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While smart phones are an increasingly big part of most lawyers’ practices, many lawyers only use their phones for email, text and calls. But there’s so much more you can do! This is the first post in a series on my favourite apps.

I am continually collecting receipts and Genius Scan is a great app for scanning them on the go. Using the camera on your phone, you can scan a single document or a series of documents. Then crop the scanned image or make other edits, including changing the page order. Finally, save the scanned document(s) as a PDF, and send it via email or print it.

Genius Scan’s security is probably not sufficient for scanning client documents. However, if you upgrade to Genius Scan+, there are options to encrypt PDF documents, as well as to create optical character recognition (OCR) or searchable PDFs.

In any event, if you have a use case like mine, where you need to create and edit PDFs of non-sensitive material, you may find Genius Scan to be very helpful.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

Cloud.

You’ve heard the term, perhaps wondered what it really meant and maybe even worried about it. ‘The cloud’ is just a marketing term that means the internet. So, if you see the term ‘cloud storage’, it means ‘store your documents on the internet’.

There are many benefits to using the cloud properly. If you pick the right providers, it will be easier to keep, manage and restore backups. You can also seriously expand your office – if you’re careful, you can have access to all your most important files anywhere you have an internet connection. And perhaps most helpful, some services will even handle security updates and patches for you.

Benefits aside, there are some important pitfalls to be aware of before you make any kind of cloud investment. Ultimately, transitioning to something cloud based involves getting many small details right. And, it is helpful to learn about best practices from people who have been through these types of business transitions before.

The Law Society of British Columbia developed guidelines for best practices in using the cloud back in 2012. The Prairie Law Societies adapted these guidelines into a checklist to help members use the cloud securely. The Law Society of Saskatchewan’s Cloud Computing Guide contains some important information, helpful best practices and a comprehensive checklist that will help you steer clear of the most common pitfalls.

[This tip by Greg Hluska originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]

 

A few years ago, I stopped using paper notes when giving presentations. Instead, I began using my iPad for speaking notes. It seemed easier (and less distracting) to scroll through a single page than flipping through paper notes.

While any note-taking app could serve this purpose, I noticed that the Pages app includes a Presenter Mode option. (This app is automatically included on all Apple devices. So, these instructions would also work with an iPhone.) Once in the Pages app, you can find the Presenter Mode by clicking on the ellipsis in the top-right corner. Presenter Mode turns your speaking notes into an easy-to-read teleprompter.

And, you don’t have to type your notes in the Pages app in order to use it. You can draft your notes in Microsoft Word, airdrop or email them to your iPad/iPhone and open the notes in Pages. It is all pretty simple and makes for easy reading.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

As a solo entrepreneur, I need to automate numerous tasks. Zapier – an online tool which enables you to build connections (or “zaps”) between two apps – makes the automation process super easy.

For example, if you wanted to automatically add your blog posts to your Twitter account, you would select WordPress and Twitter. Zapier then walks you through easy step-by-step instructions on how to connect the two apps. If you only want certain posts to appear in your Twitter feed, you can add a filter that only adds posts tagged with a certain category or written by a specified author.

Zapier provides access to thousands of apps, including apps for forms, email, to do lists, calendars, social media, note taking, accounting, etc. They have also recently added a new “paths” integration, which enables you to add conditional logic to your zaps.

I have found myself scanning their suggested zaps, looking to see what I can automate next.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

A few months ago, I was trying to find an article on AI that I had remembered tweeting. So, I started scrolling through my list of tweets. Even though I am not the most prolific tweeter, it was soon apparent that this was a futile approach. But searching “AI” wasn’t particularly helpful either.

Then I noticed that after you enter a search on Twitter, on the left hand-side of the results page, there are search filters and an Advanced Search option. For example, you can filter any search to focus on tweets from People you follow or Near you.

To search your own tweets (as I was doing) Advanced Search is your best bet. It includes the typical advanced search options (i.e., All of these words, This exact phrase, Any of these words, etc.) and then you can specify the accounts to search. In this case I used my Twitter handle – @lvanderbij.

And voila! There’s the article I was looking for.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

Today’s tip is to consider whether reminders or message previews on any of your devices could compromise client confidentiality.

Between calendar reminders and email/text previews that appear while you’re working–or that pop up on your phone’s lock screen even when you’re not using it–much has been written about how notifications are constantly interrupting our workflow and concentration.

But what about the potential for client communication to be unwittingly displayed when you aren’t expecting it? It’s worth thinking twice about whether any pop-up notifications could be revealing private information.

If you can’t figure out how control these settings on your device (not always an easy task!), a quick online search for your particular device or app will show you to disable previews and notifications.

 

You may or may not have noticed that there is a question mark on the top right-hand corner of your Outlook mail application. If you have noticed, chances are you have never clicked on it, assuming that it would bring up a list of unhelpful FAQs or, even worse, the old “Clippy” office assistant.

A few weeks ago, I was having a trouble with Outlook, and out of desperation I clicked on that question mark. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I opened up a chat box with a help team at Microsoft. They asked me a series of questions, and over the course of a couple of days we worked through and eventually resolved the issue. And, yes, it was apparent that I was dealing with actual humans.

So, an interesting discovery regarding Microsoft Outlook, particularly if you have your own business or home computer.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

Here’s a handy browser extension to add to your toolbox: FireShot, an add-on that captures entire webpage screenshots – even scrollable areas.

Install FireShot in just a few seconds, then screenshot any website just by clicking the “S” icon in the top right corner of your browser and selecting an option:

Once you click an option, there will be a short pause, and a new tab will open up, allowing you to work with your screenshot: edit, save to various formats, add text annotations, share, copy to clickboard, print, etc.

The first time I saved an image, I was prompted to allow FireShot to manage my downloads. Then a “Save As” prompt appeared where I could chose the name and destination to save my screenshot. Here’s what the output looks like (click to see a larger version):

FireShot Lite is free; a pro version with more functions is also available. Works with Chrome, Firefox, and several other browsers.

 

Is there a podcast or YouTube channel you’d like to keep track of or display using RSS? Determining the RSS feeds for videos and podcasts can be tricky. Here are a couple of tips on how to find the RSS feeds for YouTube channels and playlists, and podcasts on iTunes or Soundcloud.

To determine the RSS feed for a  YouTube channel:

  1. View the page source for the YouTube channel (right click on the page and click “view page source”
  2. Do a search for the text “channelID” and copy the value next to it. It will look something like this: UCqoH4oSIEttrjmasHPBx5Ug
  3. Paste that Channel ID value into this URL: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=YOURCHANNELIDHERE

To determine the RSS feed for a YouTube playlist:

  1. Go to the playlist homepage you want the feed for, and copy the playlist ID from the end of the URL. It will begin with PL, and will look something like this: PLoKLMZAP5PVfgB9d7IpdZRO4E1m4WFXBM
  2. Swap in the playlist ID in this URL: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?playlist_id=YOURPLAYLISTIDHERE

To determine the RSS feed for a podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud:

  • Go to getrssfeed.com, paste in an iTunes or Soundcloud URL and hit enter – it will determine and display the public feed, which you can view by clicking on the RSS button.

Do you have any other handy RSS hints? Please share in the comments!

 

Not long ago, as I was working with some RSS feeds, I was dismayed to discover that suddenly, Firefox wouldn’t display them. Instead I was being prompted to save or open the file using another program. What a pain!

Turns out that with the release of Firefox 64, Mozilla dropped support for feeds and live bookmarks.

Luckily I found a solution without much hassle. There are several add-ons that will restore this functionality to Firefox. I picked one called Feed Preview that had good reviews. So far, so good; feeds are displayed cleanly and elegantly. Here’s what the Slaw Tips feed looks like with the Feed Preview add-on.