GPSOLO December 2010
SITES FOR SORE EYES
Websites for the New Year
By Jim Calloway and Courtney Kennaday
It’s that time of year again. Time to put aside your new tech toy, push the plate of holiday goodies away, and take stock of what is really important: your relationship with the web. Sure, you had some good times this year, but you made a lot of promises you didn’t keep. You had the best intentions. You found something really cool and you bookmarked it to explore later. Maybe you even explored it then but meant to come back and master it. Now, there they all sit, forlorn in their “favorites” folders, waiting for you to return. Sad, isn’t it?
Well, do something about it! Resolve with us to return to these cool websites and widgets, programs and tools, and take the next step. Repeat after us: This year, we’re going to do better! Besides, many of these sites are useful in your daily business operations—if you master them.
We are not going to tell you which of these sites we finally started using after much delay and which of us still needs to try a particular site. This is New Year’s Resolutions, after all, not True Confessions.
But here are a few of our resolutions and a few from some of our friends and colleagues.
I resolve to set up a Dropbox account. We all have heard about keeping documents and other data “in the cloud.” Dropbox ( www.dropbox.com) is a really practical and easy-to-use document repository. It is free for up to two gigabytes of documents, and you can expand that space by referring others to the service. You can set up a Dropbox account on every computer you use. It installs a My Dropbox folder under your Documents folder, and if you save documents to that folder, the document is automatically synchronized to the other computers and your smart phone if you have installed the Dropbox app (available for all three smart phone systems). You can also log in to the website from another computer if you need to do so. Lawyers have to make their own decisions in consultation with clients about storing confidential client matters in the cloud, but having access to all of your office forms from anywhere for free is great. It is also an easy way to make hundreds of documents available from your smart phone. You will think of many other uses.
I resolve to try Read It Later. One of the problems with doing research on the Internet is the distraction factor. You can run across lots of interesting things while doing research online, and if you use iGoogle to set up a personalized home page, even the news feeds there can present a distraction before you get to your research. Read It Later ( http://readitlaterlist.com) does just what the name implies. It lets you quickly save interesting items to a reading list you can return to later—so you can get back to what you should be doing right now. You can use this with your computer or your phone. Some iPhone users like a similar iPhone app, Instapaper ( www.instapaper.com), even better.
I resolve to set up and use a password keeper. You probably visit a lot of websites that have passwords for access. You know you shouldn’t use the same password for many sites. You know you should use fairly long and complex passwords with some numbers, symbols, and letters mixed it. Why not just take a few minutes now and set up a password keeper such as RoboForm ( www.roboform.com) or LastPass ( http://lastpass.com)? Then you only have to remember two passwords: the one to log in to your machine, and the one to log in to your password keeper.
I resolve to try Mint.com for financial management. Okay, we were suspicious when we heard of this one, too. It is a software package that downloads information from all of your various online accounts and allows you permanent record-keeping and analytical tools. But after it was named “best budgeting site” by Kiplinger’s magazine, an Editor’s Choice by PC Magazine, and a four-star Top Pick by Money Magazine, we’ve had to reconsider. If there was going to be some huge security breach, it would have happened by now.
I resolve to check out Vimeo. YouTube is not the only place for online videos. Time magazine said “Vimeo is the video-streaming service of choice for creative types — the indie darling to YouTube’s blockbuster.” We’ve got to visit www.vimeo.com just to see what is going on there.
I resolve to register with Dimdim. We know, we’ve mentioned this before, but setting up videoconferencing is a handy addition to your tool box. Because Dimdim ( www.dimdim.com) allows you free videoconferencing for up to 20 participants, it seems like a good idea to try it. You never know when you may need to share your desktop with a client or another lawyer to discuss a document.
I resolve to read more e-books, especially free ones. Resolving to jump into e-books is a resolution many people won’t have trouble keeping. We know lots of lawyers have e-book readers now, and many more will be unwrapping them under the Christmas tree. Buying electronic books is in our future, we know. But there are lots of classics we would like to read or re-read, and www.readprint.com is your place to find free e-books. The site can get you to 8,000 online books by 3,500 authors, plus poems, plays, and short stories.
I resolve to do more home cooking. Most busy lawyers seem not to do enough home cooking—probably because they lack the time. If we actually do find the time to cook more meals, then sites like Epicurious ( www.epicurious.com) and AllRecipes.com will aid us in that quest.
I resolve to learn more about Facebook and Twitter. Social networking sites remain hot. Facebook ( www.facebook.com) has more than 500 million users and a movie about its birth. Family lawyers regularly introduce damaging Facebook posts into evidence. Even if you don’t want to play the social networking game, you need to be familiar with how these services work so that you can serve your clients well—and you can check out most Twitter pages without even registering for the service ( www.twitter.com).
I resolve to set up a LinkedIn profile. Okay, even if you do not want to opt for Facebook or Twitter, there’s no good reason to avoid LinkedIn ( www.linkedin.com). It is not as entertaining as the others, perhaps, but it is the business social network. Building your contacts on LinkedIn is easy, and many potential clients look for lawyers on the public LinkedIn pages. Building a network of other lawyers as contacts may result in referrals as people look at the contacts of their contacts.
I resolve to set up a Google profile. People pay lots of money for search engine optimization (SEO) so they can get a higher ranking from Google search results. For no cost whatsoever, you can set up a Google profile ( www.google.com/profiles), which will appear on the first page of search results when people do a search for your name. Include some brief biographical information in your Google profile, including links to your law firm website, your social networking sites, and your practice areas. In just a few minutes, you have made it easier for potential clients to find you. Then localize the profile so that people who are searching for a lawyer in your area may also find your Google profile.
We hope these few resolutions will help you have a happy, and more web-wise, New Year.