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Ant Text Makes Your Email Work Smarter

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 7, 2018
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2018

Originally published by Sean Doherty | Mar.30.18 | Daily DispatchLegal TechnologyProductivityTech Tips

Most states have rules of professional conduct for lawyers to inform clients of the status of their cases and to promptly reply to their reasonable requests for information. An efficient and timely way to comply with these ethics rules on client communication is via email (encrypted as necessary, of course), which supplies lawyers and clients with a communications record.

Templates to Save Time Responding to Email

To save time and labor in writing emails, develop automated responses for when you are on vacation or otherwise unavailable. You can also create quick replies to send from your smartphone, such as “I’ll read this later and get back to you” and “Let’s set up a meeting to discuss this — please send me your availability over the next few days.” To save even more time, consider composing templates or boilerplates that can easily be inserted into new emails and email messages you respond to. That’s the premise and promise of Ant Text, an add-in for Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA) running on Exchange Server 2013 and above, which includes Office 365.

Ant Text makes it easy to write and reuse form emails and meeting invitations using your own designs, logos, text and attached files. After you design the email templates, you can share them with the rest of your firm to ensure consistent communications with clients and potential clients. Ant Text provides the sharing function.

How Ant Text Works

Ant Text can be downloaded and installed manually by administrators, but Office 365 users can enable it without IT support.

  • For the add-in, click the Store icon on the Outlook Ribbon, search for “Ant Text,” and install it.
  • For OWA, click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window, choose “Manage add-ins,” search for “Ant Text” and install it.

Yes, you can do both; however, the Outlook desktop version is more advanced than the OWA version. Ant Text promises the desktop and online versions will have feature parity later this year. Until then, I focus on Outlook for the desktop.

Once Ant Text is enabled, select an email in your inbox and start up the add-in from the Ribbon. The Ant Text window opens on the right side of Outlook, allowing you to create a reply to the selected email by choosing a template.

Pull down the Settings menu items and click Ant Text. The Ant Text window changes, allowing you to create folders and forms. I first created a folder for new client inquiries. The folder appeared in an “Ant Texts” folder containing a default template. Don’t remove the default template. For folders to work in Ant Text, they must include at least one template. Then I created draft messages as models to reuse and dragged them into the folder structures under the Ant Text folder.

Templates for Retainer Letters, Inquiries, Meeting Requests and Much More

For my practice, I created templates to respond to new client inquiries for each state, outlining my areas of practice in the jurisdictions. I attached a sample retainer letter and New York statements of client rights and responsibilities to my model reply for the Empire State. I also included my law firm logo and v-card in the message and as an attachment.

When the Ant Text window is open, reply to a selected message by clicking on the template, which is inserted into the reply to the sender.

I also replied to messages by setting up meetings, using Ant Text to set up reusable meeting requests. Although I can use Outlook Templates for form emails and default meeting requests, Ant Text templates make it easy to create forms with standard text and vibrant graphics using copy-and-paste functions and reuse that work on demand and within the context of messages and invitations.

Windows Desktop Client Works with Word and Excel Files

Besides the Ant Text Outlook and OWA add-in, the Danish technology provider also supplies a Windows client that installs to the desktop in one click. The client software allowed me to create and edit Microsoft Word files (.doc, .docx, .docm) files to insert text and graphics into new email messages and save them to a file structure made known to Ant Text in a configuration setting. The documents are stored on a local or network drive, which can be used to share the files with other lawyers and staff who also install the client code.

Click on a new message, select the Ant Text tab from the ribbon, and use the pull-down messages to choose files to insert into an email. Ant Text supports MS-Word files, HTML documents, and text files.

Ant Text’s Ant XL feature supports merging fields from Excel spreadsheets into templates in Outlook. Ant XL made it easy for me to compose a newsletter via email and simultaneously send it to a list of clients. Ant XL also supports merged fields and Out-of-Office templates in Outlook and OWA.

You can try Ant Text free for 14 days. The Standard subscription (10 Ant Text templates) is $14.95 per month, which amounts to $1.50 per template per month. The Business license allows the use of unlimited templates and Ant XL for $18.95 per month.

Sean Doherty is a sole practitioner advising organizations on technology controls that comply with industry standards, laws and regulations governing information technology, safeguarding privacy and preserving evidence in litigation. Sean previously worked as an analyst for 451 Research, where he directed the company's business and technology coverage of information governance, compliance, and electronic discovery. He also worked as a technology editor at ALM Media. Follow him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @SeanD0herty.

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Best Ways to Upgrade Your Technology in 2018

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, December 1, 2017

Original article by  | Dec.01.17

upgrade tech

What’s on your tech to-do list for next year? Maybe you’ve resolved to get more organized, go paperless once and for all, or move all of your practice systems to the cloud. Could be you’re dreaming of a new website — or a better laptop and new headphones would make you happy. What’s worthy of your technology investment next year?

We asked the practice management technology pros to recommend one good way for lawyers to upgrade their tech in 2018. Here’s wise advice from Heidi Alexander, Sheila Blackford, Joyce Brafford, Jared Correia, Tom Lambotte, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, and Lee Rosen.

(Tip: Consider Nehal Madhani’s advice on using “process mapping” to identify which areas of your legal workflow are ripe for automation — and where to invest in technology.)

HEIDI ALEXANDER: TAKING CARE OF YOU, FIRST

Quality client service is essential for a successful law practice. Indeed, elevating the needs of your clients will lead to more consistent collections, return clients and referrals. However, while there is no doubt that focusing on client service has its time and place, the only way you can provide real value and efficacy to clients is by putting yourself first.

Something accurate underlies that annoying recitation to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. The reality is that practice is stressful and if you ignore your own needs, you will burn out. If you are so busy that you can’t stop to take a breath, it’s time to take a step back from your practice and focus on you.

What does this have to do with upgrading your legal tech? Well, legal tech solutions are no longer a scarcity; you can find a product to suit any one of your practice needs. Most importantly, though, implementing a legal tech solution requires thoughtful research, vetting, planning, training and more — not to mention budgetary considerations. If you don’t have the mental bandwidth or proper mindset to adequately implement legal tech, it will lead to frustration, increased costs and ultimately failure.

So, before you dive headlong into system upgrades, work on first taking care of you. Schedule time for yourself every day, try exercising regularly, and learn about mindfulness. Test out mediation using an app such as Headspace or Calm, or just take a moment to breathe. (Try setting a timer or use Apple Watch’s Breathe app.) 

If you can make these activities a habit, you’ll reduce stress and approach your practice with a clear head, thus enabling you to effectively implement whatever tech your practice needs in 2018.


Heidi S. Alexander (@heidialexander) is Deputy Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she also leads the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). She is the author of “Evernote as a Law Practice Tool” and serves on the ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board. In 2017, Heidi was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism. 

SHARON NELSON AND JOHN SIMEK: CONSIDER THE CLIENT PORTAL

If you don’t already have one, consider implementing a client portal. Client portals will help you solve all sorts of problems. Clients can access documents pertaining to their matters. They’ll know the status of their matter whenever they want to check on it. Clients will be able to “follow the money” and know how much the matter is costing, how much may be left in the retainer and even pay their invoice online if needed. Client communications is much improved as well. Client portals can allow document collaboration and even facilitate secure, encrypted communications.

The good news is that many case management platforms provide client portals as part of the offering. Having a client portal integrate with your practice management is an excellent way to improve the client experience (clients adore client portals) and make your practice much more efficient, profitable and attractive to prospective clients.

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) and John W. Simek (@SenseiEnt) are the President and Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and information security firm based in Fairfax, Va. They have written several books, including “The Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides” and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” Sharon blogs at Ride the Lightning and together they co-host of the Digital Detectives podcast.

JARED CORREIA: INTELLIGENT CLIENT INTAKE

It’s finally happening. The robot apocalypse is upon us — but, the robots are not what you thought they were. These are not walking, talking robots. These are intelligent machines, or software — and they’re not something you need to fear. In fact, if you embrace them, you’ll be another step ahead of your competitors. One place where law firms need to clean up their act is in terms of client intake. Lawyers generally waste time and money and lose business by using antiquated intake systems (read: the office-based telephone). But new options are coming down the pipe, including Gideon, an intelligent messaging system and data analytics tool built specifically for law firms.

Jared Correia (@JaredCorreia) is CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. A former practicing attorney, Jared is a popular presenter and regular contributor to legal publications (including his “Managing” column for Attorney at Work). 

JOYCE BRAFFORD: EMBRACE SLACK

As an alternative channel for communication, Slack helps you be more responsive to conversations that really matter. It’s like a high-priority system for communication threads, tasks and calendars. Slack connects with many of the apps lawyers are already using, including Dropbox, Google Calendar, Box and Wunderlist. As a single platform to better communicate in the office and with clients, it’s a no-brainer. 

Joyce Brafford (@Joyce_Brafford) is Distance Learning Manager for CLE at the North Carolina Bar Association.

LEE ROSEN: FOCUS ON BEST-OF-BREED APPS AND BRING THEM TOGETHER

Stop trying to find the magic bullet. There isn’t a single app that will properly manage your client information, track your time and billing, create your documents, control your calendar, and generate comprehensive management reports.

You’re asking for something that doesn’t exist and you wouldn’t really want it if it did. Software developers can be good at a bunch of things or great at one thing. Great always beats good, and you’re never going to be satisfied with the compromised software made by vendors trying to be all things to all lawyers.

Pick the best software for solving each of your specific problems. Then tie your best-of-breed applications together so that they share information. You won’t have to enter the same data twice, plus you’ll get applications built by specialists who completely understand your issues.

Pick the best document assembly system, integrate it with the best document management system. Tie both of those apps in with your client relationship management system and connect that to your time and billing product. Bring all that data together with your task management system and connect it to your phone system and your accounting application.

Products like ZapierAutomate.io and IFTTT are the glue connecting your apps to one another. Start small and, over time, go big.

You’ll end up with the best software, minimal data entry, and solutions that keep you satisfied rather than always wishing for more.

Lee Rosen (@LeeRosen) grew his North Carolina family law practice and sold it. He travels full time while helping lawyers grow their practices. His blog at Rosen Institute is an ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame honoree. He is a recipient of the ABA James Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering.

SHEILA BLACKFORD: LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO REDUCE PRODUCTION TIME

Lawyers who are tech-savvy are taking this year-end time to evaluate their business processes to identify ways to leverage their production time. Clients are choosing efficient law firms that deliver high value at the most reasonable cost. This means upgrading to technology tools that can reduce production time, such as document automation and document assembly software Pathagorus, along with speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Tools like this will help get the work done more efficiently.

Sheila M. Blackford (@SheilaBlackford) is an attorney and Practice Management Advisor for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. She is the author of the ABA book “Trust Accounting in One Hour For Lawyers,” co-author of “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers,” and a past Editor-in-Chief of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. She writes the Just Oregon Lawyers Blog

TOM LAMBOTTE: SAFEGUARD YOUR DIGITAL CREDENTIALS

In 2018, something you need to do is find out if your digital credentials are for sale on the Dark Web. Digital credentials such as usernames and passwords connect you and your team to your critical business applications: case management software, banking, online file storage and much more. Unfortunately, criminals know this — and that’s why digital credentials are among the most valuable assets found on the Dark Web. Far too often, law firms that have had their credentials compromised and sold on the Dark Web don’t know it until they have been informed by law enforcement.

Dark Web ID, from ID Agent, will detect your compromised credentials in real-time on the Dark Web. It vigilantly searches the most secretive corners of the internet to find compromised credentials associated with your law firm and notifies you immediately when these critical assets are compromised before they are used for identity theft, data breaches or other crimes. Ask your IT provider if it offers this service.

Tom Lambotte (@LegalMacIT) is CEO of GlobalMacIT, a company specializing in providing IT support to Mac-based law firms. Tom is the author of “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.” 

Tags:  Legal Technology  Productivity  Tech Tip 

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