Barron Henley, of Affinity Consulting, spoke at ABA TECHSHOW on mastering Microsoft Word (my title, not his). Barron has done similar programs for the OBA before. His program is part great tips and improved efficiency and part voicing all the frustrations we have experienced with Word. You know these, e.g. “How can deleting one word change the font in an entire sentence or paragraph?” Barron’s Answer: Fonts in Word can be tricky. When you think you have changed the font, you may have actually placed one font on top of another. So, when you delete you may delete the font insertion, revealing the original font that was hiding below. If you have a Word document form that has been used for years, there could be dozens of fonts piled on top of each other, especially if it was converted from WordPerfect years ago.

When you are spending more time fighting with formatting (and reformatting) a document than writing the document, here is a pro tip to get you back on track. On the Home tab, in the Font Group, click the Clear All Formatting button. This leaves only the text. Then apply any needed formatting or Style. PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote also have this feature.


I’m back from ABA TECHSHOW 2023 with lots of ideas and inspiration.

Providing Limited Scope Legal Services is one way lawyers can provide legal services more inexpensively. Of course, to be profitable, it is important to make great use of automation to produce the work and online marketing to acquire the clients.

Our OBA MAP Oklahoma Limited Scope Legal Services Resources page is designed to help Oklahoma lawyers better deliver these services in a profitable manner. All forms are sample starting points for Oklahoma lawyers to edit into their own forms. But if you practice in a state that doesn’t have provisions for LSR, our District Court Rule 33 is simple and straightforward. It also addresses many courts’ concerns with limited scope legal services because if there is a problem with one of the documents presented pro se, the responsible lawyer’s name is on the documents so the judge can send the party back to that lawyer in the unlikely event changes need to be made. So this might be a good plan for your jurisdiction to consider as well.

The courthouse can be quite the maze for uninitiated. Remember that the instructions you provide to the pro se litigant as just as important –to them– as the legal documents.

Gavel inside labyrinth maze. 3D rendering

When lawyers leave private practice to take an in-house counsel or government position, they are often asked about the differences in their new roles. Many of them say they are pleased not to have to complete timesheets anymore – it is a relief not to have to look at the day in six-minute increments. As most of you know, I’ve long been a proponent of employing flat fees or task-based billing when possible, particularly when representing consumers. But hourly billing is still used for many types of representation.

Before we get to timesheets, let’s discuss artificial intelligence. Over the last several weeks, an AI drafting program called ChatGPT from OpenAI has been garnering a lot of attention. It offers a conversational interface, so you can have the AI create something for you without understanding anything about how it works. It accepts conversational input and then applies its massive data collection to complete the assignment. OBA Practice Management Advisor Julie Bays asked it to write a short story about law practice management software. The results were amusing and amazing; the story is included in this blog post. Other generative AI tools include DALL-E/Stable Diffusion for image creation and VALL-E for mimicking voice. VALL-E can apparently mimic any voice after hearing a short sample. The implications of that are concerning.

ChatGPT represents a significant step forward for innovation in applying data. But it is a step, not a destination. One lawyer posted on social media that a case cited by ChatGPT in a legal memo apparently did not exist. So this tool should be considered a tool for first drafts rather than final drafts at this point. Developments will continue.

This demonstrates the power of using data. If client information in our law firms only exists on paper, it cannot be a part of any automation – until someone enters the information into a computer.

For lawyers, one area of data use is related to automatic document assembly. Many law firms are dealing with how to better capture and use their data. In the early days of computers in law offices, we first reused data by the process of copying and pasting. You won’t misspell the client’s difficult name when you copy from a document with it correctly spelled. And once someone has properly designed a case style in a litigation matter, everyone will be copying and pasting the style into their pleadings rather than recreating it. But one can make errors using copy and paste.

There are two traditional ways to use automated document assembly. One is the interview method, where the document drafter responds to questions and those answers are used to complete the document. Another method is to have your form set up to import data from a client information database to assemble the document. We are moving closer to the day when the first drafts of many legal documents will be generated by combining client data from the client file with forms and clauses selected by the attorney. Even tools using the interview method ask if you want to save the answers to the questions so that when you get ready to create the next document on the same matter, you won’t have to reenter that data.

What does that have to do with timesheets and hourly billing? First, greater use of document assembly will save lawyers a great deal of time. But given the investment of upgrades, skill and programming invested to accomplish this result as well as the potential liability all lawyers assume to properly represent their clients, hourly billing may not be the best method to charge for those highly automated tasks.

Today, hourly billing is still the standard in many law firms. It is objective. Business clients are accustomed to it. In larger firms, it provides one objective measure of associate attorneys’ progress and value to the firm. Firms have the infrastructure in place to do hourly billing every month. So let’s examine making hourly billing more efficient. 


The primary functions in legal billing are time capture, expense capture and invoicing. It has long been a “truism” of law practice management that lawyers who contemporaneously record their time spent on client matters make more money than those who do not. But is that actually true, or could it be related to other aspects of their behavior? Maybe lawyers who contemporaneously record their time are more disciplined? Of course, many successful contingency fee lawyers never or rarely keep time records. But what is certainly true is that any lawyer who has tried to reconstruct their timekeeping records after a busy week when they “didn’t have time” knows there is a significant likelihood they will omit to capture part of their time.

So the first simple step is to record time contemporaneously, and then at the end of the day check to make certain you have recorded your time before you leave work. It will just take a few moments. Certainly events will sometimes keep you from doing that. Then you either catch up on billing entries the next morning, or you can use a mobile app.

The second and most important step is to only do digital time capture. Time capture and invoicing are a primary feature of all practice management software solutions and often a primary motivation for subscribing to such a solution.

Handwritten billing sheets are a long-standing tradition in law firms. But in today’s world, this practice limits efficiency. As noted, handwritten billing sheets for time capture are not data but represent paper documents that must be processed to create useful data, i.e., billing entries to be included in an invoice. But this data-conversion process is hobbled by the fact that handwriting, particularly hurried handwriting of busy professionals like doctors and lawyers, can sometimes be hard to interpret. So it is necessary to have the timekeeper review all entries after they are included in the invoice to catch any errors. That causes a delay. If that lawyer has a trial or personal emergency at the wrong time, many invoices could be delayed waiting on the lawyer’s proofreading (and if the lawyer does find a correction or edit, the process is restarted for the billing to be edited).

If you want your firm to streamline the billing and invoicing process, it is time to stop using handwritten timesheets. The more quickly bookkeeping receives the time capture in digital format, the more efficient the process will become. So it is best just to begin with timesheets completed digitally. Today, you do not even have to be a great typist to accomplish this. There are several paths to success:

  • Capture your time in your practice management solution’s time capture feature. This is the most efficient way, as you are likely already working in the practice management solution when you finish a task, and the feature locates the data where the invoices will ultimately be prepared. If you quickly want to review all billing entries on a single client file, this can be easily done. You should also do some research to determine what app or other tools your solution provides to do a proper billing entry through your smartphone when you are out of the office and not returning that day.
  • Invest in a stand-alone time capture and billing tool to do this. I generally caution against this approach because a subscription to these tools is not much cheaper than a subscription to practice management software, which includes these tools and much, much more. But it may be right for some smaller firms.
  • Build some simple digital timesheets. These can be either Word documents with tables included that look like a paper, carbonless billing sheet or in Excel. Make sure your computer has a quality microphone. Save the billing sheet template on the timekeeper’s desktop and make the document read only. That way, every time the timesheet template is opened, the user will be forced to save it with a name like “[date] timesheet from JAC.” Then even a non-typing lawyer can use the built-in dictation features of Word or Excel to quickly dictate their time entries. It is probably also useful to note that Windows Key + H provides speech recognition dictation in other Windows data entry locations. At the end of each billing day, the document should be forwarded to the billing department.

This may not sound like a game changer, but taking the handwritten entries out of the billing process will save time and reduce errors.


Thinking of your billing entries as data and determining how to get rid of almost all handwritten timesheets shouldn’t be a major project. (Of course, I’m not the one who has to convince the senior partner to change.) But it will pay dividends in the months ahead.

With the speech recognition tools included in Microsoft Word and Windows, even a non-typing lawyer can contemporaneously record their time into a document to send to the billing department. Less time spent deciphering handwriting is a win for everyone.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — February, 2023 — Vol. 94, No. 2

Our new Digital Edge podcast, The Ten Most Popular Office 365 Tips For Lawyers, is really quite special.  I can almost guarantee you will learn at least one thing that you will immediately start to use. Our guest is Danielle DavisRoe, who is a senior consultant at Affinity Consulting Group. She has co-authored legal-specific manuals on Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and Teams and has produced digital courses on Microsoft Word and Outlook. She is knowledgeable and engaging.

One tip that saves you several minutes each day will quickly compensate for the 22 minutes spent listening to this podcast. There is a transcript posted there for those who prefer to read instead of listen. I doubt I’ve said this before, but this may be a good podcast to print out the transcript for reference.

I hope to see you this year at ABA TECHSHOW! The Early Bird deadline for lower registration fees ends Wednesday January 18. If you are an Oklahoma Bar Association member, the OBA Member Discount Code is EP2306 and that will give you a discount equal to the ABA member discount. After attending over 20 years of this event, I can tell you it is a great option for a small- to mid-sized law firm to get a lot of information to plan for the decade ahead. Whether it is using technology for marketing, client management or electronic discovery, there is likely to be a session of CLE taught on the subject and several vendors in the Expo Hall, who would love to visit with you about their solutions.

Presentations scheduled include “Legal Marketing Trends: Where Should You Spend Your Marketing Resources?,” “I Didn’t Know PDFs Could Do That,”  “What’s up with Word,” and “The Future of Law is Hybrid: How to Leverage Videoconferencing Technology in Your Law Practice.” You can review the entire schedule online.

You can also check out our Digital Edge podcast ABA TECHSHOW 2023: An Interview with Co-Chairs Jeannine Lambert and Gyi Tsakalakis for more information.

There is a greater Oklahoma influence this year with two Oklahomans serving on the 12-member planning board, Darla Jackson Director of Mabee Legal Information Center at the University of Tulsa College of Law and Kenton Brice, Interim Director of the Law Library at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

It is Early Bird Deadline time and that means it is time to register for ABA TECHSHOW now.

During the last couple of months of 2022, I taught several CLE programs on ethical issues with lawyers’ use of technology. Password managers are one key to ethical digital security because you can create extremely long passwords no one could guess, and you won’t be tempted to use the same password for many sites, which creates a security weakness. These tools typically make it easier to incorporate multifactor authentication, which provides even greater security.

Several times I was asked the question, “What if hackers breach the password manager? Won’t they have access to all my passwords?” In response, I explained how the passwords are stored in encrypted vaults under a “zero knowledge” scenario. That means the company does not have the password to access your vault, so it can’t be stolen from them. They protect encrypted vaults like the crown jewels. But even if one was stolen from the company, the only way they could access the file was through a brute force attack, trying thousands of possible passwords. This could take a long time – many years.

Even though LastPass reported a breach in August 2022, they assured the public that none of the encrypted vaults were downloaded. They kept up with that story for quite a while. Then, on Dec. 23, they publicly admitted that some vaults were stolen. Naked Security had very detailed coverage in its post “LastPass finally admits: Those crooks who got in? They did steal your password vaults, after all…

What does that mean for LastPass users?

Here’s what Naked Security says:

Back in August 2022, we said this: “If you want to change some or all of your passwords, we’re not going to talk you out of it. [… But] we don’t think you need to change your passwords. (For what it’s worth, neither does LastPass.)”

That was based on LastPass’s assertions not only that backed-up password vaults were encrypted with passwords known only to you, but also that those password vaults weren’t accessed anyway.

Given the change in LastPass’s story based on what it has discovered since then, we now suggest that you change your passwords if you reasonably can.

Note that you need to change the passwords that are stored inside your vault, as well as the master password for the vault itself.

That’s so that even if the crooks do crack your old master password in the future, the stash of password data they will uncover in your old vault will be stale and therefore useless – like a hidden pirate’s chest full of old banknotes that are no longer legal tender.

However, you should change your master password first, before changing any passwords inside the vault, as a way of ensuring that any crooks who may already have figured out your old master password can’t view any of the new passwords in your updated vault. [Emphasis added.]

But as Naked Security noted, some users’ personal information was stolen and can be accessed by the criminals:

Not literally on the night before Christmas, but perilously close to it, LastPass admitted that:

The threat actor copied information from backup that contained basic customer account information and related metadata including company names, end-user names, billing addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, and the IP addresses from which customers were accessing the LastPass service.

Loosely speaking, the crooks now know who you are, where you live, which computers on the internet are yours, and how to contact you electronically.

So if you are a LastPass user, I think you should read the entire Naked Security article, immediately change your master password in LastPass and then, as soon as possible, change the passwords for any accounts with client or financial information, including those where your credit card information has been saved. Then you can make a decision on when and whether to subscribe to a different service.Ultimately, you will want to change every password that was stored in LastPass in 2022. I appreciate that will be time-consuming.

I use 1Password. Some may find this post from Tech Radar of interest: How to export LastPass passwords to 1Password. The data can be exported to a CSV file and then imported to a different manager. You also want to strongly consider implementing 2FA (two factor authentication) using a third party app like Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator.

I won’t recommend LastPass as an appropriate solution any longer. You must trust your password manager and the way LastPass responded to the breach has revealed this isn’t a company many of us can afford to trust any longer.

I recently attended a presentation by Judge Scott Schlegel, a Louisiana district judge who has received many accolades for his forward-thinking views about the use of technology to improve court

Bits and Splits | #504886721 |

proceedings, including text message reminders about appearances and calendars available online for scheduling. He asked those attending the program if they had missed a dentist appointment in the last year. He said, “I know you haven’t because one thing about dentists is they are relentless about sending text message reminders about appointments.”

His practice of text message reminders to those with scheduled court appearances in his court has not only reduced the number of failures to appear in his court, but many self-represented parties have thanked him profusely, admitting they forgot to write down the date or had it on the wrong day. Considering the possible ramifications of a failure to appear, such as being arrested or losing a court case by default, it seems this judge’s experiment is a success. So why is this not the standard practice in law firms the way it is in dentist offices?

Text message reminders are not always necessary. If you represent a corporation, it is perhaps not as important to provide a text reminder to the assistant general counsel you are working with for either a court appearance or an in-office appointment. They will enter the date in Outlook and get a reminder from that. But if you practice “people law,” this practice is likely good for your law business and your clients. Like no-shows are a financial hit for dentists, particularly when it is a new patient, the same is true for lawyers. In private practice, we always tried to call those who missed and reschedule. But some never did, whether it was from the embarrassment of missing an appointment or hiring another lawyer in the interim, we never knew. 


Years ago, a lawyer told me about her method of texting to and from the law office. She bought an inexpensive burner phone and purchased more time for the phone as needed. She left it plugged in at the receptionist’s desk, and it was used to text the clients. It would be a simple task for the receptionist to set aside 10 or 15 minutes each day to text out a few reminders for the next day; if anyone responded with a question or canceled, that employee is best set up to reschedule the appointment or get answers to questions.

A slightly more expensive version of that would be to buy a smartphone with a limited data plan. That would allow you to easily set it up to have the text come from the law firm’s name and do more sophisticated tasks since many burner phones lack a camera or web browser. You could send a Maps link to the law office or a photo for example.

Either approach is simple and understandable as long as your receptionist is not overwhelmed with current duties. However, both are done manually and require a staff person’s or lawyer’s time to accomplish the task. That is not terrible, but a person may forget or run out of time. Still, if you improve from never texting reminders about appointments or appearances to doing it 90% of the time, it is a huge improvement that should result in fewer missed appointments.


In today’s law offices, anytime you can automate a process, it is usually worth it unless the cost is prohibitive. In January 2020, I wrote about an Oklahoma lawyer who loved the app Apptoto:

“Apptoto will integrate with calendar software. That is, if we type an appointment into my calendar and type the client’s cellphone number into the appointment, Apptoto will automatically pick up the meeting and will send a text to the client before the appointment, notifying them of the appointment. My secretary likes this feature because she can type an appointment into the calendar and does not have to take any extra steps. I learned to use Apptoto, and then all I had to do was tell the secretary to continue entering appointments into the calendar. I chose Apptoto precisely for this reason [my secretary was concerned she’d have to do additional work and learn to use a new tool]. My secretary was very happy and thanked me for the choice I made.

“I can program Apptoto to send the client a text at a specified time before the meeting. I’ve programmed my account to send each client two texts – one at 6 p.m. the day before the appointment and another text one hour before the appointment. I can also program Apptoto to send a client a different text message based on what I type into the appointment. For example, if I type ‘appt’ into my calendar, Apptoto will send the client a text saying, “Appt Reminder: You have an appointment with [my name] today at 4:30 p.m.” If I type ‘Court Appearance’ into my calendar, Apptoto will send the client a text saying, “This is [my name]. You have a court hearing tomorrow on Monday, Nov. 4, at 1:30 p.m.” The text will also ask the client to press 1 to confirm that they received the message.

“Apptoto has set me up with a local number … If the client texts a response, the client’s text response will be emailed to me. If the client calls the number, the call will go to my landline.”

When that lawyer gave me his glowing recommendation, Apptoto was $29 per month. Now the starter pack is $39 per month, which will link to three calendars and provide 400 auto messages (essentially each text or email).

Capterra lists its top 10 text message reminder tools. Apptoto is included. The highest rated is DoctorConnect, and several others have names linked to the medical profession. DoctorConnect’s minimum pricing is $210 per month. It is HIPAA compliant and has advanced features, including payment reminders. 


We can all appreciate that the most affordable technology tool is the one we already have and are paying for but haven’t yet utilized or discovered. The developers of practice management software tools appreciate the increasing use of text messages and that these client communications need to be saved in the client file like other communications. Many practice management solutions are now incorporating their own text message solution or integrating with preferred text message providers. Here are a few examples.

MyCase has integrated two-way text messaging so a lawyer can send a client text messages within the MyCase desktop or mobile app and have those conversations retained within the client case file. A subscription to the Pro plan is required at $59 per user per month.

PracticePanther launched its text messaging application within its practice management solution in late 2021. It’s only available with the Business plan at $89 a month. They offer time capture, event and reminder alerts using a unique phone number for your firm that they will assign when you set up text messaging within their product.

Clio provides text messaging, including calendar notifications and reminders, in its Essentials plan. So if you are a Clio EasyStart base-level subscriber, it might make sense to upgrade to Essentials for an additional $30 per user per month. If you are already a Clio Essentials subscriber and haven’t set up text reminders yet, it is time to start implementing it since you already “own” the tool.

CosmoLex and Rocket Matter, both now owned by ProfitSolv, do not offer texting tools within their practice management solution. However, both have a CRM (customer relationship management) suite of tools that includes the feature and many others. CosmoLex’s CRM is an extra $147 per month for up to three users. Rocket Matter’s CRM package is an additional $49 per user per month.

Smokeball has a Communicate feature that allows communications with clients via email or text, but the preferred method is via the free downloadable app.

Using a texting tool provided by your practice management solution has the benefit of making sure all text messages are automatically saved to the client file. These tools are often much easier to use and save you time since they work within the PMS.[i] 


To complete this roundup, I wanted to take a deeper dive into a messaging platform with more CRM features. I noted on Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog that Case Status, “a mobile client portal and messaging platform with a primary focus on consumer law firms, has raised $5 million in a Series B round, bringing its total funding to over $11 million.” We met with some of Case Status’s employees to review its features over Zoom, and it has some impressive features.

While Case Status is referred to as a mobile client portal, I’ve always looked at portals as something that could provide the client access to digital copies of the documents in their file that they could log in to view at any time. I would describe Case Status as a powerful client communication hub. I also suspect many of their subscribers also subscribe to a practice management system.

But that is not intended to diminish what Case Status does. While I won’t quote too much from their marketing material, one customer recently participated in a Case Status webinar where the law firm reported a 30% reduction in phone calls from current clients, a 90% reduction in emails from current clients and a triple-digit percentage increase in Google reviews. Those results would draw a lot of attention in most law firms.

The law firm communicates with its clients through a mobile app that is branded for the law firm. The client installs the “Johnson and Smith, Lawyers” app on their mobile device. If your firm has wanted to have a law firm app, here it is. All Case Status communications are sent to the client’s mobile phone, but the features go beyond simple texting. There is a client dashboard full of client information, including a progress bar showing how the status of their matter is proceeding. One very interesting aspect of this is the ability to place a client matter “on hold.” When the client logs in to the app, the display is colored red and shows the message, “Your matter is on hold.” It also indicates what the client needs to do to take the matter off hold, e.g., complete a client information sheet, schedule a doctor’s appointment or make the retainer payment.

The service recognizes a phone set to a language other than English and translates the messages to that language. It also has mass messaging capabilities, so you can easily wish all your clients a happy holiday or let them know the office will be temporarily closed for bad weather. There is no payment app included, but you can easily use the service to send a client a payment link via messaging.

Another interesting feature is having clients give the firm a rating at various stages in the representation. If the client is giving a higher rating, like a Net Promoter Score of 9 or 10, they are encouraged to write a Google review. Conversely, if you are receiving an NPS of 5, the app prompts the law firm to contact the client to see what can be done. But this is not cheap. While a price quote from the company depends on several factors, a subscription for unlimited users in a small law firm could cost $350-$400 a month. 


In my opinion, the best practice today with text reminders is to be a bit relentless:

  • Send a reminder message a few minutes to an hour after the appointment is scheduled to help a client or potential client get it on their calendar,
  • Then send another reminder 48 hours before the appointment (or hearing) and
  • A final reminder on the morning of the consultation.

As you can see, there are several methods of text message interaction with your clients available with today’s tools. Whatever tool you employ, I believe you will see a financial benefit from confirming your clients’ appointments, particularly when it is a new client deciding whether to retain the firm. Cutting down on “no-show” appointments or failure to appear in court situations is in everyone’s best interest, clients and lawyers alike.


[i] Some of the rates noted above require an annual prepayment.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — January, 2023 — Vol. 94, No. 1

This is a guest post by Oklahoma Bar Association Practice Management Advisor Julie Bays.

By Julie Bays

If you spent much time online, you have recently seen several creative writing assignments completed by artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT. One can also describe images and an image will be created with online AI tools such as Many types of AI tools are available today that can help with a wide range of tasks. These examples include machine learning algorithms: These algorithms can analyze data, identify patterns, and make predictions or decisions. Natural language processing tools like ChatGPT help with tasks such as language translation, text summarization, and sentiment analysis. Computer vision tools can be used for tasks such as image and video analysis, object recognition, and facial recognition. And virtual assistants can help with tasks such as scheduling, customer service, and answering questions.

One thing we have learned reading these AI-produced essays is that grading middle school papers or college essays will be more challenging for teachers. I thought I would ask ChatGPT to write a short story about law practice management software. Here is the result:

ChatGPT – Sure! Here is a story about practice management software for lawyers:

Once upon a time, in a busy law firm, there was a group of lawyers who were struggling to keep track of their cases, deadlines, and clients. They were constantly missing important dates, losing documents, and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work they had to manage.

One day, the senior partner of the firm decided that enough was enough. He knew that there had to be a better way to handle the many tasks that lawyers deal with on a daily basis. After some research, he discovered practice management software specifically designed for law firms.

The senior partner quickly implemented the software into the firm’s workflow, and the lawyers were amazed at how much easier their job became. With the software, they were able to easily track their cases and deadlines, store and access important documents, and communicate with clients more efficiently.

The software also helped the firm save time and money by automating many of the tedious and time-consuming tasks that lawyers often have to deal with. The lawyers were able to focus more on the actual work of practicing law and less on administrative tasks.

As a result, the law firm became more productive and successful, and the lawyers were able to provide better service to their clients. The senior partner was grateful for the practice management software and knew that it had been a crucial investment for the firm’s future.

I often consult with lawyers setting up a new solo or small firm practice. There are many items involved in setting up any new business – like applying for an employer identification number (EIN) and Working on computerdeciding on the best entity to use for the business.

But there are also aspects of setting up a law practice unique to the legal profession. The OBA Management Assistance Program maintains the Opening Your Law Practice resource at and provides a day-long seminar on the subject twice a year.

As the end of the year nears, law firms are making their plans for the next year. So in this month’s column, I decided to outline the technology tools a lawyer should consider when opening a new solo and small firm practice.


There are many different ways to assess cost for law firm technology purchases. First, there is the initial purchase price. Today that is more associated with hardware than software, as most software tools have evolved to subscription-based models.

Everyone in the office needs a computer for their workstation. If there is more than one person in the office, the computers must be networked. Setting up a network for a small firm is not a hard task. But since it is rarely done, it is better to pay a local computer shop to set it up than try to learn how to do it yourself. That vendor will likely know things about network security you do not. But do enough research to know what you need because, like buying a car, you may be offered additional options.

As for the computers required, you already know whether you are a Mac or PC user, and nothing I write here is likely to change that opinion.

Reception and secretarial workstations are likely best set up with desktop computers. But for the lawyers, I strongly recommend a business-class laptop. Roughly speaking, these will be in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range. It is better to purchase one with Windows 11 Pro pre-installed than Windows 11 Home because Pro has superior security and networking tools, including the hard drive encryption tool BitLocker.

For comparison purposes, I have included a screenshot of a Dell XPS 17 laptop on the Dell website costing just over $2,000. A model just like this, but with Windows Home instead of Pro, costs $50 less. That is not $50 you would want to save. I would never buy a laptop with smaller than a 17-inch monitor, but that is my opinion. I also believe it is best to have at least 16GB of memory. Note the computer in the graphic has 32GB of memory.

The reason a laptop is highly recommended is that sometimes you need to work from different locations, whether you are working from home or on the road. That will go much better if you use the same machine every day and everywhere. Certainly, you can work remotely from a home computer. But for security and hardware reliability, it is best to have a law office computer no one else uses. Remember the “I’m not a cat” lawyer who became internet famous because his daughter had configured the Zoom settings, so he appeared remotely in court via Zoom as a talking cat? For client confidentiality and many other reasons, the laptop serves as a work computer that your family may not use when you bring it home.

When working in the office with your laptop, you will want to be connected to the network and have an additional monitor (or two). So it is best to purchase a port replicator that works with your model so you can quickly and easily connect to the network, the additional monitor, the printer and other peripherals. Old-style “docking stations” that had custom housing that attached to the computer have been replaced with plug-in port replicators.

I continue to be a fan of the Fujitsu ScanSnap line of desktop scanners. The ScanSnap iX1600 is the recommended model. But you can save money by buying the older ScanSnap iX1400.

I have little to say about printers, except that this is where the needs of large firms and solo and small firms differ. A small firm is usually better off buying low-range to mid-range-priced printers and locating them where needed. A large firm may still decide to buy massive printer/scanner combination devices. They have an IT department helping them to get the most from those machines.


Today, most software is sold on a subscription basis, paid annually to get a better rate.

Lawyers process words – a lot. But they sometimes need to use a spreadsheet or prepare a presentation. So the first thing one needs to purchase is a Microsoft 365 subscription. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Microsoft Teams are all included in the Microsoft 365 Apps for business ($8.25 per user, per month with a one-year commitment and auto-renewal) and Microsoft 365 Business Standard ($12.50 per user, per month with a one-year commitment and auto-renewal). Both come with 1TB of secure cloud storage in OneDrive.

Business Standard is recommended. The Business Basic plan is too basic for lawyers with only web-based apps. Those who want enhanced security and data access controls may choose the pricier Business Premium. Teams is an included secure videoconferencing tool that is great for internal communications.

Over the years of serving in this role, I have developed a strong opinion on the next subject.

A solo and small firm lawyer should next subscribe to a practice management software (PMS) solution. Products such as Clio, MyCase, CosmoLex, Rocket Matter and PracticePanther combine most tools needed by law firms into one interface, including time capture, billing and invoicing, digital client files containing all documents, attorney notes, a secure client portal for sharing sensitive material and much more.

I often tell lawyers seeking a billing program to consider just subscribing to a PMS because they contain – among their many features – time and billing (and frankly, the cost is not much greater for the entire PMS package as compared to a good, dedicated billing software). Even if they are not ready to embrace digital client files powered by PMS solutions, it is still better to learn the time-capture and billing tools within the PMS solution so you will not have to change billing programs when you ultimately adopt digital client files, as you likely will.

Even if you put together a combination of time capture, billing, client portals and cloud storage for documents instead of the all-in-one PMS solution, you still might miss one positive aspect of PMS solutions: great tech support included at no extra charge. Their business goal is to keep you as a customer forever. That means they will continue to assist you until your tech support inquiry is answered. And their cloud storage was built from the beginning to provide lawyers with a secure place to store client matters. Protecting lawyers’ confidential information is one of the provider’s most important goals.

Client portals are simple to use when the documents are already in your digital client file. If all documents are scanned or saved to a client file, sharing them with clients via the portal is typically quick and easy.


These days, with so many online threats to our data, it is not only important that we protect our clients’ data, but also that we should protect our business continuity – our ability to continue with operations in the face of a disaster or adverse circumstances. How would you proceed if you learned your office had been flooded or destroyed by fire? Obviously, it would be a difficult situation with time devoted to dealing with insurance adjusters and coming up with a new place for operations. But what about your court appearances scheduled that week, and the next? Today, most lawyers would at least have their calendars available on their smartphones and hopefully client contact information as well. But what about the client files, needed exhibits and your notes on questions to ask witnesses?

Larger law firms with dedicated IT staff may utilize other options. But for a small firm lawyer, the best way to protect your client’s confidential information, along with your work product and your business continuity requirements, is a subscription to a cloud-based practice management solution. Then, if the physical office is destroyed or inaccessible, your staff can either go home or to another location with internet access and log in to the exact same interface they use every day with access to the digital client files. With practice management software, all you need is an internet connection, a computer with a web browser and your username and password to log in and do your work.

OBA members can contact Practice Management Advisor Julie Bays with questions about practice management software or to set up a demo of PMS for you and your staff. If you are in  a different jurisdiction, see if your state bar association has a practice management advisor on staff.


There are many other software tools and services that may be useful for the new solo and small firm lawyer – from customer relationship managers (CRMs) to document management systems (DMSs). But starting with the tools we have discussed here and mastering them gets you started on a firm foundation.

Practice-specific tools are also important. I simply cannot imagine preparing a bankruptcy petition and schedules without using software to keep everything organized. Many will benefit from form and automated document assembly services like

Our biggest security threats today often appear in our inboxes. Most malware and ransomware attacks begin with someone in your organization clicking on an email attachment or a bad link in an email. Often, these attacks result in the criminal interloper gaining access to usernames and passwords.

A password manager allows you to use long, complex passwords and different passwords for every site or service you log in to. Two-factor or multifactor authentication tools mean that even if your username and password are obtained by a criminal, they still won’t be able to log in to your account because they won’t have access to your cell phone to receive a text or another alternate authentication method. Anti-virus, firewalls and other security tools are also important.

Several years ago, I would have added speech recognition tools to this list. But now, the dictation feature built into Microsoft Word in Microsoft 365 means you probably will not have to use a different tool.


I hope this overview has been useful to readers. Certainly, these tools are not limited to solo and small firm operations. Oklahoma lawyers can contact the attorneys at the OBA Management Assistance Program if they have further inquiries about software or any other aspect of law office management. 

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — December, 2022 — Vol. 93, No. 10