Choosing Legal Billing Software

4-30-2013 1-49-03 PMShould time and billing be integrated with your practice management software?  Or are you better off with a stand-alone program?  Before deciding, do your homework.  Here are some useful links and posts:

Software Comparison Charts and Buying Guides

Time and Billing Software Comparison Chart – ABA Legal Technology Resource Center

Buyer’s Guide to Legal Billing Software – Technolawyer

Billing and Practice Management Software Integration

Avoid Mistakes with Time, Billing and Accounting Software

System Considerations: Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, Mobile Timekeeping, Auto Capture

Ten Things You Need to Know About Back-Office Systems – ABA GP/Solo

Options for Mac Lawyers

The Fine Art of Getting Paid on a Mac – ABA Law Practice TODAY

Best Practice Tips

Billing & Collections – ABA Law Practice TODAY

ABCs of Best Billing Practices – ABA Webinar

Finance: Timekeeping by the Numbers – ABA Law Practice Magazine

Stop the Insanity Word Users! Get Snapnumbers Now

If automatic numbering in Microsoft Word drives you nutty, then you need Snapnumbers from the folks at Snapdone.

Snapnumbers is a free Word add-in that allows you to number paragraphs naturally without regard to Word styles or the underlying format of your document.

4-13-2013 9-44-29 AMWhat does this mean?  In the legal profession, we often apply multiple levels of numbering in the same document.  We need the flexibility to move from one numbering scheme to the next and back again without Word’s interference.  We also expect our numbering schemes to remain sequential.  Unfortunately, Word is rarely cooperative with these transitions.  In fact, many users end up numbering documents manually out of frustration.

All of this can be avoided as the folks from Snapdone explain:

Simply type text normally — tabbing, indenting, and formatting as desired —  then when you want to insert a Snapnumber choose Level 1 through Level 9 from the Snapnumbers menu (or use a shortcut keystroke).  [See the examples here.]

The full version of Snapnumbers allows you to easily insert symbols ( ™ © ¶ § and others),  create custom numbering schemes, and build an automated table of contents.

My thoughts?  Download the free version and give it a trial run.  If you like it, the full version at $20 per license is cheap.  While you’re at the Snapdone, be sure to check out TheFormTool,  Snapdone‘s incredibly easy documentation automation for Word.  The basic version is free.  The advanced version is $89.  To learn more about TheFormTool, check out “Using TheFormTool in Your Law Practice” on the PLF Web site > Programs on CD/DVD.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

Washington State Administrative Office of Courts Hacked

The Associated Press is reporting that 160,000 social security numbers were exposed when the Washington State Administrative Office of Courts was hacked in late 2012 or early 2013.

“The breach happened due to vulnerability in an Adobe Systems Inc. software program, ColdFusion, that has since been patched, court officials said. The hack happened sometime after September but wasn’t caught until February…

Mike Keeling, the courts’ information technology operations and maintenance manager, said officials were alerted to the breach by a business on the East Coast that had a similar intrusion.”

Following the breach, new security measures were implemented, including encryption.

Court officials have confirmed that 94 social security numbers were obtained – those affected will be contacted directly. Names and driver’s license numbers may also have been accessed. People who were booked in a city or county jail during specified periods or those who had a DUII, traffic, or a superior court criminal case in Washington may also be affected.

If you believe your information may have been exposed, call 1-800-448-5584 or visit this site.

Read more here.

The Best of TECHSHOW – Lesser Known Social Media Sites

In this “best of” ABA TECHSHOW post I feature the best tips, tricks, and insights for lesser known social media sites.  To get off on the right foot take heed of the following:

Practical Advice for All Social Media Interaction

  • Always present the best public face that you can.
  • Keep all social media accounts updated and refreshed to boost SEO and search engine rankings.
  • Fill out profiles completely, use images, interact respectfully, observe ethical constraints, and be honest.
  • Claim your accounts!  Sites like AVVO create profiles based on publicly available information – better to log on, claim your account, and be certain the information presented is accurate.
  • If you blog, post headlines to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other appropriate sites noted below.  Start a discussion linking back to your post.

Pinterestimages

Pinterest is a visual social network.  Users upload, share, and comment on images pinned to a virtual bulletin board.  A Pinterest page for your firm might include infographics, videos, pictures, and slideshows.  Photos from your blog posts and PowerPoint CLE presentations are just two possible sources of content. Remember to follow other users and link to or repin their content.  When uploading, use keywords and organize your Pinterest boards around specific themes.

Google+images

Facebook remains the big dog in town, but creating a Google+ business page will help boost the SEO of your Web site or blog (in Google’s search engine at least).  Once your page is up, use Google+ communities to reach out and connect to others.  Sort your contacts into Circles (family, friends, clients, colleagues) and tailor your posts to each circle.  Google+ has unlimited linking to other social media profiles, so take advantage of the opportunity to publicize your presence elsewhere on the Web.

Location Based Social Media – Google Places, Waze, and Foursquareimages1

Required: create a Google Business Places account – the more you participate in the Google suite of products the better your visibility on the Web.  Make sure your business listing is easily found on Google.com and Google Maps.

Optional:  consider adding your business location to the GPS-based Waze so clients can find you or create a Foursquare badge to attract clients and offer a “special” for anyone who checks in at your venue.  What is Foursquare?  A free app to “help you and your friends make the most of where you are. When you’re out and about, use Foursquare to share and save the places you visit. And, when you’re looking for inspiration for what to do next, Foursquare will give you personalized recommendations and deals based on where you, your friends, and people with your tastes have been.” Foursquare boasts 30 million users worldwide and offers a merchant platform for businesses.  One option is to create an ad that will appear when a user “checks in” at a nearby location, perhaps a restaurant or coffee shop.

Business Review Sites

Like it or not, clients post reviews of law firms.  One of the most popular review sites is Yelp.  Be proactive and claim your Yelp page to track what clients and others are saying.  Post Yelp badges on your blog or Web site, make announcements on Yelp, and respond to ALL reviews.  Try the free version first.  If you upgrade to the paid version of Yelp it will boost your firm to the top of the list, allowing you to feature a review of your choice.

Slideshare and Flickr – The Forgotten SM Sitesimagesf

Slideshare is a document and presentation sharing site that is poorly utilized, but gets tons of traffic and sharing.  Accounts are free.  Repurpose posts and articles by uploading to Slideshare and linking back to your blog or Web site.

Use Flickr as another means to interact with your network or as a source of images for blog posts.  Check the use or permission level of the image, link back, and always include attribution to the source.

A Final Word about Ethics and SM as Part of YOUR Firm

Tailor social media to your specific practice and the ethical rules in your jurisdiction.  For example, it may not be the best idea to offer clients the opportunity to “check in” on Foursquare at your criminal defense firm.  Start conservatively, use your common sense, and contact your bar’s ethics hotline when in doubt.

Many thanks to Samantha Meinke and Allison Shields for all the great ideas!  These top notch professionals are two of the reasons why you should come to ABA TECHSHOW 2014.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

Create a Cyber Security Plan for Your Law Firm

Cyber attacks on small businesses are in the rise. How can you protect your firm?

If you use WordPress for your Web site or blog, you must read this: Guard Your Blog Against WordPress Attacks.
Next, use this article as a checklist to determine if your firm is secure.
Attend our CLE on May 16: “Protect Your Firm and Your Clients from Scams, Fraud, and Financial Loss.” Learn about risk management techniques, fraud protection services, and cyber liability coverage included in the PLF Excess Plan.