May 25, 2021 4 minutes to read ∙ 900 words

Ask Techie: Where Can I Find Reviews of Legal Software?

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 the best websites for reviews of legal software, how to get rid of a ring light reflection on your glasses during Zoom meetings, and the definition of “warrant canaries” and why you should you pay attention to them.

Q: What Are Some Good Websites for Reviews of Legal Software?

A: Maybe you are unsatisfied with your current legal software. Or you may be looking to eliminate busywork by adding a new web-based service. The two review sites described below offer different perspectives on current legal software products.

ABA Legal Technology Buyer’s Guide

URL: https://buyersguide.americanbar.org

Pros:

  • Well-organized by type of software (accounting, case management, etc.)
  • No log-on required
  • Concise summaries of products
  • Excellent screenshot galleries to give you a feel for the products
  • Product videos readily available
  • Helpful links to related articles authored by vendors

Cons:

  • Limited to companies that have chosen to participate
  • Few choices for some software types
  • No multi-product comparison tables
  • No pricing information

Capterra

URL for legal software categories: https://www.capterra.com/search/category/?search=Legal

Pros:

  • Large number of user reviews giving a sense of potential problems
  • Overall product ratings based on reviews
  • Filter your search by product features
  • Filter by cloud vs. on-premises and by Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux
  • Pricing, when available from vendor
  • Features tab allowing quick elimination of non-contenders
  • Excellent side-by-side comparisons tab for seeing products and their features

Cons:

  • Ratings can be skewed by anonymous or influenced reviewers
  • Includes some non-legal products that may or may not be useful
  • No information about company size or reputation

These resources provide a good basis for making a first cut of the products you will investigate. While informative, they cannot substitute for more in-depth inspection of how particular features work in practice.

A good next step is to talk to other law firms in your practice areas for their experiences with legal software. Another good source is the ABA’s SoloSez Listserv (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/gpsolo/resources/solosez). There you can ask questions and receive opinionated answers from other lawyers.

Also consider discussing your options with an experienced legal technology consultant. This is particularly important when you are selecting applications or services key to your operations.

Techie: Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor and CEO of SecureMyFirm, 952/922-1120, www.securemyfirm.com. We protect small firms from cyber threats with affordable, multiple layers of defense.

Q: How Can I Get Rid of a Ring Light Reflection on My Glasses During Zoom Meetings?

A: I don’t wear glasses, but this is something my wife has dealt with. She bought a ring light to enhance the quality of her Zoom meetings but quickly noticed that her glasses had a distracting and constant reflection of the ring light. Thankfully, there are some easy fixes. If you have a big ring light (six inches in diameter or bigger), set the light off to the side at about a 45-degree angle from your face and the camera, and move it as far away as you can without losing light. With a larger light you should still have plenty of coverage but without the annoying reflection. If you have a smaller, clip-on ring light, you can try putting it on the corner of your computer screen or clipping it to something off to the side, but you may find the lighting on your face is uneven. It might be a pain to set up, but if you prefer a smaller light for space purposes, you may want to invest in two so you can set one off to each side without losing lighting on half of your face.

Techie: Jordan L. Couch, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor, Palace Law, jordan@palacelaw.com.

Q: What Is a Warrant Canary and Why Should I Pay Attention?

A: Modern wisdom holds that if a warrant canary drops dead, there is trouble afoot. Warrant canaries emerged in the battle between cybersecurity and the U.S. government. A warrant canary is a message from a communications service provider intended to signal to its users whether its security has been compromised by a government-issued subpoena. You may be wondering why it matters when most of the terms of service you read indicate that companies pledge to notify users if they receive a subpoena requiring access to your data. They must tell you, right?

Unfortunately, no. To keep from tipping off the people under investigation, most subpoenas are accompanied by a gag order that prevents the vendor from notifying anyone that they received the subpoena. In November 2013 Apple issued a warrant canary by publicly stating that it never received any order for user data under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. However, the warrant canary disappeared in subsequent transparency reports.

That is how a warrant canary works. The company puts a statement somewhere, such as, “The FBI has not been here.” Then, if the company receives a subpoena accompanied by a gag order, the company takes the statement down, signaling to users that security has been compromised. While the gag order can prevent the company from notifying its customers about the breach, it cannot compel the company to leave the message in place, thus lying to customers to cover up the breach.

Techie: Ashley Hallene, JD, GPSolo eReport Editor-in-Chief, Macpherson Energy Corporation, 661/393-3204 ext. 4105, ahallene@hallenelaw.com.

What’s YOUR Question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin (robert.salkin@americanbar.org) 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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Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 10, Number 10, May 2021. © 2021 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.