There are two areas related to geotagging photos that lawyers need to appreciate. One is related to privacy and security concerns of both lawyers and their clients. Another relates to the sometimes-hidden evidentiary value of geotagged photos.

As Brian X. Chen, consumer technology columnist for The New York Times, noted in a recent column “Just say no to photo locations”, “Imagine that you’ve met someone on a dating app and you text that person a selfie from your favorite coffee shop. If you’re there every morning, you might not want a near-stranger to have the exact location of a place you frequent regularly.”

Geotagging basically means attaching geographic coordinates to media based on the location of a phone camera or other mobile device. The location information and time stamps are not readily viewable to someone viewing a digital photo. So many people do not know that the embedded information, known as Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data, exists. This data will reveal which phone or camera was used to take the photo.  Geotags are applied to photos and videos. We see location tags attached to social media posts as well, but most social media websites filter out the geotag metadata in posted photos because a large number of “near strangers” might have access to it..

In Windows, simply right-click a picture file, select “Properties,” and then click the “Details” tab in the properties window. Look for the Latitude and Longitude coordinates under GPS. Latitude and Longitude can be entered into Google Maps to find the location within a few yards. Google offers instructions for properly formatting the coordinates for Google Maps. But when I opened a photo taken at ABA TECHSHOW years back, Photos showed a thumbnail map of the location and a link to an online map just by selecting File Info.

In macOS, right-click the image file (or use Control+click), and select “Get Info.” You will see the Latitude and Longitude coordinates under the “More Info” section.

But those who want to disable adding GPS data entirely can go into their phone’s camera app and disable the location setting. On an iPhone, head to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera, and then select “Never” for the “Allow Location Access” option. On Android phones, this operation varies from phone to phone.  The embedded data can also be deleted before sharing photos. In fact, most social media sites automatically strip the location data from uploaded images.

This location metadata can be very useful, such as organizing your vacation pictures. So, you may want to turn the feature back on when leaving on a pleasure trip.

But for many lawyers who have a situation where there are stalking allegations or threats of violence, teaching the client how to “un-tag” photos before sharing may be an important bit of advice. Some parents may also be interested in this approach.  And, if you are dealing with a digital photo that seems questionable or implausible, checking the location geotag and other EXIF data can be done quickly after you learn how and may provide useful information.

We all agree that email is a pain, and sometimes managing email seems like a separate job all by itself. But Outlook users have a great tool for processing email that is already built-in. It is called Outlook Quick Steps. Being able to accomplish several email actions with one click is a significant time-saver for Outlook users.

I’ve written about Quick Steps before, but a recent Attorney at Work post does a great job of explaining how to easily get started with Quick Steps.

So, I would encourage you to read “Process Email Faster with Outlook Quick Steps” and perhaps share it with your office co-workers who also deal with email every day.

Start with a few simple Quick Steps. For example, if you often forward a certain client’s emails to another attorney in the firm, a paralegal and a secretary, you can build a Quick Step that will address an email to those three individuals. Then you can either hit send or type some text before hitting send. The time savings are small but real, especially when repeated many times each day. If you send similarly worded emails out frequently, you can create a template with the text automatically included in the email body.

Saving minutes each day can add up to more billable hours or more time away from the office. Either is good.

By Julie Bays
Oklahoma Bar Association Practice Management Advisor

In 2019, I wrote in an OBA Journal article on trust accounting basics::

“Frequently, lawyers go into private practice thinking more about their representation of clients rather than the business side of the practice. As a matter of fact, it’s quite common to hear lawyers joke that they went to law school because they couldn’t do math. When it comes to trust accounts, the math is no joking matter.”

It’s been a few years, so I decided to revisit this topic. Luckily besides my older article, two of our member benefits providers recently teamed up to write a helpful guide! Trustbooks, a cloud-based trust accounting service for lawyers and LawPay, an OBA endorsed payment processor, wrote “A Complete Guide To Managing Your Trust Account” for the blog Above the Law. Yes, you will have to provide them with your email address but frankly, their emails are usually quite helpful. Anyway, check it out, and download it for a good reference guide. Between my 2019 trust accounting article and this guide, you should have plenty of trust accounting information.

 

Dropdown menus are great ways to navigate through software for things you do infrequently. For operations you do several times a day, keyboard shortcuts are faster, and you don’t have to remove a hand from the keyboard. Some of these we know by heart, like Esc to close a window, Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste. But we often don’t use keyboard shortcuts in Outlook, a tool we tend to spend entirely too much time using each day.

66 of the Most Useful Outlook Keyboard Shortcuts is brought to us from the Reader’s Digest website. This may be a good article to print and leave by your computer for a few days as you use Outlook. (I just used Ctrl+K to insert that hyperlink in that preceding sentence, and it was certainly faster.) If you often switch between Outlook mail, calendar and contacts, as you can see from the screen capture at left, it is as simple as 1,2 3 (or actually Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2 and Ctrl+3.) I note those three because they are easy to memorize, and they will likely be used frequently enough to retain that knowledge.

There is a section on enabling shortcuts in the post. But that apparently only applies to the online version of Outlook.

But if you review this piece, you may find the shortcut for something you use very frequently. Because the most useful shortcuts are the ones you actually use to save a few seconds or a few minutes every day.

Today concludes Women’s History Month.

Our Digital Edge podcast this month focused on What Do Women Lawyers Really Want from Their Law Firms? 

Our guest is Roberta Tepper, Chief Member Services Officer of the State Bar of Arizona and was the co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2021. Roberta is also a former President of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association Board of Directors and also served as President of the Maricopa Chapter of AWLA.

Roberta’s interview was based both on her personal experiences and several recent studies indicating the challenges of the pandemic fell disproportionally on women lawyers. Some gains may have evaporated with the focus on pandemic challenges. Roberta is always a pleasure to talk with and I hope you enjoy her observations. And if you really don’t enjoy listening to podcasts, the transcript is available at the podcast link above. .

 

Ben Stevens,  a family law practitioner in South Carolina who I haveknown for years has authored an interesting post, How Using Latest Technology Can Lower Stress During Your Child Custody Lawsuit,  He discusses Our Family Wizard, PowerSchool Parent Portals, and MyChart medical portals, as well as others. Ben has long been an advocate of using the latest technology to better serve clients. Many of these tools allow the client to make contemporaneous time-stamped records of important events.

When we use software, we accept a lot of default settings. So many lawyers are just using whatever default font for email that came with Outlook or was selected by their IT department. Considering how much lawyers use email for important communications today, you should examine your options.

For example, if you are using a 10-point font for email, you are just being difficult to people with vision challenges or small monitors. If your practice focuses on elder law or estate planning, then a 12-point (or greater) font should be the standard for both email and client documents.

Standardizing on a new font for everyone in the law firm to use is actually a simple and quick process after you decide on your new font. Some legal professionals spend a lot of time examining fonts. There is even a book for sale titled Typography for Lawyers. If you aren’t willing to commit to that level of research, here’s a great blog post 10 Best Fonts for Email Design in 2021. This brief post informs you about font types and showcases the pros and cons of 10 fonts, making it simple to make a quick decision on font selection.

It is easy to change the default fonts in Outlook. Microsoft provides the instructions.

  1. Go to File > Options > Mail > Stationery and Fonts…
  2. Select the font you want to change
    • New mail messages – Sets the default font for original messages you compose.
    • Replying or forwarding messages – You can have a different font on messages you’re forwarding or replying to. This setting is mostly for the two check boxes that let you mark your comments with your name (or other text) or with a different color of text.
    • Composing and reading plain text messages – Plain text messages will be received by the other person with a standard font, but if you want to use a nicer font when you’re writing the message you can. Just understand that font won’t be sent with the message.
  3. Select the options that you want to apply to the default font, such as font style and font size.
  4. Select OK all the way back out to save your changes.

My personal opinion is to use the same font for both new emails and reply/forwards. But I suggest a totally different font for reading and replying to plain text messages. Since this email will be converted to plain text when you hit Send, you are the only one who will see this font. So, make it dramatically different as a reminder that the message will be converted so that fancy fonts and emoticons will not look the same when the recipient opens it.

It’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. Well, since this comes out in mid-January, it is the time when many New Year’s resolutions have already been made and broken. But with the new year ahead, it is an appropriate time to reflect on your law firm and the goals you have for the year. So instead of calling your plans for the year resolutions, let’s frame this discussion as goal setting. If you really want to be effective at setting goals, enlist others in your project, and set a review date a few months down the road to see how you’re doing on your plans partway through the year.

Rather than drafting goals for you, we will cover some broad areas so you can create your own law firm’s goals for the new year.

MARKETING AND CLIENT DEVELOPMENT

Marketing and client development, for most law firms, is an ongoing process. It seems like you have to market all the time because the return on lawyer marketing efforts is often more long term than immediate.

We will assume for the purposes of this article that you have the basics down. You have a law firm website that directs others to your physical office, provides the law firm phone number and lists some areas of law of your normal practice. We assume you have claimed the Google My Business profile for your current address, and we assume you have invested time in training your staff how to positively deal with potential new clients who call.

This year, consider adding to your client outreach efforts by selecting a few targets for individual, one-on-one focus. Who is your ideal potential client? Design your marketing efforts to appeal to that client profile. For firms representing primarily individual clients and fewer long-term clients, target your best sources of referrals. Given the last couple of years, you may not have had as much personal contact with some of your good referral sources as you previously would have enjoyed. Invite them to lunch as a thank you, but also ask how you can help them with the clients they send now. Maybe a brochure or something similar would be helpful – perhaps they just need some of your business cards. You never know unless you ask.

Determine your goals for client development for the year. Maybe you’ll have lunch with a referral source every month, or maybe something else entirely works better for your practice. Other items to consider include freshening up your law firm website and posting new content, working on an improved social media strategy, reviewing the thank you letter you send to those who refer cases to the firm or other actions. 

EXAMINING IMPERFECTION

Nobody likes to make a mistake. Lawyers, by our nature, are often critical of even the smallest mistake. But sometimes, it is OK to dwell on the past and look at previous shortcomings. With the legal profession, if a mistake is made, we tend to focus on fixing it. When that is done, however, there is more work waiting for you. Look at your lowest moments in the past year and see if some changes should be made to prevent the problem from cropping up in the future. Hopefully, there were few low points.

It takes a bit of courage but asking a sample of your clients (after the representation is concluded) what they thought of your services and where you could have improved will provide you with information that is literally unattainable anywhere else. If you don’t have a mechanism now for obtaining client feedback, you should strongly consider adding that to your list of goals for the year, even if it’s just simply having your staff call 10% of clients a month after their file closes to see if they will agree to a short interview about their experiences as a client. Simply ask a former client what the best and worst things were about the firm’s representation in their matter. Most will appreciate that you asked. 

COPING WITH CHANGING TIMES

A profession that is guided by legal precedent from the past has sometimes proven to be challenged by dealing with rapidly changing circumstances in the world today. Some very large law firms have even hired directors of innovation to push their firm forward with needed changes. There is significant agreement that there are generational differences in how individuals respond to certain marketing outreaches.

Precedent and inertia are powerful influences to keep things at the status quo; however, every type of business today, including law firms, is dealing with rapid change. Reflecting on where you want your practice to be at the end of the year and after five years is a good way to prioritize what changes you want to approach first. Many individuals now expect more and different things in client services from every professional service provider. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this space, you may really hate videoconferencing after the last two years, but you may have some clients who would greatly appreciate not having to drive to your office for short meetings or who still have concerns about in-person meetings. 

A PRE-YEAR-END CHECKLIST FOR SOLOS AND SMALL FIRMS

Attorney Megan Zavieh shares some ideas in “A Pre-Year-End Checklist for Solos and Small Firms,” posted on the website Attorney at Work. Although the author focuses on limiting ethical risks, her sample list of key business areas and suggestions for reviewing are useful for any type of solo and small law firm business reassessment, from financial planning to improving client services. If you have never done a review of your business operations, Ms. Zavieh’s short outline is an excellent starting place.

ABOUT LAW OFFICE TECHNOLOGY

Proper use of technology can yield great benefits. Your staff has likely communicated to you what hardware should be replaced, but technology is not always a solution to every problem. Many law firms invest in the proper technology but then fail by not providing appropriate training for the staff and lawyers on how to get the most benefit out of the technology.

If everyone in the office is working on old computers with delays, crashes and other problems, the firm clearly needs to consider investing more in its technological tools. Inexpensive computers have about a three-year lifespan before their performance starts diminishing. More expensive computers can go a bit longer. Contact the OBA Management Assistance Program staff for assistance with law office technology information.

IMPROVING THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE

Lawyers focus on the legal issues about their clients’ matters, justifiably so. But as many have observed, what causes clients to return for more legal services or to refer your law firm to their friends and acquaintances is often not so much the result but how the clients feel they were treated during the representation.

Invest some time in examining the client experience you provide and improving it. Do you provide appropriate handouts? Many individuals prefer to watch videos instead of reading text. While I haven’t seen it happen extensively yet, I still believe it will be common in the near future for law firms to have a library of videos recorded by lawyers in the firm. These videos will explain simple, legal concepts about representation and will be hidden behind a firewall and reserved only for the law firm’s clients. A few years ago, that would have cost many thousands of dollars to produce. Now, almost every lawyer carries a mobile phone capable of recording high-quality videos. This does not mean that everyone can record professional-quality videos with their phone. Proper attention to good audio and appropriate lighting is critical. Just remember, there’s no such thing as a great video with the sound so weak you can’t understand it without effort.

We all appreciate what we like when we are receiving professional services from another. Being on time for client appointments, avoiding interruptions during a conference with a client and giving clients plenty of time to ask all their questions are great starting points for good client relations.

Some law firms are providing extras that clients do not expect and therefore greatly appreciate. I once saw a lawyer discuss how he sends boxes of chocolates personalized with his law firm’s branding to new clients. Family lawyers have long provided blank calendars to their clients in high-conflict divorce cases so the client can easily document each problem on the day it occurs. This cuts down on “billable” calls to the law firm about relatively minor items. 

CONCLUSION

You and your clients are the experts on how well your law firm provides legal services. You already have many goals and deadlines related to your current client files, but it’s important to represent yourself and your law firm as well by taking the time to consider what changes and improvements you can make each year.

Now that you have finished reading this column, it is up to you to pick the first items you want to review and improve. For most of us, we have more things that we would like to accomplish than time to accomplish them. But consistently making positive changes on a regular basis will yield great benefits in the future. It’s like the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 

Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program director.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — January, 2022

This story, Steady guidance in changing times: Practice management advisors help lawyers move forward, appeared in the ABA publication Bar Leader. Our community of Practice Management advisors (PMAs) includes so many smart and talented individuals. Marilyn Cavicchia is a great writer and she interviewed several  of us for this feature..

I’m biased of course, but the bar associations who provide practice management services to their members are providing important information and critical services to their members. Our office frequently schedules consultations with lawyers who don’t use practice management software and don’t know where to start. I sit through several software demonstrations each month. These are useful, But hearing from a trusted advisor in your state who is not financially tied to any software or service is quite useful, especially for the novice shopper.

The PMA group meets regularly (virtually) to exchange ideas and share information. This is a big assist for new PMA starting their careers. I have met several times with stage bar officials in other states where there is no PMA as they consider how to deliver these services. Sometiems

The Sound of Music is often associated with the holiday season, even though the movie doesn’t contain content we would normally think of as relevant to the holidays. One reason is that in the days before streaming, family-friendly content was often broadcast by networks during this season. Many people have memories of watching the movie during the holidays with family. Julie Andrews played Maria, and her character’s song “My Favorite Things” just seems to fit into the season. For my last Law Practice Tips column of the year, I decided to cover a few of my favorite legal technologies that readers should consider applying to their law practices or their lives.

Maybe you will have some downtime during the remainder of the year to investigate some of these to see if they should become your favorite things as well. 

BUILD YOUR BRAND BY UPLOADING A SINGLE PICTURE

One of my favorite things is seeing pictures of OBA members in the OBA directory, which is accessible to OBA members only. It is such a great benefit for Oklahoma lawyers who have similar names, so lawyers looking up a phone number or email can tell by the picture that they have the right person. In addition, if you are going to be meeting up with another lawyer in court for the first time, seeing a picture may be helpful. Law firms spend a lot of money on branding and marketing. You probably already have a professional picture on your computer right now. Log in to MyOKBar and upload your picture to your profile. It is free and should only take a moment. If you are the managing partner of your firm, maybe you should send out something encouraging all the lawyers in your firm to do the same. 

QUICK PARTS IN MS WORD AND OUTLOOK

Lawyers should automate routine processes when they can. Quick Parts is the easiest and fastest way to automate placing “prerecorded” blocks of text into Outlook emails and Word documents. For example, if you often close emails with the same paragraph, you can add that to any email with a couple of clicks. Find a sent email that has the paragraph(s) you want to reuse, open a reply to it, highlight the text you want to save and then click Insert, Quick Parts, Save to Selection to Quick Part Gallery, give it a name and click OK.

To insert the new Quick Part into an email, click Insert, Quick Parts, Auto Text and select it from the list of saved Quick Parts. It works the same way as in Word. See my 2009 video Fun with Quick Parts.. Word has been updated a few times since then, but this functions the same, and the video could be inspiration for your staff to start creating Quick Parts. 

SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE BY CUSTOMIZING WORD’S QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR

I recently changed to a new computer. In the hours before I imported my prior Quick Access Toolbar settings, I was reminded just how much time my QAT entries save me every day. They are quick and easy to set up. My most used function is Mail. When I complete a document in Word, clicking on that icon opens a blank email with the document attached. I also recommend installing Save As on the QAT.

“Time-Saving Microsoft Word Customizations and Tools”  is a Law Practice Tips column I wrote in 2018 that was named the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week by Technolawyer. It contains detailed instructions, with screen shots, on customizing the QAT and the status bar. Invest a small amount of time doing this customization for Microsoft Word to save yourself time every week afterward. 

APPLE CARPLAY 

Droid users can skip this section, but as a longtime iPhone user, one of my very favorite things to use while driving is Apple CarPlay. Various iPhone apps are displayed on the vehicle screen. Text messaging is safer while driving when CarPlay reads the contents of the text messages, asks if you want to reply and lets you dictate your reply – all hands free. The maps display on your vehicle’s dash is bigger and in a better position than using the iPhone navigation without CarPlay. Driving directions can be heard over the car’s speakers.

Like me, many iPhone users only discover Apple CarPlay when they purchase a car that has it preinstalled in the entertainment system. But after using it for a while now, if I bought a car that didn’t have it installed, I’d prioritize switching out the radio or entertainment system for one that included CarPlay.

FUJITSU SCANSNAP SCANNERS

For a very long time now, the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners have been the office standard for the legal profession, in my opinion. These scanners are easy to use and come with great preinstalled software. The ScanSnap line is also great for home use as they do a good job of scanning receipts and other odd-sized pieces of paper. Since these scanners are so durable, I bet many office scanners were retired to someone’s home when a new office scanner was purchased. The model I use, the ScanSnap IX 1500, is no longer available. Most purchasers will choose between the IX 1400 and IX 1600.

“Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX1400 ($395) sheetfed document scanner is a pared-down sibling to the Editors’ Choice-winning ScanSnap iX1600 ($495),” according to a PC Magazine review.

To save $100, you’ll give up wireless connectivity and an onboard control panel. The iX1400 has no Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or mobile device support; the USB 3.2 interface can only connect to a single desktop or laptop computer. But that’s fine for many applications, such as scanning IDs at your facility’s front desk or documents for your one-person business. If you need to configure and run scans from more than one station, from handheld devices, or from the scanner itself, you should investigate the iX1600. Otherwise, the iX1400 is a fine, user-friendly for small office and home office (SOHO) purposes.

Most lawyers should likely opt to spend the extra $100 for the iX1600 to have the control panel feature. 

ONLINE SCHEDULING FOR CLIENT APPOINTMENTS

For lawyers in private practice, serving mostly individual clients with their personal legal matters, it’s time to allow potential clients to schedule an appointment online. Doctors do that. Dentists do that. It’s time for more in the legal profession to provide that service. If you are concerned about screening for subject matter, conflicts or which lawyer in the firm should have the appointment, then at least after they have been vetted give potential clients the option with, “Do you want me to schedule you an appointment with attorney Whiteacre, or would you like me to text you a link so you can schedule it yourself?” Many readers will assume few would take the link option, but some clients will so they can check their schedule or rearrange something on their end. I’d suggest keeping track of those folks and contacting the ones who haven’t scheduled within a few days by phone to see if they need assistance. 

FASTCASE

I mentioned Fastcase in my September Law Practice Tips column. Since then, some have contacted me and shared that taking the free online training at Fastcase.com really improved their use. I would encourage going to Fastcase.com, registering for the webinar Introduction to Legal Research and downloading a copy of the Fastcase 7 Quick Reference Guide. This legal research tool, provided to OBA members at no expense, has coverage of state and federal courts and statutes. It is better to get the training on the unique ways Fastcase functions. Remember, you log in to use Fastcase on the OBA website; however, to get the training, go to Fastcase.com and select the Support tab. You can always call Fastcase with legal research questions at 1-866-773-2782, but the webinar will answer many of those questions. 

OBA SOLO & SMALL FIRM CONFERENCE

Finally, after a long, pandemic-fueled hiatus, the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference will return next summer, June 23-25, at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant. Save the dates now so you won’t miss out. Conference and hotel reservations will open in the spring. 

TECH TOYS AND LAWYER GIFTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS 

Every year about this time, our Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology podcast features tech toys for the holidays, which includes gift-giving ideas from Sharon Nelson and me. Some of these suggested gifts are quite practical, while others are a bit fanciful. Listen to the podcast for gift ideas. This year, I did double duty on the holiday gift suggestions. Senior Director of the Association of Immigration Lawyers of America’s Practice & Professionalism Center Reid Trautz and I co-authored “Holiday Gifts for Lawyers” for the November/December issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice magazine.

That is it for a few of my favorite things. I hope the holiday season brings you some of your favorite things, along with great times with family and friends.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — December, 2021