Monthly Archives: September 2009

LegalTypist Answers – twitter

As LegalTypist, I get lots of questions.

They come by e-mails sent to question@legaltypist.com, or through the AskAndrea form located on my site www.lawfirmsolutions.com; and, more and more, from those who set up a complimentary call through my main site, www.legaltypist.com.

They come from all types of people:  attorneys, full time parents, those who want to work from home, legal vendors; law firm staff, doctors, insurance companies and general business people.

Today, I’m going to cover three of the more popular questions I get about twitter.   Mostly from those not using twitter, or those who have opened a twitter account but have not really started tweeting much.  Of course, if this post sparks any questions you may have, please feel free to ask!

1.  How do I get more followers?

I get this one all the time.  When it’s the first question, I know I have someone on the line looking to market/sell something.  FACT: marketing and selling, of any kind, is seriously frowned upon by your followers.  If your intent going in is to build up followers so you can sell something some day, don’t.  Once you blow your digital credibility, it’s gone.

Think about it, when you go to face to face networking events, do you shout out “Buy my stuff!”?  Of course not! Just as that does not work in the “real” world of networking, it will not work in the world of digital networking.

So how do you get more followers?  The quick answer:   Time.

Start by building up who you follow, read what they have to say, and then join in the conversation by adding your own relevant, educational or entertaining tidbits.

Do not try to follow too many at once.  The whole point is to get to know peeps and for them to get to know, like and trust you.  If you’re following 10,000 people, chances are your twitterstream is going to be so voluminous, you won’t be able to keep up with all the conversations, information and such being tweeted.  Keep the number of peeps you follow small at first and build your network slowly.  The followers will find you.

2.  How often do I tweet?

This is a difficult question to answer.  It depends.  So long as your tweets have value to your followers, you can tweet as often as you wish.

I caution those just starting out to build up their twitter time – start by taking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to poke your head in and see what’s going on – perhaps RT (retweet) one or two interesting tweets.  Even though tweets can only be 140 characters, the good ones will lead you to blog posts, articles and other lengthy material – so twitter is a lot of reading and can take up a lot of time.

Once you become proficient at twitter, you will find you will work out your own schedule.  For instance,  I prefer to check my twitter stream about once an hour.

I do caution new users not to (a) get sucked into to twitter – you will go on information overload; and (b) to not tweet in fits and spurts.  No one likes it when an otherwise silent peep shoots out 15 tweets in a row.

3.  I’ve gotten a lot of followers.  Is there a program to help me manage all my twitter traffic?

There are several third party apps you can use to manage twitter.  One of the most popular is TweetDeck; however, I prefer to use TwInbox (formerly OutTwit).  I frown upon TweetDeck because it requires you to agree to terms and processes which I am not comfortable with (i.e., Adobe Air – which has known security implications).

I enjoy TwInbox because it works right from within Outlook – so there was nothing new for me to learn.  I want to sort tweets by sender, save a tweet or send it along to someone who is not on twitter – I just use the same processes as I do for e-mail.

I hope the above answers and resources help.  For those of you just starting out, I have a lot more information in my e-book: twitter 101 which can be downloaded for free from my site’s twitter page: http://www.legaltypist.com/twitter

Of course, if you have a twitter or other question not answered here or in my e-book, please set up a free call, fill out the AskAndrea form put it in an e-mail addressed to question@legaltypist.com.

What Annoys Law Firms & How LegalTypist Avoids IT

One of the bonuses of attending ABATechShow was I got to pick up a few of  the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) publications, including the 2008 ILTA Technology Survey.  This survey consisted of responses from approximately 500 firms ranging in size from 1 – 500+ and confirmed a few of the biggest annoyances at any size law firm are:

  • e-mail management,
  • the high cost of software maintenance, and
  • user’s acceptance to change.

Now let me tackle each of the above in terms of my service based business which helps law firms of all sizes.

Law Firm Annoyance #1 – E-mail Management

In running my own business for over 8 years, I learned of the darker side of of e-mail – the security risks,  administrative headaches and time suck it becomes a long time ago.  Hence, the tech I use and recommend almost always works independent of e-mail. I understand, the last thing anyone needs is MORE e-mail!

In fact, I was so swamped with e-mail all the time that I searched for years for a system to help me handle it all.  When I couldn’t find a system that worked for me, I created one:  D-A-F-T Your Way To Organized! which was featured by Technolawyer as “Move Over David Allen, A Better Way To Get Things Done“.

However, since LegalTypist’s tech doesn’t require the use of e-mail, how do we get the files and documents securely back and forth with the 100′s of attorneys who use us for their every day work?  That’s easy!

LegalTypist’s tech includes small programs which are installed on end user PCs to automate the transfer processes; there is a network version for larger firms; or users simply log in to their web based accounts from anywhere and click a few buttons to securely up/download the files.  Viola! less e-mail, better security and the work just gets done.

Law Firm Annoyance # 2 – Costly Software Maintenance

Now that we’ve discussed how LegalTypist removes e-mail from the workflow process, how do we remove costly software? Again, that’s easy!

If you can dial a toll free number and remember a user ID, you can literally speak your needs and get your work done from any telephone.  LegalTypist’s web based tech negates the need for costly desktop resident or server based software.  Of course, if you have a dictator who prefers to use a portable recorder or software, they can – it’s just not necessary in order to use LegalTypist to get the work done.

Our tech is maintained on US soil by a company who has been providing court reporting and medical transcription services for generations.  In fact, all of LegalTypist’s tech, people and processes are resident on US soil.  I believe in outsourcing, but not offshoring!

Now that we’ve covered how LegalTypist avoids two of the most common law firm annoyances: e-mail and software maintenance costs, let’s get to the real core of the issue as I see it which is annoyance # 3: user’s acceptance to change.

Law Firm Annoyance #3 – User’s Acceptance of Change

The above heading should say user’s resistance to change!  I know, I wrote about that one a long time ago in my article:  The Top Three Reasons Law Firms Aren’t Using Digital Dictation

In fact, it came in at…

Number 1: “We don’t like change.”

I am not kidding! I have heard this exact phrase more times than I care to admit!

Other than, of course, this response helping me to realize that firms can take forever to reach a decision, it presents quite a conundrum. Why? When upgrading to digital, not much actually changes in the process for the dictator. In fact, Olympus and other major manufacturers even have portable digital recorders in their professional line that have a slide switch. Truly, a digital recorder which mimics an analog recorder’s functions.

Therefore, when properly configured, other than the fact that an attorney does not have to get up from his chair to hand a tape to his secretary (or leave on her chair), when upgrading to digital, dictators do not “do” anything different.

Although I no longer recommend Olympus products*, everything stated above remains the same – even 4-5 years later!

When done correctly, there is no change when it comes to upgrading from tape based dictation to digital.  In fact, how each end user prefers to get their work done can easily be accommodated – standardizing the process, but with enough flexibility to make it an easy adoption no matter how someone prefers to process their work.

In fact, I’m fond of saying that LegalTypist was built to be platform independent – we don’t care what you use on your end (portable recorder, telephone, dictation software, your own personal mobile device’s recording functions) – the only two questions I need answered is:

Word or WordPerfect? and

Do you need contact, calendar and fax management?

Of course, I ask a lot more questions, but the above two are the only I must have the answer to in order to set up a new client/firm.

That’s because, as advanced as the tech used by LegalTypist is (it holds 2 patents), it is not the reason why LegalTypist is the best option for any size firm when upgrading to a digital workflow. The tech is only half of the process.  It’s the people that make all the difference.  LegalTypist is not just a tech solution – it is an entire business process solution – tech + peeps.

As I have often said, you cannot take the live, thinking brain out of the  process and end up with the same caliber of work product.  Anyone who has spoken their wishes to their own experienced legal assistant/secretary knows what I am talking about.

In the end, I believe I owe the on-going success of LegalTypist to the fact that I set up my processes to be as independent of software, hardware and tech as possible.  The fact that doing so also removed much of  what the ILTA survey says annoys law firms… well, that’s a bonus!

_______

*Olympus recently developed a proprietary file type (.ds2) – meaning you have to purchase Olympus transcription software in order to listen/manipulate to the file.  Who needs to spend MORE money?!?

E-mail Etiquette: 9 Easy Tips for Anyone Using E-mail

According to a Pitney Bowes study, the average corporate executive receives upwards of 375 calls, voicemails, e-mails, faxes and letters each day. With such a deluge of information, is it any surprise that survey after survey indicates the time available to capture anyone’s attention is only a few seconds?

Let’s face it, who has time to listen to a five minute rambling voicemail full of umms and ahhs or scroll through a six page e-mail? Along with annoying the recipient, long winded messages that are not deleted are usually flagged for review at a later time, slowing the process and in some instances removing the productivity of digital communications altogether.

So how do you effectively use the digital communication tools of today? Here’s a few tips I’ve learned during my five years of working virtually:

  1. Slow Down. Just because you can shoot off an e-mail within seconds of having a thought or leave a voicemail immediately following a question entering consciousness, does not necessarily mean you should! All messages should be short and to the point and respectful of the recipient’s time. By taking a few moments to mull over your message, you may stumble across a resolution or additional points which need to be addressed may come to light.
  2. Be Professional At All Times. Yes, that joke your buddy sent you last night was a hoot, but you should never forward such communications to business contacts. To protect against spam, you also should not disclose your recipient’s e-mail addresses when sending to a group. Using the “bcc” (blind carbon copy) field for multiple addresses and placing your own e-mail address in the “To” field shows you are respectful of your contacts’ privacy. It also provides you with a “proof” copy of what you sent to check formatting or other issues which can affect the message by transmission through the Internet.
  3. Carefully Use “Forward to All” and “Reply to All” Functions. I have witnessed embarrassing moments of others (and recall my own painful “oops” in this regard) when messages intended only for the original sender, are, in fact, sent to everyone who may have been cc’d or even bcc’d on the original message or post. Best not to use either button at all. If you wish to respond to a message, hit “Forward” and fill in the addressee(s) as any other e-mail.
  4. Do A Full Read Of Each E-mail. With each e-mail, always read through your message from start to finish before hitting “Send”. This last reading is crucial in catching any missing information or attachments and allows you to get a full understanding of the “tone” of your message.  On important communications, I suggest a break between drafting and this final read.  Sometimes a trip away from your PC to get a drink or use the facilities will make you “fresh” for the final review and help you catch those typos or grammatical errors even spell checkers miss!
  5. Formatting Counts. Formatting does count and every e-mail message should contain proper formatting, punctuation and grammar. Think back to those grade school days of essay writing and give each message a greeting/opening, middle, closing and signature too. Remember, every message should contain enough information for the recipient to understand what you need or what they need to do in response to your communication. As a courtesy, it should also include copies of any documents or previous communications referenced, if not overly large.
  6. Ask and Ye Shall Receive. Receive permission before sending any large attachments (movies, pictures and sound files are notoriously large). Sending large attachments may cause some inboxes to reach their size limit.  If this happens, the recipient must log in and download or delete your message in order to receive any further e-mails from any source – almost guaranteeing they will not think kindly of you from that point forward.
  7. Be Polite. In e-mails, do not use all CAPITALS as it is considered shouting.
  8. Be Clear. Do not use acronyms or cryptic shorthand in your messages. Not only will the recipient not understand your message, in many times they will feel “stupid” for not being able to figure it out!
  9. Keep The Subject Line Intact. When replying to messages, especially to groups and list servs, do not change the subject line. Many e-mail applications allow a sort by subject, giving subscribers the ability to follow a particular discussion “thread” provided the subject line is not altered.

No matter what your life circumstances, it is hard to escape the need to use some form digital communication. I hope these pointers are helpful to you. Comments and feedback always appreciated: andrea@legaltypist.com or fill in your comments below.

If you’d like a free copy of “E-mail Etiquette” by Judith Kallos, send a blank e-mail to support@legaltypist.com with “Free ebook” in the subject line.

Virtual Don'ts No. 2

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2.  Use a public e-mail address.

I know, I know… I hear it all the time.  But Google is FREE and they provide me with so much storage.  I have followed lots of discussions recently on the perception of public e-mail addresses vs. private.  It ranged from the “you’re just a snob” to “branding is branding – why brand Google?”

Personally, on the perception front, I think anything but a private domain shows a lack of digital savvy.   Why?  Registering a domain and using it just for e-mail is not hard.  In fact, you can read the first Virtual Don’t in this series to learn just how easy it is.

I don’t recommend using a public e-mail address for more than just the branding/perception factor – I say don’t use a public e-mail address due to security and access issues.

For instance, were you recently one of the Gmail users who was unable to log in due to a Google server glitch? What if that was the one day you had to get at that one message in order to close the biggest deal of your career?  Ooops!

In any event, using a free, public service is cheap, but you give up control, true privacy and even access to information which may make or break you.   You also lose the ability to brand and connect with your e-mail recipients.  It takes 7-10 times for someone to even remember you – and the From and e-mail signature line are 2 opportunities to get your domain in front of the eyes and in the minds of your prospects and connections.

So the question isn’t really why not use a free/public e-mail service – but why give up privacy, control, access and two valid opportunities to get your domain seen by each e-mail recipient?

Virtual Dont's – #1

Yesterday I published a post entitled “A Quick List of What You Shouldn’t Do When Going Virtual” wherein I listed 9 items one should NOT do.  Throughout the coming days I will take each item listed and explain why it is a definite “virtual don’t”.

The first item on yesterday’s list was:

1.  Let someone else register your domain

I like to consider my domains as web real estate and just as you need your name on the deed to own the property in the real world, you need your name as registrar to own the domain in the web world.

Many web hosts/developers will offer to register your domain for you – but they neglect to tell you that they are placing their name as owner and their e-mail address as the administrative contact.  As such, they will be notified and provided with the option to renew, not you.

This means should you change hosts or developers, they either have to transfer the domain to you (and in many instances will charge you a hefty fee for the transfer); or even worse, let your domain registration lapse, which could allow someone else to scoop it up.

To avoid either of these scenarios, simply register your domain yourself.

Registering a domain is not hard – you don’t need any special coding skills or anything like that.  My preferred registrar is GoDaddy – they’ve been around a long time and in the 8+ years I’ve been registering domains, I’ve never had a problem with their service.

In a nutshell, you open an account with GoDaddy, research your preferred domain, when you find one you like and that is available, you buy it.  Cost is about $10 for the year; and every year you will need to renew.

As GoDaddy is really into the upsell, you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of each page during the order process to find the link that says “No Thanks”.  You don’t need webhosting, traffic building or any of the other offers – and I don’t recommend you host with GoDaddy – just register your domain through them.

The only item you’d need to consider is how many years you wish to register.  I typically register for 1 or 2 years and make sure that there is no automatic renewal.  Unlike a first time buyer, I have 60+ domains so having to manually renew each gives me the opportunity to determine if I still wish to develop that particular domain.

You don’t have to worry that you will forget to renew – GoDaddy sends out a ton of reminders to the administrative e-mail for each domain getting ready to expire.

Given the potential pitfalls of not registering a domain yourself, along with how easy and inexpensive it is to register a domain – don’t let anyone else do it for you.

Of course, if you have questions or need help, I’m here for you.  Simply set up an call with me and I’ll walk you through it (and help you brainstorm too).

A Quick List Of What You Shouldn't Do When Going Virtual

  1. Let someone else register your domain
  2. Use a free e-mail service
  3. Route files or information through any free service
  4. Not consider security, accessibility or the value of any tech you put in place
  5. Not set up appropriate physical work space
  6. Use Google for anything but research, picture storage or to store/organize e-mails from public list servs or all those ezines you sign up for
  7. Use more tech than you need
  8. Fall for anyone who says they have a system, program or other get rich quick scheme
  9. Think you only need a business plan and not an operations manual

Throughout the coming days I will expand on each one of the above items.