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Some Post-Summer Law Practice Tips
By Jim Calloway

Summer is coming to a close and hopefully you have enjoyed some vacation and family time. Several of us enjoyed the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference in June. We had one of the largest turnouts in recent memory. Our conference is only possible because of the support of a number of sponsors. This year we had several vendors with products and services to help lawyers practice law more efficiently.

The traditional opening session for the conference is called “60 Tips in 60 Minutes,” a fast-paced program that covers a wide range of material. This year I was joined by experts Ben Schorr and Tom Mighell for our tips session. I often hear from attendees that this is their favorite session of the conference.

In this article, let’s recap some popular law practice tips that were shared during our “60 Tips in 60 Minutes” session.

PRODUCTIVITY

Speech recognition software now makes sense for even faster lawyer typists. After all, most of us can talk faster than we can type. Dictating documents can remain an important part of law office operations without having to pay an individual to listen to the dictation and transcribe it. I use Dragon Dictate NaturallySpeaking Professional Individual, which was released last fall and retails for $300. Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking Legal Individual was released earlier this year and starts at $500. Another alternative is purchasing a subscription to Dragon Anywhere for Android or iOS. This allows you to use your smartphone as a dictation device. The price on this ranges from $15 for one month’s service to $150 for a year’s subscription. I generally don’t like headsets and am currently using the MXL AC404 USB conference microphone which I purchased for around $80.

Ben Schorr also reminded us that the 2016 version of Microsoft Office has a new feature, a text box on the ribbon in Office 2016 apps that says “Tell me what you want to do.” This is a field where you can enter words and phrases about what you want to do next and quickly get access to features you want to use or actions you want to perform. This is much faster than the previous methods of obtaining help within Microsoft Word.

Lawyers live by their calendar and their task lists. If you’re looking for a task list application Tom Mighell says look to The Ultimate To-Do List Comparison Chart. This compares the features of more than 30 task list programs and apps. 

INTERNET

Tom Mighell also said one of his favorite technology upgrades has been installing eero routers. If you have certain areas in your home and office where you cannot get a Wi-Fi signal, these premium-priced routers will likely solve your problem and can be managed from your smartphone.

You probably aren’t using Google and YouTube enough these days. You can locate a YouTube video on how to accomplish almost any task from software tools to fence building. If you will train yourself to put a lot of words into a Google search instead of just a few, you will find you can get an answer to almost any factual query instantly.

Have you ever accidentally closed a tab in your browser and then wished you could have it back again? To reopen that browser tab you just accidentally closed, use the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+T. This works in all major browsers. (If you cannot remember this key stroke combination when you need it, a quick Google search will locate it for you.)

SECURITY

Protecting your office against digital disasters like a data breach or a malware infection is serious business today.

Remember, staff training on security is essential and must be repeated periodically. You should talk to your staff about how to recognize questionable email attachments and encourage them not to click when they are unsure. Today a lawyer’s duty to supervise nonlawyer assistants under Oklahoma Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3 likely includes some training on digital security.

Despite your best efforts, there is always a chance of a security breach, especially with the advent of “ransomware” programs that can invade your system and encrypt all of your data files. It is important to have regular backups so you can restore your system if this happens without being forced to pay the ransom.

You have heard or read this one before, but it bears repeating. Long unique passwords are very important today and you should never use the same password for multiple websites. But how do you remember them all? The best solution is to use a password manager like Lastpass, Dashlane, 1password or Roboform.

Email attachments are not secure. If you need to send something out by email that contains personal information such as Social Security numbers, the “quick and dirty” way to protect the information is to password protect a Word document or PDF file and then call the recipient to give them the password over the telephone. 

Citrix ShareFile is now an OBA member benefit. Some ShareFile plans include a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that allows you to encrypt when you need it and not use encryption when you don’t need it. There is also a feature that allows you to do the same thing with Gmail.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the most important law practice management tip, particularly for solo and small firm lawyers, is to use practice management software tools to set up a digital workflow (sometimes called the “paperless office”) where every document that comes in to the office is scanned and placed in a digital client file. You will be hearing more about this in the future from the OBA Management Assistance Program. (As if you haven’t already heard it from us several times before.) You can find links to the practice management solution providers that exhibited at our Solo & Small Firm Conference at www.okbar.net/solo. You can also download the materials from the Practice Management Shootout at the 2015 Solo & Small Firm Conference by logging into MyOKBar.

We always like to end our 60 tips session with a humorous tip or two. One that is perfect for our current election season is the SnuzNLuz from ThinkGeek.com. If you have a problem with hitting the snooze button on your alarm too often in the morning, this Wi-Fi connected alarm clock can be set up to donate a small contribution to an organization or candidate that you detest every time you hit the snooze button. That thought should get you out of bed in the morning!

Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program Director.  Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help solving a management dilemma?  Contact him at 405-416-7008, 1-800-522-8065 or jimc@okbar.org.  It's a free member benefit!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- August 20, 2016 -- Vol. 87, No. 21