Maximizing Legal Technology for the Legal Professional – Pt. 2

In our first post about maximizing legal technology for the legal professional, we spoke about some useful apps, such as iJuror, and talked about how to get the most out of electronic devices.  This post will talk about internet efficiency and how to make the most out of the cloud! Advanced Discovery, just like for your electronic discovery needs, is your technology concierge!

Add Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as additional Internet Browsers.

The use of Internet Explorer is still necessary due to hosting and other online legal focus applications not yet supporting the others, however, it can be cumbersome; offering more features than you may need on a day-to-day basis. You can have two browsers that are used for different purposes without taking-up precious space on your hard drive. Especially avoid installing the “add ons” when installing browsers, to avoid using unnecessary space for functions you really won’t use. Both Chrome and Firefox provide blazing speed for the right price, free. Each offers useful extras, such as bookmark syncing, which allows you to see the same bookmarks regardless of which machine or device you use to login from.

2011 is all about The Cloud.

Are you looking into putting Google to work in your practice?  Researching your options includes review of an American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section publication, Google for Lawyers: Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools. This publication provides pathways to unlock many of Google’s powerful, yet often hidden services, like Google Voice, Google Scholar and Google Translate, as well as more well known applications like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar.  Other options from Google include Sites, internal YouTube, Gmail, chat and video conferencing.

If the Microsoft Suite is more in line with your practice, Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) includes Microsoft Exchange Online for email and calendaring, Microsoft SharePoint Online for portals and document sharing, Microsoft Office Communications Online for presence availability, instant messaging, and peer to peer audio calls and Office Live Meeting for web and video conferencing. For those looking to make the migration, look in to the free migration tool offered by Microsoft partner Metalogix, BPOS Commander.

If your firm lacks the IT infrastructure needed to maintain this suite, providers of business communications services provide affordable monthly fee hosted Microsoft Exchange services to small and mid-sized businesses.

Additionally, Colligo Contributor Pro provides a cost-effective solution for integrating SharePoint with both Outlook and Windows Explorer, while also providing offline SharePoint caching capability. Its integration of Windows Explorer to SharePoint enables saving files directly from Acrobat to connected SharePoint folders and also provides the ability to add metadata to the file to make it easier to find later. This solution also makes integration with leading billing software providers, such as Sage Timeslips, possible. Other useful features are the ability to automatically synch SharePoint files to a laptop, allowing access when at a location without internet access, and “Send & File” which saves email to SharePoint at the same time it is sent from Outlook.

Use and Share files from any computer or device that has access to the Internet.

Some cloud-based services provide file storage and syncing for free, up to a certain number of gigabytes, or for a surprisingly low fee. Dropbox is one of these, allowing law firms and attorneys to access and sync files; even allowing password permission for clients to access their own copies of documents. Dropbox access requires a username and password and Dropbox assures its employees are unable to access its users’ files. Although many firms wisely avoid putting extremely sensitive or confidential documents in the cloud, use of services such as Dropbox for most case related documentation seems prudent, as the servers and machines many firms currently use are less secure than Dropbox; which advertises military-grade encryption methods for both transferring and storing files.

You can employ this kind of file-sharing service to access your files from any computer or device with internet access. The ability to access the same files from any computer or device improves efficiency and minimizes the number of drafts stored for any given document, allowing more than one person to access and edit that file. Users can set up private, shared (by invitation only, password required) and public (not protected, users can access following a link provided) files to access, share and synch the same files.

Regardless of which product is employed to utilize the power of storing data in the cloud, due diligence by the firm must be performed to ensure security, ethical walls and accessibility to all users’ stored files for legal holds. Also, the data privacy and encryption issues surrounding use of the cloud for this purpose may not satisfy the privacy laws of all countries.

Back-up and Archive your data, off-site.

In addition to storing, synching and sharing files, as discussed above, firms and attorneys need cost effective ways to protect information off site. In cases of fire, failure, theft or other hazard, client and firm data remains both accessible and safe. Most external storage media can not offer viable long term storage solutions, if they are affordable that is. Many such media are of a nature where they degrade after a period of time and become unreliable should data need to be restored. It can also be difficult to maintain effective data retention policies using external storage media. Also, backing up your files online requires no additional equipment.  Most software, such as Intermedia Online Backup, can be set to run in the background, creating a mirror image of your files as you work.

We will finalize our blog series on maximizing legal technology for the legal professional next week focusing on taking what you might consider formerly an IT professionals job duties, but have now been put on you, and how you can make sure those duties don’t effect your day to day duties!

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