Windows Vista should be hitting the shelves in about a week, along with Microsoft’s newest version of Office. If you’re like most, you’ll wait at least a short while before implementing the products in your office. However, you can get a sneak preview of the product right in your web browser.
Microsoft has set up a website that allows you to play around with Vista, as well as Office 2007, via a Virtual Machine web browser plugin. When first connecting to the site, you’ll be prompted to install an ActiveX control. Once completed, you will be able to use Windows Vista through your web browser. To launch the session, click on one of the “Test Drive” buttons (related to any of the new features). Just about all the operating system functions are available via the Start menu, as well as many full applications such as Office 2007. Speed is a little slow, but there is a lot of graphic content being pushed through the system.
It’s a great way to get a feel for some of the new functions, such as the new searching capabilities, toolbar functionality, etc. If you haven’t played around with the Office 2007 betas, now’s your chance to try out Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook 2007.
To access the test drive, use the following link:
I am asked this question quite often. I might be among the minority of CICs in this regard, but I never recommend Time Matters as the sole email client for my clients.
First off, I would attempt to use Time Matters Professional as a primary email client. Eventually, even the volume of emails and attachments will overwhelm the system. I believe this to be true even in firms that a very good at email housekeeping – and most are not. While it is not quite as likely to develop problems, I also don’t recommend Time Matters Enterprise for the primary email client for a number of reasons.
First, it was simply not designed for it. Time Matters has done an outstanding job of developing an email client but, let’s face it, there are other programs that were designed for email and do a better job. Second, I like to keep my case management system free of junk and, unfortunately, a lot of the email received every day is just that. Lastly, the integration between Time Matters 8 and Outlook does everything I want it to do, especially when I am using Time Matter Document Management.
For this reason, I recommend my clients use a system in which Outlook serves as the email client for incoming emails but also turn on the MAPI email link in Time Matters. Emails arrive in Outlook and are sent to Time Matters via TM Connect along with their attachments, which are then saved via Time Matters Document Management before being deleted from the email. Once I have used TM Connect, I can reply to the email from Time Matters (via the MAPI link) or Outlook, it is related to its attachments, and I can access it from the Email list or sublist.
This method uses the best of both programs. Outlook can hold a large number of emails in the Inbox and the non-Matter related emails stay there rather than filling up the Time Matters Inbox. Only the important emails end up in Time Matters and, once there, can take advantage of the case management features I need.
I see so many firms still fumbling with e-mail. Really, it’s not because these firms aren’t capable of managing their e-mail efficiently nor is it because they’re not savvy enough. No, it’s really because they are too complacent. They don’t care about their e-mail until something doesn’t work. Then, because e-mail is so essential for law firms these days, they need it resolved right away. Consequently, I thought I would recommend a few tips for managing what has become a staple for law firms for communicating effectively with clients – e-mail.
- Host your own e-mail. Years ago there were some advantages to having your ISP host your e-mail, but those advantages have disappeared. Internet access is robust enough to handle e-mail, it fails rarely, spam solutions are very affordable, and remote access to e-mail is better than what your ISP can provide you. Plus, you get the added benefit of backing up your e-mail. Truly, if your firm has more than 5 staff, you should host your own e-mail. You’ll like it much better that way.
- Back it up properly. For those firms that are already hosting their own e-mail please make sure your backups are capable of restoring a single e-mail. Some backup software can restore e-mail, but only on a global level – all or none. This poses a huge problem if the managing partner needs a single e-mail restored. Windows built-in backup software doesn’t allow nearly the flexibility dedicated backup software like Backup Exec does. Test your e-mail restore capabilities – you’ll be glad you did.
- Archive old e-mails. Okay, this idea is contrary to the way most attorneys operate, I know. But do you really need those e-mails from 1999? Probably not. I like to save a lot of my e-mail too, but there is a point of no return. Archiving annually at the very least is recommended. And if you’re a larger firm (50+ staff), you’ll need to archive much more often than that. You’re e-mail will run much smoother and your IT administrator/consultant will be much happier.
- Organize your e-mail. Assign your e-mails to the case/matter/person they are related with. Today, most case management and document management systems provide this functionality quite nicely, but even if your firm isn’t using either of those systems, e-mail programs today allow you to organize your e-mails into folders, topics, etc. Try it. It makes it much easier than searching through your inbox for 10 minutes at a time.
Okay, those are some very basic tips for sure, but they’re actions I don’t see most firms taking today. I urge you to try them though because nothing is more frustrating than having your e-mail down. Law firms today just can’t afford it.
Many firms take their time to upgrade to the next version of a piece of software they are currently using. For those of you who are still using Adobe Acrobat Version 7 (or earlier), Version 8 has a number of features that may make the upgrade important for your firm to implement. The feature that I believe holds the most value for legal professionals is the redaction feature. This feature allows you to redact information within a pdf without ever printing it off to do the redaction by hand – i.e. with a black marker. Keep in mind, though, that once it is gone, it is gone. So, make sure that you keep an original copy for yourself before you redact the document.
Word’s AutoText feature is way underused in law firms these days. It’s no great secret that certain letters, correspondence, paragraphs, clauses and other “chunks” of language are used over and over in a law firm. Whether you’re an assistant or an attorney, being able to insert these “chunks” of language into a document quickly, with the proper formatting would save a ton of time. Well, that’s what Word’s AutoText function does. And it’s too easy to use. Try this:
- Highlight a commonly used paragraph
- From the Insert menu, select AutoText=>New
- Give your AutoText entry a name
- Click OK
A little side note…if you want your paragraph to retain the formatting it has in your document currently, include the paragraph marker at the end of the paragraph in your selection (step 1). If you can’t see the paragraph marker that’s okay. Just click the show/hide button on the standard tool bar.
That’s it – you’re done. Now, whenever you type the AutoText entry name, a little screen tip will show up with the first part of your paragraph. When you see this, press Enter and your paragraph is magically entered into your document. Very cool.
What is the best gift you can give a guy? How about a cell phone back up drive? These nifty little devices are compatible with a number of cell phones and can be plugged into your computer with a USB connection. You can find one version at www.redenvelope.com (I am sure you can find them in other techy stores and I am sure the price ranges will vary drastically). Also, RedEnvelope always has an option to add a gift box for $5; they dress up a gift like nothing else can. Their gift boxes are awesome – think Tiffany-quality gift boxes. This is a great gift for the guy who has everything and is at least a little tech savvy. Perfect gift found!
For all those using Time Matters 8.0 you’ve got to try out the built in PDF writer if you already haven’t. Whatever old method you’ve been using to create your PDFs is probably now a waste of time. Of course, you need to be saving your documents into Time Matters, but once they’re there it’s so simple to create a PDF. Here’s how it works:
- Find the document you are looking for via the Documents List or the Documents tab on the Matter.
- Right-click the document you want to create a PDF from while it’s in the list.
- Select “Create PDF” from the menu and in a couple of seconds your new PDF document is created and added to the list.
You can also convert a document to a PDF and include it as an e-mail attachment in one swift stroke. Just follow the steps above, but instead of selecting “Create PDF” from the menu, select the “E-mail document as a PDF” option and bang, your document is attached to a new e-mail ready to go. Whether you’re attaching your PDF to an e-mail or just creating one, it’s a sweet new feature in 8.0. Try it. You’re almost certain to save time using TM instead of your Adobe software.
One thing to note is that Time Matters will retain the document name (with a new PDF extension) as well as any other information contained in the Document record fields. In our case, we assign a unique document number in “User2″ to every document saved into Time Matters, so a new PDF document record created from another document has the same number as the original. Not a biggie for most firms, but it’s worth noting.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a network design snob. And in all my years of providing technical consulting for law firms I’ve seen quite a bit – good design, bad design and everything in between. In order to spare you my long winded diatribe (which I’m sure would please nobody but me), I thought I would throw out a few do’s and dont’s for those firms thinking of deploying a new network in 2007.
- Do utilize tier-1 equipment (HP, Dell, Cisco, 3Com, IBM, etc.). Unless you’re a very small firm, the costs associated with downtime are far greater than the extra expense of quality equipment.
- Do design your network with your specific firm’s workflow in mind. Feature-rich networks are great. Ultimately, they provide your firm with efficiency options that can translate into a real competitive advantage, but they’re only good if your staff uses them. Don’t waste money on things your staff won’t take advantage of.
- Do deploy a SPAM and Spyware solution along with your antivirus software. SPAM probably costs you far more money than you realize and Spyware is here to stay. Protect yourself.
- Don’t skimp on your backup. Yes, backup is stupidly expensive, but it’s worth every dime if you ever need it. And you are storing a backup tape or drive off-site, right?
- Don’t let staff members install anything they want on their desktop systems. Desktop systems require the most support time from your IT staff or consultant. The more programs installed on a desktop system the greater the chance that something is going to go wrong – especially if staff installs the program themselves. Limit the programs on your desktop systems and watch your support costs drop.
- Don’t forget about maintenance. Networks are a lot like cars in the fact that they need maintenance to run properly. You’ll also increase the longevity of your system when properly maintaining it. After your new network is installed speak to your IT staff or consultant about a maintenance schedule. Some consultants will even give you a break for entering into a maintenance agreement with them.
Okay, the do’s and dont’s above aren’t earth-shattering, I know. But, you’d be surprised at how many firms fail to follow even these basic rules.