Popular Threads - August 2020

Best e-signing Software

What's the consensus on e-singing software these days? Many courts during the pandemic are requiring my clients to sign documents in lieu of appearing but many people don't have working scanners and/or printers at home. I am hoping to generate documents on my computer or insert fields that the clients can sign and email back to me.

I started with Docusign - and then I discovered that Clio had already integrated Hello Sign. I subsequently cancelled the Docusign plan. It was a little pricey and I can get more use out of the Clio integration.

Geoff Wiggs, California

I've been a heavy Docusign user for years. Not one glitch or error, ever.

Plus, clients never call me asking me how to do it, which is very important to me.

Eugene Lee, California

I tried Docusign. It worked fine.

But when I realized that Acrobat Pro DC (which I already had and use extensively) has a robust e-sign feature, I got rid of Docusign and simply use Acrobat. I have never had any problems with it, and it does not cost me any extra.

Brian H. Cole, California

I have used Docusign for 2 years and my clients are pleased and surprised by how easy it is.

Christine J. Kuntz, Pennsylvania

Hmm, I'll have to take a look at Acrobat DC. I'm paying several thousand dollars a year for Docusign right now. I definitely wouldn't mind saving on that expense. For me to switch, Acrobat esign needs to have:

  • robust API (to connect to my case management system)
  • automatic reminder emails to signers
  • presaved templates (which can be selected through the API)
  • high ease of use by signers

Any clues if it does

I also wonder if it will be free given the volume of esignatures I do per month.

Eugene Lee

And right away, it seems Adobe eSign can't handle MS Word files - they need to be converted to PDFs first. As my mail merged forms are all in MS Word, is there any way around this on Adobe eSign?

Eugene Lee

I do not know. 

Saying the documents need to be in .pdf format is a feature (rather than a bug) as far as I am concerned. I don’t want any changes made (except to specific fields I have set up to be completed by the signer).

Brian H. Cole

A website comparing the major esign services: https://www.werockyourweb.com/management/legal/e-signatures/

Eugene Lee

I don’t use a case-management system, so two of your issues are not factors for me. It does seem very easy for signers to use, however. I don’t know about reminders.

Brian H. Cole

I actually did some digging and it seems you *can* Adobe sign docs directly in MS Word, which is pretty cool.

Eugene Lee

Can you e-sign documents in adobe acrobat 11 pro? (This is the last standalone acrobat product that can be purchased, rather than used by subscription.) It appears not possible when I go to the adobe acrobat pages

  • in order to search for how to send e-signatures. Seems like this only works with acrobat pro DC.

Any easy cheap alternative for those using adobe acrobat 11 pro?

Roberta Fay, California

I have used Zoho Sign for a little over a year now, and really like the product -- and the price. I don't think it's integrated with any LPM software, but it's a breeze to use independently. It also sends reminders to signers at user-defined intervals.

https://www.zoho.com/sign/

Andrew C. McDannold, Florida

Thanks for the recommendation re Zoho Sign . I need "cheaper" rather than the fancier alternatives nowadays. I want to stay with acrobat 11 pro for the foreseeable future because it works --- and I don't want a subscription-based plan.

Stay safe everyone.

Roberta Fay

I've been happy with Hello Sign.

Jeena R. Belil, New York

Is Zoom a Safe Video Conference for Court Hearings, Attorney Conferences, and Others?

I recently came from a town hall with Immigration Judges where a judge stated that DOJ (Department of Justice) will NOT approve Zoom hearing or conferences due to security issues.

What is the security issue and why are so many lawyers and other business professionals still using zoom instead of other video conferencing such as Skype, Microsoft Team, Duo, etc?

Search for something "zoom bombing". Apparently Zoom is prone to being hacked. There was a hearing yesterday in Florida for the suspect who supposedly hacked Twitter a few weeks back and took over the accounts of high-profile people like Obama. That hearing yesterday was hacked ( https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Porn-rap-interrupt-Zoom-hearing-of-Twitter-15461410.php).

Apparently, it's a point of pride to insert porn as part of the hack.

I'm not sure if Zoom's underlying technology is prone to hacking somehow (i.e. it was designed sloppily) and the problem is just worse now given that Zoom has become so popular. I've had several clients ask explicitly for Zoom calls, apparently unaware that other options (e.g. MS Teams, etc.) exist. I'm surprised that Teams hasn't taken off given that Windows users have it already. The alternative explanation, of course, is that Zoom is being hacked because it is so popular. If any other service were similar popular, it would be hacked to the same degree also.

Andy Chen, California

Our Chief Justice released a memo from the court's IT department advising judges and clerks not to use Zoom.

Deborah Matthews, Virginia

While no expert on the technology, Zoom had initial default settings which impacted privacy, but I understand that the default settings are now more privacy and security robust. Full disclosure: I own some Zoom shares.

Craig McLaughlin, California

We've been using zoom successfully for months now for bond hearings. Any idea if the court that was hacked yesterday was using a waiting room or password protected login? I wonder how much is truly hacking and how much is user error.

Andrew Mays

Dallas County Courts are using Zoom pretty regularly. I had two Zoom hearings today

Sharon K. Campbell, Texas

I guess if Zoom offers a password and Judge decides to not use one, sh*t may happen.

"The court had publicly revealed last week it’d hold hearings over Zoom, *no password required*, "we are having a hearing in the park across the street and no security will be present

Nicholas I. Fuerst, Arizona

Zoom was susceptible to security breaches and "zoom bombing", but it issued and required that everyone install an upgrade in May. People/institutions using it also should learn how to, and should institute security precautions such as registration, passwords and waiting rooms and hosts who admit registered participants. Not following any protocols and lazy hosting could cause security issues. It's ease of use is a plus.

Miriam N. Jacobson, Pennsylvania

Yeah, I guess porn and court hearings don’t exactly mix! Lol!!!

John Kang, Nevada

FWIW the courts in Utah are all using Webex.

Randy Birch, Urah

If that is the DOJ position, I hope it will be explained. I recall Zoom had some issues in the beginning, before it was as popular, but then made some upgrades and I have not heard about issues. The opinions may be based on bad, outdated information.

Using a waiting room and password are needed to enhance security. Generally, court hearings are public to there should be very little privacy concerns and more concerns over people interfering with the proceedings.

I think the platform choice is more preference. The more popular a platform becomes the more attractive to hackers.

Phil A. Taylor, Massachusetts

Skype for Business is more secure. It's what all the judges in NY are using.

Jeena R. Belil, New York

Isn't this like all other technology: if used right, it is safe. If used wrong, it is not safe. I am sure Zoom or Bluejeans or Skype or Webex are all hackable. All can be rendered unsafe through unsafe usage. If you want the perfect solution, call me when you create it.

Jonathan Stein, California

Zoom started with a tremendous number of security issues when it exploded on the scene in March. The identified problems I am aware of have been addressed. The office of court administration in Texas foisted it off on lawyers when they decided to use it for court hearings here. 

Skype, Webex and some other platforms have a proven track record. Both the federal government and some large companies have refused to put Zoom on their approved list. Some of them have established services with other providers, which may be a disincentive to approval.

Zoom is still used for all state court proceedings here in Texas. Personally, I don't have a huge issue with that now. I thought it foolhardy when it was foisted on us in March.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

I have been using Zoom videoconferences with a password for client conferences for about 2 years, and never had any issues. We selected it after test driving several video conference platforms, actually. It isn't a brand-new technology, but seems to be easier for a novice to use than many others, and of course has a free version, which led to it explosion in popularity once everyone and his brother started needing or wanting videoconferences on a daily basis.

That ease-of-use with many novices, combined with their initial default settings, seems to me what led to most Zoom bombings.

I do not own any Zoom shares.

Cynthia V. Hall, Florida

Massachusetts courts all use Zoom.

For my virtual writing group, we've used skype, google hangouts, GoToMeeting, and zoom. Zoom is certainly the easiest, but it also seems to be the most reliable. (members of the writing group are in 5 different states, using it on a variety of different platforms, and have a variety of levels of tech ability.) Axinn Family Game Night has used GoToMeeting, Teams, and Zoom... and again, over a variety of different states and platforms, and skill levels, this seems to be the easiest and most reliable.

From what I could tell, most of the security issues occurred when someone would post a notice of an upcoming meeting on social media, and either include the password, or set up a session that did not require either a password or a 'waiting room'. For the writing group, we use a password option, and the app sets up a password (unique, for each meeting). For Family Game Night we require the host to let you in from the waiting room

Laurie Axinn Gienapp, Massachusetts

Are all of you using the paid or free Zoom version? I heard that paid version is stronger due to the mandatory password.

AnnMichelle G. Hart

I use paid version. I don’t want time limits. Don’t know about relative stability of paid versus free, but password is not required. Either password or a waiting room will be required, but requirement for one or the other was delayed to mid-September, I think, from originally announced July date. So, if paid version is more stable, that is not the reason.

Henry R. Reckler, Colorado

There is no universal non-use of Zoom by the federal government. Check Zoomgov.com. 

Phil Taylor

I also use the paid version, though I started out initially with the free version and upgraded at the beginning of the year. I had also observed better stability/video quality on Zoom when I initially tested several platforms 2 years ago, but I do not know whether that is still true or was even universally true at the time.

Cynthia V. Hall

Thus far, I've used the freebie version with no problems. I understand that there may be a security issue, so may depend upon what you are doing. I had a judge and a former judge acting as mediator use zoom and it seemed to go well, though no idea which version they had as it seemed to work the same.

Vicki Levy Eskin, Florida

Alabama courts use with breakout rooms for dependency cases, which are confidential. We have had no issues, unless you count courtroom staff who can't figure it out.

Also used a national high school civics competition involving 600 kids across 15 states with 26 judges and more high school teachers and administrators. Worked seamlessly, including breakout rooms for judging and discussions.

Reta McKannan, Alabama

Nuance PDF or Acrobat?

My new Scansnap came with Nuance Power PDF and Acrobat Pro DC.

Which one works better? Pros or cons?

I've become a much bigger fan of Acrobat DC when I realized it had the ability to send documents for electronic signature built in. I am sure it was there for a while and I just never used it, but for me, I've found Acrobat DC is a strong program for all your PDF needs (and since I think Adobe created the PDF format back in the day, I imagine it's probably a good choice for you).

Andrew M. Ayers, New York

When my aging copy of Acrobat could no longer do some of the things I wanted it to, I bought Power PDF to replace it. I'm very happy with it - particularly since it's a one-time purchase and not a subscription. Also, it features a digital signature service integration, though since I use a different service I can't comment on how well it works.

Andrew C. McDannold

If you have to end up paying for either one after a trial period, don't. At least not yet.

Instead, try Foxit PhantomPDF Business. It's a GREAT PDF program. It does everything I've asked of it, and not once have I ever missed not having Acrobat. It simply works, and it's a fraction of the cost of Acrobat. And, they have local (as in California) tech support.

I think they offer a free trial period. You should definitely download and try it before committing to the other two.

YMMV. HTH.

Scott I. Barer, California

I'll second Scott's vote for Foxit Phantom PDF. Another huge plus: you pay a one-time fee for the license, unlike Acrobat, which is trying to force everyone onto a monthly subscription model. @Ben M. Schorr <beschorr@microsoft.com> can correct me on this, but we were told that MS actually uses Foxit's product internally. It does, in any event, play well with the MS Office suite.

Kevin Grierson, Virginia

Acrobat is a subscription. Nuance is not, unless something has changed. I dislike subscription models, preferring one-time license purchase as more economical over time. The only Acrobat you can purchase outright is the 2017 version, to my knowledge. Nuance has been purchased by Kofax and if you buy retail you could get either box. I have a lot of licenses for Nuance, and if given a choice it would be an easy decision here.

If I were looking to purchase PDF software outright, I would look at Nuance/Kofax, Foxit and Nitro as to leading contenders. I will not purchase Acrobat because of the subscription model, and the alternatives do everything I need. When I last was needing to purchase some software, I ended up with Nuance/Kofax, placing one order for multiple items that ended up being a mix of retail packaging with the same software other than branding.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

FWIW, you can still buy Acrobat Pro 2017 as a one-time purchase. It can be hard to find, because Adobe no longer offers it on its website.

David Masters, Colorado

I understand you're thinking about subscription vs. ownership, but going to subscription-based software in inevitable. I was getting all kinds of funky errors in the Massachusetts Probate Court forms, i.e. data not printing, etc. in an up to date version of Acrobat Pro. I finally had to "suck it up buttercup" and subscribe to Acrobat DC Pro in order to make all these problems go away. The lack of frustration is worth the subscription price. I pay for it annually (rather than monthly. The breakeven point on Acrobat Pro is about 2 1/2 years, so at least this way I always have the "bestest" version .... it's just another cost of doing business.

Peter T. Clark, Masswachusetts

As David Masters noted, one can purchase Acrobat 2017 Pro. I upgraded my Acrobat XI Pro to 2017 Pro in late 2017 through cdw.com, and it seems it can still be bought there: 

https://www.cdw.com/search/?key=Acrobat%202017%20Pro&searchscope=all&sr=1. 

The program received an update last evening, so Adobe continues to support it. For how long, I cannot say.

If I had to do it again, I would not buy Acrobat 2017 (or the DC subscription).

I think it is inferior to Acrobat XI Pro. The interface is so different that, even after a couple of years of daily use, I continue to hunt for options I used regularly in XI Pro. Some options from XI Pro just don't seem to exist anymore so I quit looking for them. It frustrates me each time I use 2017 Pro. (Maybe I'm just not technologically adept enough for the "latest and greatest.")

I cannot speak for the other PDF programs.

Mark E. Peneguy, Louisiana

The move to subscription is probably inevitable, I would agree. It has several aspects, not just costs, that I don’t like. I will hold out, until I decide to capitulate. Your position is widely held, but I am not there yet.

One has to determine how far to go in holding out. I still play with Linux variants, and try to stay current there. I have deployed Linux servers for production before, but not Linux desktops. Depending on the day, it would not take too much to go all Linux, but for now I am running closer to the mainstream.

Darrell G. Stewart

Totally agree. My fundamental problem with subscriptions is being out of control of what I need to do business. It's similar to trusting one's data to "the cloud" versus being self-reliant via local backups and mirrors. It's not just Acrobat, of course: it's (1) your computer operating system (e.g., Windows), (2) your accounting software (e.g., Mint or Sage Accounting), (3) your basic production software (e.g., Microsoft Office), (4) your billing software, (5) your practice management software... and so on, and so on. All that can add up to a significant monthly expense. Any one of these things could be shut off by the vendor (e.g., after a billing dispute), leaving one crippled.

Yeah, I know: we pay subscription fees for our cell phones and Internet service. The difference is that those are ongoing services being provided, versus just being allowed to run a piece of software, which has not materially improved in terms of productivity since 1995 (although there have been three separate interface reworks since then).

I do not mind paying for I did buy the WordPerfect XX upgrade, even though the differences between it and the previous three versions are trivial, just to support the product. I wish I could go back to Timeslips 1995 (and, for that matter, InfoCentral and a few other nifty pieces of software).

Michael Koenecke, Texas

I've been using LibreOffice <https://www.libreoffice.org/> for about two years after I got tired of paying for Office 360.

Never going back.

D. Mathew Blackburn, Colorado

I have a copy of LibreOffice on my computer that I use to break security locks on Word documents occasionally, but it is simply not up to handling complex documents being marked up by multiple parties--more to the point, it could probably do a decent job if everyone was using LibreOffice, but that's never the case. Edit a document in LibreOffice and send it off to someone using Word and you never can be sure whether the formatting, etc. will remain as intended.

Nuance, Acrobat and Foxit are more or less interchangeable, in part because the PDF format was never really intended for extensive editing. For better or worse, Word is the *lingua franca *of business documents.

Kevin Grierson

This was my problem and why I switched.

I used LibreOffice or OpenOffice for years. I was happy with it. I liked sticking it to the man and supporting open source software.

Then I realized I was getting corrupted documents when I had to exchange versions with multiple parties (who were, of course, using Word). The amount of time spent having to un-f**k and/or re-create a license agreement *once* convinced me and I think I bought Office within the week.

Tim Ackermann, Texas

Where to Meet Potential Clients and Others

If you have an executive suite arrangement, then you can meet a potential, new, or ongoing client at the office location. However, during the pandemic, many of them closed offices — and continued to charge for the monthly services (or non-services during the “crisis” starting in March). (Apparently, I am one of the few who heard of Katrina and Fukushima and other kinds of events.)

Where can you meet people, especially when it is necessary at the start of an attorney-client relationship and when it is necessary to meet other related parties or witnesses?

I need to change my physical location because of the behavior of the executive suite during the last several months. I am personally satisfied with an UPS mailbox delivery. However, I don’t want to do that for a wide variety of reasons. Naturally, I don’t want someone tracking down a residential address for me and, unfortunately, that is very easy to do.

Any suggestions about

1. Where to meet people

2. Where to get a business address that is only for mail purposes and government-related purposes?

with the pandemic it is harder, but we are lucky to have our California weather...

if you are truly concerned about attorney-client priv issues, meet in your car, their office, their home, a residence inn penthouse suite (and you get a free staycation)

if you are truly concerned about covid, meet at a park, a parking lot, outdoor restaurant, outdoors at starbucks, or at a winery

if you are truly concerned about appearance, rent an office or conference room or by the hour or the day. .there are several who do that around LAX

kc branch, California

also for mail, there are places that will accept all of your mail for like 100 per month and you can have it scanned and emailed to you, or snail mail forwarded to you or you can pick it up - they also rent conference rooms or offices..this is the kind of place

https://www.davincivirtual.com/loc/us/california/los-angeles-virtual-offices/facility-814

kc branch

I'm with Regus executive suites and they're still open. I just went in the other day, in fact. They also handle mail for me, although they do lose checks from time to time.

Eugene Lee, California

Ask in your local solo / small firm bar group. I mentioned I was looking for a new place 2 years ago, and I met with a few different firms who had an open room and were willing to let me rent it and/or use their conference room. I do have office furnishings, but often their offices were already furnished from when they had more staff.

The one thing to watch out for in these arrangements is to make it abundantly clear in the signage that there are multiple firms in that location, so clients don't think they are hiring one big firm.

A local attorney actually opened an executive office, so she runs her practice out of one section of the building and the executive office out of the rest of it. You can rent the offices for various times as well as the conference rooms, including short term rentals.

Good luck!

Corrine Bielejeski, California

I do Estate Planning and Elder Law, and have made house calls for years.

When that does not work, I have met at Denny's.

Martha Jo Patterson, California

I do house calls for estate planning too. Most clients love the convenience. Since Covid, my state allows remote witnessing and notarization. While that’s kept that part of my practice afloat these past few months, I hate the chaos of an online signing and long for a return to in-person meetings. 

Meg Tebo, Illinois

I’ve met clients at libraries. There’s often a remote corner, or even an enclosed room, where you can talk. I nice met a client at their church where they volunteered and had permission to use the secretary’s office after hours to meet me. I’ve also done quiet restaurants or coffee shops if the client is comfortable with that. 

As far as mail, UPS stores often have mail forwarding or you can pick it up from a lockbox at the local UPS store. And then there’s the actual post office, if they have any boxes available currently. 

Meg Tebo

Zoom Meeting without Your Face Displayed

Does anyone know how to be in a zoom meeting and NOT have your face and background displayed? Is there a specific button that I should push? Is there a way to do this when some other party is running the meeting (the administrator who sets up the meeting and coordinates everything)? Should I just cover or black out my Logitech camera that sits on the top of my computer display? Will that ruin my ability to verbally participate in the meeting?

Thanks for any replies.

When you join the meeting, don't join with video and select computer audio

Erin M. Schmidt, Ohio

You can upload a "profile picture" and have that displayed when you are in a Zoom meeting instead of live video of you. I just used a professional looking picture of me (the same one on my website) before I got my whole webcam situation sorted out.

Jason T. Komninos, New Jersey

When you join the meeting click "join without video."

If you’ve already joined, click "stop video" (top right on an iPad, bottom left on laptop). You might need to click in the middle of the screen to get the menu to appear.

Andrew Mays

Thanks to all of you! I need to attend a Zoom meeting late this afternoon and I will use one (or another) of your suggestions at that time. The problem is that we work at our PC and we don't want to let people in a video stream see anything related to our work-in-progress (i.e. work product) and so having a beautiful background shot does not apply. I have not had the time or interest to set up a profile picture (which I will do later). For the sake of avoiding malpractice claims, we are supposed to ensure that third parties do not see our work-in-progress. This is an overbroad, sweeping duty that we owe. So, the only way on a practical basis is to keep materials out of the video feed. (That means we are not doing work right up to the time of the zoom meeting. That is very hard to do.) Stay safe.

Roberta Fay, California

Turn your camera off . . . 😎

Walter D. James III, Texas

I set up laptops in the conference room for all Zoom hearings or meetings. The laptops there cannot access my servers and the conference room has no other paperwork present. There are keyboard shortcuts to turn video on and off. You can also adjust software settings so that video starts in an off position.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

Thanks for sharing all these ideas. What applies to Zoom should also apply to other platforms, or be able to modify with control settings on the alternative software package, I guess.

Roberta Fay

You can also pick your own background so that people see you but don't see your office. I don't have anything behind me that would compromise attorney/client privilege, but my back wall is a bit sparse, so I generally use a picture of a winery I took on vacation:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10162671485010702&set=gm.1056794004677722&type=3&theater

Kevin Grierson, Virginia

Minor addition: if you end up accidentally joining Zoom with video, hover with your mouse on the bottom of the screen. You will see a camera and microphone icons pop up on the lower left hand side. If you click on those you can block out either or both camera and sound. This really comes in handy if you are trying to do some work while on the call. You do not want the others to be distracted by the sound of your rustling papers of ringing phones. You should click on both camera and microphone and block them. This way you will still see and hear everything but the others will not hear or see you. But you should know where these buttons are in case you are required to chime in. You can then click on both, go live, say hello, and click the buttons again for the "off" position.

Vlad Portnoy, New York

You can also go to zoom and practice in your own meeting to see how everything works.

https://zoom.us/test

Nicholas I. Fuerst, Arizona

FYI, If you are muted in Zoom, you can simply press and hold space bar to speak. A court reporter taught me that trick. It comes in handy when making objections during depositions and other matters. 

I do not believe there is a shortcut to show video other than just clicking “start video.” 

Jennifer D. Norris, Indiana