As in the wild, so in the law: The slowest thing on the savannah is dinner. If you fail to adapt, you fail to thrive. One way to adapt is to use technology to efficiently and effectively juggle administrative and legal tasks. The following are 15 technology tips to help your practice thrive.
1. Anything Google. Google has some of the most innovative, useful, and free software on the market. Google’s software will change the way you do business. Google Desktop provides an interface to search your computer or server much in the same way that you search the web, giving you the ability to quickly locate an earlier sample for your current task. Google Voice gives you a free telephone number that you can forward to your cell phone, work phone, or home phone, and it transcribes and emails your voicemails to you. Google Docs (or Microsoft Office Live) lets you share and revise documents and avoids losing track of the current version. Google Calendar helps you coordinate your home and office calendars.
2. Listservs. A listserv is an email group maintained by bar associations and groups to share information and solicit referrals. Joining as many listservs as possible in your field will help you learn about the law in your practice area, give you an avenue to get information on difficult questions, develop your reputation by thoughtful postings, and ultimately obtain referrals from others on the listserv.
3. LinkedIn. The single best way to develop clients is to network. It is a great way to develop a broader network by reaching out to your friends’ friends. The benefits of such networking are highlighted by Keith Ferrazi’s Never Eat Alone, a must-read book for lawyers who want to develop clients.
4. Remote Computer Access. www.logmein.com provides a free, secure service to access and control your work computer from home or on the road.
5. Cloud Document Storage. www.dropbox.com provides free and remarkably easy-to-use online file storage, allowing you to save files into your dropbox and then readily access them online or offline on any other computer that you have synchronized to the dropbox.
6. Scan Everything. By using the fast and relatively cheap Fujitsu Scansnap S1500 ($500) to scan your files to Adobe Acrobat, you have the ability to access your files in your office or on the road. The Scansnap comes with the latest version of Acrobat, saving you money and giving you the advantages of a full version of Acrobat (see www.spencefirm.com for a book on Acrobat for lawyers). Check out www.pricegrabber.com for the best prices on scanners and other technology.
7. High Volume Printer. Instead of printing on a high cost copier, print to a high volume printer ($300–$800) with high volume toner cartridges. My firm of three attorneys exclusively uses printers for printing, saving the cost of an expensive copier.
8. Web-Based Fax Service. Use a web-based fax service such as www.maxemail.com or www.efax.com. These programs
give you a dedicated fax line whereby incoming faxes are emailed to you. Outgoing faxes can be sent after being scanned and uploaded to the site. Confirmation reports and received files can be saved for up to a year.
9. Effective Website. Most people will look you up before ever meeting you. Obtaining a domain name and hosting (with email) capabilities is simple and inexpensive.
10. Multiple Computer Monitors. Having more than one computer monitor can dramatically increase productivity. I have found it so productive that I now use four monitors to compare documents side-by-side, review documents while responding to emails, and bill with all software open and visible at the same time.
11. Case Management Programs. Software such as Amicus, TimeMatters, or PCLaw allow you to manage your contacts, emails, to-dos, calendar, notes, and billing in one place, dramatically increasing your productivity in running your practice. Rocket Matters and Clio provide similar innovative solutions in the cloud and are worth exploring. All of these will synch to most smartphones to allow you access to the information while on the road.
12. Conference Call Services. A great, free conference call service is www.freeconferencecall.com, which provides you with a dedicated phone number and access number for call participants. For face-to-face meetings over your computer, use www.skype.com.
13. Headsets. While on your call, check out the Plantronics headset CS55 with lifter, which lets you go hands free.
14. Scheduling. www.meetomatic.com provides a free service to schedule several people for a meeting or deposition and doesn’t require registration.
15. Transferring Large Files. When you need to send large files, use www.yousendit.com. This free service permits you to deliver large scanned files quickly without having them blocked or undeliverable through emails due to attachment size limitations.
In a profession known for “eating its young,” you can survive and thrive by learning and adopting new technologies. By constantly innovating, you will set yourself apart from your peers, ensuring that you are not “dinner on the savannah.”