“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.” — Albert Einstein
Technology is apparent in the way I communicate. I use email and attached letters or documents, as opposed to the U.S. mail, to transmit written work product to my clients and other counsel. The mail is used only when required, such as to serve legal documents, or when it is the only or best alternative. Large file transfers, which do not lend themselves to transfer by email, are securely forwarded via DropSend or, if not confidential, uploaded and retrieved from my DropBox.
I use this website to communicate with clients and the general public regarding issues of interest to me which concern my practice. Clients can conveniently download forms, documents, or instructions to assist in my representation without any interaction with me.
I use Outlook to compose, send, and receive email. It seamlessly integrates with Word, Acrobat, TextAloud, Dragon, SpamBayes, and Deadlines. It automatically sorts incoming and outgoing email and alerts me when I have unread email. I use it to store contact information and to keep my docket, calendar, reminder, and to-do lists.
Letters and documents are prepared in Word and then converted to PDF using Adobe Acrobat to remove any sensitive metadata and to prevent alteration. The letter or document can be further manipulated in Acrobat. For example, I regularly use Acrobat to watermark Wills and trust documents, mark and number exhibits, Bates stamp documents responsive to a production request, and to restrict use. If a letter or document is extremely sensitive or confidential it can be enclosed in a security envelope to prevent unauthorized viewing. The forwarding email, itself, may also be encrypted and digitally signed: I use NeoCertified® Secure Email when appropriate.
When I receive letters or documents on paper, those documents are scanned into recognizable text PDF and stored electronically in an encrypted folder on a secure computer, which contains all other documents pertaining to that matter. All documents are instantly searchable. A frequent problem in many law offices – misfiled or missing files and documents – is solved. A distinct advantage of digitizing incoming letters and documents is that they can be immediately shared. My clients always know the status of their case because they are kept up-to-date in real time via email.
I use Google Voice, over a secure, encrypted, strong password protected connection, to make and receive calls. All incoming calls are sent to my cell phone. Google voice not only records voice mail messages, it saves them until they are deleted, and it transcribes them. Previous callers, who have had their names keyed into contacts, are announced by name when the phone rings. If I am available, I will answer and greet the caller with their name. If it is an unknown caller, I will usually allow the call to go to voice mail to avoid phone spam. I can always pick-up as I begin to listen. I usually prefer to finish a task, if I am busy. One advantage of Google Voice is that it has a spam filter and the ability to block numbers. I use both to effectively block unwanted calls. Other advantages are that I can review voice mail messages from any phone or online; I can forward voice mail, or a transcript, as needed; and I can send short, text messages to cell phones in appropriate circumstances. It has one other great advantage which I probably should have listed first: all outgoing calls to places within the U.S. are free of charge.
Communicating with clients and others is a necessary and substantial component of my practice. It usually takes a lot of communication before I can produce work product. When it comes to producing, I use templates for letters and pleadings and I use specialized software for specialized tasks, such as the preparation of bankruptcy petitions, the drafting of Wills and trust documents, timekeeping, docketing, and accounting.
The bulk of my practice is litigation. My litigation practice does not lend itself to forms, fill-in-the blank, or cookie-cutter production. Each case truly is unique. The facts are always different and so is the application of the law to the facts. However, online subscription services provide efficient access to the latest case law and statutes as well as hornbooks, practice manuals, forms, and guides. The internet, itself, is a tremendous resource. The answer to any question is just a few keystrokes away: from the mundane, such as the telephone number for a courtroom — to the esoteric, such as the right quotation to make a point.
The ability to cut and paste, directly into a pleading or motion, from case law, statutes, and other digital resources is far superior to manual transcription and allows for some economies scale. The tools provided in Word automate some tasks: required formats and tables are produced with only a few mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts, and the spelling and grammar checker, as well as “find and replace” are extremely useful tools.
To aid in proofing final product, I use TextAloud with Natural Voices by AT&T. It allows me to hear a document being read and I can increase the speed slightly to save time. As I follow along with the text on screen, or paper, it helps me catch errors that spelling and grammar checkers cannot detect — such as wrong, but correctly spelled words, missing words, and awkward sentences. TextAloud is an indispensable tool in my practice. Interested in reading more about TextAloud? You can learn more about its different uses and benefits from this 2011 press release.