May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - Where did I leave my reading glasses?
If You're Over 40, Have We Got A Feature For You
OK, I'll admit it. I wear bifocals. But it's just glasses right now because my optometrist won't give me a prescription for bifocal contacts. He says they're not really functional for someone like me, with vision approaching 20/700 and an astigmatism.
Can you believe that hogwash?
Anyway, I do have a pair of contacts that works for distance, but even then I have to wear reading glasses. You know, those silly little glasses that are on the rotating endcaps in drugstores. I just peer over the top to see far away, but to see up close, it's either those tiny glasses or trombone arms.
So, to accommodate not only me, but those of you (while you're certainly much younger than me, but still have the same problem reading up close), MIPTC is pleased to announce a new feature: a font size changer.
That's right. Right there above the skyscraper ad, you'll see A, A+ and A++. In the privacy of your own home or office, you can choose to make the font larger to make it easier to read. The feature modifies only the text of the post, not the other text on the site.
If that's not big enough, though, there's always our Text-only site.
Your Computer Can Bring You Into The 19th Century
You may wonder why do I need to know more about tech? You're thinking to yourself, how hard is this computer stuff? You're saying, "I can get email on my computer and I can even type my own documents in Word Perfect or Word. Heck, I surf the Internet and I occasionally text message my kids, too. What more do I need to know?"
You might even say, "I'm hip. I don't need to read this post."
Fine. Let's test that theory. But before we delve into what the intricacies of technology, let's just look at one of the most basic - and what you may assume to be probably the most non-computer-based devices in your office, the telephone. But don't get ahead of me here and jump to the immediate conclusion that I'm going to discuss technology you already use such as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
Since you already know all about how to save money by using VOIP and other telephone software-based programs like Skype, Peerio and Microsoft's Office Communicator , I'll leave that to a later article.
So let's look at some practical advice that can save you thousands of dollars with a comparatively small investment. First, however, let me set up the problem. If you've been practicing law for a while, you've likely suffered through at least one telephone system replacement and the painful training that came along with it. You know exactly what I'm talking about: that laminated little card they gave you with the directions on how to use the hold button, park and retrieve a call from somewhere else in the office and that foreign language section on the conference feature.
My bet is that you don't even know where that laminated card is located in your desk, you can't pick up a call in your office when the incoming call was answered elsewhere, and it's a hopeless effort to even begin to figure out how to make a conference call.
If you're at all like me and most of the lawyers in my office, you'll grudgingly admit your receptionist is about the only person who can passingly perform these functions. Maybe you can put a call on hold (it's that red button on the phone), but that's about it.
Before our office installed computer software to control our telephones, I was a confirmed Telephone Luddite. When I set up a conference call, I dropped everyone when I pushed the conference button and mostly ended up talking to myself. Picking up a parked call was about as likely as me successfully launching a probe to land on Mars.
I could convert gallons in Metric measurements to liters in English measurements easier than I could operate the office telephone, and my last math class was differential equations in college. Even so, I figured the rocket science of telephone conference calls was best left to the people at JPL. At least they could land a probe on Mars, couldn't they?
Well maybe not, but trust me on this one, with telephone software installed on your computer, you'll not only be able to master these complicated functions of hold, park and conferencing, but you'll also avoid buying another telephone hardware system again. When they invent new features for the phone, all you'll have to do is download the software update, not replace your phones.
Moreover, if you're buying a telephone system, you don't have to buy expensive, complicated and feature-laden phones that comes complete with five-page laminated cards of instructions. With telephone software, everything is right there on your computer screen and can be displayed with the click of a mouse.
Here's the solution we've found. We've installed a software program from Artisoft called Televantage on our firm's servers and workstations. When a call comes in, a box pops up on my computer screen and shows me who is calling and allows me to control it with my mouse. I can send it to voice mail, transfer it to someone else and even conference in other callers. By right-clicking on the box that displays the call, all of those options pop up in an easy-to-understand menu, allowing me to choose any one of those features right there on my monitor, which is thousands of light-years from wherever that laminated card is in my desk.
If a call goes into voice mail, then the computer saves it as a Windows media file so I can listen to it on my computer speakers. If I want, I can send that voice mail message to someone else by email. If I'm on a call with someone else, I can even play that voice mail message into the call and the caller and I can both listen to all of it or just a part of it. I can even record the call I'm on (with all participants' permission, of course), and the computer again saves the recording as a Windows media file.
The computer program even integrates with our firm's contact database so even if the person who calls does not use Caller ID, our computer still associates the incoming telephone number with our contact database, and displays the caller's name. If I'm in the contact database and looking at a person's contact information, then I just click on the telephone number and the computer dials the telephone for me. All I have to do is pick up the handset and talk.
Conferencing no longer strikes fear into my heart. I simply right-click on the call displayed on my screen, which causes a menu to pop up. I then just click on the conference button. Another screen pops up next asking me who I want to call. I can either type in a telephone number or use the letter keys to type a name and then tell the computer to dial it for me. When the call is dialed, I can speak with the new caller first and easily decide when to add the new caller into the original call by looking at the prompts on my computer screen. It's no longer the black-hole mystery it used to be.
Since the software is computer-based, others in the office can see whether I'm on the phone by opening the software program on their workstation. If I'm on a call, then the other attorneys and staff members can see that fact on their computer monitor. I can set my status as "Do Not Disturb" or any number of other messages, including "On Vacation," "Out of the Office," and "Out to Lunch" even if I'm not on the telephone.
Not only are these features available on my individual workstation, but they also work from any other workstation in the office, and I easily and visually can park a call elsewhere and then pick it up in my office. For example, if I've picked up a call elsewhere in the office and need to move to my office to complete the conversation, I can park the call either on the computer screen or on the actual telephone and then once I get back to my office, pick up the call just by looking at my computer monitor and clicking on it with my mouse.
If I'm out of the office, then other office personnel can likewise see that fact on their workstations and easily click on the display of my cellular phone and transfer the call to me by clicking on the dialog box that shows my cell phone. After hours, I can even set the software to have phone calls "follow me" when the office is closed. The software will first try my cell phone, then home phone and in sequence any other phone number I may have listed.
If I forget to set the software to redirect calls before I leave the office, then I can remote in and change the settings at any time of the day or night. The remote feature also allows me to play my telephone messages through any computer anywhere in the world. No longer do I have to dial in and try to remember whether to push the pound button or push the star button and enter my password. It's all easily visible on my computer. The old-fashioned way still works, too, but it seems much more intuitive to see it on a computer screen.
The real benefits of this system are both its ease of use and reliance on computer-based systems. If you can navigate your way around a computer, then you won't need any training how to use it. The system also drives right to the bottom line. You'll never have to replace your phones again. The updates keep your system current and add new features as they come out.
To use this system, you will need a dedicated computer server to handle routing of calls, standard multi-line business telephones (a.k.a. "dumb" terminals) and the Artisoft. The cost can vary in direct proportion to the number of telephone lines, telephones and size of your office, but basic, beginning systems can be purchased for around $15,000 - $20,000.
More than anything else, however, the benefit of the system for me is the satisfaction of finally having mastered that most basic function of the telephone: successfully making a conference call without dropping the participants from the conversation, and saving money while you do it.
Step Into The World Of Document Management
Are you still using Windows Explorer to electronically file your documents? Are you still searching through the "tree" on your computer's hard drive to find computer files of documents you've drafted for your clients?
Certainly "still" could be viewed as pejorative here, but I mean it more in the literary sense of foreshadowing. You see, there are other ways. Much better ways. Using the tree method to find your documents is cumbersome and inefficient, but there are several software programs out there that will change the way you use your computer system like night is to day.
This software category is known as document management, and these programs will allow you to search for a single word across all of your documents, and then report back to you with every document that ever mentioned that word. Say, for example, you have to file a Writ of Attachment for one of your new clients. You remember that last year you wrote one that would make a good exemplar, but you can't remember either when or which client, and now you can't find it no matter how hard you've searched.
With a document management program, you simply enter the word "attachment" into the search box, and within seconds, the program will present you with the Writ of Attachment you filed last year and viola you're off to the races. These programs allow you to categorize documents by client, client matter, author, date drafted, date revised, type of document and an entire host of other choices.
You're beginning to see the light, and once you make the switch, you won't understand how you ever managed to practice law without document management. In just four years, our law firm has amassed more than 75,000 separate documents. Without document management, we'd never find a thing.
There are a wide variety of programs, ranging in price from free to several hundred dollars a seat (user), and corresponding amounts of features that they provide. Google offers a free desktop search engine, and while it's fairly efficient, it lacks any substantive features. If budget is a concern, then you can find Google's search engine here.
For those interested in performance and ease of use, there are several other programs available. Worldox, iManage and Hummingbird. While my firm uses Worldox, many others use both iManage and Hummingbird. Unlike the other two, Hummingbird manages your documents off-site in a secure location. Worldox and iManage are internal to your law firm.
Worldox requires its own server and is fairly robust, and offers a companion program called Worldox Web, which allows your clients access to their documents on the Internet through a double-passworded system. Our clients love to be able to access their entire file 24/7/365, and while the client's paper file certainly belongs to them, we charge a small access fee for this additional service. Many large firms use iManage and find the program to be very suitable for their needs.
Don't restrict your thinking, however, to just documents. These document management systems organize every type of computer file from Adobe files to emails to pictures, and everything in between. If you're looking to make one improvement to your computer system this year, then document management is probably the best place to start. For a relatively small investment, you'll recover the cost in time saved.
Metadata May Get You Into Trouble Without You Even Knowing It
Here's a news flash from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.
That's right. The ABA has invaded the tech world. They've turned into geeks, complete with white socks and pocket protectors. They've stepped into the world of metadata.
You may have heard of "metadata," a new term bandied about by the ABA in a recent ethical opinion. What is it? Metadata is data about data. It's the information that computer programs embed in electronic documents that you can access to discover who created the document, when it was created, which client the document was created for, what changes were made to the document, comments, and a host of other information you may not want people to know. If you want to see just the basic metadata, open a document, then click File | Properties. You'll be amazed.
Metadata can create problems. As just one example, the general counsel for a client of a well-known, very large firm did not get along with one of that firm's attorneys, and banned that lawyer from ever working on that client's matters. When the general counsel reviewed the metadata in one of the documents received from the law firm after the ban, the GC discovered that the banned lawyer had drafted the document. The firm lost the client.
Just imagine what opposing counsel wants to see in your metadata. Metadata also includes client comments in documents. Even if you delete it, the data may be recovered. Emailing a document to opposing counsel instead of sending it by fax opens up all kinds of possible waivers.
What's the solution? Strip the metadata from your documents before they leave the office. But let's get back to the ABA first for some other parameters.
The ABA has ruled that lawyers who receive electronic documents are free to look for and use information hidden in metadata, even if the documents were provided by an opposing lawyer. According to the ABA announcement:
"The opinion is contrary to the view of some legal ethics authorities, which have found it ethically impermissible as a matter of honesty for lawyers to search documents they receive from other lawyers for metadata or to use what they find. ...
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Recaps The Year In LawIt's about that time of the year where we put as aside the legal briefs, slip out of the courthouse, turn up those holiday tunes and spread some holiday cheer. Join me and my fellow Coast to Coast, Law.com blogger and co-host Bob Ambrogi as we start the show off by taking a look at the year in review and will discuss our favorite legal topics in this very exciting year. To end the program, you'll hear my recitation of a rendition of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" entitled, "Twas the Night Before Christmas-Legally Speaking." Don't miss this end of year re-cap.
There's No Reason Theft Of Sensitive Data Should Be Exposed Potentially Waiving Privilege And Privacy Rights And What To Do About It If It Happens
There's a lot of buzz about stolen laptops and worries about the theft of personal data. You've seen the commercials on television where we see the hapless identify theft victim mouthing words, but the words spoken come from the thief who got the victim's credit card information and went shopping. Then there's the newspaper articles cautioning us about identity theft.
Seems like veterans and travelers risk having their credit cards and other personal information spread around the Internet, with criminals going on spending sprees with those credit cards. These days, with the amount of data that's stored on a small telephone could result in the same disaster if you either lose or someone steals your cell phone.
But the eventuality shouldn't even arise.
Two Ways To Wipe Data From A Stolen Laptop And Cell Phone
There are at least two software products out there that can immediately solve these problems. Let me recommend two programs. First, for your laptop, there's Lojack for Laptops. For cell phones, there's RemotePROTECT. I have no ownership interest in these companies, but would not refuse it if offered.
While Lojack for Laptops is more robust (there's more hard disk space on a laptop) and has more options, both programs generally accomplish the same thing: they lock the device down, prevent unauthorized access to the sensitive data, and if the owner sends an appropriate command, then the software wipes the hard drive, making the laptop/cell phone worthless. I installed RemotePROTECT, but had to uninstall it because it was such a memory hog on my phone, it kept crashing. I don't know of other alternatives out there that do the same thing, but be aware of this problem.
Both programs are inexpensive compared to the amount of damage caused. Lojack for Laptops retails under $100 for three years of coverage, and RemotePROTECT is under $25.00 - a one-time charge. If you're going to install RemotePROTECT, then be careful, and make sure that your cell phone has enough memory to handle the program. The program is a bit of a memory hog, and if you've got a number of programs already loaded, then it may cause your phone's software operating system to crash. As long as you have a normal installation, however, you should be fine.
The net result, in any event is that if you have sensitive data, then protect it accordingly. You'll be glad you did, and so will your clients.
How Deal With Identity Theft
On the off chance that you're either reading this column too late, have a "friend" with the problem or perhaps an unfortunate client, here's some critical information to limit the damage in case identity theft happens to you or someone you know:
No matter what happens, be aware of your surroundings, and use technology to protect the technology you do have.
We'll See What Los Angeles Criminal Courts Dish Out
It's not over yet for the "Girls Gone Wild" video empire: even though the president, Joe Francis, along with the general counsel and chief financial officer of Mantra Films, Inc. were each sentenced to perform eight hours of community service per month (along with a $1.6 million fine), the company faces another sentencing in Los Angeles next January 22. The company was accused of filming drunk, underage girls as part of its DVD offerings.
The company pulls in an estimated $40 million per year selling these videos. And believe it or not, the company has a tour blog (somewhat safe to open link at work).
From A Holy City To A Ghost Town; Now What Do You Make Of It?
Want To Buy A Town?
It may not fall on the list of holy cities, but it is called Holy City, even though it may never have been much more than a sideshow. Frankly, it probably qualifies more as a ghost town than anything else.
Although MITPC doesn't sell real estate, you can buy Holy City, a 142-acre tract of land outside Silicon Valley for a cool $11,000,000. Heck, it used to have a Post Office, but right now it has only one resident, Tom Stanton.
You can, however, build up to 10 homes on the land, but if you're into wine, you'd probably prefer to start a vineyard. It's near the right area, and you might just be able to get some marketing value out of the name, and perhaps its history.
The town started out as a somewhat commune in the 1920s, and pretty much lasted that way until a freeway was built nearby that took traffic away from the original road, called Highway 17. According to Lisa Leff of the AP, the town was founded by one "William E. Riker, a former necktie salesman and palm reader who staged four campaigns for governor and corresponded with Adolf Hitler."
The government tried him for sedition during the 40s, the FCC shut down a radio station he tried to run and his "charity," the "Perfect Divine Christian Way" was investigated for financial abuse.
Riker, while preaching chastity and poverty, had married four times and drove around the town in Cadillacs.
Maybe MIPTC will put in a bid for the property. I've always thought there'd be a ready market for holy wine.