A Podcast Interview from ABA Techshow

While I was at ABA Techshow, I had the privilege of participating in a short podcast interview with Christy Burke.

We spoke just after the conclusion of LexThink.1. As an aside, I really enjoyed the presentations this year. When the videos hit the web site, I recommend that every attorney view them.

Anyway, Christy grabbed me after the programs and we did a short interview (about 3 minutes or so). You can listen to the interview here. I stumbled a bit over the question of how long I have had my blog. On top of that, I got the answer wrong.

Looking at my posts, it appears that my first post was January 14, 2007. So to answer Christy’s question, I have been blogging here for five years. Other than that, I will stand on my other answers.

Using Social Networking to Avoid an Arrest Warrant

Social networking often takes a beating about the fact that it allows people to track you down, wherever you are. That, however, is a good thing sometimes.

From Scott Ealy comes a great tale of a client who had not shown up for a court appearance. Scott explains:

I called Client’s cellphone.  Nothing.  (We learned later that his Blackberry cellular device was dead).

I tried Client’s family phone.  Answering machine.  I left a jumbled message.

Frantically, I began dialing up Client’s aquaintances.

One fellow wound up going the extra mile and located Client via a ”friend” connection on Facebook.

Although some distance away, Client zoomed immediately toward the courthouse.

This is a great experience to keep in mind if you need to track one of your client’s down.

Simple Certified Mail

I do almost all of my simple administrative tasks myself. Mostly because I try to automate them to make the tasks simple and fast to perform. There is one thing, however, that I hate doing: certified mail. It is a pain to deal with and I always delegate that task to my assistant. I have recently discovered a new service that may make certified mail as easy to handle as other routine tasks. This service, called Simple Certified Mail, automates much of the process. Recently I was able to find out more about this service from Keith Pickholz, Marketing Director at Simple Certified Mail.  An interview with Charles Crutchfield, the founder of Simple Certified Mail appears below.

What is SimpleCertifiedMail.com?

SimpleCertifiedMail.com is an easy-to-use, web-based service that dramatically speeds up and simplifies the preparation and management of Certified Mail, which is a key process at many law firms. In fact, customers report 75% improvements in productivity when using SimpleCertifiedMail.com.

Tell me more about SimpleCertifiedMail.com. Why is it better?

SimpleCertifiedMail.com improves every step of the Certified Mail process.  Let’s start with preparing and sending Certified Mail.

With SimpleCertifiedMail.com, there are no manual forms to fill out, or special forms to put through your printer. And there’s no need to apply stamps or use a postal meter. You simply login to our service, enter the recipient address, and select whether the item is being sent with or without Return Receipt (Electronic). SimpleCertifiedMail.com prints the address and the electronic postage, along with the appropriate Certified Mail bar codes (what we call a Certified Mail “label”) on standard paper from any printer. Everything you need to mail the item, and the whole process takes 30 seconds.

Once you’ve printed the Certified Mail “label” you just slip the Certified Mail label, and your document, into one of the special window envelopes we supply for free, and drop in any mailbox. That’s it for mailing.

Sounds like it saves a lot of time. But what about getting Proof of Delivery?

Good question. Of course, the reason people use Certified Mail is to get signed Proofs of Delivery. SimpleCertifiedMail.com eliminates the old-fashioned green cards, what the US Post Office calls the PS3811. There are lots of problems with green cards: wondering whether they have been signed; waiting for their return; and then having to file the cards to make sure they don’t get lost. Ten years ago the Post Office developed a more modern system, called Return Receipt (Electronic) that returns the Signature and Proof of Delivery as a PDF file, and carries the same legal clout, but normally you have to go to the Post Office counter to request it for every single Certified Mail item.

SimpleCertifiedMail.com plugs you right into Return Receipt (Electronic) without leaving your desk. When one of our Certified Mail letters is delivered, the Mail Carrier collects the signature from the recipient on a form, and it is posted as a PDF file on our web site the very next morning. So you get the signature immediately, you can print out the PDF; you can save it to your case file; and you can leave it on our servers where we maintain all your records for seven years.

The rest of the interview appears below the break

Tech Must Haves

I was recently interviewed for an article in the ISBA Bar Journal about must-have tech tools for solo practicioners. The article comes out in the September issue. In the meantime, you can find see a preview at Illinois Lawyer Now, the ISBA’s blog. I talked with the author for over an hour during the interview. I think she has done a good job condensing what I said into a solid article.

For a more expanded version of what I have to say on this subject, I am speaking on the issue at the ISBA Solo and Small Firm Conference, which is October 22-24, 2009, in Springfield.

An Interview with Larry Port from Rocket Matter

Rocket MatterLast week I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Larry Port from Rocket Matter. Rocket Matter is a web based practice management and time and billing solution. In the interview, Larry tells us about Rocket Matter and a little about how it works.

If you are thinking of trying a web based practice management solution, you may want to take a look at Rocket Matter.

What is Rocket Matter?

Rocket Matter is an easy-to-use web-based legal practice management and time and billing solution. It’s designed from the ground up to facilitate the practice of law in small and solo firms. Rocket Matter is also referred to as Software as a Service, or SaaS, since it is a web-based, hosted application.

Specifically, Rocket Matter allows law firms to manage calendars, to-do lists, contacts, matters, and time and billing in one integrated and simple solution. We created a technology we call “Bill as you Work”, which traps billable time as lawyers and paralegals go about their day. The net result is a product that allows firms to operate more efficiently and reduces the amount of time that gets lost for invoicing.

Since we host Rocket Matter on our servers and it’s accessed via the Internet, users have ubiquitous access to their information while never having to spend money or time on software installations or upgrades.

Tell me more about Bill as you Work. How does it work? What does it capture?

The whole idea behind “Bill as you Work” is to capture time as you go about your day to day activities, so that at the end of the month when it comes time to bill you don’t end up losing all of your precious hours. For example, when you schedule a deposition in your calendar, you can choose to bill for the time spent when you create the appointment. Likewise, your to-do items can be instantly converted from simple reminders into billable items that can end up on your invoice. The application also contains its own stopwatch, so you can time any activity you work on and funnel that directly into billing.

As time goes on, we will look to incorporate “Bill as you Work” into new features as well.

The rest of the interview continues below the break

ConXPoint: The Future is Here

To the extent possible, I try to make my practice as paperless as possible. The benefits of doing so are innumerable. Of course, one of the problems is that some people still require an original signature on documents.

ConXPointOne of the solutions to this problem is to use digital signatures. The problem, of course, is that most people do not understand digital signatures and how they work. A couple of weeks ago, I was able to get a demonstration of a company that is making digital signatures simple and secure.

The company, ConXPoint, explains that it allows you to:

  • Connect with associates, clients, prospects, and vendors – whether they are in the next town or across the globe. Quickly, reliably, and easily.
  • Exchange all manner of documents, files, and communications.
  • Perform all types of business transactions efficiently and securely. From virtual meetings to electronic signatures to everything in between!

In the demonstration that I received, I was looking mainly at the electronic signature aspect. Their service allows you to create documents and then upload them to your area of their servers. From there, you can have the service contact all of the people that you need to sign the document. They do this by sending an email to the party and asking the party to call you to obtain the password to access the file.

That password is assigned to individual people. Thus, as long as you give it to the person who is supposed to get it, no one else will have access to it. The recipient then signs onto the service, accesses the file, and signs it. The file is stored in PDF format. This means that the file is in a format that the recipient is likely used to working with.

Signing a document is as simple as clicking in the appropriate places. The verification comes not from the fact the the person had the proper information to access the file. The service allows you to access additional control over the signature aspect, such as requiring people to sign in a certain order or requiring a witness to be present when the document is signed.

The document remains stored on their servers, allowing you to download it again at a later time. You can also access the document and verify that the copy you have is the same as the copy on the server.

The key thing that I experienced when trying the service out was that using the service was very simple. This is something you could easily use with a client and feel confident that the client would be able to sign the document without getting confused or overwhelmed.

In addition to the digital signatures, ConXPoint also provides other services, including allowing you to use their servers to store documents. Basically, you can use their service as an extranet for your clients. You give your clients passwords to your area, and allow them to access only the documents they are entitled to access.

The services that ConXPoint provides are quite interesting and have a great potential to increase the ability of people to practice law with even less paper.

An Interview With Lee Goodman of MentorCLE

MentorCLE A new CLE provider for Illinois has recently hit the internet: MentorCLE. MentorCLE has a unique approach in that, they allow you to view the CLE presentation before you pay for it. If you wish to obtain CLE credit for it, you then pay MentorCLE a fee ($19.95 per credit hour) for the course. If you don’t want or need the CLE credit, then you need not pay them anything.

I recently conducted an email interview with Lee Goodman, the guy behind MentorCLE. I think he has put together a really interesting idea with MentorCLE and I am curious to see how things work out. I encourage you to check out their site and their CLE offerings, especially if your deadline is fast approaching.

What is MentorCLE and how does it work?

www.MentorCLE.com provides Illinois MCLE Board approved continuing legal education courses as online streaming videos. Lawyers can watch the courses for free. If they want MCLE credit, they pay $19.95 per credit hour. Attorneys can buy as many or as few of their required 20 hours of credit as they want (including professionalism/ethics courses), without having to buy a subscription. An official certificate of completion is emailed automatically when an attorney registers and pays for a course by credit card.

Aren’t you afraid of giving your information away for free?

Not at all. I love that we are able to let people watch our courses for free. I enthusiastically support the Internet ethic of voluntarily sharing programs and information, and I believe there should be as few barriers to education as possible. If a lawyer wants to learn how to be a better lawyer, I’m glad to help. We happen to be at a point where access to high-speed Internet is so pervasive, and technology is so inexpensive and reliable, that we can do this. It wouldn’t have been possible just a couple of years ago.

How do you find your instructors?

I’ve been an attorney in this state for nearly thirty years, so I know a lot of good lawyers. The challenge is to find experts in their fields who are also good on camera, and so far we have succeeded. Of course, we are always looking for new instructors, so there is a form on our website where people can tell us what courses they want to view and suggest themselves or someone else to present the courses.

We use an interview format for most of our courses, which makes it a lot easier on the presenters. They don’t have to memorize an hour-long presentation and they don’t have to be skilled teleprompter readers. The format is also a lot more interesting for people who view the courses than what most other online providers do, which is to point a camera at someone who is at a lectern and let the tape run for an hour. That’s a format that is almost impossible to watch on a computer screen without falling asleep.

Are you accredited as a CLE provider in any other state? Are you considering expanding to become accredited in other states?

We are concentrating on Illinois lawyers for now. Some topics that are exclusively federal law can be useful across state lines, but a lot of what most lawyers really want and need to know is state-specific, or has to take into account state and local conditions. All of our courses are presented by Illinois instructors. This is one of the advantages we have over some out-of-state online providers that are trying to peddle courses that were produced in places like New York or California.

At some point in the future we may move into other markets, but only when we have courses that will be useful to lawyers in those other states.

How long have you been operating?

We went live in January, 2008. The first deadline for Illinois lawyers to get their MCLE credits is June 30, 2008, for lawyers whose names begin with A through M. N through Z lawyers have until June 30, 2009 to get their credits. We will be adding more courses each year.

What has been the response thus far?

We have been getting feedback, and it is universally positive. People tell us they like our low price, and they like the convenience of getting their courses on the Internet. They tell us our website is very easy to use, and they like the interview format. Almost everyone who buys one course from use comes back and buys more courses, which tells us they are satisfied with our service. And people are already telling their friends about us.

We had to make a lot of decisions as we put MentorCLE together. Because Illinois lawyers have never had to take CLE courses before, we weren’t sure whether what we came up with would be well received. So far it looks like we did it right. Of course, I’ve been putting CLE courses together for bar associations for years, so it wasn’t all guesswork. I had a pretty good idea of what lawyers wanted.

Have you thought about releasing some of your presentations as podcasts that people can listen to while driving, exercising, etc. without having to watch them?

We may add podcasts, but so far we haven’t had much demand for them. Almost all lawyers have computers, but very few use portable video-capable devices. And download times for videos to get them onto portable devices are still pretty long. If we find in the future that more lawyers are asking for this, we’ll probably add it. The same goes for audio-programming.

We have worked very hard to provide our courses in a way that is easy and convenient for lawyers to access, but we start with the fact that most lawyers are only familiar with live, in-person seminars. So we are trying to introduce online CLE in a way that will be accepted. What we know from the experience of other states, and other professions, is that online courses will very quickly become the most popular way to get CLE. We are excited to be among the first, and most innovative, providers, and we intend to keep providing courses in formats that lawyers want.