What tech would a solo attorney need?
December 12, 2016 12:56 PM   Subscribe

A family member is expanding her solo law practice and I'm looking for recommendations for her to make working life a little easier. She is *not* a techie sort of person and has a love-hate relationship with tech. So, simple is better.

She will be expanding from working on her own to have 1-2 assistants/paralegals in her office. They will need computers (and my family member can probably use an upgrade for herself, too). I imagine they will need solutions for:

- laptop recommendations
- sharing files securely, internally and with clients
- scanning and storing paper documents
- working remotely (assume a laptop + secure access to shared files)
- any specialized lawyer-type software, especially if it would help with real estate transactions
- phone system/service
- other advice or tricks of the trade?

Thank you!
posted by scottso17 to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What areas does she practice in?
posted by praemunire at 1:02 PM on December 12, 2016

My opinion is she go all in on Google Apps for Business. This gets her gmail, google docs/drive (for file storing & sharing), Google hangouts for chats and remote meetings. In this sort of setup working remotely shouldn't be an issue - that should only matter if she has a server or other things that she has to be on an internal network to access (and would require setting up a VPN, etc), so remote versus on-site work shouldn't make any difference.
posted by brainmouse at 1:12 PM on December 12, 2016

Your list looks like a pretty solid start. Document/version control and case management is another software suite a lot of lawyers use. Often it's incorporated into a time tracking/billing software too. There are a number of providers out there that offer similar packages.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:12 PM on December 12, 2016

After reading your description, my thinking is that she would probably benefit most from the services of a local IT consultant. This is someone who can not only hook everything up for her, but who can also do technology research, training, and all of this on an ongoing basis.

Otherwise I fear you're going to end up with one heck of a "get started" list and a frustrated attorney.
posted by circular at 1:14 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's Apple/Mac focused, but Attorneys Katie Floyd is a solo attorney and has some guides on using tech in her practice.

Katie Floyd - Essential Hardware for My Mac-Based Business
Tech Services I'm Using to Run My Law Practice
posted by SansPoint at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've found that Box can be very helpful for remote & client access to files.
posted by childofTethys at 1:22 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

After reading your description, my thinking is that she would probably benefit most from the services of a local IT consultant.

Most of my experience is with dealing with small CPA firms, not small law firms, but I agree heavily with this. You can't be her point person for every problem she has forever. She needs a professional to build a relationship with now before things need more attention.

I've worked with people who were really completely terrified of their computers but managed to execute all of this very well because the IT consultant was a phone call away for every possible problem. Unless you want to be in this line of work and she's proposing to pay you competitively, you shouldn't be doing this, as a family member, because there will someday be a time where you're busy and she's got an emergency and that is the wrong time to find a pro.

Basically, if she wouldn't recommend someone try to write up an installment sale agreement or a will or file a lawsuit themselves without a lawyer's input, she shouldn't do this without a professional's input. There's too much that can go very expensively wrong.
posted by Sequence at 1:29 PM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have no experience with these people other than they just sponsored a (developer) conference I was at, but Clio (https://www.clio.com) targets this exact audience with software solutions. According to their website, they offer "cloud-based law practice management software".
posted by cgg at 1:30 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just following up on what others have said, you don't know enough about the technology or the law to understand her full requirements. For example, people are advising you to set her up with Google Docs. What implications does that have about her clients' privacy and security? Where is the information being stored, and does that matter to the jurisdiction she is practising in?

It's really nice that you're trying to help, but really, this is something she needs to face head on and not rely on the kindness of family to help her sort out.
posted by sardonyx at 1:40 PM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Fujitsu scanners have a huge price range that starts high and goes higher, but they integrate with other software well. My lawyer dad has used his to send documents directly over the network to Amicus, Evernote, and some other stuff that I don't remember as he's shifted platforms and always came back to Fujitsu over the years despite trying other brands.
posted by mattamatic at 1:43 PM on December 12, 2016

Agreed with the recommendations for a local IT consultant to help work all of this out. They are in a slightly different field, but a friend just started a solo psychology practice and their IT consultant was crucial in that process. They helped source hardware including scanners, established a secure, encrypted HIPAA-compliant data storage solution and has been there to trouble shoot issues as they've come up. They said of all the money spent on start up costs, that was easily the most worth the cost and then some.
posted by goggie at 2:05 PM on December 12, 2016

2nding finding a local consultant and having them on retainer.

I'd also advise that someone that is not a techie and and is a small practice lawyer should stick to Apple products for security reasons, as long as her industry specific software will run on them. They're not invincible like some people like to think, but they are significantly easier to keep secure than Windows is and less targeted for badness.
posted by Candleman at 2:05 PM on December 12, 2016

I would agree that Clio is great for this sort of thing. Clio ends up costing less than $1,000 per year for integrated practice management, and they keep track of all the little details. It might be more if support staff are included in the subscription, but that sort of service is invaluable and costs far less than hiring a human, even on a consulting basis.
posted by Happydaz at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2016

She needs a kick-ass-and-take-names scanner (or several of them). This one is the gold standard among the solos I know: Fujitsu Scansnap ix500

This thing has surpassed my Brother labeler as my favorite toy by orders of magnitude.
posted by bluesky78987 at 4:58 PM on December 12, 2016

Dropbox or Box
Hellofax and Hellosign
Practice management--Clio (I want to plug Daylite too, but it really shines with employees)
Clio's task management wasn't great when I had it so I used Asana for task management
Scansnap, the big one
Brother laser printer
Squarespace website
Google Apps (now called G Suite I think)
Free mailchimp account
Brother label printer
Adobe acrobat pro
Microsoft Word

She should look at document assembly--most of these programs are only avail for Windows.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 8:33 PM on December 12, 2016

I worked for a small lawfirm as an office manager and aside from the general office programs everyone has, our only specialized software was a billing program (Tussman, then Timeslips), an accounting program (Quickbooks) and a subscription to Westlaw.

We also had a copier/scanner, a fax machine, a postage machine, and our own phone equipment (but that was a legacy from a time when the firm was much bigger). The equipment rental fees add up so your sistar may want to keep it simpler.

Depending on how picky the clients are, I think document management software is probably overkill. Most people use email to share files. Just keep all the files on one computer in the office (with off-site backups) and give the other computers password-protected access over the local network.

If there will always be at least one person in the office, remote access is probably overkill too. Whoever is in the office can pick up the phone and email the file, or your sister can use something like logmein to access a single computer's files remotely. I would also go with a paid offsite backup solution like Carbonite over something that requires maintenance.

You should ask your sister to ask her colleagues which tech guys they use, and go with someone who gets good reviews from other people in her position. But you can help out too - most tech guys are happy to have someone techie they can talk to who will handle the boring, time-consuming tasks like setting up email, installing programs, shopping for new equipment, etc etc.
posted by subdee at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2016

I tried Clio several years ago and it was pretty good, but you had to pay extra for additional integration with other software...that may have changed now, i dont know. I am trying out MyCase now and am on my second month. I am not affiliated with them. (To read reviews of the cloud-based case management systems, you can find plenty at Lawyerist.com--I'm not affiliated with them either)

Anyway, the MyCase is working for me so far. You can send and receive documents and messages with clients using their secure portal. (I havent tried the portal yet for myself, but that's what they claim sets them apart from their competition is the secure portal, i think.)

Documents are stored in the cloud with them as well and unlimited storage of documents is part of the $40 monthly subscription. She can try it out for 30 days for free, no credit card needed.

I have had my scansnap for years now and Love it. I have the smaller, portable one and have been able to scan research at the court house law library (looseleaf binder materials) or scan paper in the field that can be emailed/faxed. I like the portability over the limited capacity compared to its big brothers.

I bought an HP laptop that was refurbished after being part of a lease to a company specifically because i wanted to stay with Windows 7. All the new laptops came with Windows 10 and personal preference dictated going with the used laptop. Works fine; I'm not doing anything with word processing and Internet that is going to push it to the limit.

I bought a 2 Terabyte external usb-interface drive that I back stuff up to. I like that it doesnt have a separate power cord--it use the usb for data transfer and power. Seagate, I think.

I use Nextiva for fax service--$5 a month I think. It's fine, im not married to it because i dont fax much anymore--everything is email these days. My state uses "e-filing" for court filing so fax filing no longer an option.

Google voice for my business line. Goes to my cell phone. Google Apps (or whatever they call it now) works fine for me and the google calendar syncs with MyCase.

Lockestockbarrel is correct on all counts, btw.

I also use Adobe Acrobat Pro and Word. For a real estate practice, document assembly is important. I swear i'm not affiliated with MyCase, but they include some basic document automation/assembly capability too. I havent tried it yet--still new at it with them. I looked at TheFormTool Pro and paid for it. It is very robust, but i havent spent the time to configure it with my personal set of documents I use. Pathagoras.com is also good and the support is excellent--I looked at them a few years ago and would have used them but i went on my cost-slashing spree and went without until recently with Formtool. (TheFormTool is less expensive than Pathagoras, but i dont have the kind of doc assembly needs that a real estate atty might have...)

I will end with another plug for Lawyerist.com--they have a whole forum dedicated to legal tech, and the stuff you are wanting to know more above.

Oh, yeah, the Brother laser printers are great and cheap--mine is a 1440 i think. I'd marry my Brother if the Supremes would allow it!

I also use an iPad which is why this has typos, i'm sure.
Good luck, sorry this is rushed
posted by DB Cooper at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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