Tag Archives: Legal Technology

Land of Linkin’ – Apps for Illinois Lawyers

Debra Pickett is President of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

Vicki Steiner, at UCLA’s Law Library, assembled a fantastic guide to Mobile Apps for Legal Research and News.

She includes a pretty comprehensive set of national resources, from the ABA Journal’s free app to the $54.99 iPhone, iPad and Android-friendly versions of Black’s Law Dictionary, which are well worth checking out.  (Android users will also want to explore DroidLaw, a free reference that has evolved significantly since Steiner listed it.  And downloaders on all platforms all well-advised to steer clear of LawBox, which Steiner describes as a free app, but which has recently dramatically changed its interface and moved all of its most useful, state-specific content behind a pay wall.)

For Illinois attorneys, there are a number of locally-based apps to use and explore, too.  Consider:

Illinois Statutes ($5.99) – iPhone listing of all 67 Chapters of Illinois Law, including the Illinois Vehicle Code, the Illinois Criminal Code and the Code of Civil Procedures.  Updates when the law changes.

Illinois Compiled Statutes ($29.99) – Same basic content as above, but with superfast searching and offline access (for those no Wifi, no 3G courthouses) and a more user-friendly set-up.

Illinois Pro Bono (FREE) – Created by Illinois Legal Aid, this easy-access directory lists volunteer and training opportunities across the state, organized by area of interest.  (Incidentally, the group has also created a Legal Aid app for non-lawyers.  It’s an easy-to-understand field guide for those dealing with divorce, child custody matters, small claims, evictions and foreclosures.)

Finally, for lobbyists, or, really, anyone interested in “how the sausage is made,” legally speaking, Cohen Research Group’s Illinois+ ($4.99, for iPhone) and IllinoisPro ($29.99 for Blackberry) are must-have tools.  These interactive lists of contact, staff and biographical information on Illinois legislators connect you quickly to the folks making decisions in Springfield.  Incidentally, their well-known guide to Capitol Hill is called Congress in Your Pocket.  I’m assuming they didn’t want to call this one “Illinois In Your Pocket” because the listings for state senators and representatives do not include PayPal links to make contributions to their campaigns.  Perhaps that’s coming in an update.

Have fun downloading and exploring this stuff and let me know what you think.  While I can’t promise you’ll love these new tools, I can assure you that it will be a more valuable use of your smartphone than, say, tweeting insults about opposing counsel.

The old and the new; the paper or plastic debate is moot

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations, and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

The frequency of change in law stresses us out. For this holiday season my gift to you are my thoughts on adapting to change while maintaining steadfast practices. The theme I see most frequently is the change in form that retains the substance. To be successful we need to be able to adapt to change without compromising sensation, perception and memory.

Black letter law has been evolving for hundreds of years. Our laws ebb and flow with changes in society, policy and the nature of the times. It seems like there have been vast changes to law in the last decade; moreover, the practice changed the most, and technology created a stir. If you have ever tried researching and reviewing on the train, reading pdfs on a small BlackBerry screen you would long for an iPad, as I complain, I curse the ability to continue doing work regardless of time, place or space.

A friend recently suggested that my BlackBerry and I were out of date Gen Xers, too stuck in our ways to adapt and embrace change. While waiting for the train I posted a query on Facebook as to what new devices suited my needs and blended the full media options of the new Androids while still allowing me to type on a keyboard. My cousin, Emily, a busy lawyer was the first to tell me about a perfect solution. I thought – “How great is this, let my peers pre-shop and test devices for me!” You see, I have been embracing change and don’t realize how blended I am in mixing the new with the old.

At my office, you’ll find me with not the very latest, but very recent technology, and piles of paper. I went back to paper when learned more about my cognitive process. If I don’t print an important e-mail I will likely forget it if I don’t do calendar reminders. Who has the time to calendar everything? When I sift through my client e-mails I see my hand-written notes and quickly remember what I need. This is how I process and learn information – it looks different from the methods for transmitting information.

Looking further, I thought more about how we receive and feel about information processing. Today, when I meet new people I find valuable, I send them a professional letter on the very best stationery. I sit at a wooden desk and fold the pages perfectly. I still read print newspapers – and I scan and save the articles I like, using keywords and techniques for instant retrieval. I am a visual person and learn from viewing, writing and manipulating the written text. I tried going paperless and had more trouble than I wanted to admit.

The takeaway is that you can embrace all the new things while holding on to tried and true methods of learning, communicating and of course, practicing law. Just because something is new, does not make it better by definition. Ask the half of my office that looks 1930s blended with its 2011 technology. You’ll never take my antique globe, real wooden desk and print news.

Plastics

Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.

For folks of my generation, that one word piece of career advice from a family friend to the young Dustin Hoffman in the movie “The Graduate” still ranks as one of the most memorable movie lines.  But it does reflect a real-life conundrum: One of the questions that you either ask yourself or others is “what kind of law should I practice?”

You can take the approach I did, which was to have a vague idea, which you abandoned for various reasons, and then let serendipity take you for a ride and hope it’s pleasant.  In my case, that worked.  I represented some fascinating businesses during my career, from robotics to face recognition system vendors to telematics hardware and software vendors (think OnStar®) and handled a variety of cutting edge legal issues.  But if you are the kind who would like to give a little push to pure blind luck, and steer the ship, here are my thoughts.

You will not starve learning about intellectual property law for the foreseeable future.  I am not just talking patents here, so if you’re not an engineer, you’re still in the running.  The “ideas and imagination” economy that the world is hurtling headlong into will value creativity to an unprecedented degree, and protecting ideas and other forms of intellectual property will be a full-time job for many that will be fascinating and probably rewarding.  Deep philosophical questions about patenting new life forms, genetic engineering and solving the food supply problems facing the world, using technology to solve the fossil fuel and water shortages represent challenges that will demand the best efforts of the best technologists – and their counsel.  Entrepreneurs and lawyers seem to be more comfortable with each other these days, and getting comfortable with technology, the current law both in IP as well as ancillary fields such as e-commerce, privacy, and communications and where it’s headed will serve you well.

While we’re at it, let’s also focus on privacy.  Data may be king, but data about people is going to be gold, and what you can/should do with it is going to be a very fertile field for lawyers for years to come.  The basic divide between the European Union “opt-in” and the US “opt-out” approach to data use is just the first of many such issues that will keep clear thinkers occupied for a long time.  Data mining and correlation, coupled with a virtually endless flow of technology developments that will enable things that were impossible yesterday, will fuel a never-ending debate about what should and should not be permitted.  Legislative solutions v. voluntary industry self-regulation are going to combine to provide full employment in this field.

My last choice might be somewhat surprising, but it’s dispute resolution.  America’s legal legacy of litigiousness doesn’t sell well overseas.  As the global economy becomes ever more integrated, there will be even more disputes about things as mundane as a lost order in a plane crash and as momentous as how to handle transnational water disputes.  New thinking about ways to resolve conflict has to proceed, as endless litigation over these issues has inherent limitations and less acceptance among non-US parties.  Creating new models for third-party facilitation, or direct governmental multi-lateral action will be critical to finding solutions that work.  This option might be particularly attractive to those political science majors who were wondering what exactly their degrees qualified them to do, besides go to law school.

This list is certainly not definitive, and you can probably add 20 equally valid options.  But the future will be here — soon.

Systems approach to practice management

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

When attorneys in transition decide to launch a new law firm, their best friends are business systems in marketing, management, technology and finance.  I offer these four focus areas based on experience in advising my own law firm clients and also as supported by the ABA Law Practice Management section, of which I am an active member.

Systems are a set of interacting and independent entities designed to work as a coherent entity.

A marketing system compiles and implements actions necessary to achieve one or more marketing and branding systems.  Marketing plans cover between one and five years and may be a part of an overall business plan.  Return on investment can be judged by human capital gains and goodwill generally.  One of my marketing systems includes a weekly calendar for new blog publication and distribution.

A management system is a framework of processes and procedures used by organizations to complete work and meet goals.  Management activities include staffing and human resource functions, balancing work and administrative balance, acting as firm representative in business settings.  One of my management systems includes a Microsoft Online SharePoint portal through which virtual interns can access documents and our agency calendar.

A technology system aggregates the plan for tools, techniques, and methods of organizing data electronically for the quicker transfer of information and increased work production.  Technology assessment and audits often bring light to new time and cost saving opportunities as technology continuously evolves to meet consumer demands.  One of my technology systems is a cloud e-mail and document archiving service to protect my documents from computer crashes.

A finance system wraps around accounting software used as a main application for processing accounting transactions including billing and accounts payable functions.  Whether drafting a law firm budget or hedging future settlement returns against current expenditures, systems for billing, accounts receivables, and future income should be transparent and memorialized.  One of my finance systems automatically transfers money from my payroll account, to my savings account, after first passing through my personal checking account where I receive payroll.

Your systems are works in progress that need frequent maintenance and updating.  Developing law firm systems to meet your individual needs is more appropriate than simply copying what others have done.  I have observed many different systems in client law firms.  Some are quite advanced and high-tech, while others are very simple and require little technology.

The blending lines of legal business

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

When I think back on my first art class as a child, I remember learning about the primary colors – red, yellow and blue. I was amazed that all the other colors came from only three shades. How was it possible that in different quantities, they could create any color across the spectrum, but still be their own individual hues?

In some ways, the primary colors represent the new way to think about the 21st Century legal business model, specifically marketing, public relations and business development. These three practice areas can combine to create a new and vast array of opportunities, while still maintaining their own basic principles. To be a true legal business artist in 2010, it’s necessary to not only know the three primary colors – marketing, PR and business development – but to be a master painter and blend their strategies and tactics to move your law firm forward.

Grab your smock and easel – let’s get artsy.

Have an artist’s vision

Do you think Michelangelo started painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without having a plan or an idea of the end result? Blending marketing, PR and business development is impossible without first having a vision for where you want to go and how you want external audiences to view your practice. Develop and commit yourself to one overarching message that will guide your efforts – a message that will drive your marketing efforts, your communications strategy and your sales tactics. Start by making broad strokes with the vision and mission of your firm and what you value.

Upgrade your basic paintbrush

Integrating technology into the move to blend marketing, PR and business development can take you from crayons to Kandinsky in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Whether you sit across the hall or across the country from a team member, use technology to link up different offices and stay connected. Video conferences via Skype, live documents via Google Docs, and brand communications via a firm blog enable any artist to avoid being isolated from the rest of the blended team.

Make a masterpiece

Communicate the main message and vision, and give the marketing, PR and business development teams the green light on the best way to work together. Each firm is different, so it may be weekly check-ins, a solid internal communications system, or posters around the office with the brand promise on them. Giving the teams ownership of their synergy will truly make your firm a timeless classic.