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October 23, 2018 Technology

Ask Techie

Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.

This month we answer readers’ questions about how to speed up conflict checking, whether to upgrade to the new iPhone, and how to get your data to work for you (and not the other way around).

Q: How do I make my conflict checks take less time?

A: Tech can definitely help with this, but it’s not always easy. To make it work, you need a centralized, searchable database. Start by looking at either your intake system or your practice management system. This doesn’t need to be an expensive program. You can set up a free Google form with your intake questions, and it will auto-populate a spreadsheet with all the relevant information. You can even send the form to potential clients to fill out before the meeting. Next time a new client calls, you simply search for their name in the spreadsheet.

Things get more complicated if your firm has been around for a long time (and thus used different systems over the years) or if your work involves a lot of different parties. If this is the case, you may want to invest in a more advanced tool that can scan for data across all your firm’s information. For instance, in our office we use a program called Metajure. Metajure scans every document and e-mail across the entire firm and makes all the text searchable. When a new potential client calls, we just type their name (and the names of other parties) into Metajure as if it’s a Google search. If we have even a single e-mail or document in our system with any of those names, Metajure will bring it to the surface, and we can quickly investigate the extent of the conflict.

Q. Should I upgrade to the new iPhone (Xs or Xs Max)?

A. In a word (actually two), probably not. I know it is difficult to say no to a new iPhone, but Apple has not given us much reason to spend $1,000 or more for a new iPhone this year. While the specs seem a bit better for the new phones and the upgraded RAM capacity of 500 GB has some appeal, the Xs does not offer enough more than the X to justify the cost of moving to it from the X. The major difference between the Xs and the Max is size. The Max is a significantly larger piece of equipment. It provides a much bigger display, but the question must be whether that extra size justifies the cost. Although I like larger-screen devices, I have found the size of the iPhone X ideal in terms of pocketability, holdability, and usability, and I have had no issue with viewability. Before the X, I had a 7 Plus, which was approximately the same size as the Xs Max. While the X and the Xs have displays more or less the size of the 7 Plus, the Max has an even larger display. Like the 10, it does it in a smaller unit due to the removal of the bezels that graced all iPhone models prior to the X.

The bottom line: In my opinion, the only reason to move from an X to an Xs is if you really need to have 500 GB of memory in your smartphone (which most people do not). If you have an issue with the smaller screen of the X/Xs and have seriously large hands, so that you can easily use the Max, then the size of the Max and the extra memory make sense. For most people, though, I would say save your money and wait for the XI (or whatever they call next year’s model). For those who do not have an iPhone X, I think the X/Xs/Xs Max are all significant upgrades to every other model of the iPhone (including the 8) and would recommend that you consider upgrading to something in the “X” line. If the cost of the Xs/Xs Max puts you off, the soon-to-be-released XR offers a nice, but less compelling (and less expensive) upgrade path.

Q: How can data work for me and not the other way around?

A: This is a tough question, and the specifics will really vary depending on what you want out of your data and what data you are tracking. For background I will say that I am a huge data nerd, and I use a lot of data in my own law practice. The process of good data use begins with a question: What do I want to get from my data? Do you want to estimate the value of a new case? Track your firm’s growth over time? The answer to this question will determine the data you need to track and, thus, how you should track it. If you’re unsure of what data you should track, there are a lot of good books to get you started. Small Law Firm KPIs: How to Measure Your Way to Greater Profits and The Business of Legal: The Data-Driven Law Practice (both by Mary Juetten) are great intros to law firm data use and collection.

Once you’ve identified your questions and the data you will need to track, the next challenge is how. Data collection and presentation can be so time consuming that it loses all value, so automation is key. Odds are that all the data you want to track is already being collected somewhere (in your e-mails, your accountings, etc). The trick is getting all of it into one centralized location. If you are using cloud-based products, this will be a challenge. The first step if you are using cloud-based products is to see if you can link them directly. If not, you can use tools such as Zapier or If This Then That to connect your various programs to a spreadsheet and automatically store your data in a useable format. For instance, in our office every time a new matter is opened in Clio (our practice management software), a record containing all the client and matter information is automatically sent to a Google spreadsheet. If you come across a data point that you simply can’t automate, look to see if there are other alternatives you could be tracking.

What’s YOUR Question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin ([email protected]) at your earliest convenience. Our response team selects the questions for response and publication. Our regular response team includes Jeffrey Allen, Wells H. Anderson, Jordan L. Couch, Ashley Hallene, Al Harrison, and Patrick Palace. We publish submitted questions anonymously, just in case you do not want someone else to know you asked the question.

Please send in your questions today!

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