Legal Tech by the Numbers

As we bid adieu to tips, sites, and other good stuff curated from this year’s ABA TECHSHOW, some interesting numbers for you – courtesy of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.

Who is Using the Cloud and Who is Using Technology in the Courtroom?

  • 50% increase YOY (year over year) in use of cloud services. @CaseyHall
  • 58% of lawyers use Dropbox #ABATECHSHOW stats. @paperlesschase
  • 40 percent of solos use cloud services. @rocketmatter
  • In 2013, 34% of attorneys use iPads in the courtroom, up more than 20% in one year. @pegeenturner

eFiling is Here

Security

  • Only 13% survey respondents use whole disk encryption for device security. 25% use remote data wiping. @RealSheree
  • Bonus tip from yours truly: lawyers would be well-advised to tighten up security promptly to protect information subject to HIPAA.

Social Media Engagement

  • … Almost 80% of firms now using Social Media. @CaseyHall_
  • 72.3% of all atty-social media stats are unverifiable. “@Westlaw: 39% of firm blogs result in clients or referrals.” @victormedina
  • 70% of lawyers use LinkedIn #ABATECHSHOW stats. @ernieattorney
  • 22.6 percent of law firms have no social media presence. @rocketmatter
  • 20% of lawyers responding to survey use twitter/microblogging. @Westlaw

To Blog or Not to Blog

  • 39% of firm blogs result in clients or referrals. @Westlaw
  • Surprised to see that only 27% of law firms are blogging yet 39% of those said the blog had resulted in clients-survey. @RealSheree
  • My two cents: Why aren’t you blogging!  Adding frequently updated content causes search engines to crawl your Web site more often and will improve your listing in search results.  Check out this oldie but goodie post, 5 Ways to Increase Your Visibility on the Web.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

 

You’re Sold on the Cloud, Now What?

Good question! Fortunately, we can glean a lot of good ideas from the 2014 ABA TECHSHOW:

Security, Ethics, and Questions to Ponder

  • Snoops, Thieves, and Idiots – The Weak Links in Cloud Storage via @betabeat – @JackSmithIV RT @VIIVOkey
  • Securing client info. Reasonable safeguards for different type of data depending on circumstances. @LtdPI RT @Westlaw (Using Oregon’s standard – your duty of reasonable care to protect confidential client information will flux based on the circumstances.)
  • If you are storing client data in the cloud, do you inform your client? @Westlaw (Yes: incorporate appropriate language into your fee agreement/engagement letter.)
  • 18 states have issued opinions related to #cloud computing or similar technology. @Westlaw (Here is the low-down on Oregon’s opinion.)
  • Uptime and data security are a crucial element of a #cloud provider’s standards. Learn more @Cetrom
  • Great tip to switch cloud data storage providers! @LeeRosen: Discourse: The Cloud Wars are On. @pegeenturner
  • Takeaway from cloud session #ABATECHSHOW: continuing requirement to stay informed on cloud tech. @Westlaw (From Oregon’s opinion:  “As technology advances, the third-party vendor’s protective measures may become less secure or obsolete over time.  Accordingly, Lawyer may be required to reevaluate the protective measures used by the third party vendor to safeguard the client materials.”)

New Features in Popular Cloud Products Clio and Net Documents

Resources

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

Technology Update: Office 365 – Free CLE

untitledOn March 4, 2014 the OSB Professional Liability Fund will offer Technology Update: Office 365. This FREE seminar will provide an overview of Office 365, a cloud-based productivity service hosted by Microsoft.  Office 365 includes Microsoft Office applications that work with other services including e-mail, Web conferencing, and document sharing.  The program will include live demos and a question-and-answer period.

Date:               Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Check-in:         8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Program:         9:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Location:         Oregon State Bar Center – Columbia Rooms

Presenter
Lesly Kenney, Technology Trainer
Savvy Training & Consulting, Inc.

Free Giveaway
Savvy Training & Consulting will be giving away one FREE full-license copy of Office 2013 Professional Plus during the program.

MCLE Credits
2.50 General/Practical Skills MCLE credits are pending. Due to the timing of this seminar, notification of CLE credits will be sent out after the seminar.

Registration Fee
There is no cost to attend this program.

How to Register
To register for this seminar, please e-mail your name and bar number to
DeAnna Shields at deannas@osbplf.org.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Monday, March 3, 2014.  Space is limited.

Coping with Gmail Outages

Many lawyers rely on Gmail and Google Calendar as part of their practice management routine.  But what happens when Google experiences an outage, data corruption, or data loss?

According to Business Insider, Google’s own redundant backups ensure that you will eventually reclaim all your data.  You can rely on this or implement your own recovery plan. (Hint: implement your own plan.)

Here’s how to get started:

Establish a Backup Routine

In this older post, Lifehacker offers five simple ways to backup Gmail.  You’ll find some additional suggestions here. Since Hotmail is no more, swap out Outlook.com as a replacement solution.

Follow Google’s Post-Outage Advice14 - 1

After the recent Gmail debacle, Google sent the following message to all users:

Deleted Forever?

In my personal Gmail account, I didn’t experience messages being moved to Trash or Spam.  Instead, old messages that were “deleted forever” reappeared in Trash.

According to Google: “If you’ve deleted a message permanently by clicking Delete Forever in your Spam or Trash, you won’t be able to recover the message using the Gmail interface.”  Translation: You can’t recover it, but Google can.  Here is some further advice from Gmail help:

“In the past, users have reported that they are missing all of their messages as a result of unauthorized access. If your account was compromised* and you would like us to investigate whether recovery is possible, please first complete this process to secure your account and then file a report.

If you’ve moved a message to Trash, by clicking Delete, but it’s been fewer than 30 days and you haven’t permanently deleted it, follow these steps to put it back in your inbox:

  1. Sign in to Gmail.
  2. Click Trash along the left side of any Gmail page. (If you don’t see Trash along the left side of your Gmail page, go to the Labels tab in Settings, then click the show link next to the Trash label.)
  3. Locate the message you’d like to move to your inbox, and check the box next to the sender’s name.
  4. Click Move to Inbox.
Have your messages gone missing? Click here to start investigating.”
*Presumably Google would also honor this process following an e-mail outage.
Best Practices
One of the ways you can “backup” Gmail is to download messages to your Desktop E-mail Client (Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail).  But why not take it a step further?  Make your Desktop E-mail Client your primary method of interacting with messages.  Last year, I published two articles in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin on how to properly document client e-mail as part of the client’s file.  The first article focused on e-mail missteps; the follow-up on the mechanics of electronically filing e-mail.  Here is what I said about Web e-mail options like Gmail:
I find it ironic that lawyers who are leery of cloud computing don’t give their Outlook.com, Gmail, or Yahoo! accounts a second thought. When you leave e-mail on a web server, your confidential client data is not entirely under your control… If your provider’s server is down, or you can’t get on the Internet, then you can’t access your client information. Additionally, reliance on cloud solutions for e-mail may raise security and privacy concerns. Macs and PCs both ship with an e-mail application. Set it up to download your web mail. Doing so is absolutely free since you are using a program preloaded on your computer. Go to your web mail’s help page and search for instructions on how to download web mail to your specific program. For Google, log in to Gmail, click on Help, and click on POP under “Other Ways to Access Gmail.” Google offers instructions for setting up Apple Mail, Outlook Express, Outlook 2002-2010, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, the iPhone and other mail programs.

Google Calendar is Not Immune to Problems

Google Calendar isn’t immune to problems either.  When Gmail goes down, Google Calendar is likely to follow, which is what happened during the recent outage.  Google Calendar can also be a source of spam or scams.

Setting that aside, Google Calendar plays well with others.  So set it up to sync with your phone, tablet, or built-in desktop calendaring program.  If you establish a backup routine for Gmail, include Google Calendar.  For example, Backupify will capture all data from Google Apps.

All Rights Reserved 2014

Beverly Michaelis

 

 

What Lawyers Can Learn from the Yahoo Email Hack

Yahoo, the second largest email service worldwide, reported a security breach last untitledweek which exposed personal information from sent email folders.

The Associated Press reports:

Yahoo Inc. said in a blog post on its breach that “The information sought in the attack seems to be the names and email addresses from the affected accounts’ most recent sent emails.”

That could mean hackers were looking for additional email addresses to send spam or scam messages.  By grabbing real names from those sent folders, hackers could try to make bogus messages appear more legitimate to recipients.

If you correspond with friends, family, clients, or colleagues who use Yahoo’s mail service, scrutinize incoming e-mail carefully to avoid phishing scams. 

This breach has another takeaway for lawyers – you are only as secure as your third party vendors.  The Yahoo and Target breaches were both the result of third-party vendor hacks.  In the case of Yahoo, the information was collected from a third-party database.  In the Target hack, credentials were stolen from a third party vendor.

Lawyers should take this to heart when evaluating their own cyber liability and security – specifically with regard to HIPAA compliance.  If your servers are hosted in the cloud, or you use cloud-based practice management, accounting, or backup solutions, inquire into the security procedures of your vendors.  Remember that encryption is your friend.  All data stored in the cloud should be encrypted – minimally by your vendor.  Better yet: go the extra mile.  Seek out cloud providers who permit you to add your own third party encryption, like Viivo or TrueCrypt, so that you (and only you) hold the final encryption key.

All Rights Reserved [2014]

Beverly Michaelis

The 7 Rules of Using Dropbox

Dropbox - what could be new?  With the announcement of a new API last month, someimages believe it may become an alternative for iCloud.  For the rest of us, Dropbox simply remains the incredibly popular file sharing and collaboration tool.

But before you dive in, or if you’re already swimming in the Dropbox pool, use some common sense.  Follow these 7 rules of using Dropbox securely and without regret:

  1. Get educated about the Cloud.
  2. Read and understand your state’s ethics opinion.
  3. Know the difference between free, pro, and business accountsFree account users have a limited 30 day archive.  Pro and Business Users can add Packrat to recover any file “as far back in time as you like.”
  4. Before sharing folders or links, review Dropbox help and learn how to unshare a file or remove a member from your business account.
  5. Establish strong user names and passwords unique to the Dropbox site.
  6. Understand Dropbox security and privacy policies …
  7. But add your own “client side” encryption to fully protect files.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis (2013)

Demandforce – Appointment Reminder Solution for Lawyers?

My first experience with Intuit’s Demandforce came in the form of a text message from my vet’s office. I received a reminder about an appointment and was prompted to confirm. I remember thinking: this is pretty neat! Veterinary staff later confirmed that clients universally appreciated the appointment reminders generated by this service. (Some did not care for the social campaign piece and opted out.)

This made me wonder: should lawyers use an automated appointment reminder service like Demandforce? Professional services are certainly targeted on the Demandforce site… but what about confidentiality?

  • Demandforce retains log files
  • They may disclose information in response to a subpoena or legal request:
    Demandforce may disclose, access, or report personal information when we believe, in good faith, we’re required to do so by law or to protect our legal rights. We may also do this in connection with an investigation into a suspected violation involving a Terms of Service, fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that may be illegal or expose us to legal liability. For example, we may be required to disclose personal information to cooperate with regulators or law enforcement authorities or to comply with a court order, subpoena, search warrant, or law enforcement request.
  • Encryption and site intrusion detection software is used to protect sensitive information
  • Consumers (your clients) are given an opt-out with each communication
  • Suggestions, ideas, enhancement requests, feedback, recommendations (collectively, Feedback) or other information provided by the Customer or any other party relating to the Service belong to Demandforce.
  • The customer (lawyer using the service) retains all right, title and interest to any and all patient or customer data including consumer review data captured by the … system … subject to Demandforce’s right to use such Customer Data to provide the Service to Customer. (Paragraph 3, Terms & Conditions)
  • Demandforce does not own any Customer Data, information or material that you submit to the Service in the course of using the Service. (Paragraph 5, Terms & Conditions)
  • For medical professionals – Demandforce is HIPAA compliant
  • Personal customer information (information belonging to the lawyers using the service) may be sold by Demandforce. Customers will be asked if they would “like to stop receiving promotional information following any change of control.”

Evaluating Third Party/Cloud-Based Services

Can a lawyer in Oregon use a cloud-based service? Yes – provided the lawyer follows the parameters of Opinion 188. How do you know if a cloud service is appropriate for your confidential client information?

  1. Review the Terms of Service, Terms of Use, or Terms & Conditions
  2. Review the Privacy Policy
  3. Review the Security Policy
  4. Fully investigate the vendor following the guidelines suggested by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center
  5. Ask questions: Who is my vendor? How will my data be stored and where? Who can access my data? Who owns the data I upload? What happens if the cloud provider goes out of business? For a great discussion, see Evaluating Cloud-Computing Providers.
  6. Get client permission. Add a provision to your fee agreement/engagement letter allowing you to send cloud-generated appointment reminders. This is also an opportunity to address communication by unencrypted e-mail, storing client data in the cloud, or use of a client portal.

All Rights Reserved (2013) Beverly Michaelis

Recovering Deleted Dropbox Files

File sharing and online collaboration is the driving force of Dropbox.  It does a stellar job in this area, but like all tools, remains subject to the human factor.  What if you, your staff, or someone with whom you are sharing a Dropbox folder accidentally deletes a file?  Most everyone has had this experience on their personal computer, so it’s bound to happen sooner or later in the cloud.

If you notice a file has been deleted and less than 30 days have passed, you can easily recover the file on the Dropbox Web site.  Here are the steps, as explained in the Dropbox Help Center:

Restore Dropbox files

If more than 30 days have elapsed, you are out of luck unless you have a Dropbox Pro or Dropbox for Teams account.  Both include Packrat which “captures unlimited snapshots of your files,  allowing you to recover any file as far back in time as you like.”  Dropbox Pro and Dropbox for Teams users may also be able to restore a file from the hidden cache on their computer.  (Instructions are provided for Windows OS.  Contact Dropbox if you are using a different system.)  Dropbox recommends trying the restore steps described on their Help page first.)

Take Aways

1. Backup.  I can’t say that enough times.  See How to Backup Your Computer on the PLF Web site for a thorough discussion on the subject.  Select Practice Aids and Forms > Technology.

2. Train.  Make sure everyone you add to your Dropbox account understands how it works.  I’m writing this post because my husband and I had a personal experience with a family member who mistakenly deleted some shared files.  We successfully restored the files on the Dropbox Web site (and had a backups, just in case).  The family member deleted files after she received an e-mail message warning her that her Dropbox folder was full.  At the time our shared Dropbox folder was at about 50% capacity.  She had one item in her personal Dropbox folder.  Whether this was an error by Dropbox or malicious spam, we don’t know.  After the family member deleted the Dropbox files she also deleted the e-mail.

3. Share thoughtfully as all users are not equal.  However, if you follow the other two take-aways (backup and train) sharing is far less risky.

Copyright 2013 Beverly Michaelis

Filing Client E-Mail

Three years ago I conducted a twtpoll asking for feedback on how law firms file client e-mail.  I wanted to know:

  • Who files the e-mail in your office – lawyers or staff?
  • How is it filed – electronically or in paper form?

The results were mixed.  Here are some of the comments I received:

  • “Attorneys are supposed to file (e-mails) in Time Matters, but they end up in folders in Outlook, junking up the e-mail memory.”
  • “Lawyer (solo) files e-mail in Clients’ Outlook folders.”
  • “We use Gmail … and use search to find (messages).”
  • “We label e-mails with appropriate matter/client name in Gmail and archive or backup as needed.”
  • “E-mails are printed and placed in the client’s file.”

These answers illustrate four common problems:

  • Law firms using Web mail are not filing client e-mail on their local hard drive or server.
  • Lawyers are treating Outlook and Gmail folders as a filing cabinet for e-mail.
  • No one is really addressing the issue of who should be filing client e-mail (if filed electronically).
  • Gasp!  Some people are still printing e-mail!

Three years later, I would love to report: problem solved!  But firms continue to struggle with this task.  Therefore, here is a reprise of my original post with additional suggestions on how to properly process and retain client e-mail.  (Spoiler: Keeping it in your inbox is not the answer.)

E-Mail Must Be Properly Filed

E-mail should be segregated by client and saved electronically in the same network or local folder where Pleadings, Correspondence, Research, etc. are stored.  Create a specific subfolder within the client’s main folder, or include e-mail in Correspondence.  Use inbox organizers, filing assistants, and other techniques to make the process easier.

Storing e-mail with other client documents allows you to have a complete electronic record that everyone in the firm can access.  When e-mail sits in your inbox, no one else working on the case can see it, and no one else will know what is going on.   As you accumulate more and more messages, your inbox becomes bloated.  Merely archiving or backing up e-mail is not an ideal solution for several reasons:

  1. E-mails may be archived in their original HTML format which typically consumes more space than e-mails preserved as .txt  or .pdf files.
  2. Attachments may or may not be captured by archiving.
  3. The archive may reside in the cloud – not the end of the world, but the whole idea here is to maintain a local copy of your client e-mail communications.
  4. If you need e-mails pertaining to a particular client, you will have to restore the entire archive or backup.  This is time-consuming, space-consuming, and will involve work on your part to sort, search, and identify the specific messages for which you are looking.

Decide Who Should File Messages

Solos with No Staff

If you are a solo practitioner with no staff, you will be filing your own e-mail.  I recommend the “file as you go” approach.  As you receive or send client e-mail, save it immediately into the client’s electronic folder on your hard drive or server and delete the copy in your inbox.  If this gives you pause, then create client folders in your e-mail program as a temporary holding place.  Let me repeat that:  temporary holding place.  I understand many attorneys like to leave e-mail in their e-mail program because they find it easier to work with.  I can live with that. For a time. But at some point you should create a routine to move e-mail messages out of your e-mail folders into the client’s electronic folder on your computer.  There are many ways to do this easily and efficiently.

Solos with Staff; Law Firms

If you have staff, or are in a firm, you have other choices.

Option 1:  Forward e-mail to your secretary or assistant for electronic filing

Pros:  Forwarding e-mail means you stay in control.  Private or confidential firm e-mails remain in your inbox.  Only client e-mail is forwarded, with the benefit of keeping your staff person in the communication loop.

Cons:  You remain in control of your inbox.  If you aren’t good about forwarding messages, it defeats the purpose of this approach.  In addition, your IT Department may not appreciate such a scheme.  Every time you forward an e-mail, three copies exist:  the original that hit your inbox, the copy you forwarded, and the forwarded message received by your secretary or assistant.  Unless you are diligent about deleting the first two, your firm will be storing all three.

Option 2:  Give your secretary or assistant full access to your inbox

Pros:  If you give staff access, the e-mail will get filed.  Staff and others will be in the communication loop.  If you don’t want to be bothered with filing your own e-mail or forwarding it, this may be the approach for you.

Cons:  Staff will have to wade through a lot of messages to tackle this task.  Firms who choose this option must refrain from sending sensitive information to attorneys via e-mail.  As an alternative, confidential documents such as employee evaluations or law firm financial statements can be posted in a secure place on the server accessible only to those who have permission rights.

No matter which approach you use, here are some additional tips to make the process go more smoothly:

Train Staff

Make sure staff understand their role in filing e-mail – whether they do so directly from your inbox, or upon receipt when you forward messages.  If the “people” part of this process fails, you may end up with no record of your electronic correspondence.

Keep Personal E-Mail Out Of Your Business Account

Many lawyers and staff are already overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail they must process.  Slogging through personal e-mail in addition to business e-mail makes it more difficult to find critical, time-sensitive messages.

Keep personal e-mail personal.  Doing so will save space on your business server, protect your privacy at work, and prevent business e-mail from bouncing back to the sender because your inbox is full of personal messages.

Zap the Spam

Use a spam filter to keep the garbage out of your inbox.  Postini, MailWasher, POPFile, Spamfence, Spamihilator, and K9 are all good products.  (Remember to check your quarantine summaries daily in case your spam filter is holding back a legitimate message.)

Take Back Your Inbox by Unsubscribing

If you order software or products online, you have probably acquired e-mail subscriptions you don’t want or need.  Sure, you can delete these messages from your work e-mail – just as you delete spam – but wouldn’t it be better if you never saw the messages at all?  The truth is that deleting e-mail means reading e-mail – or at least skimming through your inbox.  Talk about a time waster!  Get serious about unsubscribing!  “Constant contact” updates and broadcast e-mail product announcements have Unsubscribe links – usually at the bottom of the e-mail message.  Look for the link and click to get off these lists.  As you shop online in the future, use your personal e-mail (not your business e-mail) for purchases.  (Or better yet, set up a separate free e-mail account used exclusively for online shopping.)  The goal is to reduce your business e-mail to only those messages that relate to your law practice.

Don’t  Use (Outlook) Rules to “File” Client E-Mail

Don’t get me wrong.  Rules definitely serve a purpose.  I use rules (based on domain name) to direct Listserv messages to designated folders.  You can use rules to copy and forward all e-mail coming from a court domain to your assistant so he or she is copied on court notices.   What doesn’t work is relying on rules to “file” client e-mail.  Even if you were willing to suffer the tedium of creating a rule based on each client’s e-mail address, client’s don’t always use the same account to communicate with their lawyers.  And of course, trying to base a rule on a subject line is impossible.  How many times have you received (or sent) an e-mail with NO subject line?  Or continued an e-mail thread based on a subject line that ran its course?  Rules require consistency to work properly, and subjects lines don’t offer that security.  In addition, Rules created while you are connected to your office Network typically don’t run when using Outlook Web Access or similar remote access apps.

Get Your E-Mail Off the Web

I find it ironic that folks who are leery of cloud computing (SaaS) don’t give their Hotmail, GMail, or Yahoo!  accounts a second thought.

When you leave e-mail on a Web server, your confidential client data is not entirely under your control.  If your provider’s server is down, or you can’t get on the Internet, you can’t get to your information.  Macs and PCs both ship with e-mail programs.   Poke around.  I guarantee a preloaded program is available on your computer.  Set it up to download your Web mail.  This doesn’t cost you a dime.  Go to your Web mail’s Help page and search for instructions on how to download Web mail to your specific program.  For Google, log in to Gmail, click on Help, and click on POP under “Other Ways to Access Gmail.”  Google offers instructions for setting up Apple Mail, Outlook Express, Outlook 2002, 2003, and 2007, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, the iPhone, and other mail clients.

Once you are downloading e-mail to a local program on your computer, you can save it, print it to PDF, or at least archive it locally (my least preferred method of saving e-mail – see the issues discussed above).  Remember:  the idea is to sort e-mail by client, get it out of your inbox, and into the client’s file on your network or local hard drive.

If you absolutely, positively, cannot be persuaded to download your Web mail, then I strongly recommend you print messages to PDF.  If you don’t own and can’t afford Adobe Acrobat, then download a free PDF writer.   As you open and read each Web mail message, simply “print” it to your PDF printer and save it on your hard drive or server in the client’s electronic folder.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2012

Postscript

I’m proud to say I took my own advice this past summer.  After “doing as I say,” I cut incoming e-mails in half.