Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen
(Image courtesy of Fujitsu, Inc.)
For the last several years, the folks at Fujitsu (www.fujitsu.com) have made some of the best scanners and offered them at very reasonable prices in packages that made good sense. Fujitsu has continued in that role by upgrading their 300 series portable ScanSnap to the S1300. The S1300, released in February 2010, offers a nice set of features and some improvements over the S300. Unlike its predecessor versions, Fujitsu offers no S1300M (for Mac) version. That does not mean that Fujitsu has abandoned the Mac platform. To the contrary, Fujitsu has reduced its own production and marketing costs and, at the same time, helped those of us who use both the Mac and Windows platforms by offering a cross-platform scanner. The S1300 works pretty much with equal effectiveness and efficiency on both the Mac OS and Windows. Well done Fujitsu!
The S1300 still lists for $295, and you can find it online for about $40 less than the list price. It weighs in at a shade more than three pounds and measures 11.8" x 3.9" x 3.03". It is the same size as its predecessors and, in fact, uses the same optional case.
Like the other ScanSnap models, it has no Twain driver and comes with a ScanSnap-specific driver that enables it to scan to PDF, Word, and Excel. You can also choose the destination, scanning to a file, a folder, email, or your printer. The S1300 connects to your computer through USB, and you can power it through either a USB connection or the AC adapter.
The S1300 has a 10-page sheetfeed that works best with eight or fewer pages. The recommended paper weight for use with the scanner is 17–28 lb. The S1300 scans in duplex and simplex modes, automatically determined. Resolution ranges from 150 to 600 dpm for color and up to 1200 dpm for grayscale. Scanning speed depends on resolution and whether you scan color or grayscale, simplex or duplex. Fujitsu rates the maximum speed at eight double-sided pages per minute.
Fujitsu did not design the S1300 for heavy-duty scanning, and you should not consider it for that use. Fujitsu built the S1300 for portability and relatively light-duty scanning. It will serve you well as a scanner to take to a deposition, or to court, or for use while travelling. For most law offices, the S1300 represents a very good choice as a secondary scanner and not the primary scanner.
Fujitsu made an S1300 available for evaluation in connection with this review.
QuickBooks ® 2010 for the Mac
Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen
The folks at Intuit released a new version of QuickBooks for the Mac this year. They provided a copy for me to evaluate in this review. I have looked at it and explored it and concluded that a) it improves over the prior versions; b) it leaves room for further improvement; and c) it still has less power and fewer features than the Windows version. That said, I believe that it is worth having around, even if you don’t run your office on it (more about that later), so I have no problem recommending it.
You can get more information about the features in the Mac offering and the comparison of features to the Windows version on Intuit’s website www.intuit.com. The program costs $199.95; and you can buy it online, downloading it for immediate gratification, or buy a boxed copy, complete with a CD to save for posterity. I prefer downloading software these days because I get it immediately, I can save it on a hard disk, and I don’t have to figure out what to do with a collection of outdated CDs.
I continue to have mixed feelings about Intuit’s Mac offering of QuickBooks. On the one hand, they continue to favor the Windows platform, providing more power and more features to Windows users. On the other hand, they do provide a very good accounting program for the Mac and offer a means of allowing Mac and Windows users to exchange accounting data with some reliability.
On the Mac side, Intuit offers QuickBooks 2010 for the Mac. On the Windows side, you can choose among QuickBooks Simple Start, Pro, Premier, Premier for Accountants, and Enterprise Solutions. Interestingly, while I have never had any difficulties running a Windows version of QuickBooks on a Mac using Parallels and an XP operating system, Intuit does not recommend using its Windows products on a Mac in a virtual PC environment. On the other hand, they have built a purely Mac product that allows you to run a fairly full-featured accounting system in a configuration that actually looks like you have it running on a Mac. QuickBooks 2010 for the Mac does not support OS 9 (it is probably about time that we gave up the ghost on OS 9 anyway). Neither does it support the Power PC. It requires a Mac running on an Intel processor and at least OS X version 10.5.7 to work. It also supports OS X version 10.6.
Those of you who accept credit cards will be pleased to learn that so does QuickBooks 2010 for the Mac. (Note that because my office does not accept credit cards at the present time, I was not able to check out this feature.)
Intuit still does not offer a multiuser version of QuickBooks for the Mac. I keep hoping the next version will have that feature, but so far, I have to keep hoping.
Unfortunately, Intuit did not design QuickBooks for the Mac to run a law office. If they had, it would prove somewhat easier to do so on QuickBooks. Nevertheless, one can modify the program enough to make it functional in a law office (or, alternatively, hire a consultant to modify it for you). From my perspective, if you want a competent accounting program to keep a set of books in any business, including a law office, QuickBooks should work fine for you. Although it does not have a trust accounting module, you can set up a separate account for your trust account and make that work as well. The weakest point of QuickBooks use in a law office remains billing. Although you can record time entries and generate an invoice, getting an invoice that looks like it came from a law office has proven somewhat problematic. Given the choice, I would pick a different billing program.
Although some people will complain bitterly about the extra work involved in running a billing program and a separate accounting program, I have done exactly that throughout my career. In fact, it can provide a good means of double checking the accuracy of the trust records as both systems must match. I have not found it all that burdensome, particularly in a small office environment where you do not have a large number of bills going out each month.
So, the bottom line is that QuickBooks works as a basic accounting system for a law office. You can make it work for billing, but it is probably more trouble than it is worth. Having QuickBooks around, however, has another value to a law office, even if you do not run your own office on it. Many small businesses run on QuickBooks. If you need to review an accounting record from a client or obtained in discovery that was set up on QuickBooks, you can, in most cases, see it through your own version of QuickBooks. I say in most cases as, from time to time, something funky happens when you try to open a file created on another computer or another platform, usually due to some form of corruption in the file. The good news is that it generally works.
Screen shots © Intuit Inc. All rights reserved.
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 GP Solo Magazine. He also serves on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. Mr. Allen regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for attorneys 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 is an associate professor at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. Mr. Allen blogs on technology at www.jallenlawtekblog.com. You can contact Jeffrey via email email@example.com.
Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald and Hahn, LLP Leverages BigHand Voice Software to Increase Staff Efficiency
By Terry Farmer
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Although our firm’s decision to replace and upgrade dictation technology was on our technology to-do list, we did not anticipate the overwhelmingly positive response from the user base, our clients, and the favorable impact on the firm’s bottom line. The prospect of exploring new digital dictation technology was initially introduced and endorsed by IT and firm management. However, the fact that BigHand became a catalyst for better teamwork between support staff and attorneys, increased the firm’s ability to produce documents and deliver work product, and resulted in a complete return-on-investment within three months of rollout exceeded our wildest expectations.
With 41 lawyers and 45 support staff members located across six offices in central and southern Indiana, Bamberger’s ability to effectively connect support staff with attorneys in order to produce high-quality client work was tested with the firm’s aging Olympus dictation system. With the evaluation and selection of a new-and-improved digital dictation system, the firm also wanted to stay true to its mission of providing staff with tools to make jobs easier and more efficient. Speaking of efficiency, all IT aspects of the new system, including planning, implementation, and user training, were managed directly by Bamberger’s IT administrator Gerald Duncan.
Out With the Old … In With the New
In deciding to upgrade systems, we quickly realized that our current dictation system would not be able to handle existing document production and workflow demands, let alone any planned growth or future expansion. In evaluating digital dictation options and eventually selecting BigHand, we knew our ability to manage workflow across all our offices, observe the entire process at a glance, and proactively drive the process would be critical to success. Although Olympus worked well for what it could do, BigHand impressed with its ability to allow you to assign groups to outstanding dictations, make these document workflows visible to all groups, and enable ad-hoc collaboration to get the outstanding work done. We found this very critical for our remote offices with less support staff.
Bamberger selected BigHand at the end of 2008 and had a test group up and running by mid-February. The firmwide rollout was completed by the end of March 2009. End-user training focused on our support groups, as opposed to individual support staff, and lasted 30 minutes per group. Attorney training took 10 minutes, resulting in virtually no downtime or work interruptions, something that cannot be said for most enterprise-type software implementations.
In terms of everyday use, BigHand software has now been installed on desktops and BlackBerry Smartphones across the firm’s Evansville, Indianapolis, Mt. Vernon, Poseyville, Princeton, and Vincennes offices. This enables attorneys to record, edit, and send verbal files or tasks to office-based support staff. Voice tasks, instructions, and dictations are sent on-the-go via BigHand, then instantly entered in the office workflow, and tracked via status updates, priorities, and alerts. This allows our smaller offices to be supported centrally when resources are stretched, which means we have a stronger overall infrastructure producing a consistent quality of documentation.
Technology As a Catalyst for Collaboration
From the beginning of the rollout and training phases, we made sure to involve the entire firm in the upgrade to BigHand digital dictation, rather than treat it as an IT or admin pet project. As a result, we were able to address any concerns related to potential staff reductions, and clearly share our vision to facilitate team building among support staff, and link certain attorneys with various secretaries they did not have access to before.
To support this open door policy of sharing information as well as implementation milestones, we briefed all attorneys that a dictation upgrade was in the works and what it would mean to them. For the initial pilot, we rolled out BigHand to a practice group that is very tech savvy and comfortable with digital dictation, resulting in a very smooth kickoff and great buzz surrounding the potential of BigHand. We gave each support team the complete authority to manage their own workflows and encouraged knowledge sharing as it related to optimal dictation techniques, as well as streamlined forms and processes. Overall, BigHand software has been a great tool in promoting team culture and encouraging work sharing. Our support staff has formed virtual teams—with names such as Digital Divas, Busy Bees, and Awesome Assistants—and really embraced the technology in an effort to expedite client service. They are in complete control of the document production workflow and realize the accountability that goes along with it. On top of that, the BigHand project has taken collaboration among support staff, IT, and the attorneys to new heights. Administration has gone from worrying about support staff bandwidth and resource challenges to being able manage effectively and focus on more strategic initiatives.
The Proof Is in the Savings
Overall, BigHand has helped our attorneys get more work done, expedite the document production process, reduce support staff time, and improve client service. Although direct cost savings was not a key objective in the original project scope, we have found that rapid return-on-investment was an unexpected byproduct of the reduction of secretarial overtime promoted by BigHand software. In addition, due to the workflow optimization and resource management features it offered, the firm has not had to replace assistants who left of their own accord.
Making the BigHand decision however, was not a no-brainer. In fact, we first rejected the IT committee’s recommendation to bring in BigHand, because it looked a little expensive when compared to our existing Olympus software, but the ability to manage our resources more effectively and genuinely boost mobility proved too strong a case in the end. Looking back, we are very satisfied with our decision to opt for a more robust, strategic technology: the BigHand software has paid for itself in record time. Beyond hard data, seeing how our attorneys now collaborate with support staff in any office, utilize their BlackBerry BigHand Mobile application, and view the live progress of specific client documents via their Work in Progress interface, demonstrates overall project success.
Beyond these benefits, increased teamwork and collaboration enabled via BigHand has resulted in less overtime worked by the support teams, and more efficiency during regular office hours. Since the rollout, the firm has put a new staffing strategy in place by making support resources available to all of our offices, and giving administration lots of options with staffing levels. New workflows, enabled by BigHand’s functional flexibility, are allowing the firm to get client work done anywhere, anytime, regardless of geography.
Digital Dictation Futures
Bamberger’s positive experience with BigHand’s digital dictation solution paves the way for continued creativity when it comes to addressing firm efficiencies and ratcheting up client service. We will continue to invest in the “attorney-focused future,” with an emphasis on getting various practice groups to agree on workflow and form standards as well as more reliability on mobile applications—ultimately getting even more out of our technology investment while exceeding our clients’ expectations.
Terry Farmer is the managing partner at Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn, LLP. He began his career in Ohio at a time when a good mortgage rate was 17 percent and the major steel and rubber industries in that part of the country were facing huge layoffs. Terry went to Ohio to be a trial lawyer. Circumstances made him a bankruptcy and creditors’ rights attorney. Since then his practice has expanded significantly but also remains grounded in commercial, banking, and corporate law. Within these areas his work has tended to concentrate in areas of business disputes and high-end transactional work. Accordingly, Terry’s time is about equally split between the courtroom and the negotiating table. Terry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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