In Depth: Social Media

ABA's tech feedFri, 09/26/2014 - 12:30



Surprise! Social media is not a fad. From networking to marketing to eDiscovery and picking and monitoring juries (yes, really), it plays a role in the practice of law. But what, exactly, is social media? Community. Communication. Storytelling. Social media is an elastic media, meaning it changes and adjusts the more it is used. Twitter started as a way to send quick status updates about what you were doing, and now it’s a news source and a way to organize groups–be it a friendly meetup or political uprising.

Social media’s elasticity makes it useful, challenging, and sometimes frustrating. Here is what you need to know.

What is social media/social network?

Social media is generally defined by the sharing of articles, blog posts, images and other content through various online platforms or networks. The more familiar ones are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Other networks include FourSquare, Yelp, SnapChat, and Pinterest. See Wikipedia for a mostly complete list.

Most social media sites require you to setup a profile.

How do I setup a profile?

With an email address.

Really. With an email address.

The important thing is to completely fill out your profile on each network, especially if you are making the profile public. Referral sources, clients, potential clients, reporters and anyone looking for you want to find you. Completely filling out a profile gives search engines content and context, and for some networks, like Google+, what you put in your profile impacts your search results.

Most social media profiles contain the following elements:

  • Your Name
  • Your Handle/Username
  • Profile Picture
  • Link to your website
  • Your Bio

Fill out each element.

Each network also has its own set of nuances, and sometimes what seem like a standard fill-in-the-blank can get you into ethical hot water–LinkedIn, with its “specialties” and “skills and expertise,” for example. Allison Shields, who co-wrote the book on LinkedIn for Lawyers, also wrote a post explaining legal ethics and social media. Check with your bar association or local ethics body to be safe. The New York State Bar released Opinion 972 related to LinkedIn profiles, and the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Guidance Committee issued Opinion 2012-8 addressing “skills and expertise.”

To maintain consistency across networks, a rule of thumb is to pick a phrase or three to four words that best describe you and/or your practice and use those in all of your profiles.

When it comes to the profile and cover images, you can get creative with graphics, backgrounds and such, especially on Facebook. Doing so can strengthen your brand, make visual connections between your law firm website and social networks, and help you stick in visitors’ minds.

How do I get the most out of social media?

First, decide what you want to achieve. Remember, social media is just one weapon in your arsenal, and it may not always be your best weapon. Used strategically it is an asset, so figure out what you want to get from social media. For example, some use it to stay abreast of legal technology trends, while others find it a useful research tool, a method of networking with other small businesses or potential clients, or a platform to establish themselves as an authority.

Once you’ve listed the goals you want to achieve, spend some time exploring the different networks. A key goal is cultivating social interaction. Each network has different ways of building connections beyond the simple posting of updates. There are Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, entertaining animated gifs, even chats centered around a hashtag like #legalchat or #cbafutureschat or conferences such as #MILOfest and #ABATECHSHOW.

It is not uncommon to find social media overwhelming at first, especially Twitter. We’ve got some quick tips for connecting on Twitter and some hidden Twitter tricks to help you get the most out of Twitter without drowning in tweets.

Another key consideration: it IS NOT NECESSARY to be on every network. Spend some time exploring the networks and then focus on the ones that are best suited to your goals and your law firm.

Watch the video below to learn more about making social media work for your law firm.

What tools can I use to better manage my social networks?

Tools abound for social media management.

HootSuite is one such tool. LTRC Marketing master Rose Frommelt walks you through some of its finer features that make it easier to follow, share, engage and track your social media.

The most robust tool for social media management is probably Radian6, now the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Other tools include Buffer and SproutSocial. Such tools help automate functions in order to help you better optimize your social media marketing. Find the one that fits your workflow and your budget.

Do I need to be concerned about ethics with this social media stuff?

Short answer: Yes.

It doesn’t take much to run afoul of ethics rules or otherwise embarrass yourself. It’s useful to have a social media policy, even if just for yourself, to avoid pitfalls. Check this list of social media policies from businesses large and small, universities, and state and local government agencies to get some ideas.

The Digital Edge has a nice podcast on ethical pitfalls of social media that includes judges’ (mis)use of social media. It is also important to keep in mind what you share on social media. It isn’t always just an update or a beautiful picture of a sunset, and you don’t always have control over what happens to a post.

What other social media is there?

The social media space is fluid, so while Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn may grab all the headlines, others like reddit, Instagram and Pinterest are also quite popular.

Google+ in particular keeps evolving with its Hangouts function. Hangouts on Air, for example, presents opportunities for lawyers. The most obvious is marketing, and the second obvious opportunity is group communication and collaboration. But it is possible such platforms can develop into tools for the law firm of the future or more distributed law firms as physical borders continue to fall. Its evolution could make it the new legal interface.

There are also new apps on the market, like Wickr, Secret, and SnapChat, that can pose challenges. They are part of a new breed of privacy-first apps where content self-destructs and the user remains anonymous. There are companies like Datacoup and Handshake (out of the UK) that aim to pay consumers for the use of their data, effectively turning the data broker model on its head, and potentially forcing Facebook, Twitter and other sites that rely on the volunteering of information for ad dollars to rethink that model, too.

One More Thing

Social media is elastic; it changes and evolves as people use it. Your use of it will change and evolve, too, so remember to measure your interactions against the goals you set for yourself.

Simple yet often forgotten: keep your profile information updated.


(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

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In Brief: The Shellshock or “Bash Bug”

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/25/2014 - 18:26



Introducing Shellshock.  Also known as the “Bash Bug,” Shellshock exploits a system application found on many computers called Bash that translates “shell” commands into something your device can understand. It impacts Linux and Unix Systems and — brace yourself — Mac OS X.  Confused? Keep reading.

What is it?

The very geeky answer comes from RedHat’s Security Blog:

It is common for a lot of programs to run bash shell in the background. It is often used to provide a shell to a remote user (via ssh, telnet, for example), provide a parser for CGI scripts (Apache, etc) or even provide limited command execution support (git, etc)

A more simple explanation from Mashable:

Typically, the shell needs to check information separate from the command, such as what software is running, to do its job. What Shellshock does is open a way for hackers to add some malicious information into that process.

Then there’s the more detailed answer from James Lyne from Forbes:

…may allow [hackers] to modify authentication information, start other programs and otherwise gain access to information they should not. It is a foothold in a device which you can use pretty creatively.” In other words, it provides access to information you don’t want unauthorized parties to access.

Why is this important to me?

There are machines, devices, and applications running Linux or Unix everywhere.  Most notably, the Mac sitting on your desk or your lap, the iPhone in your pocket, the router connecting you to the Internet, and that Internet-enabled camera used to monitor goings-on at home. They may all be vulnerable. Run Microsoft Windows and think you’re immune? Think again as there may be non-Microsoft components between, for example, your Microsoft laptop, your Internet connection, and the online applications you use.

This is of concern because, unlike Heartbleed, exploiting “Bash Bug” doesn’t required sophisticated skills.  As Lyne explains:

The attack can be performed using nice, easy to script commands which means you don’t need to be a 31337 (sorry, I couldn’t help myself that is ‘elite’ for the uninitiated) hacker to do it. It’s actually quite easy. The code to attack (and many variants) is already widespread.

The danger comes in the poorly managed, often ignored devices it may impact.

Troy Hunt’s post points out that there “is no authentication required when exploiting Bash via CGI scripts.” He explains why this is problematic:

“getting shell” on a box has always been a major win for an attacker because of the control it offers them over the target environment. Access to internal data, reconfiguration of environments, publication of their own malicious code etc. It’s almost limitless and it’s also readily automatable. There are many, many examples of exploits out there already that could easily be fired off against a large volume of machines.

Client files and law firm data can be exposed and, given the worm-like potential, other people connecting or communicating with you may be exposed. That is problematic.

 What can I do?

Check your systems for exposure, check for patches, and update your software–particularly if you use Macs in your practice.

If you’re comfortable using the command line on your Mac via the Terminal app, Ars Technica offers an easy way to check for the vulnerability:

To check your system, from a command line, type:

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If the system is vulnerable, the output will be:

vulnerable this is a test

An unaffected (or patched) system will output:

bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt bash: error importing function definition for `x' this is a test

If you’re vulnerable, again, make sure to check Apple for patches and updates and apply them promptly.

Fluidity of Updates

This is a fluid situation, so keep an eye on the news and sites like Akamai and Errata Security.

The post In Brief: The Shellshock or “Bash Bug” appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Keynote Highlights from the Clio Cloud Conference

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/25/2014 - 12:30



Everything is Awesome!

That was the theme of this year’s Clio Cloud Conference. In an attempt to outshine last year’s inaugural conference, Clio upped its game this year with a new (gorgeous) venue, more than 450 attendees and more vendors to boot. It started looking like a real technology conference this year, but better than most.

Jack Newton and his childhood friend, Rian Gauvreau, started Clio almost six years ago and as the product has matured and added features, their tech conference has done the same. With big names in legal technology including futurist Richard Susskind, the speaker line up was much more planned this year with a variety of excellent speakers.

In addition to the speakers, the new additions of a food truck breakfast, optional yoga and basketball in the morning as well as a Zen room (I’m not kidding), rounded out the more technical features of the conference including the Clio Lab and Smart Bar.

This year, attendees were able to choose from a variety of different tracks that are seen at similar technology conferences. The practical features were still available for folks looking to take Clio to the next level as well as excellent technology sessions, including what I consider to be the best session in Digital Marketing that I have seen at a technology conference by Jabez LeBret of GNGF.

As a second time attendee, I wanted to focus most on the keynote speakers. Jack Newton, CEO and Founder of Clio greeted the crowd the first day with the announcement of product features including a long-awaited Android app (the iPhone app was last year’s big announcement), FastCase integration (Excellent!) as well as some upcoming features including an integrated document management system and Zapier integration, a huge win for them.

The highlights of the conference for me were the main keynote speakers: Richard Susskind, Cindy Cohen and Carolyn Elefant. While Richard Susskind may be a household name in the legal technology community, Cindy Cohn may only be known in a small tech-savvy group. Well known solo attorney and author of the blog, MyShingle, Carolyn Elefant was a perfect match to bring the technology and efficiency message back to the solo and small firm attorney.

As usual, Professor Susskind is very engaging and delivers the message of the future of the legal profession. While his message hasn’t changed in the past few years, his audience may be listening a little more as he asks, “What value do you bring?” and how can attorneys do “more for less” in terms of using cloud-based applications like Clio.

Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, opened everyone’s eyes as she brought the NSA and US government’s data collection strategy to light. While she “taught a little tech to the lawyers”, she was quite eloquent in her message that the government’s data collection strategy was unconstitutional. This was a perfect venue for tech-savvy lawyers who need to know the implications of this data collection on attorney client privilege, and a call to action about how to do something about it.

Finally, Carolyn Elefant rounded out the third, non-Clio keynotes with practical advice for this solo and small firm audience including take-aways of things that firms can do to be sustainable. Her suggestions included making the intake process quick and looking at different ways of bringing money into the firm, including annual and/or subscription services for clients. She ended with the great suggestions of using the same technology non-lawyers are using, and building your firm to last by utilizing the flexibility and nimbleness of the cloud.

Overall, the Clio Cloud Conference was better than last year, but not as intimate an affair. While the Clio’s staff rocked every detail, I think some of the personality was missing from last year. More people, more things to do, made for less networking time between attendees and I missed that. Having said that, I am headed back next year to see what Clio has in store.

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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The Future of Wearable Technology for Lawyers

ABA's tech feedWed, 09/24/2014 - 12:47



Along with the release of iOS 8, there has been much excitement around the Apple Watch. Arriving in 2015, it is Apple’s addition to the growing wearable technology market. Wearable technology holds promise for lawyers, and some early adopters are already finding wearable technology beneficial in their practices.

In this episode of The Digital EdgeSharon Nelson and Jim Calloway interview legal technology expert Richard Georges about wearable technology, how smartwatches enhances his ability to be productive, and what lawyers need to consider when adopting this new technology. Having a smartwatch, Georges explains, actually decreases court disruptions and car distractions while making him accessible to clients at all times. Most of the issues concerning data security are due to human error rather than technology. As long as lawyers learn how to properly embrace wearable technology, he says, it can improve any practice from big law to a solo firm. The risks are not greater, they are simply different.

Judges may already discourage smart phones in court and many clients worry about a decrease in information security. But if used properly, a smartwatch can actually increase the productivity, availability, and even safety of any lawyer’s practice with fewer disruptions. What are the best practices for using wearable technology to benefit your practice?

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Making The Move: Taking My Law Office to Abacus Private Cloud

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/23/2014 - 14:30



I am a solo attorney, with a criminal and traffic ticket defense practice at Anchorage, Alaska. For the past 16 years I have had my own law office. For 25 years I have closely followed the use of computers in law offices.

The Problem

About six years ago, during a time when I had no paralegal, I put my entire law office on a business grade laptop so I could be mobile and use my time more efficiently by working between court hearings and appointments, rather than driving to a desktop computer at my home office. However, that solution was not workable.

I was so active with multiple court hearings and appointments, week after week, that my laptop simply could not take the constant mobility and use. The risk of laptop or hard drive failure became too great. I needed to find a computing platform that would let me retain the mobility and efficiency I enjoyed with my laptop, yet safeguarded my digital data. In short, I a computing platform where my data and applications were stable, safe, and secure; yet were also accessible via an Internet connection.

First, I put my entire law office on a single desktop computer in a small building on some recreational property I owned. However, after months of trial and error, this proved unworkable due to unstable electrical power and a slow, unreliable DSL Internet connection.

Next, I tried hosting my law office desktop computers at a local office center, which had an expensive, high speed business-grade Internet connection. My legal assistant and I would then access those computers via standard, off-the-shelf, remote access software. This solution was marginal at best — no tech support for local connectivity or hardware issues; plus there was significant expense in all the equipment and time involved in attempting to keep three desktop computers operational 24×7. I was not satisfied with this temporary solution. I desperately needed a turnkey, real-life, workable solution to my legal computing needs.

Rejected Alternatives

I wanted a secure, fully integrated, turnkey private cloud solution, run by a reputable vendor, who was technically competent, and which I could fully trust. Therefore, I rejected piecemeal or patchwork alternatives, which might give me consumer-grade, partial solutions to certain aspects of my problem, such as software as a service (SaaS) and common cloud data storage products (Google Drive and Dropbox).

I also rejected hosting my desktop computers in a rack at a commercial data center in the Midwest as it is too expensive. Likewise, even though I already owned most all of the equipment I needed to build my own private data center, I rejected that idea as too expensive and time-consuming, and because it was beyond my technical expertise to achieve the level of data security and reliability that I needed.

The Solution

In mid-2011 I moved my entire law office to Abacus Sky, a first generation private cloud platform for attorneys.  Using this product demonstrated that private cloud computing is stable, reliable, and makes economic sense in a dynamic, real life, working legal environment.

Then five months ago, I was given a chance to move to Abacus Private Cloud, a a cutting edge private cloud platform, solely for lawyers and law firms from Abacus Data Systems. It runs in state of the art data centers within the United States and is specifically designed to run legal applications.

I migrated my practice to Abacus Private Cloud. Doing so involved transferring all of all my data onto an encrypted USB drive, which was then shipped overnight to Abacus Private Cloud, who reloaded that data onto my virtual server. The tech people at Abacus Private Cloud built my virtual server and behind the scenes they did all the detailed, technical work to make the migration as easy and painless as possible.

Why Abacus Private Cloud Works for Me

I had very high standards for my cloud computing vendor:  I insisted their product  consistently have superior performance, and excellent reliability. I can honestly say that Abacus Private Cloud has fully exceeded all my expectations. It is very responsive, stable, reliable, and economical (when compared to traditional law office computing models).

The benefits to my law practice from Abacus Private Cloud are:

  • My data is secure and safe in the Abacus Private Cloud data center. No more local data backups, because all data is on the private cloud server, and is backed up there.
  • My local equipment costs are drastically lower than before I switched to a private cloud. I eliminated the three desktop computers that I was previously accessing remotely.
  • I don’t need costly application software on each local access device. All law office applications can be run on the private cloud server, not on local hardware. The local devices are there simply to display and interact with the private cloud server.
  • My private cloud server can run any software, whether related to Abacus or not. Therefore, I can run the application software that my meets the specific needs of my law practice, regardless of the vendor.
  • My local IT and tech support costs are $0.
  • My staff and I have become totally mobile, without sacrificing efficiency. This means that each employee, as needed, can work on their own schedule, and from any location with cell phone coverage, electricity, and an Internet connection. This creates a flexible, modern, and dynamic work environment, resulting in a better quality of life, happier attorneys and staff, and a better work-life balance for all involved.
  • All law office applications and data are accessible 24×7 for each user via any device: desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Private cloud technical requests (e.g., email configuration, remote access from a new device, etc.) are promptly resolved by the Abacus Private Cloud support staff.
  • System reliability (uptime) is outstanding. In five months of constant operation I think my virtual server was rebooted twice, resulting in a 5-10 minute outage each time, during off hours. Users are given advance notice of periodic night/weekend system downtime for maintenance upgrades. Also, tech support staff are on-call to respond to after-hours emergencies. The high level and degree of support for this product indicates to me that Abacus truly is concerned about the viability of my law practice, both now and in the long term.
  • Abacus Private Cloud is scalable. My firm only pays for the actual number of users, which can be simply increased or decreased to match changes in firm staffing.

My experience with Abacus Private Cloud proves that it really works! Abacus Private Cloud provides all attorneys and law firms with a simple, easy-to-implement, modern, secure, and customizable way to use the private cloud to practice law more efficiently, with more flexibility, and with much less cost, than traditional law office computing methods.

Abacus Private Cloud completely solved my law office computing problems by giving me the security, reliability, technical support, and mobility I need to effectively practice law competitively, efficiently, and economically in the digital age.

My Private Cloud Environment on Abacus Private Cloud My private, personal digital law office on Abacus Private Cloud contains the following components,  which form an integrated, fully functional digital law office:  On The Private Cloud (remote) Server:
  • Case Management and Accounting Software: Abacus Law Gold, and a legacy accounting system using QuickBooks Pro2014
  • Office Productivity Software for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Etc. : Word 2013, Excel 2013
  • Email Software: Outlook 2013
  • Software To Create, Read, Search, and Annotate Digital Documents: Adobe Acrobat Professional X
  • An Internet Fax Service To Fax Digital Documents and Convert Incoming Faxes To Digital Documents: MyFax
  • Disk storage space for all applications and all digital law office data
At the Local (user) Location:
  • One or more digital display and input devices (Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
  • A Scanner or Digital Copier To Digitize Incoming Paper Documents for transfer to the private cloud: Assorted Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners and a Kyocera digital copier
  • A Printer To Make Paper Copies of Stored Digital Documents: assorted HP LaserJet printers and a multi-function Kyocera digital copier
  • A Voicemail To Email Service to convert  incoming telephone voice messages into digital files, which are then emailed to the recipient: an Avaya voicemail system, obtained through a local office center
  • An Internet Connection (wireless or wired)


The post Making The Move: Taking My Law Office to Abacus Private Cloud appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Day 1 of the Clio Cloud Conference: Fastcase, Data and Android

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/23/2014 - 12:35



The big news from the Clio Cloud Conference is Clio’s exclusive integration with Fastcase.

Exclusive, as the press release states, means that “Clio will be the only cloud ­based practice management tool to offer an integration with Fastcase, and Fastcase will be the only online legal research tool available through Clio.”  Lawyers who use Clio and Fastcase can now track time spent researching and save relevant documents to matters in Clio. No more guess work on how much time was spent looking for cases in Fastcase as it is all pushed to Clio, and no need to download/upload documents. A few clicks and poof! One less workflow interruption.

My first thought:

Interesting. @goclio + @fastcase = cornered market? #ClioCloud9

— Gwynne Monahan (@econwriter5) September 22, 2014

Judging by the crowd’s reaction to the short demo given by Clio co-founder and CEO Jack Newton during his opening keynote, my first thought seemed right. Being able to do research in Fastcase while tracking your time for it in Clio, and save relevant documents to matters in Clio, removes a number of cumbersome steps. Except it sounded familiar, and, yep, Thomson Reuters Firm Central does that. Clio has upped the ante, so to speak, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

While Fastcase was the big announcement, Clio also announced improved integration with online accounting software app Xero, and integrations with QuickBooks Online, JurisPage and Zapier. While JurisPage automatically creates contacts in Clio whenever someone fills out a form on your website, Zapier automates. I have been messing with Zapier and Slack for a  large writing project, and have used Zapier to connect Evernote to Slack, and Google Drive to Slack. Whenever I create a new Note for the project, be it writing or research, it automatically appears in Slack for my editor to review and comment. Same for drafts ready for review from Google Drive. It has done wonders to cut down on the amount of email exchanged. For Clio users? I’m interested to see what Clio users do with Zapier.

Clio Next

Clio also announced Clio Next, which includes a facelift. Like the rest of the Internet, Clio has gone blue. Newton stated that yellow was being used like more of accent color, and is still found in its native mobile applications.

The crowd cheered the absence of yellow, and talking to some attendees, the change to blue is welcome. One key thing Clio Next does is put data dashboards on your home screen, or Practice tab.

The buzzword “big data” was thrown around often during the first day, from the session on metrics to Richard Susskind’s keynote. There was acknowledgement that “big data” is a buzzword and not something new. Little of what is discussed is new; it just seems new because technology makes it so. Now you can do what Walmart has been doing with data. By putting your data dashboards front and center, Clio makes it more convenient to monitor the health of your law firm.

Convenience, I often argue, is what drives adoption. The more convenient, or easy, it is to do something, the more likely people are to do it and keep doing it. Think of how we pay for things. We’ve gone from bartering to cash to checks to credit cards to various iterations of mobile payments. The most convenient wins.

Clio has made it more convenient to see your law firm data and thus more convenient to pay attention to your best referral sources, most profitable clients and whatever else you want to know so you can run your practice efficiently, effectively and get the most out of the extra eight hours a week Clio gives you.

Clio Next isn’t just about a color change, either. Newton discussed improved functionality, including:

  • More robust document creation, management and collaboration options, doing away with the need to use cloud storage services like Dropbox.
  • One-page billing, so you can generate bills on the fly for new clients, matters and time entries, without having to create the entries first in Clio.
  • New document storage and sharing features.
Android App

Clio isn’t the first to release a native Android app. MyCase released its app in May, while Rocket Matter’s has been out for more than a year. Now Clio users who prefer Android devices have access to a native app “with the same functionality and ease of use” Clio iOS users have been enjoying. In other words, Android users now have a native app instead of having to use the mobile optimized web version. It looks exactly like the iOS version, and its key features include:

  • Track time and expenses on the go
  • Access your matters and associated information
  • Keep on top of your tasks on the go
  • View and reach your contacts
  • Access and modify your calendar
  • Offline access – you can use Clio’s Android app without network access to use your data offline

That just leaves Windows phones without a native app.

The post Day 1 of the Clio Cloud Conference: Fastcase, Data and Android appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Managing Email with Rules and Quick Steps in Outlook 2013

ABA's tech feedMon, 09/22/2014 - 12:30



Although email is supposed to make communication quicker and easier, it can often complicate things instead. Most lawyers have email clutter. Many have inboxes with thousands of messages in them. Email has become a major clutter and productivity obstacle. Two ways to help manage that avalanche of email if you use Outlook are using Rules and Quick Steps.

Using Outlook Rules

Outlook uses “rules” to automate common tasks. They’re easy to create and can be used to streamline common e-mail-related tasks. Here’s how to create a rule from a template or from scratch:

  • In the Navigation pane (the column on the left side of the Outlook window that includes buttons for the Mail, Calendar, and Tasks views and folders), click Mail.
  • On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.
  • If you have more than one e-mail account, in the “Apply changes to this folder” list, click the inbox you want.
  • Click New Rule or Create Rule.
  • Do one of the following:
    • Use a template with pre-specified actions and conditions and select the template you want
    • Create the rule by specifying your own conditions, actions, and exceptions

To have this rule apply to all your e-mail accounts and inboxes, select the “Create this rule on all accounts” check box on the last page of the Rules wizard.

Create a Rule Based on a Message

You can also create a Rule directly from a particular message. This is helpful when you’re reading a message and you realize that you would like to create a rule that applies specifically to all messages with a particular subject line, or to all messages from a particular sender. For example, you may want to create a folder for all messages that come from your bar association list-serve or from a particular client, and to have all of those messages automatically sort into those folders when they arrive in your inbox. To do so, simply right-click the message you want to base the rule upon, and click Create Rule.

In the dialog box, select the conditions and actions you want to apply. To add more conditions, actions, or exceptions to the rule, click the Advanced Options button, and then follow the rest of the instructions in the Rules wizard.

Creating and Using Outlook Quick Steps

Some email management tasks are performed repetitively in Outlook, but are not appropriate for Rules, because they cannot be automated; they require you to make a decision about what to do with the email. Quick Steps can be used to perform repetitive tasks easily in Outlook when those tasks are not ones that can be made into Rules. For example, when doing an initial sort of my email inbox, I use a Quick Step to sort emails that require some action or follow-up on my part into a folder I’ve created called “Action.” In one click, I can move the message to the Action folder so I don’t have to go searching through my Inbox later for all of the messages that require my attention.

Quick Steps are located under the Home tab in Outlook, toward the middle of the toolbar. Click the arrow in the lower right corner of the Quick Steps box to bring up the Manage Quick Steps dialog box.

To change an existing Quick Step, click on it and then click Edit.

Under Actions, change or add the actions you want this Quick Step to perform. These might include moving or copying a message to a particular folder, permanently deleting a message, assigning a category and more. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to the Quick Step using the Shortcut key box, which is found at the bottom of the Quick Step Edit dialog box.

To change the icon for a Quick Step, click an icon next to the Name box at the top of the Quick Step Edit dialog box, click an icon to select it, and then click OK.

To create a new Quick Step, under the Outlook Home tab, in the Quick Steps group, click Create New. In the Name box, type the name for your new Quick Step. Click an action type from the list. If you would like to add additional actions (perhaps you want to move messages to a specific folder and label them with a specific category), click Add Action. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to the Quick Step using the Shortcut key box. When you are finished creating your Quick Step, click Save.

When you create new Quick Steps, they appear under the Outlook Home tab at the top of the gallery in the Quick Steps group. You can rearrange your Quick Steps using the Manage Quick Steps dialog box.

Once your Quick Step is created, it will be much easier to take action on your email messages. For example, if I want to copy an email message from my Inbox to my Action folder, rather than clicking on Move, then Copy to Folder and then choosing my Action folder, I can simply click on my Action Quick Step.

While Rules and Quick Steps can help you organize and manage your email inbox, you’ll still need an efficient way to deal with those messages and take action in a timely manner. Don’t forget to schedule time to take action on those email messages!

This post was adapted from the upcoming Law Practice Division book, “How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” by Allison C. Shields and Daniel J. Siegel. Look for it soon.

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Challenges of Mobile Devices, BYOD and eDiscovery

ABA's tech feedFri, 09/19/2014 - 12:30



The use and capability of mobile devices has increased exponentially over the past few years. There are nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, estimates The International Telecommunication Union. This is equivalent to 95.5 percent of the world population (1). Mobile devices are being utilized as a means of communication and as data stores in workplaces worldwide. As a result, mobile devices have become a popular topic within the eDiscovery market procreating unique challenges that span across the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) (2).

BYOD and the Labyrinth of User-Created Data

The growing number and models of mobile devices and their associated Operating Systems (OS), as well as the increase of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in today’s workplace have added a layer of complexity with regards to the identification of user-created data. Potentially relevant user-created data from mobile devices can be found in several different locations including but not limited to embedded memory, Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM) cards, and removable storage.

File formats and third-party applications also present new identification challenges and can differ greatly from those associated with traditional Electronically Stored Information (ESI) data sources. Given the increased scope of functionality and the vast amount of third-party applications, additional considerations must be taken into account in order to identify what is or is not relevant user-created data.

4th Amendment and Data Preservation

Due to the increase of BYOD polices in today’s workplace, fourth amendment implications need to be considered as well. Should an employee who uses their personal mobile device for work-related tasks presume a reasonable expectation of privacy? Such considerations will likely shape any potential preservation strategy for mobile devices.

As such, preservation of potentially relevant user-created data from mobile devices has become a hot topic in the eDiscovery market place and is being uniformly recognized as a relevant source of ESI with increased frequency. Understanding the full functionality and capability of a mobile device is absolutely essential to the successful preservation of user-created data. Other considerations such as password protection and remote wipe commands must also be addressed as there is significant risk involved when it comes to data loss. Failure to address such preservation considerations could be catastrophic and may adversely affect collection efforts.

Developing a Collection Strategy

When developing a successful collection strategy for mobile devices, there are a plethora of considerations that need to be addressed as well as the increased cost implications associated with the collection of user-created data from mobile devices. In today’s market place there is a wide variety of mobile devices with varying versions of software being utilized.

Understanding the full functionality of the mobile device targeted for collection is an absolute must in order to formulate a successful collection strategy. Depending on the mobile device, deleted content may or may not be recoverable. Which collection methodology should be used for mobile devices, physical or logical? A large majority of devices have Internet capability therefore the presence of Internet history; multimedia messages such as MMS and SMS; email; videos; as well as third-party applications are also all likely to contain user-created data. Depending on the mobile device these items may or may not be recoverable.

Mobile device data types can also present unique challenges during processing and document review as some of these file types cannot be processed or require conversion to an alternate file type for review. Data massage and conversion efforts for these data types increase the ever-expanding costs for eDiscovery services as additional considerations must be acknowledged. The presence of audio or video files can further inflate eDiscovery costs in most cases as they require a native review increasing review times. The metadata associated with mobile device data types can also present some eDiscovery challenges as well. Take for example text messages (SMS). Unlike email data, text messages contain no record of when the message was first read and may be incomplete if erased from a mobile device. Depending on the case, this metadata may or may not be essential.

Key Considerations when Planing for Mobile eDiscovery

Based on current trends; the functionality, capability, and use of mobile devices in today’s workplace will likely continue to increase in the years to come resulting in additional data sources and potentially relevant user created data. With this increased development, operating systems, file types, and hardware are very likely to evolve. This will force the eDiscovery market to keep pace. Today’s mobile devices are already a hot topic for eDiscovery professionals and will likely be considered as mainstream sources of ESI in the very near future.

Below are some key considerations that should be addressed when planning for mobile device eDiscovery.

  • Have a customizable plan in place for incorporating mobile devices into the eDiscovery process which segregates company data from personal data, eliminating potential Fourth Amendment concerns. Creating a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) device policy to regulate how devices should be used must be seriously considered.
  • Develop workflows and procure the technology to retrieve discoverable data off of mobile devices for review which reduces the amount of employee personally identifiable information (PII) introduced into the eDiscovery life cycle.
  • Know who in an organization uses mobile devices as well as the device type and how the device is used. This will reduce obstacles when planning for the preservation mobile device data.
  • Know the full functionality of the mobile device.  Data generated from mobile devices can most likely be accessed via company servers. However, data might reside in the cloud or on the physical device. Due to the variety of mobile devices and their operating systems coupled with the wide variety of forensic tools available preservation of mobile device data has become a far more complex and rapidly changing evolution.

Looking at the state of the mobile device market, it is difficult to ignore the fact that mobile devices will continue to play a major role in civil and criminal investigations worldwide. Incorporating them into an initial eDiscovery strategy and developing workflows to account for them as potentially relevant user-created data stores will be vital as they are being acknowledged as such with increased frequency. Failure to account for these devices in the eDiscovery life cycle could potentially produce catastrophic results.

(1)   Global mobile statistics 2014 Part A: Mobile subscribers; handset market share; mobile operators. (2)  Featured image from

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In Brief: iOS 8

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/18/2014 - 13:33



Apple released iOS 8, “the biggest iOS release ever,” and as with most Apple releases everyone went for it at the same time. If you’re still waiting for the download, here are some posts that explain what you’ll get.

Oh, but read this first if you have an iPhone 4S or iPad 2 and haven’t updated yet.

Re/Code Highlights

For its review of iOS 8, Re/Code took the Problem/Solution route starting with texting using your voice. I may be an Android user, but a good deal of my family – check that, all but myself and my Dad — have iPhones. My sister-in-law sends messages that sometimes have errors, because she is using the iPhone’s text-to-speech feature while she handles three kids under the age of 10 coming to and from piano lessons, school, or chasing the bunnies around the yard. With iOS 8, as Re/Code puts it, Apple lets you send “short recordings of your voice that the recipient plays to hear — in place of texts.” It only works on iMessage, though, so I’m out of luck. But the rest of my iPhone family is not.

Also included in iOS 8: family share options so families can more easily share music and apps with each other, and some features in Mail that will make lawyers happy:

Mail now lets you swipe to the right on any email in its list to mark a message as Unread or Read. Swiping hard to the left immediately trashes a message, which helped me to quickly clean out emails I didn’t want. At the top of each email message, iOS 8 prompts you to add a person’s information to your contacts. For example, if you don’t have a phone number that a friend lists in her signature, select Add to Contacts at the top of the message — or just tap Ignore if you don’t want to save that number.

Re/Code also gives a teaser in its description of Continuity features, most notably Handoff, which will be available with the Yosemite update.

Image courtesy Apple Inc.

Ars Technica Deep Dive

Ars Technica offers the most in-depth, comprehensive review of iOS 8, so while you wait for the update to finish, have a look. When Ars says its going to “give you a thorough rundown of iOS 8′s new features today,” it means THOROUGH. To help wade through it, they provide a Table of Content, starting with which devices are supported under iOS 8.

Ars runs through everything, from UI design changes to Extensions, iCloud to a grab bag of topics like privacy, Siri and Passbook, notes on battery life and usage, before finally coming to a conclusion that lists The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

iOS 8 freshens up the underpinnings of the operating system, opening an unprecedented number of things up to third parties without sacrificing the things that define iOS. iOS 7 was transformative on an aesthetic level; iOS 8 is transformative on a functional level.

FYI for IT Departments

Computer World explains how IT should prep for iOS 8.

It outlines things to revisit for BYOD policies as iOS 8 puts more control into the hands of users. With HealthKit, for example, Computer World makes note that companies may be inclined to let employees use HealthKit as part of corporate wellness plans, and suggests

Policy updates should be coordinated with human resources and legal teams to ensure compliance with other employee policies as well as federal, state and local laws. 

HR needs to be closely involved if an organization has an employee wellness program that uses mobile apps and/or fitness tracking devices that integrate data with HealthKit or, perhaps more significantly, pull data from HealthKit. The goal is to ensure that policy and technical safeguards are in place and may involve discussions with benefit coordinators, insurers and outside companies. Since employee participation in these programs is now a bargaining chip when it comes to health insurance costs, a third-party company that collects or manages data for a wellness program should be involved.

It also provides a good overview of Enterprise Mobility Management, what has changed and what has improved. There is a section detailing changes to extensions and data sharing, potential uses of Touch ID in the enterprise as a replacement for passwords or login credentials and  S/MIME encryption for individual messages in Mail.

So, is your wait over? Good. Share your feedback on iOS 8 and the apps you use to run your law practice in the comments.

Featured image: Lester Balajadia /

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Using Social Media to its Maximum Potential

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/18/2014 - 12:30



In an effort to help Midsized firms fully participate in our changed legal landscape and rise to meet their unique and pressing challenges, Thomson Reuters has created the Managing Partner Series, a thought leadership-focused collection of resources developed specifically for leaders of Midsized firms.

The Managing Partners Series site features webinars, videos and white papers developed specifically for Midsized firms. Each month, the site features a new topic that helps Midsized firms take advantage of new opportunities, make hard decisions and navigate complex situations. Our August topic, Business Development, featured a white paper on how to use social media to its maximum potential. A notable finding from the paper:

That Midsized and Large law firms are not using social media to its full potential means they are not capitalizing on readily available opportunities. An April 2014 study from J. Johnson Executive Search found that when law firms invested in marketing, including social media, 82 percent reported seeing client growth and 79 percent saw an increase in client retention. Since social media tends to be free or low-cost, those results are quite impressive, considering they stem from a fairly de minimis investment.

Another aspect of business development is cross-selling, and this video helps explain how Midsized law firms can identify cross-selling opportunities, and make the most of them. Later this month, the site will offer content on Technology and Firm Efficiencies.

The purpose of the Managing Partner Series is to engage leaders of Midsized law firms in productive, enlightening dialogue. By providing these leaders with the information, tools and insight they need for their firms to flourish, Thomson Reuters aims to become a solid and successful business partner. We’re happy to have you join us.

To download content about this month’s topic of Business Development or to see what other content is available, please visit our Managing Partner site.

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Why Your Paperless Strategy Might Not Be Working

ABA's tech feedWed, 09/17/2014 - 12:30



Everyone wants the “paperless office,” but many people think that it is unachievable. It’s not, but it takes extra effort to integrate paperless workflows into your everyday office procedures, documenting them and making them standard practice.

Are you stuck in a “somewhat” paperless office but really aren’t quite sure how to move to the next level? Let’s take a look at some obstacles and solutions that will help you succeed at your paperless strategy and move toward the all elusive “paperless office.”

Obstacle #1 – Mail

I hate to admit this, but this is one place where my personal paperless strategy falls down – physical mail (and paper) coming in the door. It can pile up if it is not immediately processed, so you need to stop paper at the door. Create an office procedure that immediately scans the mail, shreds the originals (use your discretion and State Bar rules), discards the junk, and saves or forwards the documents to the appropriate place-either email or directly into your document system. Equip your receptionist or whoever handles the mail with a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner (about $450 on Amazon) and they will be ready to rock ‘n roll.

Obstacle #2 – Paper from Other People

Walking back to the office from a meeting outside, you are suddenly inundated with paper from other people. Not produced by yourself, but you may have a stack of documents from a client, opposing counsel, co-counsel and your desk is cluttered again. To help with this workflow, ask people to send you the documents electronically. They probably printed them out for the meeting anyway, or they may have their bank statements online or documents already in some type of electronic format. Ask them to send you the documents in electronic format. Most people would be happy to comply.

Inevitably, you’ll have paper coming into your office from outside sources so you need to have a plan for incoming paper. The types of incoming paper can include the following:

  • Client data – including data like medical records, court documents, etc.
  • Expense Receipts – for client and firm related expenses
  • Checks (hopefully!)
  • CLE and Continuing Ed
  • Non-firm related activities – Board meeting minutes and documentation

By creating a documented paperless workflow for each type of incoming paper, the paper tiger is reduced. Engage your staff in your paperless workflow, equip them with a scanner and they can process their own paper as well as yours. Share this workflow and make them accountable to be part of the solution.

Obstacle #3 – Paper We Produce Ourselves

We all need paper sometimes. Whether you like to print out a document so you can mark it up or just need something to hold on to, it’s OK - paper is not bad. It’s just bad when you don’t know what to do with it. Once again, make a workflow of paper that you no longer need. Don’t want to shred it right away? That’s fine. Create a holding basket for shredding. From checks (that are deposited electronically) to documents that are not destroyed immediately, have that recycle bin. You have it on your computer, have one in your office too.

These obstacles are not stopping you from becoming paperless; they are just bumps in the road. The most important piece of these workflows is to write them down. By writing them down and making them part of your office procedures, you get buy-in from your staff as well as buy-in from yourself. It becomes part of how the office works.

The paperless office is not unachievable, but it does take work and planning and written processes to move it forward. Good luck!

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Video: Making a Case for the Cloud

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/16/2014 - 23:55



No lawyer worth their weight would make a decision or create a strategy without having all the facts. But with all the conflicting information and rumors out there about the cloud, how can a firm successfully move to a cloud-based service? Watch this video from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center and discover everything you need to know and ask before putting together a cloud strategy for your firm.

Thank you to our sponsor.

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Secrets of Google Voice Setup that I Wish Someone had Told Me

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/16/2014 - 12:30



Note: I use Safari, so this might not apply if you do not use Safari. I understand this might have been easier if I used Google Chrome.

I have had Google Voice for about six years. I originally got it so I could use it to give to guys when they asked me for my phone number. I didn’t want to give them my cell number in case they were crazy stalkers, and at that time there was no way to block incoming calls (at least on my carrier and/or phone at the time). With Google Voice, you can block certain numbers from calling you, and you can also block their text messages. It was the perfect setup, really, and trust me when I say I have blocked more than just a few nut jobs.

I know plenty of attorneys who use GV as their business number for its benefits (including blocking nut jobs) such as getting transcriptions of your voicemails via email or text (which is, in my experience, rarely accurate, but at least you can use context clues to kind of determine if the message is urgent) and the ability to listen to voicemails from your computer and also text from the web.

One day I saw a colleague answer a GV call from her computer. A little pop-up window opened to show the incoming phone number, with a button to either answer or deny the call. There was even a ring tone coming out of the computer speakers.

A GV veteran, I was amazed and shocked that I had never seen this feature before. And I wanted it. I have terrible cell service in my office, so this was a great solution to prevent missed calls. My colleague said she never had to set anything up and that GV always automatically did that. Apparently I have used GV for so long that none of the auto enabling stuff applied to me.

I scoured the web for instructions on how to set this up. One option was to download Chrome and install an extension, which I did not want to do. I use Safari and I am not a Chrome fan, so this post is written from a Safari users’ perspective. All I was able to find were bits and pieces of settings in articles that were old or that did not help at all. After online searching and asking random people, I finally put the pieces together. I decided to include few direct links because there were so many things I had to read to figure this out on my own – luckily I am super patient (or insane) and at some point, all my tweaks came together.

Here are some of the things I learned about Google and GV that I wish someone had told me.

  1. Using Google Apps for Work and having a personal Google/Gmail account are two different things. This seems obvious at first but it is something I did not consider when I went on my GV adventure. My GV number is still linked to my very first Gmail address, which is NOT my Google Apps for Work Gmail address (which is my Think Pink Law email address); it is just a personal Gmail address. This created some issues since many of my search results were geared toward setting up GV in a Google Apps for Work account. For example, it seems that the Google+ page is automatically “on” if you have a Google Apps for Work account, whereas for a personal account, you actually have to activate or turn it on. I don’t know how I figured this out, but I did.
  2. You must have Google+ page active in order to have GV ring through your computer. Frankly I am not sure if this needs to happen before or after the other settings I mention throughout this post because in my case, it was the last setting I adjusted, and I am pretty sure I did it accidentally on purpose.
  3. Google Chat must be turned on in BOTH your GV settings AND your general Gmail settings. There is a check box in each case, and both must be checked.
  4. Google Hangouts must also be activated. If you haven’t done so already (or if you have an account where this was automatically activated), you can turn this on from the left side of your screen when logged into Gmail, where you see all your Google Chat contacts. The Google+ Hangouts website says this is available by clicking on your profile photo in the chat list. Once you do this, you should see and icon of a quotation mark, which seems to be the little Hangout logo.
  5. If you are already in Google+, Hangouts is already available on the right side of the page. Again, here it’s a little quotation mark icon.
  6. The setting to “ring on incoming phone calls” in Hangouts needs to be on. Find this setting either by clicking on your profile photo in your chat list on the left side of your Gmail page, or if you are on your Google+, click on the quotation mark/Hangout icon and then the little arrow to reveal the setting.
  7. A browser window or tab must be open (and thus Hangouts must be online and connected) for your computer to ring.

Have you had issues setting up your GV? How did you figure it out? What would you add to my list? Was there an easier way that I missed? Tell me!

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8 Essential Functions for the Right Task Manager

ABA's tech feedMon, 09/15/2014 - 12:30



On any given day, there is a lengthy list of items to be completed. Phone calls. Emails. New client meetings. Followups.

In this episode of the Kennedy-Mighell ReportDennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell discuss taming the to-do list, their own approaches to using technology to help with task management, and questions every lawyer should ask when looking for a management tool to suit their needs. Kennedy shapes his list management around David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” a system which allows him to see his weekly calendar as a big picture and sort priorities to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormous list of projects. Mighell says lawyers should watch for eight essential functions when looking for the right task manager:

  • Available on Multiple Platforms
  • Ease of Entry
  • Recurring Tasks
  • Multi-List Capable
  • Assign Priority Levels
  • GTD Functionality
  • Notes and Attachments
  • Ability to Share Task Lists

He recommends every lawyer weigh the importance of each of these before choosing a task management tool. Both @DennisKennedy and @TomMighell stress that this is a personal choice and ask the listeners for feedback on the to-do technologies they like best.

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Docking Your Mobile Device: A Review of HiRise from Twelve South

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



We are a society deeply tied to our mobile devices. We use them at all hours – at home, on our commute, at work, in meetings and in court, and even in the middle of the night. During the daytime, they reside at our side, whether on our desk or in our pocket just so that we don’t miss important calls and messages from family members, friends, and clients (that is, if you are brave enough to dole out your cell phone number to clients). For my mother, messaging with her children comprises a full-time job; I’m not quite sure how she gets anything else done in the day.

The point here is that it can be distracting to go searching for your device each time you need to use it. To be more efficient in your practice, the solution for this dilemma is a docking platform. While there are a number of docks available for your devices, this article describes one type of dock made for iPhone and iPad users, the HiRise Dock by Twelve South.

The HiRise Dock works with both the iPhone and iPad Mini.  It elevates the iPhone or iPad Mini onto its own pedestal to enable optimal viewing.  With your iPhone or iPad Mini on this stand, you can stream video, listen to audio, view notifications and messages, and conduct other iOS functions as you would were your device sitting flat on your desk.

Now, there are other docks out there, including Apple’s own iPhone dock, but the HiRise Dock has a few unique functions, including the following:

  • Raising the device to an optimal viewing height;
  • Fitting a variety of device cases; and
  • Enabling access to the headphone port.

The HiRise Dock comes packaged well, but requires some assembly.  All tools are included.  Fortunately for me, I enjoy this type of task.  But, I will warn you that the screws included are quite small and may be difficult to manage for someone with large hands.  The box comes with a simple instruction manual, in addition to a QR code with a link to video instructions.

Assembly allows the user to customize the settings for use with or without a case. Depending upon the thickness of your case, you can choose the appropriate clip to fit the bottom of your phone (connecting the lightning adapter) and the proper width to ensure stability.  Note: The dock is only compatible with Apple’s lightning adapter, which is not included with the dock.  Once you’ve adjusted the clips and width, you can put your tools aside.  [Unfortunately, it is not practical to use the dock with different devices and cases on a daily basis, because it would require manipulation of the settings by screwing and unscrewing the parts each time you swap cases and devices.  The other aspect that frustrates me is that you cannot easily remove the lighting adapter, say, if you need to take it with you or use it with a different device.]


The look of the dock matches Apple’s sleek look, and thus jives with a minimalist desktop design.  With its non-slip rubber bottom, the dock stands solidly on the desk.   In using the dock, I found that when my iPhone was docked, it was only a slightly unsteady.  Stability can be improved by ensuring that the dock parts are fit snug against your device during assembly.  While docked, I was able to type messages and do other iOS tasks.  Stability decreased ever so slightly when using it with my iPad mini.  I even went so far as to try it with my iPad Air (note: Twelve South does not denote support for iPad Air); at just the right angle it stood upright and charged, but with the slightest movement it toppled over.

The HiRise Dock comes with a price tag of $34.99, which is comparable to Apple’s own docking solution at $29.99.  Overall, I’m satisfied with the dock.  It does what I need it to do and helps boost efficiency in my work.  I would urge you to take a look at the HiRise Dock and other docking solutions for your devices.  I assure you that it will make a difference in your productivity.

For additional docking solutions as well as other iOS accessory options, listen to this recent episode of the Legal Toolkit with Jeff Richardson of

Featured image courtesy of Twelve South.

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The Data Guardian: Transforming Legal IT

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/11/2014 - 12:30



Just like nearly every other knowledge worker, legal professionals are becoming more mobile than ever. Based on recent research commissioned by Workshare, 96 percent of legal professionals are accessing documents on the move, with as many as 84 percent requiring access to work documents outside of the office to get their jobs done. This requirement for mobile working is being sufficiently met with an abundance of cloud-based file sharing applications in the marketplace, but this is often at the expense of security.

More than half of employees are bypassing corporate policies and opting instead for unsanctioned file sharing applications – like Dropbox and Google Drive – and risk exposing sensitive and high-value legal documents. Not all law firms are equipped with their own security and risk management teams, which leaves essential data protection responsibilities unclaimed. And as consumer-grade apps continue to flood the workplace, it’s time for someone to regain control of corporate data and content.

Rise of the Data Guardian

While the IT department has traditionally been known to maintain systems and services within the four walls of the organization, this is quickly changing. In the next-generation workplace, IT must take the lead. With the vast majority of corporate data residing in Document Management Systems (DMS), Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECM) and cloud platforms, ensuring the data itself is protected – within the corporate firewall and beyond – means that the role of the ‘Data Guardian’ is one IT need to adopt.

The Battle for Control

The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend is widely recognized with most firms already having policies in place for using personal devices at work. But managing BYOD is only the first step. Firms must also recognize that BYOD and BYOA (Bring-Your-Own-Application) go hand in hand, which adds another layer of complexity to managing document security. BYOA (and BYO-file sharing apps, in particular) have created significant difficulties for the IT department, including:

  • Version control – Content now resides in multiple repositories, some controlled by the IT group, with some controlled by users. This makes identifying the latest document versions increasingly difficult. With a handful of different versions existing alongside each other, employees could unknowingly update an outdated version, resulting in a huge drain on resources and even a hit to brand reputation if an incorrect version is shared externally.
  • Data security – By their nature, given they derive from sharing non-business files, personal file sharing applications are unlikely to adhere to strict, corporate-defined, IT-enforced data security requirements and policies. These types of applications are at greater risk of letting hidden data (metadata) like track changes slip through the cracks, exposing highly sensitive information to unintended recipients.
  • Lack of transparency – Because consumer-grade applications operate outside of IT’s governance, it is impossible to keep an audit trail that tracks how and with whom files are being shared is unlikely.
  • Compliance adherence – For highly regulated industries like the legal sector, ensuring that the handling of documents complies with industry regulations is crucial. But with employees sharing files from personal accounts, without IT groups’ knowledge, compliance can prove extremely difficult.

The fight to enforce rigorous policies that address these issues and keep information secure is one that IT desperately wants – and needs – to win. As the protectors of company data, IT’s ability to maintain close visibility and control over intellectual property is its primary weapon.

Letting Go of “No”

With all of the challenges that come with personal file sharing applications, the immediate inclination for IT is to ban them outright. While this may seem like a knockout move in their battle for control, it doesn’t necessarily mean the war is won. For users, constantly hearing the word “No,” especially when it comes to the devices and applications that they enjoy using, can be extremely frustrating. Some users may voice their concerns, but it’s more than likely they’ll go behind IT’s back to find ways around usage restrictions.

At the heart of any peace treaty is compromise. IT needs to understand the way people work and enable them, but do so in a way that ensures data is protected. This means deploying a solution that features both users’ wants and IT’s requirements:

  • Removing risk – IT should start with identifying the workflow processes that create the highest potential for risk and apply data control to those weakest links. Forrester found that the ability to set file access permissions was of primary importance, followed by other data control features such as authentication, encryption, file expiration, password protection and remote wipe.
  • Mobilizing content – Collaborating outside of the firewall is a key driver for success for the majority of legal firms, yet for 60 percent of organizations, current DMS and ECM systems lack necessary cloud and mobile support. To prevent workers from using third party, cloud-file sync and share applications that might not meet IT’s security standards, legacy collaboration systems must extend secure collaboration syncing across devices and beyond the firewall to create a more agile workforce.
  • Using appropriate cloud deployment – A crucial part of the decision-making process when considering a cloud-based application for file sharing and collaboration is whether to choose public, hybrid or private cloud infrastructures. Nearly half of organizations lean toward hybrid solutions, as they allow complete control over company data by permitting IT to choose exactly where their documents and data reside.

Provisioning an easy-to-use cloud collaboration application that users want is key to ensuring they aren’t drawn to using unsanctioned apps.

Finding a Balance

When BYOD and BYOA trends entered the workplace, they enhanced legal professionals’ productivity, but turned the tables on IT, who watched helplessly as sensitive documents became subject to risk. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will satisfying both stakeholders, there is a way to find a balance between security and productivity, and it’s with the advent of IT’s new role as the Data Guardian.

As the keeper of policy enforcement and procedure around the use of cloud file share and sync applications, Data Guardians transform how law firms approach collaboration and mobility. Gone are the days of banning devices completely – IT now understands how to empower users to work the way they want, while providing secure enterprise alternatives to consumer applications that enforce policy and keep sensitive information secure.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Abacus Data Systems Launches Turn Key Private Cloud Service

ABA's tech feedWed, 09/10/2014 - 12:30



Yesterday, Abacus Data Systems announced Abacus Private Cloud™ (APC), the latest edition to its fully integrated legal technology solutions portfolio. According to the press release, APC “is built exclusively to run legal technology in a fully managed, secure and redundant private environment.” The press release continues:

The most pressing issues keeping legal professionals up at night are ethics and compliance, regulatory changes and information privacy. Legal entities create huge volumes of electronically stored information every day. While they struggle with how to preserve, manage, and use that information effectively, the pressure to reduce legal spend continues to increase. APC is designed to help legal professionals accelerate their journey to the cloud and mitigate the risks posed by Public Cloud and SaaS applications. With APC, legal professionals can offload technology burdens, including migrating existing data and applications to the cloud, enabling them to focus on taking on new cases and delivering ‘best possible outcomes’ for their clients, instead of trying to solve frustrating IT issues.

Abacus Private Cloud addresses today’s ever-changing threat landscape with robust security and compliance policies, including two-factor authentication, five tiers of physical, network and data security, information handling and data privacy protocols in accordance with NIST standards and geographically redundant, SSAE 16-compliant, SOC 1-, 2- data centers.

It’s no secret that technology is a necessity to remain competitive and deliver the kind of client services consumers expect. The more telling quote is this:

“Piecemealed technology is no longer sufficient to remain competitive in today’s legal landscape. APC can take any local IT infrastructure, desktop software application and data and weave it into a fully integrated, virtual workplace, which is accessible remotely from any device, anywhere, anytime. All this, in state-of-the-art data centers located exclusively in the United States, supported 24 by 7, for a predictable and affordable monthly service fee,” Alessandra Lezama, Chief Executive Officer of Abacus Data Systems, said.

Piecemeal technology. Stop for a second and consider all the applications you use in your practice. Some of it might be cloud-based, some of it might reside solely on your desktop. Some of it might integrate with one of the various practice management systems. Abacus Private Cloud removes the piecemeal. In addition to the benefits of cloud computing, including all the IT grunt work of maintenance, backups and updates being handled by someone else, you also get the benefits of having a dedicate IP and control over your data. Hence “private cloud.” Some might call that the best of both worlds.

The FAQs of Abacus Private Cloud give you the nitty-gritty details.

Fully integrated platforms. Letting you access all of your firm data, client communications and whatnot within a secure, virtual environment. The future of the practice of law?

Feature image courtesy of Abacus Data Systems.

The post Abacus Data Systems Launches Turn Key Private Cloud Service appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Standard Markdown is now Common Markdown

Coding HorrorFri, 09/05/2014 - 00:23



Let me open with an apology to John Gruber for my previous blog post.

We've been working on the Standard Markdown project for about two years now. We invited John Gruber, the original creator of Markdown, to join the project via email in November 2012, but never heard back. As we got closer to being ready for public feedback, we emailed John on August 19th with a link to the Standard Markdown spec, asking him for his feedback. Since John MacFarlane was the primary author of most of the work, we suggested that he be the one to reach out.

We then waited two weeks for a response.

There was no response, so we assumed that John Gruber was either OK with the project (and its name), or didn't care. So we proceeded.

There was lots of internal discussion about what to name our project. Strict Markdown? XMarkdown? Markdown Pro? Markdown Super Hyper Turbo Pro Alpha Diamond Edition?

As we were finalizing the name, we noticed on this podcast, at 1:15 …

… that John seemed OK with the name "GitHub Flavored Markdown". So I originally wrote the blog post and the homepage using that terminology – "Standard Flavored Markdown" – and even kept that as the title of the blog post to signify our intent. We were building Yet Another Flavor of Markdown, one designed to remove ambiguity by specifying a standard, while preserving as much as possible the spirit of Markdown and compatibility with existing documents.

Before we went live, I asked for feedback internally, and one of the bits of feedback I got was that it was inconsistent to say Standard Flavored Markdown on the homepage and blog when the spec says Standard Markdown throughout. So I changed them to match Standard Markdown, and that's what we launched with.

It was a bit of a surprise to get an email last night, addressed to both me and John MacFarlane, from John Gruber indicating that the name Standard Markdown was "infuriating".

I'm sorry the name is so infuriating. I assure you that we did not choose the name to make you, or anyone else, angry. We were simply trying to pick a name that correctly and accurately reflected our goal – to build an unambiguous flavor of Markdown. If the name we chose made inappropriate overtures about Standard Markdown being anything more than a highly specified flavor of Markdown, I apologize. Standard does have certain particular computer science meanings, as in IETF Standard, ECMA Standard. That was not our intent, it was more of an aspirational element of "what if, together, we could eventually..". What can I say? We're programmers. We name things literally. And naming is hard.

John Gruber was also very upset, and I think rightfully so, that the word Markdown was not capitalized throughout the spec. This was an oversight on our part – and also my fault because I did notice Markdown wasn't capitalized as I copied snippets of the spec to the homepage and blog post, and I definitely thought it was odd, too. You'll note that I took care to manually capitalize Markdown in the parts of the spec I copied to the blog post and home page – but I neglected to mention this to John MacFarlane as I should have. We corrected this immediately when it was brought to our attention.

John then made three requests:

  1. Rename the project.

  2. Shut down the domain, and don't redirect it.

  3. Apologize.

All fair. Happy to do all of those things.

Starting with the name. In his email John graciously indicated that he would "probably" approve a name like "Strict Markdown" or "Pedantic Markdown". Given the very public earlier miscommunication about naming, that consideration is appreciated.

We replied with the following suggestions:

  • Compatible Markdown
  • Regular Markdown
  • Community Markdown
  • Common Markdown
  • Uniform Markdown
  • Vanilla Markdown

We haven't heard back after replying last night, and I'm not sure we ever will, so in the interest of moving ahead and avoiding conflict, we're immediately renaming the project to Common Markdown.

We hope that is an acceptable name; it was independently suggested to us several times in several different feedback areas. The intention is to avoid any unwanted overtones of ownership; we have only ever wanted to be Yet Another Flavor of Markdown.

  1. The project name change is already in progress.

  2. This is our public apology.

  3. I'll shut down the domain as soon as I can, probably by tomorrow.

John, we deeply apologize for the miscommunication. It's our fault, and we want to fix it. But even though we made mistakes, I hope it is clear that everything we've done, we did solely out of a shared love of Markdown (and its simple, unencumbered old-school ASCII origins), and the desire to ensure the success of Markdown as a stable format for future generations.

Edit: after a long and thoughtful email from John Gruber – which is greatly appreciated – he indicated that no form of the word "Markdown" is acceptable to him in this case. We are now using the name CommonMark.

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Standard Flavored Markdown

Coding HorrorWed, 09/03/2014 - 20:06



In 2009 I lamented the state of Markdown:

Right now we have the worst of both worlds. Lack of leadership from the top, and a bunch of fragmented, poorly coordinated community efforts to advance Markdown, none of which are officially canon. This isn't merely incovenient for anyone trying to find accurate information about Markdown; it's actually harming the project's future.

In late 2012, David Greenspan from Meteor approached me and proposed we move forward, and a project crystallized:

I propose that Stack Exchange, GitHub, Meteor, Reddit, and any other company with lots of traffic and a strategic investment in Markdown, all work together to come up with an official Markdown specification, and standard test suites to validate Markdown implementations. We've all been working at cross purposes for too long, accidentally fragmenting Markdown while popularizing it.

We formed a small private working group with key representatives from GitHub, from Reddit, from Stack Exchange, from the open source community. We spent months hashing out the details and agreeing on the necessary changes to turn Markdown into a language you can parse without feeling like you just walked through a sewer – while preserving the simple, clear, ASCII email inspired spirit of Markdown.

We really struggled with this at Discourse, which is also based on Markdown, but an even more complex dialect than the one we built at Stack Overflow. In Discourse, you can mix three forms of markup interchangeably:

  • Markdown
  • HTML (safe subset)
  • BBCode (subset)

Discourse is primarily a JavaScript app, so naturally we needed a nice, compliant implementation of Markdown in JavaScript. Surely such a thing exists, yes? Nope. Even in 2012, we found zero JavaScript implementations of Markdown that could pass the only Markdown test suite I know of, MDTest. It isn't authoritative, it's a community created initiative that embodies its own decisions about rendering ambiguities in Markdown, but it's all we've got. We contributed many upstream fixes to markdown.js to make it pass MDTest – but it still only passes in our locally extended version.

As an open source project ourselves, we're perfectly happy contributing upstream code to improve it for everyone. But it's an indictment of the state of the Markdown ecosystem that any remotely popular implementation wasn't already testing itself against a formal spec and test suite. But who can blame them, because it didn't exist!

Well, now it does.

It took a while, but I'm pleased to announce that Standard Markdown is now finally ready for public review.

It's a spec, including embedded examples, and implementations in portable C and JavaScript. We strived mightily to stay true to the spirit of Markdown in writing it. The primary author, John MacFarlane, explains in the introduction to the spec:

Because Gruber’s syntax description leaves many aspects of the syntax undetermined, writing a precise spec requires making a large number of decisions, many of them somewhat arbitrary. In making them, I have appealed to existing conventions and considerations of simplicity, readability, expressive power, and consistency. I have tried to ensure that “normal” documents in the many incompatible existing implementations of markdown will render, as far as possible, as their authors intended. And I have tried to make the rules for different elements work together harmoniously. In places where different decisions could have been made (for example, the rules governing list indentation), I have explained the rationale for my choices. In a few cases, I have departed slightly from the canonical syntax description, in ways that I think further the goals of markdown as stated in that description.

Part of my contribution to the project is to host the discussion / mailing list for Standard Markdown in a Discourse instance.

Fortunately, Discourse itself just reached version 1.0. If the only thing Standard Markdown does is help save a few users from the continuing horror that is mailing list web UI, we all win.

What I'm most excited about is that we got a massive contribution from the one person who, in my mind, was the most perfect person in the world to work on this project: John MacFarlane. He took our feedback and wrote the entire Standard Markdown spec and both implementations.

A lot of people know of John through his Pandoc project, which is amazing in its own right, but I found out about him because he built Babelmark. I learned to refer to Babelmark extensively while working on Stack Overflow and MarkdownSharp, a C# implementation of Markdown.

Here's how crazy Markdown is: to decide what the "correct" behavior is, you provide sample Markdown input to 20+ different Markdown parsers … and then pray that some consensus emerges in all their output. That's what Babelmark does.

Consider this simple Markdown example:

# Hello there This is a paragraph. - one - two - three - four 1. pirate 2. ninja 3. zombie

Just for that, I count fifteen different rendered outputs from 22 different Markdown parsers.

In Markdown, we literally built a Tower of Babel.

Have I mentioned that it's a good idea for a language to have a formal specification and test suites? Maybe now you can see why that is.

Oh, and in his spare time, John is also the chair of the department of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. No big deal. While I don't mean to minimize the contributions of anyone to the Standard Markdown project, we all owe a special thanks to John.

Markdown is indeed everywhere. And that's a good thing. But it needs to be sane, parseable, and standard. That's the goal of Standard Markdown — but we need your help to get there. If you use Markdown on a website, ask what it would take for that site to become compatible with Standard Markdown; when you see the word "Markdown" you have the right to expect consistent rendering across all the websites you visit. If you implement Markdown, take a look at the spec, try to make your parser compatible with Standard Markdown, and discuss improvements or refinements to the spec.

Update: The project was renamed CommonMark. See my subsequent blog post.

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Know the Features Before You Move: Google Apps v. Office 365

ABA's tech feedFri, 08/15/2014 - 12:30



I’m a huge fan of Google Apps for Business. It is one of the main products I recommend as a technology consultant. It has it’s quirks but I have been pretty happy with it; it syncs to all of your mobile devices, syncs to Outlook and the same folders and subfolders structure in Outlook is replicated in the Google Gmail interface.

Along came Office 365. Because of the Microsoft name, I thought that this product was a Google Apps killer. However I think both products have their merits. Consider the following for each of these products:

Access on the Go

Office 365 gives people Microsoft Office everywhere they go – even on a tablet. This is true Microsoft Office. Not the “MS Office lite” we have been used to in the past. It also gives us full compatibility with desktop versions of MS Office and allows for licenses to be installed on five devices and tablets. For the same price as Google Apps for Business, you can get email with Office 365. For an additional cost, you can download the Microsoft Office software platform, a law office standard. Google Docs (Google’s version of MS Office) is far behind MS Office. Google Apps can’t even touch it. Office 365 wins.

Mac Compatible

Office 365′s OneDrive for Business doesn’t sync with a Mac. I know that Apple and Microsoft don’t like each other but to have a flagship product that doesn’t really work on a Mac is a deal killer for some. At the beginning of 2014, the message was – “OneDrive for Business is not compatible with Mac OS X”. Someone at Microsoft must have realized that they were missing a huge share of the market and now Microsoft has recognized that they need to work on a Mac. At least now the message is: Google Apps for Business wins (for now).

Sync and Integration

Many cloud-based products are not syncing with Office 365 – yet. If you are considering a cloud-based practice management system, be sure to check the integrations to see with what product they sync. Not all products sync with both Google Apps and Office 365. This will change as Office 365 becomes a more mature product, but many more products are syncing with Google Apps right now. Check before you commit to a new product for your firm. Google Apps for Business wins (for now).

Web Interface

The new Outlook Web Access on Office 365 is really good. Microsoft beefed up their web access version so it looks a lot like the Outlook. The interface is certainly improved and is much better than it used to be. Google Apps’ interface is the Gmail interface – some like it and some hate it. The great news is that both can sync to Outlook if you prefer. Google Apps for Business and Office 365 – Tie

Admin/UI Friendly

The administrator console in Microsoft Office 365 should be easy but can be very difficult to find simple items. They have hidden a lot of tools that used to be readily accessible in server-based Exchange. Tasks like changing a primary email address or forwarding email used to be easy are now almost impossible unless you want to call for help. Google Apps for Business wins.

Customer Service

Speaking of calling for help, you have to give this one to Google. Their support is phenomenal. With the Office 365 support, you have to go through three or four levels of support in order to get someone on the phone to answer your question.  Google has changed how they provide support but I always speak to a tech that can solve my problem without being passed around. Google Apps for Business wins.

Multiple Email Addresses

Another surprising win for Google is the use of multiple email addresses. While both products offer the ability to receive email from multiple email addresses like  or, with Microsoft, you need a separate license to send from each of those email addresses. Consider this example: Your firm maintains multiple domains – one for each “niche” practice. With Microsoft, you would need a separate license to send and receive email from your “niche” customers. With Google, as long as that address is listed as an alias (aka forwarding address), you can send and receive on behalf of that email address. Google Apps for Business wins.

In the end, both products are really good. However, as you dig into the details, you may find one feature that will sway you towards one product or the other. Do some investigating and dig into those details before you make that leap, so you will not regret your decision in the end.

The post Know the Features Before You Move: Google Apps v. Office 365 appeared first on Law Technology Today.

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