The Mutable Cloud

Emmerson observed that “nature is a mutable cloud, which is always and never the same”. The same observation can be made about web-based practice management systems.  In her latest screencast, Nicole Black does an excellent job in reviewing the mutable world of web-based practice management systems. She does an excellent job of comparing and contrasting the features of the 3 major players in the web-based LPM world (Clio, LawRD & Rocket Matter) with on-screen demonstrations of each of the systems. If you are thinking of investing in a web-based LPM service, Ms. Black’s screencast is a must see.

While Ms. Black does provide some general words of warning about the ethical traps and general risks involved with using web-based systems (in fact, I applaud her insistance that one checks out the service’s data backup and recovery systems before investing), I would have liked more in-depth information on these subjects. Continue reading

Metrics That Matter: Data Loss

It is estimated that data loss costs U.S. businesses average $12-418 billion per year and, on average, each hour of downtime costs $50,000. The average cost to re-enter 20 megabytes of data is between $17,000 and $19,000 and takes between 19 and 21 days[i]. The cost to recreate data from scratch is estimated to be between $2000 and $8000 per megabyte[ii]. A data loss event can be catastrophic occurrence; 60% of companies that lose their data close within 6 months of the event and 72% fail within 24 months[iii].

The leading causes of data loss are: hardware or system malfunctions (40-44%), human error (29-32%), software corruption (13-14%), computer viruses (6-7%), theft or data breach (9%), hardware destruction or natural disasters (3%)[iv]. The leading causes of data theft are: attacks from external sources (73%), theft by business partners (39%), and attacks from internal sources (18%)[v]. It estimated that: 1 in 5 computers will suffer a fatal hard drive crash within its lifespan, 15% of laptops are stolen or lost (approximately 2000 per day), and, on average, a hard drive fails every 15 seconds[vi]. Continue reading

Virtual Law Office Technology For The Rural Lawyer

Many of my clients are located in rural areas of North Carolina. It would take them an hour to drive to “the big city” to meet with an attorney in person. However, these clients have access to the Internet and like any other segment of the population, they need access to legal services from time to time.

As a way to meet this public need, for the past three years I have used my web-based virtual law office (VLO) to provide online unbundled legal services to clients across the state of NC where I am licensed to practice law. Sometimes the work is transactional, such as drafting contracts, leases, setting up businesses or drafting estate planning documents. Other times I provide basic legal advice and guidance as my clients navigate the justice system as a pro se litigant in their small county courthouse. The public response to a web-based virtual law office as an alternative method of communicating with an attorney has been great. Continue reading

LPM Tools: Metrics That Matter

In Comparing the Cost of SaaS LPM Tools to Conventional: The Metrics That Matter Carolyn Elefant presents a well considered argument that simply comparing the cost of software as a service practice management (SaaS LPM) tools to conventional desktop ones (as I do in: RocketMatter & Clio) isn’t accurate as it does not incorporate the intangible benefits inherent in the SaaS model such as the reduction in IT support costs, office space requirements, hours lost responding to client requests for updates, etc. I do have to agree with her assessment that one should make this type of externalities-based comparison when choosing a LPM system. However, I believe that for all its positives, the SaaS model has some serious flaws to overcome.

Current SaaS LPM offerings are immature technology that require reliable a high-speed Internet connection and offer no off-line capabilities. Whereas desktop systems tend to be mature software offerings from stable companies with long track records and most desktop systems offer some form of mobile access. Buying into one of the current SaaS solutions means risking mission-critical software on the belief that you will have Internet access 24/7/365 and that nothing will fail in the electronic chain that connects your computer to the SaaS provider’s servers. Continue reading

Desktop Calendar

outlook-on-the-desktopHaving fond memories of the desk blotter calendar is a sure way to date oneself technologically. However old-fashion and primitive they were, those big month-at-a-glance calendars were a good way to keep one’s daily life in plain sight. Now the freeware application “Outlook on the Desktop” brings that functionality to your computer’s desktop by embedding the Outlook calendar directly into your desktop as a semi-transparent layer. The big plus is that because OOTD uses Outlook, you have access to all of Outlook’s functionality – this means you can pin task lists and even email to your desktop as well. The only drawback is that this application is for Windows only.