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Friday Five+ Tech Tips

Clean It Up! Tech Tips for Tidying Up Your Practice

By Joan Feldman

That serene screen-saver isn’t fooling anyone. Just one swipe reveals the clutter and chaos that lurks beneath: a winter’s worth of past projects, lists, sticky notes and alerts. Maybe you’re due for a little spring makeover? For this Friday Five+ installment, we asked our practice management dream team for their best tips on tidying up.

It doesn’t always require a software overhaul or a shiny new device to freshen your outlook. Small, simple measures can make a big difference in clearing up irritants that slow you down and stress you out.

Reid Trautz: Stress-Reducing Adjustments

It’s spring, so give your office a stress-reducing makeover with these kinds of changes:

  • Poor lighting, especially fluorescent ceiling fixtures, can cause eyestrain and contribute to fatigue. Add warm task lighting to desks and reduce the glare on your computer monitors from those ceiling lights.
  • Another source of stress is tension and pain caused by bad chairs with poor back support. Invest in properly fitted chairs.
  • An improperly positioned monitor and keyboard can strain neck, eyes and hands, so look for office ergonomic articles online and make the recommended furniture adjustments.
  • Noisy offices can inhibit concentration and add to stress and frustration. What furniture configurations or office policies can you make to reduce distractions?
  • Finally, consider adding a water cooler in the office to promote increased water consumption and better health.

Making any or all of these changes can result in a happier, healthier and more productive staff. 

Reid F. Trautz (@RTrautz) is Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a blogger on the issues of business process improvement, technology, legal ethics and effective practice management. Reid is a past ABA TECHSHOW chair.

Heidi Alexander: Don’t Type It More Than Once

Here in New England, springtime means it’s finally time to get outdoors and enjoy some much-needed sun. Of course, to do so, you’ll need to create more time. No, you won’t need Stephen Hawking for this. Indeed, you can probably make this happen with software that you already own.

Every time you type a phrase or clause more than once, save it. Then, drop it into a program such as Microsoft Quick Parts (Word and Outlook) (see this handy video), and each time you need to use that phrase or clause, just click a button and Microsoft drops it in wherever you select. If you want to get a little fancier, try out a simple product like TextExpander (for Mac); Windows companion products include PhraseExpress, Breevy and ActiveWords, which allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for frequently used text and images. For example, you could use the program to create a shortcut for your firm’s address, pleading caption, response to a potential client, contract language, and even labeling files in a consistent manner. Here’s how attorney David Sparks does it with TextExpander.

If you’re not sure, try out TextExpander and use its “Statistics” to find out just how much time you have saved as a result of using the product!

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. She is author of the new ABA book “Evernote as a Practice Tool.”

Sharon Nelson: Dump Unsupported Software!

NOT dumping unsupported software is one of the greatest cybersecurity risks your law office can face. Once software is unsupported, it no longer receives security updates. This was one of the many factors in the recent Panama Papers law firm breach. Many states have adopted the American Bar Association’s new language (or some variant) for Model Rules 1.1 (Competence) and 1.6 (Confidentiality). Even those that haven’t will tell you that competence with technology is implicit in Rule 1.1.

Yet lawyers continue to use programs that have gone out of support, notoriously Windows XP. The point is — you should make a list of all software you use and verify that it is still being supported. If it is not, upgrade. “But it still works …” or “I’m afraid of the learning curve of new software” are not acceptable excuses.

Your ethical duties include keeping your data confidential. You must take “reasonable” steps to protect that data — and this sure as heck is one of those steps. Use of unsupported software is an engraved invitation to hackers and a per se ethics violation.

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) is President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and information security firm. She has written or co-authored a number of books, including “The 2008-2015 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides” and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” She blogs at Ride the Lightning and co-produces the podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology.

Deborah Savadra: Declutter Your Inbox via Outlook

A big part of email inbox management is keeping it decluttered. Easier said than done, I know, but here’s a thought: Does that email that landed in your inbox need to stay an email? If someone asks you for something, turn it into a task. If it’s a deadline or other date you need to remember, move it to your calendar. Only leave things in your inbox that still need initial attention.

In Microsoft Outlook, this is a one-click operation. Simply drag the email over to your Tasks or Calendar area. Once you’ve transformed that email, you can pull the original out of your inbox, knowing the information it contained is safely stored in a more appropriate form elsewhere.

Deborah Savadra (@legalofficeguru) is editor and chief blogger at Legal Office Guru, which specializes in helping legal professionals learn Microsoft Office features like Flagging Outlook Emails for follow-up and Using Outlook Rules & Alerts. Follow her on Twitter @legalofficeguru.

Dustin Cole: Don’t Spend More Money to Gain a Tech Advantage

Start with whatever software you have — whether that’s Clio, MyCase, or even Microsoft Outlook and Office — and learn to use it better. Most people use 25% or less of their software’s capabilities. So go online and learn what more you can do with it. Need to clean up your marketing contacts and referral sources? Outlook can be a decent contact manager. Need to handle initial inquiry calls better? Customize your Clio contact screen to facilitate call handling. Have trouble staying organized? Learn to use the task list capabilities of Outlook or your case management software.

Better tech doesn’t always need to be the latest software gadget. It can be as close as your old familiar programs.

Dustin Cole is a business and marketing advisor for law firms with nearly 25 years of practical experience helping lawyers build better, more profitable and more satisfying businesses. He has presented practice management, marketing and risk management CLE programs for more than 70 bar associations, as well as hundreds of firms.

For more tech tips from the pros, click here.

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Joan Hamby Feldman Joan Feldman

Joan Feldman is Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of Attorney at Work, publishing “one really good idea every day” since 2011. She has created and steered myriad leading practice management and trade publications, including the ABA’s Law Practice magazine where she served as managing editor for a dozen years. Joan is a Fellow and served as a Trustee of the College of Law Practice Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and @JoanHFeldman.

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