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Friday Tech Tips

Experts Dish Up ABA TECHSHOW Tips & Take-aways

By The Editors

Not everyone could make it to ABA TECHSHOW 2015 last week. So, for this edition of Friday Five+ Tech Tips, we asked law practice technology experts who were on-site — and at the podium — to share a mix of hot tips and take-ways from the annual conference. With an overwhelming number of educational sessions and more than 100 vendors in the expo hall, we’re glad these experts were on the scene to cover the bases.

Heidi Alexander: Perspective and Party Tricks

While no surprise, client confidentiality in the digital age was a prominent topic at this year’s ABA TECHSHOW — with sessions on encrypting data, storing data in the cloud, remediating a breach, using e-signatures and more. Ethics, of course, is yet another piece of this puzzle. While we’ve seen an onslaught of ethics opinions regarding attorney use of technology, during the cloud ethics panel, Michael Downey and David Elkanich put things into perspective to assuage attorney concerns. Their take: It’s not that ethics obligations have changed, rather it’s that the means of providing services has changed (benefiting our firms and clients served). And, as a result, we adapt. I like this view because it represents a forward-thinking mindset and embraces inevitable changes in our industry. 

I was pleased to see many new (some still in beta) products in the expo hall, including CosmoLex (cloud-based practice management), CrowdLaw (legal services crowd-funding), EmpowerLegal (attorney match app), FiscalNote (data analytics), Kahuna Accounting (outsourced bookkeeping) and Legaler (communications platform). 

Lastly, here’s a neat party trick: Grab your phone, download and open the app Cycloramic, and then stand your phone upright on a flat surface. The app spins the phone around snapping shots of everyone and everything in view. At the end, you’ve got a fun-filled panoramic picture. I learned this trick from Reid Trautz, a past ABA TECHSHOW chair.

Heidi S. Alexander (@heidialexander) is a law practice management advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (MassLOMAP), where she advises lawyers on practice management matters and in implementing new technologies. 

Sharon Nelson: Wireless Security and Say-It-Right Sites

Even Andy Perlman and Casey Flaherty, creators of the Legal Technology Audit, listed cybersecurity as the No. 1 subject lawyers and law students need to learn more about. Bringing the threat home, during his mobile security session, my partner (and spouse) John Simek used a “Pineapple 5” to intercept the wireless connections of nearly 50 people in the audience, simulating a man-in-the-middle attack. That shook people up — even if they weren’t connected to the hotel wireless, he was able to intercept their connections.

Another take-away: Your website may be downgraded and harder to find in mobile device searches if it isn’t mobile-friendly. This Washington Post article contains a link to test your website.

And, from the “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” session, here are two very useful sites: The Punctuation Guide (where do those doggone quotation marks belong?) and How to Pronounce Names very handy for our post-“Dick and Jane” world. Just enter the name and no more stress about getting it wrong.

Sharon Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) is nationally known as an expert in digital forensics, information security and information technology, and is  past ABA TECHSHOW Chair and recent Chair of the Virginia State Bar. Sharon and John Simek head Sensei Enterprises, Inc. and were speakers at several ABA TECHSHOW 2015 sessions. 

Carole Levitt: Keeping Searches to Yourself

For those who are more and more concerned with privacy when researching on the Internet, here’s one of my ABA TECHSHOW tips: Consider using It enhances users’ privacy by not storing your search history, IP addresses or user agents, and not passing along your search words to the site you visit when you click on a link in the results list. But, what if you love using all of Google’s advanced search features/instructions (or Bing’s or Yahoo’s)? Well, you can still use them and protect your privacy if you precede your search with what DuckDuckGo calls a “bang,” which is an exclamation point and the first letter of the search engine where you want DuckDuckGo to submit your search. For example, to submit your search to Google and limit your results only to PDFs that have the name “carole levitt” as a phrase, your search would look like this:

!g “carole levitt” filetype:pdf 

Carole Levitt (@CaroleLevitt) is President of Internet For Lawyers. A frequent speaker on topics such as investigative and legal research, Google search, social media research and legal ethics, Carole spoke at the TECHSHOW session “Bingoogleduckyahoo! How to Search for Anything on the Web or Your Desktop and Find It,” a topic she covers in her book “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet.”

Nora Regis: Taming Social Media

One of the coolest things I learned was at the “60 iOS Apps in 60 Seconds” session, presented by Joseph Bahgat, Adriana Linares, Tom Mighell and Jeffrey Richardson. Though many exciting apps were discussed, the one I was most intrigued by was Nuzzel. Many lawyers I speak with say their problem with social media is that it’s overwhelming to stay on top of all the information being shared with you. Nuzzel separates the signal from the noise. Connect Nuzzel to your Facebook or Twitter and it generates a feed of the most popular stories posted or retweeted on your networks from the past 24 hours. (You can vary the time in the settings.) Nuzzel works on a web browser, but the iOS app has a feature that allows you to set alerts based on numbers of shares. You can go beyond your network by looking at what’s most popular for your friends-of-friends. If you find the deluge of social media to be too much, Nuzzel might be just what you need to keep in the loop.

Nora Regis (@NoraRegisCBA) is Trainer & Coordinator, Law Practice Management and Technology, for the Chicago Bar Association. Nora is a former paralegal, specializing in litigation and bankruptcy. Prior to working in legal, she was a technology help desk agent at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dan Pinnington: Excel Power-User Tips

Most of us have Microsoft Excel installed on our computers, but many of us don’t use it, or only use it at a beginner level. Here are two power-user tips most Excel users will find helpful.”

1. Troubleshoot formulas. The incredible power of Excel comes from its ability to do calculations and manipulate your data with formulas. However, sometimes your formulas don’t exactly work the way you want them to. Troubleshooting formulas can be difficult because you can’t see them, unless you edit a single cell. Pressing CTRL+` will double the width of your columns and show you all your formulas (Note: that’s the left single quote, not the right single quote or apostrophe). This keyboard shortcut is a toggle — pressing it again turns the display of formulas off.

2. Extend a series. When doing lists, you will often need to extend a series of values ( e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4 …; A, B, C, D …; or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday …). You can do this manually of course, but no need. Excel can often do it for you automatically. Start by entering the first several items in your series. Next, select all the cells that have series values entered in them.  Now, look for the “fill handle” (it’s the little black square on the lower right of the bottom cell) and drag it down. If Excel recognizes your series, it will extend it out as far as you want. And if you want to get real fancy, you can create custom series by going into Options, Advanced, Edit Custom Lists. This can be helpful if you have custom numbers for things like depositions (e.g., P1, P2, P3 and D1, D2, D3, etc.).

Dan Pinnington (@DanPinnington) is Vice President, Claims Prevention & Stakeholder Relations, at the Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company (LAWPRO), where he helps lawyers avoid malpractice claims. A past ABA TECHSHOW Chair, Dan spoke at “Accelerate Your Practice with Microsoft Excel,” and “Top BlackBerry Apps” at the 2015 conference. 

Catherine Sanders Reach: Three Trends to Take Home

Of all the many things at this year’s conference, these three trends stood out for me:

1. Practice management tech integration or separation. First we saw an explosion of new cloud-based practice management programs. Then we saw on-premise products offered as cloud versions (some SaaS, some private host). This year, we saw a tale of two development plans. Some practice management companies are building out additional functionality by adding integration with existing products like QuickBooks, Microsoft Outlook, Google Apps, NetDocuments, Dropbox and Office 365. Others, like CosmoLex, MerusCase, Zola and ActionStep, are choosing to try to build “all-in-one” practice management systems that incorporate built-in email, calendaring, document management, time, billing, trust accounting and even business accounting. With all information held in one database, the ability to run reports may be improved to include more metrics and measurements, a topic discussed in the session “Five Law Firm Management Reports You Should be Running and Why.”

2. Mobile security challenges. Several of the “Mobile” track sessions addressed the difficulties of distributed security for mobile devices brought into the firm under a BYOD policy. During the “Pocket Confidential” program, John Simek noted that MDM (mobile device management) applications are increasing in price as they increase in demand. However, in “I’m a Mac AND I’m a PC AND I’m an Android,” our session on keeping multiple devices and operating systems in sync, we noted that simply purchasing the business version of applications like Dropbox or Google Apps creates an administrative role — the ability to remotely wipe or disconnect the service or account for a specific user and device. Additionally, Microsoft is now building in MDM for Office 365’s commercial plans at no extra cost. And stand-alone products like LookOut for Enterprise Mobile Threat Protection can help protect a firm through antivirus, force compliance with security policies and reduce damages from theft or loss. Ultimately, if your firm is doing nothing to secure and control firm data accessed via personal mobile devices, this should be a priority.

3. Be like Rocky. I don’t think Rocky sat back a few days before his bout with Drago and quit training. Likewise lawyers continue to hone their craft and take continuing legal education (by hook or by crook) to keep up with changes and challenges in their substantive practice areas. However, many lawyers have not invested in keeping their basic technology skills up to speed and get taken out by the one-two punch of inefficiency and ignorance. ABA TECHSHOW 2015 was all about getting training — whether hearing about Casey Flaherty’s associate tech audit, or being in the standing-room-only crowds in the “How To” or “Microsoft Office” tracks. But you don’t have to wait for ABA TECHSHOW to roll around again for training. Check with your state and local bar associations for lawyer-specific training or sign up for a service like, or do it for free through Microsoft or the product vendor. And don’t forget to invest in training your support staff!

Catherine Sanders Reach (@CatherineReach) is Director, Law Practice Management and Technology, for the Chicago Bar Association. She was Director of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center for over 10 years. Catherine currently serves on the ABA TECHSHOW board, and she spoke on several topics at the 2015 conference.

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Categories: Lawyer Apps, Lawyer Tech Tips, Legal Technology, New Products
Originally published April 24, 2015
Last updated November 6, 2019
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