Below are links to the tools and tips we covered during our session on “New Tech Tools.” These are tools that we find to be useful (often “unbelievably useful”!), reliable, and (usually) not too hard to learn.
- Typography for Lawyers, Matthew Butterick (a must-have book for any lawyer who creates briefs or any written material) – $25 on Amazon.
- GoToMeeting – online meetings or webinars made easy. We use this service to do our webinars, but Ernie Svenson has used it for years to hold online meetings with clients when there is a need to discuss documents or otherwise talk about things that need to be shown as well as talked about. Free 30 trial, and the basic level of service is $49/month for up to 25 attendees, and attendees can participate by Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad or Android device. Presenter can show his webcam, and record the session as well.
- Join.me – online meetings like GoToMeeting. Free version allows more people to participate. Not as fully developed as GoToMeeting, but works well and many lawyers are using the free version and finding no need to get a paid version.
- Evernote – An online information storage service that lets you create text notes, or upload PDFs, or really any kind of file. The free version will help you on your way to making your personal life paperless. The premium version is $45/year and lets you upload a lot more information, and makes everything text searchable. They have a business plan now too, which costs $10/user per month. The ability to search all of your data using an iPad, iPhone, or Android device is awe-inspiring. Evernote does for your personal information what Google does for the web. It’s truly amazing, and you should at least try it for a month or two. Almost everyone who tries it loves it, and then quickly can’t live without it.
- Ruby Receptionists – When people call Ernie Svenson’s business line they are greeted by a very nice receptionist, one who’s received extensive training on telephone etiquette—probably more training than many large firm receptionists receive. The only days that his receptionist isn’t available to answer his phone are major holidays. There is no “sick day” issue. If it’s not a major holiday his phones are answered professionally every time someone calls. Ernie explained in greater detail the benefits of this service in his blog post Little Big Firm. The service is free to try for 14 days, and if you sign up by clicking on this link they will waive the $95 set up fee.
- LA Solo & Small Firm Email Listserve group – SoloSmallFirmsLouisiana@yahoogroups.com – not just for solo & small firm lawyers, but that’s who mostly uses it. A great place to get some feedback, or ask for advice. Especially helpful for new lawyers, but there are plenty of useful tips for experienced lawyers as well.
- BoxCryptor – free encryption on your Mac or PC that works with Dropbox. Store secure files in a special folder in Dropbox, and then access them from your iPad, at which point you can move them to other applications if you want. The free version is supposedly only for non-commercial use so be guided accordingly.
- HelloFax is an online service that lets you send & receive faxes, sign documents, and fill out forms—all from your computer. You can use it for free if you have no more than 5 fax pages per month, otherwise the basic plan is $7.99/month for 500 fax pages per month, with your own dedicated number. Also allows you to easily sign documents without having to print them out to sign them. Check out the videos and you’ll get a better sense of all that this great service does. Integrates with Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive.
- CrashPlan – a great backup service (and software) that offers an easy way to back up and store personal, business and enterprise data securely – offsite, onsite and online in the cloud. Has a 30 day free trial. The “family plan” costs $6/month and allows you to back up mass amounts of data on as many as 10 computers for one flat price. Best part is you get a weekly email report on the status of each computer’s backup state.
- FindLegalForms.com – lots of good, basic legal forms which you will obviously have to tweak. But they provide a great place to start from, and a crude checklist of elements that you might want to consider including in various documents you might have to draft. They give you 4 versions: Word file, WordPerfect, RTF, and PDF.
- Presentation software – PowerPoint or Keynote – The new version of Powerpoint now allows you to embed video directly into your Powerpoint files, which makes it easier to manage presentations with video. Many other useful features in this upgrade. Learn to use presentation software to stage your key documents and visual arguments
- 1Password – The best protection against hackers getting access to all your online services is to have different passwords for each website. A password manager lets you do this in a way that’s easy and convenient. There are other password managers, such as Roboform and LastPass. Pick one and learn to use it. If you don’t you’ll regret it when someone hacks into one of your online services and then gains access to all your other ones because you use the same password for everything.
- Text-expansion software – for Windows users this would be programs like Activewords or Breevy; for Mac-users it would be TextExpander. You can try them for free and if you keep at it you’ll learn to leverage an incredibly useful piece of technology. One that has a vast capacity to make you more efficient, and seem super-human, without making much effort other than learning to use the tool.
- Speech Recognition software – the leading program here is Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows) or Dragon Dictate (Mac). If you aren’t a great typist these programs will make you faster than the fastest secretary you’ve ever worked with. The catch is you have to learn to use the software, and there is some commitment in doing that. Even if you already type fast, these programs can make you vastly more efficient.
- Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanners – the comparison matrix lists the pros and cons of the 3 versions of scanner; but we strongly recommend that lawyers get the 1500 model because: (1) it’s robust and reliable, and (2) it comes with a full version of Adobe Acrobat. Make sure to get the Mac version if you want the version of Acrobat for Apple computers.
- Ironkey secure 2GB USB drive – (~$100) The USB key allows secure file storage, and is not accessible without the password. Ironkey also uses its own secure network for anonymous browsing via the included browser. Just click to activate or turn off. You can do all your secure browsing (e.g. shopping, banking, etc.) directly off the Ironkey without concern of storing anything on a local computer. The included password manager is a fantastic way to track all your passwords and autofill the form on the sites. Think of it as a Swiss Army Knife of secure tools
- PaperlessChase.com – great tech tips for lawyers, both on an online blog and in a free monthly newsletter. Also great free videos (only have to pay if you want CLE credit in Louisiana).
- PDF for Lawyers.com – Ernie Svenson’s website devoted to covering the use of PDFs in the practice of law. He’s working on a new book for the ABA that will incorporate many of the tips he’s posted on this website, and as online videos.
- Bridge Call Dialer for iPhone ($2.99) – Bridge Call Dialer enables you to join a bridge conference call with only couple of taps. Bridge Call Dialer is designed for the corporate employee, who needs to repeatedly join conferences call. The goal of this app is to handle the case where the user dials into many different calls, making saving and naming a specific sequence, not practical.
- Fastest way to “Print to PDF” on a Mac computer – This explanation by David Sparks has saved lawyers many hours by eliminating several steps when you want to print a document to PDF.
If you appreciate having this kind of information (which is frequently updated) then consider signing up for our monthly email newsletter: it’s free, and delivered automatically.