Q: A lot of tech is very expensive. What are the best places to save money while still taking advantage of modern tech tools?
A: I’m a firm believer that anytime you bring a new piece of tech into your office, you need to measure and monitor your return on investment (ROI). Even “free” tools have training and utilization costs. Sometimes you will find that very expensive tools provide an ROI that easily justifies the cost. That said, in my experience there are a few areas in which free tools offer more than enough utility for the majority of practitioners:
- Legal research. Every state bar association in the country offers either Fastcase or Casemaker free to its members. In addition to those, Google Scholar offers free access to a searchable database of all case law, including unpublished opinions decided after 2013. Google Scholar may not have all the features of Westlaw, but it is free and functional.
- Intra-office communication. If you’re not a fan of e-mail, intra-office communication can be a nightmare. Thankfully, there is a burgeoning marketplace of office messaging tools. I use Slack in my office. Although Slack does have paid versions with increased storage and features, your average solo or small firm attorney will find that the free version offers all the features you need.
- Social media. In surveys of solo and small firm attorneys, marketing and business development is commonly cited as the number-one pain point. It’s expensive, confusing, and essential. Social media can offer a relief from that. It’s free, effective, and most of us already know how to do it. For those who want to spend a little money, paid advertising on social media is a great way to expand your message for a low cost.
- Anything with free and paid options. As a general rule, if you are analyzing a piece of tech that has free and paid versions, always start with the free version. Often, we think we need as many features as possible, but rarely is this true. Nine times out of ten when you pay for an upgrade, you end up using only the free features.
Q: Should I replace the standard disk drive in my computer with a solid-state drive?
A: Yes! Upgrading to a solid-state drive (SSD) has three big advantages:
- You will waste less time waiting for your computer to start up and for programs to work.
- Your SSD will be much more reliable.
- In a laptop, your SSD will be much more durable.
The prices for SSDs have plummeted this year. A good 500 GB drive goes for around $80, and a 1 TB (1,000 GB) drive for around $130. If most or all your files are likely on a server, you don’t need a big SSD on your computer. On a laptop, give yourself room to grow. In either case, buy a drive that is bigger than your old one.
Choose a drive from a brand with a good reputation, such as Samsung, Crucial, or Western Digital. You probably don’t need the latest generation. New, ultra-fast technologies for SSDs are available—M.2 and PCI-e (NVMe)—but likely would require a new computer.
Replacing the drive yourself or having a techie friend do it might be fast or slow depending how tricky it is to open your computer and get at the drive. A local store such as Micro Center or Staples will charge $40 to $60 to swap in a new SSD that you buy from them.
Moving Windows and all your programs and files can be straightforward by using a USB enclosure and drive-cloning transfer software that may be included with the SSD. If not, easy-to-use Macrium Reflect Free will clone drives and is now licensed for business use. CloneZilla is geeky cloning software that is open source (free).
Get ready for exceeding your old speed limits with your new SSD!
Q: I would like to export or print every e-mail within an Outlook in-box subfolder to PDF files. Is this possible to do as a bulk operation?
A: Yes, you can do this as a bulk operation or on an e-mail by e-mail basis. This can be helpful at the end of a matter or case when you want to store all the relevant e-mails as standard electronic files along with the other documents for the matter.
Products such as Nuance Power PDF Advanced and Acrobat DC allow you to convert Outlook e-mails to PDF. You can choose to export one or more e-mails or an entire Outlook folder either with or without its subfolders. Depending on the product you use, attachments to those e-mails will be included in the conversion, but, depending on the settings selected when doing the conversion, attachments can either remain in their native format or also be converted to PDF. So, if you select the setting that keeps attachments in their native format, then the MS Word attachment to the e-mail will remain an MS Word file once the e-mail has been converted to PDF. Click on the link to the attachment in the PDF, and it will launch MS Word and open the attachment. However, if you need all the attachments and e-mails to be in one file (no links) so you can Bates stamp and print them out, you most likely will need to convert all attachments to PDF.
Using Nuance Power PDF Advanced, here is one way to archive an entire folder and its subfolders to a PDF package (Acrobat calls these Portfolios):
- Select the Outlook folder you want to archive to PDF by clicking it.
- Go to the Nuance PDF tab to open the PDF Tools section of the Ribbon.
- Click Settings to open the Settings dialog.
- The Settings Dialog opens to the “Mail Archiving Settings” tab. Select “Store E-mails as PDF Package” under Archive Method.
- Select how you want the e-mails to be ordered in the PDF package by using the “Order by:” drop down list. Your options include From, To, Sent, etc.
- If you also want to archive subfolders, select Archive Subfolders.
- Click OK to save and close the Settings dialog.
- Click Archive Folder to begin converting the previously selected Outlook folder (and any subfolders) to a PDF package.
- From the Save As dialog, select where you want to save your PDF package and enter a name for it. Click Save to begin.
- Go to the location where you saved your PDF package and open it.
- Your PDF package includes a bookmark page that tells you what folder was archived, the number of items archived, whether the attachments are attached to the e-mails, and the date the archive was created.
- Once satisfied that you have accurately converted all e-mails and subfolders to PDF, you can then delete the Outlook folder and subfolders.
By using a PDF package, each e-mail is created as a separate document within the PDF package and you can sort and search them. You also have the option of creating separate PDF files rather than a PDF package that combines all e-mails into a single PDF file. Attachments can still be found attached to the e-mail and kept in their native format.
Acrobat DC has similar capabilities, as do other PDF creation packages. To learn how to do this in your product, search your product’s Help file for instructions on creating or converting Outlook e-mail to PDF.