Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2008

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

  

It is always a good time to save money especially with the economy in the way that it is right now. Here are some tips and sites to help you save some money.

Getting Stuff Cheap

Clearly you want to buy quality products from reputable dealers but that does not mean that you cannot good prices.

One of the first places to search for good prices on computers and electronics is Tiger Direct. It is worth going to the site regularly just to see the Deal of the Day. The day that I was there, it was a Kodak digital camera for $79.00 and I actually bought it for an extra camera. Whether you need equipment for your practice, your home or your student going to college, this is a site worth viewing.

If you want to have a comparison of sites and you know exactly what you are looking for, you can use Google. Go to Google and click on Shopping. Then you will enter the product you want to find. You can be as specific or as general as you like. The search will give you reviews and comparisons.

Another helpful shopping site is from Cnet and it is www.shopper.com. CNET.com is a site that is all tech buzz all the time. It can be a bit overwhelming but it is worth tuning into on occasion to keep up to date.

When I went to search on laptops, there was a good introductory piece that helps you determine what type of laptop you need. It helps you pick the right product for what you want to do.

Many of these sites are mail order but some people may want to stay closer to home. On the MSBA website under Legal Vendor E-Mall, there are many vendors who are local. In addition to these vendors, there are discounts that MSBA Members get on many products and services. On www.msba.org, click on Member Resources and Member Benefits.

STAYING SAFE

You can password protect individual folders on your computer so that only you can access them. This can be extremely helpful for home computers or files in the office that only you can access. It is My Lockbox from FSPro Labs It is free for two folders. It is very easy to use and the folder cannot be accessed by anyone but you.

If you do any commerce over the internet, you are always concerned with security, the same site has information on identity and privacy protection. Identity Knight removes personal information from Internet Explorer auto complete fields.

Track Erasure Pro is designed to protect you by cleaning up all the unwanted history data on your computer.

Over 2 million laptops are stolen each year. You can protect your laptop and its data with Lojack It is a software theft protection service that tracks, locates and recovers stolen laptops. The standard is only $39.99 and the premium for $59.99 can also remotely delete data from a stolen laptop.

Another safe way to protect your information is to use an encrypted flash drive. IronKey allows you to put your critical data on a flash drive that is encrypted. The cost ranges from $79.00 for a 1 GB to $149.00 for 4 GB. Any one that carries client information on his/her laptop should have the data stored on this flash drive and not on the laptop.

More and more practitioners are using on-line backups for their data. There are a number of companies out there. Three companies worth considering are Mozy and their MozyPro is probably the most affordable. Others are Core Vault and Amerivault which has a very good risk management tool at http://www.amerivault.com/risk.

Another on-line back up service is Sugar Sync. which backs up your information on line but also allows you to access the files from any computer or any location remotely.

STAYING CONNECTED

One of my favorite free tools is Jott which allows you to call a programmed number and leave a message at your email. You can set it up to send messages to as many emails as you like.
You can now get a list of free Wi-Fi spots before you leave on vacation or your travels. Two sites Wi Fi Free Spot and Wi Fi 411 (wifi411.com) will give you locations all over the world including camp sites and resorts.

You can receive and send faxes via email with a local number or now even use the fax number that you already have. You receive a local number and when a message is faxed to that number, it is sent to your email. You can access this anywhere you can a access your email. You can even now use the same fax number that you have been using with your traditional fax machine. Two companies are E-Fax and J Connect.

PEOPLE ISSUES

Solos and small firm practitioners do not have the resources of firms to test skills of potential employees. The site My Skills Profile has a variety of performance and personality tests which can be taken and scored on-line for as little as $15.00.

Another employee issue concerns "what to pay" particular employees. At Salary.com you can see salary data for particular positions in specific zip codes. These are averages but it can give you some idea what might be considered reasonable.

Another site, Payscale.com is a very detailed site that gives a comparison of your salaries with others in the same field and area. There is a detailed questionnaire that needs to be completed. It is free and quite good if you are trying to determine what to pay or if your salaries for specific employees are comparable.

We certainly want to give employees the opportunities to improve some of their skills but it can be difficult to have employees in a small office out of the office for training. Microsoft has on-line training for many of its applications. This is self-paced and can be extremely helpful when you upgrade to new versions. Many other applications also have on-line tutorials.

Speaking of training, if you want to learn to use Google more effectively, there is a blog called LifeHacker that actually has a Google School which has some great tips for using the full capabilities of Google.

If you are a true solo (just you) but you sometimes have need for some word processing, Law DocsXPress or Legal Typist allows you to outsource many of these services. You can sign up for a free trial with Law Docs which also says it uses only US labor. Legal Typist does not require you to enter into any contracts. You use it when you need it.

If you have employees and want to monitor their work and their internet usage, Spector Soft has software to do that. Spector Pro 2008 allows you to record all their emails, chats, keystrokes and websites visited. And if you use e-blaster, also from Spector Soft, you can actually monitor them remotely while you are away. Both packages are less than $100.00.

I have run out of space but have many more cheap sites and tools for you to see.
There is information on Research and Information Sites, Practice Tools and expanded sites on the topics listed in the above article. To see that information go to, http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/index.htm and click on Tech Stuff, Cool and Cheap Tools.

If you have any that you want to share, please let us know and we will post them as well.
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August 2008

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