At the beginning of the year, we like to make resolutions that will guide us through the year to a happier and more organized New Year. Rather than making resolutions that will end sooner than later, let’s resolve to move forward with technology. I propose 10 technology resolutions for 2013:
Update your website – Your website is the marketing tool for you and your firm that is always on and works while you are sleeping. Take the initiative and update your attorney profile as well as practice areas with up to date information including your accomplishments and recognitions from 2012. In smaller firms, take a look at your website from your (potential) client’s point of view. Does it provide the information that your clients need – both present and future? What information could you provide to clients about your firm, yourself or your practice areas that might be helpful to them? Are there some newer practice areas that you would like expand? Spend some time updating your site so even repeat visitors will notice a difference.
Update Social Media – As much as some attorneys would like to deny the power of Social Media, it is here to stay. Embrace your LinkedIn/Google+/Facebook profile. Add a picture and some of your past employment and accomplishments or task your staff to update it on your behalf. LinkedIn profiles do very well in Google searches and Google+’s influence will only move it up in the rankings. If someone searches your name, the LinkedIn/Google+ profile may be the first one to appear. Make sure your first impression is a good one.
Google Yourself – Speaking of searches, don’t forget to Google yourself as well. You need to know what results appear when you search your name. This is the same search that other attorneys and potential clients will do to find you. You might discover that your Google ranking or your firm’s ranking is not as high as you had hoped it would be. If you have an IT department, or web company, ask their advice. You also might discover some other searches out there like Avvo.com and Yelp.com have (good and bad) information about you. Claim those profiles as well since the information is out there – it might as well be good information.
Clean out your files – The beginning of the year is a great time to clean out your files. Even if you made the vow to “Go Paperless in 2012” and you are still drowning in paper, try again. Every piece of paper that is scanned now is one less piece of paper that has to be stored for seven years and destroyed thereafter. With online storage prices so low (and some free such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, Skydrive), the space is there. Arm yourself with a desktop scanner like a ScanSnap and the process is (almost) easy.
Get Social –If the idea of attending a networking event makes you cringe, create your own. Take your referral sources to lunch or coffee. Take your clients to lunch and find out how you can help them. It is great to be social; be social with a purpose.
Get Your CLE credit early - Take advantage of CLEs early in the year or sign up for them now and work your schedule around them. I recently attended an iPad CLE that gave me some great time saving apps while sitting at my desk. (See tip #7). Lawyers Mutual has some great CLEs in various locations around the state. Check out the schedule: http://lm2014.gethifi.com/cle-schedule
Buy an iPad – iPads are here to stay and the legal community is embracing this new technology. With apps that do everything from track mileage to record your billable hours, the million-plus apps in the Apple App Store will overwhelm you. Sign up for an iPad CLE offered by the NCBA or the NCAJ to learn more.
Encrypt your Dropbox account – We all know that Dropbox is a great tool for storing files but the files stored in Dropbox are not encrypted. This means that they could be read by others if the files were lost or stolen. Layer encryption software like Viivo or TrueCrypt on top of Dropbox to make your data unreadable by anyone but you. It’s the right way to secure data in Dropbox for your clients and for you.
Consider the Cloud – The Cloud is the new buzz word for storing your data on the internet. Ethically, attorneys in North Carolina can use Cloud-based services as long as “reasonable care” is taken to protect your data. If your firm is considering moving data into the Cloud (or already has data in the Cloud), read the Terms of Service associated with your data provider. From Google to Clio to Netdocuments and Bill4Time, understanding and accepting the Terms of Service is vital. Attorneys cannot put their heads in the sand and plead, “I don’t understand the technology”. If you are using the Cloud for documents, billing, practice management or email, you need to make sure you know and understand the implications of that decision.
Stay Current with your Operating System –After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP. If you still are using Windows XP (and many firms are), make plans now to upgrade to at least Windows 7 (preferably Professional) before then. Upgrades are confusing for even the most experienced user, so prepare for a learning curve. You don’t want to be making this decision next year when Windows XP is phased out.
The beginning of the year is a good time to begin some habits that will last a lifetime. Take a little time to make big changes that will help you and your firm.
Pegeen Turner is the President of Turner IT Solutions, a Raleigh-based legal technology firm. Her firm works with small and medium-sized law firms as they start-up as well as firms that need help maintaining and integrating legal technology into their practice. In addition, she helps firms understand the risks of cloud computing and how to incorporate cloud computing into their practice. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.turneritsolutions.com , @pegeenturner
Pegeen Turner, President of Legal Cloud Technology, a Raleigh-based legal technology firm, works with small and medium-sized start-up law firms, firms that need help maintaining and integrating legal technology into their practice and helping firms understand cloud computing.