Tag Archives: technology

3 Black Friday Purchases That Will Put Your Law Firm Books Back In The Black

Black Friday gets its name from the fact that most business’ bottom lines will go from in the red to in the black on this post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza.

Your law firm is no exception. There are at least three Black Friday purchases that your firm can make today to ensure a profitable tomorrow.

Nest

Nest Labs is a home automation company based out of Palo Alto, California, that designs and manufactures sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning, programmable thermostats and smoke detectors. According to Nest, you and your firm can save up to 20 percent on its electric bills.

Most people leave the house at one temperature and forget to change it. But, it’s no different for offices. Businesses can leave signs on the door saying, “last one out, switch off the lights,” but when was the last time your employees listened?

With Nest, you can control your thermostat remotely via mobile app. The thermostat will also learn your habits and adjust accordingly. This way, as your thermostat realizes that the last employee leaves the office around midnight, Nest will modify its program to turn itself off at this time.

Now you save on energy spent from six to eight hours overnight. Don’t underestimate the savings of controlling your heat in the winter and air in the summer.

Tablets/ iPad

Buy your employees iPads. Yes, that will save your firm money.

Whether it’s an iPad or Kindle or equivalent e-Reader, make sure your office goes paperless. Lawyers waste so much paper when they print out documents for DocReview or other administrative tasks.

There already exists a myriad of apps designed for legal case management for the smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s not the technology that has fallen behind, it’s your corporate culture.

Gift tablets to your employees. Make it clear that this is a replacement for paper copies. Keep employees accountable by gifting the iPad only to lawyers who show a marked reduction in their paper usage.

You’ll be surprised at how a small investment in technology can change the entire working strategies of your employees toward using more efficient, more innovative tools for delivering legal services.

Create a training program that introduces such technology to slow-adopters in the office. With a small upfront fee, you can lower long-term spending on paper by lawyers, in addition to creating a more productive workplace.

Other tips on going paperless can be found here. Tips on using iPads in the law firm office can be found here.

The Holiday Party

Many firms cut back on hosting a holiday party when times are tough. But, it is exactly that times are tough that your firm should throw one.

Holiday parties improve morale, which—in turn—increases employee retention. The younger generation of associates, especially, is looking for more than just a job. They’re looking for a place to belong, a community.

In addition, holiday parties allow different departments and different generations of employees to network and mingle. Consider inviting neighboring businesses to participate.

Don’t skimp on a few bottles of champagne when the confidence of your employees, and their attachment to your firm and its clients, is at stake.

Instead of New Year resolutions, this year, on Black Friday, make a commercial commitment to profitable new business practices.

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An Unusual Recipe For Your Law Firm’s Thanksgiving Dinner

I bet you never thought of these unusual Thanksgiving combinations:

  • Irradiated Turkey 
  • Thermostabilized candied yams
  • Freeze-dried mash potatoes
  • Thermostabilized cherry cobbler
  • Powdered (as in, literal powder) tea with sugar and lemon

But, each of these is on today’s menu for NASA astronauts in honor of this American holiday.

While you may be stuffing your face with Turkey stuffing, warm cornbread, and pumpkin pie, residents of the International Space Station must make do without refrigerators or heavyweight foods.

It allegedly took 18 months, according to the UK’s The Independent to develop this questionably mouth-watering feast for America’s finest. But even if this menu doesn’t wet your appetite, the unusual combination of science and creativity should.

Whether it’s hybrid animals like the Liger (male lion and a female tiger), the mix of bacon chocolate chip cookies (some say it’s gross, others glorious), or counter-intuitive combination of color and noise (yes, noise can have the colors white, pink, purple, or blue); this century is marked by atypical associations.

And while you may be grateful for your oven-roasted honey ham—a classic Thanksgiving blend—law firm professionals should look forward to another crazy combo: Technology and Law.

You may not foresee a future where hackers and lawyers come together, but it’s already happening between computer programmers and journalists with Hacks/Hackers, which encourages journalists to work with software developers on projects. It’s time to open up the legal space to hackerspaces.

One organization has taken the lead in this area: Legal Hackers, a group encouraging a tech-focused approach to tackling tough issues in the legislative and legal space.

“After scores of internet users opposed the passage of SOPA and [its Senate counterpart] PIPA through vocal and technological protest, Congress decided to table the bills for later consideration,” Legal Hackers states on its website, according to AssociationsNow Technology News.

“But the fact that the bills got so close to becoming law troubled a few Brooklyn Law School students. How could Congress come up with a law so devoid of stakeholder input and so divorced from a meaningful resolution to this common legal problem?”

Legal Hackers decided it needed to find a solution. It is working to build tools that help move lawyers from desktop-based inefficiencies (like, emailing Word documents instead uploads to the cloud or apps) toward a more mobile-friendly approach.

For now, Legal Hackers is a self-proclaimed low- or non-profit organization. In August, it presented at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting a session called, “Cracking the Code: Everything You Wanted to Know About Coding, Open Data & More But Were Afraid to Ask.”

But even if you see no place in your firm for work with Legal Hackers, the idea still stands that technology and law are two sides of the same service coin. They belong together, like turkey and stuffing or pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

If you don’t know how to upgrade your software or, more importantly, upgrade your corporate culture to a technology-friendly and mobile-first one, then seek support.

Hire consultants that know how to integrate technology and tailor these tools to your firm’s needs (C4CM has a variety of online courses to help you, here).

Today, thanks to mobile technology, you can watch football at home without fear of missing important work calls or deadlines. And sitting down to share Thanksgiving dinner with family this year is something to truly be thankful for.

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Why Tech Gurus Will Be Your Law Firm’s Next Hire

Founder of Dropbox Drew Houston, Founder of Paypal Peter Thiel, and former Apple CEO John Sculley, have a lot in common. They’re not just tech geeks, entrepreneurs, and billionaires; they’re also equally exhausted after speaking at this year’s Web Summit in Dublin.

They’re not alone. This year, the Web Summit gathered together 20,000 entrepreneurs, each with different objectives—to exhibit, to speak, to buy, or to sell—for four straining days straight.

Do you develop software? Then you were in Ireland last week.

Why? For the networking, for increasing your know-how, and for generally keeping up-to-date with technology news and invention.

One of the key issues being debated was Internet and online privacy. How should data be encrypted? What are the ethical ramifications of firms collecting and distributing user information? How can you stop security breaches on the cloud?

There were companies exhibiting mobile apps that store and protect your passwords so that you don’t have to remember them.

There were thousands of alternatives to Dropbox allowing users to store information in the cloud securely (or so they touted).

There were machines that coordinated your smartphone with smart accessories (Ringly—a company that sells rings that vibrate and glow depending on your mobile app notification, with semi-precious stones to boot—is sold out for a year). Ok, that has nothing to do with privacy or security, except that you can more discretely look at your phone during an important client meeting or even Friday date night.

One thing that was clear, among the thousands of exhibitors, there was no single solution to data security, there were many. And, everybody involved in web software and programming were prioritizing data security and privacy.

As should your law firm.

It should come as no surprise to know that there were legal services software representatives in attendance at the Summit, as well. They were also keeping up-to-date with what’s new in tech.

Legal services have permanently crossed over into the world of tech, even if key distributors—the lawyers, themselves—are a bit slower to the punch. This is why it is so important to train your lawyers in how to use legal tools and software, and why you should fully vet the software provider you end up choosing.

When was the last time your legal services software distributed a software update? What is their encryption strategy? Do they have a mobile app and how do they keep it secure?

As a law firm manager, if you don’t know how to ask hard (and hardware) questions, it’s time you hired an IT Department that does.

The Web Summit attracted software developers and engineers. The topic of tech has transformed select entrepreneurs into billionaires. But very soon it will also attract legal professionals (and it has already, just check out Clio, who attended).

In a bring-your-own-device, digital world, it’s time your firm understood exactly what these devices—mobile phones, tablets, and laptop computers—are capable of.

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Bird? Plane? No, It’s Your Employer & Its Drone.

What would you do with a personal drone?

Would you have your neighborhood Chinese restaurant send food by drone? Would you attach a camera and see if your kids are really doing their homework upstairs?

As an employer, maybe you’d monitor exactly how productive your employees are during the day—find out if it’s true that mice play while the cat’s away.

Sounds far-fetched, but the future of drones in our workplace and everyday life is imminent. Prices are coming down, leaving drones at increasingly accessible rates of $500 on Amazon.

If you’re a truck driver, beware. Drones may be taking your job.

“Drones will augment the delivery world,” Mary Cummings, a drone expert who teaches at MIT and Duke University, told ABC News.

“And one could argue that they would be much more environmentally friendly since they could take cars off the road for last mile delivery and help reduce congestion.”

But, if you’re a farmer, your job never got easier.

“Crop dusting is the most dangerous job in general aviation with a high accident rate. Drones cannot only do that job better, but much safer,” said Cummings to ABC News.

Creating a safer world full of unmanned drones, sounds exciting! Or is it?

With any new gadget comes new glitches.

A drone that flew over a Martha Stewart’s farm and took footage is now at the foot of a long lawsuit.

Questions about the right to privacy and sharing airspace are topical today more than ever. It’s so easy with a click of a finger to send an algorithm that will babysit–spy–on your friends, family, colleagues, even competitors.

In the workplace, employers who don’t know the rules for monitoring employees are sitting ducks for lawsuits. In fact, you’ve got some legal leeway to monitor, but it only goes so far before you’ve stepped over the line and sparked a lawsuit.

It’s easy to think you want to keep your “eyes and ears” open with hidden cameras keeping tabs on employees. But, as an employer, you can’t invade employees’ privacy when monitoring email, smart phones, social media, or other technology associated with work.

That means no drones in the boardroom, please.

Missteps can easily occur because technology and the rules surrounding them are evolving rapidly.

To further complicate this already complex issue, you’re also grappling with next-generation issues raised by the use of social media as a business tool and the increasing adoption of “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) programs. If you allow employees to bring in their own devices, iPads, iPhones, computers, etc., or get on social media, suddenly Discovery for a lawsuit has become invasive and expensive.

Gadgets and devices are portable and affordable these days, which means law firms can’t afford to wait to create internal policies and protocols regarding the use (and abuse) of them.

Is your organization prepared for what’s coming down the pipeline for employee privacy?

Learn more about current strategies and best practices for each emerging trend – especially in legal gray areas, such as:

  • BYOD – bring your own device and the employer’s right to access info on the employee’s own phone
  • Social Media – particularly after hours use that the employer finds and wants to act on
  • GPS Tracking of employees via company phones and company vehicles
  • Hidden Cameras used to monitor employees in the workplace
  • Drones – Bird? Plane? No, it’s your employer and its drone (we’re not kidding).

Attend The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course, “Employee Privacy and the Complexities of BYOD, Social Media, GPS Tracking & Drones,” on Wednesday, November 5, 2014, from 2 PM To 3:15 PM EST.

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Shedding Light On “Dark Data”: Answers For Academics & Attorneys

It was a happy day (for coffee drinkers) when a 1981 New England Journal of Medicine article, which published a Harvard study linking drinking coffee with pancreatic cancer, was finally double-checked and deemed bunk.

Bunk science is the term generally used when studies—even those meticulously conducted by prestigious academics—go array. When they show positive, but anomalous results.

Sometimes, as with the Harvard study, correlations are considered causation, which—we all know–confuses fiction for fact.

The existence of bunk science, however, is perhaps a positive thing. Medical studies don’t always have publishable or even particularly interesting results. But, the fact remains, they’re being conducted.

The same applies to the social sciences, where large datasets of findings often have no immediate, practical use. The key word here being “immediate.” It’s possible that one day, a new idea or new research direction could make use of such big data. So, why not hang on to it?

Well, unfortunately, big data is both costly to collect and costly to store. In 2007, the world watched Google create an unprecedented step in storage with its Palimpsest project, which offered to store and–better yet–share gigantesque data sets.

For the first time, academics had a way to preserve and perhaps reuse old data. And Google was participating in the name of science.

Sadly, the very next year, Google abandoned the project, citing financial cut-backs.

“As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users,” wrote Robert Tansley of Google on behalf of the Google Research Datasets team to its internal testers, reports Open Access News.

“It has been a difficult decision, but we have decided not to continue work on Google Research Datasets, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google.”

Scientific research without corporate agenda is rare. And if the financial crisis of 2008 had another victim, it was the trend of setting dark data free.

Dark data is the term applied to all those unused datasets: the ones that are collecting digital dust on somebody’s virtual shelf.

According to Thoams Goetz for Wired Magazine, however, “Technology is actually the simple part.”

“The tougher problem,” Goetz writes, “lies in the culture of science. More and more, research is funded by commercial entities, which deem any results proprietary. And even among fair-minded academics, the pressures of time, tender, and tenure can make openness an afterthought. If their research is successful, many academics guard their data like Gollum, wringing all the publication opportunities they can out of it over years. If the research doesn’t pan out, there’s a strong incentive to move on, ASAP, and a disincentive to linger in eddies that may not advance one’s job prospects.”

Law firm professionals are especially sensitive to this culture—where all information is precious and proprietary.

Luckily, in science, there’s renewed hope.

“There are some islands of innovation. Since 2002, the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicinehas offered a peer-reviewed home to results that go negative or against the grain. Earlier this year, the journal Nature started Nature Precedings, a Web-based forum for prepublication research and unpublished manuscripts in biomedicine, chemistry, and the earth sciences,” reports Goetz for Wired.

“At Drexel University, chemist Jean-Claude Bradley practices ‘open notebook’ science—chronicling his lab’s work and sharing data via blog and wiki.”

Researchers and scientists are trying to keep data from disappearing into the dark. But, for law firm professionals, the need for dark data is dubious.

When should dark data be deleted? When should it be kept? What makes this material a potential liability, and when does that liability outweigh the potential benefits of keeping this material?

These are all questions that law firm managers should be asking, alongside legal IT departments.

Unmanaged, uncategorized content is lurking in your enterprise. This legacy data sits unmanaged and unknown in email repositories and file shares, and presents an added challenge for eDiscovery or investigations. A lack of control when it comes to ‘dark data’ can result in data spoliation, and increased collection, processing, and eDiscovery review costs.

By shrinking the dark data abyss, counsel can dramatically reduce costs and risks during litigation and government investigation. So why isn’t every GC doing it? Because dark data management is confusing, and knowing what to delete and what to keep is no easy task.

You’re not alone. The Center for Competitive Management offers a course on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15pm EST on “Dark Data: GC’s Guide to Identifying, Managing and Defensibly Disposing of Unmanaged Data.

During this interactive session, you will learn:

  • What ‘dark data’ is, and how it raises eDiscovery costs
  • How to create a compelling business case for data handling that is consistent with the business environment
  • What makes an information governance strategy legally defensible
  • And much more!

Sign up here.

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Google Says “No” To RSS Readers–Should You, Too?

Members of the legal profession know well how to create a glossary of complicated acronyms for various official filings.

Remember that case where the ACM (“Association for Computing Machinery”) sued the GBF (“Gravitational Biology Facility”), but the jury verdict went to the opposing side—totally NMP (“not my problem”). Still, your boss asked to see you ASAYGB (“as soon as you get back”). What a BDATO (“bad day at the office”).

An unabbreviated word of caution, however. A California judge went so far as to reprimand lawyers for the egregious number of acronyms used in their appellant’s opening brief. Judge David Sills of the Fourth District Court of Appeal criticized the lawyers for “descending into an alphabet soup of jargon-based acronyms,” according to the Legal Pad blog (via ABA Journal).

“Judging by the briefing in the case before us now, nobody got the hint. Unfortunately, there are no rehab clinics for acronym addicts,” Sills wrote in his opinion (via the ABA).

“Consider, for example, this sentence, committed on page 32 of the appellant’s opening brief:” Sills continued, “‘In June 22, 2000, CARB adopted an SCM for AIM coatings.’ Huh?”

Huh, is right. Acronyms sometimes make a simple idea or statement seem unjustly intimidating.

Take, for example, RSS feeds. Or, RSS readers. Although blog articles (like this one) are always encouraging professionals to use them, what is an RSS, really?

It’s time to explain.

RSS stands for “Rich Site Summary.” RSS is a format for delivering regularly changing web content, such as news-related sites, blogs and other WWW (“world wide web”) content.

There are three major advantages to using RSS feeds (see, What is RSS):

  1. You use one source to stay informed on any subject that you deem interesting.
  2. You save time by retrieving the latest content at one site, as opposed to looking up each site individually.
  3. You maintain higher levels of privacy because you don’t need to input your personal information to sign up for an online or e-mail newsletter.
  4. RSS readers allow individuals to skim pre-screened headlines (e.g., re: news, fashion, law) to pick and choose—filter, if you will—the vast space that is the Internet. Then, you can narrow in on only those subjects that matter.

With RSS readers, a lawyer can stay informed without sacrificing those precious billable hours.

To get an idea, try out some of the most popular RSS readers, including Amphetadesk (Windows, Linux, Mac), FeedReader (Windows), and NewsGator (Windows – integrates with Outlook), My Yahoo, and Bloglines. Google Reader closed its digital doors in 2013, but you can still download some of RSS’ best alternatives. See a review of them here.

There are also a myriad of other legal tools available in app form for Android listed here.

However, like overusing acronyms, don’t let overwhelming RSS feeds overrun your life. Unplug, desync, and disconnect once in awhile.

Keith Lee, author of An Associate’s Mind Blog, writes, “It was almost with dread that I opened my RSS Reader on Monday morning. There were 300+ new blog entries, news stories, infographics, etc. waiting for me. There was a sense of obligation about the whole thing.”

“With social media, blogging, etc. many people seem to think that a person needs to remain ‘engaged’ and stay on top of things 24/7 in order to be doing it properly,” laments Lee.

The solution? It may have two letters, but it’s not an acronym. When technology starts to get the best of you, don’t be afraid to just say “no.”

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Microsoft Throw Hat In Ring With New Case Matter Management Software

Microsoft showcased its legal document management solution for Office 365 at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference in Nashville, Tennessee, this week. The program, called Matter Center, claims to make “it easier to organize files by client and matter, review documents, and find information when needed without ever leaving Microsoft Word or Outlook.”

Its main features include:

  • A cloud-based briefcase — The solution provides 1 TB of individual storage and a personal briefcase that automatically syncs documents.
  • Access controls — Users can be granted or excluded access to a matter.
  • Collaboration tools — Matter Center enables legal professionals to share files with others, both within and outside their law firm.
  • Document and matter search — Legal professionals can search and find matters and related documents directly within Outlook or Word.
  • Integrated document management — Legal professionals can drag, drop and save emails into documents or matter.

Microsoft has built a security-enhanced, cloud-based document management application that allows our professionals to quickly locate and collaborate on documents with our counsel from virtually anywhere,” John Frank, Microsoft’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a prepared statement.

“We’ve decided to make this solution more broadly available at the request of our outside counsel [to those] who want to utilize it in their own environments.”

Although Microsoft has yet to announce when Matter Center will be available on the mass market, interested legal professionals can sign up for the pilot program here.

Case Matter joins Time Matters, ProLaw’s Legal Case Management Software, Legal Track, LawBase, and Rocket Matter in the legal matter management systems market.

Cloud-based legal software has become more common, but so has discussion surrounding security measures to protect legal information. Regarding cloud-based case management software, the Iowa State Bar addressed the potential legal issues that may arise when using these services, concluding:

“[A lawyer] must take reasonable precautions to prevent the information from coming into the hands of unintended recipients. This duty, however, does not require that the lawyer use special security measures if the method of communication affords a reasonable expectation of privacy. Special circumstances, however, may warrant special precautions. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s expectation of confidentiality include the sensitivity of the information and the extent to which the privacy of the communication is protected by law or by a confidentiality agreement.” [via Juris Page]

While legal technology and tools continue to develop, it’s important for an attorney’s sense of ethical responsibility to develop in measure. Just as there are myriad ways to store and access data, there are an equal number of ways to intercept, steal, or manipulate private and confidential information, as well.

How secure are your serves? What are your firms policies regarding storage of files on mobile devices? Do you require associates to have complex passwords on all devices and for all firm programs that evolve in complexity over time?

So, when you’re addressing the need to upgrade your case management software, don’t forget to train your employees on the risks inherent in these cloud and other mobile systems.

Before purchasing Matter Center, need to brush up on other Microsoft Office and Outlook tools? Go here for C4CM’s extensive tech webinars created specially for law firm professionals.

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