GPSolo Magazine - June 2005
Sites ’N’ Tips for the Practicing Lawyer
Every once in a while the editors of the Technology & Practice Guide like to collect and offer some tips and websites they think our readers may find useful, helpful, or at least entertaining. Each time we offer these suggestions, we get a number of letters from readers thanking us, so we continue to put the suggestions together for you as we have done in this issue. Thanks to Terry Berger, Bruce L. Dorner, Brian T. Hermanson, Patricia Joyce, Ross L. Kodner, David L. Masters, Frederick Mischler, Alan Pearlman, Aaron J. Rittmaster, Peter Roberts, Marc S. Stern, and Rebecca K. Wiess for their suggestions and help.
Finding Deals and Saving Money
www.dealuniversity.com This site offers great links to deals not only on technology, but also on lots of different products, some with rebates, some with promotional codes.
www.woot.com A quirky little site, it posts one deal per day. Often it’s a tech toy at a great price. One frequent product offering is a 5.1 speaker system for $30. Other recent deals include a 5.3 MP HP digital camera and dock; HP photo printer; InFocus projector; remote-controlled toy car; and a Cuisinart Grind and Brew coffeemaker.
www.certificateswap.com If you get a gift certificate for Starbucks but would rather treat yourself to some nice lingerie, you can trade Starbucks for Victoria’s Secret.
www.overstock.com From clothing to computers, there are deals to be found on overproduced items, canceled orders, and slightly blemished merchandise.
www.qixo.com Calling itself “the largest airfare search engine,” this site weaves through more than 28 airline sites to find the cheapest fares.
www.sierratradingpost.com This site offers a variety of products at substantial discounts. The range of products runs from clothing to sporting goods to briefcases and luggage.
www.ecost.com Electronics at bargain prices: discontinued products, overstocks, and current product lines. Look for their “Bargain Countdowns” for limited-quantity, limited-time offers.
www.ipl.org/div/news Everything you’d expect at a well-stocked public library—only online. This site offers links to archival collections, reference tools such as almanacs, online newspapers from around the world, and even a reading room featuring links to the full text of books such as Treasure Island .
www.refdesk.com Proclaiming itself the Internet’s “single best source for facts,” the Reference Desk offers links to everything from the CNN website to a “Homework Helper” and a “Thought of the Day.”
www.dictionary.com Dictionaries, thesauri, grammar guides, and more in a variety of languages.
www.m-w.com Merriam-Webster online. It’s faster to look up a word online than by thumbing through a paper dictionary the old-fashioned way.
www.martindalecenter.com Martindale’s Reference Desk offers a variety of categorized links, from its Language Center to its International Business Center.
www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html Don’t know the difference between “rebelling” and “revolting”? Common Errors in English will set you straight.
www.searchsystems.net Looking for a free public-record database? Links to more than 17,000 can be found here.
www.accurint.com It’s time to find the missing heir or locate the deadbeat who’s trying to outfox your best corporate client. Where do you go? Try this site. You need to register and agree to use the data for lawful purpose. Basic searches start at 25 cents, and it’s truly amazing what $5 or $10 can do. Best of all, if you don’t know what database to search, the site will assign you a personal representative to help you in your quest.
www.infospace.com/info/revphone.htm You’ve got a message to call 312-555-1212, but you’d like to know whose number that is. InfoSpace Reverse Phone Lookup can help.
www.residentagentinfo.com Looking for a resident agent somewhere in the United States or even New Zealand? This site has links to lead you to the right place.
www.govtrack.us A nexus of information about the United States Congress, this site tracks the status of legislation and activities of senators and representatives.
www.usps.gov Find zip codes, calculate postage, and even learn the difference between certified and registered mail at the United States Postal Service’s official website.
www.ebay.com How much is that 1952 Philco television worth? Are you looking for an owner’s manual to an out-of-production product? Or for spare parts for your HP LaserJetIII? eBay is just the place to find what you’re looking for—even if you’re only looking for information.
http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/costofliving/costofliving.html What’s the difference in the cost of living between Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Juneau, Alaska? Check it out here.
www.kbb.com New car pricing and used car values can be found at Kelley Blue Book.
www.nada.com More auto info can be found at the official website of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
www.freetranslation.com Looking for a quick and dirty translation from English into Turkish? Look no further.
www3.fdic.gov/idasp//main.asp The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Institution Directory offers all you want to know about banks, by location, total assets, bank charter class, and more.
www.onlineconversion.com Need to know many feet are in an international furlong? Crunch the numbers here.
www.tourbus.com/best.html Billing itself as the “The Best of Everything” on the web, this site offers links to everything from almanacs to urban legends.
www.medscape.com WebMD’s free Medscape site has links to medical journals, specialty medical pages, and the latest medical news.
GIS (geographical information system) sites Cities and counties across the nation are setting up GIS sites at a galloping rate. They provide a wealth of information about real property, including aerial photos, property characteristics, and tax and building permit histories. If your local city or county doesn’t provide online information this year, it probably will next year. From http://gisims2.miamidade.gov/myhome/propmap.asp for Dade County, Florida, to www.metrokc.gov/gis/mapportal for King County, Washington, these sites are a real estate lawyer’s best friend.
www.craigball.com Texas attorney (and frequent GPSolo contributor) Craig D. Ball has created a list of research links to assist in the factual investigation of a variety of matters. If you can’t find what you are looking for, check Craig’s site for the list. Better yet, look there first.
www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center is a mother lode of links to great techno-information.
www.dslreports.com Ever wonder if your DSL or Cable modem is really delivering the speed you expect? Point your browser to and check out the tests-and-tools department at BroadbandReports.com. You can see the actual speed of your connection and compare it to other services. The site offers several utilities that may help to enhance your online experience. If you’ve hit the frustration point with your Internet service provider, this website provides a wealth of information about the current state of products and services from many vendors.
www.pdabuyersguide.com Have you reached the point where you really want a new PDA? You mean you don’t already have a slick Palm or Pocket PC device to carry around to impress your clients? Are you totally confused as to the differences among the many brands and models? Let’s see if Mobile Tech Review can clear up the confusion. This is a massive site full of resources to help you understand the technology and select the handheld most likely to fit your needs.
www.autopatcher.com This site has developed a package of all WinXP and Windows 2000 and 2003 updates up to the last compilation (as of the writing of this article, all updates through March 2005). It takes time to download and the installation is slow, but it’s much faster than installing patches piecemeal when doing a fresh operating system installation.
www.avsforum.com A friendly and informative home entertainment community, featuring active discussions with advice and suggestions about high-end audio-visual toys: HD televisions, stereo systems, television connections, projectors, screens, etc.
www.payneconsulting.com All MS Word, all the time. The one-stop shop for everything a lawyer needs to know about MS Word.
www.macattorney.com The Law Office Software List for the Macintosh Computer.
www.maclaw.org Home page for the MacLaw Online e-mail discussion group.
www.microlaw.com Home page for MicroLaw (founded by Technology & Practice Guide Editorial Board member Ross L. Kodner), featuring techno tidbits and more for the practicing lawyer.
www.barrysclipart.com Are you digging around for some clipart to use in your next visual presentation? Check out Barry’s Clipart Server, which offers a wealth of images to jazz up your next slide show.
www.trendmicro.com/en/home/us/enterprise.htm Trend Micro offers a free online antivirus scan.
www.lockergnome.com Lockergnome is a resource page for all things dealing with technology.
http://tinyurl.com Reduce lengthy URLs with a single stroke.
www.lsoft.com/resources/manuals.asp Official website for Listserv documentation. This is where I go to learn routine and arcane Listserv commands to run Solosez. (For more about Solosez, see below, under “Legal.”)
www.abanet.org/cpr/ethics.html The American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility offers the latest on ethics and ABA model rules.
www.abanet.org/genpractice/westlegaledcenter/home.html The GP|Solo Section and WestLegalEdCenter have the best deals going on online CLE, with a discount to Section members.
www.solosez.net Everything you want to know about Solosez, the GP|Solo Section’s e-mail discussion group for solo attorneys to share and obtain information on a wide range of personal and professional subjects: legal questions, client referrals, topical issues, practice technology problems and solutions, travel information, jokes, etc.
http://solosez411.org The national Solosez list. Terry Berger maintains this free online listing of solo and small firm lawyers who participate in Solosez.
www.findlaw.com The best starting place for finding the law you don’t know.
http://lawyerexpress.com/home.asp Great legal links.
www.dadsdivorce.com Dads’ Divorce, a forum for fathers facing divorce.
www.animallaw.com/index.cfm International Institute for Animal Law.
www.eff.org Electronic Frontier Foundation, “defending freedom in the digital world.”
www.usdoj.gov/osg/briefs/search.html Government Briefs, offering access to all briefs filed by the Solicitor General.
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/welcome.html U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.
www.romingerlegal.com When it’s time for some legal research outside your regular channels, take a trip over to Rominger Legal, a comprehensive resource with the lawyer in mind. The links are plentiful and point you in the right direction to dig into most research projects.
www.travel.state.gov U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, with everything you want to know about passports, visas, and international travel.
Wasting Time and Pretending It’s Research
www.mugshots.org Celebrity mug shots, from Al Pacino to Wynonna Judd.
www.kissthisguy.com Botched song lyrics (e.g., someone misheard Jimi Hendrix singing, “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy.”) and mondegreens (and for the etymology of that term, see www.worldwidewords.org/articles/monde.htm).
www.imdb.com The Internet Movie Database has all the details on just about every movie ever made.
www.thesmokinggun.com When you absolutely, positively must know about all the dirt.
www.nationalenquirer.com Enquiring minds always want to know.
www.snopes.com So, you heard the federal government’s going to tax e-mail? Bunk and debunk those urban legends.
And the Best Yet . . .
www.abanet.org/genpractice/resources/index.html GP|Solo’s Resource Page. From blogs to the Buzzy Award and Low Bono, this is a great resource page.
Client survey. Let’s face it, all the marketing in the world will not help if your efforts are perceived in ways you did not intend. But, how do you know? Ask your clients! Send a survey to your past and present clients. Client surveys can be as simple as a letter and are best sent within two weeks of the end of a matter. The answers to a well-drafted survey can help you understand your clients’ needs and perspectives as each client informs you about (1) the client’s level of satisfaction with your work; (2) the client’s perception of you and your employees; (3) whether the client would use your services again; (4) whether the client would refer other clients to you; (5) what suggestions would the client give to improve the level of service; (6) what criteria the client used in selecting you; (7) the client’s anticipated needs for future legal services; and (8) whether the client knows of all the types of legal services you provide.
The Internet and You
Getting rid of spyware cheaply (or free) . To clean out spyware, consider two free tools, Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware ( www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware) and Spy-Bot Search and Destroy ( www.safer-networking.org). Although both offer paid versions, I find the free versions more than adequate to run manually. I suggest that you install both and run each of them periodically.
Double your safety. I never trust one virus scanner—even if I paid for it. I check my regular virus scanner by using the free version of House Call from Trend Micro ( http://housecall.trendmicro.com). Once in a while, House Call finds something that my primary tool misses. I’ve learned that no single company can squash all the bugs out there.
Wall off the bad guys. If you go online, you should have a firewall. If you want one at zero cost, go to www.zonelabs.com and download the free version of ZoneAlarm. It adds a nice layer of protection to keep the bad guys out of your computer.
Guard against the bad guys. Do you want to check your computer to see if it is exposed to the bad guys prowling the Internet? Go to www.grc.com and download and run the ShieldsUP! utility and the LeakTest routine.
Put a lid on pop-ups. Are you troubled by pop-up advertisements littering your screen? Both Microsoft and Google have tool bars, which, among other tasks, will block those annoying pop-up advertisements. You can get Google’s at www.toolbar.google.com and Microsoft’s at http://toolbar.msn.com.
Better Use of E-mail
Get rid of junk e-mail. Another approach to reducing junk e-mail in your primary e-mail account is to use that account only for business mail. Keep all your other communications on free accounts with services such as www.yahoo.com or www.hotmail.com.
Getting e-mail on the road. If you go on the road or on vacation, you can have your primary e-mail account forwarded to your yahoo or hotmail account so you don’t have to drag a portable computer with you. Both of these free accounts are web-based, so you can send and receive from any computer.
Getting More from Your Computer
Take charge of Windows. Would you like to customize the way your Windows system displays information? Want to get behind the curtain to tweak your settings a bit? Microsoft offers a free utility, Power Toys, to help you do that. Go to www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx to download it. Please note that this URL is for the Windows XP operating system. There are separate tools available for older versions of Windows.
Screen printing. Do you ever want to capture a part of a web page? Would you like to grab an interesting graphic to incorporate into your document, slide show, or presentation? Consider downloading Gadwin PrintScreen from www.gadwin.com/printscreen.
Another way to print a screen. Another option, in the current version of Windows, is to press ALT-PrtSc together. This will capture the current screen. To paste it into your application such as Word or WordPerfect, just press CTL-V and it will appear.
Double your pleasure. Dual Monitors are the best thing to happen in my office in a long time. With Windows XP and a suitable video card (standard in most new computers) you can run two monitors (or flat panel displays) and have different applications open in each. A great boost to efficiency when you no longer have to Alt+Tab between two programs.
Google this. In the never-ending proliferation of utility programs, there’s one that has captured my heart. I love the Google Deskbar. It’s a little window that sits in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. You don’t need to open your browser, just have an active connection to the Internet. It opens its own mini-window. Insert a word or phrase and it runs a traditional Google search. When you find what you want, you can then switch from the mini-view into a full window in your regular browser. It has some other useful features. For example, if you’re looking for a particular graphic image, just type the name and press CTL-I. It searches only for images and brings back plenty of hits. For stock quotes, press CTL-Q. To shop at Google’s shopping service, Froogle, just type in the name of the product and press CTL-F. Looking for a definition? Type the word and CTL-D for dictionary or CTL-T for thesaurus. Download from http://toolbar.google.com/deskbar.
Practice Management and Organization
Get organized with Acrobat. The Organizer feature in Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional helps find PDF files that have been previously opened and PDF files that have been organized into collections and favorites. Organizer provides thumbnail images of PDF pages to help quickly find files, organize related files, and quickly browse, find, and sort PDFs that have been viewed recently. Using the Organizer feature, after selecting one or more files, you can start several different tasks using buttons above the file list. (See the product review on pages 60 and 61 of this issue of GPSolo magazine for illustrations).
Respect intellectual property rights. Through the years I’ve learned that not everything is free. You really should pay for licenses for your copies of Word and WordPerfect (and all other licensed software).
Organize your electronic files. Set up a standardized file structure for various types of matters. When you get a new case, select the appropriate file structure, implement it, and then file your electronic documents appropriately. For example, a litigation matter may have subfolders for pleadings, discovery requests, research, correspondence, deposition transcripts, and documents produced.
Scan this. Get control of that ever-increasing collection of business cards. Get a business card scanner and scan business cards into a contact manager.
Picture this. Use your webcam to set up videoconferences with clients and other attorneys.
Advice for the Traveler
Backing up on the road. Backup is essential. Get a small portable external USB 2.0 or FireWire hard drive. Back up your critical data to the hard drive before leaving the office; use the drive to synchronize your laptop to the office computer. Back up from the laptop to the external drive on the road and then synchronize with the office computer on your return.
Have an emergency plan. When you buy an external hard disk, get one with a large capacity (they have them up to 100 GB now). Before you add your data to it, install your operating system and your most significant programs. Then add your critical data. Voila, you have an emergency disk. If your hard disk fails, you can boot to the emergency disk and continue to do business.
Let’s have some music. Do you like to listen to music at your desk, in the gym, or in your car? Do you have trouble getting all those different music formats to play? Would you like to convert your tunes to other formats that will allow you greater flexibility? Try dbPoweramp ( www.dbpoweramp.com/dmc.htm). It permits you to translate most of the popular formats.
Get a Mac (mini). Apple’s new Mac mini represents an excellent computer with a small footprint at a reasonable price. Substantial savings come from the exclusion of a monitor, keyboard, and mouse (take them from an older computer and plug them into the Mac mini).
jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo, is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. She can be reached at email@example.com. Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is the special issue editor of GPSolo’s Technology & Practice Guide and editor-in-chief of the Technology eReport. He also teaches business law in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Business School of the University of Phoenix. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.