ABA Techshow 2012: Managing the Information Tsunami

I attended a lot of excellent sessions at ABA Techshow and hope you don’t mind my continuing to share the notes. Rather than try to write these up into paragraphs I hope you don’t mind the point-form version since they are easier to read through (I hope). – Connie

These are notes are from a talk by Barron K. Henley, Esq., Affinity Consulting and Natalie Kelly, Director, Law Practice Management, State Bar of Georgia, at the American Bar Association’s ABA Techshow 2012 on Friday, March 30th. Note: these are my selected notes from this session; any inaccuracies or omissions are my own and not the speakers’. Prices are quoted in U.S. dollars and are based on U.S. market pricing.

Your filing system needs to be able to handle:

  • Documents created internally
  • Documents received
  • Email
  • Email attachments
  • Scanned documents / handwritten notes
  • Faxes

A DMS (document management system) is not inexpensive. If you don’t have a DMS, what can you do? Your documents have to all be in one spot, or you are just creating a new problem.

Paper reduction

Paper reduction elements:

  • backup systems & security
    — if you lose all your documents, you cannot blame the computer dude according to the lawyer’s legal responsibility
    — be paranoid – test the restore process out – should know how to restore your own files on your own system
  • scanners
  • ability to create searchable PDFs
  • search program for DMS
  • consolidated file structure for DM
    — you can’t keep having everyone’s documents separate – “you’ve got to share, that’s why you’re a firm”
  • training
    — Natalie Kelly explained: in their Bar Association they will go into the lawyers’ office (solo and small firms) to train them how to use the systems they have. They definitely need to have backup, security, training and written protocols in place minimum.
    — People buy tools and then never really figure them out;
  • written protocols

In your small or solo firm system you need as your underpinning (the heart of your firm’s infrastructure):

  • practice management system
  • time/billing system
  • accounting system
  • document management system

Less paper, not paperless:

  • Eliminate all paper? Probably not
  • Reduce paper? Absolutely


Scanning into Searchable PDFs

Barron Henley recommends individual scanners on your desktop rather than using the large volume photocopiers as scanners:

  • the photocopiers as scanners are expensive, and they take time to set up the send, and they send the scanned document as an email attachment
    — takes 7 minutes at fastest (usually more like 15 min)
    — they do not create scannable PDFs
    — the copiers have memory in them and everything is stored in them; this is a security issue when you get rid of the copier
  • People end up not scanning; does not work long-term
  • Have a scanner on your own desktop: by the time you delegate it to someone else, you could have scanned it twice over
  • Your time is money
  • Purchasing scanners, printers for small firms is less expensive than the big photocopier lease.

One folder per matter

You want to scan documents to be searchable PDFs:

  • PDFs from Word or WordPerfect are already scannable
  • Files scanned from scanner not searchable by default
  • Barron Henley recommends Copernic Desktop Search, which will search inside documents; he likes the interface of Copernic – he can see quick view of what he is searching for

Document Management Systems (DMS):

  • there are a number of big players
  •  typically $1000 – $1200 per user for software, customization, installation & training
  • 18% of original software cost for maintenance

Practice (Case) Management Systems
Practice (Case) Management Software:

  • 30-40% of solo and small firms are using practice management system
  • think through the document management system first
  • a relational database that maintains all the different pieces you are receiving
  • set up file-by-file at the centre of your practice
    — all documents are stored by matter – by file or by case
  • organize everything about a particular file or matter, not just the documents

Document Assembly

Document assembly in practice managers:

  •  practice management databases allow you to “pull” information in for use in letters, labels, envelopes, etc.
  • look for: basic document assembly functions
    — then build address labels, lists for reports and other more complex tasks
  • saves time

Automate forms and checklists

  • many practice managers allow for the quick assembly of documents by way of templates
    –allows you to create your own checklist or form
  • allows you to have a consistent way of doing things
  • have buckets for each client where you can put things

Which flavour do you want?

  • boxed “traditional” software
  • cloud-based software
  • add-on vs. full-blown

E-mail systems

Email organization – some ideas:

  • you can’t leave everything in your in box! If you are away, other people have to be able to access; other people don’t know how to access the way you do
  • just because you can find it, it doesn’t mean anyone else can find it
  • organize by matter – in a foldering structure
  •  Henley only saves/stores the key pieces of information, the end result – not every message
    — he cherry picks the final email only
  • save the email > creates it as a file but it stays as an email with an attachment
  •  Kelly prefers saving the email as a PDF – any attachments are still searchable and are in the client folder
    — In Outlook: create a PDF portfolio with Adobe Acrobat both standard and Pro – links in with all attachments – need Adobe Acrobat X version
    — Can append email to existing
    — Anybody can add to it if they have Adobe Acrobat and Outlook
  • However:
    — practice management platforms with mobile access, can save and access to/from various locations
    — Adobe Acrobat X and Outlook 9 do not talk to each other
    — Fujitsu scanner comes with Acrobat X > no longer shipping with Acrobat X??

Webmail is unacceptable:

  • inadequate security – Gmail gets hacked all the time
  • no internet access = you don’t have access
  • cannot save email as a file
  • difficult to organize by matter or share
  • you can pull Gmail into a webmail client and delete off the server automatically

They suggest using Microsoft Exchange Server 201

  • you can own or rent
  • allows sharing of anything in Outlook
  • anywhere access
  • backups
  • wireless sync with any phone
  • public folders
  • Windows or Mac
  • do not need a Windows server

 Image credit: photo by Christa Richter (ayla87), all rights reserved.

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