Dragon Dictate For Mac 2.0 Review

Filed under: Software | Tags: , , |

Dragon Head

I previously wrote a (non) review of Dragon Dictate for Mac 2.0 discussing the history of voice recognition and why I probably would not be getting the newest version of Dragon Dictate.

I have been a fan of speech recognition since just before natural language models. I remember when discrete language ruled the day and you, had, to, talk, like, this, to have any chance of the computer being able to understand your speech. In the last few years, I got tired of paying $150 every 12 to 18 months to try a new version, just to be disapponted with it. The recognition was quite good, but the overall package (how easy it was to correct and train words) dragged it down. I dropped out of the game of regular updates and decided not to update for a while. Well, after a glowing review from Ernie the Attorney, I decided to give it a shot.

I have been using Dragon Dictate 2.0 for Mac for the last few weeks. I have dictated a several articles using it and I have been quite impressed with where Nuance and MacSpeech have made significant improvements. However, some problems remain. Read the rest of this entry »


Pitfalls Of A Virtual Practice

Filed under: Cloud, Editorials | Tags: , |

Mobile phone

For a time, when I was contemplating moving my law office, I considered going completely virtual. I gave considerable consideration to working from home and becoming a “Starbucks Lawyer.” I also gave quite a bit of thought to how to work completely from an iPad. I strongly considered online case management systems. The problem was I could not figure out how I would generate documents and get them to clients. I did not want to do work “in the field” only to get back to my home office with a stack of todos.

The best solution I could come up with was to use a VNC (or similar) solution and use the iPad to connect to full desktop and work remotely from the iPad. I have done this on occasion, but not as a primary means of running my office. The trouble is that the iPad becomes a window to a larger desktop which you are constantly moving around to see different parts of; or zooming in and out between an overview of the desktop and a closer view to make the text legible. I realize you can reduce the resolution of the desktop. However, then your screen real estate drops causing another set of problems.

I could have used a laptop with an internet connection. However, I like the long battery life in an iPad as well as the $30 per month unlimited internet connectivity.

I also focused on using an iPad as a security measure. The iPad is primarily a viewer. I could access my data without storing it on the device. I could safely work and if the iPad was stolen, I would not be worried that all my information and files would be stolen with it. Additionally, with the ability to remote lock and wipe the device, I could feel relatively secure that a loss of the device would not result in loss of sensitive information.

Ultimately, I decided to simply move the office rather than abandon the idea of a public office altogether (or, at least for this year). Beyond the the technical issues, there was the matter of matter of a substantial reduction in personal contact with my clients.

Face time matters. In a disability practice, being able spend time with a client plays a large part in improving the outcome of the case.

  • You can read people better in person.
  • It takes time for a client to warm up. A  person will say things after 45 minutes that they would never say in the first 10.

I have found that this does not work over the telephone, or even on a video conference. You just cannot keep people on the phone long enough. It is not the same as talking with friends of family. You are regularly cross referencing your client’s statements against your notes to check the status of todos and to gain greater understanding of their case. This results in pauses while you go through your notes – even if everything is at your fingertips with electronic notes.

Here’s the rub: people hate pauses over electronic communication. What is perfectly acceptable when meeting with a lawyer: watching them check files or the screen, becomes intolerable when not meeting with the attorney. I have found that people will either fill the empty space with conversation or they want to end the meeting. For the attorney, you are forced to try to split your attention and risk missing what the client is saying or do a poor job cross-referencing. In the end, the electronic communication ends up being shorter and less productive.

If you have not noticed this in your practice, compare the time spent and what you learn when you meet with your client in person versus over the phone. Where are you more productive?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Milica Sekulic


Why Hire A Contract Attorney?

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , , |

My Work Desk

CC photo credit: DeaPeaJay

Today’s post comes from legal researcher, legal writer and attorney-at-law, Rebecca Phalen.

Why hiring a contract attorney brings value:

Attorneys hire contract attorneys for various reasons. Maybe the attorney doesn’t have ready access to the legal research materials needed, maybe the case calls for more hands on deck in one particular month. Whatever the reason, the contract attorney you hire should bring value to you and your client.

What is that value?

  • Stress relief. You delegate a project and get more time.
  • Fresh ideas. The contract attorney will listen to what you need. A good one will also raise relevant issues and advise you if you are going down the wrong path. You now have access to an attorney who can discuss any aspect of the case with you.
  • Workload expansion without payroll expansion. You can delegate small or large projects. You do not have to commit to providing a set number of hours.
  • Research resources. You can find contract attorneys that pay for their own research subscription. So if you don’t subscribe to Westlaw or Lexis, you can hire an attorney that does.
  • Experience, without the training time. You are not limited to new lawyers when looking for a contract attorney. There are attorneys with years of experience who have chosen to work only as contract attorneys.
  • Better client service. You can focus on what you like to do or what is most critical for your client, while the contract attorney completes the tasks that are still necessary for your client.

Rebecca is a terrific blogger and you should definitely check out her blog.


Kevin O’Keefe on Biggest Mistake Blogging Lawyers Make

Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , |

It was great to meet with Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe in person at the Denver Legal Bloggers Meetup. Keven was gracious and generous with his time and gave us an interview about the biggest mistakes lawyers make with blogging and social media.

Sorry about the video quality. Guerrilla recording in a dim bar is tricky.

Update: Stephanie West Allen has more videos with Kevin from the meetup here.


Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe at Denver Legal Blogger Meetup

Filed under: Blogging, Marketing | Tags: , |

Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog fame visited at the Denver Legal Blogger (or Blawger) meetup at Katie Mullens Irish Pub last night.

Pictured (from left to right):

It wasn’t such a boys club as the picture might suggest. There were a number of terrific women bloggers also in attendance. Here are just a couple I had a chance to meet with:

Also in attendance were:

I am sorry that I did not have  chance to speak to everyone. If you were at the meetup and I did not get a chance to mention you, please say hi in the comments and include a link to your site.

Thanks to Alli Gerkman, Online Content and Development for Continuing Legal Education in Colorado for the invite!


Systems: Save Your Sanity Through Effectively Mapping Stuff

Filed under: Practice Tips | Tags: |

motion gears -team force

CC photo credit: ralphbijker

Today’s post is written by Andrea Cannavina of LegalTypist.com

Hi.  I’m a Virtual Assistant.  I help attorneys and law firms streamline their tech and processes so they can get more done with less –  less time, less resources and less stress.  I’ve been doing this since 2001 and I’ve helped 100’s of lawyers irrespective of their chosen technology.

Everyone always asks me “how”? Simple.

S-Y-S-T-E-M-S

Without systems, I wouldn’t be where I am, and some of my clients would not be in business.  Everyone is on information overload and the more successful you become, the more stuff you have to keep track of.

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame is big on systems and getting everything out of your head.  So am I.  Systems remove the need for you to be thinking about how to do something vs. just getting it done.

Not all that you do as a business owner needs to have a thought process.  By getting this easy stuff out – written and known – concrete – you free up lots of the gray matter for more important ruminations (you are lawyers after all).

Systems allow you to go on autopilot. You don’t have to think: ‘hmmm, what do I do with this?”.  You already know what to do when you receive the following Read the rest of this entry »


Legal Blogs: Naming Your Site And Picking A URL

Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , |

What to name your legal blog and the name of your site (URL) are chicken and eggs problems. Some people will start by choosing the name of their site, while others will focus on selecting the URL.

Search-Engine-Marketing

Photo credit: Danard Vincente

Wherever you choose to start, you need to pick a name that has the following characteristics: Your blog and url should do the following:

  • Express what you do.
  • Contain keywords to help with your search engine optimization and search engine placement.
  • Be easy to spell.
  • Be easy to remember.
  • Not confuse the reader when spelled together

Give some serious consideration to that last suggestion. Here are some of poorly chosen domain names:

Experts Exchange = www.expertsexchange.com

Who Represents = www.whorepresents.com

Therapist Finder = www.therapistfinder.com

Also, keep in mind your ethical obligations when selecting a blawg name and URL. Read the rest of this entry »


Colorado Solo Attorney Brown Bag (October 2010)

Filed under: Editorials | Tags: , |

Panda bento box

CC photo credit: luckysundae

Calling all sole practitioners and small firm lawyers around Colorado Springs!

We share common problems. We are all trying to figure out marketing, new technologies, and how to keep costs down.

We are faster and more nimble than big firms. However, we are isolated and each of us is trying to figure out how to re-invent the wheel. That’s just crazy!

Let’s get together, ask questions, share ideas and solutions.

The first meeting of the Colorado Solo Attorney Group is on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at Noon at the Downtown Executive Center – 422 East Vermijo Ave – 3rd Floor conference room.

Come and meet some great attorney and broaden your network. Bring your business cards and your questions. If you can, RSVP on Facebook so I have some idea of how many to expect.

UPDATE 1: Map removed because Google keeps moving my office back to the old location. The correct address is 422 East Vermijo Ave Suite 308 – NE corner of Vermijo and Wasatch. Look for the building with the pyramid!

Update 2: I am combining the Solo Attorney page on Facebook with the Planet10tech page. Future events will be part of the Planet10tech Facebook page.


Self Hosted Legal Blogging – The Simple Pleasures

Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , |

Looking up

CC photo credit: aussiegall

Recently I wrote about why I do not believe the large web site services targeting the legal market are a good choice for solo and small law firms. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of starting your own site.

Small is good!

There is nothing wrong with starting a small readership! I understand that it is frustrating to sweat over creating content when only a couple people read it. However, a small readership has its benefits:

  • Small lets you make mistakes.
  • Small lets you find your voice.
  • Small lets you experiment.

If you ever glanced through People magazine or US weekly, you have seen candid shots of celebrities wearing sweats and flip-flops (laundry day, no doubt). All they wanted to do was get their groceries, have a Jamba Juice, or put gas in their car! *FLASH* Now their excursion is memorialized forever in glossy print in your dentist’s waiting room.

Just as there are downsides to fame, being taken to the first page of Google on week 1 also has its problems Read the rest of this entry »


Finding Work As A Freelance aka Contract Attorney

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , |

Today’s guest article on finding work as a freelance lawyer is by California small claims appeals attorney Adam Jaffe.

Where to look for contract attorney jobs:

To get a job as a contract attorney:

  • Read Craigslist DAILY!
  • Network, network, network!

Craigslist is the best location to see who is hiring . Yes, one can look at Monster, Lawjobs.com, and the like. However, most people who are looking for some kind of assistance (including retention by in pro pers) can be found on Craigslist. I live in Southern California, and I regularly check – via an RSS Reader – the Craigslist posting for my county and the 2 counties on either side of me.

As it pertains to networking, I know that we have all heard how imperative it is. However, one does not NEED to join the ABA, local bar, etc to network. My 2 biggest contracts (1099 employment) has come from a former adjunct professor and from a former co-worker.

The lead from the adjunct professor led me to a part-time position (varies from 10-30 hr/month) as the “Associate” to this particular firm. For the most part, I do legal research and writing (memo’s), motion drafting, and the occasional appearance. Additionally, I have told my supervisor that me having my bar card does not mean I HAVE to sit at counsel’s table during trial (sometimes it is not good to have too many lawyers sitting at counsel’s table – bad perception for the jury). As such, I told him I could sit in the gallery or back bench and be a runner if need be.

The lead from my former co-worker was to her (now former) California Worker’s Compensation Applicant (plaintiff) firm. For the firm, I do nothing more than defend depositions. The first few were a bit unnerving as I did not know how to thoroughly prep a deponent, but after a while, it came as second nature. On occasion, I was also given authority to settle cases. Now, from this specific experience, I can say I have participated in over 200 depositions, and negotiated the settlement in over 10 cases worth at least $10,000 to the plaintiff.

I went to law school in San Diego where the legal market is VERY small and all the attorney’s and judges seem to know EVERYONE. That being said, my professors told me that my most valuable commodity is my reputation. My reputation in defending my clients in Work Comp Depo’s led me to be considered for a position as contract attorney by the defense.

Sidebar: The trick I found really was – at least for depositions – to object when it was important to object: the more stupid the objection and the more objections raised, the more likely the opposing side will be combative.

Now, that being said, if there are valid objections make them. Worst case scenario, have a conversation off the record with opposing counsel to settle disputes first. If that does not work, make a statement on the record as to what is going on. If it continues, give one final warning. After that, just leave. I have only walked out of one depo on one occasion, and it was before it even started – the opposing counsel was making personal attacks at me and I felt that my client would not be treated fairly. I believe that when it went before the judge, the judge sided with me.

Choosing which contract lawyer jobs to take:

Before you take a contract job, know roughly what you want to do. If you need a paycheck, this is not an issue. If you are not interested in litigation, do not take jobs to specially appear or deposition work. A good place to figure out what you may like, is to start with Doc Review. There are numerous companies out there where you can get listed. If you are interested in litigation, try (in So Cal) Attorneys on Demand.

How much to ask for as a freelance attorney:

As for fee, sometimes you can set it, but most of the time it will be set by the hiring company. Fees can range from $15/hr to $100 or more. You can also negotiate a flat rate. Be reasonable in your demands.

Look at Craigslist to see what the market will bear. In greater Los Angeles, it seems to be $35-$75, depending on the hiring company, the project, the expected time commitment, etc. However, if you are willing to lower your hourly rate to secure a long-term contract position, this is a serious consideration. The catch is, you cannot EVER count on a raise.

Whatever you agree upon, get it in writing. Also, be sure to get in writing any special instructions that the company has for billing them (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) how memos, briefs, etc. should be formatted (word, word perfect, pdf, headings, font, etc.)

The work is there. You do not have to look too hard to find it, but where to find it.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at: jaffeaj@gmail.com and find me on SmallClaimsAppeals.com. Good hunting!