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Batman frequently relied on the tools that he carried on his utility belt to escape the clutches of the Joker and his henchmen - and we all know how well that turned out. For lawyers, there are a number of utilities for your computer that make practicing law easier. Better yet, some are free. Here are the top five utilities that we recommend you keep in your belt:
TinyURL ( www.tinyurl.com)
Have you ever needed to type in long URLs into your web browser to visit a web site? Most people can remember the Domain name, but after that, all is lost. TinyURL takes care of this problem for you. Simply put, TinyURL takes long URL names and gives you a much smaller URL instead. Upon clicking on the TinyURL, the user is directed to the original, much longer one, eliminating the need to write down those frustrating, long URLs. This utility is free, and is one to take advantage of. People appreciate these abbreviated URLs in your blog posts and tweets too.
YouSendIt ( www.yousendit.com)
Many law firms impose limits on the size of a file attachment that a user can send or receive. Whether, 1, 5 or 10 MB, sometimes the restrictions are just too small, especially when you have a deadline approaching and you can't e-mail your file because it's too large. YouSendIt is an online resource that allows a user to transmit large file attachments at no cost, up to 100MB in size. First, a user must create an account, upload the file to attach and the service will then transmit an e-mail message to the recipient(s) containing a hyperlink to download the attachment. It doesn't get much easier than that, and it provides a perfect end run around policies that keep you from doing what business may require. Since you are using a third party provider, make sure that you do not send confidential data or at least encrypt the information prior to transmission.
SnagIt ( www.techsmith.com/screen-capture.asp)
This utility is a screen-capture application that allows a user to capture, edit and share any type of graphic displayed on a user's screen, including web sites and even videos. This utility is great for inserting screenshots into PowerPoint presentations, and is very simple to use, even for technology-challenged attorneys. This utility offers a free 30-day trial download for users before requiring purchase. A single license costs $49.95, and volume discounts are offered when purchasing multi-user quantities.
Metadata Assistant ( www.payneconsulting.com)
It's surprising how many users still send documents without first scrubbing the metadata. As attorneys, if you happen to fall into this category, you are playing with fire. Don't get burned. Metadata Assistant is a utility that makes the removal of metadata from documents easy and automated. This utility fully integrates with Microsoft Office and, with the click of a button, metadata can be permanently removed from a file. For the absent-minded, this utility even prompts a user to remove metadata from an e-mail attachment before sending. A single license of this fantastic utility costs $80. Yes, there are other ways to remove metadata, but for years, legal technology experts have recommended Metadata Assistant - and they use it themselves.
Anagram Personal ( www.getanagram.com)
For those attorneys who use Microsoft Outlook, Anagram Personal is a utility that allows a user to sweep text from an e-mail message and create a contact, calendar, task or note entry to the user's personal folder with a single click. Attorneys rave about the power to sweep the signature in an e-mail and instantly create a contract entry. This utility is great for solo practitioners and small law firms who don't use Microsoft Exchange server with Public Folders, because the items are created locally on the computer. Anagram also has a free version for iGoogle, for integrating with a user's Gmail account. A single license for Anagram Personal costs $34.95.
Although these tools are simple and easy to use, their convenience and power are invaluable. You can't go wrong imitating Batman. Just ask the Joker.
About the Author
The authors are the President, Vice President and Director of Computer Forensics of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a legal technology and computer forensics firm based in Fairfax, VA. 703-359-0700 (phone) www.senseient.com. They are the authors of The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide (ABA, 2009).