Not All Curmugeons Are Old White Guys

I have been “in the cloud” since adopting Onebox for my company’s virtual pbx a dozen or so years ago.  In fact, I found the “cloud” to have so many advantages over hosting my own solutions, I took LegalTypist 100% digital after finding a secure tech I could configure and use with attorney client work product<- that was about 2004.

Jump forward a decade (can you believe it!) and there’s cloud-based any and everything!  The problem with that is – for lawyers and their work product especially - are all those cloud solutions aware of your ethical obligations to maintain confidentiality? What about your duty not to inadvertently disclose <-do they even KNOW about that one?!

You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve spoken with CEO’s who think that by putting the word “legal” in front of “project management” you somehow end up with a “solution” that is secure enough for attorney client work product or that will actually work for lawyers and law firms. Certainly over the past decade, I’ve beta’d enough tech to spot when users are not the focus and marketing and sales are far ahead of a reliable and stable product.

So let me share with you now my top 5 Don’ts For Any Cloud Based Player:

  • Don’t listen to any tech company looking to help you become independent of your obligation to understand the most basic information about the location, access and use of your client’s data, and the files you need to run your practice.  At a minimum, ask where the servers physically reside; who has access to them and who is available to help you when there is an issue.
  • Don’t listen to any tech company looking to help you outsource your IT.  They are no more “IT” guys than they are legal project managers (or even remotely familiar with how things get done in a law firm).  Having a relative who works for a law firm is not really the standard I want to see from a company entrusted with my clients’ practices.  If an attorney who has had a successful practice is not somewhere on the corporate team, be especially wary and up your BS meter when the IT *cough* sales people start “helping” you.
  • Don’t click “OK” or “I Agree” until you READ the FULL Terms of Service. Period.  Don’t “skim” them. I don’t care who you know who is an attorney who says s/he uses it. Doesn’t matter what anyone else does – you have to read (and understand) the full TOS for yourself.  If and when you do hit “I Agree” – make sure to print the TOS to pdf or paper and put in a folder for future reference.  Many companies change their “on line” TOS, so you really do need a physical copy of what you actually agreed to.
  • Don’t sign up for a whole year because it is cheaper and you think you’ll be more committed. You won’t! You’ll just be out more money for a product you may or may not use (or which may or may not work for you and your firm). The reality is that these are all legal tech start-ups and may not be here in a year!  They also may not do what you are lead to believe when you sign up. Or perhaps it can, but you have to pay for and populate a third party add on or hire a consultant first.  The point is, always get a 30 or 60 day free trial before you buy into anything and actually test it during the free period to see what YOU can get it to do without investing more than a few hours of your time.
  • Don’t have only one way to connect to the internet. When your data, files and client information ONLY RESIDE in the cloud – and you can’t get a connection – then what? Sit around and do nothing until you get service back? No! Use an alternate method to connect to the web - even a dial up or your cell phone is better than nothing.

Does the above mean that a cloud application is NOT for you. No. But you do need to be aware of your options and the risks involved when migrating business functions and/or client data to the cloud.

You also need to be aware of when you are being sold – and it is just as true for attorneys as anyone else – if it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it is.

No piece of technology or shiny object will magically give you back hours every week or get the paying work done and out the door.  The fact is, many make simple processes far more complex and time consuming than the average solo needs; and a few require you to pay and incorporate third party products or hire on consultants in order to make their tech actually do that which you were told it would when you were sold.

For a more comprehensive review, here is a link to the most downloaded report on LegalTypist.com:  The Sorry State of Legal Practice Management Software and here’s a link to the latest, independent and credible review by Oklahoma attorney Jeffrey Taylor (aka The Droid Lawyer) : Cloud-based Practice Management: A Comparative Review <-and Jeffrey’s not old either!

If you want to hear what I have to say about a specific product, join me in New York City for my workshop: Putting Efficiency Into Practice – Organizing Any Law Firm in Under 4 Hours or as my favorite curmudgeon calls it:  How To Manage Your Practice (And Not To Be A Major Screw Up) http://t.co/1ab7uACAey

LegalTypist Workshop: Organize My Law Practice

Attention: Attorneys – Are You Ready To Do Something About How Things Get Done At The Office Once And For All?

You Are Personally Invited To An Exclusive

4 Hour Workshop

Wednesday October 29th 10am-2pm

EARLY BIRDS SAVE $100 PER TICKET!
Workshop Live at

THE NEW YORK CITY BAR
42 W. 44th St. New York, NY 10036
$299 $199 Early Bird

Seating is limited – grab your ticket now!

Eventbrite - Organize My Practice In 4 Hours Or Less

This is an exclusive and intense 4 hour workshop with legal Virtual Assistant and national speaker Andrea Cannavina who will teach you how to organize the processes, people and technology of your office so the administration and routine business functions are performed as efficiently as possible.

Join Andrea on October 29, and let her show you how to get your office and business processes in tip top shape and efficiently working for you.

With respect to practice systems and workflow, Andrea has been a God-send. She has the experience and perspective to help me find ways to work more efficiently. She has been an important part of me being able to manage my practice and cases in a less reactive manner. Additionally, Andrea has helped me identify ways to use and manage my staff better. What I initially thought was going to be simply occasional assistance with overflow dictation has become an invaluable resource for managing my practice.

David H. Ogwyn, Esq.


This workshop was designed specifically for busy attorneys who need to:

  • get and stay organized
  • perform the client work and business functions of a law firm as efficiently as possible
  • build and/or maintain a credible web presence

Andrea has been working on and through the web as a legal virtual assistant for over a decade. In that time she has seen a lot of techs/services/companies come and go and she has learned a lot of lessons along the way. Each lesson came at a cost – wasted time, focus and/or money.

You don’t have to learn from the school of hard knocks! Join Andrea in New York City on October 29th and benefit from what she knows works and, more importantly, what she knows does not.

Put Efficiency Into Practice™

Organize Any Law Firm in 4 Hours or Less

Wednesday, October 29th – 10am-2pm
New York City Bar Association | 42 West 44th Street, New York

Eventbrite - Organize My Practice In 4 Hours Or Less

Don’ t know if you want to invest the time or if it is worth the cost? Here’s what is covered:

10:00 am Welcome and Introduction

10:15 am Taking Inventory

We take a good look at the equipment, software and processes you currently have in place to perform common business functions – word processing, email, calendar, time and billing, reception, appointment setting, new client intake, data entry, filing, scanning, faxing, back up. We give specific tools to assess current technology and tips for upgrading, integrating and purchasing at the best possible prices.

11:00 am Maximizing Efficiencies – Part I – Systems

Systems and the effective use of delegation and other long-standing tools to get and stay productive, including software and tactics to help even the most organized-challenged and/or techno-phobic do what they need to do faster and easier.

11:45 pm Break for hydration, caffeine, nibbles and refreshments (provided) while you charge, journal, ponder, return calls, or even take a walk. Just come back refreshed and ready for more!

12:15 pm Maximizing Efficiencies – Part II – How To’s

We cover your options for the collection, access and storage of email, data and files; on-going workflow; options to collaborate securely and getting your office as paperless as practical.

1:00 pm Websites, Blogs, Social Media

The purpose, design, functions and realities of having a credible web presence, along with targeted tools for efficiently maintaining that presence across multiple platforms.

1:45 pm Closing Announcements

Eventbrite - Organize My Practice In 4 Hours Or Less

Those who know Andrea know she will help you with a click of her keyboard. Before you’ve ever finished the sentence, ‘Can you help me with…? she’s figured out a solution. Seriously! She’s sharp, generous and very, very skilled.

Susan Cartier Liebel Founder Solo Practice University®

This Workshop fills the gap – where the education you received to do what you do just doesn’t meet the realities of running a modern day law practice. Our workshops are part education and part implementation – so when you leave you are ready to put what you have learned into action.

This Workshop is perfect if you have ever experienced:

  • the stresses of juggling the who’s, what’s, where and with what business gets done
  • those constantly looking for things – files, names and numbers, dates
  • the frustration of knowing you have to do something to get more organized, but the despair of not knowing how to start

We get you quickly up to speed and get you on your way with proven and practical systems, processes and technology.

About Presenter:

Andrea Cannavina has been actively testing the technologies available to attorneys and law firm administrators in order to get the attorney-client work product and time and billing done for 10+ years. She is the force behind LegalTypist and The Legal Connection and has spoken at national, state and local bar association/tech conferences. Andrea is known primarily by her twitter handle: @LegalTypist She blogs anything worthy of more than 140 keystrokes here

For Those of You Still On the Fence . . .

Now, if you’re thinking about coming but have thoughts like these:

  1. It’s too expensive;
  2. I can’t afford the time away;
  3. I don’t think I can ever be organized.

I have spoken with attorneys, assistants, administrators, private investigators and more – people just like you – for over 13 years. Here’s what they say after we speak:

  1. I wish I had found you sooner;
  2. I had no idea you existed;
  3. We brag on you all the time.

Eventbrite - Organize My Practice In 4 Hours Or Less

Can I bring along my Assistant?

Absolutely! If you are an attorney and you have an assistant you wish to bring along – we have a limited number of Assistant tickets available at half price.  If any are still available, you will be given the option to purchase an “Assistant” ticket after you complete your registration. Assistants and Paralegals are also welcome to attend alone, but must be registered through a law firm/attorney, and are charged at full price.

Will you get continuing legal education credit?

No. This is no boring CLE!! Andrea covers a lot of  information that you can put into practice right away to save you time, money and wasted focus <-much more valuable than CLE credit!

Can’t make it to the live event?

Sign up for our virtual workshop – where we break down this important and timely information into 4 hour long sessions:

November 4, 7, 11, 14

December 2, 4, 9, 11

Additional session added at year end!

December 15, 16, 17, 18

By organizing before year end – you will be ready to launch into 2015 with all systems a go!  Take some time and invest now in organizing your office and it’s systems and do not go through another year wasting so much time looking for things and stressed out over the office. Finally put in place mechanisms for the work to stop piling up and just get done.

guarantee
You do get Andrea’s personal guarantee – if what she has to share doesn’t work for you and your practice, she will give you your money back. No questions asked. She’s that confident that you will leave with far more information, resources and actionable steps than the administration of your practice has seen in years!

 

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3 Reasons Why I Don’t Talk About Virtual Assistants Very Often

Here’s 3 reasons you do not hear me speak of “virtual assistants” very often:

1.  It’s a really sucky title that has various meanings depending on who is using the words.  While I contend that the word “assistant” by definition, requires a human being – the term virtual assistant has been used by various technologies when referring to any manner of tech which, in some instances, tries to suggest that it is able to do as good as, if not a better job … THAN A LIVE, THINKING, EXPERIENCED HUMAN BEING.

Think about it. Do you really think you will ever be able to say “Open a new file, here’s the info … to a computer and have it do the 7-22 different things that need to be done? Nope.  But you can still say it, and it can still be done and you can still use tech to make the telling/doing parts all digital and efficient – but you still need THE LIVE THINKING BRAIN on receiving end.

Which leads to…

2.  I used to get the deer in the headlights reaction from people over the “virtual” part of my title; now it’s an almost knee-jerk, adamant reaction to the “assistant” part. “I don’t NEED an assistant! I know how to use a computer!”  <-of course you do, nimrod!  Just because you know how to use a computer does not negate the need for someone to help with the administration and day to day work of running a law firm so you can be a successful lawyer.

For those who wish to argue this point with me … just click away from my site right now and go play with your gadgets and keep searching for the perfect tech mix that will magically just make it all work.   I’ll be here when you don’t WANT to be the one doing it all and figuring it all out – you just want to tell someone to do things and they get done.

3.  There are not very many “virtual assistants” who have credibility. Most are wanna bes or not really what they advertise or can accomplish virtually …. especially for lawyers …. consistently.   Those who have stood the test of time, for the most part, do not offer services of processing the day to day workflow and data entry of law firms – like long time VA bud Tina Marie Hilton of Clerical Advantage who commands a much higher rate for web/marketing/strategy/design than she ever could to keep time and billing current or process the opening of new files.

So, I have no credible “virtual assistant” connections to refer to … except my own company and well… to refer to your own services is just bad digital juju.

One point – it’s not that I didn’t TRY to find credible “legal virtual assistants” … I even put up a web site that people could join and be part of the free directory … open to the public… no charge.  All they had to do was fill in the form.  Guess who filled in the form?  Paralegals.  Freelance paralegals.  Not that they are not all professionals in their own right – but if you have never heard me and Ms. Pamela discussing it – there is a HUGE difference between an assistant and a freelance paralegal <-pssst they compliment each other!

So three you have it! 3 very valid reasons why I do not speak of “virtual assistants” very often.

Get Your Inbox, To Dos and Calendar Organized

Tired of the piles of paper

Tired of the piles of paper

We all know it. If you are not organized, you are going to be wasting a great deal of time looking for things – papers, dates, names and numbers.  Over the years, I created and refined a system to help get your inbox and all the information that travels through email organized; and more recently I found another system which helps with my paper journal.

I have always used paper and have carried a journal since opening the doors of LegalTypist in 2001. I started with a Staples branded calendar that was absolutely perfect … then they discontinued it (grrrr) so, I decided to go as generic as I could, and for years I’d use/carry a Mead 3 subject notebook. However, I came to realize it was way too clunky and big; so a few years back I upgraded to a Moleskine <-and I now carry the Evernote version (which you can buy here).

Let me first get you up to speed on DAFT:

DAFT Your Way To Organized!

DAFT is my personal productivity system and it stands for Defer, Act, File and Toss.  It is a process that is tech agnostic and tends to works particularly well for getting an out of control email inbox organized. You can download the full process/system/ebook (2011 version) here <-yep – it’s free!

The first edition of DAFT Your Way To Organized! was published in the mid-2000s and in 2008, it was picked up by TechnoLawyer and turned into a TechnoFeature: Move Over David Allen A Better Way To Get Things Done.

I have shared this process with hundreds (if not thousands) of attorneys, administrators, assistants and business people/entrepreneurs and I always receive thanks and wonderful comments on how it helps.

Download a copy; give yourself 20 minutes or so to read/ absorb; and see if maybe DAFT is what you’ve needed to get a handle on your inbox.

Now on to Bullet Journal:

What is  BulletJournal:

A little more than a year ago, I found and started testing BulletJournal. Since I rarely recommend a tech/process without first giving a thorough testing – I’ve sat and ruminated on BulletJournal just like I did NetDocuments and Firm Central. Unlike these other techs which help law firms get and stay organized but require a monthly fee – BulletJournal is absolutely free.

Why do I like BulletJournal?

I equate what BulletJournal has done to my paper planner as DAFT was able to do for my email and inbox – just a simple, effective way to get and and keep it organized.

The fact that it only takes 2 minutes to learn the entire BulletJournal system is just an extra special bonus! <-ok and I’m a bit jealous as I thought condensing 20 pages of DAFT into 4 for the TechnoFeature was quite a feat!!

While I wholeheartedly recommend the BulletJournal process to my clients and contacts, I have made some (rather significant) modifications to the BulletJournal system which I plan on sharing in future posts <-so keep an eye on this blog or put your email into the box in the upper right so you’ll get future posts via email (or use the RSS function to pull the blog into Outlook, etc.)

Between DAFT and my tweaked version of the BulletJournal process, my paper and digital – calendar, to dos and notes are completely organized and I spend virtually no time at all figuring out what I need to be doing; or where I’ve spent my time.

I hope you will give one or both of the above freebies a try and see if they work for you (and if they do, c’mon back and leave a comment)!

Wish I was at ILTA14

What’s ILTA14 you ask?

ILTA stands for the International Legal Technology Association and their HUGE annual conference being held in Nashville this week. With over 400 speakers, ILTA14 is all about education and with a combined 3500 or so in attendence – it gives off a very LTNY-like vibe.

Since this week also happens to be a vacation week for the Cannavina clan, my reports on the conference will be mostly to posts and reviews by my trusted sources – people like Mark I Unger and Monica Sandler - Jeffrey Brandt and Ben Schorr.

Before I left the office, I was able to put together a list of some of the #legalchat folks who are at #ITLA14 and it already makes for an intelligent on-going flow of insights, links and commentary:



[NOTE:  If you are a #legalchat peep at #ILTA14 and you do not see yourself on the list - please DM @LegalTypist or email me your twitter ID]

I’d like to give a quick HT to @MLSandler for her offer to have me Skype into her tablet for a little live face to face time a la Max Headroom.  Sadly, installing Skype on the laptop proved to cause it to have issues which uninstalling/reinstalling and even doing a System Restore before resintall could not resolve.

Like I always say, tech is great … when it works.

Could It Be Your Greeting?

Update [8-5-14]: One day after my post, Carolyn Elefant <- who I have known for years and with whom I collaborated with on The 21st Century Retainer Agreement, published her thoughts on live phone answering and included 3 services for attorneys to check out.*  You can see Carolyn’s article on Above the Law here.

Now back to our original post …. (hee):

I hear and read a lot about how live phone answering helps gain potential clients.  Seems that some believe if they pay for live phone answering, they will get less hang ups.

If you have not recently investigated the cost of live phone answering, it’s quite a hefty expense.  Is it worth it?

That can only be determined on a business by business basis, however, I’d like to point out that the problem with potential clients hanging up when not connecting to a live human being could be less about it being a tech/process, than it may be about the actual greeting they hear.

In this day and age, most people are accustomed to voicemail in business. If they are genuinely interested in seeing if you are the lawyer for them vs. window shopping or just twitchy with a long google list of local lawyers who may help – you probably don’t want them as a client anyway!

That said, you still want to convey the most professional of images, and if the message new callers hear is you, yourself doing the speaking – changing the voice to someone other may help.

People just imagine attorneys in an office with secretaries – like MadMen. Help them with this idea of bustling activity by using a  female voice if you are a male; or Murphy Brown ‘em and make it a male voice if you’re a female attorney.  The whole point is, make it another person’s voice in the greeting to help your callers imagine a firm and not just a harried attorney.

Bringing me to – I’ve heard some pretty distracted/bored/hurried recorded greetings by attorneys in my time - so if you just HAVE to be the one doing the recording, try scripting something nice and recording it properly (as in, not from your cell phone while you’re running into a building for a meeting).

If you’d like to listen to a scripted and professionally produced greeting that has served me well for years (I get compliments all the time) AND it only cost me an additional one-time fee of $25 – dial 1-866-848-2195 and have a listen. You can also dial x101 if ya’d like to say ‘hello’ :)

As for accessibility – I don’t know when attorneys started to feel they needed to be accessible  24/7.  I know criminal attorneys have always felt that way and used to wear/carry beepers for that reason; however, most clients do not need to have 24/7 access to their attorney; and a beeper still provided 1 layer of tech against instant access.

I honestly believe that no one should be THAT accessible.  I advise attorneys to give their direct cell phone number to family and friends ONLY.  Everyone else should get the office number – either a VoIP or a unified messaging service number – and that number should forward callers to your actual cell phone.**

By only giving clients and potential clients the VoIP/UM number – you never have to worry about  getting a call or text at 3am from a distraught person who may or may not have retained you – but who definitely should have stopped drinking hours ago!

The lines of home and office get so blurry that you really need to have to set times when you are not available for work/clients, or you will go insane because you’ll be working ALL the time.  You can’t be on ALL the time and not burn out. You also can’t be the only one doing it all… but that’s a topic for another post.

By putting in place the tech to process calls vs. letting them connect directly to your cell, you will get one step closer to being more balanced as you will always have the option to take the call or not.  It’s all in the set up and how many options you have to get at your information, not how accessible you are.

For more information on the topic of balance, here’s the latest BYOB Podcast with LA attorney David Ogwyn – who shares 5 tips to find balance in your practice and so much more:

David OgwynBalancing Your Practice with David Ogwyn

 *Sign up for the newsletter as in the next issue I’ll be giving my thoughts on why 2 of the companies mentioned in the Above the Law article are not even worth the time to test
**The tech I use for incoming call (and fax) management is Onebox

Dictate!?! But I Can Type


I am often asked by those who consider themselves fast typists why they would bother to learn to dictate and/or delegate.

First off, not all typing is straight typing or drafting of lengthy legal documents. A great deal of typing work is data entry and manipulation of data from within specialized software.  Data entry work tends to be pretty boring and yet requires exacting attention to detail.

When I get that question, I almost always respond with:  “You may not mind typing; but do you  want to be the one who HAS to do it – all the time?”

Which generally gets a chuckle or a “I never thought of it THAT way.”

Delegation via voice is what turns dictation from just creating properly formatted documents without spending hours behind your keyboard into true collaboration between attorney and assistant.

If you can tell your assistant what to do, and s/he knows how and can do it, then:  (a) you don’t have to; (b) you can choose when you do that task vs. delegating and maximizing your time; or (c) simply when you don’t want to do something you can very quickly shift it from your task list to theirs.

Attorneys have been using delegation via voice for decades. Let me know if you’re an attorney and you’d like to give it a try. Mention this post, and receive a special discount too!

Why Organizing Time Capture Matters

 

clock

Whether you bill by the hour or as flat fees, as a service professional, tracking your time is one of the most important pieces of the billing pie.  This is because irrespective of what you ultimately collect for your efforts, without tracking your time, you will never be able to calculate if you are charging enough or if you are profitable.

Tracking time and getting paid for it is part of the day to day workflow of any business, and having the right process, tech and people in place to capture, record, track, invoice and, most importantly, collect on your receivables is extremely important to the health of your business.

In an upcoming post, I will go over some of the techs I recommend to organize the time capture process, but before doing so I need to stress – just adding new tech to the mix will NOT solve your time and billing issues.

You will need to DO something different; and you will need to make the new process a habit.  This means, sometimes you will have to FORCE yourself to work the new way.  However, once you see how much time you’ve “lost”, and your receivables take a big jump because you are accurately tracking your time, that’s when positive reinforcement and the rewards of working the new way kick in and tracking time is no longer a chore but something you are happy to add to your daily to do.  Until you get there, you may need to kick your own ass a bit is all I’m saying!

Not only do you get increased and steady cash flow as a reward to organizing the time capture process, you also gain a better administrative view of your business, as you also capture all the general office/non-billable time in your day so you can begin to see what tasks may best be performed by someone other than you (aka delegate).

So, the rewards of organizing the time capture process are: increased and steady cash flow; a better sense of control over your time; and a better administrative view of your practice.

My next post on organizing the time capture process will give practical considerations and ways to capture your time – from a good old paper time sheet (<-downloadable as a pdf) – to apps and digital doodads for those more electronically inclined.

If you have not already done so, subscribe to the blog using RSS or input your email address above to get the next post delivered directly to your inbox!

 

Top 3 Tweets | 3rd Week of May 2014

Top 3 Tweets

  1. Wow is right! RT @satstokes FL bar alleges that lawyers set up DWI arrest of another lawyer http://ow.ly/wMIIT
  2. 7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome http://ow.ly/wMRGO
  3. Did not know -> Google acquired gmail.com from Garfield, the cartoon cat. See 25 Years of Internet infographic: http://ow.ly/x0AOs