Monthly Archives: September 2010

Q. What printer do you recommend? A. I recommend …

I recommend the Brother Laser MFCs – they have a document feeder, can print, scan, fax, copy and even reasonably OCR.

I have the 7420.  I use it for the normal stuff, printing, copying, scanning, out bound faxing when its just easier to dial the digits (such as those pesky IRS notices I have to get to my accountant).  The Brother is plugged into the landline and so is my accountant’s fax machine, so there’s no worry about encryption or the chance interception of sensitive information over the internet. ;)

I also have online fax through my Onebox account.  I primarily use Onebox for the incoming – calls, voicemails, faxes because I have access to the files, messages and documents that are in my account from anywhere.  I download directly to where needed and delete the rest.

Back to why I recommend Brother MFCs… I also like Brothers as they have a small footprint, automatic document feeders, hold a decent amount of paper and are TWAIN compliant.  Being TWAIN compliant means they play nice nice with other tech such as Dymo File below.

I have heard some complain that their Brother printers seem to have issues with jamming when using envelopes.  I have a Dymo Twin Turbo and use that for labels so really have no need to print to anything but standard paper.  I’ve also heard they can be slow – so make sure any model you get is rated for 20 ppm (pages per minute) or above.

Now,Ross_SMALL_Headshot_10-2005 the best deals I have seen on Brother printers are when they go on sale at your local office supply chain store and at MicroCenter.  Of course, you can always check through http://www.pricegrabber.com (HT to Ross Kodner) to see if there are deals on line for one.

In the legal realm especially, there are those who swear by their Fujitsu ScanSnap (including Ross) but I have to point out there are differences.  Some downsides to a Scansnap are that it is not also fax/printer/copier AND you can only scan pages through it.  It does not have a flatbed scanner, like the Brother Laser MFCs.

If you scan a lot, you might want to look into DymoFile – which helps with the scan to file process by allowing you to create a reservation, print out a cover sheet with a bar code which you  place in front of the document to be scanned.  You can stack as many jobs together as you wish.  Whenever you get around to scanning, Dymo File reads the bar code and places the document immediately following the code into the proper folder.  No muss, no fuss (does NOT work with Scansnaps).

dymofile

(and smootches to Ms. Marilou for noticing I used  “complaint” instead of “compliant” – 2x!!)

Want a Home Based Office?

Before starting a home based office, here’s a quick list of things to consider:

1. Be certain running a home office is legal. Call your local county clerk and any other local governmental agency/home owner’s association/co-op board for approvals

2. You’ll need defined office space with a sturdy desk, good chair, proper lighting and file cabinet. A separate room is best but if space is tight – use a bookshelf and section off a work area. You should not be able to see your work surface from any part of your home living area.

3. Office equipment – desktop telephone, desktop computer, printer/scanner/copier/fax, smart phone and external hard drive.

4. Office technology – secure connection to the internet and clients’ technology or method to securely transfer files and information with each client, up to date anti-virus software and definitions, licensed software – word processing, e-mail, financial, any specialty software based on service offering, website domain; unified messaging account; off site back up; remote access tech.

5. Ground rules for established times for when you are literally “at work.” Make sure these ground rules are known and respected by all who share your living space. (This one is the toughest!)

It's That Wonderful Time of Year!

It's That Time of Year!I love Fall.  In fact, it’s my favorite season.  Something about the cool, crisp air – the colorful foliage – getting the kids back into the routine of school – Fall just makes me smile.

Fall is also the perfect time to review how your business is doing and where there may be room for improvement.  In fact, how many of you have been thinking it’s time to upgrade something – your computer, smartphone, website… but don’t have the time?  What about outsourcing – are you considering working with a virtual assistant/freelance paralegal/contract attorney?

If so, NOW is the time to start investigating your options and getting all your ducks in a row for a January 1 roll out.

You can’t upgrade everything all at once (without driving yourself nuts that is) so here’s a quick list of things which I consider a no-brainer for upgrade:

  1. If you don’t have an external hard drive AND off site back up in place – time to add.
  2. Smartphones nearing their expiration (best way to get a deal cuz you can threaten to go to another carrier).
  3. Ink jet printers.
  4. Non flat screen monitors.
  5. PCs more than 3-4 years old.
  6. Telephone service that is not VoIP.
  7. Tape based dictation.
  8. Blogger or WordPress.org sites.
  9. Software/desktop applications more than two versions old.
  10. Free anything – generally, if you’re not paying for it, you have no expectation of service or privacy.

This was just a quick list off the top of my head so please feel free to add by leaving a comment.

12 Things To Consider When Building A Website

Digital control

1.  It is not easy to create a website – whether you’re a DIYer or you hire someone.  It takes strategic planning, a sense of design and lots and lots of time.

2.  Half the people you hire to produce a website will take your money and walk away before the project is ever complete.  I’m not kidding.  This has been my experience in the past 10 or so years of being on the web.

3.  Do NOT hire the kid next door, that college kid down the street or your nephew to produce your website.  See number 2 above.

4.  There are many ways (programs and what not) to create a website – some much more intuitive than others.  Tip:  if your designer says “Drupal” or “Joomla” – know that you are going to have to add a few hours of their time training you how to do things.  (Web design programs are not as easy to pick up as word processing).

5.  The easiest program to pick up sans training would be WordPress (self hosted, not hosted on WordPress.org – but that’s another story).  Also, if your web host provides a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, 9 times out of 10 – it will be excruciatingly slow to use, and generally has very limited design/element options (vs a full featured application).

6.  If you have no idea how to create a call to action – hire a copywriter to create the words for your website.  As much as y’all know and work with the language – and you can be very persuasive – a legal argument and a call to action are not the same.  At the least, remove ALL legal jargon from your copy.  It turns people off. (Unless your target market is other attorneys.)

7.  You need clean code so if any designer says they are using FrontPage – run, don’t walk.

8.  If a company such as register.com or vistaprint offers to design you a site or a way you can create one from a template, understand that you invest the time and pay their fee, however, they generally keep the rights to everything, including the domain. So read any Terms of Service CAREFULLY from start to finish before you invest any resources in any “on line you can build it website” and be sure you and your email address are the registered admin contact for any domains you develop.

9.  The whole point is to get visitors to your site, and then make them do something: sign up for your list; download a free report/ebook; set up an appointment, subscribe to your RSS feed, follow you on twitter or otherwise engage with you.  If you have nothing for them to “do” in order to stay in touch with you, they won’t.

10.  To get the visitors and search engines to your site – you need to know what keywords they are using to search for you.  For instance, if you’re an attorney in Dallas that does family law – what would someone in Dallas place into Google to find you?  Certainly NOT your last name or your firm name – probably something generic like “Dallas divorce lawyer” or “cheap Dallas divorce lawyer” would probably be more accurate.  While you certainly don’t want to brand yourself as the cheap Dallas divorce lawyer, by sprinkling the term on a page or two (such as an article on why NOT to hire a cheap Dallas divorce lawyer), if someone types that exact phrase into Google, you will rank higher.  Keywords and SEO are not hard, if you plan from the start and use appropriate words throughout your digital doings.

11.  You do not need to have a website but you must have a domain, NOW.  Purchase a domain and start using it for your email – it helps with branding and will get your firm’s email processes into shape.  If you are using gmail for your practice communications, then you must also be aware that each word you use or receive is being indexed and analyzed.  What’s on google’s servers belongs to google.  The discount host I recommend is HostGater $12.95 per month for the business account gets you Cpanel – an easy way to administer the administrative functions, such as creating email addresses.

12.  Once you have your domain and email set up, go to http://www.LinkedIn.com and open an account.  Fill in your bio and add a PROFESSIONAL headshot  FYI, LinkedIn is considered professional networking whereas FaceBook is more personal.  Once you have a LinkedIn page, you can use that as a landing url/page for any articles you publish or comments you leave on blogs, etc. (at least until you get your website and blog set up.)  Also fill in your Google profile and open a gmail account for non-practice related communication such as ezine subscriptions, google alerts, twitter DMs – anything you don’t want clogging up your practice email.

There are virtual assistants who handle web design, ezine signup/maintainence, wordpress training etc.  In fact, just next week I’m hosting a webinar for my site LegalVA.com with Tina Marie Hilton, a VA who knows not only WordPress but the theme Headway.  It’s at noon ET on the 15th.  Go here to register or get more details: http://wordpressheadway.eventbrite.com