Many lawyers use Gmail and Google Docs. I always suggest that if lawyers are going to use Gmail for client matters, they upgrade to the paid business version of the service for account controls and improved security. That business class service is Google Workplace (formerly GSuite, Google for Business, et al.) But there is more to the upgrade than just more secureGmail. There’s significant value and a more professional appearance if your emails are from your law firm domain instead of Gmail. Workplace users also get access to other communication tools, including (at the Starter level) hosting video conferences of up to 100. See Google Workplace pricing.

But Workplace users, and eventually all Gmail users, will soon see some changes, including a new toolbar. Catherine Sanders Reach, Director of North Carolina Bar Association Center for Practice Management gives us a brief overview of what is ahead in her post What’s New with Google’s Gmail and Docs?

One of the more important tasks for lawyers is proofreading. It also can be among the most tedious. We endeavor to produce perfect legal documents. Reading a complex document for the third or fourth time can be tiring.

We have all also learned that when proofreading a document you authored, there are times you can read what you meant to write instead of what you wrote. That is why many of us have a policy of always having “two sets of eyes” review a document before it is finalized.

Using Microsoft’s Read Aloud feature can be a great way to final proof a document you have created. An error your eyes might skip past will likely be caught by your ear. An awkwardly worded sentence may be exposed as well. Read Aloud is only available for Microsoft 365, Office 2019 and Office 2021.

You can locate Read Aloud under the Review Tab in Microsoft Word. To change the reading speed or pause, use these commands. (You will likely have to tap the arrow key several times while holding down Alt key to notice the difference.)

Alt + Left Arrow: Decrease reading speed

Alt + Right Arrow: Increase reading speed

CTRL + Space: Play or pause Read Aloud

As the graphic shows, I have installed Read Aloud on my Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) to make it quickly available without having to use the Review tab. If you haven’t customized your QAT or don’t know how to do this, my prior column Time-Saving Microsoft Word Customizations and Tools should help.

Needless to say, Read Aloud can be very useful for those with certain visual disabilities. The feature is also included in Microsoft’s Edge browser.

To launch it, click the little “A” icon on the right-hand side of the address bar. Alternatively, right-click anywhere and select “Read aloud.” Read aloud will then begin to read the web page. Audio controls at the top of the page allow you to pause and change the voice and reading speed.

Microsoft’s Listen to Your Word Documents resource page has additional information on this and similar features.

Ordinarily published in OBA’s Courts & More

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!”)