Failure to Check Spam Folder Leads to Missed Deadline

Court notices delivered via email are a known point of vulnerability for law firms: failure to timely check messages, accidental deletion of court notices, or haphazard review of spam folders.

Now The Researching Paralegal reports on the latest variation of this theme.

A trial court clerk in Florida served an order by email awarding a significant amount of attorney fees to the prevailing party (appellee).  The opponent/appellant claimed it did not receive the order, resulting in its failure to file an appeal.  What happened? The opponent/appellant’s email system automatically deleted the court’s email as spam.

The opponent/appellant asked the court to vacate the original order on the grounds of excusable neglect.  The trial court declined and Florida’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Researching Paralegal cites these factors:

First, the review of the court clerk’s email logs confirmed that the email with the court’s order was served and received by the law firm’s server. Second, the law firm’s email configuration made it impossible to determine whether the firm’s server received the email. Third, the law firm’s former IT specialist’s advice against this configuration flaw was deliberately rejected by the law firm because its alternative cost more money.

The trial court concluded the law firm made a conscious decision to use a defective email configuration merely to save money, which was not “excusable neglect.”

Another nail in the coffin was testimony by the appellee’s attorney. His firm assigned a paralegal to check the court’s website every three weeks to safeguard that his firm would not miss any orders or deadlines.  The court held that the appellant had a duty to check the court’s electronic docket.

Emerald Coast Utilities Authority v. Bear Marcus Pointe, LLCCase No. 1D15-5714, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist (2017).

What can we learn from Emerald Coast?

  1. Whitelist important email. Set your spam or junk email filters to allow receipt of messages from approved senders or domains. Include courts, administrative agencies, key clients, opposing counsel, and any other senders whose email you don’t want to miss.
  2. Review spam quarantine summaries daily. Aggressive spam filters will occasionally block senders and domains you have added to your whitelist if the filter finds content in the email to be possible spam.  Addresses and domains may also change, causing new notices to be marked as spam.
  3. Don’t forget to look at your junk mail folder, another place where legitimate messages can land.
  4. Check online court dockets. Weekly will work for most firms; others may need to login daily, depending on case volume.
  5. Listen to your IT staff.  Here, the IT specialist argued against automatic deletion of junk and spam messages and recommended hiring a third-party vendor to handle spam filtering.  He also suggested investing in an online backup system, another idea rejected by the law firm.  Following either of these recommendations may have prevented the firm from missing the deadline.

A few more takeaways

  • It should be clear, but just in case:  everyone needs a backup system. If you can’t afford the cost of an online subscription, buy an external hard drive on sale and use the backup utility built into your operating system.  For backup protocols and additional backup options, see How to Backup Your Computer from the Professional Liability Fund (Practice Management > Forms > Technology).
  • Can’t afford a third-party vendor for spam filtering or another IT task?  Understandable, but the work itself still needs to get done. This may mean you, your partner, or your staff.  Technology is a tool, not a substitute for human judgment.

There are some other interesting twists and turns in Emerald Coast.  For examplethe law firm also refused to join in on a motion for a case management conference – a step that would have likely revealed the existence of the attorney fee award.  Additionally, automatic deletion of spam wasn’t the only email configuration procedure that caused problems for this office.  If you have a few moments, read the full opinion here.

Beverly Michaelis – All Rights Reserved 2017

Best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes – 2017 ABA TECHSHOW

Yesterday I shared the Best in Mobile Apps for IOS and Android from the 2017 ABA TECHSHOW.  Today: the Best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes with ideas on:

  • Blockchain Technology [A direct payment solution that bypasses banks]
  • Document and Workflow Automation
  • Document Indexing
  • Email
  • eSignatures
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Hardware Hacks
  • Lawyer Websites
  • Meeting Apps
  • Microsoft Office
  • Mirroring Content from Mobile Devices
  • Mobile Scanners
  • Note Taking
  • Online Collaboration
  • Online Intake
  • Organization
  • Outsourcing Tasks
  • Practice Management Software
  • Productivity
  • Proofreading
  • Saving Money
  • Scheduling Assistants
  • Security
  • Social Media Management
  • Slide Presentations
  • Spam
  • Timekeeping
  • Travel
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Web Conferencing

For a recap, click here or on the image below.

13 Resources for Protecting Data – Courtesy of the FTC

With data breaches in the news on an almost daily basis, how do you protect your law firm’s assets? What advice should you give to your clients?

The FTC offers a list of 13 data security resources to help you get started. From mobile apps to digital copiers and shutting down spam, there is a ton of good advice to be culled from these posts and PDFs: Continue reading

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 Best of ABA TECHSHOW 2011

Whew!  ABA TECHSHOW is in the record books for another year.  I enjoyed the Keynote and EXPO – always good to see product demonstrations and meet new vendors. And the weather was a welcome break for those of us who have yet to experience spring.  As always, there is much to enjoy in Chicago by way of art, architecture, and museums. All In all, it was a perfect Silver Jubilee. 

If you were following along, I live-tweeted these sessions:

Just click the links above to access my “Live Tweet Review” from each of these presentations – sans the hash tags, Twitter feed clutter, and occasional typo.

Hey – I sent well over 100 tweets using my iPhone with 3GS, not bad for a butterfingers – and you got to stalk (I mean follow) my whereabouts on Foursquare.

But what I really want to do now is share my favorite tips from 60 x 2, otherwise known as “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” and “60 Tips in 60 Minutes.”  So without further ado:

All Things iPad

  • Take notes on your iPad using a handwriting app. Try PenUltimate ($1.99) – choose from three different pens, writes in color, uses photorealistic paper, saves notes to PDF.
  • Looking for a killer iPad case and keyboard?  I know I want this leather iPad case from Brookstone with Bluetooth keyboard.
  • Want to view, edit, and sign PDFs on your iPad?  Try the ultra-cool SignMyPad for $3.99.  Visiting a client outside the office?  Capture signatures on fee agreements with SignMyPad, and then e-mail the signed contract to yourself and the client.
  • Just bought the new iPad2 and still learning how to use it?  Subscribe by e-mail or RSS to Josh Barrett’s Tablet Legal blog and learn all there is to know.  (Another favorite of mine: iPhone J.D.)

Automate Certified Mailings

Can the Spam

  • Everybody hates spam (junk e-mail that is, not the food).  One way to nip it in the bud is to use a free, disposable e-mail address.  Give it to vendors or use it for sites that require an e-mail registration when you don’t wish to provide your “real” e-mail address.  Spamgourmet was recommended at TECHSHOW.  Alternatively, if you want to keep your “real” e-mail address, but mask it from spammers try scr.im.  This free tool keeps your e-mail address invisible and stops spam bots dead in their tracks.

Collaboration

  • Looking for a way to better collaborate with in-house counsel?  It’s Legal OnRamp to the rescue.
  • Start using Web conferencing services like GoToMeeting (or my favorite: WebEx which supports audio over VoIP, toll, or toll-free numbers, video conferencing, desktop sharing, recording and collaboration over a secure connection.)  For what purpose you ask?  There are many, but one suggested at TECHSHOW – use Web conferencing to meet with your experts before they put pen to paper and write reports.

Download Online Videos

  • Download online videos to store locally on your computer with Zamzar or KeepVid. (Without these services, you can’t pull content down from You Tube.)

eFax Services

  • Want fax capability without the hassle and expense of maintaining a separate machine?  Use an eFax service like EasyLink or Fax2Mail. Send and receive faxes as PDFs, view faxes as e-mail attachments, accessible anywhere, keep your personal fax number if desired. (My suggestion:  Compare eFax services here.)

eSignatures

File Sharing and Sending

  • Dropbox was all over TECHSHOW.  It was mentioned at almost every session I attended.  If you’ve been living in an undisclosed location recently and don’t know what all the hub-bub is, here’s the scoop: Dropbox is a simple, easy, FAST way to store, sync, and share files online.  Initial storage of 2GB is free.  Get more by referring others or buy storage to suit your needs.  I’m a huge fan.  I have Dropbox on three desktops, my iPhone, and my husband’s iPad. In fact, I just used it to transfer and share my TECHSHOW photos taken with my iPhone.  A great way to collaborate, work on documents remotely or share documents with clients and others.  Want another file sharing option?  Try Ge.tt or SkyDrive.
  • If you don’t want to use Dropbox and wish to send a large file directly to a client, then you’ll need a file sharing service.  Consider the tried-and-true YouSendIt.  (I recommend you also take a look at the newer kid on the block: SendNow from Adobe.)
  • Use FileGenius to offer clients file transfer capability on your Web site without setting up an Extranet.  Sign up for the service, set up a link on your Web site, then send the link to your clients.  All they have to do is click and enter a username and password.  Once clients are on your site, they can view and transfer documents.  Starts at $159/month for 20GB of file space.  Free trial available.

Humor

Keeping Up with Technology

Legal Research, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Articles and More

Marketing and Web Sites

  • Ever wish there was You Tube for the legal profession?  There is.  It’s called Legal Tube.
  • Analyze your Web site at no charge with Webmastercoffee and fix what doesn’t work.

Miscellaneous Good Stuff

Money

Online Annotation and Bookmarking

Outlook

  • Are you an Outlook user?  Do you ever wish you could streamline saving attachments to your hard drive?  Try EZDetach from Techhit. This Outlook addin allows you to save attachments from one or more messages (or folders) with a single mouse click.  $39.95 with 30 day risk-free trial.  While you’re at the Techhit site, be sure to take a look at their entire suite of Outlook utilities.  I couldn’t live without SimplyFile, the intelligent filing assistant.  And unlike other Outlook addins, I haven’t experienced major program conflicts requiring me to abandon or uninstall the product.
  • Wish you could bypass the Recycle Bin and permanently delete Outlook e-mail?  Use <Shift> <Delete.> 

PDF

Presentations: Beyond PowerPoint

  • Need to create a presentation?  No one wants to “read” your slides.  Ditch the text and get creative with tips and video blog posts from Presentation Zen.
  • Maybe you’ve got the “Zen” of it down, but you’re looking for a cloud-based presentation tool?  If so, try 280 Slides or Prezi.

Scheduling

Security

Social Networking

  • Social networking eating up too much of your time?  Turn it off for a while with Anti-Social (Mac users only) or Freedom (supports Windows and Mac.)
  • What are they saying about you in the cloud?  What did you post?  Find out using social search engine greplin.  (Register for free, premium accounts available.)

Smart Tricks

Summarize and Examine Text

  • Condense, examine, combine, and summarize text quickly with Topicmarks.  Sort of a “crib notes” for readers.  Receive your summary by e-mail.  Easily set parameters to control summary length.  Accounts are free.

Travel

  • Tired of Expedia or Orbitz? Get hip with Hipmunk.  Rated as “fantastic and surprisingly usable” by Lifehacker. Hipmunk has a helpful blog with travel tips, news, and insights as well as a “Pedestrian’s Guide to the USA.”  If you’re an iPhone user, check out the app.
  • If you are a frequent traveler, then you also may want to know about MedjetAssist – medical evacuation from (almost) anywhere in the world.  Recommended this year and previously at TECHSHOW, it can literally be a lifesaver.

 Voice to E-Mail and Call Recording

Windows 7

  • Help! Windows 7 no longer shows me the full path of the current folder and file in the address bar! No worries, the solution is just a mouse click away!  Right click any part of the address bar and choose Edit Address.  Copy and paste the path as desired.
  • Still trying to wrap your head around the many features of Windows 7?  PC World offers Windows 7: A Complete Survival Guide.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been to the ABA TECHSHOW before, I hope you come sometime.  Save the date for next year: March 29-31, 2012.  Register early and take advantage of the Professional Liability Fund program promoter code to save money.  (Details will be posted on the News page of our Web site at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012.)  Meanwhile, enjoy this glimpse of Chicago.  Hope to see you there in 2012!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis