Tech

What’s a Video Game Lawyer? (And How Can I Become One?)

ABA's tech feedFri, 07/25/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Why hello there, Internet. I am Ryan Morrison, and I am a video game lawyer. (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.) Okay, now that you have composed yourself, let me assure you that video game law is, in fact, a thing. When people hear I do video game law, they usually are left looking confused, or quickly ask if they can join me, so I thought this article would be a good way of explaining my basic day-to-day, and what the mysterious video game lawyer title really entails.

How Did I Get Here?

I’ve been a gamer since I can remember, and I jumped at the chance to become part of the industry when I could. I worked at Large Animal Games in New York City, and really learned a lot under the excellent game designers who worked and ran that company. I decided to switch from an ultimate goal of litigating criminal law (I honestly can’t remember why I wanted to do that) to working in the game industry from the legal side. I saw firsthand the atrocities being committed by larger companies, and I knew I could make a living and make a difference by pursuing video game law.

What the Heck is Video Game Law?

It’s the age old saying, “you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for heart surgery,” that rings true here: “You shouldn’t go to a movie attorney for video games.” To the uninitiated, games are games. However, to the creators and players, there are a near limitless array of genres, distribution platforms, and audiences. The trick, as an attorney, is using the archaic laws that surround the industry to protect the new and innovative ideas coming out each and every day from exciting startups.

Now, of course, video game law is really a lot of different areas of law, all within the context of video games. Still, that context is very important and can be crucial when choosing contract language or arguing an office action from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Who Are Your Clients?

Each year it becomes cheaper and easier to create a game or an app, and each year more and more companies are popping up all over the country. Because of that, there is a growing client base that has been for the most part unrepresented. Larger firms charge rates that are not attainable to these smaller studios, and attorneys who started the niche area of game law, like Tom Buscaglia, can’t do everything themselves.

The biggest hurdle as an attorney focused in the tech and game field is that most startups don’t even consider needing a lawyer. It’s not that they are against the idea, it’s that the thought has literally never crossed their mind. It unfortunately leads to a lot of investors taking advantage of the “little guys” with good ideas, or it leads to the end of friendships and the start of long and expensive legal battles down the road.

I’ve spent near countless hours over at Reddit.com trying to educate the community on their legal rights and what they should be doing to operate their businesses confidently and legally. I have been astounded at just how loud and clear that message has been heard. I would have been happy for them to just know the difference between a trademark and a copyright, but now half of the reader base is asking complex questions most lawyers would have to spend a few hours researching. It’s beautiful!

Now, of course, the difference between these companies knowing the law and being able to utilize the law are very different things. The fear of legal fees is just too much for these tech startups with a few thousand dollars and a dream. To combat that, we are starting to see a lot of flat fee rates being offered, as well as severely reduced (or free) rates for communication. As the tech field grows, the legal field is starting to become more approachable. Lawyers are notoriously against change, but we can’t sit with our arms crossed as the rest of the world flies by. (I mean, come on, are you still having clients use a pen to sign a retainer?)

What Are the Main Legal Concerns For Game Companies?

My usual list for most companies is to:

  1. Incorporate;
  2. Form independent contractor agreements (as most startups hire a lot of freelancers);
  3. Trademark your game/app and company name;
  4. Have a terms of service and privacy policy drafted.

The last one, a privacy policy, is beyond important when tracking user data, and is a major reason why I would never recommend going to a generic entertainment lawyer if you are making an online game or application. The law is too dangerous to play fast and loose when it comes to user data.

The age of patent trolls is still here, however trademark trolls are starting to become much more of an issue for startups. My favorite example to use is the fiasco surrounding King, makers of Candy Crush Saga, and their overreaching trademarks that border on the ridiculous. The term “saga” has existed in nerd culture as long as the term trekkies, and it encompasses a feeling of an epic or long story where a small band of heroes struggles against an impossible foe. Or, according to the USPTO and King, “saga” means a simple mobile phone game that is just a re-skinned clone of every “match 3″ game before it.  Exciting…

Regardless, the issue here was that, to a trademark examiner (and our law), there is no difference between a huge story-driven game that is playable only on your computer, and a beyond simple phone app. It would be like comparing the Titanic movie to a home movie of your toddler splashing in a pool. To prevent these problems, it’s important to not only trademark your own titles, but to stand up to these million dollar companies when they start waving their bank account around to knock you out of the marketplace.

Another issue facing the game world is the fact that freelancers retain ownership of all intellectual property they create, absent an agreement. Since formal contracts and legal advice have been so long removed from the game world, it has led to a lot of big problems about who exactly owns what. That’s why one of the first things these companies need is a proper IC Agreement. I’ve been very happy to see it start to become the “norm.”

How Can I Join the Video Game Law World?

I get asked this a lot, and I don’t really have a good answer for it. I don’t have any secrets to break into the industry because I just opened my own firm, branded myself a video game lawyer, and went to battle for some bullied startups that couldn’t afford legal help. It wasn’t a marketing strategy, but it turned into the best advertising I could have ever done. I now have clients writing me theme songs and drawing pictures of me as a super hero, and I wouldn’t trade careers with anyone in the world. If you are a gamer and you are passionate about helping the industry, come on board and let’s fix what’s been done wrong. If you are looking to make a quick buck off a few startups, pick another field. You aren’t welcome here.

Featured image: “Silver Game Controller Isolated on White Background” from Shutterstock.

The post What’s a Video Game Lawyer? (And How Can I Become One?) appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Air Boss: THE Road Warrior Worthy Bag

ABA's tech feedThu, 07/24/2014 - 13:29

Categories:

Tech

A couple of years ago a co-worker and I were discussing travel. I said, “I have to check baggage; I’ve got too much stuff to carry.” She said, “Look, if I can get away without checking baggage, so can you. I’m a girl.” She recommended the website: onebag.com. Since then my tune has changed to “it’s against my religion to check baggage.” One of the key components to my strategy is the best business travel bag: Air Boss from Red Oxx.

What makes it so great?

It fits in even the smallest overhead bins. Yes, it can be a tight squeeze but I’ve stuffed it into the smallest of overhead bins. Case in point: the small planes that US Airways uses that only have 3 seats on a row (ERJ-145). This is a great comfort to because one time I lost a bag that was “gate checked.”

It holds a ton. Because of its design, the Air Boss wastes no space. You’ve got three large zippered compartments to work with.

It’s lightweight. It weighs less than 3 ½ pounds.

It’s durable. The company offers a lifetime guarantee, and you can tell that they have over engineered the bag. I’ve been using mine more than two years and haven’t noticed any wear on the zippers or snaps.

Why don’t you see more of them?

No wheels. That’s it. And…some of you just quit reading. Admittedly the Air Boss is not for everyone because you will be carrying your bag. Packed for a week-long trip it will likely weigh over 20 pounds. On the flip side, whatever bag you choose, you will have to carry it at some point. This is especially true if you encounter lots of rain or snow.

Why doesn’t it have wheels?

Wheels take up space and add weight. So, here’s the deal: if you have wheels you have to have the frame and other hardware to support the wheels. This adds a significant amount of weight and reduces the amount of useable space.

How do you pack using the Air Boss?

Use the Bundle Wrapping Method. Oh course you can pack the Air Boss however you want but the bundle wrapping method works really well. It helps reduce wrinkles and unwanted creases. The idea is wrapping your clothes around a core object. For my core, I use a Pack-It Cube (specifically the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Half Packing Cube) and put two pairs of underwear, two undershirts, and my pajamas in it. Then I wrap two shirts, two pairs of pants, and two undershirts around the core. For more on this see Packing Clothes [Post] or Packing Travel Gear by Bundle Wrapping [Video]. I put the “bundle” in one of the outside pockets along with a pair of shoes. This all the clothes I take for a typical, 6-day business trip. I wear one set of clothes on the plane, use the underwear that is made to wash in the sink, and wear everything twice.

Use Cubes and Accessories to Maximize Space. In the other outside pocket I pack miscellaneous stuff using three of the Pack-It cubes mentioned above. They are roughly the right size to cover the whole pocket.

In the middle pocket, I use two Nomad Shave Kits (one for toiletries and one for electronics). In addition, I pack The Grid Foam Roller (great for working out the kinks) and of course, the one quart bag for liquids.

What tips do you have?

Replace the metal hooks on the shoulder strap. The shoulder strap that comes with the bag is great but the metal hooks are heavy. Save a few ounces (4.2 to be exact) by replacing the metal hooks with strong nylon versions. I got mine from Duraflex and had the local shoe repair place put them in for me.

Measure your progress. One of the things I heard in business school was “measure what matters.” When traveling, weight is what matters. So I bought a luggage scale to help motivate me to travel as light as possible.

Is this bag for you?

Probably. If you travel regularly for business and you are able and willing to carry your luggage. In 2012, I was on the road over 190 nights and that is when I really saw the value of it. I truly love not having to check luggage, and when I see people at the baggage claim sometimes I have to fight the urge to yell “Freedom!”

Probably not. If you travel infrequently or if you have any health issues that would prevent you from being able to carry your luggage, this is likely not the bag for you.

Featured image: “Air Boss ” from Red Oxx.

The post Air Boss: THE Road Warrior Worthy Bag appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Increasing Productivity Through Billing

ABA's tech feedWed, 07/23/2014 - 16:19

Categories:

Tech

What if you could get your client bills out sooner and get paid faster? There are ways to generate bills that will improve your bottom line and increase productivity. In this free, 30-minute webinar, discover how to take advantage of the many opportunities for more efficient billing practices.

Join us on Wednesday, July 30th at 2pm ET for Increasing Productivity Through Billing.

About the Webinar:
Increasing Productivity Through Billing
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
2:00pm – 2:30pm ET
Free Registration

Learn how to:

  • Get your client bills out sooner (and get paid faster)
  • Generate bills that will improve your bottom line
  • Save time on billing

This webinar is sponsored by:

 

Please note: This is a NON-CLE program. 

Featured image: “High angle view of an young brunette working at her office desk with documents and laptop. Businesswoman working on paperwork.” from Shutterstock.

The post Increasing Productivity Through Billing appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Chicago’s Self-Help Web Center Celebrates 10 Years of Service, Access to Justice

ABA's tech feedWed, 07/23/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Each day for the past 10 years, law student volunteers from IIT Chicago-Kent have staffed the Self-Help Web Center (SHWC) on the sixth floor of Chicago’s Richard J. Daley Center, helping to provide guidance and assistance to thousands of pro se litigants as they navigate their way through the Cook County court system.

The idea for the SHWC grew out of a study of low-income and self-represented litigants conducted across five different court systems in the United States between 1999 and 2001 by the Center for Access to Justice and Technology.

That study, “Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants,” led by CAJT director Ron Staudt, showed that for many people, merely filling out the forms required in today’s courts presented a daunting hurdle which was difficult to overcome on their own. Given the completion of the study around the same time the Internet was coming into widespread use, it seemed the logical next step was to put legal information online in order to make it more accessible to the public.

“We know that technology to improve access to justice is much more effective if human beings assist others to use it to solve their problems. The Chicago-Kent student guides at the Self-Help Web Center are a critical part of the new tool kit to reduce barriers to justice for low income people,” said Staudt.

The SHWC was the first court-based web center in Illinois and the only help desk which combined online forms and information with volunteer law student guides. Operating as a starting point for any pro se litigant needing assistance, the SHWC helps visitors locate legal information online via ILAO’s site, directs them to other desks and legal aid organizations at the Daley Center, and assists them with filling out various online civil law forms. The SHWC has seen tremendous growth since its founding, helping approximately 1,600 users in 2005; 3,400 users in 2010; and 5,195 users in 2013.

Originally offering one customized form, a basic online version of Illinois’ dissolution of marriage form, the success of the SHWC amplified the huge need for automated, online forms for low income litigants, and helped spur the creation of the Access to Justice (A2J) Author® software platform.

“The original idea was just to use design principles to see if we could solve the problems of self-represented litigants in courts. One of the solutions presented was to build some sort of software solution, which was the dissolution of marriage form, and after that we decided to build a tool that would let us build more of these tools. That tool was A2J Author®,” said Staudt.

Chicago-Kent’s CAJT and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) began development on A2J Author® in 2004, and the first version of the program was launched in 2005. Three subsequent updates to the software have been released in an ongoing process of improvement of the program for use by low income litigants and legal aid organizations across the United States and abroad.

Building on this intellectual groundwork, in 2010 the Center for Access to Justice and Technology launched the Access to Justice Practicum course at Chicago-Kent around the A2J Author® software. Given the Center’s unique position in the legal aid community, and recognizing the ever-increasing impact of all forms of technology on the legal profession, Staudt and his team identified a vacuum in legal education and set out to remedy it.

Students in the Practicum course research a current access to justice issue, engage with self-represented litigants at the SHWC, and create guided interviews in A2J Author®. The practicum course has quickly become recognized as an innovative leader in legal education, winning plaudits and awards and sending many of its alumni into new, innovative legal positions both in and outside of the legal aid community.

In 2004, Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County; Timothy Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County; Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO); and Chicago-Kent’s Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT), collaborated in to launch SHWC.

“The SHWC makes it possible for the Clerk’s Office to make available a service that helps court patrons feel more comfortable navigating the court and handling certain legal concerns on their own without having to hire an attorney. This is access to justice personified. The education and guidance provided by the SHWC helps alleviate some of the apprehension self-represented litigants experience in the court environment that many people find intimidating,” said Brown.

A new program modeled on the CAJT’s practicum, the “Access to Justice Clinical Course Project,” was launched in 2013 at six law schools across the country. Greatly successful in its first iteration, the CAJT is exploring ways to expand the program in coming years.

Today, the law student volunteers at the SHWC assist visitors with more than 50 different online Illinois civil law forms. All new forms currently are created by ILAO (many more customized forms are created by other state-based legal aid groups) on an ongoing, as-need basis and then posted to the ILAO website.

Looking ahead, Ms. Brown’s vision for the future is for the SHWC “to assist court patrons to understand and utilize the many technology based services we offer as the Clerk’s Office progresses towards the future of a “green” and paperless court system.”

She sees the SHWC assisting patrons with better understanding all of the E-Court initiatives taking place now, and ones planned, and believes the center could expand its instructions to customers as the Clerk’s Office’s enhances its website with available internet customer service programs, such as the Online Traffic Ticket System, SmartForms (online preparation of Order of Protection forms), Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Search, and Unclaimed Child Support Check Search.

The SHWC continues to be staffed by Chicago-Kent students, and is open year round. For more information, or with any questions, the CAJT can be contacted at cajt@kentlaw.iit.edu.

Featured image: “Golden number ten with red fluttering fabric ” from Shutterstock.

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Breaking Up: The Digital Edge on Ethical Responsibilities when Breaking Up a Law Firm

ABA's tech feedTue, 07/22/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Is this edition of The Digital Edge, Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway interview commercial litigator at McGuireWoods Tom Spahn, often known as “Mr. Ethics” in Virginia. He has served on the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professionalism, and has spoken over 1,200 times on ethics and other topics in the United States and abroad.

He explains that lawyers and their firms should remain civil and open to negotiation before the lawyer has left. Firms have run into trouble while trying to penalize leaving employees on an individual basis. He discusses the ethically proper way to deal with unfinished business doctrines, document retention programs, and fiduciary duties to clients. Due to technology, there are new issues to consider including digital files or property ownership of domain names. Overall, however, Spahn emphasizes that every partner has a continuing duty to make sure every client is adequately served.

The post Breaking Up: The Digital Edge on Ethical Responsibilities when Breaking Up a Law Firm appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Using the Facebook Power Editor to Create Calls to Action

ABA's tech feedMon, 07/21/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

If you’ve got a Facebook Page for your law firm, you’ll want to know about the Facebook Power Editor, which only works with Facebook Business Pages (as opposed to personal profiles). The Power Editor allows you to create posts that include Call to Action buttons.

According to Facebook, you can only access the Power Editor using the Google Chrome browser, by going to www.facebook.com/ads/manage/powereditor, or by going to your ads manager and clicking on Power Editor in the left-hand column. Then click Download to Power Editor to download the accounts you want to access.

Once inside the Power Editor, you’ll see two sets of navigation buttons. At the very top, you see the general Power Editor buttons, where you’ll find the Manage Pages button, Download to Power Editor and Upload Changes.

Underneath the account name for your Page, you’ll see more navigation buttons: Create Post, Publish Post, (which we’ll be discussing in this article) as well as Revert Changes, Create Ad, Refresh List, and View Ads.

In the center of the page you’ll see list of your posts for that account, along with their reach and engagement.

Creating a Post Using Power Editor

Creating a Post for your Page using the Power Editor rather than from your Home page allows you to add call to action buttons (such as “Learn More”, “Download” or “Sign Up”) to a link post. Using this tool could help bring more attention to posts that link to your newsletter sign up page, a download page for a legal guide, or a new product or service offering.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to the Power Editor
  2. Click on Manage Pages at the top and select your Page from the list on the left
  3. Click on the Create Post button toward the top of the page
  4. Fill in the URL where you want the call to action button to direct visitors
  5. Complete the other fields in the pop-up box, particularly the post text and button type
  6. Choose whether you want the post to appear as an ad (paid) or a regular post (free) on your Page
  7. Click Create Post

***Warning: Clicking on “Create Post” won’t post your content onto your firm’s Facebook Page.** It’s easy to think that once you’ve created the post and clicked the button, your post has been completed. In the Power Editor, it isn’t. Clicking on “Create Post” merely creates a draft (what Facebook calls an “unpublished Page post”) of your post. To actually publish it to your Page, there’s more you have to do.

Once you’ve created the post, it will now appear at the top of your list of posts with a blue moon icon. This icon is the indication that the post has not yet been published to your Page.

Click on the post to select it and to see a Preview. If you’re happy with the post, with the post selected, click Publish Post (next to Create Post) toward the top of the page. This will bring up a pop-up window that will allow you to schedule the post for future publication or publish it immediately.

**Again, don’t make the mistake of thinking that clicking “Publish” will publish your post.** Now, instead of the blue moon icon next to your post, you’ll see an upward-facing arrow. In order for your post to appear on your Page, you’ll need to go through one more step – click the green Upload Changes button at the very top of the page to upload the post to your Facebook account. Once your post is uploaded, it will be published (or scheduled for publication).

For an idea of what the difference between a regular post and a post created with the Power Editor look like, see the examples below, both of which link to the same blog post. In the first, I posted a basic link post. In the second, I used the Power Editor, chose an image I wanted to appear with the post and included a “Learn More” call to action button:

Studies show that posts with call to action buttons receive more attention than link posts. I can’t confirm that yet with my own experience, but why not try experimenting with them on your Facebook Page?

The post Using the Facebook Power Editor to Create Calls to Action appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Quick Hits Friday: Paperless Posts Fit to Print

ABA's tech feedFri, 07/18/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

I confess I consider paperless, like wireless, to be a misnomer. Some posts over the past few weeks, however, have me reconsidering.

Mark Wiggins gives a detailed account of how Pine Laurent embraced the digital age. He describes the divide, starting with law school. His legal research class “was almost exclusively dedicated to Internet and digital research, professor handouts were frequently emailed, and even our final exams were administered through computer software and wirelessly uploaded to our professor upon completion.” The actual practice of law, in contrast, was paper heavy.  That changed when the firm made a conscious, and physical, investment in going paperless, creating a more innovative, efficient office and better customer service.

Peter Walzer, of Walzer Melcher, provides an interesting history of the Paper Tiger. He traces the use of paper, rise of machines (CDs. Remember those?) and talks about the process of paperless at his law firm. Process is common theme, and the firms that successfully make paperless a reality have developed and adhered to a process. The post ends with what has been quoted often in reference to it on social media: “You are going to be paperless whether you like it or not.”

Going paperless whether you like it or not is reflected in two posts on depositions. Victoria Santoro considers the deposition to be the final paper frontier, and makes the case that it is fear holding law firms back, not lack of technological know-how or tools. She references O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting Services in her post. Kenneth Zais, president and owner of O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting Services laid out how electronic exhibits are bringing an end to the paper chase. The charge is being led by iPads, to the surprise of, um, no one.

Evidence is mounting that paperless is becoming less a misnomer, and more a reality.

Featured image: “Fist hitting, fist punching” from Shutterstock.

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The "Just In Time" Theory of User Behavior

Coding HorrorFri, 07/18/2014 - 00:05

Categories:

Tech

I've long believed that the design of your software has a profound impact on how users behave within your software. But there are two sides to this story:

  • Encouraging the "right" things by making those things intentionally easy to do.

  • Discouraging the "wrong" things by making those things intentionally difficult, complex, and awkward to do.

Whether the software is doing this intentionally, or completely accidentally, it's a fact of life: the path of least resistance is everyone's best friend. Learn to master this path, or others will master it for you.

For proof, consider Dan Ariely's new and amazing book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves.

Indeed, let's be honest: we all lie, all the time. Not because we're bad people, mind you, but because we have to regularly lie to ourselves as a survival mechanism. You think we should be completely honest all the time? Yeah. Good luck with that.

But these healthy little white lies we learn to tell ourselves have a darker side. Have you ever heard this old adage?

One day, Peter locked himself out of his house. After a spell, the locksmith pulled up in his truck and picked the lock in about a minute.

“I was amazed at how quickly and easily this guy was able to open the door,” Peter said. The locksmith told him that locks are on doors only to keep honest people honest. One percent of people will always be honest and never steal. Another 1% will always be dishonest and always try to pick your lock and steal your television; locks won’t do much to protect you from the hardened thieves, who can get into your house if they really want to.

The purpose of locks, the locksmith said, is to protect you from the 98% of mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door if it had no lock.

I had heard this expressed less optimistically before as

10% of people will never steal, 10% of people will always steal, and for everyone else … it depends.

It's the "it depends" part which is crucial to understanding human nature, and that's what Ariely spends most of the book examining in various tests. If for most people, honesty depends, what exactly does it depend on? The experiments Ariely conducts prove again and again that most people will consistently and reliably cheat "just a little", to the extent that they can still consider themselves honest people. The gating factor isn't laws, penalties, or ethics. Turns out that stuff has virtually no effect on behavior. What does, though, is whether they can personally still feel like they are honest people.

This is because they don't even consider it cheating – they're just taking a little extra, giving themselves a tiny break, enjoying a minor boost, because well, haven't they been working extra specially hard lately and earned it? Don't they of all people deserve something nice once in a while, and who would even miss this tiny amount? There's so much!

These little white lies are the path of least resistance. They are everywhere. If laws don't work, if ethics classes don't work, if severe penalties don't work, how do you encourage people to behave in a way that "feels" honest that is actually, you know, honest? Feelings are some pretty squishy stuff.

Turns out, it's easier than you think.

My colleagues and I ran an experiment at the University of California, Los Angeles. We took a group of 450 participants, split them into two groups and set them loose on our usual matrix task. We asked half of them to recall the Ten Commandments and the other half to recall 10 books that they had read in high school.

Among the group who recalled the 10 books, we saw the typical widespread but moderate cheating. But in the group that was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, we observed no cheating whatsoever. We reran the experiment, reminding students of their schools' honor codes instead of the Ten Commandments, and we got the same result. We even reran the experiment on a group of self-declared atheists, asking them to swear on a Bible, and got the same no-cheating results yet again.

That's the good news: a simple reminder at the time of the temptation is usually all it takes for people to suddenly "remember" their honesty.

The bad news is Clippy was right.

In my experience, nobody reads manuals, nobody reads FAQs, and nobody reads tutorials. I am exaggerating a little here for effect, of course. Some A+ students will go out of their way to read these things. That's how they became A+ students, by naturally going the extra mile, and generally being the kind of users who teach themselves perfectly well without needing special resources to get there. When I say "nobody" I mean the vast overwhelming massive majority of people you would really, really want to read things like that. People who don't have the time or inclination to expend any effort at all other than the absolute minimum required, people who are most definitely not going to go the extra mile.

In other words, the whole world.

So how do you help people who, like us, just never seem to have the time to figure this stuff out becase they're, like, suuuuper busy and stuff?

You do it by showing them …

  • the minumum helpful reminder
  • at exactly the right time

This is what I've called the "Just In Time" theory of user behavior for years. Sure, FAQs and tutorials and help centers are great and all, but who has the time for that? We're all perpetual intermediates here, at best.

The closer you can get your software to practical, useful "Just In Time" reminders, the better you can help the users who are most in need. Not the A+ students who already read the FAQ, and studied the help center intently, but those users who never read anything. And now, thanks to Dan Ariely, I have the science to back this up. Even something as simple as putting your name on the top of a form to report auto insurance milage, rather than the bottom, resulted in a mysterious 10% increase in average miles reported. Having that little reminder right at the start that hey, your name is here on this form, inspired additional honesty. It works.

Did we use this technique on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange? Indeed we did. Do I use this technique on Discourse? You bet, in even more places, because this is social discussion, not technical Q&A. We are rather big on civility, so we like to remind people when they post on Discourse they aren't talking to a computer or a robot, but a real person, a lot like you.

When's the natural time to remind someone of this? Not when they sign up, not when they're reading, but at the very moment they begin typing their first words in their first post. This is the moment of temptation when you might be super mega convinced that someone is Wrong on the Internet. So we put up a gentle little reminder Just In Time, right above where they are typing:

Then hopefully, as Dan Ariely showed us with honesty, this little reminder will tap into people's natural reserves of friendliness and civility, so cooler heads will prevail – and a few people are inspired to get along a little better than they did yesterday. Just because you're on the Internet doesn't mean you need to be yelling at folks 24/7.

We use this same technique a bunch of other places: if you are posting a lot but haven't set an avatar, if you are adding a new post to a particularly old conversation, if you are replying a bunch of times in the same topic, and so forth. Wherever we feel a gentle nudge might help, at the exact time the behavior is occurring.

It's important to understand that we use these reminders in Discourse not because we believe people are dumb; quite the contrary, we use them because we believe people are smart, civil, and interesting. Turns out everyone just needs to be reminded of that once in a while for it to continue to be true.

[advertisement] Stack Overflow Careers matches the best developers (you!) with the best employers. You can search our job listings or create a profile and even let employers find you.

The Impact of Social Media and Technology on Divorce and Custody Cases

ABA's tech feedThu, 07/17/2014 - 16:09

Categories:

Tech

Social media and technology are increasingly finding their way into the courtroom, particularly in divorce and custody cases. This is typically helpful for one party, usually the party who has not been posting to social media, and damaging to the other party, usually the party who has been posting on social media. With technology increasing the amount we share with the world, it’s important to remember that anything you post on social media could find its way to the courtroom.

The Basics.

It used to be that you could have a phone call with someone and what was discussed in that conversation was basically a “he-said-she-said” argument.  There was no proof of what was actually said. In today’s smartphone world with constantly evolving “apps,” people involved in divorce and custody cases are tending to record their conversations in hopes that they can catch the other party in a lie, or a slip-up, or say anything that could hurt them in court.

Increasingly, we are seeing recorded phone conversations being entered into evidence and played in open court for the judge to consider. Along the same lines, it is now possible to print out text message strands between you and another person, and text messages are increasingly being introduced into the court’s record. Anytime you pick up your phone to have a conversation, whether voice or text, there may be an exact record of what was said.

He Said. She Said.

Texting and phone calls tend to be introduced as evidence of conversations between the parties. On the flip side, there have also been changes in how we are proving what one party said to another person. This tends to involve a derogatory comment made about one party by the other party but is not limited to such comments.

Let’s look at this scenario as an example: you are angry with your ex-spouse because he/she is late on child support again. Before smartphones, you might have picked up the land-line and called your best friend to vent and that would be the end of it. In today’s world, however, let’s suppose you turn to Facebook and post: “ugh, he’s late again, he obviously doesn’t care about our children.” This may seem innocent enough at first, but what if your child is 16 and has a Facebook account of his own? What if that 16 year old child somehow saw that post; maybe a friend of a friend “liked” it so it showed up on his news feed? Now you may be guilty of disparaging a parent in front of a child (which depending on your case, could be a violation of a court order). And that’s not even considering the damage that has been done to your child’s self-esteem and relationship with the other parent.

Adultery. As Seen on Facebook.

Let’s look at another scenario: you and your spouse are thinking about separating, but have not yet made the final decision to separate and divorce yet. You turn to a friend for support and suddenly you find yourself in a more romantic relationship with that friend than you intended. Let’s use Facebook again: you’ve blocked your spouse from your Facebook page so he/she can’t see anything you post, so you’re safe, right? You don’t mind that your friend is now posting pictures of you holding hands, maybe even a cute kissing photo. Your spouse doesn’t say anything to you so he/she must not have seen it.

Flash forward six months and you are in court arguing over whether you committed adultery. Turns out, you forgot to block your spouse’s sister; she saw the photos and sent them to your spouse. While this may not be enough to prove adultery and maybe you never even committed adultery, you are suddenly in a position to defend yourself against that claim.

Think First.

These are only a few examples of how technology and social media are changing the way divorce and custody cases are being handled throughout the country. Because we now live in a world where we tend to share our frustrations or our private moments with more and more people, we need to remember that what we share with our “friends” could end up in the hands of people who will use those frustrations and private moments against us.

The introduction of social media and technology into the courtroom is only growing and will become a more prevalent way to prove a case for divorce or custody in the future.

Featured image: “Two Parents Fighting Over Child In Divorce Concept ” from Shutterstock.

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Kennedy-Mighell Talk Evernote. And that thing called Paperless.

ABA's tech feedWed, 07/16/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

In this episode of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell talk about Evernote and its use for lawyers. From collecting information in one place, and being able to access it from any Internet-connected device, to creating Stacks, tags and document organization, even business cards.

Evernote. Another tool in the arsenal of lawyers looking to go paperless.

Another productivity app of note that is mentioned: Hangar for Android, which keeps track of apps used most often, adjusts and puts 7 used most often into notification tray

Tom Mighell suggests reading Johnny Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products.

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NetDocuments Secures $25 Million from Frontier Capital to Fuel Growth in the Legal Document Management Market

ABA's tech feedTue, 07/15/2014 - 14:30

Categories:

Tech

Investment Represents Frontier’s Confidence in NetDocuments and Its Target Market

July 15, 2014, LEHI, UT – NetDocuments, the leader in cloud-based document and email management, announced a strategic partnership with Frontier Capital, securing a $25 million equity investment to accelerate NetDocument’s increasing growth across the legal market.

“It’s exciting to see the rate of adoption increase in recent years as law firms begin to move from traditional, server-based document management to what most now view as the modern document management platform,” said Ken Duncan, CEO, NetDocuments. “The partnership and investment with Frontier will allow us to not only continue our growth with a high degree of customer service, but also provides us with the resources to capture a considerable portion of the market, as firms increasingly decide to switch to the cloud.”

Frontier, based in Charlotte, N.C., is a growth equity firm focused exclusively on investing in software and technology-enabled business service companies in areas with significant entrepreneurial activity but minimal local capital.

“NetDocuments is exactly the type of company in which we aim to invest – a sturdy technology business growing at a strong rate into an emerging market, with a quality management team we know and trust,” said Michael Ramich, partner, Frontier.  “As our research shows, NetDocuments is the only pure play software-as-a-service provider of document management in the legal industry, which is just beginning to realize the benefits of cloud computing. With our investment, NetDocuments is poised to further capitalize on this new trend within law firms and should grab significant market share in the months and years ahead.”

This investment represents Frontier Capital’s confidence in the market and NetDocuments’ ability to accelerate the growth across the legal industry.  The boost in capital will build on a successful sales and marketing strategy that will continue to penetrate NetDocuments’ core market and exploit the robust features of a true SaaS document management service.  NetDocuments is currently operating in more than 140 countries and is being used in nearly 10 percent of the Am Law 100 law firms.  This investment will ensure that NetDocuments has the resources and talent to keep up with the adoption of its cloud-based technology.

“We’ve seen the document management industry go through dramatic changes over the last decade and a half, and we’ve been fortunate to be at the forefront with technology that is truly challenging the status quo,” noted Alvin Tedjamulia, CTO, NetDocuments. “We’ve built a solid technology delivered as a service, and we’re seeing more and more firms take advantage of the value this SaaS platform has to offer over the traditional model. Frontier’s investment in NetDocuments will better enable us to work with the rapidly increasing number of law firms that are leaving the complexity of traditional document management systems in favor of the agility and simplicity of NetDocuments.”

About NetDocuments

Founded in 1999, NetDocuments cloud-based document management service has given law firms of all sizes – including some of the world’s largest and most prestigious – the ability to reduce costs and increase security, mobility, and disaster recovery to documents and emails from anywhere and on any device. With anytime, anywhere access enabled by offices and fully redundant datacenters in the United States and United Kingdom, firms are able to increase productivity and improve the client experience through a comprehensive cloud-based service. For more information about the company, go to www.netdocuments.com.

About Frontier Capital

Frontier Capital is a Charlotte-based growth equity firm focused exclusively on software and technology-enabled business service companies. Founded in 1999, Frontier partners with management teams that can benefit from capital to accelerate growth, fund acquisitions or generate shareholder liquidity. We make minority and majority equity investments in high growth companies and have built an excellent track record of delivering returns to both our investors and management partners. For more information, please visit www.frontiercapital.com.

 

 

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The Forecast Calls for Clouds: Ethically Embracing New Technology

ABA's tech feedMon, 07/14/2014 - 13:00

Categories:

Tech

The cloud has been a prominent topic within the legal profession for the past couple of years. If you still aren’t sure if the cloud is right for your firm, you may have questions about the benefits, security concerns and best practices for adopting this new technology.

Get the answers to your questions and explore opportunities the cloud may offer your practice during our free 30-minute webinar.  Join us on Thursday, July 24th from 2:00pm to 2:30pm ET for The Forecast Calls for Clouds: Ethically Embracing New Technology.

About the Free Webinar

The Forecast Calls for Clouds: Ethically Embracing New Technology
Thursday, July 24, 2014
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET

Register now!

Sign up and discover:

  • Cloud computing basics
  • The benefits of cloud computing
  • Ethical considerations concerning the cloud
  • Best practices for moving to the cloud


This webinar is sponsored by MyCase.

 This webinar is hosted by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center and presented by Matt Spiegel, VP Product Management for MyCase.

Please note: this is a NON-CLE program. 

Featured image: “3d objects isolated on a white background” from Shutterstock.

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Bottom Line: Tech Can Increase Profit, Done Right

ABA's tech feedMon, 07/14/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

If your bottom line is no concern, you’re an exception. Profitability is top of mind for most solo and small law firm attorneys, who are as much small business owners/operators as practitioners of the law.

And with budgets constantly tightening, how can a small firm grow profitability? Karl Florida conveys insights from his experience in business and the legal industry in the Thomson Reuters Independent Thinking article, How Technology Drives Short- and Long-Term Profitability for Small Law Firms. Florida leads the company’s small law firm business, which offers such legal solutions as the Firm Central practice management platform, WestlawNext small law firm plans, and FindLaw’s lawyer marketing solutions.

Find out why Florida sees technology impacting law firm profitability in the near term and far.  Download the free article or watch a short video to read/hear about:

  • Three specific software options that can help you operate more efficiently
  • Technology choices in the short-term that can solve for immediate workload and personnel challenges
  • How technology use today can drive long-term profit growth or firm expansion
  • An unexpected factor to consider in building your website

Download your free PDF copy of How Technology Drives Short- and Long-Term Profitability for Small Law Firms to learn more about smart technology choices that can impact and grow profitability for small firms.

 

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Electronic Exhibits Mark the End of the Paper Chase

ABA's tech feedFri, 07/11/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

A first year associate, who has yet to take a deposition, may likely never have to mark and introduce a paper exhibit. Which isn’t to say depositions are going exhibit-less. Just paperless.

As in the movie “Groundhog Day,” exhibit production is a recurring scene: Conference room tables and credenzas piled high with original and courtesy copies of exhibit binders, along with scanning, printing, collating, labeling, packing and shipping to get them there. The costs add up quickly. Add to that the worry that the shipment will be lost or late.

The alternative is electronic exhibits, introduced and shared as the deposition proceeds, marking the end of the paper chase.

One iPad Equals 100 (or more) Exhibit Boxes

Deploying technology for taking depositions is commonplace. Documents produced in discovery are exchanged electronically. Notices are rarely mailed or even faxed. Realtime programs stream text and video to participants’ computer screens as the deponent answers questions. Final transcripts, with exhibits scanned and hyperlinked, are preferred over the printed and bound version.

The outlier has been presenting exhibits in the deposition room. It was hard to imagine a digital alternative to asking the witness “please review this document, entered into the record as exhibit number 116.”

Not anymore. Now attorneys can introduce and mark exhibits at the deposition electronically—via iPad and other tablets and computers—through a secure connection to a cloud-based server. This means hosting and the bandwith to handle data storage and 24/7/365 accessibility is not an issue. Support and disaster recovery protocols are in place.

Strategy and Control

Beyond eliminating thousands of pages, the electronic counterparts to paper exhibits allows the examining attorney to control when and how exhibits are introduced, preserving the client’s legal strategy. As opposed to providing printed copies in advance, opposing counsel only sees the exhibit the moment it is shown to the witness.

How are exhibits organized for a paperless deposition? First, it is important to notify all parties that exhibits will be presented electronically. Then, the steps are familiar, simply the electronic equivalent of sharing paper copies:

  • Upload documents ahead of time, ready to be entered into evidence, just as you would ordinarily produce copies in advance for those attending the proceeding.
  • Coordinate with your court reporting firm to provide devices for all participants and test connections, as you would for a realtime or videoconference deposition.
  • At the deposition, tap the iPad (or other device) to introduce an exhibit and simultaneously send digital copies to the witness and other participants.
  • All parties may annotate and retain personal copies of exhibits, while maintaining the integrity of the official versions.
  • While the deposition is underway, legal team members from all sides can communicate as exhibits are marked for the record.
  • Exhibits and transcripts from previous depositions are also accessible.

Clients who are involved in complex cases, for instance, intellectual property disputes, securities litigation, class action suits and other high-stakes matters, expect their outside counsel to deploy technology effectively to manage the costs of discovery.

The Paperless Advantage

The utilization of electronic exhibits is especially helpful when deposing a witness who is based            out of state or overseas. Here, a videoconference can be arranged and the exhibits can be introduced electronically, curtailing both travel and shipping costs.

Further, litigators are realizing the value of electronic exhibits beyond depositions, for instance, witness preparation. Rather than making multiple cross-country trips to meet with the legal team, a client preparing for depositions and trial can connect from his office in San Francisco to his attorneys in Boston and always have critical documents available for review.

While it is an adjustment to integrate new technology and implement new processes and routines, the practical applications are evident. Think of how print media, broadcast media and advertisers now reach their audiences through interactive, digital, channels. Similarly, lawyers are transitioning from the legal pad to the iPad.

Your firm’s IT department and technology-oriented attorneys and support staff are obvious resources.  If your court reporting agency keeps pace with the latest developments and is attuned to how practice groups work, the account managers, court reporters and videographers can consult and coordinate with your team at every step.

All in all, the ability to share documents as proceedings unfold, without having to print thousands of pages and keep track of their whereabouts, represents a new way of working for litigation groups. Senior partners recognize the benefits for their practices and for their clients. For today’s new associates, paperless depositions will be business as usual.

Featured image: “Modern wireless technology and social network” from Shutterstock.

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Hackcess to Justice: ABA Journal’s Hackathon Competition Comes to Boston

ABA's tech feedThu, 07/10/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

“Access to Justice;” that’s a buzzword we hear often in the legal community. Why? Because there is a documented justice gap across the nation, in which low to moderate income households disproportionately are unable to secure affordable legal services.

What have we done to combat this problem? In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court established the Access to Justice Initiative in 2009, which works closely with the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, the courts, legal services organizations, and local bar associations to “broaden access to civil justice for all litigants.” Solutions that have been offered include:

On a national level, last year, the Legal Services Corporation held a summit on how to use technology to increase access to legal services by low-income households. As a result, LSC prepared a report that identified five components for using technology to meet these needs. Encouraged by this call to action, the ABA Journal in collaboration with Suffolk University Law School and its Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation are using the LSC findings as the foundation for a hackathon competition aimed to tackle the justice gap with innovative technological solutions.

The Hackcess to Justice Hackathon at Suffolk University Law School in Boston will kick off on August 7th immediately preceding the ABA’s Magnitude 360 Annual Meeting. What better venue than Boston for this competition, home of Boston Startup Weekend, Harvard’s Innovation Lab and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Cambridge Innovation Center, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an ever-expanding tech community, and a demonstrated commitment to access to justice?

Hackathon participants are expected to span far and wide, both in terms of geography and expertise. Likely, many will stem from Boston’s own booming startup community. For those non-techies who would like to participate, there is no requirement that you know how to “code;” you need only present a creative “technology-enabled solution” that embodies one of the five LSC components.

The hackathon is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on August 7 with submissions due at 5 p.m. the following day along with in-person presentations to judges. Prize money will be awarded to the top “hacks.”  Suffolk Law School will provide facilities for individuals and teams working on their projects over the course of the two days.

For program updates, including official rules and judging criteria (TBA), and to register, visit the Hackacess to Justice ChallengePost website.

Featured image: “Boston skyline at dusk, Boston, MA, USA” from Shutterstock.

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Time for a Technology Audit

ABA's tech feedWed, 07/09/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Occasionally, law firms need help to move their technology forward, but they are not sure what they need or how to begin. They know that they are not taking advantage of the latest technology, have done some research and every product they see is “a perfect fit” for their firm (at least that is what the sales person is telling them).They seem to need EVERYTHING; from encrypted email to document management, to a secure wireless network.

Where do they start the process? It might be best to start with a technology audit.

What is a technology audit?

A technology audit is an evaluation of the systems that your firm has in place. Before a firm can move forward, they need to know what type of technology that they have and options to improve the firm’s state of technology. From the security of your data to recommended software, a technology audit is a useful roadmap to guide your firm’s technology.

What would I expect during a technology audit?

A comprehensive technology audit begins with a series of onsite office visits and interviews of key decision-makers, including administrators and internal or external IT staff. Any reports of hardware and software inventory as well as maintenance contracts are very helpful in the audit process.

Typically, a technology audit evaluates the following areas:

  1. Computer hardware, including desktops, laptops and servers.
  2. Infrastructure equipment, including switches, routers, firewalls and wireless networks.
  3. Security.
  4. Telecom, phones, internet access and bandwidth.
  5. Scanners/printers and other peripherals.
  6. Software – including office applications (MS Office, Acrobat, etc).
  7. Legal specific software – including time and billing, practice management, document management and any practice specific software.
  8. Mobile strategies.
  9. Technology processes and procedures including backups.
  10. Any firm/practice specific items that need to be addressed.
What information would I receive as a result of a technology audit?

In addition to learning the state of your security, hardware and software, a technology audit can provide a strategy for the future of your technology in your firm including recommendations to improve your firm’s technology and processes.

Some examples of conclusions might be:

  1. Your firm is paying too much for software maintenance and lower-priced alternative would be a better fit for your firm.
  2. The current dictation software is not cost efficient and a cloud-based alternative is a better solution.
  3. An update to a firm-wide system would benefit the firm by providing secure mobile access to their data outside of the office.
Where do I get a technology audit?

A technology audit can be performed by most Information Technology (IT) firms. It is recommended that your firm talk with other firms of similar size for a recommendation for a company to do an audit.  An IT firm that has legal software experience is particularly helpful in navigating the maze of legal software.

Many law firms that engage a managed services company already have a partner that can perform an audit for you. However, since you do not want to turn this audit into a sales pitch for new hardware or software, a third-party technology audit is recommended.

Is a technology audit the same thing as a security audit?

No, a technology audit addresses components of security, but is not a security audit. A security audit specifically targets all aspects of the firm’s security, including computers, servers, routers, switches as well as databases, mobile device and website security. A technology audit may conclude that a security audit is warranted.

Where do we go from here?

Considering the benefits of a technology audit, it is well worth the time and money to know the state of your technology as well as a path to move forward. Do you need to implement every suggestion right away? No, but if there are any security issues found in the audit, be sure to address those as your first priority. From there, it is up to you to decide how to move it forward. Now that you know where you have been, it will be easier to see where you should be going.

Featured image: “Time for review” from Shutterstock.

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4 Advantages of Billing in the Cloud

ABA's tech feedWed, 07/09/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

You don’t have to be tied to a single device that has your software on it. All you need today is a web connection. From set up to security, and a few in-between, here are four advantages of cloud based time billing with Bill4Time that you may or may not have known.

  • Ease of use among larger offices
    Dismiss the all-day event for software installations, incorrect serial numbers and long drawn out phone calls with customer support. Just log in and start securely billing.
  • Track your time; even offline 
    Not having access to the Internet shouldn’t affect your ability to run your business effectively. Access and update your data from your PC and Mac desktop widget and mobile apps. Once you are back online, we’ve got you covered, you’re synchronized automatically.
  • Invoice where and whenever
    The faster you bill, the sooner you can get paid! With the PayPal Online Payments feature your client can pay directly from your emailed invoice. Once the payment is verified by PayPal the invoice is automatically updated, one less step you need to do.
  • 24×7 Security and monitoring 
    Stored in a SAS70 Type II certified data center and transmitted with 128-bit SSL encryption, you bet you’re secure. Systems are monitored for maximum security and performance 24×7 and your information is backed up over 12 times a day with an option to back up to your own computer.

Fast and easy client billing ensures that you’re spending your valuable time doing what you do best and billing for it! For more information on billing in the cloud, please visit Bill4time.

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Digital Edge interviews PowerPoint Master Paul Unger

ABA's tech feedTue, 07/08/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Meetings. Conferences. Speaking events of all kinds. That’s what generally comes to mind when we hear “PowerPoint.” Good bet, though, you use it in court, too, so there is no escaping PowerPoint presentations.

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Even if you haven’t put a PowerPoint presentation together for a conference, you probably have, or will soon, put one together for trial.

No fear. Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson have you covered. In this edition of the Digital Edge, they interview the author of Power Point in One Hour for Lawyers and regular contributor to this blog on the topic, Paul Unger. Turn up the sound, or plug in your headphones, and spend the next 28 minutes learning cool tips that will make people remember your presentation, and you.

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Thank You to our June Sponsors

ABA's tech feedMon, 07/07/2014 - 14:55

Categories:

Tech

Thank you to our sponsors, here at Law Technology Today!

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Thomson Reuters also submitted a post summarizing a new paper on small firms “cautious” embrace of technology. Worth a read.

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The webinar, “How to Vacation as a Lawyer,” provides some useful tips on taking some time off this summer, and in the future.

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If you’re interested in advertising on Law Technology Today, or sponsoring a webinar, please email us at ltrc@americanbar.org.

Featured image: “a natural looking banner with thank you and white blossoms” from Shutterstock.

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Apps that Take my Firm from Office to Poolside

ABA's tech feedMon, 07/07/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

My Summer Hours: Poolside, by appointment only.

As the weather has been gorgeous lately, I have found myself working from home or other mobile locations (the pool – there’s WiFi!) more often. These are some apps that I use in my daily routine, which allow me to be mobile. My firm is Mac based so all of these are Mac, iPad, or iPhone versions. They are in no particular order, nor am I receiving any compensation from any of them, even though I know many of the account execs or developers…they don’t even know I am writing about them (until after this is published and some bot notifies them that they were mentioned!).

This list is definitely not exhaustive, and does not include native iOS apps.

  1. GoodReader 4. GoodReader 4 (not to be confused with previous versions) is a document viewer that I use on my iPad. You can open different types of documents, but I use it mainly for PDF viewing and annotating. I sync it with my Dropbox account, so all the stuff I am working on is available to me on my iPad (outside of the Dropbox app). GoodReader 4 is probably the third party app I use most on my iPad. I use it on the go, at the pool, and at the gym (#multitasking). Download GoodReader 4 here.
  2. Fantastical. I strongly dislike the native calendar app in iOS. I stopped using it when they made the list view a pain to get to, and I started using Fantastical instead. I love the way fantastical looks, I love the way it shows me a map if I have input an address, and I love that I can see my reminders (from the native Reminders app) right in the same list as my events, and I can check them off, too! Check out Fantastical here. I use it daily on my phone, and just noticed there’s an iPad version I will be downloading.
  3. Clio. I use Clio as my practice management software. It is web based, and also has an app for the iPhone. Admittedly I used it mostly on my computer – not because the app lacks function (it even has a timer so you can bill for your time on the go), but I am on my computer so much that I don’t really find occasion to use the app. I use Clio to manage contacts, matters, billing and invoicing. There’s a secure portal to communicate with clients, it links to Dropbox, and there are about a billion ways to customize your invoices. Check out Clio app here and the website here.
  4. Adobe Acrobat Pro and Microsoft Word. I use these on my computer umpteen times a day. I do all my drafting in Word. I view, edit, and create PDFs in Acrobat. I love Acrobat the most for creating fillable forms, which you can do from any existing PDF. So sometimes I will make a document in Word, save it as a PDF, and turn it into a form that I save as a template if it’s something I might use over and over with clients, like an intake form. That way anyone can type right into the form. You can also redact portions of PDFs in Acrobat. See Word here. See Acrobat Pro here (there is a subscription version as well. I use the downloadable, expensive version).
  5.  Google Voice. I use Google Voice and a GV phone number as my business line on my iPhone. It forwards to my cell so I can still take calls at my convenience, and I can text from my phone or from the website as well. Google Voice is free and I was able to choose my own number a long time ago. I use the app on my iPhone and I haven’t really had an issue. The only thing to remember is if you are making an outgoing call to someone who only has your GV number, make sure you don’t call them directly from your regular phone app, otherwise you’ve just shot yourself in the foot and revealed your cell number to your client. See it online here. See the GV app here.
  6.  MA Divorce App. This is for Massachusetts only but I would imagine other states may have something similar. I use this app to calculate child support, although it also does alimony calculations and has a date calculator. The best part is that you plug in data and it does all the math for you, even taking into account different parenting schedules. You can then export the worksheet right to Dropbox or print! Dare I say it makes it kind of fun to do child support calculations! And it’s totally affordable. See it here.

What apps do you use while sitting poolside, or at the beach or otherwise not in the office?

Featured image: “Swimming pool” from Shutterstock.

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