Legal Technology for Small Law Firms - Strategist
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Recently in Legal Technology Category

Courts move slowly, as Chief Justice Roberts noted in his State of the Federal Judiciary Report earlier this year. Yes, he knows that the Court needs electronic filing and video recording, but for vague or unspecified reasons, they're just not ready for that yet.

Now that we think about it, all courts at every level have weird anachronisms that shouldn't exist anymore, or practices that just plain don't make sense. We've assembled a list of five things courts need to stop doing in the year 2015. This is the year of the Hoverboard, after all!

It's been 25 years since a University of Michigan Ph.D. student named Thomas Knoll and his brother John, then a visual effects supervisor at ILM, created a program for displaying images on a black-and-white display.

That little program for Mac OS 6 was Adobe Photoshop, and after 15 versions, it's going well beyond just displaying images. Photoshop is the industry standard for photo manipulation, and indeed, is now a verb for the act of digitally altering a photo.

Speaking of digital alterations, Photoshop may be used more often than you think in a legal context. How do you know when an image has been Photoshopped?

Between Facebook, Twitter, and a website (and, if you've been reading here, podcasts!), maintaining your Internet presence can seem like a full-time job, or at least a half-time job. And, wait, don't you have a law firm to run? All that marketing won't matter if you don't have to do any actual lawyering.

That's why you might want to consider hiring a social media manager -- a full- or part-time employee who not only manages your Twitter feed, but functions partly as a marketing manager who knows how to leverage social media.

OK, so you have a blog. You have a Twitter account. You have a Pinterest, a Tumblr, an Ello, and even a lawyer Tinder (but we should talk about deleting that soon). What tools are left for solos and small firms to use to market themselves?

Podcasts! You've probably heard about them, you may have listened to them, but did you know it's dead simple to make your own? All you need is a laptop, a USB condenser microphone, and an hour a week to record a show about a topic of your choice.

We've been quietly watching a proposed change to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure wind its way through the appropriate channels, wondering if it's worth writing about. As the proposal has gathered steam, it turns out it's created as much divide as Team Edward v. Team Jacob -- minus the abs and the longing looks.

The proposal to reduce the maximum length of federal civil briefs from 14,000 words to 12,500 words has drawn comments from lawyers and judges alike -- and guess who's on which side of the proposal.

Even in Web 2.0 world, the telephone -- and its constant companion, voice mail -- are still with us. There are actually a lot of people out there who prefer the scintilla of human interaction the phone provides over the cold, lifeless specter of email. (Or the tantalizing fun of Snapchat.)

As with every office practice, voice mail has its own etiquette and best practices guide. Here some of the rules you should keep in mind for professional and efficient voice mail communications:

Virtual Law Office 105: Processing Credit Card Payments

How complicated is getting paid by credit card?

In an ideal world, one would only need a credit card processor, such as the many ones we've talked about that handily operate via an attachment to your smartphone. If a food truck can take plastic, lawyers certainly should be able to do so too, right?

Except IOLTA accounts. Damn trust accounts. If you're taking payment in advance of services rendered, things get immensely complicated because most credit card processors take their cut out of what the consumer pays -- which creates an obvious ethics issue for unearned fees that are supposed to be sitting in your IOLTA account.

Virtual Law Office 104: Using Google Forms for Your Practice

Sick of transcribing paper intake forms into your computer after every consultation? Want a free, paperless, electronic option? Well Google Forms might be your new best friend.

The idea is simple: Create online forms, such as an intake form, that you can send to potential clients, embed in an email, or include on your website. Responses are added as they are received to a Google Spreadsheet, where you can manipulate the data or copy and paste it into other programs, such as your practice management suite or Outlook.

Nowhere is this a better fit than in online-only virtual law offices (VLOs): Your entire practice is online, so it's only right that your forms are as well.

Virtual Law Office 103: Cloud Practice Management Software

Is there a better fit for Cloud Practice Management platforms than a law practice in the cloud? That's what a virtual law office (VLO) is -- a law office run entirely online, and cloud practice management software gives you the flexibility needed to run your practice online from anywhere you choose.

There are other benefits too: The redundant backups of your data on your practice management platform's servers are also a significant benefit. And if your platform of choice offers a client portal, those are typically more secure means of communication with your client than email.

Virtual Law Office 102: Which Web-Conferencing Software Do You Need?

If you're not meeting your clients in person, then your options are limited: phone or videoconferencing.

The problem with videoconferencing is the competing standards. There's (deep breath): Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, WebEx, and more. Some are mobile-friendly, some are not. Some are great for Apple users, some are better for Windows users.

Your best bet is to be familiar with all the standards, just in case your client is a die-hard adherent to single platform. And if not, there is an up-and-coming cross-platform standard that is compatible with nearly everything.