It’s been quite a few years since I served on the ABA TECHSHOW planning Board. That’s probably a good thing because I would have lobbied for some puns in ABA TECHSHOW 2020 marketing.

ABA TECHSHOW 2020- Your vision for the future of your law practice.

Or something about 2020 hindsight, if you miss this one.

If we used Super Bowl style Roman numerals, it would be ABA TECHSHOW MMXX. Or we could focus on the fact ABA TECHSHOW ends on LEAP DAY. (ABA TECHSHOW will be held  February 26 – 29, 2020 in Chicago.)

As far as legal technology conferences go, ABA TECHSHOW is tops in my books. The faculty is selected based on merit, not corporate sponsorship. (Although they have loosened things up the last few years with some vendor lunch ‘n learns, which has worked out well.) The educational sessions include MCLE accreditation and are accompanied by well-done written materials so you can benefit even from the sessions you didn’t attend. Most who follow legal technology recognize the names of many ABA TECHSHOW speakers, but the planning board also searches out new talent. The content is relevant for most lawyers, but particularly useful for those in medium-size to smaller law firms. Check out the programming tracks. The sessions will be announced soon.

There are educational sessions on the ethics of using legal technology. For example, I’ve been asked to speak on the Cybersecurity track on the subject Cloudy, With a Chance of Sanctions, a topic of interest to all lawyers. (I’m also speaking on How to Partner Like a Pro on the Recession Proof track.)

So here is what you need to do. First calendar February 26 – 29, 2020 now so you won’t schedule a conflict and then also calendar the Early Bird deadline of January 13, 2020 as the deadline day for for discounted registration.

Oklahoma Bar Association members can use OBA Event Promoter Discount Code EP2011 to save when registering on the TECHSHOW website.

You need to attend for ABA TECHSHOW 2020. If you keep planning on it, but haven’t yet, this should be your year. I’ve got my eyes on you and I hope to see you there.

 

Everyone’s Watching You Online: How to Fight Back is a well-timed post on the week of Black Friday, the kickoff of holiday shopping season, by my Digital Edge Podcast teammate Sharon Nelson.

Just when some of us are beginning to believe that the battle for protecting your privacy online is lost, here is a list of affirmative steps you can take to fight back. This is not quick or easy. You wouldn’t really expect it to be as most internet behemoths’ primary revenue is either using or selling your private information for profit. So they are not going to make it simple to take back your personal information or limit its sharing in the future.

Everyone who uses the internet by now has a creepy story to share about ad placement based on your personal information. Mine was my wife showing me a winter coat she thought I might like on her phone and the same coat showing up in an ad on my phone within minutes, even though we have different carriers. So if you  decide you want to fight back, Sharon has the list of tactics and weapons for you.

Sharon’s post was inspired by (and informed by) this great New York Times piece.

UPDATE: It’s not just private companies doing this. The California DMV Is Making $50M a Year Selling Drivers’ Personal Information

 

Tips to Avoid Some Major Technology Glitches is the subject for my November Law Practice Tips column.

You will learn why I believe Focused Inbox in Office 365 Outlook is a trap waiting to catch the unwary attorney and why you should have already stopped using Internet Explorer. Plus I discuss Windows 7 end of life and buying your new Windows 10 computer..

Glitches and bugs are a part of using technology, but there’s no need to volunteer for extra glitches if you can avoid them. As always, feel free to share this column with someone who needs to read it.

The holiday shopping season is upon us and that means it is time for our annual ‘Tis the Season: Tech Toys for the Holidays from the Digital Edge podcast.  Co-hosts Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson give you a tour of some great high-tech gadgets. We include some very practical and some not-so practical gift ideas, ranging from Bose Frames Audio Sunglasses to Rocketbooks to your very own Death Star fire pit. Clocky, the original  Alarm Clock on Wheels, was so unique and funny that I purchased one for a giveaway at a section meeting during our recent OBA Annual Meeting.

The team at Legal Talk Network has livened up the podcast with a few fun sound effects as well. You can find links to all of the gadgets on the podcast home page.

Sharon and I send Season’s Greetings to all of our listeners. Feel free to share this podcast link with a friend or colleague.

I have been warning lawyers that Windows 7 support will end on January 14, 2020 and that it will be dangerous to use a Windows 7 machine to hold client data after that date. The challenge is that  nearly half of the computers in the U.S. are running Windows 7. Another budgetary challenge is that some of those machines don’t have the specs to run Windows 10, so an OS upgrade will not be possible without hardware upgrades and that likely means new computer purchases will be required for those users. But some more recently-purchased Windows 7 computers are upgradable to Windows 10. More on that in a moment.

The news has been bubbling up that there may be life after death for Windows 7 after all –— for a fee. See ZNet: Microsoft to offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. While this information is accurate, those just reading the headline will get the wrong impression. These Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) will be sold on a per-device basis and will be available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise users with volume-licensing agreements. Do you have a volume-licensing agreement? No, I didn’t think so. Volume licensing is a Microsoft term of art. According to Webopedia, “Microsoft Volume Licensing is a term used by Microsoft to describe a program for organizations that need multiple Microsoft product licenses, but do not need multiple copies of the software media and the documentation that comes with the software.”  Although some large law firms with in-house IT staff undoubtedly do operate under such an agreement.

For most readers, this is an important announcement. You can still use a Windows 7 machine after January 14. But if that computer is connected either to the internet or your law firm network, it is “the weakest link” and puts your client information and business operations at risk. Surely you understand the logic. Microsoft has been publicizing this change for many months. This means no more security upgrades. Those people who look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in code are still in business and you can bet that if they find a new exploit they are not going to release it in 2019 so Microsoft can diagnose the weakness and repair it. Logic dictates they will wait until mid-January 2020 to unleash their new exploit. How realistic the risk is that this will happen and what damage will potentially occur, I cannot say. But the calculation is easy for me- the potential risk is too great to ignore because the potential loss is so great and the safeguard is so simple.

If your Windows 7 computer is four or five years old, it’s time to buy another one anyway. So just do that soon and migrate all of your data to your new Windows 10 machine. Problem solved. If you are considering upgrading a newer Windows 7 machine, you will first want to visit Microsoft’s page How to Find Windows 10 Computer Specifications & Systems Requirements. The Windows 10 system requirements are not that daunting: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster compatible processor, 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM for 32-bit or 2 RAM GB for 64-bit, 32GB or larger hard disk, a decent graphics card and 800×600 display. (And if you are a lawyer or work in a law firm all day on a 800×600 display, I have a suggestion for that headache you have at the end of the day- get a better monitor!)

Many years of reading about basic system requirements has taught us the lesson repeatedly that you want more computing power that the basics for a good user experience. There are many posts on how to safely upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, most of them are dated 2015, when this was a free upgrade. 4 Best Ways to Upgrade From Windows 7 to 10 Before 2020 was updated in 2019 and is from MakeUseOf, a usually reliable source. Obviously you would want to make sure you had a good backup before you began this because upgrading an Operating System is a significant undertaking. If this sounds challenging, I’d strongly suggest that calling in professional help to do this for you is the best plan for your firm. This is not to say you cannot do it yourself and I know some who have upgraded successfully.

And if the professional’s quote for the upgrade seems pricey, then look at the price for new computer purchases again because a new computer has many other benefits over upgrading one that you will need to replace soon anyway. Alas Windows 7, we knew you well and you were a fine and reliable OS.

For many, their most indelible and perhaps oldest memory of artificial intelligence is HAL 9000 saying “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” when Dave asks him to open the pod bay doors in the classic science fiction thriller 2001: A Space Odyssey . Here’s a YouTube video of the scene if you want a trip down memory lane or are one of the few who has not seen it.

I mention that movie scene because it seems to represent the fears that many have of AI. A few years ago many legal publications ran stories over whether AI would replace lawyers. And there was a recent scary story on NPR about some AI researchers tricking an AI in to believing a stop sign was a speed limit sign– U.S. Military Researchers Work To Fix Easily Fooled AI. We also now appreciate that when AI is programmed by individuals who are all of the same race and culture, it may include some of their cultural biases.

But AI is here to stay. And emerging AI tools for lawyers will soon find their way into many lawyers’ offices. So I wrote a column on Artificial Intelligence and Everyday Law Practice detailing some AI applications that most lawyers have followed.

One reason I wrote on this subject is that there will be a lot of information on Artificial Intelligence and how it impacts the legal profession at the Oklahoma Bar Association Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City in November. Our special guest will be Fastcase CEO Ed Walters who will begin our Thursday morning CLE with the topic,  The Malpractice of Hunches: Data Analytics to Serve Clients and Run a Successful Firm.  Then we will follow up with a panel discussion, The Future is Now – What You Need to Know with me, Ed Walters, Kenton Brice (who is the Director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law) and Oklahoma City attorney Mark Robertson (who has written extensively about alternative fee agreements and billing practices). OBA General Counsel Gina Hendryx and I will finish up the morning programming with an ethics presentation Cyber Ethics – Legal Ethics in a Digital Age before we all head off to hear Ed Walters’ luncheon keynote Annual Luncheon address Real Intelligence About Artificial Intelligence.

I have to admit I am still surprised that I now routinely have some discussion of AI in my presentations to county bars across Oklahoma, including a mention of OBA member benefit Casetext (and CARA), along with the other AI brief review services announced this summer. I often tell lawyers that for many the distinction between true AI and really “smart software” isn’t that significant today. But clearly there are impacts. As I mentioned in my column, technology-assisted review (TAR) killed off much of the contract lawyer document review employment and if AI can read/review your brief and provide intelligent suggestions today, is there any doubt that someday it may be creating the first draft of the brief?

The September/October 2019 Issue of Law Practice Magazine is out and one of the features is Scoping Out Limited Scope Representation. For the Future Proofing Your Practice column by Dan Pinnington and Reid Trautz, they interviewed me about recent changes in limited scope practice rules in Oklahoma. We also cover developing a business plan and some best practices for limited scope services delivery. Some are more familiar with this being labeled unbundled legal services.

In my opinion, this is a critical area for lawyers to understand if their practice serves the “people law” market. More consumers have limited funds for representation but would still rather use a local lawyer than an out-of-state do-it-yourself web service if given the opportunity. Certainly, this improves access to justice for many, but we should also make clear this is a business model for law firms as well. So I’d advise most solo and law firm lawyers to scope out limited scope representation, even if they do not believe that is a good business model for them today.

As always, Law Practice Magazine has great content in every issue and every lawyer in private practice should be interested in content related to law firm finances.

Access to Justice and Productivity Gains for All Lawyers is my latest column in the Oklahoma Bar Journal. Increasing productivity is important for lawyers in every practice setting, so don’t let this title mislead you. The column is as much for the corporate lawyer as the access to justice warrior. I noted the observations of Professor William Henderson, Stephen F. Burns Chair on the Legal Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, that law practice has “divided into two segments, one serving individuals (people law) and the other serving businesses (organizational clients), with these two segments having very different economic drivers and evolving in very different ways.” I believe this is true.

But whether you practice people law or business law, I think you will find the eight areas for productivity improvement I note of interest. Most lawyers and law firms have addressed some, but not all, of these. Which one should be next on your list?

I previously blogged about the great content of the Access to Justice theme issue of the August 2019 Oklahoma Bar Journal, but this column, also in that issue, was not included in that list of feature stories.

The Human Lawyer is an interesting label. It is interesting because those of us focused on legal technology have now seen dozens of news articles, columns and blog posts about whether robot lawyers or Artificial Intelligence tools are coming for our jobs. Colin S. Levy’s insightful blog post is not about that subject.

I try to avoid the temptation to do a blog post about a blog post. But we all should understand that the humans working as legal professionals today are definitely under stress and that impacts, among many other things, the business and profession of law. Among the many insightful observations that Professor Richard Susskind has made is that our clients prefer, and are better served by, a fence at the top of a cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom. I recently listened to another discussion about stress and mental health challenges in the legal profession and thought that this also applies to our profession. While we certainly need the ambulances, and more of them, it is much harder to figure out how to construct the fences. I note the oft-repeated observation that law students begin law school with a very similar psychological profile to the rest of the population and graduate with many of the negative psychological challenges of our profession. This is not to throw all of our problems at the feet of the law schools, but those institutions must be involved along with the rest of us in building the fences.

Some lawyer stress is inevitable. If you have no stress defending a client on charges where the state is seeking the death penalty or while handling a complex multi-million dollar transaction, you wouldn’t be human. But we all understand there’s more to the problem than just this. We have to make important and impactful decisions when the law or ethics rules are unclear. But there’s more to the problem than that as well. Even as I blog about about this blog post, I am determined to avoid spoilers. But I do have two goals. I want you to take the time this week to read Colin S. Levy’s The Human Lawyer and I want you to share it with at least one other legal professional. It’s not an easy or short read, but for some (likely many) it may be very impactful.

 

I’ve been in a lot of lawyer’s offices and have seen a lot of messy desks.

I’m not very judgmental about them because I understand there’s often a method behind some of the madness and I’m also a fellow traveler/sufferer/practitioner.

Now don’t get me wrong. Almost all my office processes are paperless and have been for a long time. But paperless means what it says; otherwise we would call it paper-free.

But back to the lawyer with files piled on his or her desk. The method to that madness is often that the lawyer has deadlines or active projects on each of those client files. They wouldn’t necessarily admit it, but they keep those files on their desk both for convenience to quickly get to the file and as a reminder that the work needs to be done. There is a fear of putting it out of sight and missing the deadline. While it may be somewhat stress-inducing, the file sitting on your desk when there is brief due in four days can be motivating. A fellow traveler knows.

When there are others in the office also working on that file, it is an inconvenience to them when it is absent from its proper place in the file drawer. Of course, if they have worked with you long enough, they may stop at your desk first before they even check the file drawer.

There are, of course, better ways to do this. One should work from organized “to do” lists rather than files. And almost every lawyer today should use practice management software tools to have digital client files rather than paper client files. The physical files, if they exist, should stay in the filing cabinet as a backup or for when the lawyer needs to take them to court appearances.

But today I’m talking about messy desks. Many lawyers take great comfort in research that suggests a messy desk could be a sign of being a genius. But there are many other studies that suggest a messy desk is psychologically stressful and, as anyone who has spent several minutes digging through their desk trying to find something knows, a messy desk can negatively impact productivity. I’ll also note that credenzas may be one of the single worst inventions for good office organization.

For lawyers, there’s another important downside to having a messy desk because some clients may be hesitant to hire a lawyer who appears disorganized. For some it may be a sign that they actually are disorganized. If a very organized client does not retain your firm, it is a double loss because we all know that it’s much more positive to represent organized clients than disorganized clients. There are many ways to improve disorganization, including obtaining professional help or listening to helpful podcasts.

My personal messy desk challenge is a little different since I do not represent clients and have no client files. I frequently have law-related magazines open to articles when I was interrupted before I finished reading. I sometimes have paperwork that I will need for a meeting in a day or two and then need not retain afterwards. When I’m working on a project sometimes there are paper components that can and should be on my desk until the project is finished. I still frequently take notes by hand and so I may have a legal pad or two on my desk with nonessential notes. (I am good about digitally filing essential notes.)

Matters related to client files need to be filed in the client file and that is a high priority for lawyers.

But I often have items on my desk that are there because they may be useful in the future and yet do not fit into my filing system.

So let’s talk about things that appear to be worthy of saving and don’t have a place to be saved. One of the most important tools that a lawyer can have is a scanner within arm’s reach. For about 20 years now I’ve always had a Fujitsu ScanSnap within arm’s reach. My current model is the ScanSnap iX 1500. If something is worthy of being retained for future use, it is worthy of being scanned and that includes hand-written notes. So, if you don’t have a place for something in your filing system, the wisdom I’m sharing today is to create a place.

Before you clean up your messy desk for the 100th time or have your assistant help you do so, take inventory of what’s there and why. If there are papers for a civic or professional organization you’re involved with, then create a folder on your network for those papers (or a physical file folder if that is required.). But don’t create too many folders as they will become a barrier to scanning and filing documents. In fact, I’ll give you an out. Create a folder called My Desk August 2019 or MyDesk 8.2019. That’s certainly not the optimal solution for many and professional organizers might laugh at the suggestion. But if you’re scanning documents to text searchable PDFs you can probably search for them and locate them on your network or computer. And dating those folder names can be useful when you’re certain you had it on your desk “just a few weeks ago.”

Whatever your personal “messy desk” improvement is, it should be something that will work for you. But it is pretty unlikely clients or potential clients who are visiting your office will look at a terribly disorganized desk and think “Wow, my lawyer has got to be a genius. I’m certain he’s got everything in my case under control.”