#3ThingThursday – 01/15/15 – #Thurs3at3



Busy is not the same as productive and your problems have nothing to do with not having enough time.  What you need is to get motivated – to change, to get organized and to know you can be more productive with less effort – but you have to DO something.

To start, here are 3 presenations to help inspire change and the realization that the path to balance/organization/efficiency/your most productive self … whatever you want to call it, starts with YOU making up your mind to be more productive/efficient/organized and then putting in place the systems, tech and people you need to get there.

  1. David Allen – The Art of Stress Free Productivity  learn from a master about why you need to get organized and how to start your journey to what I call intentional organization™ in this 20 minute YouTube TEDTalk
  2. Ernie the Attorney  talks about writing things down, Getting Things Done, Merlin Mann, systems, Moleskines, accessibility, brain bandwidth, creativity and more in Part 2 of this BYOB Podcast from 2011.
  3. Andrea Cannavina our own CEO of LegalTypist shares the process she created for wrangling email and all the information that travels through it – touching upon systems, David Allen, personalizing, inbox zero,  writing things down, digital credibility, proofing and more in this guest lecture for Solo Practice University: Using The DAFT™ System To Organize Your Workflow.

Get New Contact Into Outlook in 3 Easy Steps

Every time Outlook “upgrades” – I have to change how I do things. For instance, it used to be very easy to right click on a person’s name/email, click “add to Outlook” and the information would populate – a new contact window would open, ready for you to input further detail, such as the address or notes.

Now when you right click to add a contact, a pop up window with very little information pre-populated opens, and you have click on the + next to each tidbit of information before you click on the spot you enter that data and THEN you can do the data entry. <-that’s 2 / 3 clicks to get each piece of information in – telephone number, address, website… which literally takes FOREVER as compared to the “old” why to do it.

Since I know there is almost always 3 ways to do something in any Office product, I’ve been playing around with the quickest way to get my contacts saved and think I’ve got it to the fewest clicks.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Click on the name/email address of the person
Select “Add to Outlook” At this point, the pop up window will show the person’s name and email filled in. Save and close it.

2. Now block/copy the signature block of the new contact and go back and right click on the person’s name/email again. This time select “Open Outlook Properties”

3. What will open now is the full contact card (not just the little pop up) and you are already in the “Notes” section. Hit copy and the full siggy will populate in the Notes section. You can then block/copy from the Notes into the different fields or just type it as you see it.

Certainly, if you know of a better/faster way (that does not involve purchasing a 3rd party product) please let me know in the comments.

Elance, Delegation and Workflow

I just love Lee Rosen of Divorce Discourse  – a no nonsense kinda guy; who tells people like it is.  Over the years, Lee has gone from helping people understand the divorce process to helping attorneys understand on and off line marketing, among other things.

In his teachings, Lee has written a few books including his latest about outsourcing … to Elance. At first, I was a bit surprised and to be perfectly candid, disappointed. Whenever a contact of mine thinks of outsourcing – I want them to think of (and recommend) LegalTypist!

I have not read the book, and so do not know what type of work Lee recommends you crowdsource, but there are a few reasons I do not recommend a crowdsourcing site for the attorney-client work product and administrative functions of running a law office that LegalTypist is so famous for handling so well.

There are rules by which attorneys are bound when it comes to exactly who may see and know of their clients, data and files. Over the years I have come to understand that everyone knows the meaning of the word confidentiality but rarely does anyone without law firm experience know how to apply it. Culling those with no law firm experience in your crowdsourcing search will drastically narrow down the talent pool available to you.

Even if you apply a stringent vetting process to those who are left, do you have the technology and mindset to securely and efficiently delegate client and administrative work off site?

Delegation is not merely dumping stuff and forgetting it – you have to have follow up practices in place for each item delegated and you have to  trust your assistant has a full understanding of your needs and how to do what you have delegated and that s/he will complete it, on time, every time.  <-FWIW, when you put the right processes in place and have the right people to do the work, you create a workflow which has far more value than just the ability to outsource a project here or there.

As for the tech, while there are no rules against using email – it is and always will be more of a postcard than a sealed envelope and has to be one of the worst ways, administratively, to set up a workflow.  Here’s more of my thoughts on that: Email Administration Sucks!

Now when it comes to marketing – I could have put up a site which makes you create an account and then fill in a form requesting the type of work you need done – and called it an “invite”. I am a Master Virtual Assistant after all!

However, since I know that attorneys must vet any person they grant access to their client’s confidential information carefully, I chose instead to have potential clients set up a call to speak with me – so they can be absolutely sure we are the right company with the right way of doing things for their firm.

…and while we are on the topic of marketing – I share with you below one of my forays into video marketing.  It was a collaboration with Long Island’s own Killer Social artisan jewelry designer Sueanne Shirzay and is now a few years old – my hair is a little shorter and a little lighter.  I share it because it still makes me giggle!


One last note: it’s not that Lee doesn’t recommend LegalTypist – he does – see:LeeRosenListing… but I’d like to note our largest firm (to date) just over 100 attorneys… <g>


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

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!