Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remember the Redundancy

As I embark on filing six motions to reopen cases that were closed without discharge and meditate on a $2000 plus mistake, the one phrase that keeps popping into my head is "remember the redundancy."

Automation lets you do more than most mere humans, but automation without redundancy can be a very bad thing.  My office has been undergoing a lot of changes (almost all for the better) in terms of software, case management, phone management, and employees (I added another attorney, an excellent young gentleman by the name of Abraham O. Smoot, VII (Sieben (z-bahn) for short).

In the process, I let two methods of redundancy (both human/software based, not solely software based redundancy) slip and this resulted in six cases being closed without a discharge.

Just my word of warning, remember your methods of redundancy in your upgrades -- and look for ways to upgrade your redundancy to multiple automatic systems.

I'll be redundant on this topic, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Explain Google Wave

I've read a bunch of different ways in which Google Wave has been explained, but I have had the opportunity to actually demo and use Wave in the real world.  I've introduced personally face to face at least a dozen new users to Wave in the last two weeks -- here is what I've learned.

People love Facebook.  People hate that everyone can see everything on Facebook.  People want their legal information as available as Facebook and as private as email.  Explain Wave as Facebook for only those people you want involved -- that simple -- and almost everyone gets it.  (Oh and throw in that it has the benefit of being real time).

13 Reasons to Use Wave for Case Management

    1. It keeps all the correspondences and important documents in one word searchable location for each case available for everyone involved in the case to see simultaneously (if they have an internet connection.) 2. Easy to make templates. 3. Correspondence can be limited to the desired participants -- and no one else. 4. Playback feature for monitoring, fixing errors, security and being a snoopy boss. (I've even thought of circumstances where it could be compelling evidence in a courtroom, i.e. Here is what happened, step by step Your Honor . . .) 5. Tags can serve as flags for items that need to be done. 6. Search probably needs a benefit line of its own, since you can search in numerous ways:
    a. Traditional Word Search
    b. By Tag
    c. Within a group
    d. By participant
    e. By Colored Folder
    f. The above allows for searching for different waves, but you can also do a word search inside of the wave you are working in.
    7. Can't be deleted -- work really can't be lost. 8. The format is completely open. It can be adapted to fit whatever any particular office needs to aid in their workflow. You can participate in a wave with another attorney or office and structure the wave to fit whatever your particular needs are. Organization and structure is left to the participants to create. 9. Gadgets that can be added to help structure things the way you want. (e.g. a countdown clock). More can be added or created depending on need and ingenuity. 10. It eliminates long email strings, since the correspondence is all contained in one location. For this reason, we've adopted a policy in my office that we set up a different wave for each case. Search makes it easy to find and access quickly. 11. Everyone that has access to the wave can see exactly what progress has been made on the case and what still needs to be done. 12. You can create private communications inside the wave itself, limiting who can view a particular discussion. 13. Adding participants and documents to a wave is as simple as a drag and drop or for the email inclined, using the paperclip attachment above. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I Use to Manage My Practice

I was following The Lawyerist blog and there was a post today on What I use to Manage My Practice.

I've  included my response below, but wanted to add a couple of thoughts.  If I go back twenty years to when I started practicing there is only one piece of software I still use -- WordPerfect.  I'm going to have a hard time letting that go, but I can tell that it is on its way out, despite my efforts at resuscitation.

Also, Everything search is phenomenal.  In the office I limited to office files, which makes it even more speedy.

Calendar:  I am in the middle -- as we speak --  of the shift from TimeMatters to Google Calendar and Apps.  I've found TimeMatters' alleged robustness and flexibility was actually significant unnecessary data input in disguise.  My staff spent more time keeping the data clean than doing productive work.

Project Management:  I looked at BaseCamp and decided not to use it.  I had been using TimeMatters for project management.  My practice is mostly consumer bankruptcy work, so there is a uniformity to each case that lends itself to templates and repetition.  I've found that I can use Google Wave for my case management within my office.  It allows for collaboration with my staff and all anyone needs is a web browser, like BaseCamp.  I'd recommend it for smaller projects or repetitive ones.

Tasks/to-dos:  GoogleWave, TeuxDeux

Contacts: BestCase Bankruptcy Software and GoogleWave.  Using Google Wave solved my contact issue, since we set up a separate Wave for each case with all of the office participating in the wave and the initial wave contains all of the contact information.

We are also using Google Voice to text and call our clients.

E-mail: Gmail and more recently, GoogleWave

Word processing / document creation:  WordPerfect (too busy to change all the merges), BestCase Bankruptcy, occasionally Google Docs and MicroSoft Office

PDF creation: AdobeAcrobat that came with my Fujitsu ScanSnap

Timekeeping & billing: Flat fee, so timekeeping and billing aren't critical.

Bookkeeping / accounting: QuickBooks

Backup: Carbonite and TapeBackUp  (We use DropBox, but for transferring large files, not backup.)

Project Management:  I looked at BaseCamp and decided not to use it.  I had been using TimeMatters for project management.  My practice is mostly consumer bankruptcy work, so there is a uniformity to each case that lends itself to templates and repetition.  I've found that I can use Google Wave for my case management within my office.  It allows for collaboration with my staff and all anyone needs is a web bro

Monday, July 19, 2010

Google Wave Templates

I was a little bit slow on the uptake in figuring out how to make templates in Google Wave and a simple process took me almost two months to figure out.

Simple process, but you can only use one blip for your template.

1.  Create the template in a new wave.
2.  Select the participants in the template.

3.  Put in the necessary tags (more on tags later, but they are critical to project and case management).

4.  Save it in a Template folder.
5.  Select the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the blip -- Copy Message to a New Wave

6.  The template is copied into a new wave, ready for use.

As I've been using Google Wave in my office it has become clear that the most effective method for case management has been to set up a separate wave for each case.  I'll discuss that more in later posts.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Behind the Times

Google Scholar for Legal Research

How did I miss this?  This is 8 months old, but it is huge.  What about Google Scholar Apps for the Android?
Things are changing so fast it is amazingly hard to keep up.

Also a Google Wave on Google Scholar adding research capabilities.

Still Trying to Embed a Wave

Friday, July 2, 2010

Embedding a Wave

I'm trying to embed the Wave on the Blog and it isn't working.  The crazy thing is that in about ten minutes I had my own Automate Law web page and embedded wave on Google Sites (which I didn't even know existed until about ten minutes ago, so here is the link to the Wave. Works on Google Sites like a charm -- not sure why I can't get it to work on Blogger yet.

Thoughts anyone?

Google Wave Uses for Case Management

I was reading The Complete Guide to Google Wave and was still in the first chapter when I was struck by the fact that Google Wave is suffering from a complete lack of understanding of what Google Wave does. The email and document collaboration analogies are inaccurate. This is information management and in a very important aspect for attorneys -- information control.

The book bemoans the fact that Wave is hard to explain, in part because attempts compare the Wave to email and document collaboration are short sighted and ignore the power of the technology.

Let me address the common complaints about Wave cited by Trapani and Pash and explain why these complaints don't (or shouldn't) apply to non-Luddite lawyers.

1. Conversation-as-document is a whole new paradigm with no existing precedent. Anyone who has spent time with Law Practice Management software (TimeMatters, Abacus, Clio, Rocketmatter, etc.) knows that the entire point of these programs is to turn your conversations into documents (data) that are easily searchable and easily referenced.

2. Conversation trees, or non-linear message threads are chaotic. Almost all legal work and litigation, while having its linear qualities, breaks off into separate issues requiring non-linear actions, all of which must be resolved. For example, in my practice, I can have an objection from a mortgage company, an objection from the IRS, documents I need from my client and an objection from the Chapter 13 Trustee. Each objection or document request requires a non-linear message thread. Yes, it is chaotic and as a lawyer I'm constantly attempting to corral all those threads into some coherency.

3. Document versioning is foreign (to non-programmers). Lawyers are constantly concerned about documenting how things take place. A lot of time is spent so that the information is available to reconstruct the past. Having something like the Wave that does it automatically -- lawyer science fiction.

4. Wave isn't done yet, so it has gaping holes of missing functionality. Anyone who thinks Wave is a "Segway for email" is stuck in technological la-la land and doesn't even understand the real world implications of Wave technology. Wave has nothing to do with email. Don't think of Wave as email or document collaboration --that is like looking closely at the front tires of a dragster and deciding that it looks like a Segway. Properly utilized, a single Wave for an attorney can easily become something every lawyer is familiar with -- a case file, but it is a case file that can contain every document, every conversation, every message, every correspondence -- all in one place.

Sure, Wave has some missing functionality, the biggest one right now is the ability to document without cutting and pasting conversations or phone calls to individuals outside the Wave, but compared to a paper file or the work intensive data entry efforts in legal case management software, using the Wave for case management is lightning quick (and when you charge by the hour and you only have so many hours, faster is better). And what case management software do you have that is Google-word searchable?

This post originated in a public Wave that I intend to use (and hopefully incorporate into this blog) for public comment and input on developing Google Wave for -- to use a lawyer word -- 'utilization' in a legal practice. I look forward to your comments and thoughts.