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♫  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.

 

 

Which email client does your law office use?

I raise this question, as the purchase of a new computer for my desktop has necessitated the migration of all my emails – around 20 Gigs worth – to my new machine.

Out of habit, if nothing else, we have used Windows Live Mail as my office’s email client of choice.

While I suspect MS-Outlook has long been most lawyers’ preferred email software, I was always fond of Outlook Express, the predecessor to Windows Live Mail. When OE was discontinued, we migrated to Windows Live Mail as the path of least resistance.

Windows Live Mail, however, has become increasingly clunky over the years, and key, “can’t live without them” features, such as the ability to use email stationary, have for unfathomable reasons, simply been eliminated from the software.

We worked around these limitations by continuing our use of older, legacy versions of this software. And it worked just fine.

As we discovered, however, Windows 8.1 does not appear to allow the installation of these legacy versions.

As a result, I have made a long-avoided migration to MS-Outlook.

The migration process was a rather simple, if time-consuming, three-step process.

  1. First, I exported all required emails from Windows Live Mail to a version of Outlook that was already installed on my old computer. Note that to use this method, it is necessary to have Outlook installed (with a profile set up) on the computer from which the export is being done;
  2. Using Outlook on my old computer, I then exported all emails, via the resulting PST file, to our data server, where it will also be permanently archived for backup purposes;
  3. Using Outlook on my new desktop, I imported the PST file from our data server, and my emails, including storage folders and subfolders, were restored.

My email life can now seamlessly carry on.

Outlook has numerous advantages over Windows Live Mail that were apparent even in this transition process.

Windows Live does not support exporting directly to our data server, for example. The software’s export function only allows saving to the desktop that hosts the program. This makes backing up and archiving a very cumbersome process.

The ability to export to a single PST file also has numerous advantages for archiving purposes.

So I am finally aboard the Outlook train.

Are there any other Windows Live Mail holdouts out there?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto 

 

♫ wheeeeeeeeeefit
whoafit
holy$#*!fit
findyourfit..♫

Lyrics and music by Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family).

Who knew that keeping track of your fitness could be addictive – and fun? Welcome to the world of wearable technology and in particular, the Fitbit.

fitbit

The FitBit Flex is a wearable fitness wristband that helps you track your daily activity in terms of steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.

It tracks how long you slept and the quality of your sleep. It buzzes when you have achieved 10,000 steps in a day (the first time mine did this I almost jumped out of my skin!).

It synchs wirelessly to your computer and smartphones. You can log additional activities such as biking, skiing, running and more.

As you achieve your fitness goals, you get email reminders and badges that reinforce your progress. You can also track drinks of water and calories eaten in the food log section.

If what gets measured gets done, the FitBit is a fun and novel way to keep on top of your fitness goals and see how you are doing.

There are different devices ranging from the Flex (above) to the Surge that incorporates a heart monitor and is classified as a ‘Fitness Super Watch’ with GPS, notifications, music, Auto Sleep monitoring and alarms.

Since keeping fit is something that all of us need to do more of, it is good to know that the Fitbit can be a great little way to get that little bit of motivation to achieve your goals with a tiny bit of wheeeeeeeeee….

 -David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

image

Some call it Mobilegeddon.

Google began to roll out a mobile-friendliness update last Tuesday, April 21, 2015.  With this latest, major algorithmic change, Google will now be boosting search rankings of mobile-friendly web pages on its mobile search results.

According to Google:

A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How will this algorithmic change affect your law firm website’s search results?

Your website’s traffic from search results will begin to be impacted by whether it passes or fails Google’s mobile optimization requirements.  With failure, your site’s search rankings on mobile searches may take a serious hit.

While early indications are that the sky has not yet fallen, and only modest fluctuations in search results are at this point being seen, it’s important to note this update is still in its implementation phase.

The long-term impact of this change may not yet be fully apparent.

Many commentators, including Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog, forecast significant negative consequences for law firm websites that fail the mobile-friendliness test:

Those law firms who don’t act will suffer the consequences of their content being ranked well below mobile friendly content on smart phones – the result will be significant reductions in search traffic.

Google has published a mobile-friendliness test tool that allows you to easily check whether your website pages are mobile-compliant. Note that this test applies to each individual page, rather than entire websites.

If your key pages don’t pass the test, this might be a really good time to be in contact with a web developer about updating your site.

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

 

♫ Just a short note
You’ll find the key inside…♫

Music, lyrics and recorded by Matt Finish.

twitter to evernote (1)

Having just returned from ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago my mind is buzzing with everything that I has seen and heard.  One of the more interesting sessions was on how to use Evernote (https://evernote.com).  Now I have been using Evernote for some time but it seems that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I became curious about how to use Evernote to not just capture web sites, recipes, legal research and such, but to try to capture the tweets that I was creating while at Techshow.

So with a little research, here is how to craft a note in Evernote that captures all your tweets going forward…without your having to do anything more.

I only wish I knew how to do this *before* Techshow ..that way my Tweets could be a record that I could easily use to write a column…the next step is to figure out how to capture all the tweets that use a certain hashtag like #ABATECHSHOW!

Here is how to create a note to log all your tweets going forward:

1.  Go to IFTTT to create an account.  IFTTT is a service that allows you to create chains of commands..it stands for IF This Then That.

2.  Once your account is created, go to: https://ifttt.com/recipes/114761-twitter-will-automatically-archive-to-evernote and install the ‘recipe’ that will automatically send your tweets to your Evernote account.

Voila!  Your tweets will now be logged into Evernote. Just a short note with a key inside!

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

I remember the time that a favourite client of mine gave me a schooling in the art of legal writing – and proofreading.

A retired lawyer (and the consummate gentleman), he had retained me to draft revisions to a fairly complex Last Will and Testament.

He was a bit of a stickler. And I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with him. Because even though my content was fine, he still had lots to say about the way my draft was set up.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned from him.

Precision and consistency in style, capitalization and formatting can be at least as important as content in the creation of legal documentation that meets the standards of our profession.

In other words:

  • Consistent Capitals, Please: If you are capitalizing Executor in one paragraph, you need to capitalize that word everywhere in the document. This holds true in pleadings as well. If Respondent reappears in your document, be consistent in whether you capitalize it;
  • Don’t mix and match your semicolons and periods: If you are working on a list, use semicolons throughout, except for the last paragraph of your list, which should end with a period;
  • Don’t mess with gender: “His/her” is probably never appropriate in a legal document, and certainly is not appropriate when dealing with a single person. Take the time to verify that your gender descriptions fit your document – especially when you are working from templates and precedents;
  • Paragraph numbering: To avoid errors in paragraph numbering, especially when editing, always use automatic formatting for paragraphs and lists;
  • Proofread once, twice and then proofread again. The same goes for spell checking – this should be done after every revision;
  • Use section titles:  These will make your document easier to read. Once again, consistency matters. If you are using titles, decide whether you will be underlining them, using bold font, or both, and stick to that same selection throughout your document;
  • Revisit your draft. Where possible, after you have finished your document, put it away for a few hours or a day before sending it out. Come back to it later to do a final check. You could be surprised at the number of obvious errors – in content and style – you may find when you have fresh eyes available.

Yes, it really does matter that you get it right.

As a lawyer, you are among other things, a professional writer. Your work product is your calling card, and it will go a long way, particularly when you’re starting out, toward establishing how your clients and colleagues assess you.

(As well, your supervising lawyer will probably not appreciate being called upon repeatedly to edit sloppiness, spelling mistakes, typos, formatting errors, and grammatical problems you could have found yourself in your draft).

So that’s a wrap on this week’s tip:  Take the time to get your writing right. It will make a difference.

Because it will demonstrate that you care.

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

 

♫  What’s left to lose?
I painted all these pictures but you couldn’t choose,
All of your company.
But is this distance, calling my name?
I think persistence is this price that we pay in the end…♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by State Champs.

thanks Dan thanks Dan

This is an image taken from a YouTube marketing video created by a  Pittsburgh lawyer named Daniel Muessig.  This particular video has been described as “clever, effective, legally ethical and thoroughly despicable” by ethicsalarms.com.  They state:

Is this an ethical ad? According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, it is within the conduct permitted by the state’s legal ethics rules. The ad isn’t misleading. It doesn’t make promises the lawyer cannot keep. It doesn’t represent dramatic recreations as fact, or use broad metaphors and exaggerations. (Lawyer ads are held to a standard of literalness that presumes the public has never see any other kinds of advertising in their entire lives.) Once upon a time the various state bar advertising regulations included prohibitions on “undignified” communications, or those that undermined public trust in the profession, but those days are long past: the standards were necessarily vague, and breached free speech principles.

So we have this: a lawyer who appeals to his future criminal clients by saying that he thinks like a criminal, believes laws are arbitrary, that other lawyers will “blow them off” and that he visits jails frequently because that’s where his friends are. He attacks his own colleagues and profession, denigrates the rule of law he is sworn to uphold, and seeks the trust of criminals not because of his duty as a professional, but because he’s just like them. Muessig is willing to undermine the law-abiding public’s belief in the justice system and the reputation of his profession and his colleagues in order to acquire clients. I’m sure his strategy will work, too.

This YouTube video has received over 282,000 hits at the time of writing this column.

Daniel Muessig has no disciplinary history according to my colleague Nancy Carruthers, of the Law Society of Alberta, who incorporated this into her paper “Ethics and the Business of Law” and displayed the full video to The Business of Law conference by the Legal Education Society of Alberta where I am honoured to be a speaker.

What do you think?  Is is over the top and beyond the bounds of ethically allowed marketing by lawyers in Canada?  It is certainly creative and ‘in your face’ as Nancy has noted in her paper/presentation. Is it a sign of lawyers engaging in advertising that while  undoubtedly effective and distasteful to some, is too close (or perhaps even over) the ethical line? Or is it a sign of lawyers saying, when it comes to the legal battlefield, what’s left to lose?

 

I shoulda been in Jamaica, this week.

For a variety of scheduling reasons, mostly my significant other’s, that didn’t work out as planned. Which is not the end of the world, particularly with temperatures hitting 15 degrees in Toronto today.

(It’s 28 in Runaway Bay, Jamaica though, as we speak).

But today’s tip is not about the thermometer. Rather it’s about the “stay-cation.”

My week was booked off for vacation and I decided to keep it that way. The order of events for the week, I prognosticated, would be:

1. Catch up with my emails

2. Relax.

Four days later, I am still working on item number 1.

Now, my tips partner, David Bilinsky, has written previously about the quest for inbox zero, and I continue to pursue that elusive goal, with most of the week now behind us.

I am not complaining. Rather, my insight is that it might not be such a bad idea to book a week off here and there, as a matter of course, just to catch up.

A week with no meetings, no telephone discussions. No administrivia. No mediations, discoveries, or court attendances.

Just a week to address all those matters that have needed attention or otherwise have fallen between the cracks.

Give it some thought.

All I can say is that at the end of this stay-cation, with Easter and Passover holidays arriving, inbox zero is looking like a distinct possibility.

And that adds up to happy clients and happy lawyers.

(And happy insurers too, I should probably add).

So today’s tip: Consider booking the working stay-cation to deal with your backlog and to catch up on all that unfinished business. It works.

A good holiday to all.

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

 

♫ Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged…♫

Lyrics and music by Lennon–McCartney, recorded by The Beatles.

backup

Tuesday March 31, 2015 is World Backup Day. I think it is important to focus on this often neglected task as it is often lost in the hustle and bustle of getting the work out. But with the recent attacks of ransomware on all types of businesses, law firms included, having a proper back up that is not infected has assumed increasing, if not vital, importance.

Furthermore, having a proper backup is not just for your business. Consider all your digital photographs and personal files..how would you feel if they were lost?

So the focus of this article is to motivate you to implement backup solutions at your office and at your home.

Why back up?

  • Protection against malware, viruses and trojans including Cryptowall and other ransomware (1 in 10 computers infected with a virus each month, according to ICSA Labs/TruSecure, 2002)
  • Protection against disasters, either man-made (pipes bursting and the like) to natural disasters such as storms, lightening and such.
  • Preservation of precious memories that once gone, are gone.

What are the best practices when it comes to back ups?  Here is a list of some things to consider.

  1. Have a data retention plan
    1. Without a plan, you are left to haphazard backups.  The worst time to realize that you don’t have a current backup is precisely when you need it most.
  2. Plan for increasing amounts of data
    1. Your storage should be scalable since you will be generating increasing amounts of data in the future.
    2. Ensure that your current system can be scaled up to handle greater and greater amounts of data without any disruption in your office.
  3. Have a redundancy plan – backup your backup
    1. What if the same disaster hits your backup as well as your systems?
    2. Consider having both a physical backup in your office and a cloud based backup that is unaffected if your office is hit with a disaster.
  4. Have your data readily available
    1. Cloud backups are wonderful as a ‘last resort’ but they do take time to download.
    2. Consider having a local NAS or other device in the office just in case your servers fry and you need a fast locally accessible copy of your data.
  5. Data security and integrity are priorities
    1. Always consider physical security and data security.
    2. Follow best practices in data security.
  6. Consider backups and archival copies
    1. Backups are snapshots at any point in time
    2. Archives are historical records – unalterable and therefore important if you need to go back and show what happened when.

The important thing to consider is your risk management position. Have you considered the cost of restoring your data and the potential of losing vital data and having to explain that to your clients? You may perceive the incidence of loss to be low, but the cost of recovery can be very high indeed. In fact not having a proper backup may result in a significant disruption of your business or even its failure.

If you suffer such a loss, you certainly want to be able to go back to where you once belonged.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

image

New York City’s embattled, progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, has in rapid order acquired a bit of a reputation for failing to arrive on time. His tardy tendencies have even launched a new cottage industry in the press, the “De Blasio was Late Again” outrage-of-the-day story.

Late for a St. Patrick’s Day mass.  Late for a plane crash memorial service.  Late to a police officer’s wake. Late for an event in his own home. Gosh, even late in responding to a snowstorm.

Naturally, the most civic minded among the journalistic order have taken it upon themselves to be solution-oriented. Thus, we are not surprised at the inevitable spawning of a sub-genre of well-intentioned  suggestions for the Mayor, such as How Not to Be Late: A Self-Help Guide for Bill de Blasio.

There is even a Bill de Blasio “Lateness Excuse Generator” (pictured above), where technology meets tardy, and perpetually late landers can have appropriate mayoral excuses created for immediate use on virtually any occasion.

Now back home, here in the legal profession, lateness can be serious business, particularly in America.

A repeat-offending Texas lawyer was suspended this past January for being 30 minutes late in filing a death penalty stay petition. In 2008, a Los Angeles defense attorney was jailed for two days after arriving late for a sixth time at court.  Sanctions and fines were the fate of a “punctuality-challenged” Bronx defence lawyer in 2007.

The Canadian attitude toward tardy lawyers is, predictably, somewhat more measured.  As noted by Robert Bell and Caroline Abela in a 2009 paper for the Advocates Society, A Lawyer’s Duty to the Court:

Being late for court, although highly irritating and a waste of time, is generally not conduct that is considered egregious and neglectful of a lawyer’s obligation. However, in our view, tardiness is a breach of a lawyer’s duty to the courts because it, among other things, causes delay and disruption to the court process. Tardiness effects the administration of justice. For example, in LSUC v. Ducas, the Law Society hearing panel found, inter alia, that the lawyer had breached his duty to the court by appearing 25 minutes late for his own motion by which time the motion had been dismissed.

In fact, recent rulings in Ontario make it clear that even the bench must avoid precipitous action in the face of tardy counsel.

For example, note the 2014 case of Justice of the Peace Alfred “Bud” Johnston:

The Justices of the Peace Review Council upheld two complaints against the Old City Hall JP: that he was “arrogant and sarcastic” when courier Alexander Leaf appeared before him without a lawyer on Nov. 22, 2012 to fight a charge of driving with a handheld device; and that he abused his position by dismissing an afternoon session of 68 charges on Dec. 4, 2012 because the prosecutor was one minute and 10 seconds late.

Similarly, in 2012, Ontario Court Justice Howard Chisvin was reprimanded by an Ontario Judicial Council panel for summarily dismissing 33 charges for “want of prosecution” after a Crown was briefly late in returning from a recess:

The prosecutor, Brian McCallion, had been preparing for one of the cases by reading a psychiatric report on one of the accused people and didn’t hear several pages for him.

Court records show that after court had reconvened, the judge waited all of one minute and 27 seconds before throwing out the entire docket.

Now, to be clear, your faithful writer has perhaps also had the “occasional” tardy moment.  This is by no means a point of pride.  It might, however, inform the interest with which I view these developments in mayoral, lawyerly and judicial timeliness.

For late-at-heart lawyers, I am glad to note there remains hope when confronted with the challenge of improving time management in an era of of Too Little Time.  Via Good Housekeeping writer Frances Lefkowitz:

WHY YOU’RE IN THIS FIX: “There are so many misconceptions about lateness,” says time-management consultant [Diana] DeLonzor. Top false assumptions: People who are late are inconsiderate, selfish, controlling, lazy, or looking for attention. In fact, many people who run late have trouble accurately judging time and thus underestimate how long things will take. Psychologists call this the planning fallacy — and it’s part of being human. “We have an idealized version of how things go,” explains Steel, “and we edit out how much time things actually require.” Chronically late people fall prey to the planning fallacy in spades, misjudging the time needed even for things they do regularly, like fixing breakfast or driving to work. Call her optimistic, idealistic, or unrealistic, but if a person who tends to run late once got to work in 19 minutes — on a good traffic morning, catching all green lights — she assumes she can bank on this swift journey every day. “Late people time things exactly, according to the best-case scenario — but of course the world doesn’t work that way,” says DeLonzor…

SIMPLE WAYS OUT: First, confront your magical thinking with cold, hard facts: Spend a week timing your daily tasks — what DeLonzor calls “relearning to tell time.” Once you know how long it really takes to shower, get the kids dressed, and feed the dog, you can adjust your schedule accordingly. Second, always plan to arrive early, factoring 15 extra minutes into every trip. Chances are you’ll end up on time; in the worst-case scenario, you’ll have a few minutes to relax, get a drink of water, and fix your hair. Like Hall, late people often view time spent waiting as time wasted. But if you carry a book, knitting, or your cell phone, you can use a few extra minutes productively. Finally, have a strategy for each day. “A lot of people with time-management issues don’t have a clear sense of how their day is going to pan out,” says DeLonzor. So make a list, with your revamped time estimates written next to each item. Then you’ll be able to tell if you’ve scheduled 30 hours’ worth of activity into a 24-hour day.

Today’s tip logically follows.  Address any tendencies toward lateness by taking a hard look at your time management.  In particular, assess the accuracy of your estimates about the time required to complete tasks and to get from point A to B.

That is worth thinking about.

As they say, better late than never.

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