Archive for category Making the Switch

Excellent Tutorial on Creating Digital Signatures

I’ve been using a digital signature for a long time, and I recently ran across this excellent tutorial on how to create your own.  Check it our if you are interested.  It can save you a lot of paper.

How to create a digital signature stamp in Acrobat from Digital Workflow CLE on Vimeo.

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Augusta County Sheriff’s Office Goes Digital

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has gone digital by implementing electronic ticketing.  We are exploring this option in Wise County.  Check out the article below for more details:

Augusta Digital

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Metadata and the attorney…

Know what metadata is? Metadata is basically data about your data. Metadata is the who, what, when, where, and why of documents, pictures, etc… that you create. For example, the metadata in a Word document may contain the author of the document, when it was created, the text that was edited, deleted, etc….

Imagine drafting a plea agreement, contract, will, deed, etc… in Word. Any opposing counsel could open the document and see the metadata, and perhaps the changes and revisions you made. Why do we care? Ethics. You could potential be sending out sensitive client information unwillingly. While not malicious in itself, metadata can cause you some serious concerns when dealing with a client’s sensitive documents.

Most programs like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc… insert metadata into their files. A good practice for any attorney is to get rid of it if you don’t want anyone else poking around in it. How do we do that? By scrubbing it, of course!

There are a lot of ways to “scrub” metadata from a document. If you are using Adobe Acrobat products and creating .PDF files, it is easy. Before you save the document, simply select “document” then “examine document”. Look at this example of Lane Kiffin’s contract with the University of Tennessee:

Look at the left column. It shows the metadata in this document and even gives the option to look at deleted or cropped areas, and remove the metadata. The ability to remove metadata is one more advantage to the .PDF file format.

If you use Word, there are several ways to remove metadata from your Word documents as well. Newer versions of Word have a similar “examine document” function like Acrobat, but older versions don’t. If you use older versions of Word, you may be interested in the free program Doc Scrubber. You can download it HERE. Doc Scrubber is only for Windows computers, though.

While beneficial sometimes, metadata can certainly be bad for attorneys. Some states have addressed this in legal ethics opinions and made it the sending lawyers duty to remove it, and admonished receiving lawyers for looking at it as a unauthorized look at potential attorney-client privileged information. So why risk it? Just remove it.

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The Basics Part 3…Storage

Where are you going to put all the digital case files you have now created? If you don’t have a secure place to store them, there is no need in creating them in the first place.

Chances are, you have some type of network in your office/home that you save data on. That’s the basic premise we use in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. We use a server as a “traffic cop”, but you don’t really need one. We store all of our data on Network Attached Storage (NAS).

We use a series of Buffalo Terastations, that look like this:

Above is a rack mounted Terastation. If you don’t have a rack in your home or office, you can use this version:

The benefits of a NAS device are many. The short form is you have one central redundant storage location with a collective data pool that many people can connect to at once. NAS devices are also cheaper and easier to maintain than a server.

Notice the 4 hard drives in the picture above? That’s often referred to as a RAID configuration. There are many different RAID configurations, but what you really need to know is that RAID creates more than one copy of what you save to a NAS device if setup properly. Therein lies another NAS benefit; multiple backups of your important data.

Here is a simple RAID explanation using a popular NAS called the ReadyNAS Duo:

I’ve also setup 2 small local firms with the ReadyNAS Duo as their main network storage. It is relatively inexpensive, and merely shows up as another drive on any computer on your Network. You backup without knowing it. Brilliant. Amazon has a great deal on the ReadyNAS HERE. This particular NAS comes with no drives, so you can choose the storage size that best fits your office need. All of our digital case files for the last 10 years are under 40gb, but buy the largest drives you can to ensure storage for the future.

NAS devices are easy to setup, easy to use, and easy to maintain. My favorite part? No data is stored on the user’s machine, so the user’s computer is not bogged down with too much information. I can also add a new computer to our network a lot faster than the traditional method of storing data and programs on each individual user’s computer. NAS devices also create reliable backups of precious data, which we lawyers must have when storing client information. But one backup is NOT enough. More on that later.

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Save any printable document as a .PDF file for free

The .PDF file format is quickly becoming a necessity for any business. If you are an attorney and work in Wise County or in any Federal Court, you must know how to save documents as .PDF files. For many newer office software suites, the ability to save a document as a .PDF file is built in.

But what if you have an older version of Word, or are still using WordPerfect? You may be interested in PrimoPDF or CutePDF. Both work virtually the same, installing a “virtual” printer on your computer. The benefit gained is the ability to create a .PDF file from any printable document. Both work well, you can’t really go wrong with either. The videos below show how simple they are to use.

Go Here to download PrimoPDF.

Go HERE to download CutePDF.

Own a Mac? The ability to “print to” or “save as” a .PDF is built in.

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Save your firm time and money with Google Apps

In our office, we use Google Apps to manage our email and calendar.  The great thing about it is you can get a custom domain, for example, yourlawfirm.com, and a custom email address that is all basically a free Gmail account. Google Apps standard is free and lets you manage up to 50 email accounts, each with 7 gigabytes of storage.

A huge benefit to Google managed email is the best spam filter in the business. Tired of junk mail or spam? Google catches 99% of and puts it in a spam folder instead of your email inbox. If your firm uses Outlook or Outlook Express, they can easily be configured to check your Google account, so your staff doesn’t have to learn new software.

Also included in the Google Apps engine is Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Sites.  The calendar function is easily shared to multiple users, and easily synced to an iPhone or Blackberry.

Check out this video for more information about what Google Apps can do for your firm:

Want to make setup extra easy? Buy your domain name directly from Google HERE

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Is Apple’s new iPad the tablet lawyers have been waiting for?

While we don’t know everything there is to know about Apple’s iPad yet, I’m very excited about it. Announced today at Apple’s Keynote address, it looks to be a popular product. Mobile email, photos, video, web, digital books, and a nice office suite sure make it a tempting product. Throw in 3G wireless speeds and get a mobile office in your briefcase. Is this the tablet we’ve been waiting for? I sure hope so.

Imagine needing a case from lexis in court. Get it immediately and display it on the iPad’s screen. Read the case like a book, email it, high light text, and save it.

If you can write on the screen with a stylus, I’m sold.

Other lawyers share their thoughts HERE and HERE

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e-filing underway in Wise County

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office became the first prosecutor’s office in the Commonwealth to e-file earlier this week. This is an exciting program, and the result of a lot of hard work for a lot of people. Big thanks to everyone involved.

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The Cloud and Software as a Service…

The ABA practice management website has a great explanation of “cloud” computing, also known as Software as a Service.  Software as a Service (SaaS) offers portability that traditional software just cannot compete with.  Using gmail or yahoo email?  You are already using SaaS.  Check out the article HERE.

Here is a simple explanation of cloud computing also:

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Arizona Legal Ethics Opinion regarding client file storage in the cloud

Check it out HERE

What I find most interesting is the conclusion that attorneys need to be aware of their limitations and competence regarding online file storage. Good reading if you are storing client files in off-site storage.

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