1. Come Up With a Plan Before You Purchase Software: Do your homework. Before you buy, sit down and conduct an honest assessment. What are you trying to do? What is your budget? The answers to these questions will drive what you need. Be aware of wants vs. needs.
2. Get Training: In my view, this is one of the most overlooked areas. No matter what you’re using, you’ll be more productive if you get training. I spoke with a lawyer once who said he needed new software because his current software couldn’t do what he needed. After a little investigation, it turned out his current software did do everything he wanted—he just didn’t know it! Get training when you install the software. Here are a few options:
- The Microsoft website has free courses available online. Simply click on the application.
- Trainers: You can always sign up for a class either in person or on a website, but sometimes it may be better to just pay for an hour of someone’s time and learn what you need.
- Lynda.com: Their basic month-to-month plan is only $25 and it includes access to their entire library of video courses. Sign up for a preview account at no charge. You can search by category of software, name of the application, skill level, and even the instructor.
- Google: Try entering the name of the software in Google. You’ll be surprised how many options there are. Between forums where questions are asked and answered, individual websites of techies, and YouTube videos, I can almost guarantee you’ll get an answer to your questions.
3. Use Google More: Google is a simple, easy place to get answers for your technology questions. There are tons of websites that offer program reviews and legal-specific software information. For software errors, put the exact error message in quotation marks and enter it in Google.
4. Don’t Go Too Long Without Updating Software and Hardware. We all want to save money, but there’s a point where it can turn into penny wise and pound foolish. If you’re using a piece of software and you love it, great. But companies don’t support software forever. If they stop supporting it, they stop fixing bugs, you can’t take advantage of enhancements, it might not work with your new computer that has an updated operating system, etc. You should periodically stop and evaluate what you have to see if it’s still serving you well.
5. Be Careful About Using Wi-Fi When You’re at Starbucks: Protect yourself on public Wi-Fi. Many attorneys meet clients in cafes, and we all spend time in airports. But be careful—most of these public Wi-Fi spots are unsecured. Check out this article.
6. Ask Your Colleagues: There’s nothing that compares to first-person experience. If you’re in the market for time and billing software, check to see what your colleagues are using.
7. Get Rid of Metadata in Your Documents Using a Metadata Scrubber. You may not know that in 2008 the CBA issued Formal Ethics Opinion 119—Disclosure, Review and Use of Metadata. It says you have to know what metadata is, and how to get rid of it. The text of the opinion is on cobar.org. Consider purchasing a scrubber such as Metadata Assistant at thepaynegroup.com. They offer a free trial, and one license is only $98. You can set it up to automatically pop up when you send an email with a document attached and ask if you want to scrub the document. It couldn’t be easier!
8. You Can’t Know Everything, So Know When to Get Help—And Be Willing to Pay For It. I talked with a member once whose computer crashed. She tried fixing it herself, only to find that in the process of reinstalling everything she had unknowingly erased almost all of her client files. It ended up costing her thousands of dollars and a trip to a forensic firm. In the end, she was only able to retrieve a very small percentage of her documents.
9. Take Advantage of the CBA’s Resources on Technology: Check out the LPM Department’s website. There you will find:
- Lists of software
- Archived computer tips
- Videos from previous 30-minute Tech Tuesdays webinars
- Copies of the LPM Newsletter and how to sign up to receive the complimentary ABA Law Practice Today webzine
- Lists of books in the free lending library—including many on technology
10. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Technology is a moving target. You will never totally be on top of what’s out there. But it’s worth doing your homework, coming up with a plan and then sticking to it. The benefits will amaze you!
By Reba Nance, the Director of Law Practice Management for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.