Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2006

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

BY PAT YEVICS  

Tidbits & Bytes, or 'Cleaning Out Old Magazines'
By Pat Yevics

One of my resolutions many years ago (which I recommended in this column) was to limit the number of monthly publications I receive. The reasons were simple: 1) the Internet made it easier to get information especially related to technology and 2) I really did not have time to keep up with all the reading. It seemed extremely wasteful to spend money on publications that I was not reading. In addition, I always felt guilty when I would throw them out without having read them as thoroughly as I should.

I now subscribe to only a few. As a member of the ABA Law Practice Management Section and the ABA Solo and Small Firm Section, I receive their two monthly magazines, Law Practice Management and GPSolo, respectively. Both are excellent publications.

Other publications I receive and highly recommend are Law Office Computing and Lawyer's Weekly. I think they are particularly useful for solo and small firm practitioners.

By the time you read this, it will be 2006. What better time to share with you some of the tidbits and bytes from these and other 2005 publications?

Virtual Assistants. More and more firms of all sizes are using "virtual assistants" to help with word processing and document preparation. More than 600 members strong, the International Virtual Assistants Association has standards for certification on Microsoft software and other products. Each "assistant" is priced differently, and although each provides MS Office services, there are variations within each company. Some of the services include www.legaltypists.com, www.kulshangroup.com, and www.lawdocsxpress.com. (From Law Office Computing, August/September 2005)

Conflicts. Freivogel on Conflicts is not a website that will be of interest to many non-lawyers. In fact, in his "Ground Rules for Using This Site", William Freivogel states that "[t]his site is not designed for non-lawyers. Indeed, lawyers who have not studied or dealt with conflicts of interest rules for lawyers on a regular basis will find this site a bit of a challenge. It is designed for lawyers who have a basic knowledge of the conflicts rules." Freivogel is an insurance industry executive who has been working with lawyers on risk-management and malpractice prevention issues since 1987. If you've ever done legal research on ethical conflicts, then you know that once you get past the easy and obvious rules, the law becomes complex rather quickly. To get an idea of the value of this site, click on "What's New" and look at the number of items posted within the last 30 days. Then go to the "Table of Contents" and pick an interesting-looking topic at random. You'll find a clear statement of the issue and a set of citations that will save you a great deal of research time if you need to delve deeper. Clearly, this is a "must" bookmark. (From Jim Calloway, Practice Management Advisor, Oklahoma State Bar Association)

Comparison Shopping. We get many calls about what products (phones, scanners, copiers, etc.) to buy. The technology is changing so rapidly it is hard to keep up. Moreover, what is good today will be obsolete next week.

A good site on which to do some research is Buyer Zone, which offers quotes on particular products. You must complete a short survey about your specific needs and e-mail it to them (they have a no-spam policy and claim that they do not sell names). In turn, they send your requests to their vendors, who will subsequently contact you. I would prefer to have them send you the information so that you can contact the vendors directly. What I do like very much about the site is that for each of the categories there are "Buyer's Guides" – information about the product you are researching and what you need to know before making the decision. This is worth reviewing before you consider a product.

"Covering Your Assets". In an article in the August/September issue of Law Office Computing, Ross Kodner declared, "One day, data backup will save your law practice." Kodner believes that although most law firms back up their data most do not do it effectively and would be unable to recreate all their information. He believes it is only a matter of time before there is a malpractice suit by a client because a lawyer failed to protect the work product.

Kodner's backup basics are:

  • w Never trust your backup system.
  • w Alternate between at least five backup tapes.
  • w Store your most recent tape away from your office.
  • w Retire backup tapes after one to two years.
  • w Train at least two people to perform backups and restoration of data.
  • w Don't rely on a single backup method.

According to Kodner, "the only way to truly protect your systems' information is to backup everything on your key hard drives everyday." (my emphasis) This is contrary to the incremental backup approach where only the files that have been changed since the last backup are saved which he describes as "an understandable but commonly-used backup approach." According to the article, while this may be faster on a daily basis, it will be difficult to restore the data easily.

Another of Kodner's suggestions about backing up software programs contradicts some of the prevailing wisdom; he suggests also backing up their software programs. Most firms do not back up their programs because they have them on the original CDs. This is shortsighted (according to the article), however, because of the changes, patches, updates and tweaking that would be difficult, if not impossible, to recreate.

Kodner believes that it is possible to build a reliable automated system for daily full-system backups for as little as $500.

For more details on backups, e-mail me at pyevics@msba.org. ("Covering Your Assets," Law Office Computing, August/September, 2005)

While this year-end purging of reading material can be cathartic, I want to make an effort to share these tidbits in my column each month as well as weekly on the LOMA blog – a tall order to be sure, but it will save a lot of angst next December. Besides, there is nothing like a public declaration to ensure living up to your own expectations.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2006

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