Category: Technology

MOVING TO THE CLOUD

The cloud can be a scary prospect, as it is largely misunderstood.  Before you consider moving to the cloud, it is essential to understand the ethical issues applicable to your state and the the lawyer’s obligations.  Read more

Where the Dell Are You?!?

If you’re the owner of a small business — like me — you are constantly receiving mail flyers and emails from Dell trying to sell you products. Nothing wrong with that. The problem occurs when you try to actually buy something. And your order gets repeatedly cancelled.  And you travel the globe trying to get someone who speaks enough English to even get you an explanation as to why you can’t seem to get your order filled. Apparently, Dell doesn’t have any people operating in the United States anymore.

My projector has been ordered multiple times. I started the process of trying to buy it in early March. I’m still spending hours of frustrating and wasted time on the phone weekly. People disconnect the calls on purpose. They promise to call back and don’t. Everyone passes the buck to another department. They ignore all the calls and messages. It’s a mess!!

My order has been cancelled by their finance department multiple times because they didn’t send me the paperwork to complete the order. My order has been cancelled due to security reasons, as they believe I am going to share the technology of the projector with North Korea or similar country.

Even though I keep checking the status of the order online, I get no information other than “cancelled. ” I have managed to get two deliveries: one holding the cable, and one holding the mount. However, they are quite useless without the projector.

And yet, just yesterday I received in the mail, another flyer from Dell Small Business trying to sell me a projector.  Hey, Dell, stop trying to make the sale. How about delivering on the sale already made ?!?

Is anyone in management at Dell aware of how deplorable,  unacceptable and inefficiently your operations are being run?  Being disconnected on purpose repeatedly by support people in another country, just because they can’t figure out the problem, after having me wait on the phone for 30 minutes or usually much more, is unacceptable in anyone’s book. It’s not like this has happened once or twice.  This has been going on for three months.  Who is going to reimburse me for my lost time which is otherwise billable?

Anyone at Dell reading this?

If you’re thinking of ordering anything from Dell, at least be forewarned about what your experience will probably be.  It’s a nightmare.  The saga continues. Three months and counting . . .

Are You Losing Valuable Time? At What Cost?

For attorneys and paralegals these are mostly rhetorical questions.  The majority of timekeepers are hemorrhaging time on a continual basis. This is particularly evident in solo, small, and midsize firms. Not that individual lawyers at large firms don’t suffer the same problem – it’s just not as endemic.  Now the exciting news: I can fix the problem!

Let’s do the math:

If we assume that there are 45 work weeks after calculating time off for vacation, holidays, illness, and personal matters, that leaves a total of 225 work days remaining. Let’s assume for analysis purposes that only one 15-minute segment of billable time is lost (e.g. not recorded) per day. At a conservative rate of $150/hour, that translates to a direct loss of $37.50 per day, $187.50 per week, and a whopping $8,437.50 per year based on the 45 week assumption.  Take your rate and plug it in to see what it’s really costing you for just 15 minutes lost per day:  Rate x .25 x 225 days = your minimum lost revenue. Even after a reduction for write-downs, it’s still significant.

That $8,437+ is not just lost billable time; it’s lost profit. Money right out of the pocket of stakeholders. Why? Because accurately recording it does not change overhead in any meaningful way, and doesn’t require you to work any harder. With all other factors being unchanged, it’s pure profit being lost.

In fact, you know that this is a modest estimate of what you’re probably leaving on the table. Most attorneys admit that they lose far more time per day than one 15-minute increment. To test this, start noting when you arrive at your desk in the morning, and when you leave at night. Deduct time for lunch. Now add up all the billable and non-billable time you accounted for that day. What percentage of your day did you capture? If your response is that in a ten hour day you can consistently account for eight or more hours, including billable and non-billable, you’re doing a decent job. Not stellar, mind you, but decent.

The majority of attorneys who complete this exercise over the period of a few weeks realize that they can only account for 40% – 60% of their time.  If you can improve that by just 5%, the simple math will illustrate what a significant difference it will make on profits, the associate bonus pool, and owner compensation.

Why is it such a problem?

I have focused my long career primarily on assisting solo to midsize law firms. And that brings me to my area of concern. A concern which has motivated me to do something about it. In today’s economic climate many solos and small firm attorneys are struggling to survive. They are working harder than ever for a decreasing return.  They are the attorneys most adversely affected by inefficiencies of recording time. If it’s that critical, why are they so bad at it?

  • Lack of tools. Most solos and smalls do not have time & billing software to help them efficiently capture their time. Or if they have it, the software is so old there are no mobile tools for time capture, and the desktop time entry process is clunky and non-intuitive for the attorney to use.
  • Fear. Fear of losing even more time. Fear of being unable to learn the software. It takes trust in the software  to allow it to capture and save one’s precious increments of time. People unaccustomed to using software tools don’t trust that what goes in will come out. By the same token, most attorneys have come to expect that software will be confusing, and they will not be able to effectively use it.
  • Cost & complexity. In the past software was pricey. There was a hefty upfront expense. That has changed. Today’s offerings are much more affordable, and often offered on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning no capital investment is required.

    But the truth is that for solos and smalls especially, they don’t want to pay for software they won’t use. All most of these attorneys want and need is an ability to effectively capture time. They don’t need or want time & billing or case management (law practice management) software.  They want bare minimum.

What I did about it!

When I was approached by a software company with a strong track record of recording time in the medical industry, I knew I could create a solution to this issue by joining forces. Together we could create a simple and inexpensive time keeping tool. The goal was

  • Make it idiot-proof to use
  • Make it bullet-proof so time cannot be lost
  • Make it mobile
  • Enable it to produce a simple timesheet or invoice at the press of a button
  • Offer it at a price so low it’s a no-brainer for any attorney to pay for it

After extensive beta testing with a number of PA law firms of various size and practice areas, the product, Gait Keeper Law®, was rolled out at ABA Techshow 2018.  The product was reviewed with enthusiasm from practice managers of other state bars and Canadian provinces, as well as attorneys who stopped by the booth in the exhibit hall.

If you weren’t at Techshow, you missed the special opportunity for a free trial. We want to fix that. Here’s a special offer for those who decide to order from the link below: enter Promo Code: Ellen18 to get a Free Extended 60 Day Trial!

https://www.gaitkeeperlaw.com/Signup

Keep in mind that this product is not designed to compete with any time & billing or practice management software packages.  It is neither. It is simply a mobile and desktop timekeeping tool, with the capability of producing a timesheet or invoice. Nothing more.

Now I need to ask for help from those of you who know me, or who work in the industry and recognize that this is a product which is sorely needed.  Pass the word. Like the post. Share it on social media. Comment about it on social media. Send the link to your attorney clients. Help me get the word out to the largest demographic of attorneys in the USA.  Help is here.  Mission accomplished!

Social Media Policies: The Impact On Your Practice

With the rapid rise in the use of social media both professionally and personally, the challenges become huge to preserve possible evidence. From text
messages on individual cell phones, to videos on YouTube, to  READ MORE

 

Data Breach Prevention

Glaring headlines in the March 29, 2016 The American Lawyer detailed that 48 of our nation’s top law firms were specifically targeted by a Russian hacker seeking to trade on M&A information. Most of the firms found out they were a target only because their name was included in the article. On March 22, 2016 the FBI issued an alert warning law firms of criminals seeking access to their networks.

What should you do? First, realize that some of the largest firms have experienced breaches. And they have huge IT staff, and lots of money to throw at the problem. Don’t throw up your arms in disdain and say you have no chance by comparison. For firms of all sizes I recommend . . . READ MORE

Data Breach Prevention

It’s really not a question of IF your firm will experience a data breach at some point, but rather WHEN your firm will experience the breach. Don’t assume that your firm has no desirability as a target because of your size, or even your practice areas. Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting law firms of all sizes for private information about clients, which often enables them to more effectively target the client directly.  READ MORE

Is Your Apple Device Safe from Malware Infection?

Apple customers, particularly Mac users, are normally adamant about the fact that their computers don’t need protection from viruses, Trojans, Ransomware, or other threats that impact Windows PCs on a day-in-and-day-out basis.  Is it true, or a myth?  The truth is that while the general threat level is far lower on a Mac than a PC, the OS-X operating system is not immune.

Apple has been a target of lesser opportunity only because criminals invest their time, money and resources where the return will be greatest.  That has historically targeted PCs almost exclusively, due to their market share.  As the installed base of Macs continues to grow, so does the appearance of threats.  How quickly?

A recent blog post on the Official Security Blog site of Malwarebytes states: “The popularity of Macs leads to more cybercriminals wanting to write malicious code for OS X. Although still much lower than PCs, the number of threats targeting Apple operating systems has grown steadily, with a spike in Mac infections observed over the last 18 months. A recent study by Bit9 + Carbon Black found that the number of Mac OS X malware samples detected in 2015 was five times greater than in the previous five years combined.”

If you are not deploying security software on your Apple device, now would be the time to do so.  Don’t wait to be a victim of something like the Ransomware  KeRanger , which was  downloaded  by  around  6,500  people  within  the 12-hour  period  that  it  was  available.  Some  of  those  users  had  their  data  completely  destroyed.

Upgrade to Windows 10?

Microsoft has cleverly delivered pop-up invitations for free upgrades to Windows 10.  Should you take advantage and become an early adopter?  In my usual pragmatic manner, I advise against it unless you want to unwittingly become an early debugger too.

Let the big firms with in-house tech support go through the pain first.  They can afford to smooth all the wrinkles and support users through the bumpy ride.  Wait until at least the first service pack comes out.  And following that, the software gets “good reports” regarding the results of the service pack installation.  Then and only then should you install.

My colleague, Jennifer Ellis, is much more analytical in her approach.  In her blog postShould You Upgrade to Windows 10?” she spells out the specific considerations to take into account for each end-user and firm.  Give it a read, to help you decide.

As always, I will post to the blog when I think the time has arrived to safely install Windows 10 for the majority of users who read my blog.  If you go back into my historical archives of past blog posts, you’ll see that I never recommended installation of Windows Vista.  As time passed it became apparent that it was never going to be a decent operating system.  I suggested keeping XP going until the next generation (Windows 7) was released, and upgraded at least once.  It turned out to be the right move.  I also recommended the same with Windows 8.  So stay tuned.  I won’t steer you wrong.

 

Ransomware (malware) on Cell Phones

 

ransomeWe thought that our cell phones were safe from ransomware, like CryptoLocker, which has been infecting hundreds of thousands of computers in the U.S.  Not so!  A recent article in CNet Daily News reports that there are as many as 5,000 attacks per day.  A mobile threat report from Mobile Lookout Security, which makes security software for smartphones, found 4 million of Lookout’s 60 million users were held hostage last year.  In 2014 they report a 75% increase in mobile threats in the U.S.  You can read about the most prevalent malware at the end of the post, below.

The article tells the story of  a 12-year-old girl from Tennessee who tapped a link on her smartphone to watch a new music video.  Instead of a video, she had unwittingly installed malicious software that downloaded child pornography, locked her Android phone, and threatened to report the pornography to the FBI if she didn’t fork over $500 in ransom.

What should you do to protect yourself?

1)  Never download applications from outside the official Google Play store or Apple App Store.  Be careful clicking on links when online.  “Free” could wind up being very expensive.  Keep that in mind when on social media sites.

2)  Install an application that will block ransomware.  Avast (free for mobile) and Mobile Lookout Security are two big players.  Note item #1 above before downloading software which will allegedly protect you, from an unknown source.

3)  Never pay the ransom, and always report the crime to police.  There is no track record to show that paying ransom will lead to removal of the malware and release of your mobile device. In most cases, you are only providing incentive for thieves to continue to create new and more sophisticated software.

It’s an even more dangerous computing world out there than it was just a year ago.  Be extra careful out there!!

The most prevalent ransomware threats in 2014, according to Mobile Lookout Security:

  1. NotCompatible| Malware

​NotCompatible is a trojan that surreptitiously acts as a network proxy.  It allows attackers to send and receive traffic through a victim’s mobile device onto connected networks for fraudulent purposes.

  1. Koler| Malware

Koler is a trojan disguised as a media app.  It locks a victim’s device, after falsely reporting the discovery of illegal activity.  Koler attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.  The CNet article advises that police can tell that you are not the “guilty party” so don’t be afraid to report.

  1. ScareMeNot| Malware

ScareMeNot is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues.  It then locks their device, after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. It attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.  Again, report this to police.

  1. ColdBrother| Malware

ColdBrother is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues, but then locks their device after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. It can also take a front-facing camera photo and attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.

  1. ScarePakage| Malware

ScarePakage is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues and then locks their device after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. ScarePakage attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.

Notice that each of these Trojans are very similar.  It’s rumored that there is one very talented programmer who is being well paid by various criminal organizations to keep creating variations of the malware, in order to stay ahead of detection software.  Notice that each are “socially engineered” to make you want to run the software voluntarily.  So even if you don’t click on a malicious link out of ignorance, you can still fall victim.

Windows Security Patches Released

Microsoft Released a security patch on Thursday, May 1st, which fixed all Windows versions of Internet Explorer, including for Windows XP!

XP has been out of support, but with a heavy installed base — estimated at 30% of the world’s computers by some — Microsoft made an exception to its policy by updating the operating system.  At a lot of law firms, there was a visible sigh of relief.  Kudos to Microsoft for doing the right thing.

Personally, I took the opportunity to change my default browser to Chrome, and I don’t regret it.  There are a few software packages I have which are not compatible.  For example, Copernic Desktop Search.  But I only use that for searches internal to my system, so I don’t really care.

In case you’re curious, data from NetMarketShare.com indicates that Windows 7 powers 49.27% of the world’s computers, while Windows 8.0 and 8.1 combined account for only 12.24%.   MAC versions 10.6 through 10.8 combined holds 3.25% of market share.   That number surprises me, as I’m seeing strong growth in the legal industry.

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