Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2005

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER:

BY PAT YEVICS  

"Tidbits and Bytes"
By Pat Yevics

The best way to get a good idea
is to get lots of ideas.

- Linus Pauling

I usually try to catch up on my reading in January, but somehow the first two, almost three months of 2005 are gone and I am just getting around to going through my pile of reading materials. As I always do, I would like to share some information with you. In addition, there are many other short items I would like to share in hopes that one or two of them will help.

Great Product for Dealing with Spam
As many of you know, I am on ALL of the more than 100 MSBA Email Lists, as well as other national Email Lists. This participation is always a double-edged sword because it opens your e-mail address to spam. Like most firms/businesses, the MSBA was swamped with spam. Thanks to our IT Director, Lawrence Hicks, we installed Postini® software, which filters and blocks spam. Since Postini® enables you to actually see what has been blocked, you can check to make sure nothing of importance has been filtered out.

And it has worked splendidly for MSBA. Although I still get some spam, Postini® blocks about 150 useless messages a day. I still check to see if there are any messages that I need to read, but most are junk mail.

The MSBA is also offering Postini® as a member benefit. For more details, visit www.msba.org/departments/membership/discounts.htm.

E-Newsletters
Firms of all sizes send out information to clients and potential clients in the form of e-newsletters, and anti-spam filters are often set so “high” that almost nothing gets through to clients. One excellent website, www.emaillabs.com, features articles on the effective use of e-newsletters and ways to enable them to get past spam filters, such as avoiding certain “voodoo words” that can raise red flags with spam filters, such as “Click”, “Trial”, “Dear”, “Bankruptcy”, “Guaranteed”, “Urgent Matter”, “Cash”, “Income” and “Limited Time Offer”. [From “Stand Out From Spam,” Law Office Computing (August/September, 2004).]

Don’t Get Caught in the Phishnet
The act of sending an e-mail to a user under the guise of an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information for purposes of identity theft is called phishing (definition courtesy of www.webopedia.com). The e-mail directs the user to a website which subsequently asks the user to update his or her personal information (which the legitimate organization already has), such as passwords and credit card, Social Security and bank account numbers. The website is bogus, however, set up only to steal the user’s information.

This is a very serious problem in which even the most sophisticated users can get caught. For a really good article on how to avoid being scammed, go to www.antiphishing.org/consumer_recs.html. In addition, you can take a phishing IQ test at http://survey.mailfrontier.com/survey/quiztest.html.

The IQ test (which I took) came to my attention while I was listening to the Computer Guys on WAMU (88.5 FM) on my way home from the February Solo and Small Firm Practice Section Meeting. They provide great information and are very entertaining. For more information, visit www.wamu.org/programs/kn/computerguys. If you take the test (which you should), read the details for determining whether the e-mail message is real or a fraud; they will help in other situations. You should also share this information with your family and staff.

New Software Product for Estate Planning
Two independent reviewers (both solo practitioners) highly recommend a software package called WealthDocs, which is based upon the document assembly software HotDocs. You can get more details and order a CD Demo at www.wealthcounsel.com. If you want a copy of the review, please e-mail me at pyevics@msba.org and I can fax it to you. [From “Estate Planning in a Box,” Law Office Computing (August/September 2004).]

Gadgets
There are two new battery packs have received excellent reviews as backup power for your laptop battery. The N-Charge System (www.valence.com) is a small, flat and lightweight external laptop battery designed to sit under your laptop. According to reviewer Brent Burney, the pack is “designed to mimic your laptop’s power supply so your laptop can’t tell whether it’s running from the wall or the N-Charge system.” Simply charge the battery for 3-4 hours, then plug it into your laptop using a special adaptor for your specific laptop model.

The second pack is called Solar Roll14 (www.brunton.com), and just as the name suggests, it uses the sun to power your laptop, cell phone or digital camera. Although the reviewer, who describes the Solar Roll as looking something like a “small hallway rug,” thought it would be great for those places where there is no electricity, the N-Charge seems more practical.

Again, if you would like copies of these reviews, please e-mail pyevics@msba.org and I will fax them to you. [From “Packing Portable Power” Law Office Computing.]

Lock Box – Personal Access
Micro Solutions offers an external hard drive that can only be accessed by fingerprint-recognition. The drive connects to your PC through the USB port, and it allows up to eight authorized users. For more details, visit www.micro-solutions.com.

Security for Solos and Small Firms
In their article “Protected from the Elements,” authors Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., and John W. Simek offer some quick tips on security. (The article is of course much more detailed; again, for a complete copy, contact me at pyevics@msba.org.)

  1. Install anti-virus software.

  2. Install the appropriate firewall protection for your Internet connections. How you are connected (dial-up, DSL, cable) will specifically determine what type of protection you need.

  3. According to the article, you should not be using Windows 98, as it allows very easy login without knowing your password. The authors recommend Windows 2000 or XP.

  4. All users should have passwords and change them periodically.

  5. Turn off the “AutoComplete” feature. (In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options, Content.)

  6. The authors even recommend using a screensaver password that will keep your computer secure if you leave your desk for a period of time. (This might be a good idea if you share offices.)

  7. The authors note that “the vast majority of security breaches” are committed by disgruntled employees. Hence, they recommend physically securing the server. If possible, secure telephone equipment. If it is in a common area, ask that it be locked with limited access.

  8. In addition to convenience, new technologies offer new security problems. If you are considering wireless networks and other devices, there are many security safeguards that must be implemented.

  9. If you are using Word or other Microsoft products, make certain that you get software that eliminates metadata (the information that is contained in the files which can be easily accessed by anyone to whom you send an electronic document). Such products include Metadata Assistant by Payne Consulting (www.payne consulting.com), Workshare Protect (www.workshare.com), iScrub Metadata Management Software by Esquire Innovations (www.esqinc.com) and BEC Legal Systems’ Metadata Scrubber (www.beclegal.com). [From “Protected from the Elements,” by Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., and John W. Simek, Law Office Computing (August/September 2004).]

Not Another Awards Show!
Although there were few if any real surprises in the actual choices made by readers in the 10th Annual Law Office Management Readers’ Choice Awards, some of the actual statistics were surprising (at least to me). The survey was sent at random to 2,000 Law Office Management subscribers with a 10.6 percent response rate. The numbers that are most revealing are how many practitioners do not use some of these applications.

Some of the statistics which I found interesting are:

  1. Although MS Word had a larger share of the legal market, it was only 51.9 percent to 47.6 percent.

  2. However, 65.7 percent used MS Office Suite, compared to 24.9 percent that used Corel (Word Perfect).

  3. Of the responding firms, 41.7 percent used no document management, and of those that did, 12 percent used iMange, 10 percent used WorldDox and 6 percent used PCDocs.

  4. Of the responding firms, 46 percent used no document assembly program, and of those that did, 30.7 percent used Hot Docs.

  5. Of the responding firms, 21.6 percent used TimeSlips and 11 percent used PCLaw. The remaining used a variety of other time and billing software.

  6. Of the responding firms, 34.3 percent did not use case-management software. Of the 66 percent that did use it, 25 percent used Time Matters, 14 percent used Amicus Attorney, and the remainder split between all the others.

  7. Of the responding firms, 58 percent do not use litigation-support software.

  8. In 1995, there was not even a question in the survey about e-mail, yet according to the new survey 99 percent of respondents said they used e-mail daily and 98 percent reported using the Internet daily. Only .5 percent said they never use the Internet or e-mail.

  9. Of the responding firms, 74 percent had websites.

  10. The top three type of Internet connection were DSL (38.1 percent), T1 (35.1 percent) and cable (15.4 percent). Only 3.6 percent used a dial-up connection.

Hopefully, this will give you some idea where you rate on the technology scale.

If you would like to see some of the reviews listed, please e-mail pyevics@msba.org and I will forward them to you. As a special bonus, I receive 10 complementary copies of Law Office Computing each month. I have been distributing it to various councils and speakers. If you would like to receive a copy one month, please send your mailing address to pyevics@msba.org and I will forward you a copy. It is an excellent magazine.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2005

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