So much software, so little time. You don’t need free trials. You need a matchmaker. In this article, legal technology consultant Katrina Hubbard has done the groundwork for you and shares her top ten favorite add-ons and utilities for lawyers. These ten gems relate to all aspects of a lawyer’s work from email to PDF conversion to trial presentation. Each part of this two-part TechnoFeature covers five of her picks. This being TechnoLawyer, please reply with picks of your own and reviews of Katrina’s picks. Part 1 contains 1,252 words.
When I first approached this topic, I was very overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with just ten software add-ons and utilities. Even after much forethought and research I still felt as though I was drowning.
Therefore, in an effort to save myself and those reading this feature, I came up with criteria that candidates for the top ten had to meet. In doing so, I had to wear two hats — one as a legal technology consultant and one as a user (which I did wear in a previous life).
1. Does other software need to already be installed for the software/utility to function? Does this required software already exist in the law office environment?
2. Ease of installation, use, and the learning curve associated with the software/utility.
3. Cost of the software/utility versus the value it provides.
4. Relevant use of the software/utility for all areas of practice not just one in particular.
5l Applying this criterion, the following are the Top 10 add-ons and utilities for lawyers.
1. RPOST REGISTERED EMAIL™
With email becoming the main avenue for communication, tracking, confirming and proving that your email was received is increasingly important — especially when those emails contain time sensitive documents, settlement terms, and other case pertinent information. RPost Registered Email™ gives you “the power of proof.”
You can easily install RPost into Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express as a toolbar button. When you need to send an email that requires confirmation of receipt, simply click the “Send Registered” button versus the send button. RPost then gives you additional options before sending, including compressing attachments into a .zip file, scrubbing the metadata from the attachment, converting the attachment to a PDF, and entering in a reference code (your client’s file number perhaps). Once you send the email you will receive an Acknowledgement from RPost and then eventually a Receipt confirming the time and date that your email was received. This receipt serves as verifiable legal proof that the recipient received your email.
Keep in mind this is not the same as the Outlook Read Receipts. As many of you may know the recipient on the other end has to have Outlook for those to work. That is not the case with RPost; you will get a Receipt no matter what the recipient uses for their email client.
Lastly, RPost is more than cost effective. Depending on the number of Registered Email™s you purchase, sending a Registered Email™ can cost as low as $0.59. When comparing that to sending regular certified mail, this results in a $4.00 savings. Compare that cost even further to sending time sensitive documents via Fed-Ex, UPS, or USPS. With the reference code, you can even choose to pass the cost of sending the Registered Email™ off to your client, making this add-on a no brainer.
Several bar associations endorse RPost and it has received recognition from numerous courts and judges for its effectiveness.
2. METADATA ASSISTANT
In this new era of electronic documents (and electronic discovery), protecting proprietary and confidential information has become a whole new ball game. Many of us have been reluctant to acknowledge that there is even a potential risk or threat, but all it takes is for one breach to occur before hindsight sets in. Thanks to Payne Group and its flagship product, Metadata Assistant, you can easily and effectively start on the path to protecting your documents and their information.
Metadata Assistant analyzes Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (version 97 and higher) files to determine the type and amount of metadata (hidden information) that exists. You can then use a variety of options to remove this information. The Metadata Assistant can batch process multiple files located on a local or network folder or any open or closed file. Additionally (and more important), you can analyze/clean files attached to outbound emails and convert them to PDF format.
Metadata Assistant comes in two versions. The retail version, which can operate as a standalone utility or run from within Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook (2000 and above), costs $79.00 (for each workstation to be installed). The enterprise version, recommended for 32 or more licenses, comes with annual maintenance, updates, and the ability to customize.
For $79.00 and peace of mind, this is one utility a law office should not be without.
3. SCANSOFT PDF CONVERTER PROFESSIONAL 4
With PDF being the most widely used and preferred file type for exchange and collaboration, having a solution that easily converts your documents to PDF is a must for any law office. However, the full version of Adobe Acrobat is not always an option for many offices (I don’t think I need to say why).
PDF Converter Professional 4 has everything you need to work with PDFs in one application. You can create, edit, and convert forms, spreadsheets, and documents easily and effectively.
Once installed, toolbar buttons appear in all Microsoft Office applications for quick conversion. PDF Converter Professional 4 also provides markup, comment, and text searching capabilities. There are a few purchasing options depending on your office’s size and need, but one license of PDF Converter Professional 4 costs $99.00.
4. COMPULAW COURT RULES
Ever miss an important deadline with the Court? Of course you have (that’s a silly question). This was most likely due to someone (we’ll blame it on the Paralegal) who didn’t get the scheduling order dates onto your calendar or perhaps the yellow sticky surprisingly fell off the file. Well, if you haven’t already heard, a solution to this problem does exist and it’s CompuLaw Court Rules.
CompuLaw is the leading provider of court rules generating software. They develop and maintain rules for courts in every state as well as the appellate and federal courts. CompuLaw’s main product is CompuLaw Vision, a rules-based calendar and matter management software that tracks important deadlines. Since these rules change frequently, and vary based on jurisdiction, CompuLaw provides subscription update services to enable you to stay on top of the changes. CompuLaw’s rules can also integrate with other software applications, such as PracticeMaster and Amicus Attorney.
With the leading cause of malpractice being the failure to properly calendar deadlines, CompuLaw should become a staple in all law offices.
5. GOOGLE DOCS & SPREADSHEETS
Remote access capabilities have changed the way people work and the way offices function. The “mobile” office is becoming increasingly popular and more and more firms now have multiple locations. This can sometimes pose a challenge for the collaboration and sharing of information. Since Google has become everyone’s security blanket, taking advantage of all they have to offer makes good business sense.
If you haven’t already, creating a free Google account opens up a world of services for you and your colleagues. Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a part of a larger suite of Web-based applications offered by Google. When using Google Docs & Spreadsheets, you can either upload or email your documents for access. This then enables those documents to be shared with others in your office, in remote offices, clients, opposing, and co-counsel for real time, collaborative editing. All changes made by authorized contributors will appear instantly for your review. You can also review the history of a document’s revision and go back to prior versions.
Did I mention this basic service is free? It is also a great alternative and solution to other, more expensive/expansive options.
… to be continued next week.
[Publisher’s Note: In the process of researching and writing this article, Katrina became so enamored of RPost that she has since become a reseller.]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katrina Hubbard is President of Balanced Legal Solutions, LLC, a practice management and legal technology company. Katrina is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Paralegal Studies and practiced as a Paralegal for several years before starting Balanced Legal Solutions. Katrina specializes in consulting on and implementing legal technology solutions as well as practice management programs for law firms. She is a certified consultant for several software providers and is host to Automate My Firm, a blog dedicated to off the cuff thoughts and opinions on all things legal technology.
Copyright 2007 Katrina L. Hubbard. All rights reserved.
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