Above is what Bob Ambrogi’s location history looks like for his time in Chicago earlier this week. To see what Google knows about where you have been, click here while logged into your Google account.
As Bob points out, it’s a little creepy that Google’s network knows where you are and keeps track of where you have been (for 30 days). However, I think it is great that Google is transparent with its users about what its systems know. The NSA is not nearly so considerate.
If you would rather not share your location with Google, you can just turn off location tracking, either by going to your location history settings and clicking the Pause button or by turning off location services on your mobile devices. Here are instructions for Android and iOS.
I’ve never really used the Google app for iOS or Google Now, which is what turns your location history into useful information, so my location history is blank.
And remember, location history is not just about your privacy:
This data is also evidence — evidence that could be used against your client or that your client could use against others. If it is stored somewhere, it is subject to subpoena. So don’t forget that Google and Apple and the cell carrier all may have tracking data relevant to your case.
As Isla Fisher is to Amy Adams and that guy from the Facebook movie is to Michael Cera, so is Back Office Betties to Ruby Receptionists. We tried Back Office Betties for two weeks to figure out whether its more-flexible pricing gets you service on par with Ruby Receptionists, the best virtual receptionist we have tried to date.What Back Office Betties Offers
Back Office Betties works like most answering services; you get a number to forward your calls to, and Betties’s receptionists answer with your greeting. Betties uses the same number whenever it calls you, so you know when your receptionist is calling.
According to the website, each client gets a small team of no more than five receptionists. In theory this allows Betties receptionists to get to know you, your clients, and your business better than a room full of people answering for hundreds of different companies.
Betties also offers appointment scheduling. You can set aside certain times, allow your receptionists to add appointments to your Google calendar according to your instructions, or set up a web form on your own appointment software that they will use to schedule for you.
You can also update your whereabouts with Betties by using its website. For example, you could tell your team that you will be in court all day and to hold all calls. Or you could let them know you are not returning to the office until Wednesday so callers shouldn’t expect a call back until then. You can also update your whereabouts with specific instructions. For example “If anyone calls tell them I am in a meeting. If Judge Jones’s chambers calls put them right to my cell phone.” Unlike Ruby, Betties does not have any mobile apps, but there is a mobile website where you can update your status.
Back Office Betties answers from 8am–8pm eastern.Pricing
Instead of the monthly plans Ruby offers, Betties charges by the minute based on how many minutes you used. If you use 100 minutes or less, you pay $1.99 per minute (with a $49.99 monthly minimum). From 101-350 minutes you pay $1.79 per minute, and more than 350 minutes costs you $1.59 per minute.
In contrast, Ruby’s pricing is more like a cell-phone plan. If you go over the minutes in your plan, you pay per minute for the extra receptionist time. If you don’t use all of your minutes they disappear; there are no rollover minutes.
Doing the math for our firm, Back Office Betties would be about $25 cheaper per month. We currently pay Ruby $819 per month for its largest plan, but we regularly go over the allotted 500 minutes by about 100 minutes, which results in a bill of about $979 per month. The same number of minutes using Back Office Betties would cost $954.
But if you have found yourself stuck between two Ruby plans you may have more significant savings. For example, let’s say you use 400 minutes per month. With Ruby you would either pay $819 for the larger, 500-minute plan or pay $817 using the middle plan, which allots 200 minutes and charges $2.04/minute for overages. With Back Office Betties the same minutes would cost $636. Almost $200 in savings is almost certainly worth it, despite the less-impressive service.Our Experience
Back Office Betties did not come out of the gate swinging. I asked them to send me all the instructions for setting up on my work email, and they used my personal email. Then the Betties setup form on the website would not let me submit my information. Luckily, I was able to reach our account representative very quickly, and she got us set up right away.
On the first call I got through Back Office Betties, my client complimented the answering service. She had called that morning when we had Ruby still active and did not notice a difference. She just said that both people who answered were extremely friendly and apologetic about my unavailability. Throughout the trial we did not get any negative comments from our clients about the service.
All of our complaints with the service were on our end. To their credit, Back Office Betties did fix some things as we mentioned them. Our first issue was that all of the emails come from the same address with the same subject line. That means the messages were threaded together, so on the first day I saw just one message in my inbox. I did not realize there were actually four messages within the thread. Betties fixed this after I let them know about the problem.
However, the messages were still sparse. On several occasions I asked the receptionist to take a specific message from the caller, but the message I received would be more like “he is calling about his case.” Also, if the caller did not provide a number we would not get a number. Ruby at least includes the caller ID information in the message.
The receptionists working for Betties were extremely friendly. They even sent us some baked goods as a welcome package. But at times they were too familiar. After only a few days they stopped saying “hi this is Michelle from Betties” and started saying just “hi this is Michelle.” It usually took me a second or two to figure out who was calling if I was using a headset and could not the contact information on my phone.
Finally, there is no call transfer beep with Betties. This was actually the biggest annoyance with the service. There is no indication that a call has been successfully transferred unless you hear the person breathing on the other line. I contacted them about this and they are considering adding it. Ruby has this feature, and I didn’t even know I would miss it until I no longer had it.Conclusion
If you care about the friendliness of your virtual receptionist you will be in good hands with Back Office Betties. But if you are coming from a more robust service like Ruby Receptionists, the transition may not be worth the potential savings. Overall, Back Office Betties feels like a newer company trying to play catch-up with Ruby.Summary
If you are coming from a service like Ruby Receptionists, Back Office Betties may not be worth the potential savings. Overall, it feels like a newer company trying to play catch-up with Ruby.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Back Office Betties, reviewed by Josh Camson on September 24, 2014.
Fed up with the incessant repetition of buzzwords and phrases like viable analysis, multidisciplinary analysis, and nonstarter in CIA publications, two agency writers put together the Bestiary of Intelligence Writing, recently declassified. The Bestiary is a collection of animal drawings named for each buzzword, together with descriptions.
It is pretty clever, actually. And a profoundly weird thing to find on government stationery. Here is an example:
And here is the whole thing (pdf).
Does anyone know if Bryan Garner can draw? Because I would really like to see the Bestiary of Legal Writing. I wonder what a well-settled law looks like. Or an any and all. Or a hereinafter.
(h/t Medium’s War is Boring collection, and my mom)
Even though Gmail and its competitors guarantee 99% uptime, you never know when a bug will force your message to the trash or a server crash will delete your archives. While these issues don’t happen very often, you can guarantee they will at some point. Protect yourself by backing up your Gmail account.
Here are five ways to do it.1. Maintain a Local Email Client
This backup option is number one because you should already be doing it. If you have an Outlook install that is simply taking up space — and if you are fan of Gmail, why wouldn’t you — then put it to use by connecting your Gmail account using POP. (It is important you do not set up this connection using IMAP; this format does not completely download every new email message.)
This method also allows you to still send and receive emails while you wait for Gmail to come back online. It is rare for the servers running Gmail and routing your email to go down at the same time. While your email experience may be a bit more cumbersome, it is certainly better than the alternative.
If you do not want to pay for Outlook, install Mozilla’s free email client, Thunderbird.2. Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook
If you live and breathe Outlook, Google will let you continue that arrangement with their syncing tool. Google Apps Sync will not work with your personal Gmail account or a free Google Apps account. You will need to have Google Apps for Work (which you should have anyway) or any other paid tier of Google Apps.
Included with Google Apps Sync is the Google Apps Migration tool. This tool allows you to effortlessly export your Outlook data — PST files, contacts, email, and calendar — to your paid Google Apps account. If you are committed to Microsoft Outlook and use Google Apps, then this no frills syncing tool will work perfectly. Once it is turned on, you can use Outlook or Gmail, as you prefer.3. Backupify
If you use Google Apps and have a lot of faith in the cloud, Backupify is an attractive option to consider. For only $3 per month per user, Backupify will back up your entire Google Apps account automatically — documents, emails, chat, and contacts — once a day. Backupify also lets you export and import user data, restore lost data, encrypt data, and search your backups.
While this option may be overkill if you are just looking for a Gmail backup solution, it is certainly the most comprehensive Google Apps backup service on the market. If you are interested, Backupify does offer a free trial period. For kicks, you can also back up your SalesForce and social media data with Backupify as well.4. Gmvault
Normally, I would not recommend commandline-only software, but what Gmvault lacks in an interface it more than makes up for in features.
For starters, Gmvault works on OS X, Windows, and Linux. Once you have chosen your platform, you just follow the directions in Gmvault’s quick start guide. After logging into your Gmail account, you can specify the times, date ranges, and searches you want to backup. Gmvault even lets you take your backup and add it to a new Gmail account with meta-data — labels, stars, and chats — intact.
If you are technically inclined, comfortable in a terminal, and want a lot of control, Gmvault is a powerful way to back up your account. If you are new to the terminal but still want a lot of control, use this as an excuse to brush up on your tech skills.5. Google Data
If you hate the idea of downloading an email client, do not want to pay for Backupify, and shudder at the idea of using the terminal, then Google Data is your best bet. Google now lets users download an “archive” of their email and calendar data via its data download page. The archive you download is stored in the MBOX format, and you can choose specific labels to download.
Google’s backup option is manual and does not offer much in the way of options, but will certainly get the job done.
Many people become horrible versions of themselves while in law school. Even so, the person who presented the following confidentiality agreement — with a liquidated damages provision, natch — to his study group may be an outlier.
Each Study Group member hereby agrees that at all times during their participation in the Study Group thereafter, to hold this in the strictest confidence, and to not disclose confidential information as defined herein to anyone who is not also a current member of the study group, without unanimous agreement, memorialized in writing, from the other Study Group members.
The penalty for breach in the foregoing agreement shall be the sum of $5000 to be rendered in cash, checks, or ACH transfers wherein the penalty sum is distributed equally among non-breaching members.
You can read the whole thing at Above the Law, if you want to for some reason. Also, see the always-helpful Kevin Underhill’s marked-up version at Lowering the Bar. (“It is equally stupid, fundamentally.”)
Yesterday at its Cloud Conference, Clio made some big announcements. First and most noticeably, Clio has gone from yellow to blue based on feedback (mostly negative, it sounds like) from its users. The update is not just skin-deep; “Clio Next” includes a quick-bill screen, a new dashboard (more dashboard options are planned) that highlights business metrics, better tasks, and improvements to document management.
There is also a new Android app, which has been long-awaited by Clio’s Android user base, I’m sure.
Probably most important, Clio announced a number of new integrations, including QuickBooks Online, Fastcase, and Zapier. The Fastcase integration lets users bill time and save cases right to client matters without leaving Fastcase. The Zapier integration is huge. Zapier is an If This, Then That–style service that connects APIs from a ton of different apps. If that sounds dry, imagine automatically sending a welcome package to new clients when you create a new matter in Clio. Or maybe you could send a survey using SurveyMonkey and automatically adds your clients’ responses to Clio.
With Zapier integration, Clio is effectively integrated with hundreds of other services. It should make possible some really cool shortcuts. (Maybe the Clioday will get even longer.)
I updated our Clio user guide with the new features. If you are considering Clio for your practice, check it out.
Oh, the venerable benchslap. The term is perhaps the greatest achievement of Above the Law‘s David Lat and is an all-purpose bringer of joy to attorneys everywhere — except the attorney getting slapped, of course.
For the unfamiliar, benchslap originally referred to one judge snarking at another, but now refers to any time a member of the bench crushes an attorney with wit, rage, or both. We all live in terror of it happening to us, but we circulate every benchslap that comes our way. Benchslaps are one-half “thank god I’ve dodged that bullet thus far,” one-half gallows humor, and one-half schadenfreude. Yeah, that is three halves. We law types aren’t noted for our math skills, but we are pretty sure these are the six best benchslaps we could find.1. The “Learn to Proofread, You Idiot” Benchslap
Mr. Brian Puricelli managed to be such a relentlessly bad speller, spell-checker, and proofreader that not only did he get a benchslap — he got his attorney fees slashed.
First, there was the part where Puricelli spelled the judge’s name wrong.
In one letter, Mr. Puricelli had given the magistrate’s first name as Jacon, not Jacob.
“I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in `The Lord of the Rings,’ ” Magistrate Hart wrote, “but, alas, I am only a judge.”
Did we mention the part where he also misspelled the name of the court in which he was filing?
Among Puricelli’s errors, he referred to the court as the “Easter” district of Pennsylvania. Judge Hart, who is Jewish, opined that considering his religious persuasion, “the Passover district might have been more appropriate.”
Judge Hart knocked Puricelli’s fees for drafting the pleadings down to $150 from $300, which is pretty much the ultimate benchslap.2. The Benchslap From A Judge Who Is Doing Time
It is tough to sing the praises of former U.S District Court judge for the Southern District of Texas Samuel B. Kent, mainly because he is in prison for lying to investigators about sexually assaulting two women who worked for him. He also initially refused to step down, so the House had to impeach him, which finally got the message through.
Now that we have cleared up that Kent is not a person to be emulated, we feel free to share with you his benchslap that roundhoused both attorneys in one opinion.
Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact–complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words–to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed.
You are a terrible human being, Samuel Kent, but that was a fine bit of snark.3. “Please Dear God Let This Oral Argument End” Benchslap
Usually, telling someone to listen to an entire appellate oral argument is a a terribly mean thing to do, because let’s face it: we barely want to listen to our own oral arguments. But you are really missing out if you don’t listen to the entire argument in Wolf v. Walker.
Wolf was a challenge to Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban, and the hapless Timothy Samuelson, assistant attorney general in America’s dairyland, was benchslapped by the Seventh Circuit appellate panel of Judges Richard Posner, Ann Clair Williams, and David Hamilton for nearly the entire argument. Sam Glover already covered one of the most excruciating moments over at the Lawyerist Lab.
Samuelson offered to brief an issue related to the possible negatives of same-sex marriage. According to the Washington Blade, “Posner retorted, ‘How can you brief it, if you don’t know anything about it?'”
Posner is a reliable source of benchslappery, but in this case no one in the court room was buying anything Samuelson was selling as he tried to explain, vainly, that gay marriage was bad because it is bad. You can not help but cringe as Samuelson tries desperately to make the torment end. Posner is busy pummeling Samuelson with yet another question when the yellow light comes on, giving Samuelson the signal his time is close to up.
Samuelson: First off, the yellow light is on — may I respond, Your Honor?
Posner: Yes, because the yellow light, it just tells you that you’ve got….
Williams: It won’t save you.
This is the stuff lawyer nightmares are made of.4. The Patent Infringement Benchslap
This is a new benchslap, courtesy of United States Magistrate Frederick F. Mumm, sitting in the Central District of California. Magistrate Mumm is currently presiding over a patent dispute between two aerospace companies, and things have gotten a bit testy during depositions, calling for a benchslap to both client and attorney.
The witness started the train wreck of a deposition by asking counsel “to clarify” what he meant by such obvious words as “responsibilities” and “educational background.” Counsel soon hopped on the bandwagon and began interposing inappropriate objections that perfectly clear (albeit broad) questions were “vague.” Like a tag team, the witness would respond by asking plaintiff’s counsel to “be more precise.” Counsel stepped up the attempt to disrupt any worthwhile examination by continually interposing inappropriate objections, “cluing” the witness to ask the questions to be rephrased, and wasting everyone’s time trying to engage plaintiff’s counsel in banter. The witness responded in kind, by essentially refusing to answer any question if he was not “100% sure” of the answer.
This benchslap came with an order that defendants were to reimburse the plaintiffs for attorneys fees and court attorney fees incurred during this train wreck of a deposition. The very best and worst benchslaps are the ones that cost lawyers money.5. The “STFU With All Your Acronyms” Benchslap
Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit does not like acronyms one bit. Back in 2012, he mildly batted at some attorneys who dared to use nuclear power-related acronyms in their nuclear regulatory cases. Back then, however, Silberman limited himself to grumbling about the acronym use after the fact. These days, Silberman has stepped up his game and, along with some other D.C. Circuit judges, has now just stone cold banned some acronyms.
We do not envy the poor first-year associate who has to figure out what acronyms are uncommon. We also pity the fifth-year who is going to need to find out a way to eliminate 1000 words or so from a brief now that they have to spell everything out.6. The Incredibly Nerdy Benchslap
The Prenda Law saga has been a multi-year odyssey encompassing copyright trolls, pornography, heroic small firm practitioners, and sanctions.
The Prenda Law firm is functionally a living copyright troll whose sole purpose is to threaten people for allegedly downloading copyrighted porn. The lucky souls Prenda targeted were then given the awesome opportunity to pay $4,000 for the privilege of not telling the whole world how much they love porn. Along the way, it turned out that Prenda was creating shell corporations, engaging in identity theft, and, in an especially nice touch, actually being the people sharing the porn in the first place. You can see why this would be an irresistible target for some solid benchslappery for whichever judge had to continue to deal with these people.
Judge Otis Wright is a federal judge in the Central District of California and is apparently a big fan of Star Trek. After presiding over a near-infinite number of matters involving Prenda, he decided to drop the bomb, or photon torpedo, on the troll-tastic law firm.
In lieu of a punitive sanction, Judge Wright ordered Prenda to pay attorney’s fees, referred their actions to the bar, and dropped this gem:
Third, though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage.
We are just going to pretend we understood all the nerdspeak, and remain secure in the knowledge that no one has ruled against us while using bad television jargon. Yet.
Clio was one of the first cloud-based practice management software options, and it has been improving steadily. The focus on user experience and integrations means you can use Clio with an increasing array of other software (like Dropbox, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Google Apps, to name just a few). Now it has excellent apps for iPhone and Android.
Clio users say using Clio saves them, on average, eight hours a week. Clio calls it a “Clioday,” and has even built a promotion around the idea. Eight hours a week might be a tad optimistic, but good productivity software definitely ought to save time. And Clio is definitely good productivity software for lawyers.
Here is what you need to know about Clio, from signing up to backing up your data.Index
As with most cloud software, getting up and running on Clio is pretty simple. Just visit the signup page and walk through the signup process. You will have a fresh new account in no time.Migrating to Clio
If you already use practice management software, Clio will help you migrate your data from your old software. Of course, the quality of the migration depends as much on the source (your old software) as the destination (Clio). When you contact Clio’s account migration team (open a new support ticket after you sign up), they will give you a good idea of what sort of results you can expect.
No matter what you use, Clio will not migrate certain things. These include historical accounting and billing information or documents stored in your old software. However, you can migrate your accounts receivable, and Clio’s bulk document uploader should be able to help with getting old documents into the new system. If you have a lot of accounting data in an old system, it probably makes sense to migrate to Clio at the beginning of a new year to minimize the time you spend on setting up your books. (Clio can handle opening balances, of course.)
Clio has a migration FAQ if you have more questions.Using Clio
Finding your way around Clio’s great-looking interface is pretty straightforward. To add your first matter, for example, just click on Matters, then New Matter. Clio has made the new-matter page self-contained, meaning you do not have to leave to create new contacts or add practice areas. If the client is a new contact, you can create a basic contact record right there, and fill in details later.
Everything else works similarly. The calendar will be familiar to anyone who has used Google Calendar. Contacts can be associated with matters and companies, and timekeeping is aggregated under Activities.
In July 2014, Clio released a tasks-focused upgrade. Now, you can create task templates, which makes it easy to assign a briefing schedule, for example, with a click of a button. You can also create tasks with due dates that depend on other tasks. For example, you could create a brief-filing deadline due 28 business days before your motion hearing (if you create a task for the hearing date). Clio still does not support recurring tasks, though.
Clio also has basic billing and accounting (including trust accounting). These are definitely basic. They may be adequate for some first, but most will probably want to use Clio alongside more sophisticated billing and accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks. In September 2014, Clio introduced its one-page quick bill, which lets you put together a complete bill including time and expenses from a single page.
Likewise, Clio has basic document assembly. You can create your own templates using merge fields from Clio matters and contacts. This makes it pretty easy to automate the documents you create every day. There are much more advanced document assembly packages out there, but Clio will meet most lawyers’ basic needs.
There is only one big thing Clio leaves out, and that is email. Although with the release of its Gmail extension for Chrome (see below), this is less of an omission — at least for lawyers who use Gmail and Chrome. Instead, Clio offers a client portal, Clio Connect, for securely communicating and sharing documents (including bills) with clients. Clio is definitely not as communication-oriented as, say, MyCase, but Clio Connect gets the job done.
If checking your email from within your practice management software is important to you, Clio probably will not work for you. However, if what you want is to be able to get your client-related emails into Clio easily, that is pretty easy to do, either with the Gmail extension or with the Email Maildrop feature. If you create an email contact for each matter using the Maildrop address, it is easy to forward communications directly to Clio.Mobile Apps and Extensions
If Clio was a bit slow to release apps for iPhone and Android than its competitors, the beautiful, easy-to-use apps were probably worth the wait. There is no app for iPad, yet, but rest assured that Clio is working on them. (Plus, the website works just fine on a tablet, if you have an Internet connection.
Clio now has a Gmail extension for Chrome that lets you save emails to Clio with attachments, add tasks, and bill time. Clio plays well with Google Apps in general, syncing calendars, contacts, and files from Drive. You can also hook up your Dropbox, Box, or NetDocuments account to access your client files without specifically uploading them to Clio.
In addition, Clio hides a lot of extra features in the settings panel. You can sync Clio with Google Apps or Outlook, create text snippets for more efficient time (or anything else) entry, create groups of users and manage permissions, and much more.Security
Clio uses SSL to secure your session whenever you are logged into Clio.1 This is comparable to the level of security your bank uses. Additionally, you can secure your account with two-factor authentication and require all users to use strong passwords.
Clients (and anyone else you add to Clio Connect) get that same level of security when logging into Clio Connect to access documents or communications.Backing Up Your Clio Data
In case you are nervous about trusting Clio to keep your account backed up (this is an appropriate level of paranoia, FYI), Clio makes it relatively easy to back up your data to Amazon S3 with its Data Escrow feature. This sounds way more complicated than it is, and Clio’s step-by-step instructions will get you set up with Data Escrow pretty quickly and easily.
If you sign up for Clio, you should absolutely set up Data Escrow. Whether or not you trust Clio in general, you can never be too redundant when it comes to backup.
It is not backup, but Clio’s Recovery Bin functions as a short-term “undo” option in case you accidentally delete something and want it back.Evaluating Clio for Your Practice
When reading reviews of Clio — or any software — the most important thing is to try to get a feel for whether you and the reviewer are looking for the same sorts of things in practice management software. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all practice management software. What works for one reviewer might not work for you and your firm.
Here is a good example. Lawyerist reader and Lab member Avi Frisch got pretty specific in his criticisms of Clio in a report he wrote for LegalTypist in February 2014.2 In his report, he described Clio as “a simple product that is more of a basic project management database with some legal specific nomenclature.” To Frisch, that is a bad thing. But project management software with legal features is exactly what I would want to manage my clients.
That’s not to say Frisch’s criticisms are invalid. They are perfectly valid if you are looking for the same qualities in practice management software as he is. While some of his criticisms are objectively a problem for anyone considering Clio, many are just an indication that Clio is probably wrong for him, but it may be right for you.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of other Clio reviews, together with the date of the review. (Assume anything more than a few months old may not accurately represent Clio as it is today.)
Clio recently raised its price to $65/user/month (billed annually; it is $72/user/month if you way to pay monthly).3 There is no way around it: that is expensive. In fact, Clio seems to be the most expensive cloud-based practice management software on the market — that includes the offerings from Lexis (Firm Manager) and Westlaw (Firm Central).4 By contrast, one of Clio’s main competitors, MyCase, is just $39/user/month (and just $29/user/month for staff). So is Clio worth an extra $312/year?
On the one hand, $312 is not trivial, especially if you are paying for multiple users. On the other, if Clio is a better fit for your practice, $312 probably should not stop you from using it.
The important part is that you can try Clio for free to find out for yourself whether you think it is worth the price.Updates
You can also follow our latest posts about Clio.
Sidenote: Frisch’s observation that “Clio had stopped improving” probably isn’t fair. As you can see from its product updates log, Clio is pumping out updates pretty frequently. The updates just aren’t the things Frisch wants to see from Clio. ↩
Existing users will not have to pay the new rate, however. ↩
In fairness, Firm Central starts at $35/user/month, but it is another $25/user/month for timekeeping and billing. ↩
While Apple does not have the crypto keys that can unlock the data on iOS 8 devices, they do have access to your iCloud backup data. Apple encrypts your iCloud data in storage, but they encrypt it with their own key, not with your passcode key, which means that they are able to decrypt it to comply with government requests.
As I pointed out last week, the new iOS security features are great, but they are hardly a panacea.
Featured image: “Magnifying optical glass with icons on digital background, 3d render” from Shutterstock.
Many judges are reading briefs on tablets, and a survey in 2012 showed 58% of federal judges were using an iPad to do court-related work. Presumably, that percentage has gone up over the past two years. Most of the judges on the Fifth Circuit read briefs on tablets, and everybody knows by now that Justice Scalia uses an iPad and Justice Kagan uses a Kindle.
The point is, if you file briefs electronically — and what litigator in 2014 doesn’t — then you need to be thinking about how to make your briefs readable on a tablet; that is where judges are reading them. Here are five tips for writing better briefs for tablets:1. Put Citations In The Body And Use Hyperlinks
You probably know that Brian Garner — the legal writing guru — is a big advocate for dropping citations into footnotes to “declutter” legal writing. As a result of Garner’s years-long campaign, many lawyers have taken to footnoting their citations.
I am a big fan of Garner’s, but he is becoming wrong on this point if we are writing briefs for tablets. Judges do not want to constantly scroll back and forth between the body and the footnotes to see what you are citing. Footnoting citations might still be great for decluttering other forms of legal writing — letters, memos, white papers — if the work will be read in hard copy. But in your electronic brief, you should keep your citations in the body. In fact, you should try to eliminate footnotes altogether.
While you are at it, you should also hyperlink your citations, so that the judge (or her clerk) can immediately jump to the authority you are citing. There are guides out there on how to properly hyperlink (PDF), but eventually you might not even need to know how to do it yourself. The Fifth Circuit, for example, has developed an application that will automatically convert properly formatted record citations into hyperlinks to the electronic record. This came with a new local rule, effective December 1, 2013, instructing attorneys on how to format record citations to generate those links. Many courts have updated their rules to address e-briefs in one way or another — so always check the local rules!2. Use Shorter Paragraphs and More Lists
It is much easier to consume information in small chunks, and with a tablet it is important to break up those long, dense paragraphs into smaller bites. So go through your brief and look for ways to split longer paragraphs into shorter ones. You do not want the judge to have to scroll from the beginning of a paragraph to the end.
Similarly, find places where you are using a list (in substance) and turn it into an actual list (in form). For example, in an old-school brief you might write something like this:
Dismissal is appropriate where (1) the abuses are the result of bad faith and are accompanied by a clear record of “contumacious conduct”; (2) the abuses are attributable to the client and not just to the attorneys; (3) the abuses substantially prejudice the opposing party; and (4) a less drastic sanction would not provide an adequate deterrent. Moore v. CITGO Refining and Chemicals Co., L.P., 735 F.3d 309, 315–316 (5th Cir. 2013).
For your e-brief, do it like this:
Dismissal is appropriate where:
(1) the abuses are the result of bad faith and are accompanied by a clear record of “contumacious conduct”;
(2) the abuses are attributable to the client and not just to the attorneys;
(3) the abuses substantially prejudice the opposing party; and
(4) a less drastic sanction would not provide an adequate deterrent.
Moore v. CITGO Refining and Chemicals Co., L.P., 735 F.3d 309, 315–316 (5th Cir. 2013).
That is way easier to read on a tablet. In fact, it is easier to read in hard copy, too. The trick is to make sure you are dealing with word-count limits and not page limits—because these kinds of changes won’t add words, but they will definitely add pages.3. Pay Attention to Typography
You are a professional writer, so your writing should be professional — not just substantively and grammatically, but also visually. For starters, the font you are using matters. If you have not read Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers, you need to do that. He talks about font choice among other important typographical considerations. Portions of his book are available online, but you really need to have access to the entire book. I won’t repeat everything Butterick says; I will just say that you need to pick a good font for your electronic briefs if you want them to be readable on tablet.
You should also consider using a bigger font for easier reading on a small tablet screen. Use 14-point instead of 12-point font, for example. Some courts have actually increased their font-size requirements for this reason. Maybe go even bigger — to 15- or 16-point font — depending on the font you choose. Ideally the judge should not have to zoom in to read your brief comfortably, but do not make the font so big that it looks clownish.
Also, think about other typographical choices. For example, most courts require you to double-space your briefs. That is too much space and a bit awkward for a tablet, but one way to minimize the awkwardness is to set your line-spacing to exactly two times the font size, instead of using the default “double-space” setting. That is, if you are using a 14-point font, set your lines at 28-point spacing. This will typically put less space between the line, and you will still be conforming to the double-space rule.
Bottom line: Tip #3 is really all about reading and applying Typography for Lawyers.4. Use Charts, Tables, Photos, and Other Visuals
If you have a word-count limit instead of a page limit — or if you are not at risk of going over your page limit — you should consider using visual aids where appropriate to make the brief-reading experience as easy and appealing as possible. (Just be careful, though, if you are using something like a photograph, that you’re not using what could be considered “evidence not in the record.”)
One of my favorite things to do, in a complicated case, is to provide some kind of visual road map that will help the court understand what needs to be decided and how those decisions should be made — particularly where the court must make one decision before it can move on to making another.
For example, in a Texas same-sex divorce case on appeal, we included this flowchart in one of our briefs:
This sort of thing is great in any brief — judges and their clerks always love it when you do something to make their job easier. Visuals are especially great in e-briefs because it is another way to break up blocks of text on a little screen, and to make the brief-reading experience resemble how we consume information online. Creating visual aids like this can take a little more time and work, but it is worth it.5. Try It Before You File It
Before you file your e-brief, be sure you actually open it up on a tablet to see how it looks. You always have a chance to look over your hard copy brief before you drop it in the mail, but it is easy to electronically file a brief you have converted to PDF without ever looking at it as a PDF. You should not only open it up as a PDF on your computer, but also on a couple of tablets to make sure everything looks and works right. I recommend trying it on both the iPad and the Kindle, since those seem to be the two most popular tablets among judges. The last thing you want is to file your e-brief thinking it is as impressive as heck, only to find out later it was a hot mess.
These five tips will get you started, but for more on how to make your electronic briefs better, check out this guide created by a deputy clerk at the Texas Supreme Court. And if you are new to creating electronic briefs in the first place, this thorough how-to guide is very helpful.
Featured image: “Judge gavel and tablet computer on the table.
Lots of popular software companies have user conferences. Evernote is having its fourth one in a couple of weeks. There are WordPress conferences all over the world. Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo players get together every year at BlizzCon. But a legal software company? Can lawyers actually get fired up about their practice management software?
The vibe of the 2013 conference as portrayed in that promo video is pretty accurate. There were about 225 lawyers in attendance, and the vast majority were definitely fired up about their practice management software. This year, there are about 450 attendees, and everyone I have met so far is pretty fired up, too.
Six years ago, when I first discovered Clio, I was just fired up to discover a cloud-based practice management software that felt like a “breath of fresh air” compared to the competition. Now, Clio is all grown up. So grown up, in fact, that ~450 people will show up to its user conference.
That’s pretty impressive.
I won’t be blogging from the conference like I did last year, but I will be teaching a session tomorrow.
With iOS 8, Apple has implemented a new “zero-knowledge” security policy when it comes to iOS devices. In part, that means “it’s not technically feasible for [Apple] to respond to government warrants.” At The Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr points out that the government might not be willing to accept that scenario.
1) The most obvious option would be follow the example of CALEA and E911 regulations by requiring cellular phone manufacturers to have a technical means to bypass passcodes on cellular phones.
2) A second option would be to enact a new law severely punishing a target’s refusal to enter in his passcode to decrypt his phone.
3) A third option would be to impose data retention laws.
Generally, we urge a healthy level of skepticism about cloud storage. This view is based on the pragmatic acknowledgement that it is nearly impossible to not have some data live in the cloud (good luck trying to use email sans cloud) combined with the equally sensible belief that cloud storage can be less than ideal for security purposes.
More importantly, some lawyers and law firms may need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Dropbox won’t cut it. We have mentioned HIPAA-compliant cloud services before, but in this post we will attempt to create a comprehensive list.Who Needs To Comply With HIPAA
HIPAA’s privacy rule is written quite broadly to ensure that business associates with access to medical data — like attorneys, accountants, and financial services providers — also maintain heightened levels of privacy standards and security safeguards. Data storage and transmission services can fall under the law, and failure to appropriately protect data can result in fines as high as $1.5 million per year with the possibility of criminal charges.
That said, merely handling some medical data in the course of your practice does not require you to comply with HIPAA. Minnesota’s Bench and Bar reviewed the 2013 changes to the law, and discussed when law firms become business associates that are covered under the law. In looking for a HIPAA-compliant data storage provider, you should determine if they can sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). A BAA is a contract between an entity covered by HIPAA and a business associate that will be accessing personal health information. This agreement must put in place data protections that conform with HIPAA guidelines.Index
For a long time, Amazon’s cloud storage (AWS) was definitively not HIPAA-compliant. However, with the recent changes to the HIPAA law, Amazon began signing business associate agreements with covered entities. AWS also offers a white paper on how to use AWS in HIPAA-compliant systems. In the event you are considering using AWS, you should set up a free account to see how their storage system works. You can keep free storage for one year, but it is unclear as to whether that type of storage would be HIPAA-compliant.Box
Box, which also provides non-HIPAA-compliant storage to the masses, states that it specifically supports HIPAA regulations and can sign HIPAA Business Associate Agreements (BAAs). The company says their HIPAA practices have been evaluated by an independent third-party auditor (there is no government HIPAA certification) that details information about how Box conforms with the HIPAA requirements. Box provides data encryption, restricted physical access to servers, restricted employee access to data files, training of their employees on security controls, and a formally defined breach notification policy. Box does not break out the HIPAA-compliant storage pricing, so you will likely need to contact them directly for a quote.Carbonite
Carbonite states it is a HIPAA business associate and follows the security protocols of Massachusetts’ Data Security regulations. Per Carbonite, this is considered the strictest data protection regulation in the nation. Carbonite’s HIPAA-compliant storage prices begin at $269 per year and all plans allow for an unlimited number of computers. Prices increase based on the size of your storage needs. They have a 20% off deal running at the moment if you commit to a two-year contract.CareCloud
CareCloud is a medical billing software company that also offers HIPAA-compliant cloud storage. CareCloud says its healthcare software exceeds government security standards for data transmission and storage, although it is unclear what standards they are referring to. They encrypt traffic during transmission, use a commercial-grade firewall, and store data at maximum security centers inside a private cage (no, really). They also back up customer data to their disaster recovery center in real-time. Pricing for the cloud storage appears tied to their general medical billing software and starts at a hefty $449 per provider per month.ClearData
ClearData, which specializes in healthcare data, offers a free 60-day no obligation trial so you can assess their HIPAA-compliant storage. They also promise 100% redundancy, 100% network uptime, 100% business continuity, and 99.999% server uptime. If you give them your email, they will send you a white paper on best practices in cloud computing for the healthcare industry. Their white paper may prove useful if you are deciding how to manage healthcare data in your practice.Connectria
Connectria has both server and desktop software that will assist you in encrypting and syncing your data to their HIPAA cloud storage. They will enter into a BAA and will provide desktop backup, server backup, or enterprise backup as needed. Connectria will also help migrate existing Amazon S3 customers to Connectria’s HIPAA-compliant service. You pay based on how much data you need to store, but you will need to contact them to find out what that cost will be.CrashPlan PROe
CrashPlan, one of the most well-known backup services, provides what is probably the most cautious explanation about being HIPAA compliant. They will sign a BAA, but only for CrashPlan PROe (enterprise) plans and only if you are using an on-premises master server instead of a fully-hosted public cloud deployment. You can get a free trial of the enterprise software. Pricing starts at $60 per user per year and scales downward if you commit to a two- or three-year term.Egnyte
Egnyte is an enterprise file services provider that integrates file serving, cloud storage, and file sync and share. That model, according to Egnyte, allows easy HIPAA-compliant file sharing besides just providing compliant storage. Egnyte is a Business Associate to covered entities and will sign a BAA detailing their safeguards. They will also provide internal practices, books, and policies to help you determine your HIPAA-compliance. It is unclear whether Egnyte’s “Business” plan, which costs $15 per employee per month, provides HIPAA-level compliance or if users need to buy an enterprise solution from Egnyte.firehost
firehost, a general-service secure cloud provider, also offers specialized HIPAA-compliant storage. However, firehost is clearly geared toward healthcare entities that need the full range of data management; their centerpiece offering is a bundled service that covers hardware, software, security, and managed services. Functionally, they create a virtual server for that data. You will need to provide them some minimal data — name, email, phone, and company — in order to get started with configuring a server for that level of firepower.FolderGrid
FolderGrid offers HIPAA-complaint file sharing for project teams and also offers FTP access. Their HIPAA statement explains that they encrypt all data in transmission and storage. Additionally, administrators maintain full access control. They also redundantly store data on multiple devices in multiple facilities. Pricing begins at $10 a month and scales up from there based on the storage size you need.Google Apps
Google was not always HIPAA-friendly, but as of about a year ago, you can now request a BAA that covers Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and Google Vault. This does not apply to those using the free Google Apps suite. You will need to be an administrator for Google Apps for Business, Education, Government, or Unlimited, which are all paid services. If your HIPAA-compliant data needs are minimal, Google may provide a low-cost solution if you are already invested in the Google Apps ecosystem.Green House Data
Green House Data differentiates itself from other data centers by being, well, green. They are 100% wind-powered and are an EPA Green Power Partner. They also offer a webinar on when companies need to sign a BAA and what questions you should ask of your HIPAA data storage provider. Green House looks more geared towards providing you with a complete IT infrastructure solution, and for that you will need to contact them for a pricing quote.Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain, long known for those enormous trucks that come to your office and take the giant shredding bins away, offers a number of white papers about HIPAA-compliant storage, but it does not appear that you can learn anything more about their data storage options without contacting them directly.MyVault
MyVault has a lengthy explanation of HIPAA requirements and states they are HIPAA compliant. However, they also explicitly state that because they are an automated digital online data storage solution provider, they are not considered to be a business associate under the law. This is concerning given that other providers specifically agree to sign a BAA. There is an online demo you can try to get a feel for the features of MyVault and the pricing starts as low as $2/month, but whether or nor they would be considered truly HIPAA-compliant is not clear.Microsoft Office 365 for Health Organizations
As with Google Apps, if you are already heavily embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem, going with Microsoft Office 365 as a HIPAA-compliant data storage solution may be wise. Microsoft has a lengthy white paper you can read about how their cloud services conform to regulator requirements. Microsoft will sign a BAA and connect your data to the full Microsoft cloud, including SharePoint.Online Tech
Online Tech states that it recently completed an independent audit that found it to be 100% HIPAA-compliant. They provide a number of HIPAA webinars and can provide HIPAA-compliant cloud storage, managed servers, and full colocation. You’ll need to contact them directly for a quote.onramp
onramp provides a comprehensive-looking three-step risk management assessment process for giving you HIPAA-compliant storage. They determine what you need and create a custom Business Associate Agreement, a risk management plan, a backup plan, and a disaster recovery plan. You will need to email them for a quote to receive this level of attention.SpiderOak
SpiderOak says they are a Business Associate and are HIPAA-compliant. SpiderOak prides itself on its “Zero Knowledge Privacy” stance. Their servers are not capable of viewing any of your data in plain text. You can get two gigabytes of storage from SpiderOak for free, while business pricing starts at $100 per year.Symform
Symform is another general service secure cloud storage provider. They offer HIPAA-compliant storage with clear access control policies and restrictions, data backup and disaster recovery, and encryption during data transmission. Symform will give you 10GB of data storage free and, in a very Dropbox-esque way, allow you to earn more free cloud storage by contributing your own local drive storage. Symform boasts it is the only storage solution that gives you HIPAA-compliant storage for free, which very well may be true.TrueVault
TrueVault is designed for the developer side and has an API to facilitate secure healthcare software development. They also offer plain old HIPAA-compliant storage that is searchable and allows for file sharing. They will sign a BAA and have a data breach insurance policy. You can test the service for free. Pricing is based on how often you call to their API, rather than the size of the data stored, so you want to be familiar with how that works before taking the plunge.
Starting with iOS 8, according to Apple’s newly-updated privacy statement your photos, messages and attachments, email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders are “placed under the protection of your passcode.” Apple cannot bypass your passcode, which means it does not really have anything to turn over to the government.
From the sound of it, this only applies to the information on your iPhone or iPad. However, Apply says 93% of the requests it gets from law enforcement are “device requests,” and most of those “come from an agency working on behalf of a customer who has requested assistance locating a stolen device.”
This is all good news, and it means that any client data you might have on an iPhone or iPad is pretty safe. As far as I can tell, however, it does not have much to do with information stored in the cloud. While that information may be safe on your device, the government (or a hacker) could potentially still get it from your cloud provider — even if that cloud provider is Apple.
Featured image: “Lock : Vector padlock icon flat design” from Shutterstock.
According to the Verge, it will be called “Tell Me,” and look like a lightbulb.
While testing is in the early stages, we understand Microsoft is adding the “Tell Me” helper found in its Office Online apps to the desktop versions. Tell Me sits at the top of documents as a type of help and search tool. It’s similar in function to Clippy, providing a quick way to discover features and ask questions without digging into the vast help documentation found in Office. There’s no animated character like Clippy, just a simple bulb icon to indicate its presence in documents. Asking questions like “how do I insert images?” will bring up relevant features and additional help. It’s mainly a tool to help Office users discover the vast amount of features that are available across all the individual apps.
Okay, so not really Clippy, fortunately. Just a different help tool that probably won’t be sophisticated enough to help you pass the Legal Tech Audit. If you want to know what it will be like, check out the Office Online apps:
If you want a sneak peek at the new version of Office, check out the screenshots at the Verge.
BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages.
The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. … Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here.
Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.
— Louisiana U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier in In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010 (h/t NPR)
Featured image: “Image of schoolboy smiling showing thumbs up” from Shutterstock.
Rocket Matter just released its first iPad app. I haven’t gotten a chance to play with it because Rocket Matter revoked our reviewer access, but from the photos accompanying the press release, the app and the new logo look pretty good:
Rocket Matter also posted a video showing a bit more of the new app:
Hopefully the iPhone app will be next. It still looks like it was designed for the original iPhone.
From Niki Black at Legal IT Professionals today:
I can … assure you that wearable technology will be embraced quickly by lawyers. Smartwatches will lead the way, with Google Glass and other wearables adopted at a slightly slower rate.
Me, last week in the Lab:
Mark my words, ["How Lawyers Can Use the New Apple Watch"] will be the serious title of a dozen or so blog posts within the next 3 months.
(Tip o’ the hat to @Mythosopher for reminding me about my “prediction.”)
The #1 concern of new lawyers considering starting a law firm is usually how to get clients. It is a perfectly reasonable concern, but for some it becomes nearly all-consuming. These new lawyers starting new practices are so laser-focused on marketing that they are likely to get blindsided (clever girl) by the other essential parts of a law practice: lawyering and running a business.
The results are predictable: their practices do not usually last very long.The One-Person Show
Lawyering is, to a great extent, a one-person show. This is obviously true for a solo, but it’s also true for any lawyer at any job. You are responsible for your own work as a matter of law, ethics, and fact. You are also responsible for your clients — and often for getting them. You are responsible for doing administrative stuff like tracking time, and if you are a solo, for managing back-office tasks like balancing your accounts and licking stamps.
If you devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing, everything else will suffer. And you can’t afford to ignore those other things.
If you neglect your finances, you are more likely to slip up and violate some obscure trust accounting rule. If you neglect your education (not law school or even, necessarily, CLE, but actually learning how to be a lawyer and run a business), your business will get out of hand. And if you neglect the actual practice of law, you will never develop the skills that you need to represent your clients, or that will enable you to get more efficient so you can handle more clients, or that will enhance your reputation so that people want to refer more clients to you.Moderation in All Things
There are three things you should be working on at all times — three velociraptors you need to keep track of — in this order of importance:
These aren’t equally important, but you do have to do all of them in order to have a successful law practice.
Take care of your existing clients. This is the #1 most important thing you need to be working on. Be a good lawyer. Second, take care of administrative tasks, like paying your bills, balancing your bank accounts, and ordering new office supplies. This stuff is usually tedious, but it just has to get done. Third, take care of marketing. Network, write blog posts, work on your website, and manage your ad campaigns.
Although they are not equally important, you do have to do all of them. If you don’t work on your clients’ matters, you will be missing the whole point of being a lawyer. Plus, you won’t be earning your fee, and issuing refunds won’t help your bottom line. If you ignore administrative tasks, your business will crumble, so you have to find time for that, too. And if you don’t market, you won’t have any clients next month. Any one of these velociraptors can land you in hot water with the ethics board, your clients, or your balance sheet.
That’s three velociraptors to keep track of. (Okay, two if you work for the government or in-house or in public interest and don’t have to think about marketing.) Don’t miss the one in the bushes off to your left. It will eat your head law practiceUpdates
Featured image: “red traffic label with dinosaur pictogram” from Shutterstock.