6 Damn Good Reasons You Really Need VoIP Phone Service

Your law firm needs to have its phone system. Aside from being a fairly basic requirement from every state bar in order to practice law, it’s a pretty nice thing to have whenever you need to talk to someone (or they need to talk to you). Being such a basic need, you probably haven’t given it a second thought since it was installed. It’s exactly that line of thinking that has allowed you to be grotesquely overcharged for service from the phone company. And for a service that is far inferior to another option: VoIP Phone Service. That’s right – phone over the internet. But you’re used to your phone service, and I’d better have some damn good reasons to switch to something different. Well, here goes: 1) VoIP phone service lines are easy to add, reassign, or remove… … but your current system is a pain in the ass.  How many phone numbers do you have at your office? Does every attorney have a direct line, in addition to the firm’s primary line? That was certainly the model in the late 1990s, and has sadly been emulated for years since. One of the biggest problems with the traditional phone line setup is that you have one main phone number, but really a whole bunch of phone lines. Adding a new line, reassigning a phone line, or removing one when someone leaves, is a remarkable headache. How many times have you avoided adding or removing a phone line just to avoid that fresh migraine? With a VoIP phone service network, upscaling or downscaling the size of your office network... read more

How E-Signatures Will Make You a High Tech Professional

When was the last time you signed and sealed a document? Unless you take the title “Esquire” far too seriously (if you’re wearing a powdered wig, this is for you)… or you’re in possession of something passed directly to you from some sitting monarch, the answer is “never.” It’s not just the plebs who no longer respect the value of an ink signature. The United States government (as well as most of those federal units, called “states”) have decided to throw tradition out the window when it comes to signing documents. That’s right, e-signatures are actually valid and legally binding for most transactions. Even where it’s not the preferred option, e-signatures will often be upheld absent affirmative evidence of fraud. But there’s a better reason for you to become an e-signature ninja: your wonderful plans for a “Paperless” Law Firm are basically worthless without them. E-signatures are a feature of modern business. That means it’s a feature of modern law too, provided we’re willing to accept them, which is far from an easy thing to push. We do so love our signature pages, whether all together, or in counterparts. Oh, and we love our fountain pens. Our lovely, expensive, prestige-granting fountain pens! On the other hand, electronic signatures are the lynchpin of the modern paperless law firm. Without electronic signatures, your paperless efforts will be mired in the dreaded “gray area,” a purgatory of sorts. A halfway house. No-man’s Land. Fine, just think of it like this: most of the problems of the old way, along with very few of the positives of the new way. It’s exactly where you don’t want to be. What are e-Signatures? Without... read more

How to Boost Your Office’s WiFi Network Like a High Tech Pro

How many times have you gone to another law firm and had trouble connecting to their WiFi? If your answer was anything other than “every time,” you obviously don’t use WiFi networks all that much. Or you rely entirely on your device’s cellular capabilities or a hotspot. Which is kind of dumb, if they’re offering free Wi-Fi. Thing is, everyone else has the same problem when they come to your office. Come to think of it, you have that problem in your office! But since you have the ability to plug into your ethernet cable at your desk, you’ve just looked past it. No worries though – after all, you’re used to being chained to your desk! Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to improve your office’s WiFi network, without having to make (major) upgrades to your equipment. Here are 12 Easy Tips to help you Boost Your WiFi Network Like a High Tech Professional: WiFi network strength and security are very important to your law firm and your duty to protect your clients. It’s also pretty important to the whole “getting shit done” part of your job. Your WiFi network’s heart is your wireless router – the most common culprit if your office’s WiFi network has turned to crap. Fortunately, that means fixing your crappy router can do a lot of good. Call your IT person, and they’ll charge you for trying these fixes, which you can totally do yourself. They can be broken down into three general categories, the first being… Location, Location, Location! It’s possible, even likely, that your law firm’s IT people put your wireless... read more

How to Save Serious Money with a Paperless Law Firm

Special Guest: Justin Nifong Download this Episode: Download Audio Ah, the “Paperless Law Firm.” The unicorn of the professional world – a creature of myth, impossible to capture. Beautiful to behold, from afar… While many law firms seem to view becoming paperless as some impossible feat, it seems that most regard it as a novelty. A few have dedicated the resources and determination necessary to succeed, but much more common are the stories of half-hearted attempts and small initiatives. So when I wanted to discuss a Paperless Law Firm on the Legal Technology Review Podcast, I knew that I wanted to talk to someone who actually did it. As a strong advocate of a digital practice, I wanted to see what success in a paperless law firm looked like, to show others both that it could be done, and how it could be done. To be able to do that, I wanted to know how they succeeded, and what success looked like. Turns out, it looks like an extra $5,000 per month. Here’s how they do it: Justin Nifong and NK Patent Law. Justin Nifong, founder of NK Patent Law in Raleigh, North Carolina, has succeeded in creating a Paperless Law Firm. More importantly, he has succeeded in creating a digital system that puts extra money in the pockets of the attorneys, and does so on a regular basis. I wanted to know how. But before I could understand his law firm’s practices, there was a little something that needed to be addressed: What Does It Mean to be a “Paperless Law Firm”? Ask around, and pretty much everyone will tell you... read more

Why You Need Project Management in Your Law Firm

(Welcome to my 200th post on The Cyber Advocate!) “Everyone hates lawyers, except their own, of course.” It’s an interesting proposition – the idea that people universally hate lawyers. Oftentimes, I happen to believe, lawyers are hated as a result of misdirected anger. We’re the face that opposing parties put on the less-than-courteous actions of our clients. Sure, it might be the bank that’s throwing me out, or the doctor who injured me, or OJ who (allegedly) murdered his wife, but it’s the lawyer whose face we see. So I suppose I understand the first part, but the second part of the quote leaves a lot of wiggle room. For lawyers, we like to read it as a sign that everyone loves their own lawyer. But that’s not what the quote says. All it really says is that they don’t hate us. Why wouldn’t they like us? Well, a lot of reasons… But one of the highest on the list (and growing in prominence recently) is the way we do our job – and how that ends up costing our clients more. The result is a steady change in the way law firms are expected to do business, with greater efficiency, transparency, and communication. But even major companies don’t achieve those kinds of goals through sheer will. They use sophisticated project management tools and systems, put in place over time. So why haven’t law firms implemented legal project management? There is no good answer, because you need it. Why Do You Need Project Management? For lawyers, we like to think that each client is a snowflake. Entertainingly, it’s not a wholly inappropriate analogy. To... read more

Data Visualization: Inside Ravel Law’s Research Revolution

Special Guest: Daniel Lewis Download this Episode: Download Audio Research is one of those time-honored traditions in the legal profession. Time honored in that it takes a lot of time. Honored in that the most junior associate should feel “honored” to have been assigned the research. Yep, it’s the double-edged sword of the profession – necessary and widely despised. But if research is so crucial to the proper working of our profession, why does it suck so much? Daniel Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Ravel Law, has a theory: it’s not the research, but the process, that people hate. Legal Research – In Need of a Revolution Despite the fact that the practice of law has changed considerably in the past 20 years, the major tools for legal research have remained largely the same. Although Westlaw and Lexis Nexis, the two major players in legal research, have responded with some new innovations in the past couple of years, their preference has been to add content, primarily secondary source content, to their offerings. Well, since 80% of legal research is case law and primary source material, Dan believed there was a better way – revolutionize research through data visualization. By re-inventing the way we perform legal research, Daniel believes that he can make lawyers happier in their work, while giving them a serious competitive advantage. Data Analytics Isn’t New One truly begins to understand the “competitive advantage” that Daniel talks about through the lens of history. As Daniel explains, in the 1948 Texas senatorial election, Representative Lyndon Johnson was embroiled in a difficult race. Allegations of voter fraud resulted in... read more

Wearable Technology and Lawyers: A Love Story?

Special Guest: Nicole Black Download this Episode: Download Audio Do you remember how the world responded to Steve Jobs’ announcement of the iPhone in 2007? Despite what now is mostly praise (even Android users have to admit that the first iPhone changed the way we look at cell phones – completely), it was not universally praised upon its release. “… it doesn’t appeal to business customers.” – Steve Ballmer, (former) CEO of Microsoft. “This is no BlackBerry-killer.” – Engadget So when the idea of wearable technology started to become a reality, there were plenty of supporters. And plenty of people who almost seemed to hope they would all fail. I admit that while I wasn’t necessarily a full-throated supporter of the earlier ideas, I certainly liked where they were heading. Personally, I just want an Iron Man-style Heads Up Display. Among the most vocal supporters of wearable devices in the legal community is our guest on this episode of the Legal Technology Review, Nicole Black. Since she’s such an avid supporter, and managed to get her hands on both Google Glass and the Apple Watch, I asked her about wearable devices in the practice of law. The Promise of Wearable Devices Wearable technology, which consists of basically anything that you can carry with you or attach to yourself and reasonably describe using the prefix “smart-,” has a lot of potential upside. For lawyers, a group that collectively relies considerably on delivery and use of large volumes of information, wearable technology has the potential to revolutionize certain aspects of the law. Think, for example, of a personal injury (or social security disability,... read more

8 Contract Management Systems that will Steal Your Job

If you heard my interview with Joshua Lenon of Clio on my podcast, you’ll recognize this concept: contract management. Also known as the exact job description of a significant number of legal service professionals. With the help of PC Magazine, I can now tell you the names of those contract management systems that are coming for your precious contract work. Trust me, they’re impressive. Here are 8 Top Contract Management Systems that Want Your Job: What They All Do: All of these contract management systems replace legal service professionals for drafting and maintaining contracts. Even the worst of the models does all this: Index your contracts, by parties, date, category, key elements; specific clauses; Generate profiles for individuals and companies for quick importing into new contracts; Keep contracts divided and organized by business department; Draft and edit complete contracts, including complex clauses and terms; Search all contracts on the database for keywords and tags, or by a simple word search; Generate reports analyzing some or all of your contracts, exportable into numerous different file types. And just like when you purchase a new car, if you’re willing to splurge, you can get a whole lot more. The top contract management systems would probably walk your dog if you paid for the extension. The Top Tier of Contract Management: Agiloft by Agiloft, Inc. Price: Enterprise – $2,700 per year (5 users); Cloud-based – starting at $45 per user, per year (5 users minimum). Offers free service tier. Killer Feature: Customization. Nearly every part of this system is customizable, including the price. Options include asset management, insurance certificate tracking, complete audit log... read more

The Best Home Office for Your Law Practice

Special Guest: Alison Monahan   Download this Episode Download Audio Most attorneys today tend to think of the “work-life balance” exactly as most lawyers have always viewed it: “the balance of my time will involve work, and I might have time for a life when work is done.” However, many solo or small-firm attorneys picked their current vocation based on the belief that they should take a more, I hate to say it, “balanced” approach to their lives. Regardless, there’s no denying that the ability to carve out a little space for your “work” in the space normally reserved for your “life” is probably going to become essential. By that, of course, I mean your home office. Or, for many solo practitioners, your actual office, within your home. Well, if you’re a solo practitioner, or if you’re just an attorney or other legal professional hoping to find a better way to set up a remote office, you’ve come to the right place! Flexibility is the Biggest Advantage of a Home Office So all of those interruptions during work. You hate them. So does everyone else. There’s almost no better place to avoid work, it seems, than work! But you’re still not ready to give in to the idea that you can somehow do everything from home. I get it. I’m in the same position. One of the big things you might be overlooking is flexibility. Alison Monahan, the founder of the Law School Toolbox and the author of the Girls Guide to Law School has some interesting advice that you should consider! The biggest advantage to working from home, in a remote... read more
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