KANE COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION SOFTWARE PRESENTATION
The following presentation was made by me at the first Kane County Bar Association (Kane County, Illinois) Law Office Technology and Internet Seminar on June 4, 1998. The program and model should serve as an excellent guide for other bar associations interested in doing technology programs.
John Noble has given me a good number of topics to cover in one-hour today, which I have reclassified a bit, namely:
1. Paperless Office
2. Year 2000 Issues
3. Billing and Time Management
4. Pleading and Practice Forms
5. Word Processing
6. Calendaring/Case Management/Matter Management
7. Software Maintenance
Software Training Issues
This paper will serve to cover these topics and allow my verbal presentation to cover specific details Id like you to know about. I will, however, not cover these topics in the order noted above.
An Overview The Absolute Need To Automate!
Your attendance at this seminar demonstrates either your curiosity about technology and automation or your commitment to excellence and your desire to do more and do better.
Today, a significant investment in law office automation and technology is as essential to the successful practice of our profession as is your license to practice law. And, that investment is not just in terms of out-of-pocket costs for computers, networks and software, but more importantly, for the training you need and the need for you to educate yourself as to what is available and how to use it in your practice. Just as you continue to upgrade and maintain your expertise in the area of law you practice in, so too must you constantly upgrade and maintain your expertise in the use of technology.
This FIRST, and hopefully hereafter, ANNUAL Kane County Bar Association Technology and Internet Seminar will be a remarkable addition to your educational resources and ability.
It needs to be emphasized that learning to use technology is not just for your staff. Indeed, the most powerful user and proponent of greater use of technology in your law firm must be you ..YOU! Remember, staff comes and goes, but you remain. Staff, including associate attorneys can make a mistake and take off, leaving you to hold the bag, but you remain! You must never allow anyone in your office to hold more power then you do, if you are, like me, the buck-stops-here, rain-making, Partner-in-charge. That is the way I practice law and use technology and that is the way you too must do it.
This is not an easy challenge to deal with. If you dont know how to type, you will have to learn. If you hate keyboards, deal with it! If you think I am all wet, call me in a year and tell me "I should have listened!" And, dont think for one minute that my lessons for you have not been part of my education at the "College of Hard Knocks."
But, Why Do We/You Need To Be So Efficient And Productive?
Why must you do this? The facts of life are that our clients are sophisticated. They have access to information. Lawyers do compete with each other for business. Our clients are computer literate. That means that they expect us to make maximum use of technology and be competitive or they will select another lawyer. Now, the practice of law was not always this way, but that is old news and unless and until things change back to the way they were before the Watergate years, then wed better get used to todays demands and not lament over how it used to be.
The Amount Of The Investment Is A Trivial Concern
Dont even think of talking to me about the cost of your technology investment. In the mid-1970s, I was running my six-seven lawyer law firm and we invested in two "dedicated word processors", each, depending on its configuration, costing from $18,000 to $20,000 each, or about a $40,000 investment. Today, because of competition in the market place, you can purchase some computers for under $1,000. A more acceptable computer for your needs today might cost $2,000, with a huge hard disk drive and plenty of RAM, or Random Access Memory. Indeed, a solo practitioner can network their office for a pittance, compared to what I spent (and made a lot of money with) in the 1970s when I purchased those two "Vydec" word processing machines.
If you dont have the money, borrow it. If you cant borrow it, then use your usurious credit cards. You need the infostructure to practice law today and that includes an office, telephone, fax, stationery, law license, a growing clientele and the computers, printers, modems and software to make it all work.
Do Not Even Try To Measure The Roi
For those of you who were economics majors or accounting majors (I am also a CPA), dont even begin to think about Return On Investment as your guide. ROI is meaningless when it comes to the use of technology in the law firm. Heres just a couple of examples as to why that is the case:
Your secretary entered the statute of limitations of a potentially "big" case in your computerized calendaring program, but you lost your paper-based "book" and with it the entry for the running of the statute, or you never entered it into your book in any event. By having the computer remind you of this critical date, you not only earned a big fee equal to five times the out-of-pocket cost for your computers, network and all the software, but you also saved yourself a malpractice claim and all that entails. You may not be able to mathematically measure the ROI on your technology investment, but, it surely is a huge return, is it not?
Another example your client calls and as you are saying hello, up on your computer screen pops up information about the client including not only information as to the matter you are working on for them, but data about their family, hobbies, favorite teams, college fraternity and the like. And, you take the time to banter with that client about their likes and dislikes. Now, what you have probably done is convinced your client that they are the most important client in your law office and they will start calling their friends and neighbors to recommend you to them. It was your computer that allowed you to access this information in moments, as compared to having to not take the call and find the file so that you could call the client back. ROI? How far is infinity?
The Role Of Your Bar Association
Before proceeding further, I want to congratulate all of you for being here and your leadership for having the vision and foresight to convene this seminar. Today, you will be overloaded and overwhelmed, but in the years to come, you can, should and will build from here. Your county-wide bar association is the VERY BEST VEHICLE for you to learn about these technologies, develop "standards" in your community and allow all lawyers who are smart enough to belong to the Kane County Bar Association find the most ideal vehicle for these purposes.
The ABA does some fine work, and so does the ISBA and many other geographically widely disbursed bar associations when it comes to a focus on technology; however, as important as technology is when it comes to electronic mail, electronic conferencing, video conferencing and the like (allowing attendance at "meetings" at any time and from any location without a physical presence at the actual meeting), nothing, and I mean NOTHING is as important as these types of face-to-face learning and networking experiences. And, you have the ability to set up monthly meetings on law office automation and technology and each month, in effect, have a users group meeting.
This is extremely important and I am hoping to resurrect my infamous LAW MUG, the "LAW"yers "M"icrocomputer "U"sers "G"roup and start to have monthly, live presentations and meetings in Chicago to discuss new technology, have demonstrations and to network with each other to talk about new technology and new uses of old technology.
Thus, when all be said and done, it is your Kane County Bar Association that can provide you with the best of learning experiences to make your journey to becoming a high-tech law firm much easier and rewarding.
Relationship Of Other Presentations To My Topic
Some brief comments on the other presentations here today:
Hardware Issues: As noted, the costs of hardware (computers, printers, etc.) is very low and even hard disk storage and Random Access Memory (RAM) is dirt-cheap. You should buy the most powerful systems you can afford and use and have it installed by professionals who value your business, price their goods and services reasonably, and who have a good reputation for after-sale service.
Imaging, data storage, Scanners, etc.: These are extremely important topics. Imaging is vital to having an efficient office and moving forward to the day when your office is, "paperless". Competition has driven the costs of storage on hard disks way down, and the same is true with scanners and Optical Character Recognition. Some of what you may see and hear today may seem like rocket science, but believe us when we tell you that scanning and OCR are vital to your practice.
Backup: Backup is one of my favorite topics. The senior lawyer in the firm MUST BE IN CHARGE OF SEEING THAT BACKUP IS DONE ON A DAILY BASIS AND THAT BACK-UP MEDIA IS TAKEN OFF PREMISES EVERY DAY.
The Internet Research, Communications And More
Without fear of a dissent, the Internet is now a part of our lives, forever more. Up until the Internet became so popular, if you wanted to be a publisher, you had to make a huge investment in buildings, equipment, staff, marketing and promotion. Today, any of us can be a publisher and a minimal cost. You will hear much more about this topic later today, but suffice to say that you must be hooked up to some form of legal research, such as the Westlaw folks who are exhibiting can provide you with and Westlaw is now accessible on the Internet! Dont debate the topic . Just get on the Internet if you are not already there.
Now, on to my main topic of presentation. In my face-to-face presentation, I will show you some software that provides you with what many of you may find most helpful and useful. Here, however, I cover the items assigned to me in more detail.
There will never be a completely paperless office, at least not for some years to come. Thats not because of technology, but because the law is always a good distance behind developments in technology.
One of the most difficult problems in any law office of any size is finding files and documents that were supposed to be in files. Thats because files can and do pass from person to person, and of course, are never right there on your desk when the client calls or you need the file or the contents thereof. But, you can have a paperless office for many purposes if you try and work at it.
To achieve a paperless office, you need to get all the information about your clients, contacts, friends, courts and the like into a master, electronic rolodex. Then, you need to enter information about all your matters and cases. Then, you need to scan everything that comes into the office and have those computer files passed along to those who should have them while staff not only puts the electronic file in the right folder for the right client matter, but puts the hard copy document in the paper folder and puts those folders in a locked, fireproof safe, those documents not to be touched or seen again until absolutely needed, such as when preparing and going to trial.
This can and should be your paperless office. It is not star wars and is achievable now. More on that later. Suffice to say that when you have achieved the beginnings of your paperless office, that you can always take the clients call and everyone in your office who has a right to know will know what is going on, even in your absence. Thus, if Mrs. Green calls to find out if you got a better offer in her case, another lawyer or your secretary can access your notes in the electronic file (if you have allowed them such rights) and bring the client up to date immediately .talk about great public relations.
Year 2000 Issues:
There are seminars on this topic going on all the time and they are expensive. Ive attached some information about more information on this topic. Suffice to say that you should not buy software that is not year 2000 compliant. And, if you are running particular software now that you are not certain about, inquire tomorrow morning with the vendor!
More and more Internet sites are listing "Y2K", as Year 2000 is known, year 2000 compliant software and smart vendors are duly noting year 2000 compliance in their advertising and on their marketing and product materials. Here are some references for you to follow up on:
"Leveraging your year-2000 fix Year 2000s silver lining": InfoWorld, May 11, 1998 at page 82.
"Y2K legal games begin. Companies scramble to shield themselves from costly lawsuits": InfoWorld, May 11, 1998 at page 103.
Also, go to their resources on the Internet at: http://www.infoworld.com.
"Year 2000 Legal Workshop Series Challenges and solutions for the impending Year 2000 Legal Crisis": Seminar on July 1, 1998, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Chicago Marriott Downtown, 540 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611, advertised as a "Special Workshop designed for in-house attorneys and corporate counsel." Registration:
Year 2000 Conference & Expo:
Phone: (508)-652-1010 Fax: (508) 642-1200
600 Worcester Street Suite 301, Box 8358 Natick, MA 01760
"Understanding, Preventing and Litigating Year 2000 Issues: What Every Lawyer Needs to Know Now". Chicago - July 20, 1998; San Francisco September 11, 1998; New York City September 16, 1998. Cost to register is $995.00.
Practicing Law Institute: (800) 260-4PLI; Fax (800) 321-0093; http://www.pli.edu
Billing And Time Management:
Every lawyer needs to keep time and billing records and manage their time more effectively and efficiently. Even contingency fee attorneys must keep time records, a topic I have written a great deal on for Trial Magazine and in my monthly newsletter. If you want more information on the best, most super book of its kind, then contact NLR Software Solutions, Attn: Frank Duffy, 328 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, IL 60661-5605, Fax: (312) 328-0323, or email Frank at NationalLaw@msn.com.
For example: Youre involved in a class action if you do any of this type of litigation, you know that one of the ways to measure and determine your fees is based on the amount of time you have devoted to a matter. Without time records, you may be dead in the water and there is an Illinois case I know of that so holds.
More and more malpractice claims are coming up for contingency PI lawyers when, after a matter is settled, a client alleges that you could have done better but just did not devote enough time to the matter! Can you imagine!? If you dont trust me on this one, call Anne Thar, Esq., at ISBA Mutual Insurance Company in Chicago and she will cite you chapter and verse.
Besides, keeping time records lets you know what everyone else in your firm was doing. One of the reasons I am a solo practitioner today is that I couldnt stand being the lawyer who worked the longest hours, was the most concerned, had to also manage the firm in addition to bringing in most of the work and then did not flinch to work on a Saturday or Sunday or at night.
There are any number of products that can and will deal with basic and more then basic accounting and financial needs.
In the time and billing arena, there is Timeslips and DDI*Law, both favorites of mine. Information from the Internet and on how to contact these vendors is attached. Another product used by many lawyers is Quicken ..although it is very inexpensive and very powerful, be certain that, if at all possible, it interacts with case and matter management software.
Timeslips Internet site can be found at: http://www.timeslips.com
DDI*Laws Internet site can be found at: http://www.ddisoft.com
Quickens Internet site can be found at: http://www.quicken.com
It makes sense to keep your books and records and time and billing information on your computer. First, it is always there when you need it. Of course, you must think about the confidentiality of such information. I, myself, would tend to keep the general ledger and journals at home where I know they are secure even if that means I have to do all the data input myself. Time and billing and costs advanced records can be kept in the office.
My concern about the general ledger, profit and loss information and the like is, of course, confidentiality. And, no, I do not have ultimate and total confidence in passwords and password protection. I might have near total confidence in encryption if I believed I could and would be able to memorize the password(s) and always remember them when I needed to.
Clearly, time and billing and costs advanced records provide benefits to law firms. And, if you are a transactional lawyer, you know the value of prompt billings and detailed billings. TimeSlips and DDI*Law handle these nicely and are among my favorites.
Pleading And Practice Forms:
In Illinois, we are blessed with a number of products that fill the bill in this area, particularly those from IICLE. Among the computer products now available from IICLE are "Illinois Civil Discovery, Trial, and Appellate Forms for Windows featuring HotDocs®, containing more than 300 Illinois forms on disk for only $99.00! These forms include the motions, complaints, petitions, notices, orders, stipulations and requests that Illinois lawyers use on a regular basis and work with WordPerfect® for Windows, Microsoft® Word, and Word 97. For more information on these and other forms products from IICLE, either call 800-755-5133 or find them on the Internet at:
If you are interested in Secretary of State forms, you should know about Ilforms, created by Illinois lawyers Lin Hanson and Jeff McDonald. You can call them about this under $150.00 product at 847-698-9600 or learn more at their web site at:
I am a big booster of IICLE and these types of document generators. IICLE uses the HotDocs product which is currently the most popular document assembly software products ever. Although low in cost and easy to use, nevertheless, the real cost of creating document assembly systems for the law office is in the selection and coding of the documents. I have seldom seen a solo or small law firm have the time to invest in creating these types of systems on their own. Supporting IICLE and acquiring these products will allow IICLE to continue in this business. At the same time, the technology has advanced so quickly and is so excellent now, that forms for Kane County lawyers could easily be generated by a consortium of lawyers throwing a sum certain in a "pot" and hiring a local techy, grad or college student or even an ambitious high-school student to create the system the lawyers want created!
The happy fact is that the "war" is now down to two players, Microsoft WORD and Corels WordPerfect. I use both products and both products are excellent. There are very strong advocates for both programs.
For smaller law firms, I particularly like Corels WordPerfect Suite 8, Legal Edition, with Dragon Naturally Speaking. The product includes: Corel WordPerfect 8, with the voice technology; Quattro Pro, Paradox, Presentation, CorelCentral, Netscape Communicator version 4.04 and the following law office-specific products: HotDocs 4.1, Amicus Attorney 2.8, CiteLink, NexLaw, Blacks Law Dictionary, Address Book, thousands of clip art images, fonts and photos and it all comes on CD-ROM and with excellent manuals. Microsoft has a Suite of products too, but not specifically focused on lawyers needs.
Calendaring/Case And Matter Management:
Ill let you in on some secrets of practicing law. We all lead hectic lives and have many masters to serve. We must have all of our administrative "ducks in a row" and that means very efficient and well-working computer systems that track our appointments, projects, to-dos, phone numbers, due dates and manage all of the information in our offices.
There are many products on the market that do just that and today I will mention only two of them that I like very much.
One of the products is Amicus Attorney from Gavel & Gown Software, of Toronto, Canada. (Gavel & Gown Software, Inc., 184 Pearl St., Suite 304, Toronto, ON M5H 1L5, (416) 977-6633; Fax: (416) 977-2563; Internet: http://www.amicus.ca.)
Amicus Attorney was created on the Macintosh in its initial offering and now is on both the Windows and Mac platform. It is very powerful, extremely easy to use and very, very intuitive. Time permitting, we will show you a bit of this product. Their latest version for Windows is a true 32-bit application, optimized for Windows 95 and Windows NT. The CD-ROM disk on which it comes has a 20-30 minute, video and voice "walk-through" that can get you up and going in no time. Amicus is, rightfully so, one of the most important products on the market today.
Another product is Legal Files, happy to say from a company right in our own State, and located in Springfield, Illinois. (Legal Files, 2730 S. MacArthur Blvd., Springfield, IL 62704, 800-500-0537; Fax: (217) 523-1412.) Their internet site is at: http://www.legalfiles.com. The present name for their product is ASSET, because lawyers using the product have found it to be an "asset" to their firm. The name does not properly describe the powers, versatility and customizability of this case/matter management software product. ASSETs values are its slick organization, its ability to replicate and synchronize data between computers in different offices or from your laptop to your network in the office and its total customization capability. Whereas any law office could adapt to the style and organization of Amicus Attorney, any law office could adapt Legal Files (ASSET) to reflect the style and organization of each particular law office.
Which product might be best is based on a lot of factors. You need to study your law firms needs, goals, desires, budgets, patience, commitment to technology and the like in order to make good decisions.
But, one thing that cannot be said is that these products are not needed in your law office. No law firm, whether you are a solo or have lots of lawyers in your firm, NO LAW FIRM can operate today and tomorrow without case/matter management software.
One of the other secrets of automating your law office is to have local, reliable dealers, installers, trainers and support for your computer hardware, network and software systems. One of your vendors today is NLR SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS, in Chicago, Illinois, and they are handling, training on, installing and supporting clients who purchase either Amicus Attorney or Legal Files. The value of such a local presence, no matter how good the software vendors training and telephone support may be, cannot be overstated. (NLR can be contacted by calling Frank Duffy as noted earlier).
Not only do these programs track information about your clients and matters and remind you of things to do, but they also tie in with document assembly and either do or will shortly tie in to the Internet and accounting and third-party time and billing software.
In my book, Computers For Lawyers, I devote huge amounts of time and attention to case management software and all its offshoots and tie-in software products. This software is going to be and should be the heart and soul of your law firm and should, when properly implemented, allow you to practice law, being comfortable that all else in your firm is running smoothly and properly. Again there is a tip here:
It is through the power of creating "standards" in your community that you can help each other attain the efficiency levels so badly needed in todays world.
Software maintenance involves many topics and many considerations. If you acquire a product like Amicus Attorney or Legal Files, I strongly recommend that you take the "software maintenance" option. Most vendors then provide you with some amount of "free" support, maintenance and bug fixes and new versions of their software during the term of your commitment. However, updating software on your computer is dangerous to do by yourself various software programs are inter-related and there may be special settings in place for one reason or another. It is always best to have your techys present when you load any new software or software upgrades on any computer.
Software Training Issues:
This topic is as important, and perhaps the most important part of what I have to tell you today. No matter what you see on TV or hear from vendors, nothing is easy when it comes to computer technology. The old saying "no pain, no gain" is especially true with it comes to computers.
Before you can use any software on any computer, you need to know a bit about the operating system of the computer. That does NOT mean you become a programmer. It does mean that you know some of the buzz words and how the files and sub-files (directories and sub-directories) are organized. That may take an hour or so. Then, you need to know a bit about Windows 95 or Windows 98 and what the ICONS (pictures) mean, what they do and how you do it. Learning to use a mouse also takes a modest bit of learning. Then, you should have some working knowledge of your word processing software of choice. This will get you into the menu structure of programs, tool bars, more icons and the like. This "basic training" is likely to take two full days of training, not necessarily all in two consecutive days.
It is wise for law firms to, perhaps one Friday at an in-the-office, brown-bag lunch financed by the law firm, have an informal "users group" meeting to discuss how things are going in the office, tips and tricks each may be able to teach the other, and providing a forum for recommendations and suggestions. Your employees will love it and you will learn a great deal in the process.
That brings me to my next tip:
You probably dont entrust the trial of major cases to the youngest associate and you probably, personally, lock up all cash and negotiable securities you may have in the office. You must be able to access, operate, change the passwords of and in all respects be the master of the practical, how to operate it and how to use it, aspects of every computer program in the office. If you do not heed this advice, some day, some where, you will be at the mercy of a non-owner, lower-echelon employee of your law firm. Failure to heed this advice is a formula for ultimate calamity.
Kane County Bar Association Recommendations
Here are a series of recommendations for your bar association.
In closing, let me say how proud I am to have been selected to speak to you today. I hope I have been educational, helpful and informative.
Paul Bernstein, Attorney At Law