As most of you know, beginning with the March lock down I started posting daily tips and did that for all of 2020.

The most popular tip of the year was a fairly basic tip about reformatting Word documents and it pointed out how many Word users don’t know what all of those choices and buttons they see every day actually do.

So I am sharing this one once again. Feel free to share the link below with someone you know who might need to know this.

Removing Formatting from Word Documents (April 17, 2020)

Most lawyers now appreciate that an online presence and online marketing efforts are important for client development for most law practices. Your marketing efforts typically cost both time and money. Our latest Digital Edge podcast is How to Win Clients Online for Free! Our guest is Gyi Tsakalakiss, a former lawyer and the founder of AttorneySync, an online legal marketing agency that helps lawyers be where their clients are looking.

Gyi Tsakalakis
           Gyi Tsakalakis

Gyi stresses that some of the best ways to gain clients won’t cost you anything but time.

Personally I am always surprised at how many small  law firms have not claimed their Google My Business Page. But Gyi has many other budget-friendly tips.

Today you need a consistent and persistent ,marketing effort. These tips should help.

 

ABA TECHSHOW 2021 will be held March 8 -12, 2021 and will be virtual. But a virtual venue means it is much more affordable with lowered registration fees and no need for travel and lodging expense.

As you know, ABA TECHSHOW 2021 brings together attorneys, legal technologists, thought leaders, law professors and many legal tech vendors. The educational sessions are top-notch, whether you want to learn more about Microsoft 365, cybersecurity or Artificial Intelligence in legal work. Registration is $295 for ABA members (and Oklahoma Bar Association members too.) The non-member registration fee is $350. That is much less than previous TECHSHOWs, but of course there are no luncheon or drink tickets.

Every year ABA TECHSHOW has so many topics that are of interest to a broad legal audience, but particularly those in medium-sized or small firms. Some of those interesting topics include Cloud Based E-Discovery for Small Firms; Automation Tools for Transactional Attorneys; Proofreading and Writing Automation: Brief Catch, Microsoft Suite, and G Suite; and Creating Client-Centered Marketing. I’d encourage you to review the online schedule of programming. The online brochure of the program schedule is very well done.

You can also listen to our new Digital Edge podcast, ABA TECHSHOW 2021 Goes Virtual! featuring ABA TECHSHOW 2021 co-chairs Allan Mackenzie and Roberta Tepper.

A virtual ABA TECHSHOW 2021 also solves that frequent TECHSHOW challenge of two programs happening simultaneously you want to attend. I am told that videos will be recorded and available later. I’m uncertain if MCLE credit is available for the replay as it is for the live sessions. I can’t claim to be completely unbiased about ABA TECHSHOW 2021. I served on the TECHSHOW planning board for several years and was honored to serve as ABA TECHSHOW planning board chair years ago. But I can confidently say you will find a great group of smart and dedicated faculty and an amazingly diverse lineup of legal tech educational programs when you register for ABA TECHSHOW 2021.

Oklahoma Bar Association members, using OBA discount code EP2109 when you register reduces your registration fee to $295 as noted above. It you have never attended before and have an interest, this should be your year.

That helpful person calling from Microsoft Tech Support is most likely a scammer. The odds go up to 100% if they tell you they noticed a problem with your computer and are calling to help you fix it. You can easily test that premise by telling them they have just reached an FBI agent and asking for their real name.

Such surprise phone calls from Microsoft tech support are always scams. A legitimate call could result if a user initiated something with Microsoft in the preceding hours and is expecting a return call. The legitimate tech support phone call will be following up on the specific issue that was raised. The scam callers will try to learn a victim’s password or credit card information or to trick them into surrendering access to their computer.

Real tech support: “OK, please reboot your computer and see if that helped.”

Fake tech support: “OK, I’m going to send you something that will solve the problem, just log into it with your username and password.”

For more information see Avoid tech support scams from Microsoft. Share this information with your relatives and clients. It is good content for a law firm newsletter.

Let me stress this is “ten top” tools, not a ranked Top Ten list. But these ten types of tools should be on the agenda for implementation in most solo and small firm practices.

Here’s the quote I’d emphasize from the column.

The most significant observation I have distilled from the past year is the practice of law has bifurcated into two “branches,” if you will: people law and business/corporate law. With each passing year, each branch looks a bit less like the other in terms of the operations and business processes. We will be exploring those distinctions more throughout 2021. This month’s article focuses on tools for those in smaller firms primarily doing people law.

Most smaller law firms should now be using most, if not all, of these tools. I hope you enjoy (and share) 10 Top Technology Tools for the Small Firm Lawyer.

Lawyers deal with confidential client information and we have a duty to secure that information. No matter who you are, you wouldn’t want to donate, give away or even discard a computer or phone with information still on the device. No one would want to transfer a computer or phone without making certain the personal information on it is wiped.

In the old days, I could confidently send lawyers off to Darik’s Boot and Nuke at https://dban.org/ after warning them to be cautious with whatever media they installed the tool on, lest they accidentally nuke something they did not intend to destroy. DBAN doesn’t work on SSD drives, so the company now sells a commercial product to wipe those drives.

The respected tech website Wirecutter published an excellent guide How to Securely Wipe Your Computer, Phone, or Tablet. You may want to bookmark this guide so you will have it handy when you need it.

So, what about a dead computer? If a computer is operational, you can reformat the hard drive. But if not, a simple solution is to do an internet search to find instructions how to remove the hard drive from your model of computer and remove it before recycling or discarding the computer. Then you can physically destroy the hard drive. My son and I used to have some fun figuring out creative ways to physically destroy retired hard drives.

The “On Tech” newsletter from The New York Times typically has great content. I encourage people to subscribe to this. The current edition is Why Your TV Spies on You, which is a fact of life for most smart TV’s and streaming services. But while some lawyers may find that discussion interesting, I want everyone to scroll down to the next feature, “Three must-have apps for every smartphone” by Brian X. Chen, the personal technology columnist for The New York Times. I would guess few lawyers have all three of these apps and many do not have any of them.

Brian’s three must-have apps are 1. A password manager, 2. An ad blocker and 3. An encrypted messaging app, like Signal.

I’ve written several times about how a password manager is an important security tool because it allows one to use long and complex passwords without having to remember them. But there are many other benefits. See my video and post on selecting a password manager with legal tech expert Tom Mighell.

According to Brian X. Chen, “Many online ads are loaded with scripts that collect your personal information and suck up your phone battery; some even contain links to malware. Until the ad industry comes up with a better way, our best bet is using an ad blocking app like 1Blocker to prevent ads from loading in the web browser.” He also notes that the Google Play store does not allow ad blockers to be downloaded. Google loves online ads. Android users who wish to install the apps need to use a method known as sideloading. Chen directs us to 5 best ad blocker apps for Android!

Encrypted messaging using tools like Signal or Telegram is very secure. But these tools only function if both parties download and use the app. At ABA TECHSHOW 2016 I attended a panel that included the lead attorney for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The panelists recommended Signal. Afterwards I wrote You Are Not Paranoid If They Really Are Watching You Attorney-Client Privilege, Confidentiality and Cybersecurity in the 21st Century for the Oklahoma Bar Journal.

If you visit The New York Times website frequently and are not a subscriber, you may find this content blocked by a paywall. Just save the link for later.

Negative online reviews can hurt businesses and law firms are no exception. But other types of businesses don’t have to be concerned about confidentiality and attorney-client privilege if they choose to respond to a negative review. Here are some suggestions for lawyers on dealing with negative online reviews.

The American Bar Association released Formal Opinion 496, titled Responding to Online Criticism on January 13, 2021. You can download the opinion here. If you have an interest in the opinion, I encourage you to download and save it, as these opinions are available for free download for a limited time.

The most important ethical takeaway is that an online post is not proceeding within the meaning of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6 (b)(5) which permits a lawyer to reveal client confidences to the extent a lawyer reasonably believes that it is necessary “to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.” So, if an attorney chooses to respond to an online post, the attorney cannot reveal client information or in any way compromise the lawyer’s duty to the client.

While Formal Opinion 496 is well-reasoned and provides sound advice, some of the intended practical advice seems a bit dated. In particular, I don’t care for this sentence: “As a best practice, lawyers should consider not responding to a negative post or review, because doing so may draw more attention to it and invite further response from an already unhappy critic.”

While not responding could be the best strategy, I would say that in 2021, it is hardly a “best practice.”

I believe the best practice is to reach out to the client or former by telephone or email to privately discuss their criticisms. Sometimes the lawyer may know this will be fruitless or even aggravate the situation. But there are times a positive approach and listening to the client’s concerns can even result in the client removing the post voluntarily. The lawyer who was completely surprised and blindsided by the post should recognize that such surprise at least suggests that something could have been lacking in service delivery or communication with the client. So, keep an open mind when you reach out to the client.

I also note there is a slight chance the client did not write the post. In a martial dissolution case, a family member who disagreed with the settlement you negotiated may have posted something negative using the client’s name. If the client is willing to cooperate with you and provide a notarized statement to Google or another review site, that they were the lawyer’s client, but they didn’t write this review, there is a good chance of getting it removed. On the other hand, no legitimate review hosting site is going to remove a review just because it is negative, you don’t like it or you claim it is incorrect. That conflicts with the site’s business model. Lawyers, as noted, don’t have the freedom to respond to an incorrect negative review as easily and directly as a restaurant.

While not responding is one option, a negative review on a law firm’s Google My Business page or a well-trafficked site like Yelp is damaging and a business not responding can seem like an admission. If you are unable to contact the former client privately, then a response that the firm tries to serve all its clients well and inviting the former client to contact the firm privately to discuss the matter is often appropriate. As Formal Opinion 496 notes, a response that “Professional considerations preclude a response.” is another option.

Getting a negative review removed is usually challenging. But if they say they were a client and you will attest you never had a client with that name or haven’t handled those types of matters in years, you can try with Google My Business Customer Support or the support for another review site. If you can show similar negative posts on other lawyers’ sites, that could be helpful.

If a lawyer cannot get a negative review removed, then they may decide to solicit some positive reviews from satisfied clients. But don’t promise them something of value for the positive review. That can backfire. Like it or not, reviews, both positive and negative, carry a great deal of weight online. It is a part of today’s online business environment.

Muting a browser tab quickly is a skill that you may not know you need to know. But once you use it a few times, you won’t forget. Blaring popup video ads are bad enough, but when you still have the headphones on from your last video-conference, they can be startling. If you have many tabs open and are switching frequently, sometimes it is hard to determine which tab belatedly launched that video or sound. Some browsers have recently changed and so the results returned by search engines on this subject may be dated. But for most, it is simple:

For Microsoft Edge and Firefox, the tab playing the sound displays a microphone icon. Click on that tab to make it the “active” tab and Ctrl+M is the keyboard shortcut to mute the active tab.

Google Chrome is a bit more complicated. See below:

How To Mute a Tab in Google Chrome

 

It is now a cliché to note that we have more computing power in our mobile phones than NASA had at its disposal during the moon missions. Today we’ll discuss harnessing one bit of that power with scanning apps.

Suppose you are visiting with a client outside of your office and the client shows you an important document. You need the document for the client file, but you hate to take the only document with you when you don’t have the physical client file to keep it in. Hopefully this example points out how every lawyer should be able to use their phone as a photocopier to quickly save a copy of any document when needed.

Document scanning means using the high quality camera in your smart phone to take a picture of a document and then using software tools on the phone to a more usable format. For lawyers, this will almost always be PDF format. This used to more challenging some years ago. Now there are many ways to do this.

Adobe Scan app If you have an Adobe Acrobat DC license, then one easy way to accomplish this is to download and install the Adobe App and the Adobe Scan app to your device. This is available in iOS or Android. And, as long as you are adding apps, I’d also suggest the Adobe Fill and Sign app so you can fill out forms and sign them on your device. If you are a frequent user of Acrobat editing tools and other advanced features, you will really appreciate the linkage between the app and Adobe Acrobat DC.

Microsoft Office Lens/PDF Scan— If you are a Microsoft 365 user, then you may lean to  Microsoft Office Lens/PDF Scan because of that integration. It also included a nifty special feature – good text recognition for handwritten notes. Some reviewers say a downside with this app is that the scanned image isn’t as clear as Adobe’s. This is also available in either iOS or Android.

Other Scanning Apps — There are many different scanning apps with a variety of features. See Wirecutter’s The Best Mobile Scanning Apps for a more extensive review of top scanning apps.

My most important advice on this subject — Make a decision on what tool to try first, install the app and practice a few times. You don’t want to do this for the first time in front of a client or when you are rushed. And you certainly don’t want to try to sign an actual contract using Adobe Fill and Sign for the first time. You have some These tools will be useful only after you have become comfortable with them. A few practice runs will also help your technique. You will learn to smooth out all the wrinkles in the paper and place the document in a very well-lit area before taking the picture.

(Reprinted from Oklahoma Bar Association Courts & More)