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REGISTER for ABA TECHSHOW 2018: Discount Code Now Available!

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bringing Lawyers & Technology Together

ABA TECHSHOW has over 30 years of experience bringing lawyers and technology together.

Legal work today is dependent on technology to manage day to day activities, to practice more competently, and to service clients more effectively. ABA TECHSHOW teaches you how technology can work for you. Through the expansive EXPO Hall, CLEs, presentations, and workshops, you will be able to get your questions answered and learn from the top legal professionals and tech innovators, all under one roof. Regardless of your expertise level, there’s something for you at ABA TECHSHOW. As a member of the Kansas Bar Association, we want you to know that you can register for ABA TECHSHOW 2018 at a special reduced rate.

This discount only applies to registrants that qualify for the Standard registration and will save you $150. You can register online and include this unique discount code: EP1815 at checkout to receive the discount.

Celebrate over 30 years of legal technology and innovation. Network with legal technology experts from around the globe, March 7-10, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Don’t forget to visit www.techshow.com for registration and current information on ABA TECHSHOW 2018, the best place for bringing lawyers and technology together.

Don't forget to register! And, use the special discount code EP1815 so you can attend this amazing conference while saving money!

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Tags:  ABA  ABA TECHSHOW 2018  conference  Techshow 

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Ways to Record, Bill and Save Those Minutes at Work

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, September 18, 2017

Ways to record, bill and save those minutes at work

Attorney Daliah Saper has been answering readers’ questions online about building a 21st-century law firm. This augmented version of her column looks at time—timekeeping and time-saving.

Dear Daliah: Any tips for tracking time better?

Dear Readers: We have all faced the black-hole time warp. You worked 10 hours, but your billable hours only record 4½. Where did all the time go? You were so busy that you had a granola bar for lunch at 4 p.m. just to soak up all the coffee from the morning client marathon.

Keeping track of all your time often fails because you’re distracted by the hundred different things coming at you or because you can’t re-create your day at the end when you finally have time to breathe.

Here are three ways to capture your time effectively.

THE AUTOMATIC WAY

Stay ahead of the game, and use practice management software that integrates your billing and has customizable workflows all in one. Not being able to consistently reconstruct time can bankrupt a practice.

I asked my friend Alvaro Arauz at 3a Law Management, a legal practice consulting firm in Atlanta, for some technology recommendations. He says cloud-based software you can access from anywhere with an internet connection, such as Clio, MyCase or Rocket Matter, is used by many firms. These platforms can automate standard billable tasks, such as basic discovery, emails, text messages to clients, court hearing confirmations or cover letters.

The 0.2 and 0.1 hours can add up in a day but can be easily lost. With the proper services, predefined tasks convert into time slips with a click of a mouse without having to remember if everything was billed in the scope of the assignment. Keep in mind, the time slips can always be adjusted in the prebill phase.

The two things any firm of any size can streamline, Arauz says, are phones and accounting. Not managing either effectively also can make or break your practice.

Part of the accounting headache is the chore of reminding and following up with clients about payments. Then there’s the actual collection of payments; in some firms, it’s a bookkeeper’s part-time job.

New options are available to the modern lawyer, and PaySimple is exactly what it says—a simple software program that lets you schedule payments and accept e-checks and credit cards while it automates your billing process. Even the established merchant services LawPay and QuickBooks allow you to send a link to clients via email for them to pay their invoices or retainers.

Arauz says to take it all a step further by using practice management software that syncs with LawPay and QuickBooks. If the structure of your website allows it, which most do these days, there also are payment portals that can be added for either potential clients scheduling a consult online or existing clients who received an automatic emailed invoice.

The second thing to delegate are the phones. There are a variety of live answering services that range from $99 to $800 per month—services such as Ruby Receptionists, My Receptionist and PATLive. They give your clients the impression that your practice has a front desk ambassador. Just remember the old adage that you get what you pay for, and try to stay in the $200 to $500 range.

Ruby Receptionists is a quality and tested company. Script how you want your phones answered—when they get transferred immediately, i.e., when a judge calls; when to email your staff—and monitor it all with monthly reporting logs.

If you have a high-volume practice or a large number of weekly potential intakes (personal injury, bankruptcy, med-mal), Legal Intake Professionals will handle your entire intake process. Equally customizable on how to prioritize calls, it adds the extra level of capturing details that most answering services do not provide.

Once the intakes come in, a paralegal or an attorney contacts the potential client to engage them formally. However, the monthly price is slightly higher than most services but still less than the salary and payroll liabilities of an intake specialist plus a receptionist.

For the ultra-high-volume intake firms, there are plug-ins for your website or case management software that will email intake forms to potential clients and then enter them into your internal system automatically. Capturing the case information and data entry is the bottleneck of the intake process. Delegate it to the potential client and technology, Arauz says, all from an iPad on a couch in your waiting room.

THE REACTIVE WAY

If work and life keep you busy, use mobile apps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Before technology, lawyers had their hands tied behind their backs. Dialing into a server or a desktop on the weekends to enter time made it an insurmountable task. In a week slammed with juggling phone calls from clients, court appearances, interruptive status requests from partners, researching case law, drafting discovery and filing motions, even the most efficient billing workflow was at best a four-step process:

  1. At the end of the day or, worse, at the end of the week, try to recall what happened.
  2. Write the time down on a Post-it/notepad/back of your hand.
  3. Manually enter data into a billing system.
  4. Approve the slips for accuracy and consistency.

Today, Arauz recommends using apps such as Zapier, Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to help convert your reactive life into a proactive billing system.

Zapier integrates with things that keep your thoughts and work in order—Dropbox, Wunderlist, QuickBooks, RingCentral, Excel, Clio, Basecamp. Zapier can automate your lawyer life, track the work you perform, and keep it all together in one app that communicates with all the others to make sure nothing gets lost.

Similarly, you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to dictate your time entries when you don’t have time to write it all down. The technology and accuracy of capturing what you are saying has improved dramatically over the years, as has the convenience of being able to email or send your dictation via text. I often dictate on long road trips or when I’m walking to the courthouse.

Don’t forget the apps that complement your desktop or cloud practice management software. Most of them can dial phone numbers or email directly from the app, which in turn captures the time as billable behind the scenes.

THE PROACTIVE WAY

Interruptions distract from efficiency and, ultimately, from capturing all your time. Build blocks of time into your schedule, so that you aren’t pulled in five directions at once and only accounting for 2½ of them.

If “shiny objects,” such as flashing voicemails, text pings or unread email counts are disruptive, create a calendar for concentration. Try a schedule as follows and adjust as necessary:

  • Priority emails, 8 to 8:30 a.m.
  • Priority phone calls, 8:30 to 9 a.m.
  • Client work, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Emails and calls, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • Priority items, 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Client work, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Email responses, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Calls on the way home, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

While it won’t eliminate all the distractions, keeping close to this regimen can help you maximize your productivity and the chances of capturing all the time as you go.

PRODUCTIVITY TALK

Speaking of productivity, Arauz has advice on tackling other nonlawyering tasks.

He says, “There is a finite amount of time and energy in a day that cannot be re-created. If you overcompensate in one area, then another area suffers. So how do you juggle it all while maintaining sanity? The key to growth is delegation, either to a person or to technology.

“When you start your practice, delegate to technology. As you grow and can swallow the payroll pill, integrate staff and attorneys until law firm nirvana happens when your employees utilize technology to get even more done faster.”

Infamous culprits of wasted time include scheduling and confirming appointments, Arauz says. When things really get busy, every moment counts. Waiting on a consultation to not show up or a lunch meeting that you forgot to mark on the calendar takes up valuable time that could be better spent.

Setmore is free, online appointment-scheduling software on steroids, especially if you upgrade to the $25-per-month premium package. Aside from potential clients or clients booking meeting times intuitively by web, Setmore can be configured to send text and/or email reminders the day before the appointment, which minimizes the no-call no-shows that can inevitably happen in any practice. And it’s very customizable.

(You can retain that possessive control of your calendar, so that your work and life don’t double-book.)

Mixmax is another quick trick that takes all the effort and emails out of trying to find a time to collaborate with others, be it by phone, video or in person. If you average 300 emails per day that require your attention, you certainly don’t have to add another 30 emailed dialogues of “Can you meet at 2 p.m.?” “No, I can’t. What about tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” And on. And on.

Send time slots that the emailed recipient can select once they have confirmed with their own calendar, and then it gets added to your calendar.

Add meeting agendas or previews to the scheduling team, use templates for scheduling automatic emails and branding, so that it looks like it’s coming right from your firm’s inbox.

It’s good to use the technology at the beginning. But keep it integrated in your processes as you grow with staff, so that they have the tools to help the firm succeed.

Remember, as I like to keep in mind: Time is money. So, start accounting for it all.

 

Tags:  ABA  Ask Daliah  Billing  Law Practice Management  law practice management software 

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ABA House of Delegates takes action: Urges changes affecting undocumented immigrants, among other policy decisions

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

ABA House urges changes affecting undocumented immigrants, among other policy decisions

 
 

NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2017 --The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, adopted policies over two days that urges Congress to add courthouses to the “sensitive locations” list for immigration enforcement and licensing groups to admit to the bar undocumented law school graduates under certain circumstances.

 

The action by the House — made up of 601 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country — met in New York on Aug. 14-15 at the close of the ABA Annual Meeting, which began Aug. 10.

Resolution 108, proposed by the ABA Law Student Division and embraced by the ABA Young Lawyers Division, recommends that state courts with authority to regulate admission to the bar admit undocumented law school graduates if they are “seeking legal status.” The resolution passed by voice vote with modest opposition.

Resolution 10C urges Congress to amend Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to expand and codify Department of Homeland Security guidelines regarding immigration enforcement. It would specifically add courthouses to the government’s “sensitive locations” list.

Under current U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy, a handful of locations, such as schools, healthcare facilities, places of worship and religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations, are off-limits to agents. Proponents of the resolution cited examples across the country where individuals avoided courthouses because of fears that ICE had been notified of their pending presence and their undocumented status. They argued that without designating courthouses as “sensitive locations,” the effect would be to chill participation of undocumented victims and defendants from the justice process as well as to deter other witnesses from testifying.

In one case cited, a domestic violence victim refused to testify when she learned that ICE agents were present and looking for her, and the defendant walked free.

In Resolution 10B, the House reaffirmed the ABA’s opposition of a half century to mandatory minimum sentences because it limits a judge’s flexibility to consider circumstances and has a disparate impact on African Americans, whom proponents say are more likely to be charged with offenses with sentences in this category.

The House considered resolutions in these areas over its two-day meeting:

·        Juvenile justice: The House approved several resolutions related to the juvenile justice system. Drawing from the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, Resolution 112A seeks to address the predicament faced by juveniles caught in child welfare and criminal justice systems at the same time. Resolution 112C urges governments to adopt policies that favor release on recognizance, advocating that pre-trial detention should not be occur solely on the ability to pay; and Resolution 112E would prohibit the use of solitary confinement for those under 18 years old.

·        Gun violence: Following the lead of several states, the House approved Resolution 118 that urges governments to allow courts to issue gun violence restraining orders, including ex parte orders. Proponents called the resolution a “modest, common-sense reform” that would help families and others prevent suicides and other acts of violence through temporary restraining orders. Opponents raised First and Fourth Amendment issues as well as the one-sided nature of an ex parte proceeding. The resolution passed on a voice vote with modest opposition.

·        Records expungement: Two different resolutions would affect those exonerated from a charge as well as those found guilty of minor offenses. Resolution 112F urges governments to allow individuals to petition to expunge all criminal records pertaining to charges of arrests that did not end in a conviction. Resolution 112G urges that convictions for minor violations for certain crimes related to homelessness be eligible to be expunged.

·        Federal courts: In passing Resolution 104, the House reaffirmed its opposition to restructuring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of 13 in the federal appellate system. Legislation has been proposed in Congress to split up the circuit, but there is strong opposition in the legal community. Speakers said the large majority of the 29 appellate judges on the court also oppose the split, as have bar groups in the western states and others.

·        Gideon issues: Resolution 106 urges Congress to give the U.S. Department of Justice more powers to ensure compliance with the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright,which gave defendants in most criminal cases the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Proponents said the promise of Gideon has been broken as many defendants are provided counsel who prove ineffective. Resolution 115 supports the appointment of counsel at federal government expense to represent all indigent persons in immigration removal proceedings.

All resolutions and their disposition can be found on the ABA site. Only proposals adopted by the House constitute association policy.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

 

Tags:  ABA  policy 

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Meet this year's finalists for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction (podcast)

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, July 7, 2017

 

Meet this year's finalists for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction (podcast)

Harper Lee Prize logo
 
 

In this special mega-episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles speaks with all three finalists for this year's Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction about their novels, careers—and the first time they remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird

Jodi Picoult, author of Small Great Things, shares how research for this novel changed her views on race and racism.

Graham Moore, author of The Last Days of Night, discusses how he approaches writing historical fiction about real people like Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla.

And James Grippando, author of Gone Again, talks about how he’s been able to balance his work as a mystery writer with actively practicing law.

To listen to the full podcast, cut and past this link into your browser:

 

http://www.abajournal.com/books/article/podcast_episode_61/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email

 

Tags:  ABA  Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction 

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ABA Retirement Funds: An Opportunity to Learn More About Retirement Funds

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Members,

The ABA Retirement Funds Program is hosting a free webinar on June 29th at NOON CST: UNDERSTANDING CASH BALANCE PLANS.

If possible, please plan to attend and learn more about the ABA Retirement Funds Program.  

Registration is free and easy! To register, just follow the link below. You do need to register for the webinar in order to attend.

http://www.programcommunications.com/library/Webinars/2017_0617/

What Members Will Learn?

  • Insights into the retirement savings landscape
  • The basics of retirement income and where it comes from – social security, individual savings and employer sponsored programs
  • Plan type savings and accumulation comparisons
  • What is a cash balance plan and what providers are needed

Tags:  ABA  Retirement 

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At Least Half of the Lawyers in These Nine States and Jurisdictions Aren't Working as Lawyers

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 

Check out this new article by Debra Weiss in the ABA e-news journal released this week revealing that "[a]t least half of the lawyers in these nine states and jurisdictions aren't working as lawyers."

"Leichter included Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., in his analysis. The states and jurisdictions where at least 50 percent of lawyers who aren’t working in attorney jobs are: Puerto Rico (68.9 percent); Alaska (56.7 percent); Tennessee (53.6 percent); Alabama (51.5 percent); Missouri (50.8 percent); Louisiana (50.5 percent); Maryland (50.3 percent); Massachusetts (50.1 percent); and Minnesota (50 percent)."

To read the full article, click this link:

www.abajournal.com/news/article/at_least_half_of_the_lawyers_in_these_nine_states_and_jurisdictions_arent_w

Tags:  ABA  changing economy 

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New ABA checklist: Ensuring your cybersecurity when using outside vendors

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, April 11, 2017

These days you’d be hard-pressed to find a company that does not conduct business electronically or use outside vendors. Using outside vendors, third-party businesses and vendors, and electronic business makes all of us more vulnerable to cyber-security breaches.

According to one recent study on Third Party Risk Management, more than 60 percent of all data breaches can be attributed to a third-party vendor.

Two recent examples of such breaches were at Equifax in 2016 and Target in 2013. At Equifax, tax and salary data from the company’s clients, such as Kroger and Stanford University, were stolen last May through vulnerabilities in Equifax’s security access. The hack of Target’s database exposed the personal data of more than 70 million customers. In that incident, the hacker gained access through attacking one of the retailer’s vendors, an HVAC company.

To help avoid and minimize the impact of breaches like these, the ABA Cybersecurity Legal Task Force has released its Vendor Contracting Project: Cybersecurity Checklist.

The checklist is designed to manage cybersecurity risk when working with third-party vendors – from vendor selection, to contracting and vendor management.

The checklist provides guidance on:

  • Conducting a risk management assessment of the proposed vendors, to identify relevant threats to security, vulnerabilities and the potential for exploiting those vulnerabilities, including the likelihood that harm could occur.
  • Reviewing vendor security practices and the ability to follow them.
    • Does the vendor have an incident management plan that complies with relevant laws? Is it regularly tested and updated?
  • The contracting process, including setting expectations, mitigating risk and allocating liability.
    • How will the contracting parties interact, share and manage information? What is the vendor’s commitment to an appropriate security program? How will the vendor’s compliance to that program be assessed, and if necessary, remediated?

The document also includes information in its full appendices.

The task force advises that each of us modify and add to the checklist reflecting the particular regulatory requirements and needs of our clients.

Access to the full checklist is available through this link:

Cybersecurity Task Force Vendor Contracting Checklist

Tags:  ABA  cybersecurity  risk management assessment 

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