, Oregon. The trooper worked with the LoJack company and determined a location of computer internet activity over in Woodburn, Oregon. December 2, Oregon State Police investigators from Salem and Lincoln City along with state troopers and Woodburn police served the search warrant that led to the recovery of the stolen laptop and fake social security cards and arrest of two men at the Woodburn residence where “Deputy LoJack” had tracked the stolen laptop signaling activity. They are continuing to investigate who was involved with the Otis burglary and the stolen laptop ending up in Woodburn.

It is nice to hear that a stolen laptop could be tracked and further criminal activity discovered due to a simple software program that costs just $25 a year for the standard version or $35 for the premium edition which will allow the remote deletion of personal or sensitive files from a stolen computer. If Santa is wondering what to bring lawyers with laptops, check into getting LoJack onto your computer here: Dear Santa, Please bring me LoJack for my laptop.

AwardeLawyeringLaw Practice ManagementTechnology

Attention, Innovators Using the Internet to Deliver Legal Services

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   The Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association awards the James I Keane Memorial Award in Excellence in eLawyering, annually at the ABA TechShow in Chicago. Nominations are now open for the Award to be in March, 2010. Candidates can self-nominate. Full details and requirements of this award can be found here. Do you want to nominate a colleague or yourself, there is an on-line nomination form that can be found here.

A brief summary of the James I. Keane Award criteria:
• The project or law firm must demonstrate the use of the Internet to deliver legal services.
• It must be unique. It should be an on-line legal service that has never been done before, or not quite this way before.
• Absence of precedent – Never been done or done quite this way before.
• There should be some measurable outcome that would indicate that the innovation is accomplishing what it was intended to do.
• Action must have taken place no more than three years prior to this entry, and the legal service must be operating for at least one year prior to submission of the Application.
• Additional consideration will be given to projects that focus on the delivery of legal services to individuals of moderate means.
• The nomination should describe how the service was developed, how it is managed, and how it has been evaluated.
• The nomination should describe how the service can be replicated by other law firms in terms of development costs, required technology, people requirements, and ongoing maintenance costs.