General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

MAR 2009

Vol. 8, No. 1

Columns

  • MacNotes »
    Post-Steve Jobs offerings at Macworld.
  • SurvivingEmail »
    How to become infamous on mailing lists.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    About time-sites having to do with all things chronological.
  • ProductNotes
    Lenovo Ideapad S10, Clio, Filemaker Pro 10 Advanced and Cases for Technogadgets.
  • DivisionNotes »
    GP|Solo Spring Meeting - Housing and Registration Deadlines!, Call for 2009 Diversity and Young Lawyer Fellowships Applications, ABA Economic Recovery Resources.

 

ProductNotes

Lenovo Ideapad S10

Jeff Allen really is Cupid.

I looked at the ASUS Eee PC, and I checked out the Acer AspireOne, but when it really was decision time, I went directly to my most trusted source—Jeff Allen.

“The Lenovo IdeaPad S10” he said, without hesitation. “And Lenovo’s got a deal going on.”

Having known Jeff a couple of decades, I knew that his counsel, at least when it came to matters technological, was nonpareil. It was like listening to E. F. Hutton.

And so the only matter left to debate would be the color. Now, picking a reasonably good color is never a difficult matter for me, because there is no finer color than red. I’m one of those with a finely honed set of internal rules: GM for motor vehicles, HP for printers, Lancome for my face, Ferragamo for my feet, and Neiman Marcus for clothes.

But the Lenovo red gave me pause—and then there was the pink.

“Every thirteen-year-old girl will have a pink computer” insisted Robin. “And besides, a red netbook would go nicely with your new red Malibu.” As if my netbook was supposed to color-coordinate with my car.

“Pink is just so lame and girly,” chimed in Larry.

But I knew that I had enough power and confidence to carry the pink. And besides, the fingerprints wouldn’t show. Red may be the new blue, but pink will always be the domain of the privileged.

Within minutes of its arrival, the Lenovo was up and running, retrieving the past day’s email while I caught up with Drudge. I was smitten, which isn’t a bad emotion to have on Valentine’s Day.

I carried it to an evening gathering of friends, just in case I had the urge to compute when I should’ve been networking, schmoozing, and socializing. The iridescent cover could pass for an evening accessory, a poor geek chick’s Judith Leiber. No one batted an eyelash. More than a fair number at the gathering wanted to touch and try out my new netbook. This was almost as good as bringing a good book to a party. Weighing in at about the same heft as a Whitman’s Sampler, slightly larger than a trade paperback, and only a finger’s width, the Lenovo S10 meant that I no longer had to schlep along like a bag lady with my wheeled Swiss Army arsenal.

Matters of style and Jeff Allen’s recommendation aside, there were other features of the IdeaPad S10 that drew me to it. Under the hood, all good netbooks are pretty much like Lake Woebegon’s children—strong, good-looking, and above average. But the IdeaPad S10 had two factors far more important to me than even the operating system: a 10.2" matte antiglare screen and a solid-feeling, adequately sized keyboard. I just don’t like feeling like I’ve got to use a magnifying glass just to see either. It’s fine to shrink everything else down, but my hands and eyes demand size, and this netbook met those requirements. Display and touch count for a lot.

Now, on to what’s under the hood:

Windows XP® Home Edition
Processor: 1.6GHz Atom N270
Display: 10.2 WSVGA AntiGlare TFT with integrated camera, 1024 x 600
Total Memory: 1 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz
Hard drive: 160GB 5400
Communication: Broadcom 11b/g Wi-Fi wireless
Features: 2 USB ports, ExpressCard slot, built-in Bluetooth, 4-in-1 memory card slot, Ethernet connector, OneKey™ Rescue System, headphone/mic jacks
Battery: 3 Cell Lithium-Ion
Weight 2.64 lbs.

Cost: $349–399 in black or white. Add $10 for red, blue, or pink.

Goldilocks wasn’t entirely perfect, and neither is the IdeaPad S10. The biggest drawback is its 3-cell battery, but it’s not hard to buy a 6-cell battery aftermarket. On the other hand, do you really need more than three hours’ time away from a recharge? After all, you’re buying a netbook, not a portable iron lung or defibrillator.

jennifer j. rose is Vice-Chair of the GP|Solo Division and receives her email at jjrose@jjrose.com in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.

Clio

Most attorneys in private practice need to keep track of their billable time and get invoices out to clients in a timely manner in order to stay in business. For that reason, billing programs always interest lawyers and those who help lawyers and law firms with technology. Although a wealth of billing systems exist on the Windows side, a serious weakness of the Mac platform for attorneys has been the shortage of usable billing systems that work on the platform.

Practice consultants have told attorneys that they need to have practice management software to keep their firm running smoothly and efficiently and help lawyers stay out of trouble with their clients and their state bar disciplinary committees.

Clio provides a functional practice management and billing program for attorneys. It does so, however, as an online service and not as a simple local software package. The platform-agnostic service does not care what hardware or what OS you like to use. It cares only that you have Internet access so that you can communicate with it. You acquire access to the program on a subscription basis. It costs $49 per attorney per month.

In addition to its billing features, Clio provides contact management, a calendar, a task list, and a rudimentary document management system that provides storage of and access to your documents.

Because it lives in cyberspace, you have no software on your computer necessary to run the program other than your OS and a browser. You can access your account and information from any place and any computer that allows you Internet access. As a security measure, Clio stores your information in an encrypted form using very high-level encryption.

Clio will accept information from many other calendaring and contact management programs, saving you the trouble of having to re-enter the information into Clio. You can easily add contacts by importing their v-cards. It also accepts .ics calendar records.

On the billing side, it keeps track of time and of expenses for you and sorts them out into bills in PDF format that you can email to your clients or print and send by regular mail. It will also accept information about trust deposits and apply trust funds to the payment of an invoice. The bills allow the provision of sufficient detail to the client about the work performed by entering it into the “notes” section of the data entry screen. You can personalize the invoice to some extent, and it will even accommodate a logo. The bills generated by the program appear clear and easily understood. An example follows:

Clio Invoice

The program does not yet allow batch billing (by that I mean the ability to bill all clients with a single command). At the present time, you have to order a bill for each client separately. A firm with a relatively small number of clients will probably not find that as significant an issue as a firm with many clients. I understand that batch billing is on the board for future inclusion in an update to the program.

In working with the program, I found it satisfactory to perform the things it sets out to provide and relatively easy to work with. I think that most solos and small firms will find that it meets their needs for billing, calendaring, and contact management. The document management piece really sets itself up as a document storage structure, and it works just fine for that purpose. It does not try to provide the features required for management of documents in a litigation context.

The program appears well integrated and allows you to review all entries relating to a particular matter, sorted by matter, without regard to which portion of the program holds the entry.

You can easily keep copies of documents stored in the program on your own computer. You can also keep calendaring and contact information on your computer. While you can keep copies of your invoices on your computer, you cannot keep copies of your unbilled billing data there. Even if you had a backup of that database, you could not access it, so it would not do you any good. Keep that in mind if you decide to drop the service for any reason, and be sure to do it immediately after you have generated bills for all clients to ensure that you do not leave unbilled time in the system.

In the interest of integrity, I want to disclose that Clio is a sponsor of the GPSolo Division. That said, their status, as a sponsor did not influence the opinions expressed in this review. The review reflects my review of the program. I have had several conferences and meetings with high-level personnel in the company and found that they are very interested in learning what features they need to add to make the program work better for attorneys and in adding them as quickly as possible. I expect this program to get even better in the near future. New features on the immediate horizon include direct access programs for current Blackberry devices as well as the iPhone.

Clio offers a 30-day free trial of the program. Go to their website and give it a try.

Filemaker Pro 10 Advanced

I have used FileMaker since it first came out. I have watched it evolve from a good database program for the Mac to a great program for both Mac and Windows. FileMaker, which comes in a Pro and a Pro Advanced version, now moves to FileMaker 10. It plays nicely with Mac OS 10 as well as both Windows XP and Vista. I include it on the short list of programs that I believe every law office should have.

Although FileMaker introduces a number of new features in version 10, its true strength remains in its simplicity of operation, its short learning curve, and its ease of use. FileMaker’s continuing success emanates from its impressive ability to continue to increase the power of its software without sacrificing its flexibility and its ease of use. Many developers use FileMaker as a platform to create programs. Despite the flexibility to function in that environment, it remains a ready tool for the novice to set up a database.

Interestingly, I have had people tell me that they really don’t need a database program. In truth, most of you already use limited databases in your practice and your daily life. Do you have a calendar program? Do you have a contact management program? They are both forms of database programs. While you may already have such structures in use, once you start using a program like FileMaker, you will find many other things that it will help you with. A few examples for you to consider:

  1. File management. Have you ever lost track of a file? A database will allow you to keep track of all your files and their location.
  2. Do you still have a physical law library? How about a database to keep track of where you have stored each book?
  3. If you don’t have a formal document management program, you can create a database with FileMaker and use it to keep track of your documents.
  4. You could build a database to keep track of your personal form file.
  5. You could build a database to keep an inventory of your business equipment or, for that matter, your personal holdings. As FileMaker can include photographic records, you could build a database that would facilitate an insurance claim in the event of a loss.
  6. What about a database of your CD collection or your DVD collection or your personal library? If you have a lot of CDsor DVDs, you may have found it difficult to remember whether you have a particular DVD or CD. If you build a database to keep track of them, print a report to PDF and store it on your PDF or smart phone, you will have a far more manageable situation.

To make your life as a FileMaker user easier, the new version of FileMaker (Version 10) comes with 30 updated starter database solutions for you, as well as a number of themes to make the data records look nice. The built-in reporting features make it easy to organize information as you need or want to have it organized.

If you have used FileMaker before, the new interface will come as a bit of a surprise, but I think you will find the surprise pleasant. Once you acclimate to it, you will also find it easy to use. If you have not used FileMaker before, you will find the interface simple and straightforward to learn.

FileMaker sells the program as FileMaker 10 Pro and FileMaker 10 Pro Advanced. The advanced version of the software gives you additional features that allow you to create more sophisticated database structures, as well as customized database forms and reporting structures. Which version should you get? If you do not have experience with building databases, FileMaker 10 Pro should work just fine for you. If you plan on really getting into it, FileMaker 10 Pro Advanced may prove a better choice. FileMaker 10 Pro Advanced has all the features of FileMaker 10 Pro and then some, so you lose nothing by getting the more powerful version.
FileMaker ( www.filemaker.com) sells FileMaker 10 Pro for $299. If you have an earlier version, the upgrade will cost $179. FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced costs $499 for a full copy and $299 to upgrade from an earlier version. If you plan to network your database, you will want to look into FileMaker’s server editions. You can buy it and download it immediately from the website or order a CD for an extra $20. If you want to try it before you buy it, they have a restricted trial version you can download as well.

FilemakerPro

Making the Case

Every good gadget and most tools deserve a good case. Some time ago I got into the habit of wrapping my laptops in protective sleeves and then putting them inside a carrying case. That gives me the option of using a case that lacks an internal protective pocket for the computer.

The MacBook Air works both as a tool and as a gadget. Many of you may remember Steve Jobs’s introduction of the MacBook Air at MacWorld. For those of you that do not, he walked out onto the stage carrying a manila envelope. He opened the envelope and extracted the MacBook Air to the “oohs” and “aaahs” of the gathered Mac faithful. From that day to this, the MacBook Air has held the title of the coolest member (albeit also the least powerful) of the MacBook laptop family. One thing about the MacBook Air, coolness aside: Its thin construction and lightweight make it an excellent travelling partner.

If you have already acquired or have plans to acquire a MacBook Air, an additional $49 will get you a manila-envelope made of leather by the folks at Civilian Labs ( www.civilianlabs.com).

The padded case provides a reasonable amount of protection for your MacBook Air. The flap snaps down onto two metal snaps, and you can use the red string (see picture) to secure it, just like you would a traditional manila envelope. Civilian uses good quality leather for its Air Manila Sleeve. It comes in black, giving it a somewhat formal and professional appearance that does not, in any way, detract from its panache. I put one on my MacBook Air and took it to a meeting. As soon as I pulled it out, people started asking questions about it. One of my friends wanted to know where I got it, as he wanted to get one as a present for his partner. If you get one, be careful about how you wind the string up to ensure that it stays secure. If it comes loose, the snaps are strong enough to keep the envelope closed and the computer safely inside.

By the way, you may have heard that the TSA people now let you leave laptops in certain types of cases meeting specific design requirements. Although this sleeve does not strictly comply due to the metal snaps, TSA has allowed my laptop to go in with the sleeve many times. The first few times, I asked and they said send it through. As nobody has taken a contrary position, I don’t even ask anymore.

A Few More Cases

The folks at OtterBox ( www.otterbox.com) have built heavy-duty cases designed to take abuse for some time. If I was going off to serve in the military or to work at a construction job, I would not want any other case on my PDA or cell phone. The current line includes the Defender Cases and the Impact cases. The Impact cases slip over the device, giving you a protective housing that will guard against bumps and scratches. The Impact line sells for $19.95, and the Defender line for $49.95. Otterbox has recently released both Defender and Impact cases for the iPhone 3G and the Blackberry Bold, and a Defender case for the Blackberry Storm. Check out the website for other devices and cases.

 Bold Defender  Bold Impact  iPhone Impact  iPhone Defender  Storm Defender

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. Graves & Allen is a small firm in Oakland, California. Mr. Allen also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO Magazine. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for lawyers and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, Jeffrey has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You can contact Jeffrey via email at jallenlawtek@aol.com. Mr. Allen blogs on technology and the law at www.jallenlawtekblog.com.

© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.