The best way to
get a good idea
is to get lots of ideas.
- Linus Pauling
I usually try to catch up on my reading in January, but somehow
the first two, almost three months of 2005 are gone and I am just getting around
to going through my pile of reading materials. As I always do, I would like
to share some information with you. In addition, there are many other short
items I would like to share in hopes that one or two of them will help.
Great Product for Dealing with Spam
As many of you know, I am on ALL of the more than 100 MSBA Email Lists,
as well as other national Email Lists. This participation is always a double-edged
sword because it opens your e-mail address to spam. Like most firms/businesses,
the MSBA was swamped with spam. Thanks to our IT Director, Lawrence Hicks,
we installed Postini® software, which filters and blocks spam. Since Postini® enables
you to actually see what has been blocked, you can check to make sure nothing
of importance has been filtered out.
And it has worked splendidly for MSBA. Although I still get
some spam, Postini® blocks about 150 useless messages a day. I still check
to see if there are any messages that I need to read, but most are junk mail.
The MSBA is also offering Postini® as a member benefit.
For more details, visit www.msba.org/departments/membership/discounts.htm.
Firms of all sizes send out information to clients and potential clients
in the form of e-newsletters, and anti-spam filters are often set so
“high” that almost nothing gets through to clients. One excellent
features articles on the effective use of e-newsletters and ways to enable
them to get past spam filters, such as avoiding certain
“voodoo words” that can raise red flags with spam filters, such
“Click”, “Trial”, “Dear”, “Bankruptcy”, “Guaranteed”, “Urgent
“Cash”, “Income” and “Limited Time Offer”.
[From “Stand Out From Spam,” Law Office Computing (August/September,
Don’t Get Caught in the Phishnet
The act of sending an e-mail to a user under the guise of an established
legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private
information for purposes of identity theft is called phishing (definition courtesy
The e-mail directs the user to a website which subsequently asks the user to
update his or her personal information (which the legitimate organization already
has), such as passwords and credit card, Social Security and bank account numbers.
The website is bogus, however, set up only to steal the user’s information.
This is a very serious problem in which even the most sophisticated
users can get caught. For a really good article on how to avoid being scammed,
go to www.antiphishing.org/consumer_recs.html.
In addition, you can take a phishing IQ test at http://survey.mailfrontier.com/survey/quiztest.html.
The IQ test (which I took) came to my attention while I was
listening to the Computer Guys on WAMU (88.5 FM) on my way home from the February
Solo and Small Firm Practice Section Meeting. They provide great information
and are very entertaining. For more information, visit www.wamu.org/programs/kn/computerguys.
If you take the test (which you should), read the details for determining whether
the e-mail message is real or a fraud; they will help in other situations.
You should also share this information with your family and staff.
New Software Product for Estate Planning
Two independent reviewers (both solo practitioners) highly recommend a
software package called WealthDocs, which is based upon the document assembly
software HotDocs. You can get more details and order a CD Demo at www.wealthcounsel.com.
If you want a copy of the review, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and
I can fax it to you. [From “Estate Planning in a Box,” Law Office
Computing (August/September 2004).]
There are two new battery packs have received excellent reviews as backup
power for your laptop battery. The N-Charge System (www.valence.com)
is a small, flat and lightweight external laptop battery designed to sit under
your laptop. According to reviewer Brent Burney, the pack is “designed
to mimic your laptop’s power supply so your laptop can’t tell whether
it’s running from the wall or the N-Charge system.” Simply charge
the battery for 3-4 hours, then plug it into your laptop using a special adaptor
for your specific laptop model.
The second pack is called Solar Roll14 (www.brunton.com),
and just as the name suggests, it uses the sun to power your laptop, cell phone
or digital camera. Although the reviewer, who describes the Solar Roll as looking
something like a “small hallway rug,” thought it would be great
for those places where there is no electricity, the N-Charge seems more practical.
Again, if you would like copies of these reviews, please
e-mail email@example.com and
I will fax them to you. [From “Packing Portable Power” Law Office
Lock Box – Personal Access
Micro Solutions offers an external hard drive that can only be accessed by
fingerprint-recognition. The drive connects to your PC through the USB port,
and it allows up to eight authorized users. For more details, visit www.micro-solutions.com.
Security for Solos and Small Firms
In their article “Protected from the Elements,” authors Sharon
D. Nelson, Esq., and John W. Simek offer some quick tips on security. (The
article is of course much more detailed; again, for a complete copy, contact
me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Install anti-virus software.
Install the appropriate firewall protection for your
Internet connections. How you are connected (dial-up, DSL, cable) will
specifically determine what type of protection you need.
According to the article, you should not be using Windows
98, as it allows very easy login without knowing your password. The authors
recommend Windows 2000 or XP.
All users should have passwords and change them periodically.
Turn off the “AutoComplete” feature. (In
Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options, Content.)
The authors even recommend using a screensaver password
that will keep your computer secure if you leave your desk for a period
of time. (This might be a good idea if you share offices.)
The authors note that “the vast majority of security
breaches” are committed by disgruntled employees. Hence, they recommend
physically securing the server. If possible, secure telephone equipment.
If it is in a common area, ask that it be locked with limited access.
In addition to convenience, new technologies offer new
security problems. If you are considering wireless networks and other devices,
there are many security safeguards that must be implemented.
If you are using Word or other Microsoft products, make
certain that you get software that eliminates metadata (the information
that is contained in the files which can be easily accessed by anyone to
whom you send an electronic document). Such products include Metadata Assistant
by Payne Consulting (www.payne consulting.com), Workshare Protect (www.workshare.com),
iScrub Metadata Management Software by Esquire Innovations (www.esqinc.com)
and BEC Legal Systems’ Metadata Scrubber (www.beclegal.com). [From
“Protected from the Elements,” by Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., and
John W. Simek, Law Office Computing (August/September 2004).]
Not Another Awards Show!
Although there were few if any real surprises in the actual choices made
by readers in the 10th Annual Law Office Management Readers’ Choice
Awards, some of the actual statistics were surprising (at least to me). The
survey was sent at random to 2,000 Law Office Management subscribers
with a 10.6 percent response rate. The numbers that are most revealing are
how many practitioners do not use some of these applications.
Some of the statistics which I found interesting are:
Although MS Word had a larger share of the legal market,
it was only 51.9 percent to 47.6 percent.
However, 65.7 percent used MS Office Suite, compared
to 24.9 percent that used Corel (Word Perfect).
Of the responding firms, 41.7 percent used no document
management, and of those that did, 12 percent used iMange, 10 percent used
WorldDox and 6 percent used PCDocs.
Of the responding firms, 46 percent used no document
assembly program, and of those that did, 30.7 percent used Hot Docs.
Of the responding firms, 21.6 percent used TimeSlips and
11 percent used PCLaw. The remaining used a variety of other time
and billing software.
Of the responding firms, 34.3 percent did not use case-management
software. Of the 66 percent that did use it, 25 percent used Time Matters,
14 percent used Amicus Attorney, and the remainder split between
all the others.
Of the responding firms, 58 percent do not use litigation-support
In 1995, there was not even a question in the survey
about e-mail, yet according to the new survey 99 percent of respondents
said they used e-mail daily and 98 percent reported using the Internet
daily. Only .5 percent said they never use the Internet or e-mail.
Of the responding firms, 74 percent had websites.
The top three type of Internet connection were DSL (38.1
percent), T1 (35.1 percent) and cable (15.4 percent). Only 3.6 percent
used a dial-up connection.
Hopefully, this will give you some idea where you rate on
the technology scale.
If you would like to see some of the reviews listed, please
e-mail email@example.com and
I will forward them to you. As a special bonus, I receive 10 complementary
copies of Law Office Computing each month. I have been distributing
it to various councils and speakers. If you would like to receive a copy one
month, please send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org and
I will forward you a copy. It is an excellent magazine.