Google (aka Meta) is a technology powerhouse. But it all began with Google Search.

It is a widely held view among technology experts that Google Search is not what it used to be – unless you are measuring corporate profitability. But that has become more apparent to many ordinary and occasional users.  Even though Google officials deny it, it seems that today you must scroll down past more ads and sponsored content to get to actual search results.

The Open Secret of Google Search by Charlie Warzel was featured by the Atlantic in its “One Story to Read Today” newsletter and I concur. In fact, if you have exhausted your free articles for the month in The Atlantic, I’d strongly encourage you to calendar a date next month to read the article – or use another computer or phone.

Google Search was amazing in its early years when the internet was more challenging to navigate. Warzel notes:

“One can’t really overstate the way that Google Search, when it rolled out in 1997, changed how people used the internet. Before Google came out with its goal to crawl the entire web and organize the world’s information, search engines were moderately useful at best. And yet, in the early days, there was much more search competition than there is now; Yahoo, Altavista, and Lycos were popular online destinations. But Google’s “PageRank” ranking algorithm helped crack the problem. The algorithm counted and indexed the number and quality of links that pointed to a given website. Rather than use a simple keyword match, PageRank figured that the best results would be websites that were linked to by many other high-quality websites. The algorithm worked, and the Google of the late 1990s seemed almost magical: You typed in what you were looking for, and what you got back felt not just relevant but intuitive.”

But today he says:

“Most people don’t need a history lesson to know that Google has changed; they feel it. Try searching for a product on your smartphone and you’ll see that what was once a small teal bar featuring one ‘sponsored link’ is now a hard-to-decipher, multi-scroll slog, filled with paid-product carousels; multiple paid-link ads; the dreaded, algorithmically generated ‘People also ask’ box; another paid carousel; a sponsored ‘buying guide’; and a Maps widget showing stores selling products near your location. Once you’ve scrolled through that, multiple screen lengths below, you’ll find the unpaid search results. Like much of the internet in 2022, it feels monetized to death, soulless, and exhausting.”

I encourage you to read the entire article. I already try to use Duck Duck Go for shopping-related searches and many lawyers use it for sensitive client-related searches because their search is not tracked. I haven’t used the Reddit technique mentioned in the article. But I do often add the word Amazon to initial shopping searches, so I get the Amazon product page first and can see all features and Amazon’s price. Then I do the search again without the word Amazon.

Planning for retirement is often complicated by the fact that many lawyers love their careers, and their self-image is grounded in being a lawyer. On the other hand, there are also lawyers counting the days until they close their private practices. A year or so ago, I attended an online program put on by another state bar association where one speaker said his most important advice is you need to be running toward something in retirement, not away from something.

“A funny thing happened on the way to my retirement” by lawyer Stratton Horres was published in the June 2022 ABA Journal. He echoes the advice of planning something to retire to. He tells his own story of how winding down has opened more opportunities. But the primary reason I am sharing this is his section on taking your own deposition to clarify retirement plans. His questions are worth considering whether you are a year from retirement or a decade.

If your retirement date is coming soon and you are in private practice, don’t forget the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program provides a Closing Your Law Practice page with forms, checklists and other resources.

Our Digital Edge podcast this month features Kenton Brice, Director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Our podcast is titled Professor Kenton Brice on Training the Next Generation of Lawyers and the Future of Legal Tech.

Kenton’s reputation as a thought leader in legal tech is well-established. He is currently serving his second year on the ABA TECHSHOW planning board. He directs the OU Law Center for Technology & Innovation in Practice and the College’s Digital Initiative.

He is also one of the more captivating and enthusiastic speakers that you will ever get a chance to hear. He taught several programs at our OBA Solo &Small Firm Conference last week. Even if you are not interested in legal education anymore, this discussion of the future of legal technology makes this podcast worth a listen. We have seen many changes on that front and many more are ahead.

Have you ever created a PDF from a Word or PowerPoint file that didn’t behave as you expected? Maybe links didn’t work or bookmarks within the document were lost during the conversion process.

“How you choose to make a PDF file from Microsoft Office can make quite a difference to how the PDF file looks and behaves. Web links, bookmarks and page backgrounds can appear, or not, depending on how you choose to make your PDF – Save or Print” is the first sentence of an excellent post on Office Watch “Two choices to make a PDF – Save or Print?”

I encourage you to circulate this link to your staff and colleagues. We will all be generating more PDF files in the future, and we want them to work correctly when shared.

If you have recently renewed your cyber insurance policy, then you know how challenging that can be. If you haven’t renewed, the best advice is to start well in advance of the policy expiration date.

If you’ve struggled to afford cyber insurance, you’re not alone. In the past year, prices rose by 30 to 40 percent, and some law firms, especially solos and small firms, were forced to cancel or downgrade coverage in the wake of sudden price hikes. Additionally, inadequate cybersecurity in a firm may lead to a denial of coverage altogether. So, what’s going on? In this edition of the Digital Edge podcast, Cyber Insurance for Law Firms: Skyrocketing Prices and Less Coverage, Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk with Judy Selby to get a handle on the rapid changes in the cyber insurance industry and what firms should do to maintain coverage in this difficult market. Judy has extensive knowledge of technology tools and insurance coverage. You will want to listen to this podcast before beginning to negotiate a renewal.

The Oklahoma Bar Association Solo and Small Firm Conference is back! It will be helf June 23-25 at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durent.

Oklahoma lawyers and bar staff alike are looking forward to the return of this annual event after Covid kept us from holding this event. So, of course we are attempting to make it bigger and better than ever with four tracks of educational programming most hours and a special “ethics hour Saturday afternoon where attendees pick which of the three ethics offerings they wish to attend.

We have an interesting schedule featuring many different types of programs. Check out our conference website for more information and to register.

Brett Burney will be our special guest, teaching classes on Everything a Small Firm Lawyer Needs to Know About Electronic Discovery and How to Collect, Preserve & Produce Text Messages from Mobile Devices, as well as joining the panel for 60 tips. If you have heard Brett speak before, you know you are in for a very informative program.

Kenton S. Brice, Director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law will be teaching Document Generation Workflows and Why They Matter along with Evaluating Technology Tools | A Toolkit for Legal Professionals. Those two programs along should be worth the price of registration.

Martha Londagin, with Startup Junkie, is joining us to talk about the role small firm lawyers can have representing start-ups and other entrepreneurs. Her session title is Connecting with Emerging Entrepreneur Ecosystems to Grow Your Practice.

Professor Robert G. Spector will be joining us again for his signature program Recent Developments in Family Law as well as another session on Dealing with Relocations and Custody Modifications.

Our programming ranges from the Nuances of Representing Tax-Exempt Organizations  to the Uniform Parentage Act from Estate and Transition Planning for Business Owners to the Basics of Budgeting and Business Planning and from Coping with Conflicts of Interest to the Future of Law. We have a great group of conference sponsors, including co-producer Oklahoma Attorneys Mutual Insurance company and Gold sponsors,  Clio and PracticePanther

But there is lots of time for fun, including our Friday night Great Gatsby-themed party. Oklahoma lawyers. Start shopping for your Roaring 20’s outfit now!  We recommend early registration and hotel reservations to make certain you are not left out.

How to Build a Successful Solo Law Practice is our most recent Digital Edge podcast. Our guest Mark Bassingthwaighte. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, the nation’s largest direct writer of lawyers’ malpractice insurance, since 1998.The podcast has been transcribed so you can either listen or read the transcript. Mark provides a lot of valuable tips about common mistakes made starting a  law practice. Many of the insights he shared are from the publication, The ALPS Guide to Getting Started Solo. Fair Warning to our listeners: You can receive a free copy of this publication from ALPS, but they make you jump through an inordinate amount of hoops to obtain it. Mark was a great guest with a massive store of knowledge.

In related news, we at the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program just finished teaching our semi-annual class for new lawyers on Opening Your Law Practice a few days ago. Our Opening Your Law Practice Resource Page contains many free resources. We also publish a Closing Your Law Practice Resource page as well, for those at a different stage of their career.

I think it is very important for lawyers who practice People Law, those primarily representing individuals, to appreciate that the differences between that and more business-oriented types of practices are increasing.

Today these areas are becoming completely different service delivery models. There was a time when a law firm handled its matters in the same way whether the client was an individual or a business. Today that is short-sighted. For future success, the firm should design processes to comfort and inform those who have never dealt with a legal process before as well as accomplishing the legal goals of the representation.

This month in the Oklahoma Bar Journal I wrote The Practice of People Law to outline some of the techniques a lawyer might consider. If your firm delivers services to both types of clients, I’d still encourage you to read this column and see what changes to the consumer side may improve the process and convert clients from one-time engagements to “You’re my lawyers if I need one again.”.

Professor Bill Henderson, professor of law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, is a source for much of the available data on the differences between people law and corporate law, including some rather sobering economic trends. I linked to some of his posts in my article and hope you can make time to review some of his research. When I asked about reprint permission for some of the graphs I included in my article, his response was “Of course, I create those graphics for public use.” He is a great follow on Twitter @wihender. Bill, keep sharing your great posts and insight with us.

I wrote a blog post about this about ten months ago The Changing Dynamics of a “People Law” Practice. At that time, I was informing our members of an on-demand webinar I had done on this topic. The latest article ends with a discount code for that webinar. (“But wait there’s more!”)

Zoom is very popular because it is easy to use and provides a free version. Most of us now have a fair amount of experience with Zoom and can use it well. But Tessa Davis, whose interests include online learning for the medical profession, published “7 Zoom “hacks” you may not know” on Twitter. I would bet you don’t know all of these.

iPhone Screen sharing — if you have something on your iPhone you want to show the Zoom group holding the phone up to the camera doesn’t work well. Instead, you can Click:

  • Share screen
  • iPhone/iPad via AirPlay
  • And then follow the instructions to mirror screen

Turn off microphone and camera quickly – Life is full of interruptions. So when you have to deal with an interruption during a Zoom meeting, Tessa suggests you should have the keyboard shortcuts for turning off the camera and microphone memorized to allow you to exit quickly without having to grab the mouse. These are:

Camera:

  • Alt + V (Windows)
  • Cmd + Shft + V (Mac)

Microphone:

  • Alt + A (Windows)
  • Cmd + Shft + A (Mac)

Room lighting too low and no time to fix it? – Use Zoom’s “adjust for low light” feature:

Click: • Video settings • Adjust for low light • Manually adjust

Use your PowerPoint Slides as a virtual background. I have not used this feature and I cannot wait to try it. When sharing a PowerPoint, try using your slides as a virtual background with your image on top of the slides. Tessa has a short video with her tip that demonstrates how this can be used effectively:

Click: • Share screen • Advanced • Slides as virtual background

Then adjust the position + size of your image on screen in front of your slides. (See the video example.)

That covers four of her seven tips. All seven of her Zoom tips can be found here. If you don’t have Twitter installed on your computer, the link will open in your default browser.

She has also written similar guides for Microsoft Teams and using advanced Twitter search.

By Jim Calloway and Julie Bays

(Authors’ note: Because we waited for our print bar journal to be released, we are sharing this some time after ABA TECHSHOW. But that gave us the ability to include some content from other reviewers.)

Law office technology tools increasingly impact how lawyers practice law. I recently talked to a lawyer who said, “Okay, I’ve had the third client ask me about client portals. So, I guess it is time to set one up.” Every lawyer needs to understand the basics of cybersecurity. The advance of new technology tools cannot be ignored. Just ask Blockbuster shareholders.

ABA TECHSHOW 2022 was held in Chicago in March. The event featured the usual mix of product and service providers displaying their wares in the expo hall and numerous legal technology CLE presentations. As most readers know, I’m not unbiased about this event. I served as chair of ABA TECHSHOW many years ago and have spoken at TECHSHOW more than 20 times. This year featured a significant Oklahoman influence. Serving on the planning board were Kenton Brice and Darla Jackson, both from the OU College of Law.

OBA Practice Management Advisor Julie Bays was selected to present the James I. Keane Award at TECHSHOW. The focus of the award is on the innovative delivery of personal legal services using technology, with special attention given to firms and entities that serve both moderate-income individuals and the broad middle class. This year’s award recipient was Greg Siskind and his team on the IMMpact Litigation project. IMMpact Litigation created web-based expert systems to be able to manage mass litigation cases in the immigration space, sometimes involving thousands of plaintiffs. They automated the onboarding process, including using artificial intelligence-based tools to auto-generate signed engagement letters and declarations. Julie also facilitated some discussion workshops.

Since TECHSHOW 2020 concluded just before the pandemic restrictions began and the 2021 show was completely virtual, this was most attendees’ first in-person event since the last in-person TECHSHOW. Legal tech journalist Bob Ambrogi noted this timing in his review “ABA TECHSHOW 2022: A Karmic Bookend to a Long Strange Trip.” Veteran travelers shared chuckles over how different it felt to pack. Talking to people we had only seen via videoconferencing for the past two years was the most noteworthy part of the conference. Stephen Embry, chair-elect of ABA Law Practice Division, quotes my observation that this year, the conference felt like half tech show and half good family reunion in his post “TECHSHOW 2022: It’s a Wrap!”

So, while we are writing about ABA TECHSHOW, our thoughts cannot help but be drawn to our own upcoming OBA “reunion” this summer, the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference. For example, two of Jim’s TECHSHOW presentations, “The Digital Client File” and “The Future of Law,” will be presented at the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference. The final session of the conference will be “The Future of Law,” where several of our panelists will give their predictions about what comes next, interspersed with the usual end-of-conference door prize extravaganza. If you are inspired to attend this year’s Solo & Small Firm Conference in June, visit www.okbar.org/solo for more information and to register. 

ABA TECHSHOW’S STARTUP ALLEY

ABA TECHSHOW’s Startup Alley competition gave an opportunity for promising legal tech startups to exhibit at TECHSHOW. First, there was a review by a group of TECHSHOW participants, then online voting narrowed down the field to 15 (nearly 32,000 votes were received). The top 15 gave a short, in-person pitch to open TECHSHOW, moderated by Bob Ambrogi. The audience then voted on the winner. This year’s champion was TurnSignl, which is not a tool for law office operations. A motorist who is pulled over by law enforcement can use this app to record the interaction and obtain legal advice from a licensed attorney during the encounter. This program is only available in two states, Minnesota and Georgia. But with the publicity generated by their big win, I can see expansion in their future.

Julie was very taken with the startup CoParse, which is both a word processor and PDF application. It integrates features you use in Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat into one product. It also has additional features such as automatic optical character recognition (OCR), e-signature and uses artificial intelligence to help with navigation. The demonstration was very impressive. Hardcore WordPerfect users who are against using Word should take a look.

The list of all 15 companies that participated in Startup Ally can be found at https://reinventingjustice.com/2022-startup-alley-aba-techshow/. It’s an interesting and diverse lineup to peruse. Among these innovative startups is EmotionTrac, which analyzes emotions from facial clues as videos are shown to audience members. The idea is to assist with feedback on trial strategy without hiring a jury consultant. Another, ClearBrief, is a Word add-on for checking your brief (or opposing counsel’s) for misstating of the facts. It also is used to easily assemble a table of authorities.Lock and key

TECHSHOW was divided into five in-person tracks: design, launch, grow, sustain and transform. As you can see, it is not your traditional lawyers’ conference. It was interesting to watch a live comparison between Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Oklahoma’s own Eric Patrick, COO of the law firm Ball Morse Lowe PLLC, demonstrated the collaboration tools with Google versus Microsoft 365. One key takeaway from this session was the continuing expansion of Microsoft 365’s collaboration tools. With the use of Teams, law firms can seamlessly and quickly hold virtual meetings, set up phone calls and collectively work on documents more efficiently than ever before. If you haven’t tried Teams and the features it offers, you really should, particularly if you are already paying for it with your Microsoft 365 subscription.

Automated intake processes are big time-savers. We saw several companies offering tools in this area. When computers first came to law offices, one of the early benefits was not having to type repetitive information over and over.

Workflows for document creation was another hot topic. Kenton Brice of the University of Oklahoma College of Law will be teaching on that subject at our OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference. Designing and documenting your workflows is important on many levels, from preventing errors to determining what steps of a process can and should be automated. 

CONCLUSION

Technology tools are intertwined with law offices, as they are with most other businesses. The last two years have demonstrated an amazing interest from venture capital firms in investing in legal technology companies. We’ve seen some companies acquired by others just to fill gaps in their existing offerings.

Probably the best takeaway from ABA TECHSHOW 2022 was that great technology can be very useful, but it’s still the people who make our law firms run and give us pleasure in our work – from our coworkers to our clients. The best technology is one that helps us better connect with our clients, and the least desired technology is one that interferes with attorney-client access and communication. Client portals are great and perform an important client service, enhancing both digital security and client convenience. Having a prospective client telephone your law firm only to deal with several menu choices of “press one for this and two for that” is perhaps not the best use of technology, even though some may find it necessary.