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The Legal Lowdown on Document Management Software

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, February 16, 2018

 

 

Here's the legal lowdown on document management software

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Niki Black

Nicole Black

 

Choosing the right technology tools for your law firm can be a confusing endeavor. After all, there are so many different types of software products available and so many choices to make when it comes to features, pricing and security. Sifting through the maze of information can be a time-consuming process that can quickly become overwhelming. 

That’s why my goal with this new monthly legal technology column is to get lawyers up to speed on their legal software options. In each column, I’ll focus on a specific type of software—such as billing or contract analysis software—and explain the choices available, including features built into software suites and stand-alone platforms devoted to handling a particular law firm function.

Most of the software tools discussed will be those aimed at small and midsize firms, since large firms have very different, more complex needs. I’ll also focus primarily on cloud-based tools since even the most traditional software providers are transitioning many of their products to the cloud. Generic consumer-focused tools will not be discussed since legal-specific software is designed with lawyers’ needs in mind, both in terms of functionality and security, whereas consumer-focused software is not.

In this column, I’ll cover the document management software options for solo, small and midsize law firms. Because the practice of law is document-intensive, firms of all sizes have document management needs. Some rely on the foldering systems built into their word processing software, but most firms require a more robust system. That’s where document management software comes in.

Document management software is designed to provide a built-in organizational system for your documents. Documents can be associated with case files or matters, and access can be limited to certain firm users. Some more robust systems include document versioning and audit trails that track user access to documents. Document collaboration and sharing features are also built into some platforms and allow secure external sharing with clients, co-counsel, experts and more. Another feature included in some software products is the conversion of scanned documents into optical character recognition format, which creates searchable, indexed PDFs.

Your firm’s document management needs will depend in large part on the size of your law firm and the practice areas handled by your firm. Some practice areas are much more document-intensive and thus require more robust document management tools.

For solo and small-firm lawyers with practices that aren’t document-intensive—such as family lawyers, trust and estate lawyers, and criminal law attorneys—a stand-alone document management system is likely unnecessary. Instead, the document management features built into most law practice management systems such as Rocket Matter, Clio or MyCase (note that I am the legal technology evangelist with MyCase) will often be sufficient and more cost-effective than using both law practice management software and document management software.

The document management features built into law practice management software typically include the ability to store and associate documents with client matters, basic document versioning, and the ability to share documents using secure online portals. Some even allow document collaboration using secure communication portals, a functionality that is all the more important in the wake of ABA Formal Opinion 477, wherein the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility concluded that particularly sensitive client information should no longer be shared using unencrypted email.

Of course, some small and midsize law firms have more complex document management requirements. Three leading stand-alone systems for such firms to consider are iManage, Worldox and Netdocs. Worldox and iManage have been around for years as premise-based solutions, and both recently rolled out cloud-based options. Netdocs, on the other hand, has always been a cloud-based solution. This means Netdocs was designed to work in, and take advantage of, cloud functionality from the very start, whereas Worldox and iManage’s cloud versions are based on functionality and features found in their premise-based software.

All three platforms provide advanced document management features. In addition, they also include robust document versioning, audit trails and OCR conversion from scans that permit document indexing and search features. Each also includes email management tools, knowledge management capabilities, and other features specific to larger firms, including key integrations with Office 365, e-discovery platforms, and more.

Finally, because all the document management systems discussed above—both the stand-alone and built-in options—are cloud-based, mobile document access is available no matter which software solution you choose. When your firm’s documents are securely stored in the cloud, you can easily and securely access those documents from any location via the mobile app of your chosen software program using any internet-enabled device.

With today’s document management software, gone are the days of scrambling to locate documents. Instead, you’ll be able to quickly and easily access, share and collaborate on your firm’s documents no matter where you are. Another bonus is that with cloud-based document management software, you’ll be well on your way to digitizing your firm’s documents, allowing your firm to easily transition to e-filing when it’s required in your jurisdiction.

So if you aren’t already using document management software in your law firm, what better time than now to make the move?


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for solo and small-firm lawyers. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, and she co-authored Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier.She also co-authored Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson West treatise. She writes regular columns for The Daily Record, Above the Law and Legal IT Pros, has authored hundreds of articles and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile and cloud computing, and internet-based technology. She can be contacted at niki.black@mycase.com.

Tags:  ABA Journal  Law Practice Management  Legal Technology 

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The Art of Resting: How to Fit Relaxation into a Busy Schedule

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Art of Resting: How to fit relaxation into a busy schedule

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woman smiling

Jeena Cho. Photo courtesy of The JC Law Group.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. In hindsight, this result was foreseeable: My boyfriend and I decided to start a bankruptcy practice in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis. We were both working around the clock. I never thought about sustainability, creating a law practice where there is time not only to work but to renew, restore and rejuvenate.

When we got married, the honeymoon was the only vacation we’d had in over three years. I recall sitting on the porch of a beautiful house in Kauai with nothing to do and full of anxiety. I had no idea how to rest.

Returning to wholeness meant adding consistent and intentional habits to pay attention to my own well-being. I learned to guard myself from unintended consequences of lawyering, such as burnout, vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. I was able to tap into my natural sense of curiosity and creativity, which led to surprising insights and different ways of seeing challenging client issues.

I returned to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose for why I practice law. Rest wasn’t an adversary to my law practice, but rather essential and complementary.

Focusing on making small, incremental changes over a sustained period of time is the key to creating any new habit. This includes learning how to rest. As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang wrote in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, “Rest turns out to be like sex or singing or running. Everyone basically knows how to do it, but with a little work and understanding, you can learn to do it a lot better.”

TIME FOR REST

Time is one of our most valuable resources. It is so valuable that we sell it in 0.1-hour increments. Ask yourself: How many hours do you dedicate to work and others each day? Does the current rate of work feel sustainable? Is it nourishing or depleting?

Often, lawyers will object and say they can’t afford to take any time for themselves. They are too busy. As Karen Gifford and I wrote in our book, The Anxious Lawyer, “This feeling of ‘busyness’ is both a seduction and a major source of dysfunction for many lawyers. If we are very busy, we secretly believe we must be doing something important—in fact, we must be very important.”

If you reflexively reject the idea that you can and should carve out time for rest, consider what effect this belief has.

Think about rest in the context of self-care. Self-care is an activity for you, by you. No one else can eat more kale or go to the gym for you. It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. Consider activities that feel nourishing and nurturing.

Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. It’s about the attitude or the intention you bring to the activity. Are you taking proper care of yourself? Are you treating yourself kindly?

SELF-CARE ACTIVITIES

Movement. The word exercise is associated with specific activities, such as going to the gym. Broaden your definition to include any activities that involve moving the body. Find movement that feels good. Be flexible. One day, your movement practice might be an hour at the gym; the next day, it might be playing with your kids in the park.

Creativity and hobbies. Do an activity simply for the fun of it. Think back to your childhood and see whether there are activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside.

Journaling and writing. Writing is an excellent way to process held feelings, explore your inner world and tap into your creativity. One of my favorite practices is described as Morning Pages on the Julia Cameron Live/the Artist’s Way website. You simply sit down each morning with a pen and paper to write whatever comes to mind.

Mindful eating. There is no shortage of diet tips and what you should (or shouldn’t) eat. However, how you eat is as important as what you eat. Simply described, mindful eating means paying attention while you are eating. If you regularly eat mindlessly, shoving food into your mouth while doing email, only to look down and realize your plate is empty, consider making small adjustments to how you eat. Look at the food—all the colors, the flavors, the smells. Savor the experience.

AN ELUSIVE STATE

There’s no off button for the brain. You can go for a massage or sit down to read for pleasure, but the mind may not immediately go into rest mode. It’s natural for the mind to race, think about a case and wonder whether you sent that email.

Trying to force the mind to stop thinking is as effective as holding down a beach ball in the ocean. It takes a lot of effort, and sooner or later it will pop back up. Rather, frame it as an invitation for the mind and body to rest. Your mind or body may have other plans, but you’re still doing your part by creating an optimal state for rest.

You can go on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii, sit on the beach and sip your favorite beverage, yet your mind may still be back at the office, working frantically. These moments can be very frustrating. Part of learning how to rest is increasing self-knowledge about how your mind works. Rather than criticize yourself for feeling anxious, invite the anxiety to sit down for tea.

Finally, if you’re struggling to overcome guilt or negative self-talk about taking time to rest, remember: You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

MINDFULNESS PRACTICE (IN JUST 6 MINUTES)

Here’s how to let go of stress and anxiety: Begin by finding a comfortable posture, allowing the eyes to soften and taking a moment to congratulate yourself for being here. It’s helpful to work through stress and anxiety not by thinking about the content but rather noticing where in the body you’re holding the stress or anxiety.

Do a body scan. Starting with the head, move the attention slowly—down the neck, shoulders and torso, and notice whether there is any tightening or tension. Move down the arms and hands, then into the lower body—the hips, then the legs. Feel your feet on the floor.

Take a nice, long breath. Make it the longest breath you’ve taken all day.

If you notice the mind going into thinking or worrying mode, recognize that in this moment there is nothing to do except simply be here.

With each inhalation, you’re drawing in fresh energy. With each exhalation, you’re releasing and letting go of anything you no longer need.

Close the practice by beginning to wiggle the fingers and toes and very gently moving your body in any way that feels good to you. When you feel ready, allow the eyes to open. (You can hear an audio version of this guided meditation at jeenacho.com/wellbeing.) 


Jeena Cho consults with Am Law 200 firms, focusing on actionable change strategies for stress management, well-being, resilience training, mindfulness and meditation. She is the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation and practices bankruptcy law with her husband at the JC Law Group in San Francisco.


This article was published in the February 2018 issue of the ABA Journal with the title "The Art of Resting: It’s critical for lawyer well-being, so here’s how to fit rest into your schedule."

Tags:  ABA Journal  Mindfulness  Self-Care  Wellness 

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