Bar Bulletin

August, 2004

 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER:

BY PAT YEVICS  

"Tidbits and Bytes: Sharing the Wealth"
By Pat Yevics

NOTE: One of my favorite technology publications is Law Office Computing, published six times a year by James Publishing. Although some of the articles can be a little “techie”, most are very easy to read and understand. The focus is on solo and small firm practitioners, and all the reviews of software are done by practitioners. This month, I am going to go through some tips and information from recent issues.

Tips from
Law Office Computing

  ProLaw and Timeslips ‘Discovering’ Solo Practitioners” (June/July 2003). Timeslips and ProLaw both now have time and billing (Timeslips) and case management (ProLaw) software specifically for solo practitioners.

Timeslips for Sole Practitioners was reviewed by two solo practitioners, and both recommended it. It received mixed reviews on Setup and Tutorial, with one saying it was easy and the support was good and the other saying it was difficult with hard-to-get support. However, both reviewers said that the Time and Expense Tracking were excellent and the Account Receivable Tracking was adequate for solos. Both agreed that the product was “powerful and customizable” with “enough flexibility to meet most solo attorney’s needs.”

The major disadvantage was that the program could not be networked and only has capacity for two timekeepers. If you need to upgrade at a later time, this can be done without losing any of the database information from the solo version.

ProLaw Ready is a smaller version of the practice management software ProLaw, which is designed for larger firms and much more expensive. According to the reviewer who also reviewed the full version, this is still a powerful and comprehensive package and not just a watered down version. It is still, however, rather expensive.

  “The Digital Law Office,” by Joseph L. Kashi and Tom Boedeker (August/September 2003). In this excellent article, this small firm found “changing to an all-digital filing system was surprisingly easy.” Some of the lessons they shared include:

  1. Store all imaged documents on a network file server so they are accessible to all staff.
  2. Have the hardware to completely back up the network. A high-capacity tape drive is still best.
  3. Use the document imaging format that will make it easiest to share documents.
  4. Adobe Acrobat is the industry standard. Consider the full version.
  5. Buy the fastest scanner you can afford.

  “Hear All About IT,” by Lilledeshan Bose (June/July 2004). A website from the Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society  (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/audio/home) publishes the most controversial issues related to Internet law and technology as audio files that can be downloaded or streamed from the site. It is targeted towards attorneys and researchers who spend a lot of time on computers.

  “Lend Me Your Ears: Nation’s Highest Court Finds Its Audio Files at the Center of Supreme Court Project” (December/January 2004). The OYEZ Project (www.oyez.org/oyez/frontpage) provides access to more than 2,000 hours of Supreme Court audio, including every oral case heard since 1995 and selected cases since 1955. Listeners can read transcripts while listening to the audio.

  “ProxiLaw Lets Attorneys be Attorneys” (December/January 2004). This website (www.proxilaw.com) was an outgrowth of the legal consumer site LegalZoom. Legal Zoom was set up by attorneys (including Robert Shapiro of OJ fame) to allow the public to create documents without using an attorney. ProxiLaw acts as an on-demand virtual paralegal. The documents that can be created include LLC, Incorporations and POA, as well as many others. There are a variety of pricing structures. This could be helpful to new practitioners.

  “GuruNet for Windows,” reviewed by Andy Green (June/July 2004). Unlike a web search engine which gives you a series of links when you do a search, GuruNet for Windows (www.gurunet.com) gives you answers to specific questions. You can even click on a word in a document and it will try to find a definition. “Unlike Google, GuruNet makes intelligent assumptions on the type of information you want and displays relevant data in sensible formats.” Although its legal information needs improvement, this can save you time. The cost is $29.95 per year.

Other Tips
 
“How to Pick a Document Management Vendor,” by Dennis LeStrange (August 2003 issue of Law Technology News). For small firms to be able to handle large cases, they would need to use an outside vendor to manage the documents for the case. According to Dennis LeStrange of IKON Office Solutions, using the wrong vendor could be disastrous. His tips for choosing the right vendor:

1. Look for a vendor who does business in many geographic regions.
2. Check reputation for consistency between locations.
3. Choose a vendor that can handle and reproduce documents in a variety of formats.
4. Look for vendors that maintain relationships with technology companies that are familiar with the legal community.

On a further note, MSBA offers detailed comparisons of various software products, providing pros and cons of each one. Listed below are some of the reviews that we can make available to you.

  Comparison of find utilities to help locate scanned materials.
 
Review of Dragon Naturally Speaking 7 Legal Solutions.
 
Comparison of software for electronic discovery.
 
Comparison of anti-spam software.
 
Review of the new billing program, Billing Matters 5.0.
 
Comparison of remote access software.
 
Review of software to create time lines for presentation.

If you are interested in receiving any or all of these, please send an e-mail with your mailing address to pyevics@msba.org, or call (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039. For a more extensive list of information packets available, please go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/index.htm. If there is any topic you would like reviewed or researched, please contact me. We are here to help you.

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