Archive for May, 2009

Law Practice Management in the Cloud

Posted on May 12, 2009. Filed under: Portability, Practice Management |

Drlogo11
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Law Practice Management in the Cloud.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Software as a service (SaaS) is defined at Oracle.com as “[a] software delivery model in which a software firm provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client.”

At Webopedia.com “cloud computing” is defined as a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second.”

The complexities of modern law practice are such that managing a law office in the absence of practice management software programs is nothing short of impossible. Traditional law practice management software can be expensive, however, cumbersome to navigate and prone to annoying glitches that occur so frequently that your IT consultant becomes a permanent fixture in your law office.

Sound familiar? Well, it doesn’t have to: Law firms today can avoid the headaches caused by traditional practice management software by using the services of any of a number of companies that provide SaaS.

Taking advantage of SaaS law practice management software allows firms to focus on the ever-important task of practicing law while the SaaS provider operates, updates and maintains the practice management software.

Advantages include lower costs due to reduced overhead, less hassle related to maintaining the and upgrading the case management system and greater flexibility, since the Web-based system can be accessed anywhere, at anytime.

Before making the leap to a Web-based practice management system, however, there are a number of important factors to consider.

Learn how the company will handle confidential data, the portability of the data and the format in which information will be provided should your firm choose to remove data from the system.

The contract with an SaaS provider should address those issues and also include a non-disclosure clause that indicates that all data are the property of the law firm and may be exported in a readable format on demand.

The security of your firm’s data is of paramount concern. Security issues to consider include: What type of facility will host the data? How frequently are back-ups performed? Is data backed up to more than one server? How secure are the data centers? What types of encryption methods are used and how are passwords stored? Are there redundant power supplies? Is there more than one server? Where are the servers located? If a natural disaster strikes one geographic region, would all data be lost?

If, after balancing the benefits and drawbacks, you decide to use a Web-based practice management system, there are a number of excellent SaaS providers that offer software to manage law practices online, including Clio (www.goclio.com), Rocket Matter (www.rocketmatter.com) and LawRD (www.lawrd.com).

Each software platform offers unique and useful features, which I’ll be comparing and contrasting later in the month during a screencast at lawtechTalk.com.

When law practice management software creates more problems than it solves, it may be time to make a change. After careful consideration, firms may find that the affordability and ease of use of a Web-based practice management system make it a perfect fit.

Attorneys may just find themselves praising, rather than cursing, newfangled technologies.

Now that would be a nice change.

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Save Time and Money: Use Technology Wisely

Posted on May 5, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |


Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Save Time and Money:  Use Technology Wisely.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Save Time and Money:  Use Technology Wisely

Whenever I evangelize the importance of keeping up with technological changes, the most common response I hear from other lawyers is that they don’t have enough time to sort through the ever-increasing number of choices available to
them.

After I spoke recently at a legal seminar devoted to emerging Internet technologies of interest to attorneys, an audience member told me that although he really enjoyed the seminar, he was overwhelmed by the thought of sorting through the technologies discussed during the presentation.

He wondered whether I knew of someone who could help him determine the tools that would best supplement the systems already being used in his practice.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of anyone who offered such a service, so the best I could do was suggest that he use the information provided at the seminar as a
starting point, and conduct the research himself.

Since that time I’ve have many conversations with lawyers who are frustrated with the cost of running their practices, especially during the current economic downturn.

Their predicament is unfortunate, since there are many emerging Internet and Web 2.0 legal technologies that can save law offices time and money by increasing efficiency and reducing costs, including:

  • RSS feeds, to track the people and changing laws relevant to pending litigation;
  • Online to-do and reminder applications to assist you in keeping on top of your caseload;
  • Online applications for pretrial preparation, such as mindmapping and timeline programs;
  • Figuring out which smart phone makes the most sense for you and your practice;
  • Determining whether it makes sense to invest time and energy into social media and, if so, which platforms will be of most benefit to your practice;
  • Determining whether a law blog would benefit your practice and, if so, which blogging platform would work best for your firm;
  • Figuring out whether online case management systems would make sense for your firm, and exploring the options;
  • Exploring online back-up storage options and figuring out how to best use them in your practice;
  • Determining whether virtual assistants will make your practice run more smoothly; and exploring the options available;
  • Exploring online e-mail and calendaring applications; and
  • Exploring online collaboration platforms.

Sadly, the most common refrain I encounter after advising that there are many free or low-cost alternatives available is that practicing law is so time consuming that there simply isn’t enough time left over to devote to staying on top of the always-changing law practice management technologies.

After thinking about that dilemma, I decided that busy lawyers who are unable to find the time to sort through the new technologies should have other options.

That’s why I started my new consulting business, lawtechTalk (lawtechTalk.com). Essentially, lawtechTalk is the “Consumer Reports” of legal technologies. I research and compare different categories of free or low-cost Internet and legal technologies and show lawyers how they can fit into their practices.

My research, comparisons and conclusions are recorded and made available in the form of screencasts at the lawtechTalk.com Web site. I also provide recommendations specific to a particular law practice on a consultation basis.

Technology is here to stay and turning a blind eye to the reality of ever-changing technological advances is a costly mistake.

Don’t let technology get the best of you; make it work for you. Choose to conquer technology and watch your law practice reap the benefits of that choice.

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