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.”

The Access to Justice theme issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal is out. If you are interested in Access to Justice, you will find some interesting reading here. Most features are of interest to everyone in the legal community and a few are Oklahoma specific.

Do you know of the work of your Access to Justice Commission? Almost every state has one. When the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission was formed, Oklahoma had been ranked 50th among the states in the Justice Index prepared by the National Center for Access to Justice. In The Work of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission, by M. David Riggs, the first Chair of the Commission, outlined the Commission’s projects and the resulting improvement in our state’s rankings.

Using Online Dispute Resolution to Expand Access to Justice – The Online Multidoor Courthouse is an excellent treatment of a subject that is not familiar to many lawyers. The author Colin Rule is vice president for Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies. He has worked in the dispute resolution field for more than 25 years as a mediator, trainer and consultant. He previously was director of Online Dispute Resolution for eBay and PayPal. Did you know that British Columbia’s ODR system handled almost 14,000 small claims cases in its first seven months of operation, freeing up court resources for other tasks?

You will not find a more powerful example of how a relatively few lawyers and judges can make an impact on people’s lives than The Oklahoma County Courthouse Access Clinic. Sara Murphy Bondurant, volunteer director of the clinic, outlines the assistance provided in minor and adult guardianships and probates. At one point Oklahoma had more grandparents raising grandchildren than any other state, many without any financial assistance. As the school year begins, we should appreciate that because of this project, many school children will not be forced to miss extracurricular activities because no one is legally authorized and available to execute a permission slip.

My contribution to this issue included Tips on Delivering Limited Scope Legal Services. With our court rule change now providing clear guidance, this is an area where lawyers can better assist pro se litigants.  As a law practice management advisor, I am convinced that for solo and small firm lawyers, particularly in rural areas, this will be a growing area of service delivery. These services may not be the highest profit center in a law practice, but they also allow the lawyer to introduce himself or herself to clients who may return for other services later. While some legal matters drag on for a long time, these files will generally be short term. And the automation tools we see emerging will often apply well in these matters. My department, the OBA Management Assistance Program provides an Oklahoma Limited Scope Legal Services Resources page with downloadable sample forms and other resources.  (As always, lawyers should do their own research before relying on any sample form.)

The Crushing Reality of Why We Need Plain Language Pro Se Court Forms was authored by Elizabeth Govig, a recent University of Tulsa College of Law graduate who just completed taking the Oklahoma Bar Examination. During her time in law school she was involved with the Community Advocacy Clinic where she focused on addressing civil access to justice issues and conducted significant research on this subject. Many courts are examining whether the traditional verbiage required in many legal documents filed in court could be simplified and improved.

A Quick Guide to Oklahoma’s Certified Courtroom Interpreters Program was written by Debra Charles, who is General Counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts and also directs the Supreme Court’s Language Access/Certified Courtroom Interpreter Program. I recall uncomfortable moments when I was in private practice and had to rely on an untrained interpreter in an interview. It often seemed like the individual said a lot more than I heard from the interpreter. This feature also provides valuable tips for attorneys working with interpreters. Oklahoma’s certified interpreters are also available for lawyers to hire as freelancers for work outside of the courtroom.

Addressing the Court Reporter Crisis in Oklahoma is a story that some may want to share with a friend or relative in Oklahoma looking for a new career. Written by Debra Charles and Shelley Phillips, a court reporter for the Payne County District Court for more than 30 years, notes the large number of court reporters nearing retirement age as one factor causing the crisis, along with neighboring states offering higher pay. But the good news is more training locations are now available in Oklahoma and recent legislation has increased the compensation for Oklahoma’s official district court reporters this year.

A lot has been written and discussed about access to justice challenges nationwide.  As the broad range of topics in this bar journal issue demonstrates, there are a wide variety of challenges and a number of different areas where improvements are being made and should be made.

I’m Jim Calloway and, among the many things I have done,  I’ve been a blogger covering legal technology, law office management, legal ethics and similar subjects since January 2005.

Several challenges forced me to take a blogging hiatus last year. But, as the saying goes, every challenge brings with it an opportunity. I am very pleased to announce that Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog is being relaunched this month as a part of the LexBlog network. I’ve got some big plans for some new content. But since I haven’t been blogging regularly for a few months, I’ll hold off on making big promises. Here are some important things for you to know:

1) If you previously subscribed to my blog via email or RSS, you will need to resubscribe here. I’m not inclined to automatically import previous subscribers because they haven’t heard from me in months.

2) We have imported the content from the old Typepad blog into this one, but content more than three years may still have some bad links. Both the ABA and the OBA website changed since those posts, killing many older links. I’m working on either repairing or deleting the older content. The old blog will be deleted near the end of the year.

3) Because I am, in effect, walking away from many subscribers, I need some help from my readers. If you have read my blog posts before or seen my legal tech presentations either in Oklahoma, at ABA TECHSHOW or in your area, I’d appreciate you sharing a link to this post or just to my blog with someone you know or through your social networks. Whether they visit my blog periodically or subscribe (which the LexBlog platform makes very simple), it’s more motivating to write blog posts when you know they will be read. So, a little help please.

There’s more ahead. So stay tuned.

Building a Cutting Edge Virtual Law Firm is the subject of our July 2019 Digital Edge Podcast. (Our 138th podcast!) Our guest is Brooke Moore, the founder of MyVirtual.Lawyer, an online law firm model providing flat fee and subscription based limited scope services. She also co-founded MyVirtual.Lawyer for Attorneys which provides automation and consulting assistance for lawyer. Brooke’s mission is to make legal help available and affordable for everyone and to offer a flexible, sustainable law firm model that helps forward thinking lawyers succeed. Brooke is a member of the ABA TECHSHOW 2020 Planning Board.

I’ve co-presented with Brooke on limited scope representation previously. She is a pleasure to learn from and I hope you enjoy the podcast. But not all virtual firms are the same. Many provide limited scope services and provide affordable legal services to consumers. But the virtual law practice idea could also appeal to corporate clients who are happy with videoconferenced consultations with their lawyer combined with some personal meetings. Many larger firm lawyers are questioning the amount of overhead they have and its impact on their rates.

A virtual law firm might also appeal to a lawyer who only wants to practice part-time, perhaps because of family care-giving responsibilities.  I have mentioned to other lawyers who are thinking about retirement that this might be a way to practice law in a way consistent with retirement that also provided some income. One thing for certain is that the solo lawyer contemplating a virtual law firm will need to be a tech-savvy lawyer.

I hope you enjoy our podcast.