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

MARCH 2011

Vol. 10, No. 1

Columns

  • MacNotes »
    The iPhone 4 from Verizon is here! For those of you who have refused to get the iPhone because you did not want to deal with AT&T, your patience now gets its reward. Should you rush out and get one?
  • SurvivingEmail »
    Unifying email with social media.
  • TechNotes »
    Managing electronically stored information in light of new ediscovery requirements.
  • ProductNotes »
    Best Authority table of authority creation, the new Macbook Air, and Dropbox.
  • DivisionNotes »
    Division appointments, Spring Meeting in St. Louis, Cloud Computing CLE Teleconference, the recent book on mastering voir dire and jury selection, and more.

 

ProductNotes

Best Authority: Looking Good Is a Must in Hollywood, Even for a Table of Authorities

Reviewed by Max Sprecher

The best argument should prevail, but appearances matter—and this truism extends to your brief’s table of authorities (TOA). TOA creation can be a lengthy process that involves going through a legal brief and finding, then marking and formatting, each citation—a tedious process that can take hours to complete. Judges look at the overall format of your brief. If your TOA looks like you put little effort into it and you weren’t giving due diligence to the formalities required by law, then why should the judge be impressed with the brief as a whole? On the other hand, if the TOA looks good, it helps the brief—and you—look good. Whether they realize it or not, judges are influenced by the appearance of the brief as well as its substantive content.

And guess who else likes to look good? My clients. I should know; I’ve been in entertainment law for 19 years, and the clients are picky about appearances.

Recently, my Los Angeles law firm, The Law Offices of Max J. Sprecher, was searching for a better way to generate TOAs, and reviewed Best Authority by Levit & James. My practice includes entertainment and business litigation in state court, federal court, and before the California Labor Commissioner. I needed the right TOA-creation software that would keep my briefs looking professional while saving billable hours as well as hours of frustration resulting from working with the built-in TOA process available in a word-processing program.

I have what one might term a long and personal history with TOA creation. My family had a word-processing business in the early 1980s that provided typing services for attorneys. I did some of the typing personally, but didn’t create the tables of authorities. Later, I tried to use WordPerfect to create the TOAs, but this was cumbersome. Basically, if you have ever tried to use a word-processing program for TOA creation, it’s a nightmare. I don’t like nightmares; I like solutions.

After I graduated from Southwestern University School of Law in 1993, I joined the firm of Lavely & Singer P.C., one of the nation’s preeminent entertainment litigation firms. By 1994, I discovered that LexisNexis was producing FullAuthority TOA creation software in a relatively early incarnation. I persuaded the firm to buy it to create professional-looking TOAs, to save time, and to save the firm from word-processing nightmares created by using the native TOA capability in WordPerfect. FullAuthority reduced the never-ending process of producing an accurate TOA down from hours to minutes. Unfortunately, LexisNexis upgrades and support for FullAuthority were ultimately discontinued.

In September 2005, I decided to launch my own firm. Never was the importance of the right TOA creation software as important as when I made the decision to go solo.

When I opened my office, I implemented West’s program—Cite Check—an add-on for Word. It was free; it would create a TOA in about the same amount of time as Full Authority. Overall, however, Cite Check was limited. Formatting and corrections had to be made manually by using Word, and there weren’t a lot of choices to customize what it was doing. Also, when I migrated to Windows 7, I began having problems with Cite Check. Granted, I was using an older version, but I couldn’t get the software to pull the TOA even though I was following the instructions appropriately. The formatting wasn’t matching or consistent throughout the document.

At the end of the first quarter in 2010, I went looking for an alternative to Cite Check. I reviewed Levit & James’ Best Authority and several other competitive products online; Best Authority looked like the proper fit. I called sales support at Levit & James and was told that I could not buy Best Authority until I watched the training video (something I tend to avoid). However, they were insistent, and I took the time to watch the video. After reviewing the training video, I decided to purchase Best Authority TOA in June 2010.

Best Authority automatically finds and marks all citations in the document for you, and the software generates a completely accurate TOA distinctly faster than West’s Cite Check, and even faster than LexisNexis’ FullAuthority. This means that I don’t have to manually go through the document line by line. There is no longer a need to spend an hour or more in a word processing program individually identifying and marking each and every citation, and hoping that I catch all of the case references. I don’t have to give instructions to the Word program as to whether this is the long version or the short version of the citation. If I make any corrections, I don’t need to repeat the entire process. The software clearly guides you through the TOA creation, literally showing you what it’s going to do on the screen. The instructions are logical and simple to follow, and the formatting is also reliably consistent. Because of all this, I found myself whittling my TOA creation time down to about 3–5 minutes.

Also, with Best Authority, corrections are simple and can be made quickly. The software has two unique reviewing tools, including a split-screen Draft Review Mode where you can compare the entries in your TOA with the original citations in context in the body of your document, all the while identifying the types of citations with temporary color-coded highlighting. With Best Authority, I don’t have to recheck the document after the TOA is created—Best Authority catches all the citations and automatically formats them correctly. More importantly, I can make corrections during the review process.

If something looks strange or if there are mistakes in the document that result in “broken” citations, Best Authority makes it easy to track down these “suspects” and permanently correct them. It’s simple to just jump to that position in the brief and make that correction as you’re viewing the draft of the table.

A TOA is like dressing well for an interview, and I don’t want to be sloppily dressed. Best Authority eliminates the stress of finalizing a document. As long as I have 30 minutes to get something out the door, I have plenty of time to use Best Authority because it only takes a few minutes. This takes a lot of the pressure off the finalization of the brief.

I have been using Best Authority for approximately seven months now and have come to see it as a necessary tool. Every law practice that does briefs can benefit from this type of TOA creation software. Building a TOA in a native word-processing program is like trying to be a lawyer without a smartphone; it is quite simply a must-have for any lawyer and an absolute must for lawyers who have to do it themselves. Best Authority is accurate, fast, and easy. Best Authority does not require an expansive understanding of computer software programs. It saves me from the stress and tedium of TOA creation, and saves me many billable hours for each TOA for each case, which means my clients are paying less for the same—or better—work. They don’t object to that. And that makes everyone look good—except for my opponents.

Max J. Sprecher is sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Max J. Sprecher, a business and entertainment litigation firm located in Los Angeles, California. Max can be reached at max@sprecherlaw.com.

The New Macbook Air

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

 

Apple recently refreshed its MacBook Air, expanding the line to two models having very different capabilities. The line now consists of an 11" version that compares favorably to top-of-the-line netbooks and a 13" version with considerably more computing power that works as a fully functioning laptop computer.

The new MBAs have a sleek, svelte appearance and travel very well. The smaller unit compares in size to the typical 10" netbook, but has more power and speed than most netbooks currently on the market. (It also costs considerably more than most netbooks currently on the market). The larger unit provides an excellent compromise, offering you the lighter weight and smaller profile of a computer designed for mobility and sufficient power to do most of the things that lawyers use computers for professionally.

The two newest MBAs have a lot in common. They share the same external appearance (except for size), the same basic aluminum unibody construction, the same flash technology, the same multitouch technology and track pad, the same high-resolution display, the same Face-Time camera, and the same battery-saving technology. Both have built-in Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity (802.11n). Both use the minidisplay port for connection to an external monitor. Both have USB 2.0 (1 port on the 11" and 2 ports on the 13"). Intel Core 2 Duo processors drive all versions of the MBA. Both versions come with the current iteration of the Snow Leopard operating system and MacLife installed.

The camera built into the new MBAs is FaceTime capable, so that you can make and receive FaceTime calls with the MBA to or from any other FaceTime capable computer or iPhone/iPod Touch. The FaceTime application for the Mac is still in beta, but you can download a copy and use it.

Macbook Air Display

Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.

The MBA gives you a high-resolution widescreen display that appears larger than it is. The 11" MBA has a resolution comparable to most 13" screens while the 13" MBA has a resolution comparable to most 15" screens.

The new MBA comes with stereo speakers. The speakers work fairly well given what they are and their size, but they do not represent the computer’s best feature. They qualify as adequate; but I think you will be much happier if you get a good set of headphones and plug them into the jack to listen to music, movie soundtracks, and voice chats.

Neither unit comes with an internal optical drive. You can purchase an external optical drive from Apple for $99. You can also use the drive-sharing technology built into the computer and its operating system to share the optical drive of another Macintosh laptop or desktop running the current operating system.

Macbook Air Right PortsMacbook Air Left Ports

Images courtesy of Apple, Inc.

Within the common parameters shared by the two versions of the new MBAs, Apple offers some significant differences in the packages other than the physical size of the computers. As noted above, the 11" MBA has one USB port, while its larger sibling has two. The 13" MBA also comes with an SD card slot. The larger size of the 13" MBA allows for a larger battery, which accounts for the difference in the top end of expected usage differing between the two computers. The 11" is expected to last up to 5 hours per charge, and the 13" up to 7 hours per charge. In both versions, the basic unit comes with 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, which you can upgrade to 4GB for $100. That upgrade gives you considerably more power and flexibility, and you should opt for it automatically. If you ever intend to run one of the virtual computing programs, such as Parallels, on the computer, you must have the upgrade as they require physical RAM for the virtual computer, and you will need a minimum of 2GB to run either the Mac OS or the current versions of Windows competently.

The 11" MBA has an 11.8" x 7.56" footprint and varies in height from .11" to .68". It weighs in at 2.3 pounds. The base unit sells for $999 with a processor running at 1.86 GHz; and a 64GB flash storage capacity. The upgraded version costs $1,199 and gets you a 128 GB of flash storage and a 1.4 GHz processor, with the option of upgrading the processor speed to 1.6 GHz for an additional $100.

The 13" MBA has an 12.8" x 8.94" footprint and varies in height from .11" to .68". It weighs in at 2.9 pounds. The base costs $1,299 and comes with a processor running at 1.86 GHz and 128GB of flash storage memory. The upgraded unit costs $1,599 and comes with 256GB of flash storage memory and a 1.86 GHz processor, upgradable to 2.13 GHz for an additional $100.

I should take a minute to discuss the advantages of the solid state drives (SSD) in the MBA over the traditional hard disks. First of all, the absence of any moving parts renders the likelihood of failure of the drive significantly smaller. The SSD will likely hold up better to the knocks and bumps of travel than a traditional hard disk. Moreover, it boots up much faster and draws considerably less power than a traditional hard disk. Unfortunately, SSDs larger than 256GB remain comparatively expensive. Take advantage of the pricing up to 256GB for now and look for larger SSD dives at reasonable prices in the not too distant future.

I opted for the 13" MBA, upgraded to the high -end processor speed and 4GB of RAM. I do a lot of travelling and a lot of work on the road and wanted the additional power for that purpose. I wanted the higher processing power as I use often use the computer for presentations and occasionally use it to run virtual machines on the Windows platform using Parallels. It gives me everything I could get out of the 11" version and more. Other than the half pound savings in weight and cost, the only advantage I can find for the smaller unit is that if you are on an airplane and the person in front of you pushes their seat all the way back, the smaller unit fits better on the tray table. Not finding that a persuasive reason to get the smaller and less powerful unit, I opted for the 13" version. Conversely, if all you want is something to handle email, word processing, or watch an occasional video, the 11" may suit you perfectly well (although a larger screen works better for watching movies).

Overall, I am delighted with my 13" MBA. It provides a much-improved package over the last generation of the MBA. While 256GB still cramps me a bit in terms of storage space, I have accommodated well to it and can always supplement it with external storage if I need to do so. Smaller storage capacity would pose serious problems for me. That said, I should disclose that I use the MBA as a supplemental computer, not as my primary computer. While I can see the 13" MBA serving as a primary computer for someone having light to moderate computer needs, I do not think it is as good a choice as a primary computer as some of the other options available. As a second computer, however, I think it represents an excellent choice, and I highly recommend it. I do not see the 11" MBA functioning well as a primary computer for any but those with very light computer needs. As a second or third computer, serving basically in the position of a netbook, however, it should work quite well.

Dropbox

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

 

Because I regularly use more than one computer, I have gone through any number of programs and procedures to keep current personal and practice information on each of them. Although I found several ways of doing it, none of them worked as well or as easily as I wanted. Several months ago, I discovered a program called Dropbox. Dropbox lives in the cloud and has a home on each of my computers, my iPad, and my iPhone. It has earned a place as my regular application to keep my data current on all my computers and Internet-savvy mobility devices.

To set up Dropbox, you simply go to www.dropbox.com and download the installation software, install it on your computer, and set up an account. You can get the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps at the iTunes store. You can also get Blackberry and Android versions of the Dropbox app. The installation package sets up a Dropbox folder on your computer, which you then connect to your Dropbox account. Once you have connected more than one computer to the same account, the software automatically syncs the folders so that whatever you add to or delete from one computer’s Dropbox folder appears in the folder of every other computer that is connected with the same account and on line. If a computer is not online when you make the change to another computer, the software makes the modification as soon as the computer goes online and connects to your Dropbox account. Dropbox maintains your data on its secure servers and maintains a 30-day history of your folder, allowing you to undo a mistake within that time frame. Dropbox works equally well with both the Macintosh and the Windows platforms. Dropbox will let you elect to synchronize all or selected files over your devices.

Dropbox encrypts data for storage and transfer using military grade encryption.

I have had absolutely no issue with lost or corrupted files using Dropbox and have found it completely satisfactory for keeping my data current across my office computer, home computer, laptops, iPad, and iPhone.

If Dropbox did nothing more than keep the data current across multiple devices, it would justify keeping it on all your computers. It does much more than that, however. Dropbox will also allow you to share specified folders with identified recipients. That allows for easy transfer of files too large for email attachment. It also makes it easy to collaborate on files.

You can also use Dropbox for backup of your files as they automatically back up the data on their servers. That, in conjunction with having your data on all of your connected devices gives you pretty decent backup protection. If you want a more conservative approach, you can also back your Dropbox folder up regularly to an external storage device, such as a USB flash drive or an external hard disk.

Dropbox will give you an unlimited time free account with 2GB of storage space. That gives you a chance to try it out and, if you do not have the need to store more than the 2GB allowed, lets you use it indefinitely at no charge. If you find that 2GB does not provide enough room for all your needs, you can buy more storage space. They offer a Pro 50 account that gives you 50 GB of storage for $9.99/month, which they discount to $99/year if you pay for a year in advance. If 50 GB doesn’t do it for you, you can get a Pro 100 account that will give you 100 GB of storage space for $19.99/month, discounted to $199/year if you pay for a year in advance.

Dropbox has earned its place on my computers and devices. I have installed it on all of them and use it daily. It has become one of my favorite utilities. It works as it should; it works seamlessly and performs in a completely satisfactory manner. I do not hesitate to recommend it to you. I think it belongs on the computers and connected devices (iPads, smartphones, etc.) of everyone who needs to keep data current and consistent across multiple devices.

Neither the ABA nor ABA Divisions endorse non-ABA products or services, and the product reviews in the Technology eReport should not be so construed.

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 jallenlawtek@aol.com.

 

© Copyright 2011, American Bar Association.