Category: Software

Custom Apps Created by Law Firms – Brilliant Marketing

A terrific next step in education-based marketing strategy is the law firm mobile device app, designed to address a specific client need.  Law Technology News recently reported on  apps designed by Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers, to inform users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

The Latham & Watkins iPhone and iPad app, which is called the AB&C  Laws Application, was launched on  July 18th.  It is free from Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. The app serves as a reference tool informing users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws  in major jurisdictions around the world. In November, 2012,  O’Melveny & Myers released a similar app with a more narrow scope, which focuses exclusively on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA).  The app can be downloaded free from  Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. (search: “OMM FCPA”), and is designed for use on the iPhone® and iPad® devices. According to a firm spokesperson, the app has been downloaded 550 times since it  was launched.

More firms are jumping on board to develop apps.  Fox Rothschild launched its New Jersey Divorce app in June 2013, after taking six months to build it.

I completely agree with legal marketing guru Micah Buchdahl, owner of marketing company HTMLawyers, who is quoted saying, “there are more law firm apps on the market than people may realize. But that  doesn’t mean they are all effective. . . . The reality is that most of these apps that the law firms have developed have  very small usage and really it’s just about saying that you have one . . . If a firm does create an app, the best bet is to be practice-area specific . . . the apps have come down in price and can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to  create, depending on the app’s sophistication.”

I didn’t say this was a cheap strategy.  I said it was a smart one.

Most firms don’t have the internal resources to develop an app.  Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers had the talent on staff.  I’m not sure whether Fox Rothschild did their own design work on the app, but suspect they did.  When West Virginia-based Spilman Thomas & Battle, which has an office in  Pittsburgh, decided to develop a human-resources-focused app, they turned to  Pittsburgh-based Quest Fore for assistance.  They launched their app, SuperVision in early July, 2013.

There is no doubt that we’re just scratching the surface of the development of law firm apps which are actually useful to clients, rather than being a glorified advertisement for the firm.  Right now this is a strategy which requires a significant investment of time and dollars.  Given increased demand by law firms,  I anticipate that tools will be developed which will make app development an affordable strategy for smaller firms.

 

Document Assembly – Work Smarter Instead of Harder

Repetitive documents are most cost-effectively produced using document assembly software.  I recall reading that approximately 80% of legal documents are mostly repetitive; using boilerplate language.  They provide opportunity to gain efficiency in production by working smart.

Document assembly software provides a user with the ability to create an “interview” or “standard information” form.  It then merges the information into a document.  While one can actually create quite intelligent merges using the native capabilities of Word or WordPerfect, it requires extensive training and skill to actually go beyond a simple merge, e.g. to include if/then logic in the merge.  Using document assembly makes it easier to do advanced work with less training.

Document assembly also makes it easier to ensure consistent collection of data through use of the interview form.  Think of it as your checklist to make sure all the essential information required to produce the document is collected each time.  Use of the interview form also allows for clients to input information directly, with the resulting document draft being delivered to the attorney for review and any additional required customization.

HotDocs is one of the first real document assembly programs to be introduced to the legal community.  According to the HotDocs website, their software is “the platform of choice for 35% of the US document-generation legal market.”  That’s impressive, given that there are some excellent competitors out there, such as DealBuilder, Ghostfill, Pathagoras, and one of my favorites, The FormTool, to name but a few.

HotDocs continues to retain its lead over other programs because most early adopters have continued to use it over the years, in order to preserve the investment of their intellectual capital.  Those who adopted document assembly later, were more inclined to use some of the other, newer programs.  Many are deemed easier to use, based on the feedback I receive from lawyers.  However, it should be said that HotDocs is still a solid program.  For firms which have been users, they will be glad to know that HotDocs now offers cloud-based document generation.  Pricing has yet to be announced.

If you routinely produce documents which lend themselves to automation, such as  wills, loans, interrogatories, leases, and so forth, you would be wise to investigate the excellent choices of software available, which are designed specifically for law firm use.  Remember, you can’t work harder.  You need to work smarter.  Document assembly software is all about helping you work smarter.

Simple Timeline Software

Sometimes you need to create a simple Timeline, but you don’t do it often enough to justify buying expensive application software.  What do you do?

We’re all probably familiar with TimeMap, now owned by LexisNexis.  It was probably the first really good and easy-to-use software designed specifically for this purpose.  It’s become a favorite of trial attorneys and paralegals.  There are always specials at trade shows, like ABA TechShow, and I grabbed it for $99 a number of years ago.

If you don’t do a lot of timelines, or don’t get to the shows, how can you produce a decent Timeline without spending the bucks?  Simple.  You already have tools to do it.  Here are instructions on how to create a Timeline using Excel.  Here are instructions to create a Timeline using the SmartArt graphics feature in PowerPoint.  There’s even free shareware called Timeline, which is a cross-platform application.

All three tips are courtesy of attorney Paula Gibson, on ABA’s LawTech listserv.  Thank you Paula!

Keep Track of Your “Stuff”

We all lose stuff, even if only temporarily.  What if you could “tag” all your stuff with a tracker, so that when misplaced, you could locate it easily on your Smartphone?  That’s what Tile is for.  A Personal Asset Manager to help track one’s stuff.  It’s about time.

Currently, Tile only works with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, and iPod Touch 5th gen.  And I can’t say it’s really cheap.  One Tile is $18.95.  The more you buy, the more you save per Tile.  Up to 10 Tiles can be put on one account.  You attach, stick or drop your Tile into/onto any item you might lose such as laptops, wallets, keys, guitars, bikes—you name it.

The good news:  The Tile app saves the last GPS location it saw your Tile.  It shows the location on what looks like a Google Map. Tiles come with a built-in speaker so you can easily hear it in close range.  You never need to replace the batteries or even charge your Tiles.

The bad news:  Tiles last a year. You’ll receive a reminder when it’s time to order new Tiles and you’ll get an envelope to recycle your old ones.  So think of it as an annual subscription cost for asset protection.  For an expensive electronic device, bicycle, or even a pet, the annual cost is well worth it.

If this takes off, it will no doubt expand to other operating systems.  I’m intrigued.  Are you?

Beware: Office 2013 Has NON-Transferable License

Normally Microsoft Office software is transferable from one computer to another, as long as it is uninstalled on the old computer.  No more!  Is MS really this greedy, that they would make you buy new software every time you replace a computer?  Apparently, yes.

Thanks to Woody’s Office Watch — to which I have subscribed for years — I have been alerted that the Software License Agreement (the SLA is the newer name of the EULA –End User License Agreement) has changed substantially for Office 2013.  And according to Office Watch, the change is fairly well hidden.

Here is the relevant language Office Watch cited in the SLA:

How can I use the software?

We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer) for use by one person at a time, but only if you comply with all the terms of this agreement. Our software license is permanently assigned to the licensed computer.

or

Can I transfer the software to another computer or user? 

You may not transfer the software to another computer or user. ”

It’s the same wording for both Retail and OEM copies of Office 2013. OEM copies are sold, usually pre-installed, on new computers.

Not satisfied?

The retail boxes of Office 2013 that we’ve seen include only the phrase ‘1 PC’ which is strictly true but doesn’t tell the whole story. We wonder if any ‘Fair Trading’ or consumer protection agency is prepared to take on Microsoft about the lack of clear disclosure of the changed terms?

Amazon is more careful about disclosing the Office 2013 terms. One of the bullet point ‘Product Features’ is:

One time purchase for the life of your PC; non-transferrable

Before concluding this post, and to satisfy myself, I went to the Microsoft Office site.  I searched for the SLA but could not find it so I used their live Chat feature.  The assistant in their online store was kind enough to find me the link so I could download a copy of the SLA and read it myself.  The language is identical to what appears above.  So before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, be sure you understand what you are paying for.  Because if you buy the software figuring you will just reinstall it on your new computer the next year, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

 

Review of Changes in Latest Apple iOS

One of my favorite blogs is iPhone J.D.  It’s the place to turn to for all things Apple, related to the use of the iPhone and iPad by lawyers.  Their recent blog post, “Apple Releases iOS 6.1″ covers every change in the update, with clear screen shots and explanations.  It’s everything you want to know, and more, clearly written.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 8 OS Software?

I never advise clients to be one of the first to deploy a new version of software, unless they’ve been waiting for a bug fix. This is no exception.  From the pushback in the technoworld, it seems that Windows 8 is getting very mixed reviews.  Now I’m not saying it’s a disaster like Vista was.  Nothing Microsoft produces will likely be as bad ever again as Vista was.  But it seems that preliminary reviews indicate there is minimal gain, and the user interface is so dramatically different, extensive training will be required upon deployment.

I believe I read somewhere that Windows 7 will be available only for a limited time before Windows 8 will be forced upon new computer purchasers.  So if you’ve been holding off, you may want to push up your purchase decision while Windows 7 is still an option.  I have to say, Windows 7 has been delightfully reliable since its introduction. 

TechRepublic just released “The Executive’s Guide to Windows 8” which you can get for free by registering with their site.  Then you can make your own informed decision.  (Or you can keep monitoring my blog.  I’ll let you know when the time has arrived.)  But here’s a hint:  TechRepublic did a survey, and found that 74% of businesses have no plans to deploy Windows 8.

Hundreds of Free Security Software Packages

A tip-of-the-hat goes out once again to Gizmo’s Freeware for providing an updated listing of hundreds of free security software packages, along with reviews and live links.

In the past two weeks I have received literally dozens of spoofed emails from alleged Facebook friends, with toxic links inside.  Thankfully, I never click on links, unless it is clear why it has been sent.  I always think it’s worth a simple email asking that question before taking the risk.  But it reminds me regularly what a dangerous computing world we live in.  Which is why this update from Gizmo’s is even more valuable.

Say It Ain’t So: The End of iGoogle

My friend and colleague, David Bilinsky, just enlightened me about the upcoming end to iGoogle in his recent Thoughtful Legal Management blog post entitled “iGoogle *Disappearing* Soon!! :-( “   Yes, folks, what has become the best home page, and the one relied upon by hundreds of attorneys to organize their RSS blog feeds, will be disappearing soon.  According to Google, “iGoogle will be retired in 16 months, on November 1, 2013. The mobile version will be retired on July 31, 2012.”

The angst many of us feel about the impending loss of iGoogle is evident.  Read this blog post entitled “Don’t Take My IGoogle Away!”  in ZDNet by tech writer Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.  He says “Some people have even set up a petition to keep iGoogle alive.. I’m number 2,088 on the petition.”  Thanks for the inspiration, Steve, I’m signature 4,440.  Not that I think Google will reconsider, mind you, but at least I’ve added my name to those who agree.  (And I wish I were a gambler because I’d kind of like to play that number!)

As Dave writes, Google gives the impression that there are lots of replacements ready and waiting.  We’re all hoping they’ll clue us in as to what they are.  I have used separate RSS feed readers.  Several in fact.  But they require that you remember to go to their site to see what’s new, or endure endless emails telling you how many unread posts there are waiting for you.  Hated that. 

Well, how about Chrome?  How about it?  It’s not compatible with all my programs yet, like QuickBooks, so I’m not going there.  Besides, what’s to stop them from pulling the plug on that in the not-too-distant future?

You can also subscribe to have blog posts delivered to your inbox in most instances.  But I don’t have to tell you that this can quickly clog your inbox so badly, it’s difficult to find the urgent stuff.  You might be thinking that you can just make Rules in Outlook to route the emails to a folder.  Yep, that works for just a few.  But when you have as much going on as I do, with dozens of client folders that require Rules, you quickly hit the ridiculously low limit that Microsoft arbitrarily puts on their rulesYou can read my previous blog postAre You Having a Problem With Your Microsoft Outlook Rulesto find out more about that.

So what’s left?  I don’t know, but I can assure you I will be searching for a suitable replacement which offers the same level of convenience and organization.  I will sorely miss having my favorite gadgets such as the “dog of the day” picture, and the daily Sudoku, along with all my RSS feeds organized in the order I want them.  And to have them on my desktop, and laptops, appearing exactly the same, with no extra effort.  Frankly, I could care less about the tools for my iPhone or iPad.  They’re not the tools I’m using when I’m reviewing my feeds.

I stumbled upon a post entitled “Two More Alternatives to Your iGoogle Home Page” written by tech writer Rick Broida on PCWorld.  He suggests All My Faves, which I find visually undesirable for these old eyes, and Protopage.  I will have to give this a more thorough review before coming to any conclusions.  In a previous blog post he recommended MSN or Yahoo.  But these are tools mostly for news monitoring.   I monitor legal industry and related technology blogs.  Plus they too seem way too busy for these weary eyes.  His last recommendation, Netvibes, looks promising.  I’ll be exploring that further, along with Protopage.  If you have experience using either, I’d love to hear from you. 

Stay tuned for feedback as my replacement search continues, along with the countdown to the sad end of iGoogle.

Are You Ready for Windows 8?

I’m not suggesting you run out and get Windows 8 as soon as it’s available.  I never allow my clients to venture out onto the bleeding edge unless they have no choice.  That’s a risk better undertaken by large firms with ample IT staff, who are accustomed to the bumps and burps of new software.  And it isn’t even time yet, since the Developer Preview was just released a couple of months ago. 

If you’re still using Vista, you shouldn’t even wait to upgrade if your system is capable of running Windows 7 and you can afford to migrate, as Windows 7 has been great from day one, and is so superior to Vista they’re not even in the same league.  Good old reliable XPsp3 is also ready for retirement in favor of Windows 7.  Windows 7 is more stable.  And that’s a much easier upgrade than from Vista.  

When will it be time to upgrade to Windows 8?  I’ll let you know.  Right now the feedback is very limited.  Stay tuned.

Nonetheless, eventually you will be upgrading your operating system to Windows 8.  It’s inevitable.  So you might as well check now to determine whether upgrades or replacements will be required to become Windows 8 compatible.  A quick visit to the Microsoft Compatibility Center will help you check all your devices and software.  That way you can spend your near-term dollars more wisely, by making sure they will work well for the next generation of software as well.  And that’s really the whole point of this post.  You don’t want to spend money now on software or hardware which will ultimately require replacement or further upgrade to run on Windows 8.  That would be foolish.

According to a WorkYourOffice blog post, the official minimum system requirements by Microsoft for computers to run Windows 8 are:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch.

The post has a downloadable link for an executable program which purportedly checks your computer automatically for Windows 8 compatibility.  But since I am not familiar with this blog, I am reluctant to run it.  Despite the fact that it is a post which has been sited by one of my favorite blogs:  Gizmo’s Freeware.  Instead, I have chosen to visit the official Microsoft site, even though it’s a little more involved to check items by category.  And that is the link I have provided at the top of this post.  I couldn’t find a link on the Microsoft site to the program mentioned in the WorkYourOffice post.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, especially since the Microsoft site is so complex, but one can’t be too careful.

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