Tech Tips: How to Choose It & Product and Service Highlights
The right legal technology can help level the playing field for the solo and small office practitioner. The good news is that easily understood legal tech information is available — for FREE. Online resources are just a click away.
[Note: Scroll down for the latest in Legal Tech Products and Services Spotlight section.]
Legal Technology and How To Choose It
Appropriate legal technology choices should take into consideration your type of practice, your existing equipment, and whether you have staff, among other things. Are you just starting out, or do you have an established practice? Are you needing a tech overhaul because your equipment is obsolete, or are you merely want to augment what you currently have? How do you find out what’s right for you?
Candid, Product-Specific Reviews
Avail yourself of candid, product specific reviews by tech able, practicing lawyers, nationwide and locally, who have vetted tech solutions in their blogs. For a list of exceptional lawyer blog sites to get you started, check the American Bar Association’s comprehensive law blog listing
. Examples of excellent lawyer blogs with product reviews or links to helpful product and service reviews are:
- Above and Beyond by Mary Abraham, Esq.: After practicing corporate law, Mary Abraham now advises firms on knowledge management (i.e., the process of capturing, developing, storing and effectively using organizational knowledge) and the use of technology and social media. Though focused mostly on large firms, her posts often address issues useful to the small office practitioner.
- Future Lawyer by Richard Georges, Esq.: Dedicated to the "future technology for the lawyer today." the lawyer author features emerging technologies.
- Law Practice Tips Blog by Jim Calloway, Esq.: A practice management advisor with the Oklahoma State Bar Association (and speaker at past LSBA Solo and Small Firm Conferences), Jim Calloway's searchable blog offers excellent practical technology tips for the small office practitioner.
- Lawyerist.com created by Sam Glover, Esq.: This searchable site is managed by lawyer Sam Glover who writes along with many other contributing notable authors on topics such as practice management, starting a law firm, technology, marketing and ethics.
- TechnoLawyer created by Niel J. Squillante, Esq.: Sign up for this FREE newsletter and stay abreast of the latest through articles and easily readable reviews by notable authors on technology and law practice management topics.
ABA’s Legal Resource Technology Center
Go to the ABA’s Legal Resource Technology Center (LRTC)
for many excellent comprehensive
FREE resources (ABA membership is not required!
Access a Podcast
Hear podcasts from the ABA’s The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology
, featuring practitioners who offer their views and critiques on products and tech strategies.
Like real books? Get a discount on this one: An excellent
resource, in softbound book form, is the yearly Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide: Critical Decisions Made Simple
by Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek and Michael C. Maschke. Nelson and Simek were featured speakers at the LSBA’s 2013 Solo and Small Firm Conference. This annual guide is the only one of its kind, written to assist the small office practitioner find the best tech for the dollar. You’ll find the most current information and recommendations on computers, servers, networking equipment, legal software, cloud computing, printers, security products, smartphones, the iPad and anything else a lawyer might need. The authors also provide step-by-step instructions for making sound tech decisions. This book is worth a look. You have a couple of options:
- If you want to purchase a copy, the LSBA is offering the book at a favorable discounted rate. To obtain a copy of the 2014 guide at the discounted rate of $50 (regularly sells for $90), call Kristy Nunez at (504)619-0138.
The LSBA's Lending Library
has other excellent reading material by noted authors on the tech tips of all kinds, managment of your law office, business planning, marketing, billing, quality of life and much more. Peruse the titles and borrow a book for FREE
Ask Your Colleagues
Tech advice also can come from your fellow practitioners. Find others whose practices are like yours and compare notes. Attend the LSBA’s technology seminars and, in particular, the Solo and Small Firm Conference, which feature technology speakers and offer important networking opportunities to discuss technology decisions with your fellow practitioners. For more information, contact:
Shawn L. Holahan, Esq.
Practice Managment Counsel
***Legal Tech Products and Services Spotlight***
This section will serve to highlight various tech products and services on an informative, caveat emptor basis. Though a product or service may be discussed here, such should not be construed as the LSBA's recommendation, endorsement or review of the product or service (although occasionally, links to reviews by others may be included). Keep in mind that prices cited may often be lower than stated.
Paperless Office Software:
If you're a solo wanting to organize electronic documents and files without the cloud, then maybe a simple, relatively inexpensive software solution might work for you. Consider the following:
FileCenter Standard ($99) and FileCenter Pro ($199)(as of 9-15-14) by Lucion Technologies offers a simple to install, easy to use document tracking system which allows you to organize, seach for and find scanned documents by keywords in the text. You can create your own filing system or opt to use the suggestions offered by the software. You can save files from your word processing program directly from File Central, can send emails from FileCentral and can upload files to it from mobile devices. Tutorials and tips are included as well as online support. The Pro edition supports advanced pdf functions and advanced scanning features (see side by side comparison chart).
Nerino Petro, Esq. offers his incisive review of the product and tips to the lawyer wanting to go paperless.
"PDF," an acronym for "portable document format," allows a document to be presented or sent in a manner independent of the application software, hardware or operating system that created it. In the early 90s, Adobe Systems created the first PDF program, officially releasing a free "read only" program with which most of us are familiar. While the "read only" feature remains free, manipulation of PDF documents (i.e., cutting and pasting from a PDF document, converting a PDF document to WORD, etc.) requires additional tools. Here are two companies which offer products for this:
Adobe XI Pro: This product is available as a cloud based service for $19.99/month, or as a digital or download software for $449. (Pricing accurate as of 6-24-14).
Power PDF Advanced: This product is a direct competitor of Adobe XI Pro and does almost everything that the Adobe product does, except it currently retails at $149. (Pricing accurate as of 6-24-14).
Reduce clutter with a desktop/portable scanner. These space saving (no bigger than a bread box; some portables no larger than a stack of wooden rulers), relatively inexpensive, very easy to use devices can digitize and scan quickly papers to a file on your computer or server, or attach them to an email, or send them to a printer in your office. Desktop and portable scanners are "must have" items for the small office practitioner as well as for lawyers in larger firms. Several are highlighted below:
Fujitsu Scan Snap: Fujitsu offers several models which differ in the number of pages scanned at a time and in the size of the device. As follows:
iX500: Desktop sized, this device can work over WiFi and comes with Adobe Acrobat Standard for Windows at no extra charge. This device creates searchable pdf documents, scans up to 50 pp at a rate of 25 ppm (even double-sided), is PM/Mac compatible and scans can be directed to Evernote and to Microsoft's Sharepoint. $419 (pricing accurate as of 8-19-14).
ScanSnap S1100 Color Bundle Mobile Scanner: Fujitsu's smallest ScanSnap, this device connects to your laptop via a USB 2.0 port and scans business cards, letter, legal and customized documents. $169 (pricing accurate as of 8-19-14).
Canon's DR-C225 Document Scanner: Canon just released its new scanning device which is comparable to the Fujitsu ix500 in terms of capability. $414 (pricing accurate as of 8-19-14).
Kodak's ScanMate i940: This device is a good compromise between the larger desktop scanners and the smaller portable devices. It will fit up to 20 pp at a time and can be powered from a single USB cable. $175 (pricing accurate as of 8-19-14).
Use Your SmartPhone as Scanner:
In a hurry and need a copy of a document but don't have a scanner available, think about these quick and easy options:
SmartPhone as a Scanner (no app required): Cameras in smartphones have remarkable resolution power. If in need of a quick copy of a document or receipt, put the document in good light and take the photo from above the document. If blurry, try again at a different distance but not too far away so that the document is still readable. If the lighting is poor, try a second photo with or without the flash option on. You can then email your document to whomever you choose.
SmartPhone Apps: The following apps are FREE and allow you to take a photo of documents and receipts, and convert them into a PDF file. The apps automatically detect page corners and flatten out raw images into a high quality scan with reusults that are very similar to a traditional scanner. There are other similar apps, but here are three that have reviewed highly:
CamScanner Free (iPhone / Android) – 4.5 stars on Apple, 4.5 stars on Google.
TinyScan Free (iPhone / Android) – Lots of positive reviews, 4.5 stars on Apple, 4 stars on Google.
Genius Scan Free (iPhone / Android) – Lots of positive reviews, 4.5 stars on Apple, 4 stars on Google.