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♫ One ringy-dingy…two ringy-dingies…♫

Ernestine/Miss Tomlin (Lily Tomlin on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in).

telephone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How long should you wait before you return a telephone call?  According to Debra J. Schmidt, Loyalty Leader:

“Returning phone calls used to be a common courtesy. Now, busy people claim they don’t have the time. I don’t buy that excuse. I’ve found that the most successful, busy people I know are the ones I can rely on to return my call the same day. It’s a matter of setting priorities.”

Indeed! What could be more important that meeting the expectations of those clients that have already sought your services and who are anxious to hear from you?  These are precisely the people who have placed faith and trust in you in meeting their needs and solving their legal problems. What kind of message are you sending them if you fail to return their phone calls promptly?

Susan Dooley of the Dale Carnegie organization states that no response is a response. In fact, in failing to return a phone call promptly, rather than assuming you are busy with assembling the information to return their call (or you are on vacation) the caller may assume something quite different:

[T]here’s a risk that the person feeling “snubbed” by the offender may draw a completely different, and inaccurate, conclusion, such as:

  1. This is not a top priority to you
  2. You’re not a professional
  3. You’re a procrastinator
  4. You don’t have the answer
  5. I’m not important to you
  6. You’re disorganized
  7. You can’t be counted on
  8. You’re hiding
  9. You have bad news, but are not strong enough to communicate it to me

Yikes! No professional would want to be labeled with these character attributes. Unfortunately, the wrong interpretation by the right person can harm business relationships and even careers.

No one would intentionally send these messages to their clients that are noted above.  Yet by failing to return phone calls promptly, we are unintentionally sending these very negative messages…about ourselves and how responsible we are to our clients.

So what to do?  There are a number of very good suggestions in these situations:

  1. The first thing is to recover your credibility. Acknowledge that the trust someone has placed in you has taken a hit. Your words and your actions have failed to align.  It is easy to lose credibility and hard to regain it afterwards. You made an explicit or implicit promise to your clients to care about their matter. Failing to return their phone call has broken that promise. Start by apologizing. This is NOT an excuse. Don’t say:  “I am sorry, but….” As soon as you say that word ‘but’ you have demolished any shred of credibility you had. Understand that you need to take ownership of the fact that you have disappointed your client and be real and honest to them. They are owed at least that much.
  2. Try to stop this from occurring in the first place by setting exceptions at the outset. If you are away from the office, on vacation, in court or on a personal matter, let your voice mail message shape the expectation of the caller as to when they can expect a call. If you have gone on an 180 day world tour, having your voice mail message state “Hi this is John Smith, I can’t take your call right now please leave a message” is completely different from “Hi this is John Smith. I am out of the office until March 2016. Please contact Jane Doe at extension 123 to discuss your matter or have this call answered by someone else at this office.”
  3. Ask yourself: “What kind of message do I want to leave with those who want to reach me?” If the answer to that is one of caring and commitment to their concerns, then you will implement policies such as having your assistant check your voice mail daily for messages and return your calls, if only to communicate that you are in trial and perhaps they could speak to someone else in your absence.
  4. Don’t wait to communicate bad news.  Failing to contact people promptly when things don’t go as expected sends a very powerful message – along the lines that  you are weak and don’t wish to face unpleasant facts and situations. Especially when things don’t go as expected is when clients will be looking to you as their source of strength to weather the setbacks.  If you fail them now, you will fail them in the long term.  Be their oak that stands up to the storm and let them know…in fair weather or foul ..that you will be there for them and be their source of strength.

Above all, when that telephone rings…land line or mobile…recognize that you have a golden opportunity. You can build your reputation and your client trust or destroy it, one ringy-dingy at a time.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

Today’s tip is for health care practitioners whose patients are involved in litigation.

We recognize that it might be natural, and even good practice, for medical practitioners to ask their patients how their lawsuits are going.

Particularly for those practitioners who provide counselling, these discussions may be essential to your work.

Lawsuits can weigh heavily upon the psyches of those who find themselves involved in the legal system. The litigation itself can be very foreign and stressful. The future may in a very real way hinge on the outcome of their lawsuits. There may even be stressful issues between your patients and their lawyers. All of these issues can benefit from being talked through with a qualified health care practitioner.

It can be highly problematic, however, when practitioners include details of those discussions in their chart notes.

No I’m not talking about broad information about the patient’s litigation, here. I’m talking about specific nitty-gritty details of discussions with lawyers that are disclosed by your patients that shouldn’t ever find their way into a medical chart.

By that, I mean details about offers to settle, the patient’s financial expectations and the lawyer’s stated opinions about the value of a claim. Details about tactics and strategies. Information that no patient would reasonably want an adverse party to know.

Practitioners should be aware their their entire charts may at some point be producible in their patients’ litigation. If their chart notes include details of patient’ reports as to confidential discussions with their lawyers, those too may have to be disclosed. Solicitor client privilege could thereby be breached, and your patient’s legal interests could be compromised or prejudiced.

In keeping chart notes then, practitioners should exercise caution and prudence as to the details to be included. If a practitioner intends to include precise details in medical records, they should take care to ensure the patient is aware that such notes will be taken, and that informed consent is obtained.

But most importantly, practitioners should exercise caution and discretion.

Don’t unwittingly cause a harmful breach of solicitor-client privilege by charting details about litigation (and patients’ discussions with their lawyers) that have no genuine medical relevance.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto

 

♫ Cell phone’s dead
Lost in the desert
One by one…♫

Lyrics and music by Beck Hensen.

tossing cell phone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Having just returned from a long tenting camping vacation where my Blackberry was dead for most of the trip, I thought I would pass along some tips on how to avoid the kind of experience that I just went through.

Notwithstanding that we were travelling with both an iPhone and a Blackberry and charging them equally in the vehicle when on the road (courtesy of having USB connectors that allowed us to use the 12 volt ports and plug in the phones to charge while the vehicle was running), the iPhone would have a charge of about 90-95% the next day and the Blackberry would be dead.

Furthermore, the Blackberry kept on stating that it has exceeded its data limit plan (we were in the States for the most part and had data plans that had to be continually renewed) even when it was only ‘alive’ for 1 out of every 3 days (due to the fact that it would only be charged every 3 days due to our travel/camping schedule).

What I found out on my return was that there was a big software update from Blackberry that it kept on trying to download when on the road.  If there was a notification of this, I have to say that I didn’t see it.  As a result the attempted download ate up the data limit on the plan and also ate up the battery life as well.

So here is a collection of tips to hopefully avoid some of the problems encountered when travelling with a cell phone:

  • Get a data roving plan before you leave.  It is much better than getting hit with the pay-as-you-go rate in whatever jurisdiction you find yourself.
  • Use WIFI whenever possible and turn off the data on your phone.  Starbucks is my best friend on the road. For the price of a coffee you can connect to their Wifi network and check your email messages.  If you are lucky you can find a table with a power connection too and top up your battery charge.
  • If you can, use an unlocked phone or a small tablet that can accommodate a SIM card and purchase a SIM card in the jurisdiction of travel to cut down on your data costs.
  • Consider buying a disposable phone in the jurisdiction where you are going.  Often these are much cheaper than a roaming plan using a Canadian phone.  Furthermore, Canadian cell phones may not work in other jurisdictions.
  • Check to ensure that all software updates are installed BEFORE you leave.  Or if you find out there is one released while you are travelling, find a WIFI hotspot and do the update there, if possible.
  • Make sure you can charge your device wherever you may be. You may need extra plugs and adapters to accommodate the AC power in foreign jurisdictions.  See a travel store before you leave.
  • Get the apps, music and entertainment files you need before you leave.
  • Take photos of your passport, important documents, serial numbers etc and put them in the cloud where you can get at them in the event your device and such are stolen or lost.
  • Set up one HTML based email service with an easy to remember password that you can use in the event of an emergency, such as losing your device.
  • GPS applications are wonderful when travelling, but remember that they also eat up data at a horrendous rate (at least in my experience).

I hope this helps ease some of the pain when travelling.  You don’t want to end up in the middle of the desert with your cell phone dead!

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

 

Windows 10?  Yawn.

If nothing else, the imminent launch of the new Windows OS gives us opportunity again to wonder why the Powers-That-Be at Microsoft continue to fail to grasp the obvious:

In terms of user interface, they got it right – with Windows XP.  Its been mostly downhill from there.

XP set the gold standard for user satisfaction.  That seminal OS would probably still have many millions of added, happy home and office users if the company hadn’t eliminated support for it a bit more than a year ago.

At its front-end, Windows 7 represented fairly lateral change from its predecessors, but Windows 8 and 8.1 were functional and marketing disasters. For many, the inevitable, reluctant change to Windows 8 came only with new computer purchases, and was followed by an equally inevitable scramble to find add-ons, including start menu hacks, that made Windows 8 function mostly like Windows 7 and XP.

While I am sure there have been many improvements along the way in the back end of these post-XP operating systems, from a strictly function-based analysis, I can’t think of a single thing I do on my Windows 8 computers that I couldn’t do on my Windows XP computers – or mostly, for that matter, on my Windows 95 computers that came before.

I’m hardly a casual computer user. It says a lot, then, that these fancy new operating systems mean so little in terms of the quality of my digital life.

So now, Windows 10 is about to arrive, a free download for many, and like most (I suspect), I will eventually make the change out of curiosity, if nothing else.

I fully expect that I will continue to ignore whatever this version does with its “Metro” apps, as I do on Windows 8.1. If there are additional, unpleasant quirks in 10 that fundamentally change my desktop experience, I will find workarounds to allow me continue to work in the comfort of an XP-like environment that’s as familiar as possible.

It was never broke, and now they are fixing it again, down at Microsoft.

For my part, I do not want my Windows experience to be like my iPad experience. I typically use my desktop and laptop for heavy lifting – concentrated and extensive law-related and creative tasks.

In my view, the iPhone and iPad are adequate or better for just about everything else – emails, documents, web-surfing, and social media, included.

I don’t want a dumbed-down environment for laptops and desktops that tries to emulate the simplicity of a tablet. The desktop and laptop cannot survive as products by trying to be as tablet-like as possible.  Windows products are still genuinely better for certain things. Its complexity makes it so.

Microsoft would be well advised to pay closer attention to why and when people actively choose to use their Windows-based computers, rather than reaching for their readily accessible phones and tablets.  If only Microsoft would just make it easier for users to do those things, and forget about the bells and whistles so few actually use…

Not gonna happen.  I know.

So change and Windows 10 are now upon us.

We will adjust.  Most of us will take whatever steps are necessary to make Windows 10 feel like Windows 7 or XP, and life will go on until Microsoft finally gets it – or Windows products become truly obsolete (whichever comes first).

Rant complete.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫  Snap, what a happy sound
Snap is the happiest sound I’ve found
You may clap, rap, tap, slap but
Snap… makes the world go round…♫

Lyrics and music by Moosebutter.

scansnap ix1500

Continuing with the theme of technology that just works, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.

This little scanner punches way above its weight.  In fact in the years that I have been talking about scanners and going paperless, no one has ever said that they have regretted purchasing one of the ScanSnap line of scanners.  They have been a hit with every size firm, with every practice area and every type of lawyer right across North America.  Why?  They do their job simply, quietly, quickly and very efficiently.

What do they do?  Here are the specs:

  • 50 page automatic sheet feeder
  • full duplex scan
  • 25 pages per minute in full colour, faster in B&W
  • works with Windows and Mac computers (I use mine with my MacBook Pro)
  • works with Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets
  • comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard (for Windows PCs only, regrettably for us Mac users) as well as other bundled software
  • comes with a ‘carrier sheet’ – a dual layer clear plastic sheet that allows you to scan loose papers and receipts
  • can be set to OCR (optical character recognition) files automatically
  • detects colour, greyscale and black & white
  • you can create a PDF, text-searchable PDF or JPEG file
  • using Wi-Fi, you can scan directly to a personal computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device
  • if you wish, you can scan directly to your existing Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, SugarSync and Salesforce accounts

The ScanSnap iX500 comes with a set of bundled software:

  • ScanSnap Manager (Windows and Mac)
  • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows)
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows and Mac)
  • Adobe Acrobat X standard (Windows)
  • PFU CardMinder (Windows and Mac)
  • Rack2-Filer Smart and Magic Desktop (Windows) – Available only with iX500 Deluxe
  • ScanSnap Folder (Windows)
  • Scan to SharePoint (Windows)
  • Scan to Mobile (Windows and Mac)

Full specifications can be found here and system requirements here.

I have a ScanSnap at home and love it. It has allowed me to take my paper files and digitalize them and eliminate the need for paper files.  I also upload my documents into Dropbox and this allows me to have a full cloud-copy as well as a local copy of all my documents.  Have a hard drive failure?  No worries…get a new PC or Windows, link it to your Dropbox account and ZIP…your documents are now dowloaded on your local computer.  I know ..I experienced this.  Everything in my Dropbox account was quickly and easily recovered notwithstanding the HD crash (unfortunately I found out to my regret that my photos..that I thought were backed up in iCloud ..were not.  Now all my photos are backed up in Dropbox).  For important documents and folders, I use third party encryption that creates encrypted volumes within Dropbox for security.

In my world, Snap makes the world go round.

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

♫  He ain’t no drag 
He’s got a brand new bag… ♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by: James Brown.

 

solo ultracase

This post continues the ‘no brainer’ posts about technology.  This time it is about a bit of technology that most people don’t put much thought into, I suspect, namely their computer laptop bag.

Now some people will say that a bag is a bag is a bag.  I am not one of them. In fact I can say that I am quite particular about my bag.  I had a nice laptop bag given to me by our local Continuing Legal Education provider for being a volunteer that fit the bill nicely, but when it finally wore out after many years of hard use, I started looking for a replacement.

I first settled on an Eagle Creek bag – the “Strictly Business” carryall.  Prior to this purchase I had had a number of bags from Eagle Creek of various sorts and liked them all. However, I discovered that the handles on the Strictly Business were too long…the bag almost dragged on the ground when carried by the handles rather than the shoulder strap- and I am a fellow who is 6’2″ tall.

But when the zipper blew after only 6 months of owning the bag, I went in search of an alternative bag.

What are the features that one looks for in a laptop bag?  To me the important features are:

  •  Size: Look for a nice padded internal compartment for the laptop that is well-padded and once inside, won’t allow the laptop to slide around much.  The compartment should be wide enough to take your laptop without a lot of extra room. The standard is to fit a 15″ laptop…if your laptop is bigger or smaller you may want to consider a larger or smaller bag.
  • Durable construction.  The bag that I received from CLE-BC lasted years of heavy use.  That was my measure of durability. Look for good padding, stout seams and good hardware, especially the zippers.  If you live in an area of significant rainfall or other harsh weather, ensure that the laptop will stay clean and dry inside.  I prefer a soft-sided laptop bag but some may prefer a harder case.  Personal preference.  Velcro should close easily and be secure. Magnetic fastenings should stay closed.  Seams should be well-sewn.
  • Style:  You are going to be taking this laptop bag to business meetings, on airplanes, checking into hotels and generally having it with you most days.  Accordingly the bag should match your style.
  • Weight: Leather may be a good choice in terms of durability and style; personally while I like the look and feel of a great leather bag, weight was also a consideration.  I carry a great deal of ‘stuff’ and the extra weight of a leather bag was too much for me since I walk to and from the office.  Accordingly, a fabric bag that is largely waterproof is high on my list of requirements.
  • Size: As I mentioned, I carry a lot of ‘stuff’ from the laptop power cord to various other cords, papers, USB drives, my chequebook etc…so I want a bag that has lots of compartments, pockets, internal zipped pouches etc to organize things such as your cell phone, business cards, pens, a chocolate bar or two, your wallet and passport and even your toothbrush and toothpaste. Ensure that your laptop bag meets the new restricted size limits if you plan to use it on airplanes.
  • Color: I am not referring to the color of the outside of the bag…that is a matter of personal preference.  But the new bag that I acquired..the Solo Urban 17.3″ Ultracase, while black (with orange trim) on the outside is bright orange on the inside. If you are accustomed to ferreting around trying to find something inside a black bag you will totally appreciate the difference a bright orange lining makes.  Finding something is now effortless.  Plus the bag is perhaps one of the sharpest I have seen for looks.  It it is a joy to carry and easily organizes and stores all my ‘stuff’.

A laptop bag can be one of the most important overlooked items in your business life.  When it works well it is practically invisible since it performs its duties effortlessly and in a way that matches your lifestyle.  I am quite pleased with my Solo Urban Ultracase…Daddy’s got a brand new bag!!!

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal, of all places, had a feature this week on the increasing prevalence – and acceptance – of mindfulness training for lawyers.

In Lawyers Go Zen, With Few Objections, writer Jacob Gershman delivers more than just a clever headline.  He focusses on the enhanced listening skills that can be developed through mindfulness techniques.

I don’t have much personal expertise in this area, but I do have the luxury of deferring on this topic to my significant other, Toronto marketing consultant Sandra Bekhor, who has completed mindfulness training.

She notes:

“Sharper listening skills will make you a better lawyer, presumably, whether you are listening to your client, opposing counsel or a judge. What you do with that information is up to you.

“Mindfulness training puts you into the present moment, so your observation skills are sharpened. You’re not distracted by preconceptions about the person you’re dealing with or the situation you are in. Being present helps you pick up on subtle messages like body language or emotional responses that you might otherwise miss.

Picking up on it can be a gold mine.  It helps you see past the game face.

Of course, mindfulness is far more than just another tool to be utilized to gain tactical advantage, Bekhor notes.

Mindfulness training reduces anxiety, allows us to decompress and sharpens our ability to enjoy life, as humans and professionals.

Those interested in learning more can access the Ontario Bar Association’s Mindful Lawyer CPD series.

Archived video of the OBA’s six-module programme is available free online to OBA members.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto

 

I’ve previously blogged at Slaw Tips on the virtues of using Siri’s dictation functions to draft letters, emails and other documents typically created in day-to-day legal practice.

In short, dictation with Siri has increased my productivity, precision  and the overall quality of my work product.

For those who are similarly inclined, I wanted to share a great list of Siri commands that can be used for punctuating as you dictate.  With kudos and credit to iPhone Tricks, here is a partial excerpt:

Punctuation and Commands

Below you can find an extended list of punctuation and commands that iPhone’s voice recognition software can detect and apply.

Command                   Result
Period (Full stop).           .
Comma.                             ,
Exclamation point.         !
Question mark.               ?
Colon.                                :
Semi-colon.                      ;
Dash (Hyphen)               –
Forward slash.                /
Equal sign                        =
Dollar sign                       $
Euro sign                         €
Percent sign                    %
Registered sign              ®
Copyright sign               ©
Trademark sign             ™
Ampersand                     &
Smiley                              :-)
Open quote                     “
Close quote                     “
Open / Close paranthesis.             ( / )
Open / Close brackets                    [ / ]
Open / Close curly bracket.          { / }
New line                                            new line
New paragraph                              new pgh

Another good list of Siri Dictation Commands is here via CrushApps.

Sorry if the iPhone-centricity of this post has left anyone feeling bored or left out. Android and Blackberry users, feel free to entertain yourselves here.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫ I just want the simple things..♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by Miguel.

simplyfile

 

This post continues the theme of innovative  technology for lawyers.  John Heckman, a legal technology consultant for whom I have a great deal of respect recently wrote in his blog “Does it Compute” a piece entitled:
Technophobe and Proud Of It — the Consequences.  He states that there are “attorneys whose willful refusal to become conversant with their firm’s technology will drag down its productivity and ability to respond to client needs.” John then quotes Sharon Nelson, another good friend and legal technologist who is a co-author of the annual American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide (for which the write is a contributing author) put it bluntly: “The raw choice is that lawyers must choose between adaption and extinction.”

Well, fortunately there are technologies that are simple, effective and easy to use even for technophobes.  SimplyFile is one of them.

This application which is a toolbar add-on for MS Outlook on the PC (not Mac..sigh!).  It does one thing very very well. It is an adaptive program that learns from you where you like to file emails in your Outlook folders.

If you set up your Outlook folders to match your client files, then SimplyFile will help you quickly and easily move both incoming and outgoing emails into their proper file in Outlook. It learns from you and correctly guesses the correct folder 80-90% of the time.  Moving the email to the right folder once Simplyfile guesses the folder is just a mouse click.

No longer will you end up with all your outgoing emails in the ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook.

No longer do you ‘drag and drop’ emails to organize them.

I have been using SimplyFile for years now and love it. There are companion applications that speed up other tasks and for those I refer you to Techhit’s web page.

If you use a Document Management System (we use OpenText) Simplyfile helps you move your emails into your profiled folders in Outlook and from there they are indexed into the DMS system.  I understand it is equally effective with Worldox and other DMS platforms that work with MS Outlook (but you should check with your DMS provider first).

When it comes to legal technology there is no question that for maximum adoption by lawyers on all points on the legal technology spectrum, the applications should keep it simple.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

 

♫  Good lookin’, so refined
Say wouldn’t you like to know whats going on in my mind?
So let me get right to the point
I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see
Hey Big Spender
Spend, a little time with me…♫

Music and lyrics by:  Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, from Sweet Charity.

wordrake

This column starts what I hope will be a series of columns on new and innovative technologies for lawyers.

The kickoff column in this series deals with WordRake.

WordRake is editing software for lawyers.

Most of us have to write for a living. Contracts, pleadings, documents, memorandums – even blog posts – our ideas are as clear as the words, grammar, syntax and tone that we use to communicate our thoughts.

Other than hiring an editor to go over your work, we are pretty much on our own to do our own editing and proofreading.

That is, until WordRake. As Gary Kinder, the developer states, the secret to writing well is rewriting. WordRake will take your writing and suggest edits to remove unnecessary words, improve phrasing, improve your grammar and make dull sentences sparkle.

It allows you to write clearly, be understood and make things happen with your written communications.

If nothing else, you can improve your writing by subscribing to Gary Kinder’s Wednesday Writing Tips.

WordRake works in Windows and with MS Word and Outlook. Alas, it doesn’t work on a Mac or I would be using it to help tighten this column. There is a 7 day free trial at www.wordrake.com.  So let me get right to the point, spend a little time with WordRake; it may be the best $199 (Word and Outlook for 1 year) that you spend this year.

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.