Cloud IT For Lawyers

Helping Attorneys Leverage Technology

Leave a comment

Does your law firm disaster plan include a pandemic?

For years I have preached about disaster planning for law firms. When I am performing an audit for a firm, I always ask about a Disaster Recovery Plan, and many times the answer is a blank stare.

In North Carolina where I live, Disaster Recovery Plans usually include things related to hurricanes and other natural disasters, but should we also be planning for a pandemic? With the spread of the coronavirus increasing around the world and the CDC admitting that a spread is likely in the U.S., now is the time to consider brushing off your plan and reviewing it.

Most disaster recovery plans include servers going down and a lack of internet, phones and other basics necessities of business and life. But what happens if that office is a hotbed of illness and your firm decides (or it is decided for you) to send everyone home for a month in order to stop the spread of the virus.  Will your office survive the disruption that this will inevitably cause? Are you prepared? It is time to look at what your options are right now.

Remote Access – Do you have access to your data remotely without any assistance? Are you remotely connecting to a server that only works sporadically, or does it need some other human intervention to work correctly? Are you reliant on an IT company to provide services to you? What happens if they can’t or won’t?  Don’t wait to fix those nagging problems that may become critical if your IT support is not able to support you.

Cloud Data – If your data is housed in a cloud environment, are those companies prepared for this problem? Have you read your Terms of Service or followed up with your provider to confirm that they have contingencies in place? Is there a remote infrastructure in place if your first system fails?  Reach out to any companies or service providers that are a part of your critical operations and make sure they have plans in place, and you are aware of them.

Communication – While we can hope that that communication infrastructure, cell phones and other devices will continue to work, what contingencies have you put in? Do you have ways to connect through instant messaging, video and other forms of communication? Do these methods work for both clients and internal office communication? Many companies are considering video conferencing options to keep in touch, which is why you may have seen Zoom in the news recently.

Redundant Backups – I always recommend that your backup data exist in three different locations. But will those backups really work in an emergency? Who has access to those backups and how can they be made available to you and your staff if your primary systems have failed? Now is the time to test those backup systems in case your backup becomes your lifeline.

Paper Files – How are you going to read your paper files if they are in a filing cabinet at the office, but you are stuck at home?  You may be kicking yourself for not implementing that paperless environment that you had been planning to for years, but it’s never too late to start with your active client files.

Training and Documentation – Are there critical roles in your firm that only one person knows or understands? Cross training is key to make sure critical office functions can continue if someone is incapacitated or ill.  Make sure that documentation exists to provide a smooth transition for someone stepping into that role.

Prepare Your Staff – While attorneys can keep working during a month-long hiatus from the office, can your staff? Can they perform duties from home, and how will you communicate?  Make sure that administrative functions like payroll, billing, and benefits that have been “handled” by staff can still be managed from off-site.  Also, please remind them to stockpile some food and household essentials just in case. They may thank you later.

Dry Run – Think you have everything under control? Send everyone home to work for a day to test your plan and you might be surprised to see what fails. It is not always what you would expect, and now you will know in advance when you can fix it.

We never want to have to a Disaster Recovery Plan, but if you make a plan now and nothing happens you can count yourself lucky and you will be ready for the next hurricane or polar vortex. However, if bad things do happen down the road, you will be ready to face them instead of wondering what do.  As they say, better safe than sorry.

Happy prepping and stay well!

Pegeen Turner is a legal technology consultant in Raleigh and the president of Legal Cloud Technology. She helps law firms integrate new technology into their practices and helps firms update and use their existing technology better. Her firm concentrates on cloud-based technology and moving law firms toward cloud-based technology. She is also a developer for the Clio platform including the product, myFirmData, a custom reporting tool.


Legal Cloud Technology


Leave a comment

Anatomy of a Law Firm Security Hack

Originally published on Law Technology Today on November 14, 2016.

On Friday evening, September 23rd, Jack’s email access was about to change. His Yahoo email account, the one that he had since law school, received a password reset request. Since it is an email account that is not checked frequently, Jack didn’t notice. But, since the account was used as his backup account in case he forgot his password, he didn’t know it now, but Jack’s law firm email had been hacked.

Jack’s paralegal received an email from him indicating that a wire needed to go out to a client. In his criminal law practice, this is not an everyday occurrence but certainly not unusual. His paralegal replied back to his email letting him know that the bank puts much more scrutiny on wire transfers then they used to and they would have to jump through some hoops to the wire to go through.

This email exchange was not between the paralegal and the attorney, but the paralegal and the email hacker. The hacker, using the same short email correspondence and email signature that Jack would normally use with his paralegal, did not raise any suspicions. The hacker continued the correspondence with the paralegal and told her to proceed with the wire and to get whatever authorization was needed both from the bank and from his partner since he would not be in the office. She responded back that she would start working on it.

Then, Jack walked through the office door.

His paralegal told him as he walked in the door that she was working on the wire and he replied, “What are you talking about?” She replied that she was working on the wire that they had been talking about over email. He replied again asking, “What email? What wire?”

She showed him the emails that she had received from his email account. He did not send the emails and there was no record of the emails in his Sent Items on his iPhone. They immediately called me knowing something was wrong.

I asked him to log into his email account to immediately change his password. He tried, but he said he couldn’t remember his password. I tried to log into his Google Apps for Work account with the last password that I knew. The “Forgot Password” page said it was changed 11 days ago. Jack said that he didn’t change his password 11 days ago. He wasn’t even in the office that day. It also hadn’t prompted him to change it on any of his mobile devices or in Outlook.

Luckily, we were able to recover his email account using the last password he knew and a text authentication to his phone. We were able to change his email password and take a look at what had happened.

We discovered that filters were put in place that would delete any email traffic between his paralegal and his email account. In addition, any emails that included the word “transfer” would be automatically marked read and deleted as well. The filters in his Google Apps account looked like this:

Google Apps Forwarding Settings

We were able to change all the passwords for everyone involved, remove the filters and confirm that no other access had come from his account. In checking his account, we could see where someone else had accessed his account:

Google Apps Security Settings


They were all locations in the U.S., but Jack hadn’t been to any of them. Was this a US based hack? Probably not, but most likely someone was bouncing their access off of infected machines in those locations.

In this case, this attorney was lucky. We were able to catch this hack early, before any wired funds had been transferred.

Is this the end of it? I don’t know. Jack still has a Yahoo email account. Was that compromised? It could have been. There has certainly been lots of internet traffic about Yahoo accounts being for sale on the Dark Web.

What can you do to protect yourself from a hack similar to this? Consider the following:

  1. Confirm that your computer and browser are up to date with updates and virus protection. This is your first line of defense. It may not protect you from all hacks and malware, but it is a good start.
  2. Check to see if your email has been compromised. In Google Apps, you can check here to confirm that all of the authorized access is yours. In Office 365, you can check here for steps to take if you think you have been compromised.
  3. Use a password manager like LastPass or KeepPassx to help remember, update and create secure passwords.
  4. Enable two-step authentication. This is an authentication system that requires two steps to make changes to your account, like password changes. Two step authentication would have sent a text to a phone with an additional code to authenticate account access. We had talked about implementing two-step authentication, but had not set it up yet. Most online systems including Quickbooks, Dropbox, and most practice management systems offer two-step authentication. If it is available to you, be sure that it is turned on.

In Jack’s case, we have changed all of the passwords for all accounts, scanned computers for malware, changed the backup email account and implemented the two-step authentication that we had been discussing.

We are still watching Jack’s email for suspicious activity. So far, nothing has come up, but we certainly don’t want it to happen again. The scary part is, was someone monitoring his email for 11 days? Possibly. Many hackers will infect machine and networks and wait days, weeks or months before they do something. Is your machine or network compromised? Check your accounts today and implement practices to protect yourself and your firm.

It really can happen to you.

Leave a comment

Trust Accounting – The Right Way

I am not an accountant, but invariably I am pulled into discussions with law firms about their time and billing systems. A pain point that continues to come up for both small and large firms alike is the management of their trust accounts. Some firms choose to delegate this chore to internal accountants/bookkeepers or to outsourced accounting firms, while others prefer to keep track of this critical piece of their practice themselves. Up to now, I have seen (most) trust accounts very diligently monitored by attorneys.

But, most attorneys are not accountants. They keep track of their trust accounts in whatever way they can; through their billing system, separately in Excel or even on paper. Yikes!

Now, firms have a great alternative for keeping their trust accounts up to date. Trustbooks ( is cloud-based trust accounting software solution for managing law firm’s trust accounts. For the reasonable cost of $25/month or $250/year, attorneys can be sure that their trust accounts are accurate and up to date.

The concept is simple, but brilliant. Trustbooks was created by a CPA who worked with law firms and found that attorneys needed an easier way to keep track of this important part of their practice. Trustbooks keeps track of the balances in your trust accounts, deposits, and payments, and allows firms to write trust account checks right out of this easy to use software.

Trustbooks allows attorneys to manage all of their trust transactions (for single or multiple trust accounts) in one place and access it 24 hours a day. Firms can quickly see their latest trust balances and transactions on the Dashboard screen and know exactly what is going on with their trust accounts even if they are not managing the accounts personally:

Trustbooks Dashboard

Firms can easily add deposits to trust accounts and make payments from trust accounts with the click of a mouse.  The software immediately updates the accounts and makes sure the trust account doesn’t go below zero. You know it shouldn’t go below zero, right?

Trustbooks Matters

In addition, Trustbooks performs trust account reconciliations, including three-way reconciliations. If you are so inclined (or required) to do daily reconciliations, it is easily done.

Trustbooks Reconciliation

Finally, something that you don’t see from other cloud-base software is the check writing feature. Rather than switching between software and your accounting system to write trust account checks, firms using Trustbooks can write checks directly from their software. Once the check is written, the trust account balance is updated immediately in the software to reflect any changes in the balance.

Trustbooks Check Printing

While the target market for this software is attorneys, if your firm has outsourced its accounting function, the firm’s accountants can use it as well to keep the firm up to date on its trust account.

As with most cloud-based software, Trustbooks is constantly updating their software. Some useful features that will be coming down the pike soon include integration with other software, month-end reports and on-boarding resources to help you make the transition to Trustbooks as painless as possible. Cool!

If your firm is using software like Quickbooks or Excel or manually tracking by hand, Trustbooks would be a huge time saver to make sure that your trusts accounts are up to date and ready for that State Bar audit. That is worth the price of admission. Check out the 30-day free trial and see if you don’t agree that it is a better way to work with your trust account.


Open for Business


16 Steps to Set up a Cloud-Based Law Firm

Do you need to set up a law firm but you’re not sure where to start? Would you like to take advantage of some of today’s cloud technology, but want to be sure that you are staying within the Rules of Professional Conduct? Cloud-based software has given law firms of all sizes the ability to get up and running quickly without needing to be an IT expert, but as attorneys, you need to take some precautions along the way.

Cloud-based law firms are not right for everyone, but for many, cloud technology has leveled the playing field with the larger firms with deeper pockets.

I have developed a 16 step process for creating a cloud-based law firm. Most of these steps can be accomplished in less than a month and you will be up and running. Here is how you get started:

  1. Secure your domain name. This step allows you to have a website and use e-mail with your firm’s name. Don’t be surprised if your name is not available since more than 250 million domain names are reserved. Choose vendors like Blue Host or GoDaddy to host your domain name.
  2. Use your domain to create an e-mail address. You need to have e-mail, but e-mail offered by your domain hosting company is seldom the best option. Typically, they provide only e-mail but most firms would like to sync their calendar, contacts and tasks everywhere they go. I recommend using Google Apps for Business or Microsoft’s Office 365 for access to your email, calendar and contacts and both sync with most mobile devices, including cell phones and tablets.
  3. Export Your Data. Most cloud-based systems will allow you to import data from older systems and programs. Choose the following export types when exporting data from your current or old firm to bring data to your new firm:
    1. Choose .pst files for Outlook email, contacts and calendars;
    2. Choose .csv files for accounting data;
    3. Choose a folder structure for documents. If exporting data from a document management system, be sure to have the original document names included.
  4. Reserve office space.  Do you need physical office space? If you do, secure it now. If you don’t, consider starting your firm at your house and using a Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone system for just you or for multiple employees in remote locations.
  5. Order Internet access. Internet access is the key to being successful in a cloud-based law firm, so order as much bandwidth as you can afford. The upload speed is the most important number to remember. If an internet service provider will provide “10 by 2” pipe, it means that the download will be 10 MB/second and the upload will be 2 MB/second. Choose the highest upload speed you can afford especially for a VOIP phone system. Depending on the type of access that you need, this step may take the longest to install. If new cabling needs to be run, the installation time can be more than six weeks.
  6. Talk with an accountant. All firms need to make sure they will get paid and this means planning your financial system. QuickBooks is a good alternative for first time business owners and most accountants like it. It can handle both an operating and a trust account, if you need it. Better yet, consider securing someone else to do your books and figure out how to divide the financial duties from check writing and accounts receivable. Talk to your accountant of their preference for Quickbooks Online or desktop Quickbooks (most will favor this option because it has more features). They will have an opinion on the subject – guaranteed.
  7. Order equipment. Buy the best computer you can, either Mac or Windows, and throw in a tablet for mobile use (iPad has the most legal apps). Buy a LaserJet printer (HP preferably, color if you need it) and a ScanSnap scanner. If your firm is big enough to warrant a copier, eliminate both the printer and the scanner and buy a brand name copier that will copy, print and scan. Make sure that your copier includes the ability to scan using OCR (optical character recognition). It may be more expensive, but it will be worth it. You probably don’t need a fax machine, but you can still have electronic faxing through a service like EFax.
  8. Buy or subscribe to software. Traditionally, Microsoft Office was only available for purchase. Now, with the advent of Microsoft’s Office 365, you have the choice. You can still buy the software and own the license or subscribe to Office 365 and pay a monthly fee (click for pricing of various options) to access Microsoft Office. Different subscriptions give you different options from local version of software to video conference calling. Don’t forget about practice specific software like SoftPro or Best Case.
  9. Secure your phone numbers and equipment. Consider porting an existing number to a Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone system or securing a number through a hosted voice over IP system like Ring Central or Vonage for Business. Hosted phone systems give you the same capabilities as server-based systems like voicemail to email and Find Me, Follow Me. Typically, the service requires you to purchase the physical phone and maintain a monthly subscription for the phone service.
  10. Decide on your document storage. Attorneys use lots of documents. They should be stored in a safe and secure place. If you decide to use a system like Dropbox, make sure you encrypt your documents with a system like Viivo before they leave your computer. Other storage options include Google Drive (can be included with your Google Apps for Business account),, or Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business if you use Microsoft’s Office 365. Better yet, if you like a document management system like Worldox, choose a cloud-based option like Netdocuments for document management in the cloud.
  11. Back up your documents. Even if your documents are cloud-based, you still need to back them up. Use a system like MozyPro or TimeMachine on a Mac to be sure you have a copy of your documents even if they are in the cloud.
  12. Use Practice Management. Unlike server-based systems, cloud-based practice management systems combine practice management along with the ability to key time. Systems like Clio, MyCase, Rocket Matter, Firm Manager allow you to organize your practice with the firm’s clients, contacts and calendar. Many of these systems will integrate with QuickBooks that will keep your accountant happy. Most important of all, READ the Terms of Service for the system to be sure that you understand who owns your data, how to get it back and who has access to your data.
  13. Legal Research. If you need it, sign up for Westlaw, Lexis or check out FaseCase. It might even be a benefit through your local bar association.
  14. Start a website (and a blog). Don’t be intimidated by website technology. It has come far and is easier than you think. Consider creating a website and a blog using (or .org for more plug-in options) or work with professionals on eLance or 99designs for help.
  15. Engage in Social Media. Social media can help grow your online presence. Create firm and professional accounts on Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn and Twitter to help you distinguish yourself from your competitors.
  16. Choose a virtual assistant or virtual receptionist. If you are not sure you need someone onsite with you, consider employing a virtual assistant to get you started. If you want to have the big firm experience with a person answering a phone, choose a virtual receptionist like Ruby Receptionist to have a live person answer your phone on your behalf.

And there you have it; one new law firm ready for clients. Get ready, get set, Go!

Leave a comment

10 Legal Tech Tips for Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has a reputation as a day of bad luck. Let’s change our luck around by heeding some tips that will ward off bad luck on any day.

1. Bates Numbering with Acrobat Pro – Bates Numbering within Acrobat Pro is easy, flexible and allows for changes and updates. The Pro version of Acrobat is required and Bates Numbering is accessible under the Tools menu. Yes, it allows you to choose your own crazy Bates number scheme.

Bates Number

2. Buy a Keyboard For Your Tablet – Tablets are great, but by buying a keyboard to use with the tablet it becomes much more of a business tool. The keyboard can be integrated within the case or carried separately as a Bluetooth device.

3. Update Your LinkedIn Profile – LinkedIn has been around for a while, but have you looked at your LinkedIn profile lately? Take a few minutes to put up a new picture, add more content and update your recent publications. People are using LinkedIn. Are you?

4. Use Paste Special in MS Office Products – If you are tired of pasting data into documents, emails and briefs with incorrect formatting, choose the Paste Special option under the Paste Menu. Choose Unformatted Text to leave the bad formatting behind.

Paste Special

5. Limit Your PowerPoint – PowerPoint slides should not be used as a prompt for the presenter. They need to convey the most important, impactful data in your presentation. By limiting your PowerPoint to simple clear messages, the audience will be listening to you and not reading your PowerPoint.

6. Read the Terms of Service – When engaging in cloud computing, many attorneys assume that the terms of service of one provider are the same as every other. They are not! Be sure to read the terms of service for any provider where you store your client’s confidential data.

7. Get Rid of Your Fax Machine – Many law firms have the (wrong) idea that they need to maintain a physical fax machine in order to send and receive faxes. Just because your client has not moved into the age of electronic faxing does not mean that your firm needs to keep a fax machine sitting in the office. Investigate online fax services or free services can be found with a little research. You can receive and send your faxes electronically and your client can keep their fax machine.

8. Use Virtual Assistants – Today, your assistant does not have to work in the office with you. Consider engaging a virtual assistant for short or long term assignments. They would work just like an assistant in your office. They can do anything from calling clients, to managing calendars, to booking travel, and any other projects that don’t require them to be physically in the office.

9. Backup (and Restore) Your Cloud Data Locally – Tools like Dropbox are a wonderful way to store and share documents. However, this does not relieve the necessity to back up your data. Periodically, copy your data from Dropbox,, Google Drive, SkyDrive (whatever flavor of storage you prefer) to your local backup drive. Test some files to make sure that your backup works in case disaster strikes.

10. Try Voice Recognition Software – Since I can talk faster than I can type, voice recognition software has been a lifesaver for me. If you have tried voice-recognition software in the past and not been pleased with it, give it a try again. The technology has greatly improved over the last few years, and it will be worth the short investment of time.

Good luck on Friday the 13th, and make the most of the day by trying some of these tips.

Can I Use a Mac at Law Firm

Leave a comment

Can I Use a Mac at My Law Office?

(Originally published on April 22, 2014 on Law Technology Today. Read original post here.)

I work with lots of firms that are either starting up or looking to move to the cloud. One question comes up over and over – Can I use a Mac instead of a PC in my firm? The answer is usually YES! However, while the answer may be yes for some attorneys, it’s good to know why the answer might be no for you in particular.

While the majority of law firms are still running in the Windows environment, more people than ever are using Macs in law offices these days.  In the past, Macs could not run the software necessary to operate in a law firm, but cloud-based practice management and time and billing systems have bridged the gap between Macs and PCs. Cloud-based software can be run on Macs and Windows PCs equally, and can be accessed using most major internet browsers.

Let’s consider a few good reasons to move to a Mac:

  1. You have a Mac at home and you are comfortable with the operating system, and saving and downloading files in the Mac OS X environment.
  2. You don’t mind looking for your own answers and doing a little tinkering when the Mac needs to behave in PC world (such as connecting projectors in a Windows-based environment.)
  3. You are tired of being frustrated by technology and want to use a computer that just works, all the time, with very little maintenance.

If you are willing to make the initial investment in time and money, a Mac provides a great return on investment. They are easy to learn, easy to get up and running and inexpensive to maintain. Go for it!

However, be sure that you are not making the decision for the wrong reasons.  Consider these common misconceptions about moving to a Mac:

  1. “I have an iPad and iPhone so I thought I’d get a Mac because they’ll work the same way. “
    1. Reality Check –iPads and iPhones are a great introduction to the Mac OS X, but the interface and functionality are different. The Mac is not an iPad with a keyboard. It is a powerful computer with an operating system that can take time to get used to.
  2. “My kids have a Mac (or my friend has a Mac) and they say it’s really easy and I should set up my office based on a Mac.”
    1. Reality Check – The Mac environment is easy as long as you take some time to learn how it works. If you are starting a new firm and are still trying to figure out how Quickbooks works, you may not want to add another level of complication.
  3. “Anyone can learn how to use a Mac!”
    1. Reality Check – You are never too old to learn. But, if you are not willing to learn something new, maybe you should stick with something that you know.

Several other items to consider about Macs in law offices today:

  1.  Mac-based law firms typically require less investment in IT after the initial purchase.
  2. If there is an essential tool in your software toolbox for your firm (Best Case for Bankruptcy firms or SoftPro for Real Estate firms), confirm that the software will work in a Mac environment.
  3. Macs have the ability to operate a session of Windows on the Mac. If one program that you require is only available on a Windows environment, a system like Parallels or VMWare Fusion can allow you to access a Windows environment on the Mac.
  4. There are great resources available for attorneys in Mac environments that were not even around five years ago. Resources like The Mac Lawyer (, Macs In Law ( and groups like MILO (Macs in Law Offices) are great ways to get up to speed with Macs in law fast.

After considering these options, you can decide if a Mac is the right choice for you. However, if you believe that a Mac is right for you, you will not be disappointed.   After the initial learning curve with the operating system, you will find that Macs are stable, workhorse machines that run well for years and need little support and maintenance. As the saying goes, “Once you go Mac, you will never go back!”

Good luck!

Leave a comment

When You Leave Big Law – What To Take and What to Leave Behind

(Originally published on March 4, 2014 on Law Technology Today. Read original post here.)

Starting your own firm is an exciting endeavor.  No longer will you be restricted by the rules and processes of your Big Law firm.  There are so many decisions to be made like new email addresses and websites, internet service providers, document storage options, logos, marketing opportunities, social media…. The to-do list can seem endless.

But before you leave the comforts of Big Law, there are a few items that you might want to consider taking with you. While Big Law may have been confining, it also provided many of the creature comforts that you need to consider as you are embarking on this new adventure. They include:

  • Documents – In many instances, your documents may have existed in a firm-wide server-based document management system. While such a system was great in a large firm for finding documents, such as system might not be ideal in a smaller firm. Take what documents you can, with the approval of your firm, and make sure they are in a format that can be used in a small office. The export of documents in a folder and subfolder structure with clients and matters, and document types, is fine. Ensure that the names of the documents that are exported for you are correct and not some gobbledygook name from the document management system that you no longer have access to.
  • Contacts and calendars – Hopefully, you have the ability to take your existing contact list and calendar with you as you move away from your old firm. If you know the system that you would like to use in your new firm, be sure that your contacts and calendars are exported in that format. For most people, one of the following two options will work:
    • CSV (comma separated values) – The .csv files are easily imported into cloud-based systems.
    • PST (Outlook data file) – The.pst files are easily imported into Microsoft Outlook.

If you are not sure of the system you will be using in your new firm, ask if you can have your data in both formats so you do not limit your opportunities.

  • Templates and “Go-Bys” – Most attorneys do not creating every document from scratch but often use go-bys and templates to create documents from Motions to Briefs. If you can, again with the approval of your firm, copy these standard documents and templates that you will use to create your new documents. Everyone has those favorite documents that you use over and over. These documents are an essential tool for your new practice.
  • Pictures and biography information – In addition to creating a new firm, you will be creating a new website as well. Photos are essential piece of your new website and if you have good photos from your old firm that you can take with you that will assist with your new website. In addition, many attorneys include their biography information on their websites as well. Before that information is taken off of your old firm site, be sure you have a copy of that information for your new site. You will most likely be updating it (and hopefully getting some new pictures as well), but it is nice to know the information that was on your old site and not have to start from scratch.

Now that we have talked about the information to take with you, let’s talk about what not to take. The prospect of creating a new firm is exciting, but if you’ve been practicing for 20 years, Big Law is all you know. Now that your new firm will be small and nimble, try to break the preconceived notions of how law firms work. Consider some of the Big Law ideas to leave behind:

  • Paper and Electronic Files – If your old firm was a paper monster, consider using tools like a ScanSnap iX500 scanner to move your firm toward a paperless office. Did your old firm pay thousands a month for off-site storage as a result of this paper monster? Make plans now on how to keep (or not keep) those paper files so you don’t suffer the same expense down the road.
  • Client Numbering – Was your old firm bogged down in six digit client and matter numbers that no one could remember? Consider a client numbering or naming strategy that will work for your new firm and establish procedures for this system to accommodate growth. Do you need six digits for client number? Probably not to start off, but a sound numbering or name strategy is essential for organization.
  • Time Entry – If you had someone else entering your time, is that an option for your new firm? If not, consider easily accessible tools on iPhones and iPads (like the iTimekeep app or to enter your own time easily. These options may not have been as cost-effective in a larger firm, but they can be the key to accurately capturing time in a small firm.
  • Virtual Services – If you used internal transcription services, consider using voice recognition software (like Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12) or a virtual transcription or digital dictation service. If you need an assistant, consider hiring a virtual assistant to start rather than a physical assistant.
  • Hourly rates – Were your hourly rates so high to compensate for the Big Law overhead? Leave the big firm overhead behind and lower your hourly rate accordingly. Consider flat fees and alternative fee arrangements for clients interested in alternative billing arrangements that big firms were reluctant to offer.

It is a huge transition to move from Big Law to a solo or small practice, and thinking ahead can ease the difficulty inherent in the process. But, by utilizing your Big Law experience, bringing with you some tools that will help in the transition and leaving the Big Law processes behind, your new firm will flourish. Best of luck to you in this new adventure!

Think Strategically

Leave a comment

Think Strategically About Your Resolutions

(Originally published on January 13, 2014 on Law Technology Today. Read original post here.)

Think Strategic About Your Resolutions

Happy New Year! The beginning of the year is a time for your firm to resolve to make some changes and stick with them throughout this year – unlike that gym membership. Consider the following five firm resolutions for the New Year:

  1.  Change your passwords: Recent data security compromises at stores like Target and other security breaches involving simple passwords should compel you to update your debit card PIN numbers and change your usernames and passwords from your old standbys. Many of the security breaches will try to take advantage of those folks that use the same username with the same password over and over again. Consider using email aliases for your account name so for your Amazon account, your username (and corresponding email address) would be Keep track of all of these accounts and passwords with a password saving program and not a sticky on your desk or under your keyboard (you know who I’m talking about).
  2. Go paperless: A paperless office can be a steep goal if you are surrounded by paper as you read this, but now is the time to start. Start scanning everything on your desk and utilize a great desktop scanner like the ScanSnap Xi500 (about $410 on Amazon) and the job will not be as hard as you think. From there, for every open and active physical case that you touch (save closed and inactive files for a later date), see what documents can be scanned and converted into an electronic case file. If you produce more paper, come up with a plan to make that paper go away (check out #3 below). By creating a paperless workflow, the paper will decrease in your electronic files will increase.
  3. Create and document workflows: Going hand in hand with your paperless office resolution is a way to organize your electronic files so your firm (and you) can find everything. Utilize practice management and document management systems to help you too. From snail mail to electronic mail, create and document the workflow for all of the documents coming into your firm and include where are they stored, how are they scanned, who they are distributed to and where the documents should end up. When new employees start and they are properly trained in your standard document procedures, the firm benefits by increasing efficiency of even new employees. Engage your staff in helping produce this documentation since they touch so many of these documents. By creating and documenting workflows for your firm, it will help you stick with your paperless resolution and ensure success for two resolutions at the same time.
  4. Update your website: If your clients do not recognize you from your website pictures, it is time to update your website. Your website is the first point of contact with potential clients. Put your best foot forward this year and make sure that your content and pictures are updated, accurate and best represent your firm. Look at your website from the clients’ point of view and engage others to look at it critically to see what can be improved and updated. Not all the work has to be done at once, but an updated look and feel to a site is essential for new clients looking at your site for the first time. Plan to include videos in your website to increase your rankings on Google. They can be produced with a video camera that you have in house or even from many cell phones. Don’t wait and think you need a video production studio to produce your videos. Get them out there!
  5. Update your hardware: The expiration for Windows XP is fast approaching. There is even a Windows XP Death Clock out there – – to help you count down the days until Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft. (It is April 18, 2014.) Update your old Windows XP machines, before this date, to at least Windows 7 Professional. You can still order Windows 7 from the major hardware carriers like Dell and Lenovo. Don’t wait until April to get rid of you Windows XP machines; it will be a target for hackers the day after the support ends.

By thinking strategically and resolving to look at each of these areas within your firm, your firm will benefit throughout the year and beyond. Wishing you all the best in 2014.

Leave a comment

What is Office 365?

With the concept of cloud-based computing becoming more acceptable, consumers, including attorneys, have started to embrace the cloud. In February of this year, Microsoft launched a subscription-based version of their most famous (or infamous) product, Microsoft Office. Their product is called Microsoft Office 365.

This product is a direct competitor to Google Apps for Business which has been embraced by many firms as a low-cost alternative to an expensive on-site Exchange email server.  Office 365 is a monthly subscription to the most up-to-date Microsoft Office products as well as Hosted Exchange email. But, Microsoft didn’t just stop at email. They included additional options for web and desktop access to their most popular Microsoft Office products. This is very appealing to firms with out of date software as well as start-ups who do not want to make a big investment in software.

Subscribers to Office 365 do not have to pay the one-time fee of $300-$400 for a license of Microsoft Office.  Instead, Microsoft has tried to meet everyone’s needs from the solo and small firm all the way up to the large enterprise firm, and has several different subscription options to entice them all. The picture below shows all of Microsoft’s offerings (click for more information):

Office 365

On the lower end, with the subscription of $5/user/month, you have access to a hosted email system using your own domain name like rather than You also have the ability to host a website as well as use their web conferencing and document sharing features.

At the $12.50/month level , you have access to the latest and greatest Microsoft Office 2013 wherever you go online, and you can also install the software on five external devices. This includes laptops, desktops, and any other device that you wish to have a local copy of the software. If your firm needs integration with a local Windows server, just move to the $15/user/month level for up to 300 users.

On the higher end, the $20/user/month subscription has an interesting advantage. It gives your firm the ability to have archiving, legal hold capabilities, as well as tools for e-discovery. It will depend on how important this type of information is for your firm whether or not it would be worth the extra $5/user/month. Did I mention the ability to potentially replace your phone system at the highest level of $22/user/ month? Pretty cool.

For those of you that have been working in Google Apps for Business realm over the past several years, this is serious competition. The price point for Office 365 is good, and you get the added bonus of a license for Microsoft Office. This product is somewhat less beneficial if you have already made the investment into a license of Microsoft Office on your desktop or laptop. However, for new startups and for firms that have not been able to update their software, they get an updated version of Microsoft Office, with the added benefit of a Hosted Exchange email system at the same time.

Office 365 is up and running and proving to be a worthy adversary in the battle between Microsoft and Google. Google better step up their game, or Google Apps for Business will soon be considered “the other” option for a hosted email solution.


Leave a comment

Using Dropbox for Your Client Documents? Encrypt it!

I use Dropbox every day, and I love it! It’s a great way to store documents and have them accessible in multiple locations on multiple computers. However, while this convenience is great, security needs to be considered when using Dropbox for client documents. Dropbox files are not encrypted, so the security of your clients’ documents is in your hands. Encrypt your Dropbox!

When I talk about encryption, I don’t want to lose all the non-techies. Basically, when a document is not encrypted the documents and sensitive client information is stored without anything other than a password. If it falls into the wrong hands, they can read it. Encrypted data is stored as ones and zeros so if your data is compromised, it can’t be read. You hold the only encryption key, and your data can only be unlocked and read by you.

There are a number of Dropbox encryption tools on the market including True Crypt ( – one of the few options for the Windows XP users (Yikes!) out there, but that is another post), Box Cryptor ( and Viivo ( Some are easier than others to install and use.

My personal choice for Dropbox encryption is Viivo.

Viivo encryption

I like Viivo because it’s easy to install, easy to use and free. When you install the software, you follow the step-by-step directions, including setting an encryption password. As part of the process, Viivo will ask you to relocate your Dropbox to the encrypted Viivo folder.

Your documents will now live inside the encrypted Viivo folder and will look the same as they did when they were in your Dropbox folder, but they will have an extra layer of protection. Rather than going to the Dropbox folder for your documents, you go to the Viivo folder. Viivo even installs it right where you are used to going to your Dropbox:

viivo location

By adding the additional step of encrypting Dropbox, you will be improving your firm’s security and protect your client data and confidential files. You will know that if there’s ever a breach in security at Dropbox, your data is protected. Dropbox is a powerful tool that can provide quick storage and improve the mobility of your practice, but take the extra step that will help protect you and your clients’ data. Encrypt!