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Fixing your #@(*$#)$( Single-Spacing in Microsoft Word

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

It used to be a lot easier. Single spacing, that is. It’s a pretty simple concept: you don’t want any extra spaces between the lines within your paragraphs. It ought to be easy to do.

But Microsoft Word somehow takes a simple concept and makes it difficult in practice. And if there is one thing that I find makes people curse Microsoft Word faster than any other, it’s this. Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes and, more importantly, how you can fix it permanently.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

When Line Spacing isn’t (Just) Line Spacing

A big part of the problem is that there’s more than one setting that actually controls the spacing between lines. There’s line spacing, which is exactly what it sounds like: single-spaced, double-spaced, etc. The easiest and fastest way to reset line spacing is to use the line spacing drop-down in the Paragraph section of the Home tab:

But there is also spacing before and after paragraphs which is independent of intra-paragraph line spacing. To put it in simpler terms, if you hit the Return key (which marks the end of a “paragraph” in Word), even if your line spacing is set at 1.0, the before/after paragraph spacing may make your text look as if it is double-spaced:

The fastest, most direct way to fix this in your current document is to select the affected paragraphs with your mouse, go to the Page Layout tab, and change the number in the Spacing area of the Paragraph section to zero.

When Microsoft Knows Better Than You

Users who upgraded from Microsoft Word 2003 noticed almost immediately that their line spacing was off. Not way off, but off just enough that they could tell the lines weren’t single-spaced.

Their eyes weren’t deceiving them. Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, decided that all documents needed to have the more online-friendly line spacing of 1.15, so they set that line spacing as the default for the Normal template.

Personally, I think the 1.15 line spacing is good for long documents, particularly letters with lengthy paragraphs. But that does not mean we all have to acquiesce to Microsoft’s “wisdom” by default.

To force single spacing in your current document, use that line spacing drop-down shown above. However, the quickest way to reset the default spacing in your document is to go to the Home tab and, in the Styles section, right-click on the style called Normal (usually the first one in the list):

Since the Normal style is what most of the rest of the styles in your document are based on, changing this one style will cascade down to the others. When you right-click on Normal, click Modify to get this dialog box:

Just click on the single-spacing icon (circled above) to force single-spacing. To adjust before/after paragraph spacing, click on the Format button on the bottom and choose Paragraph to get this dialog box:

Adjust those numbers to zero and click OK to exit.

Fixing This Stuff Permanently

Doing this repeatedly in every document is going to get old quickly. If you want to change the default settings for all new documents, you’ll have to modify the Normal template. But before you can modify it, you’ll have to find it. Microsoft does not make this easy.

The fastest way to find it in Windows is to click on the Start button and drop this text into the “Search programs and files” field at the bottom:

%appdata%\Microsoft\Templates

You’re looking for something called Normal.dotx (in Word 2007/2010) or Normal.dot (Word 2003 or earlier). First, SAVE A COPY of your Normal template under a new name (right-click, choose Copy, then right-click again and choose Paste, then right-click again and choose Rename).

Right click on the one called Normal and choose Open. Make the changes to the Normal style as noted above (switch to single-spacing and zero out before/after paragraph spacing), then do File | Save As and make sure it’s saving it into the location where it came from. Choose “yes” if Word asks if you want to overwrite it. Close the template.

From now on, any new document you create with the Normal template (which, for most users, is 99% of their documents unless they’ve been really diligent about creating their own library of templates) will have the new settings by default.

Updates
  • 2013-07-13. Originally published.
  • 2015-05-29. Revised and republished.

Featured image by Andrew McCluskey / CC BY 2.0.

Fixing your #@(*$#)$( Single-Spacing in Microsoft Word was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Lawyers Suck At Diversity and We Don’t Want to Talk About It

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

It’s time for some real talk about how terrible our profession is at ensuring diversity. We talk the talk, with BigLaw firms hiring “diversity coordinators” and law schools attempting to make efforts to recruit students of color, but we’re failing, and we’re failing hard.

[A]ccording to Bureau of Labor statistics, law is one of the least racially diverse professions in the nation. Eighty-eight percent of lawyers are white. Other careers do better — 81 percent of architects and engineers are white; 78 percent of accountants are white; and 72 percent of physicians and surgeons are white.

One of the biggest problems in addressing this is that we don’t actually think we have a problem. Look what happened when Sam Glover tried to discuss whether there was a diversity problem in solosmall firms. This is true at the BigLaw level as well, where diversity — both in terms of people of color and in terms of advancing the role of women in a profession where they are far less likely to end up at the top — seems to be framed simultaneously as incredibly important but also impossible.

I recently surveyed managing partners of the 100 largest law firms and general counsel of Fortune 100 companies. Virtually all of the 53 participants in the study said diversity was a high priority. But they attributed the under-representation of minorities to the lack of candidates in the pool. And they explained the “woman problem” by citing women’s different choices and disproportionate family responsibilities in the context of a 24/7 workplace. As one managing partner put it, “You have to be realistic. It’s a demanding profession. . . . I don’t claim we’ve figure it out.”

No, you really don’t have it figured out. It’s impossible to overstate the avalanche of statistics that show how much we suck:

  • Women account for a third of the profession, but only a fifth of law firm partners and are far less likely to make partner.
  • People of color constitute a fifth of the population of law school graduates, but make up less than seven percent of law partners.
  • If you give law firm partners a legal memo and tell them a white man wrote it, they will rank it uniformly higher than if they are told a black man wrote it.

We can do better. We have to do better, or we cement ourselves as a profession that has no idea how to serve an increasingly diverse population and, worse still, a profession that, at root, just doesn’t care.

Featured image: “Standing out from the crowd” from Shutterstock.

Lawyers Suck At Diversity and We Don’t Want to Talk About It was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Westlaw Classic is (Almost) Dead, Long Live Westlaw Classic

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

Thomson Reuters has just announced that, sometime over the summer, it is sending Westlaw Classic to live on the farm. A friendly farm, where it can play in fields of casebooks and help … shepardize … ok, fine. All bad puns aside, the mainstay service is retiring sooner rather than later, so Thomson is telling its subscribers to get ready now. Lawyers are notoriously slow to change their ways in everything, and technology is no exception. Law is one of the few industries left that still uses fax machines to transmit documents across distances, and Florida’s State Bar still prohibits soliciting clients via telegraph.

Bob Ambrogi has compared Westlaw Classic’s retirement to the cancellation of New Coke, but time will tell whether its retirement is actually more similar to that of Coca-Cola. The TL;DR can be found here for you millennials. Perhaps lawyers will make the transition smoothly, perhaps not. While Westlaw has been pushing more and more people over to its new platform to ease the transition, it would not be surprising to see some type of backlash once it happens. Maybe some enterprising programmer will build a Westlaw Classic browser extension, but until then we Westlaw subscribers will have to live with the change.

Featured image: “ Zombie hand coming out of his grave ” from Shutterstock.

Westlaw Classic is (Almost) Dead, Long Live Westlaw Classic was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

“Bring Your Child To Co-Work Day” Could Soon Be Here

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

From the Department of Someone Really Should Have Thought of This Sooner comes the idea of a co-working space with built-in day care:

[Portland entrepreneur Glaucia] Martin-Porath says she’s already got a child care provider lined up and is currently on the hunt for 6,000 to 8,000 square feet for the co-working space, plus another 5,000 square feet for the child care accommodations.

It seems unfathomable that no one has focused on this until now. While Martin-Porath is focusing on co-working mothers and has more than 100 women who have expressed interest in the concept, the idea of built-in day care would be a boon to any gender of entrepreneur. Arguably, in a family scenario where both parents work, the able-to-co-work-parent might be the one with more flexibility already tasked with picking the children up from daycare or staying at home when needed.

And in case you were wondering, niche co-working is apparently by no means limited to focusing on parents with childcare needs.

In Denver, Colo. alone, there’s Green Labs, a place for entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry; Green Spaces, a spot that’s entirely solar-powered and requires members to be green-certified; and LawBank, a co-working space for attorneys[.]

Well, if I was going to pick a place for the weed co-working spot, it definitely would be Denver.

Featured image: “Young businessman at a meeting” from Shutterstock.

“Bring Your Child To Co-Work Day” Could Soon Be Here was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #19: Ernie Svenson on Going Paperless

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

According to Ernie Svenson, either you already are paperless or you just haven’t committed to it, yet. If you haven’t committed, you are just wasting resources maintaining two systems: one for your paper files and and one for your digital clients files.

This week Sam and Aaron also talk about why you should never use hotel Wi-Fi without a VPN.

Hotel Wi-Fi

Related “4-Step Computer Security Upgrade”

Seriously. Hotels, airports, coffee shops, and even courthouses are the places someone is most likely to be snooping on your browsing. Our assistant editor, Holden, actually saw someone sniffing packets at a public library the other day. This is not uncommon. Find out what recommend to keep your (and your clients’) private information private.

Ernie Svenson’s Tips for Going Paperless

If you are wondering how to get started going paperless, today’s podcast will answer most of your questions. Ernie Svenson talks with Sam about objections and advantages, and explains why you have almost certainly already started going paperless even if you don’t realize it. The trick now is to commit to it.

Ernie addresses PDF software, and why you should probably get Acrobat, as well as other gear for the paperless law office. Plus tips, tricks, and what to do with old files.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode.

Listen and Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

Podcast #19: Ernie Svenson on Going Paperless was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Why You Should Use A Virtual Credit Card Number For Free Trials

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 16:30

While I take many steps to ensure my data safety on the internet, I have always believed that getting your credit card data hacked is, at some level, one of the costs of doing business in the virtual world: it will happen eventually, and hopefully you have maximum safeguards in place to make that as painless as possible.

Because of that not-terribly-wise worldview, I have largely ignored the credit cards that let you generate virtual numbers to ensure no one can hack your actual card and bank info because the seller doesn’t get your actual card number. But Lee Rosen over at Divorce Discourse has finally given me a compelling reason to use virtual card numbers: being able to forget, with impunity, to cancel free trials.

Well, what if you used a [virtual credit card number] for a software service?

It’s the perfect solution. You use it, and the service charges you the fee once. Then, when it’s time to renew, the company runs your card and it gets declined. Excellent. Now it’s got to hunt you down for your new credit card number. The burden to cancel has shifted. Problem solved.

I could have saved a fortune over the years if only I had thought of this.

Featured image: “Security locks with password on piles of credit cards / Credit card data encryption concept” from Shutterstock.

Why You Should Use A Virtual Credit Card Number For Free Trials was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Secret To Conquering The LSAT Could Be Just To Skip It

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 13:15

Unless you are from another planet, you know that the fortunes of law schools have sunk drastically since the the go-go years of the last decade, where literally every person you ever met decided to go to law school. After watching enrollments plunge 28% from their 2010 peak, law schools are  understandably desperate to put some bodies in the seats. And the ABA would like to help them make the magic happen…by allowing law schools to fill up to 10% of those seats with students who haven’t taken the LSAT. Students still have to be at the top of their class and have scored well on one of the other alphabet soup-named standardized exam, but no LSAT required.

SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Iowa were the first two schools to announce they would be LSAT-free for those special students this coming fall and this month, the University of Hawaii, St. John’s University School of Law, and Drake University in Iowa all announced that they’ll drop the requirement for that lucky high-performing 10% slice for 2015-2016 as well. So, if you still know someone who insists on attending law school, you could now at least consider steering them to a school where they don’t have to first go through the utter nonsense that is studying for and taking the LSAT.

The Secret To Conquering The LSAT Could Be Just To Skip It was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Performance-Enhancing Bar Study Distractions

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 06:12

Staying sane while studying for the bar exam is a necessary skill. Try avoiding a nervous breakdown while comprehending the rule against perpetuities at three in the morning, knowing that there is another practice test tomorrow that Barbri will tell you you’ve failed in its sociopathic plot to force you to study harder.

Each of us copes with this hell in our own ways. We find distractions, little things to prevent ourselves from burning out. Over the two months studying for the bar exam, some of us find new hobbies, passions, and discover great TV shows on Netflix.

In case you have not selected your bar exam distraction yet, here are some suggestions.

Featured image: “Exhausted student fall asleep with a textbook on his face” from Shutterstock.

Performance-Enhancing Bar Study Distractions was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Fountain Pens For The Absolute Beginner

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 06:12

Fountain pens are one of those status symbols that used to be impressive but no longer are. While you should never hand your client a Bic pen with the top chewed off, it is likely you do not feel the need to toss a $400 pen at them just so that they will think you are a rich, established attorney. (You probably have other ways to make them think you are a rich, established attorney.)

The truth is, fountain pens can seem deliberately anachronistic, like showing up to a client meeting in steampunk garb. (Do not do that. Ever.) However, just because fountain pens are no longer the signifier of success they once were does not mean you should avoid writing with one.

Here are some fountain pens to consider if you are just starting out and do not want to find out that you dropped Beyonce-concert-ticket-levels of money on something you don’t actually like.1 Here, we cover some low-cost pens and some very low-cost pens.

$1 – $10 a.k.a. “Practically Disposable”

These are the true starter pens. They are plastic and look like any other pen you would buy at Staples. They aren’t meant to be the best pen (or the best-looking pen) you will ever own. They are, however, all reliable writers and a good intro to using fountain pens. Best of all,  you won’t be filled with regret if you spend $5 or $7 and end up hating the entire fountain pen experience.

Platinum Preppy

If you have never tried a fountain pen (or associate fountain pens with having them explode all over your good shirt when you try to fill them), the Platinum Preppy is for you. At $5 or under, it comes in seven colors and two nib sizes. Japanese fountain pens like the Preppy tend to have even finer nibs than their American or German counterparts, so the extra-fine version writes extremely thin and is excellent for tasks like editing documents. It is also a workhorse of a pen. In fountain pen speak, this means that it doesn’t skip and will start writing right when you pick it up. Additionally, it will not require you to scribble a few lines, lick the nib (yes, people often do that), or yell at it to start. You can refill the Preppy with Platinum’s proprietary ink cartridges, but at $5 you also won’t care if you lose it — or if you hate it.

Pilot Petit1

Another Japanese import, the Pilot Petit1, is tiny enough to stash in a pocket. You can pick one up for about $6 or pick up a pack of eight different colors for $31. The small size of the Petit1 might deter larger-handed folks from using it, but for most people, it is a decent size for jotting quick notes. Between this and the Preppy, I have found the Preppy a bit more reliable in terms of consistently starting up, but not so much that I would deter anyone from this pen.

You will note that I have not recommended the Pilot Varsity.There are two reasons for this:

  1. Varsitys often have wildly inconsistent flow, which means you will get thick blobby lines alternating with thin scratchy lines. No one’s writing looks good when it is a mix of globs and scratches.
  2. A pack of three for $8.40 does not make them that much cheaper than trying out a Platinum Preppy.

The main problem with these low-budget fountain pens is that they look like what they are: cheap plastic pens. They write more smoothly than their plastic ballpoint counterparts, but they do not look elegant. Their small size adds to the general feeling of being more like a toy or a novelty than a writing instrument you would use every day, even though the Preppy is definitely comfortable enough to use every day. If you decide you want something that looks a bit more grown-up, you will end up above the $10 mark.

$11 – $50 a.k.a. “Just A Bit More Than A Nice Rollerball”

After spending some time with one of the practically disposable pens, you may want something that looks a bit more adult, writes with a bit more expressiveness, or offers you a choice of nibs. These are the pens that you buy if you are comfortable spending a bit more. If you usually just use the pens you steal from the office supply closet, you might balk at spending $30 or so. But these fountain pens will last close to forever — as long as you remember to clean them.

Lamy Safari

If you ask a fountain pen person to recommend a “beginner” fountain pen, the Lamy Safari will likely come up for good reason. You can get one for as little as $19 or splurge and get one of the aluminum versions or the limited edition colors for about double that price. No matter what, you will get a pen that is nearly indestructible. Mine has fallen onto the floor of my car and been stomped on for an entire trip, and only the clip was a bit worse for wear. The pen also comes in a variety of nib sizes to suit most writing styles. You can even pick up a version with an italic nib. Italic nibs are not for everyone, but if you get comfortable with the chisel-cut nibs, you can end up with writing that looks much more elegant. Plus, no one steals an italic nib pen from you; they will find it weird and scratchy to write with if they do not hold it at the proper angle.

The Safari is refillable via cartridges, or you can buy a converter and use bottled ink. Using bottled ink is far more economical and environmentally conscious, but some people find it tedious to deal with the relative messiness of bottled ink. Also, once you start using bottled ink, you are well on the way to becoming one of “those people” who uses fountain pens all the time.

The biggest downside to the Safari is the grip. It is ergonomically designed, beveled so that you will hold your pen in the proper triangular grip.2 This is fine if you have a naturally correct grip, but if you grip the pen like you are trying to throttle the life out of it, like I do, or you tend to place your hand particularly high or low on the grip section, you might find this problematic.

Pilot Metropolitan

Clocking in at $13, the Metropolitan is even cheaper than the Safari and has a more forgiving grip. Where the Safari is classic overbuilt German engineering distilled into pen form, the Metropolitan looks a lot more like what we tend to think of when we think of a “nice” pen. You can get it in shiny silver or gold or a stealthy matte black. If you buy it from Amazon, you will get both cartridges and a converter if you decide to go the bottled ink route.

With a choice between a fine or a medium nib, the Metropolitan is a reliable writer but nothing special. You won’t feel amazed as the pen glides over the page or get line variation. But it will work without fuss and look handsome in your briefcase, purse, or portfolio.

Kaweco Sport

Think of the Kaweco Sport as a more sophisticated version of the Pilot Petit1. Like the Petit1, it is small enough to stash anywhere, but it looks a lot nicer. The faceted cap, in particular, adds a bit of glamor and uniqueness to a pen that otherwise might be unremarkable. You can get the sport in a variety of different colors and materials. The standard one, like the one pictured above, is available for around $25, but you can also find much pricier versions in materials like raw aluminum.

Regardless of material, all versions of the Kaweco are pretty hardy, which makes them a favorite for every day carry (EDC) type of people that want to have some nearly indestructible writing instrument on hand.

The Kaweco uses short “international” cartridges. International refers to the most widely available types of ink cartridges. You can get a converter for the Kaweco, but it is ridiculously tiny, given the size of the pen, and you will likely find it makes the most sense just to use the cartridges, particularly given that you can get those types of cartridges in almost any shade you desire.

In our next article, we will discuss what happens when you realize you are ready to spend more money on a fancier pen, and with apologies to your pocketbook, we will cover fountain pens that cost anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars.

Featured image: “fountain pen nib and flowing colorful ink” from Shutterstock.

  1. This guide refers only to new and relatively widely available pens. Collecting and using vintage fountain pens is enjoyable and can even be economical, but given the near-infinite amount and types of vintage pens available, it would be impossible to categorize them efficiently. 

  2. Remember those triangle things you might have had on your pencil in elementary school? Pretty much exactly like that. 

Fountain Pens For The Absolute Beginner was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

You Can’t Afford the Future of Law

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:52

We hear a lot of talk about “big data” and how it will drive law practice in the future. In theory, someday you will have every bit of relevant practice data at your fingertips and you will be able to use that to predict how a judge will rule on a case, have computers crunch through discovery, and realistically predict the cost of litigation. That someday is getting closer and closer, particularly with tools like Ravel.

At its most basic, Ravel allows you to visually map cases in a way that is arguably much more intuitive than KeyCite. Entering a case — or a Boolean or natural language search — will get you a visual map of circles, arrows, and lines. That map shows you at a glance which cases have been cited the most (those are the largest circles in the screenshot above), how in-depth the treatment of the cited case is (thicker the line, more in-depth the treatment), and allows to change the date range and jurisdictions on the fly.

At its most advanced, Ravel also offers judge analytics, where you can see patterns about how judges rule and what ideas and people influence those judges. That type of analysis could be incredibly helpful in making decisions about settlement, deciding who should argue a case, whether to strike a judge, and how to approach your pretrial motion practice.

Sounds great, right? Too bad you will not be able to afford it. The lowest cost plan is $1,800/year, unless you want a very basic free plan that only includes Supreme Court and Circuit Court cases. Oh, and you will pay even more for the judge analytics. That $1,800 price is likely outside the reach of most solo and small firm practitioners, which means that the Big Data edge will, at least at this point, go to BigLaw. Here’s hoping the cost comes down and we all get access to cool tools like this.

You Can’t Afford the Future of Law was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

And You Thought Biglaw Layoffs Were Over

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 17:15

Silly Rabbit. Remember this scathing piece about layoffs at white-shoe firms from 2013? While it was only two years ago, there has not been much in the news recently about large firm layoffs. Until now.

Butler & Hosch, “a national law firm specializing in the legal needs of the mortgage banking industry” (i.e. foreclosure) just collapsed under the weight of its own unsustainable expansion. The firm had around 700 employees, including attorneys, and physical offices in 9 states. The firm had been in expansion mode, absorbing the Atlanta-based firm of Morris Schmidt & Wittstadt earlier this year.

Then on May 14th, CEO Bob Hosch send a firm-wide email saying that the firm

“grew too fast and could not merge processes from the acquired entities quickly enough to meet our economic forecasts, which resulted in short-term cash crunches and our ability to attract new capital … (Butler & Hosch) cannot continue to function[.]”

Right now it’s unclear whether the firm will declare bankruptcy, but its financial operations have been turned over to an independent fiduciary. Also, according to news reports, the firm’s attorneys failed to show up at several court hearings after the announcement. All of this sounds like the firm grew too big too fast, and pulled the rug out from under its attorneys and clients at the last possible moment.

Featured image: “young business man leaned against glass wall in crisis moment” from Shutterstock.

And You Thought Biglaw Layoffs Were Over was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Be Cautious With Outsourcing or Expanding Your Practice

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 05:45

The life of a true solo attorney can feel overwhelming when your caseload is full (or beyond full).

For new solo attorneys, that can lead to thoughts of adding some staff or another attorney to help carry the load.

But before you take the plunge, make sure you consider all the short-term ramifications.

A Surge in Business May Only Be Temporary

The most frequent thing I hear from other solo attorneys that are about to add, or have recently added, an assistant or another attorney is that they just had too much work to handle. That is an extremely good problem to have. But it may only be a temporary problem.

It is extremely easy for me to misread the tea leaves in my practice. My firm is 100% litigation, which means that case activity will dramatically ebb and flow. If all my cases blow up at the same time, I’m in for a long week. If they are all dormant, I’ll spend my week taking my kids to the park and working on marketing.

Either way, those are random fluctuations. Even as a litigator, you have some control over your cases—which means you can control the ebbs and flows to an extent. So if you find yourself overwhelmed, part of it could be that you can do a better job of evening out your case activity.

I’ve had my own firm for two and half years now, and while I understand the ebbs and flows better, I still don’t feel like I have a great handle on them. Which is one reason why I have consistently hesitated to even add a virtual assistant (or anyone else). My caseload supports adding an assistant. Heck, my caseload right now probably would support another attorney. But my intake could go cold for the next two months, and then I would need to fire them by Christmas.

So before you consider outsourcing certain tasks or adding another employee, ask yourself if you really understand the daily ebbs of your business. If the answer is no, then you probably want to hold back on expansion.

You Are the Best Person for Many Tasks

I have written countless posts on the importance of client intake for a solo attorney. If you can do it well, you will succeed. If you cannot, you will have a tough time surviving.

There are plenty of days where I spend the majority of my day handling client intake and working on active cases early in the morning or late at night. It drives me crazy. But I’m also 100 bazillion times better than anyone else at handling client intake. An administrative assistant would not have the same knowledge as I do. They would also not have the experience of talking to hundreds of consumers with debt-related problems.

Sure, I could potentially hire a part-time (or full-time) attorney to focus on intake and signing up cases. Even if they were paid a percentage of new cases, I know the right questions (and the wrong answers) better than they do. And it would likely take years for them to catch up.

It’s the same thing with cases. There are attorneys on the other side that can still give me pause before I do something. When they send a young associate to deal with me, not so much. Even when I know they are watching from the sideline, I approach a case much differently when I am dealing with a recent grad versus a cagey old veteran.

Yes, there are obviously ways to make it work. But too many solo attorneys assume that adding another attorney is the equivalent of doubling their work capacity. But not all attorneys are created equal. And if you are a successful solo, that is especially true.

You Will Likely Tread Water or Lose Money in the Short Term

Related “Get It in Writing: Freelance Attorney Work Agreement”

You have to spend money to make money. Starting on the low end, in terms of expense, let’s say you hire a virtual assistant to answer all calls and handle intake. Let’s say it costs $600 a month. That’s probably too cheap, but just stay with me.

With that new free time, will you actually generate an extra $600 worth of work? If the answer is yes, that’s probably not good enough because then you are breaking even. If, however, it allows you bill another ten hours a month at $200-$300 an hour then it probably makes sense. But especially with client intake, you have to consider if that person will continue to sign up cases. Otherwise, you are spending money to turn people away.

Related “Hiring Employees Using Craigslist”

If you hire another attorney, do not underestimate the amount of time you will need to spend supervising them and training them. That time will likely surpass the amount of time you save by having them do certain tasks. In other words: in the short term, you will likely not free up a ton of time. Which means you probably won’t bring in much more. Which means you have to support another person on the same income (roughly).

At a minimum, you have to assume that it will take a significant amount of time before you are able to increase revenue to a level where you can pay them and perhaps pay yourself more. You should also assume that you have to extend yourself financially for the first few months (at a minimum). So before you bring someone on, make sure you have healthy cash reserves and available credit to keep the lights on and to pay yourself.

Bringing someone on can absolutely be the best thing for your practice. But make sure you are prepared for, and that you can financially handle, the short-term impact.

Updates
  • 2013-09-10. Originally published.
  • 2015-05-22. Revised and republished.

Featured image: “Caution Tie” from Shutterstock.

Be Cautious With Outsourcing or Expanding Your Practice was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

You Have a Meeting and Your Car Won’t Start. Now What?

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 06:12

There is no other feeling quite like the anxiety that arises when a turn of the ignition results in the silence. We expect a car to carry out its purpose, and we often do not know what to do with ourselves when it doesn’t. So what is the next step when the car doesn’t do what we need it to do?

Panic? No.

Cancel your meeting? Not yet.

Order a pizza? Possibly.

Fixing your car’s starting problem will either take ten minutes or three hours. There is generally not a lot of in-between. If one of these quick fixes does not work for you within the first few tries, it is time to call a cab or get a ride from a friend.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

When you look at your car battery, is there a bunch of greenish-white residue on the terminals? If so, that’s a problem, and you need to clean that up to get sufficient energy to your starter.

Normally, I would tell you to remove the connectors and brush the residue of the connectors and terminals. But if you do not have those tools available, Coca-Cola is a fantastic residue removal tool. Just pour it on your terminals and wait a minute.

Sometimes, however, the problem is not your battery. One way to know it’s not your battery is if everything seems to be working (e.g., your Sam Smith album is playing loudly on the stereo, there is no noticeable drain when you turn the key, etc.).

Jump-Start Your Car

Having grown up with Minnesota winters, I can jump-start a car with my eyes closed; I guarantee once you do it a couple times, you will be able to as well. The cables are color-coded, and car batteries usually do not have enough voltage to kill you, so how difficult can it be?

To jump-start a car, you will need the following items:

  1. Jumper cables.
  2. A running car (not yours, obviously).
  3. A firm resolve to get the job done.

And that is it. Yes, it would be nice to have hand and eye protection available, and if you do, please use them. Battery acid isn’t likely to project toward your face, but if it does, it stings like hell. Which brings us to our one caveat: if your battery is cracked and liquid is leaking out, stop before you start. The risk of flying corrosive acid is higher than potentially angering a client or a court appointed mediator.

Once you have your cables, connect the red cable to the positive terminal (which will likely have a red cover on it) of the dead battery. Next, connect the other red connector to the positive terminal of the good battery while the working car is off.1

Next, connect the black connector to the negative terminal of the good battery (again, while the operable car is still off). Finally, with the one remaining connector, connect to a good, clean metal grounding spot on your dead car (dead to red, black to metal like an unreleased AC/DC song).

Ideally, if you have time, you will start the working car and let it charge the dead battery, so it turns over on its own. But because this does not transfer a ton of power over to the dead battery, waiting will not always do the trick, especially if your battery was dead as a doornail to begin with. While it is not the recommended method, the more common path to jump-starting success is to start the good car then start the dead car while connected to the running vehicle.

Now, if you do not have cables or a friendly Samaritan available to help, you have the following potential options:

Bump-Start Your Car

“Bump-starting” is a way to use the momentum of your vehicle to get your engine to turn over. To do it, you need two things:

  1. A manual transmission.
  2. Inertia.

If you are parked facing downward on a decline, or if you have a friend of strong constitution and solid shoulder muscles, you need to move your car with the ignition on and the car in second gear.

Once you get the car rolling along at a good clip, that is when you “pop” the clutch. If your car starts, great! You have just validated your decision to own a manual transmission vehicle.

Percussive Maintenance: Hit Your Starter with a Hammer

I swear this works.

Sometimes, either because of lost electrical continuity or a bad winding in your starter, the insides of your starter need a jostle. It’s also possible the solenoid is stuck in place. When you gently smack it with a hammer, you can occasionally and temporarily complete the circuit necessary to start your car.

Don’t know where your starter is? Google that question along with the make and model of your car and you will get an answer. Whether your starter is easily reachable or not is a different question. It’s possible the starter is in a spot that you won’t be able to reach without ruining your clothes, so decide for yourself.

If none of the above work for you, get familiar with Lyft or Uber.

Featured image: “Car repair shop” from Shutterstock.

  1. Unless you want to recreate the scene from Lethal Weapon, please, for the love of Gary Busey, keep the black and red cable connectors separate throughout this process. 

You Have a Meeting and Your Car Won’t Start. Now What? was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Find Out if Your Profile Photo is Scaring Clients Away

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:05

Your web presence is often your first chance to make a good impression. So what kind of impression are you making?

Avvo general counsel Josh King ran his LinkedIn profile photo through PhotoFeeler, a service that let’s people rate your picture for competence, likability, and influential-looking-ness (I guess?). Here’s the result:

Those aren’t good results if you want people to hire you. And yes, Josh is absolutely competent and likable (and influential-looking, I guess). Josh got substantially better results from his new, professional photo.

You can run your own profile photos through PhotoFeeler. You just have to vote on other photos to earn votes for your own. You may be surprised to find out what kind of impression you are making on others.

Featured image: “Dark creepy joker face” from Shutterstock.

Find Out if Your Profile Photo is Scaring Clients Away was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Take a Deposition Like a Pro

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 06:12

An experienced lawyer controls a deposition. She is confident, purposeful, and gets right to the point without getting distracted along the way. She begins the deposition with a plan, then adapts it in real time as the deposition unfolds. She keeps the witness under control and ignores any shenanigans by the opposing counsel.

Lawyers who fit this description are deposition pros. Even if you are just starting to take depositions, you can learn to become a pro, too. Here’s how.

1. Begin the Deposition with a Plan

Deposition pros are defined less by their years of experience than by the careful planning they put into every deposition.

Start by reviewing the pleadings and becoming familiar with the claims and defenses — the “story” of the lawsuit. Next, become familiar with the governing law by looking at the pattern jury instructions that are most likely to be used at trial.

As you are reviewing the jury instructions, think about the way the facts of your case are likely to be presented to a jury. Just as important, consider your opponent’s evidence, and how you are most likely to challenge it.

Next, review the rest of the file, including the document production and responses to written discovery. Learn what you can about the witness and the deposition style of your opposing counsel. Review the court rules that will govern your deposition. Consider contingencies like the need to seek relief from the court for bad behavior by your opponent.

With these preliminaries accomplished, you will be ready to prepare a thumbnail outline listing the topics you want to cover. You can also select any documents you may use as exhibits.

As you compose your outline, consider the purpose of your deposition. Your purpose might include confirming your theory of the case, discovering new facts, assessing a witness’s competence and likability in front of a jury, preserving testimony for trial, or demonstrating the strength of your case.

As you are preparing your outline, it is not necessary to write out every question you are going to ask. You want to know where you are headed, but you do not want the outline to be too specific. You don’t want to become a slave to your outline. Instead, you want to be flexible enough to follow the witness if he or she veers off in an interesting direction you didn’t anticipate.

2. Ask Questions That Are Short and to the Point

Thanks to your preparedness, you will begin the deposition with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.

Although some lawyers try to wing it at depositions, your manner will be exactly the opposite. You will not find yourself asking unnecessary questions just to hear yourself talk, hoping that you accidentally uncover some useful topics for inquiry.

Instead, you will dive in with productive questions that will help you accomplish your deposition goals. Since your deposition goals are based on a solid foundation of knowledge about your case, you will not be tempted to abandon your goals during the deposition without good reason.

As you ask questions, make certain they are well-crafted. Deposition pros favor questions that are short, succinct, and in good deposition form.

Make sure you consciously overhear yourself talking then visualize your questions as they will appear later in the transcript. This is a guaranteed way to keep you focused on your questioning technique. It will also help you to eliminate the “okays” and other needless throat-clearings scattered throughout so many deposition transcripts.

3. Maintain Control Over the Witness

Some witnesses will go out of their way to make your depositions more difficult. As a deposition pro, you know how to maintain control over a witness. Some general rules follow.

When the deposition begins, the witness is probably thinking about his lawyer’s advice (or if unrepresented, advice they’ve read on the Internet), not to volunteer any information. The witness might even think his role is to actively hide things from you.

If you ask such reluctant witnesses a few open-ended questions, they will quickly forget their lawyer’s advice. Open-ended questions require the witness to volunteer. Example: “Tell me about the collision.” “What happened then?” “And then?”

Once you get them talking, most witnesses will relax. This does not mean you should relax of course. As a deposition pro, you should always be skeptical of the witness’s answers. From this point, you can keep the witness under control simply by maintaining a confident attitude.

There are exceptions. The most difficult witnesses will act as if they are in charge. A couple tricks can put them back on track:

  • Quickly switch back and forth between topics.

  • Vary the pace of your questions, alternating between slow and fast.

Both of these methods will keep the witness off balance, which will force them to pay closer attention to you.

Some witnesses will try to outwit you by answering questions you never asked. Some lawyers do not even notice the witness has given an incomplete response. Watch for this behavior by listening closely to the witness’s answer. When a witness does not answer your question, maintain control by asking the question a second or even a third time. The witness will quickly learn that by failing to answer your questions, they are only wasting time.

4. Ignore Your Opponent

As a deposition pro, you know it usually makes sense to ignore your opposing counsel. When the opposing counsel sighs, or rattles a newspaper, or behaves like an idiot by making a form objection to every one of your questions, your best course is simply to stick to your plan. When you retreat from your plan and begin to argue with your opponent, you are only giving him what he wants.

The exception is form objections that are valid. Even a deposition pro asks the occasional poorly-phrased question. When you hear a form objection, you must at least consider it. If the objection is valid, you should ask the question again. (Deposition pros can quickly recognize valid form objections, and figure out how to fix the question on the fly. ) If the other lawyer objects to your corrected question, ask the witness to answer over the objection and move on.

It is not always easy to ignore your opponent. Some lawyers are so consistently obnoxious that you feel you must respond.

Rather than argue, think about court intervention (or “punching a bully in the mouth“). Since you reviewed the court rules before the deposition began, you will know whether it makes sense to suspend the deposition in order to file a motion with the court.

If suspending the deposition is not an option, you will have to maintain your composure and carry on. If you start an argument with the obnoxious lawyer, you are walking into the trap he has set for you. You can try to win the argument, but you should have more important goals. And as a deposition pro, you always keep these goals in mind. (While making a note that the next time you meet the obnoxious lawyer, you should consider videotaping the deposition.)

5. When You Are Finished, Stop

No one said a deposition must take all day. Sometimes, a deposition doesn’t even need to take an hour. It all depends on your plan, the one you put together well in advance of the deposition.

As a deposition pro, you go on just long enough. When you are asking questions, you are making headway, even if your opponent cannot see it. You are not asking questions merely for the sake of asking questions.

When you have covered the points you want to cover, you stop with confidence that your initial deposition plan was complete. But do not completely stop until you have called for a break and reviewed your notes. The deposition pro always looks back over her outline before turning over the deposition to another lawyer.

When everyone has finished asking questions, check with the court reporter about the procedure for getting the transcript. Then say your good-byes to the witness and to the other lawyers. You’ve just concluded your first deposition as a pro.

Featured image: “ Business – young man sitting in job Interview” from Shutterstock.

How to Take a Deposition Like a Pro was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Legal Industry is About to Get Ubered Hard (Sponsored)

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 06:00

“Adapt, move, or die.” The Theory of Evolution teaches us that these are species’ only three choices in the face of changing environments. These are also the three choices available to the species lawyericus attornius in the face of a legal environment being transformed by technology.

“Law is an information technology—a code that regulates social life.” Thus begins a new paper about how machines will transform the role of lawyers in the delivery of legal services. It’s the academic equivalent of the canary in the coal mine for today’s lawyers, and lays out how, when, and why the legal industry is due for a shakeup similar in size and scope to what happened to American newspapers when the internet rolled around.

Moore’s Law describes the exponential growth of computing power. But certain industries, like law, have not innovated in tandem with technological progress. Law, like ground transportation and telephony, will instead endure a major disruption. To avoid death, lawyers will need to move into the areas touched last by the tidal wave or adapt by learning how to utilize new tech.

So long, and thanks for all the protections

Of course the authors compare the legal profession with print journalism, another industry disrupted by technological innovation. Before its great disruption, the newspaper industry was a bloated, sclerotic mess. Instead of fierce competition and frequent innovation, most markets were dominated by the same two players for decades.

The impact of innovation on a process, a product, or an industry exists on a continuum from improvement to disruption. It’s important not to cry wolf by calling a technologically aided process improvement “disruption.” Yes, legal discovery is no longer done completely by hand. But it’s not 100% automated either.

The difference between improvement and disruption is one of scope, not kind. Leaps forward are harder to adjust to than small tweaks, and thus more painful for the providers. Incremental improvement is part of the normal functioning of a competitive industry. Disruption only happens when an industry is insulated from incremental improvement by limited competition.

Here we can examine telephony for an analogy. Before the advent of the cellular phone, the telephone industry was dominated by a few major players and experienced no significant improvement since the end of the party line. Cell phone technology disrupted landlines, replacing it with a bustling, competitive market with many players. And, as a result, incremental improvement. Phones have consistently gotten smaller and more feature-rich over time.

Another example of this phenomenon is the market for ground transportation. Like with newspapers, a few players, and then eventually in most markets one player, dominated for decades. There was no significant improvement in ground transportation until Uber disrupted the industry.

How do lawyers avoid competition to ensure a few players dominate the market? Let me count the ways. The ABA keeps number of accredited law schools low, and therefore tuition high. Law school’s rigor and expense keep graduate numbers low. Bar exams keep graduates from doing law things. And lawyers have passed myriad laws keeping non-lawyers from doing legal work. Predictably, a lack of competition has kept the practice of law relatively unchanged for the last hundred years.

But law, as authors John O. McGinnis & Russell G. Pearce point out, is about to get Ubered. Hard. Or, as they put it, innovation is causing the “weakening of lawyers’ market power over providing legal services.”

Resistance is futile

Don’t think the big boys will go down without a fight. Hotels used the legal system to fight Air BnB. Taxi companies used the legal system to fight Uber. Best believe lawyers will try to outlaw machine intelligence. But like other creaky, lumbering industries, they’re going to fail. First there will be traitors. Like cab drivers who started driving for Uber, agile lawyers will start using the tech the dinosaurs are trying to outlaw. With dollar signs in their eyes, lawyers will ignore or skirt such laws. And competitive pressure from other countries will further disincentivize such legislation. As the authors put it, “The message here is that the machines are coming, and bar regulation will not keep them out of the profession or do much to delay their arrival.”

The need is simply too great. What began leading up to and during the Great Recession hasn’t really stopped as the economy recovers. On the lower end of the spectrum, the Department of Justice estimates that fifty million Americans qualify for federally funded civil legal aid, but more than half are turned away due to insufficient resources. In the middle, law departments in major corporations are under pressure to spend less on legal services. At the top, clients of big law firms demand lower, more transparent pricing with faster turnaround, motivating changes in the firms that survive.

Market pressure is causing fissures in the law’s facade. Technology is the hammer and chisel which will finally bust it open.

Get into it

The machines that matter to lawyers are smart ones. Watson’s the prototype of the kind of language mastery, nuance understanding, and analytical ability which will disrupt law. They’re going to more fully automate discovery and form creation and completion. We’re almost there, as e-discovery and law firm practice software automates both activities. Then it’ll start writing briefs. Last, it’ll predict case outcomes. The outcome prediction task is important because it will prevent cases from proceeding and lead to more settlements, which will put many trial lawyers out of business.

These tasks, in a word, suck. They also comprise the majority of legal work right now. What’s going to happen is that automating these tasks will suck for lawyers who are getting paid well for routine and thoughtless work. But it will unsuck lawyering in general, as demand for lame work evaporates.

There will be three groups of winners in this game. The biggest winners are consumers. They’re going to pay less for a better product and have an easier time finding good service providers. The second group of winners are superstar lawyers, who will get more market feedback on their awesomeness. The last group are agile lawyers who will adapt to the new environment by taking up the tools and using them for profit, while also serving a new market of working poor and middle-class consumers.

While not exactly winners, some specialities in law will remain relatively unchanged. Oral advocacy, compliance with new and tumultuous regulation, and the emotional intelligence needed to change client behavior will require humans for a while longer.

Conclusion

The canary’s dead. The cat’s out of the bag. The fat lady? Sung.

The only questions remaining are 1) How long will it take and 2) What are you going to do about it?

Adapt, move, or die.

Smart lawyers will look at their abilities to decide whether they have the potential to move into oral advocacy, new regulation compliance, or roles which require high EQ. Rising stars will familiarize themselves with review tools and sites, because it’s never enough to be good. People have to know you’re good. Savvy attorneys will routinely integrate technology into their practices so they’re always offering the best services at the lowest prices.

Cathy Reisenwitz writes about the legal industry and legal tech for the Capterra Legal Blog. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. Follow her on Twitter.

This article is sponsored by Capterra.

The Legal Industry is About to Get Ubered Hard (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

4 Ways You Are Putting Your Clients’ Information at Risk

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 06:12

A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client. (Rule 1.6(c).)

So what are reasonable efforts when it comes to your clients’ information stored on your computer? You have to make an effort, obviously. But how much effort is so unreasonable that you don’t have to make it?

At a minimum, a reasonable effort has to mean taking advantage of the easy-to-use security features already available on your computer and device(s). Where the potential harm is great and the potential fix is cheap and easy to implement, it is also be a reasonable effort.

With that in mind, here are four ways you may not be making a reasonable effort.

1. You Don’t Encrypt Your Clients’ Files

If you are using a Mac or a Windows PC that has Bitlocker, you can encrypt your files with just a few clicks. That is not hyperbole. All you have to do is change a setting.

But is it reasonable? Well, after you encrypt your computer and devices, you can continue using them exactly as you do now. And while encryption will affect your computer’s performance, the change will be so small that you aren’t likely to notice. Encrypting your files barely takes any effort, so it must be reasonable.

Many lawyers misunderstand what encryption means for using their computers. Under Rule 1.1, they probably have a duty to be better-informed about encryption technology, but the bottom line is that after encrypting your computer you can go on using it exactly as you do now. It is not like email encryption, which definitely still is pretty clunky. You can open and save files, send and receive files, and generally go on using your devices just like you are used to.

You should definitely be encrypting your client files.

2. You Don’t Use a VPN

When you use a strange Wi-Fi network, it doesn’t matter whether you have to log into that network with a password or not. It is, for all intents and purposes, public. And public means that when you browse the web or check your email, you might as well be sharing it with the room. Anyone who wants to listen in, can. It isn’t even illegal. If you send a confidential document as an email attachment over a public network, anyone can read it.

Keeping your Internet activity private is not difficult or expensive, but it does require you to use a third-part service called a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN is a secure line to the web that prevents anyone on the same network from seeing what you are doing online. As Kashmir Hill recently said, “if you use the Internet, you need a VPN.”

3. You Don’t Use Two-Factor Authentication for Key Services

Two-factor (sometimes called two-step or multi-factor) means using something you know (your password) and something you have (usually your phone) to log into an account. With two-factor authentication, you have to type in your password plus a code generated by an app or sent to you by text or email. Two-factor authentication is slightly more work than logging into your account with just a username and password, but it is also drastically more secure. Even if a malicious hacker has your username and password, they will not be able to log into your account or reset your password unless they also have access to your phone.

Without two-factor authentication, anyone who cracks your password can access your accounts. And anyone who gains access to your email account can change the passwords to all your other accounts, which will let them empty your bank accounts (goodbye, client funds!), go on a shopping spree on Amazon, or if you are lucky, turn your computer into a spambot.

If you aren’t using two-factor authentication on your critical accounts, you aren’t making reasonable efforts to protect the client information stored in any of your accounts.

4. You Don’t Use Good Passwords

Good passwords may be the last thing on this list, but they are the most important, without a doubt. Even if you take all the precautions in the world, they won’t do any good if you use weak passwords.

Last year, Russian hackers acquired 1.2 billion passwords. If each of those passwords represents a person, that means the hackers compromised about 17% of the world’s population. In order to get those passwords, they will have to attempt to decrypt the passwords. This is not particularly difficult.

If your password in the dictionary or uses common substitutions like 1 for l or @ for a, it will only take seconds to decrypt your password. If you use a long, randomly-generated password, it may be effectively impossible to decrypt. If your password is somewhere in the middle, cross your fingers and hope the cracker gets bored before it brings the necessary processing power to bear.

If a hacker manages to get ahold of your username or email address, connected with your password, then that hacker can access any other account for which you use the same credentials. In fact the first thing they will probably do once they have your credentials is try them on a list of popular websites.

Using good passwords is not unreasonable, it is required.

Fix These Things Now

A few months ago, Aaron and I put our heads together to try to identify several things lawyers could do to drastically improve their computer security. We identified each of the problems listed above.

If you aren’t doing any of these things, we would give you a D- when it comes to your own computer security. But you can fix all of these things in under an hour (or start, in the case of using good passwords). All you need is a step-by-step guide to doing each of them.

I spent the last couple of months putting together a step-by-step guide to doing just that. You can get the “4-Step Computer Security Upgrade” right now.

It won’t make your computer impregnable, but it will upgrade your computer security from a D- to at least a solid B. If you get the guide and follow the instructions, you can rest easier knowing you have taken care of the low-hanging fruit and made your computer far more secure than it was.

Featured image: “Umbrella in the rain in vintage tone” from Shutterstock.

4 Ways You Are Putting Your Clients’ Information at Risk was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Law School Class of 2014 Wasn’t As Dumb As It Looked

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:09

Remember the halcyon days of July 2014, when if you were unlucky enough to take the bar exam, you also got to have a bonus anxiety attack when your first-day answers did not upload properly thanks to the ExamSoft software you were required to use?

Instead of spending Tuesday night studying, sleeping, staring at the wall, or binge-watching Breaking Bad, all of which are the god-given rights of bar exam takers mid-exam, people instead spent the evening in mounting panic as ExamSoft melted down.

To add insult to injury, the bar scores from July 2014 were the lowest in a decade and the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners straight-up said that the July 2014 test-takers were “less able” than previous years.  It didn’t seem to occur to her that perhaps people were “less able” because of the time they spent freaking out about ExamSoft’s complete and utter failure to do what it was supposed to: upload completed bar exams.

You had one job, ExamSoft, and you messed it up. Even cats think you failed.

Given that all of this might have resulted in lower scores, a class action lawsuit was inevitable. The lawsuit just settled, all those affected will get the princely sum of $90 for their troubles.

Now, let’s be honest here. If you passed the bar, you don’t care what your score was and $90 is a sweet bit of extra cash that you can use to buy whatever $90 buys these days. Perhaps you use it to pay 1/10th of your monthly student loan payment? If you didn’t pass the bar and ExamSoft might be why, $90 doesn’t exactly make you whole.

We are dying to know how many people opted out of this settlement.

The Law School Class of 2014 Wasn’t As Dumb As It Looked was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Save Money On Your Cell Phone Bill

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 06:12

A few years ago, I was paying $170 a month for two phones through Verizon. The phones weren’t particularly new, and I was not doing anything particularly important besides responding to the occasional important email, using the GPS if I was lost, and resenting high-school acquaintances’ political views on Facebook. Eventually, I came to the realization that I was not getting what I was paying for.

Related “How to Keep Your Solo Practice Sustainable and Lean”

I priced out several low-cost carriers and eventually landed on a carrier that charges me for what I use — and nothing more. I now spend about $30–50 per month on a cell phone plan for two phones. Now, I went to law school because I heard there was no math there, but even I know that is a significant savings.

Everyone who happens to care about their monthly budget (that’s all of us, yes?) should ask themselves the following:

  1. Should I switch to a “low-cost” carrier?
  2. If so, which carrier should I switch to?
Should You Switch?

There is a variety of considerations, but the most important factors to think about are:

Data Usage

Are you a power user who uses your phone for absolutely everything? Do you stream music over your mobile network and frequently email large attachments to clients from your phone? Do you not want to ever think about how much data you are using every time you listen to that Hozier song for — seriously — the millionth time this week? Then a pay-for-usage plan may not save you money unless you connect to Wi-Fi regularly.

My plan charges me $19 if I go over 500 MB for the month, but I never do. I download or stream nearly everything through my phone when connected to a Wi-Fi network. If this seems overly obsessive or a giant pain to you, then switching might be impossible. Personally, I find it to be a small inconvenience in the pursuit of saving about $100 every month.

The Latest and Greatest

Do you ever take a look at the retail cost of the phone you get for free with a two-year contract? The new iPhone 6 is around $650. You never pay that much when you upgrade under contract because you will definitely make up that cost over the course of your contract.

When you take away the contract, there is no incentive for some of these budget carriers to give you a reduced price on phones, so you end up paying full price on new phones. Different budget carriers support different kinds of phones, and some even allow you to bring over your old phone depending on its original carrier. Personally, I ended up buying a refurbished iPhone 4S for $130 and using that. Is the 4S the new hotness? Of course not, but it does what I need it to, and I would argue that it would do just fine for you as well.

On the other, If you are the type that dressed head-to-toe in North Face and stood in line for the iPhone 6 release, then it is possible these plans are not for you.

Geography

Where you practice and where you live may very well decide which carrier you choose. The good news is a lot of the low-cost carriers either have robust networks of their own or simply piggy-back on major networks. For example, Ting uses the Sprint network with Verizon as the backup for voice and text (data is Sprint only). It also features 4G and LTE in bigger metro areas. Republic Wireless heavily relies on WiFi and has its own network, although it appears the coverage isn’t superb in rural areas. Whereas Cricket Wireless claims to have awesome 4G and LTE coverage all over the place.

The point is, you will have to look at how each carrier stacks up in the area you work and live.

Which Budget Carrier Should you Choose?

Assuming you decided that yes, you want to spend less money and that doing so would not impose an ominous first-world-hardship on your mobile lifestyle, which carrier should you go with? There are number of options:

But before making your decision, make sure you have an answer to these key questions:

  • Can you bring your current device over to any of these? If so, which?
  • If not, which carriers offer the best devices?
  • Which carrier has the best rates considering how you use your phone? If you talk with clients a lot, check which one has the lowest voice rates. If you are like me and you text people more than most teenagers, consider how much each text message costs. You get the idea.
  • What does each carrier’s coverage look like in your area?

If you decide to switch to one of these carriers, I can’t tell you which one will work for you, but I can tell you this: you will save a lot of money.

Featured image: “Optical glasses, money and smartphone in an open leather hipster’s bag on a wooden board background.” from Shutterstock.

How to Save Money On Your Cell Phone Bill was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Three Microsoft Outlook Quick Tricks

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:12

As useful as it is to learn new techniques for increasing your productivity like using tasks and categories to organize your matter workload or make delegating easier, sometimes it’s the little things — features you might not even think to look for — that can make otherwise mundane tasks much easier.((Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.))

Implement these three quick features to make using Outlook more effective.

Built-in Date Calculator

Most law practices, especially litigation, have numerous deadlines. And if you are using Microsoft Outlook’s task or calendar features, you may not be aware that the date fields can actually calculate a deadline for you.

For example, say you have just gotten some discovery in today, so you want to create a task reminding you to serve responses within the appropriate time (we will use thirty days from today as an example). Here are the steps:

  1. Start a task window.
  2. Go to the date field.
  3. Type “today+30 days” in the field.

Once you do that and hit the enter key, the date calculates automatically.

You are not limited to using days as a calculation unit. You can also say “two weeks,” “one month,” etc.1

Redirecting Email Replies

Ever sent out an email to a group but dreaded the avalanche of responses you get? Not many people realize that it’s possible to change the reply-to address in Outlook e-mail.

In this example, let’s assume you are sending out an e-mail to everyone in the Young Lawyers section of your local bar association. However, you want your assistant to receive and tally the responses. On the Options tab of the New Message window, click the Direct Replies To button:

On the Options tab of the New Message window, click the Direct Replies To button.

In the middle of the Properties dialog box, under Delivery options, click the Select Names button.

At this point, you will be taken to your Address Book and can substitute your assistant’s name for your own in the “To…” field.

Click OK to save the change, then click OK again to exit the Properties dialog.

Organizing Conversations

By default, Microsoft Outlook organizes your email inbox chronologically, showing the most recent email at the top of the list. In some ways, that is useful. But if you have been involved in a long, drawn-out e-mail conversation including several correspondents, you have probably wished for a way to view your inbox as conversational threads.

The good news is Microsoft Outlook 2010 has introduced a Conversation view that will group e-mails together based on the Subject line. The Conversation view is available on the View tab.

Message threading can be tweaked to your preference with the Conversation settings drop-down, and conversations themselves can be expanded or collapsed by clicking the arrow to the left of the conversation header.

You can, of course, toggle this setting on and off as necessary.

Little Things Can Add Up

Accumulating a bag of minor tricks like these can make Microsoft Outlook much more user-friendly. While these are not “mission critical” features, they are the sort of “nice-to-haves” users would not even think to look for but still appreciate knowing about.

  1. This does not take into account holidays or special calculation rules in various courts. Still, this is a great trick for at least ensuring you get a heads-up before a deadline. 

Three Microsoft Outlook Quick Tricks was originally published on Lawyerist.

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