©Kenneth G. Raggio1
PRECIS OF ARTICLE
The family law practitioner, whether in a solo or small firm environment, must utilize the new technologies to compete. With the cost of equipping a full hardware and software suite being in the very low four figures, efficiencies not previously available are now thrust upon the family lawyer who must2 utilize such to compete. The answers to whether such efficiency leads to a higher quality of life for the attorney, a higher level of service to clients, or a decrease in revenues, depend upon implementation. Some specific software and hardware solutions are discussed, with special emphasis on practice management and assembly processes that streamline the Matrimonial practice. One must realize technology is really just a means to an end. But the traditional methods of communication, such as client conferences, Court hearings, trials, depositions, are beginning to be dramatically affected by the infusion of technology, and technology is beginning to extract great demands on the efficiency of communications by lawyers to others. Moreover, new technologies such as the Internet have exponentially increased the opportunity and complexity of outreach to potential clients while not incidentally challenging our traditional concepts of privacy, privilege, and even ethics. This article will practically address some of these issues, from electronic communications to proof of same in evidence.
I. A NEW MARKETPLACE
Technology has made it possible for small law firms–even sole practitioners–to have many of the tools formerly available only at great expense to large firms available to help manage cases, conduct trial, catalog discovery in cases, prepare for litigation, and to resolve cases either by settlement or by trial. Of particular interest to the family lawyer are three particular areas:
- Facilitating team approach to cases or other projects;
- Taking it all with you to court, to mediation, or another place;
- Staying in touch from wherever you may be.
A lawyer’s competency can only be enhanced by the office systems that support the lawyer. The first level is staff, second is organization, third is effective communication, and fourth is effective data manipulation. The unsaid but always present desire is that lawyer’s revenues greatly exceed expenditures and direct costs so that the lawyer can make a living. Technology should enhance this effort, not hinder it.
Competent staff is the single most valuable factor in the system’s mix. The other systems become as important as staff when volume of business or complexity of cases increases. Once systems have been established, it is usually much easier to ramp up capacity to handle either the “big” case or an increase in volume of cases.
Efficient back-office systems (billing, accounting, charge-back for costs such as copying, long-distance phone, FAXing system, etc.) can make a difference in the bottom line. Management can alert the lawyer (or the lawyer’s delegatee) of potential problems or concerns with enough lead time to remedy them.
As technology prices have dropped and power has increased, efficient lawyers have been able to produce their “product”3 at less cost, and competitive factors have tended to limit hourly rates attorneys can charge for services. Technology allows what used to be “customized services” in the Family Law area to now be programmed and formalized generally at less cost to the client4. The attorney who furnishes similar services at a lower cost finds that market forces will apply.
As other technologies mature (such as voice recognition software), many of the functions of lawyer/paralegal/secretary will become blended. As with many things in our business, results obtained and unit billing may be an appropriate way of billing. As these technologies become more compliant and user friendly, the reality of an automated Family Law Practice is achievable.
Finally, technology has made remote computing a seamless, uneventful procedure, of the “virtual office” and “working where you are at”.
II. SOME ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR THE FAMILY LAW LAWYER’S FUNCTIONING
A. Back Office.
Telephone, copier, fax, general ledger, legal timekeeping, tracking expenses (such as courier, overnight deliveries, charge for long distance, etc.) are all examples of vital functions, where the lack of a “plan” will greatly increase the cost of servicing these back office functions. However, discussions of such management issues are more for a pure law practice management seminar and are not further discussed hereafter, except as such directly affects the rest of the Family Lawyer’s technology arsenal.
In all but the very smallest offices, computer E-Mail (as well as telephone or computer voice mail) can enhance service to clients as an attorney and attorney’s staff can be more responsive to client needs.
E-Mail-Groupware serves as a valuable way of tracking projects, tasks, cases, people and other resources. Most E-Mail systems are adaptable to keep a running log of activity in a case so that employees who are asked can figure out how and where the ball is at a given time. While such a system will not approach the sophistication of a Lotus Notes data base system, it is generally more useful than a manual or word processing document based system. Groupware is the backbone of any effective automation of a family law practice.
Many clients–who are operating in the corporate world–are now demanding that communications be through E-Mail in their native E-Mail system.
Communicating with clients, Courts and others is covered later in the paper.
C. Producing Persuasion
We lawyers are wordsmiths, producing persuasion. Most of what we produce either to our clients, to opposing counsel, or to the Courts, is in writing. In the past few years, we have begun to utilize demonstrative evidence, as we realize that combining sight and sound has more impact and remembrance than words alone. Just as the word processors of the 1980’s transformed the legal world by allowing variable insertions in long documents, saw the rise of intelligent document generators, etc., in the 1990’s sees the integration of graphics, math, and other functions into basic word processing. And Windows’ DDLs (dynamic data links) allows updating of one data field to update all derivative documents that are linked to that particular data field, even if contained in another document. The software tools are more powerful and have more features than the lawyer will probably even need. Even though the Word Office Suite is more tightly integrated and has more of corporate America than Corel Perfect Office, Word Perfect still seems to more features targeted for the lawyers, such as sophisticated document-wide commands and the unique “reveal codes” option. The Word Perfect 8 Legal Edition is tailor made for the Family Law Practice. (Besides, still a majority of the legal market apparently uses Word Perfect 5.1-DOS-at least for a few more months.) It is the extra features of groupware, the linking of documents and data within documents, and outgrowing of obsolete machines and hardware that are finally leading the move in law offices to Windows–make that Windows 95 oops Windows 98.
- Persuasive Negotiations/MediationThe days of appearing at a settlement conference or mediation with only a thin paper notebook and a hopeful disposition are ending. Just as in trial, these settlement efforts mandate that the lawyer combine sight and sound and use “demonstrative evidence” to make the point. Appropriate graphics can show the differences in proposals, variances in valuation, and effect and the setting of levels of support5. High end cases now justify burning CD-ROM with selected and quite persuasive evidence that may help produce settlement. For instance, scanning a naked picture of the husband’s girlfriend along with a video clip of the husband’s deposition saying that he has never been with other women can help show what trial may be like to hard-headed litigants6. Spreadsheets that can be updated instantly as offers and counteroffers and exchanged are becoming much more of the rule than the exception. Also see the Remote Access section infra.
- 2. Effective Trial PreparationEffective trial presentation demands that the attorney combine sight and sound to lift the trier of fact out of the doldrums of assuming that the case before it is “same old, same old”. A poster board with a chronology (time line) enlarged to poster size is effective. The same type of financial charts that were used in mediation can help distinguish your case before the trier of fact. Instantaneous retrieval of data (such as depositions, deposition testimony and document retrieval) is paramount to make timely impeachment of a straying witness7. However, the practitioner must be aware that there are certain rules in using technology in a trial situation that may differ from other uses:
a. Be sure your depiction is accurate and fair. Watch out for the use of misleading baselines or scales in charts.
b. Don’t use color or glitz just because it can be done. Simple, clear charts are generally always better than complicated charts.
c. Be aware of the chance of a direct computer presentation “blowing up”, and either be real sure of your ability to pull it off (generally with a computer provider responsible for same) AND have a “back up system” in place, generally a paper based rendition of the demonstrative evidence8.
d. Opening Argument and Final Argument are places where high tech can truly make a difference. At the beginning, the jury doesn’t know what’s gonna come and is interested. At the end the trier of fact and everyone else is usually tired and ready to get the case over with and wants quick, effective summation. Using high tech to capture the trier of facts’ attention first and then one last time may be the persuading element in the case.
D. The New World of Research
On line services–such as Westlaw and Lexis–are dropping in prices. Versuslaw is available for $7.00 a month for solos. The availability and cost of research CD-ROMS–and the usefulness of the search engines on same–is increasing in power and usability as costs drop. What is relatively new is the ability of the lawyer to drop the lawyer’s entire knowledge in the family law area onto one CD-ROM disk, and take it to wherever the knowledge is necessary, whether settlement, mediation, discovery, or trial. Similarly, virtually all information in most cases (save and except video depositions, and extensive images) can generally be placed on one CD-ROM that contains the equivalent of boxes of documents.
The new research tool is the “Internet”. Even Lexis has a web product, perhaps in response to http://www.versuslaw.com. Major law libraries have become jump sites for searches that can produce sometimes startling information. The Net is changing daily but the trend of its use is expanding exponentially.
E. Summary of Resources
Some useful URL’s for family law include:
These are all hotlinked on the web version of this article, allowing quick and review of the pages listed
III. SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES
B. Practice Management software
- Most leading practice management packages are “bigger” than a family law practice, i.e., were designed for larger practice situations than the average 1-4 attorney, 3-7 computer typical FL practice. But many of the packages are very well suited for the practice.
- Some packages are designed to make you work pretty much the way the software works. While this severely limits customization, it also gives the lawyer a polished paradigm with which to aspire and adapt the practice to the level of organization and features of the system. Some will nag you to do things on your lists.
- Some other packages are designed to give the user great flexibility in setting up how the system will work; unfortunately, many times at the cost of a steep learning curve and partial paralysis in deciding what features to implement in what fashion.
- Most packages have features that you will probably never use, unless you dramatically change your method of practice. Maybe that’s the point…
- Some of the products available include:- Perfect Practice, ADC Legal Systems
– Perfect Lawyer, http://www.perfectlaw.com/
– PC Law; Alumni computer group, http://www.pclaw.com/
– Summit, Computer Law System
– ProLaw, http://www.prolaw.com/
– Time Matters, http://www.timematters.com/
– Abacus Law, http://www.abacuslaw.com/
– Amicus Attorney, http://www.amicus.com/
– CaseMaster III Software Technology http://www.stilegal.com/
C. Amicus Attorney Pro/Team
- Very graphical interface.Amicus seems to be rooted in MacIntosh and the idioms are very friendly and encourage even the lawyer-who-never-touched the computer to get involved. The typical icons of files, contacts, calendars, phone and time sheet are all recognizable and inviting. The file cabinet is a 3D version of a file drawer with various categories of files (active, billable, closed, special, etc.) The actual file opens like a folder, with the contacts on the left and notes to dos, etc., on the right. The calendar is in the usual daily, weekly or monthly format that is fairly standard in the industry.
- Fairly high level of structureUnlike Time Matters, Amicus is fairly determined you do things in a fairly narrow range in adapting it to your way of practice. This structure is an effective barrier that keeps the attorney from spending lots of time setting up the program or making the system too complicated. It is possible to construct a “work around” to force a lawyer’s required feature into the system. For instance, the “notes” system in a file will not day or time stamp; however, if the user makes that default note a “file phone list note,” the system inserts a day and time stamp on the notes placed there.
- It makes you do what you need to doAmicus, like most good legal PIMs (personal informative manager)reminds–even nags–you to do the things on your to do list and reminds you of appointments. Although the preferences can be set up to minimize the nagging, it is seen as a very useful tool. For instance, the clipboard or daily report that appears when you boot up in the morning reminds you that you may have not made a time sheet for the previous day–especially useful if you use Amicus as a front end for a billing system such as Timeslips.
- Nice, easy calendarThe calendar, which in the team version can schedule both group assets(a conference room) as well as all the timekeepers, is very easy to use. It invites even the most computer phobic lawyer to at least investigate if there is some other way to schedule other than the paper daytimer.
- Good contact listingAmicus is set up to organize your contacts in a way that you can easily get all the contacts necessary place into a case file, while at the same time having the ability group the contacts by categories such as lawyers, experts, or referral sources. Each contact can have notes in the contacts’ file, and contacts can fit into several different groups simultaneously.
- Integration with HotDocs, Timeslips, WordPerfect, Word, and voice recognitionAmicus now ports and looks for links and ties to your word processor, and has accepted Hot Documents as its preferred document assembly engine. It also supports export to many billing systems, allowing the time keeping and phoning in Amicus to be delivered there. All these features increase the potential to reach the Holy Grail of automation: “write few, use many.” As I speak, they are also working with voice recognition.
- File synchronization with your notebookAmicus team brings the file synchronization and practice management to the notebook computer. The user can “take his office with him,” work on it, and when plugging the notebook back into the office network, the software notes changes and synchronizes the databases.
- Limitation/weaknessesThe software does not appear to be set up to be the exclusive repository of all notes for a file. It does not appear particularly friendly to attaching documents or images to files (it refers a lot to the word processor) especially if there are huge amounts of notes. It is not set up to operate as an outliner such as Ecco or InfoTree. Even though it allows more than three billing contracts, only three appear when you set up a client. It is set up to have a maximum of three phones numbers for a client on the first client sheet (office, fax and E-mail) where most family law cases need home and office, faxes numbers and E-mail–perhaps four or five phone numbers. True, Amicus allows up to nine contact numbers on the three client pages allowed; and typically a family law case does not warrant going to the hassle of the second or third page just for one number. (You could put the fourth number in the notes section — another workout example.)
Finally, Amicus by design does not appear to allow a “China Wall” to be built around a case and allow only authorized eyes to see it. (A China Wall is that which is placed around an employee with the firm who used to be with a opponent’s firm that is handling the other side of the same case with your firm.
A potential conflict, but ethics opinions and courts are allowing a China Wall to be placed around the employee, which keeps the case in the office.) Once again, there appears a work around in Amicus, but apparently only by buying another software licence to open another “office”, and having this office password protected and restricted.
- Interfacing with Billing SystemAmicus has direct links into Timeslips and PC Law. This means that changing an address or phone in one program automatically changes it in the other.
- CostThe cost for Amicus is “by the seat.” Each user has his or her own office(license) and each assistant requires another license to work in the attorney’s offices. Five users and five assistants can cost over $2,000.00. A single user can get the same power of the whole system for $300.00, but without the collaborative features of the Team product. Setup of a version 2.6.2 from a CD Rom was uneventful, however, the software expires if you do not send in the list of your “seats” to get licenses issued that are then installed in the administrator module. Setup was easy and painless.
Amicus is very easy to use, even for the computer illiterate senior partner. Amicus may be the best shot at getting such an intrenched bird to fly into the computer age.
- TimeMatters is a legal practice management system with the expected modules. It is available in both standalone and network versions. It has comprehensive functionality and a completely customizable interface.
- Opening ScreensWhen you first fire up the program, it gives you a list of “To Do’s” and Alerts- not only for yourself but for other personnel. The main screen then loads cascading Windows consisting of each of lists of cases, contacts, to-do’s, and events.
- Cross-Tying InformationTimeMatters allows you to work from both the contact (client, lawyer, court) side as well as a case side of the data files. Contacts and cases are automatically cross-tied once links are established based upon lookup tables and is fully customizable.
- CalendarThe Calendar view is day, weekly, or monthly; On a daily view the appointments for the day and the To Do List are spread horizontally across the screen. As with the whole idiom of TimeMatters, you can adjust the size by dragging the borders. In a network situation you can check any other users’ calendar by simply selecting their name from the list. Items marked “Private” on any persons calendar would show up as a block of time used but not the specific event. The calendar has a robust date calculator that can calculate dates for past or future events based on specified criteria. The user can also define grouped or linked events, such as case resetting affecting discovery deadlines.
- Case CustomizationA “primary” screen for each of contacts and cases allows for customization of three “user” fields. A “secondary” screen allows for customization of ten user fields. In addition, most of the several default fields contained on the primary and secondary screens may be customized. Accordingly, TimeMatters affords an extraordinary measure of customizability which, of course, is unusual for a PIM, contact manager, or case/docket manager.
- Importing Data.As with most other legal PIMS TimeMatters will import data from Gold Mine, Act, Abacus as well as “ASCII Delimited”files. This means that you already have a contact list that you can probably import it and make it work within the frame of TimeMatters.
- Merging Field Information with Your Word Processing.The formattable clipboard is a quick way to merge information in a case or client contact file into Word Processing documents using the formattable clipboard. You can associate any file in the system, whether it be e-mail, document spreadsheets, or scanned images with a contact or a case, and you can open the file in it’s native format nearly by clicking on it from the list. This is a feature that approaches Lotus Notes but is not as sophisticated.
- Synchronization With Palm Pilot.All the leading Practice Management Systems now claim synchronization with the Palm Pilot. The Palm Pilot is the pocket sized organizer that really is the first product that can truly synchronize your Office Practice Management System with you on the go. Translated means you plug the Palm Pilot into your computer, take it off the court, and you have you complete schedule with you including all of your contacts (clients). When you set a hearing, you can see what your calendar is for potential conflicts after you have put it into the Palm Pilot you return to the office, plug it into your computer and it in TimeMatters synchronizes so that the data of the new setting gets into the system.
- Link With Timeslips and Other Billing Programs.TimeMatters has also had a link with Timeslips for billing for a couple of years and it is very efficient. When you enter client information into TimeMatters it is also entered into Timeslips. When you finish an activity in Time Matters you can press the “Make Slip” button and a slip is actually created in Timeslips. TimeMatters also connects to Tabs Three which is the grandfather of all timekeeping systems that are used in Family Lawyers Offices. Similar to Amicus Attorney, TimeMatters has a link to PC Law for passing through time records for billing and accounting purposes.
- CostSingle User License: $350.
Three Users: $450.
Five Users: $550.
Each additional Five Users :$350.
E. Document Assembly Software.
- Description of the marketEveryone seems to be in the document assembly market just as practice management software seems to become more refined than the general purpose personal information managers (PIM’s). The trend is for forms in specialty areas of practice to be packaged with the assembly engine so much of the work of setting up a document assembly system has already been performed. While no slight is meant to other packages the package demonstrated here is an example of a specific system that is highly tuned to help automate the family law practice, and in an example of what is the general trend in the market place.
- Vendors are numerous and many have state-specific products. Check for vendors in your jurisdiction that may have great products for your state. Some vendors include:- West Fast Forms (Texas) http://www.westpub.com/
– Matthew Bender Interactive Drafting System http://www.bender.com/
– ProDocs, Automated Legal Systems http://www.prodoc.com/
– Lawgic (California), http://www.lawgic.com/
F. Matthew-Bender’s Interactive Drafting System
This example is given because it is built around the HotDocs engine.
The State Bar of Texas Family Law Section, beginning with the first advent of the Texas Family Code thirty years ago, has promulgated what have come to be viewed as “semi-officia”l forms; at least, the language in the suggested form is often utilized by a judge to settle a drafting dispute between lawyers. California as well as Texas has some specific rules for format and content of document filed in family court as do most states. The Texas Family Law forms are licensed by viewed as Matthew Bender, and then combined them with relevant questions in Family Law Hot Documents that makes for an easy-to-use, efficient pleading builder. Since Matthew Bender used a run time version of HotDocs the user has more ability to fiddle with the questions and assembly process those with some assembly engine such as PC Documents.
Matthew Bender also links its drafting system its with research treatise on a CD Rom as well as case law so that the attorney has the ability to drop in custom language from case law or a treatise in addition to the standard boiler plate for pleadings.
ProDoc has a comprehensive collection of template libraries in areas other than Family Law. It insulates the user from having to deal with much more than answering questions to assemble several documents in a case.
To assemble a document in ProDoc the user first specifies a specific client or case. Start the assembly process by choosing the volume (in our case Family Law) and selecting a template. Once a template is selected, ProDocs has the user answer questions on how to build a document. ProDocs has many modules in different substantive access and is excellent with support and updates.
It is a very sophisticated product that grows faster than your practice.
It also may be the first to have the same “calls” as legal PIMS such as Amicus, as they are working on it presently.
H. Spreadsheet/ Support calculators.
A significant portion of a family law practice deals with financial calculations. In fact the first family law specific software were the calculation packages from years ago is use to calculate alimony, child support, and taxes. These products have continued to grow in sophistication and easy of use and have increased their penetration in the practice. In fact, in some courts calculation software is become the defacto standard in court proceedings where financial matters are involved.
- Tax Ramifications for Division of Property/Tax effect of Alimony.Financial software has become irreplaceable in doing the analysis of the after taxes basis of assets where the recognition of the tax gain is certain enough as to not be speculative and therefore in properly considered in the final evaluation. Specialty software packages such as The Divorce Planner by Finplan (800/877-2108) have been around for years and have evolved as the need’s of divorce lawyers have also changed.
- “Low Tech” Spreadsheets.One can easily use the spreadsheet that comes with the OfficeSuite or the math function of the wordprocessor to construct useful and easy to produce financial documents and exhibits, if one does not wish to utilizes the power of the commercially available templates or specialty software packages. The demonstration will show the easy of constructing such as a settlement sheet in Word Perfect in just a few minutes. Whether the utility of using such simply made homemade spreadsheets and templates diminishes with the complexity of the case is an open question.
There is a product out called Kidmate that is a custody/visitation scheduler. It graphically shows the time that any proposed possession schedule will give with each parent or others (depending on how Troxill will be applied. See http://kidmate.com/ .
I. Other useful Automation Nuances.
Automation is not just a ” box” if you buy and put into the office. In addition to the major components discussed earlier in this paper, there are little things that can be done to increase the efficiency the family law practice.
- Certified mail printer.If you add up the cost of your staff’s preparing and sending certified mail manually you will see that the sending just a few pieces of such mail in a week justifies setting up dedicated printer using prepaid certified mail forms. The costs are not great, as worth the effort in the experience to set up to acknowledge the forms have been perfected by our brethren in collection, bankruptcy, and foreclosure practices. There is even competition amongst stationery publishers in both the impact printer laser printer portions of the market.
- Management of Client information/Client Directories.We utilizes a directory on our server for each client, and further have sub-directories for pleadings, and correspondence in the more complex cases. Keeping all of the client information and documents in one place is quite handy when porting a case to a trial notebook or in closing out of the case to electronic archive. Although practice management software, document assembly packages, and document management software all want to fight over where such documents reside, word processing macros can automate and insure the client documents end up in the correct place.
- Backup.Consider a removable hard disk drive such as a Jaz (in addition to tapes) for daily and for incremental backups, as well as client archives. A whole bunch of closed client files can fit on a Jaz disk with very fast access. If a client’s file is truly closed, it can be also be moved easily along with many others to a CD Rom that you record with your CD Rom recorder.
- A Backup Server.Besides having backups of the data on your server, you might wish to have a backup server that replicates functions and mappings of your production server. Our backup has a license for fewer users than our production server, but would be useful if the production server went down. You need to have A-B switches for the printer cables coming out of both servers, so that the effort to switchover from one server to the next becomes turning on the server and flipping the printer switches, and then perhaps retrieving the latest incremental data backup.
- OCR (All Optical Scanners)While optical scanning documents into editable form (via Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect) matured into a reliable ,means of input during the 1990’s, voice input has only recently become worthy of consideration as a tool in the law office. A software scanning tool such as Caere OmniPage Pro or Xerox TextBridge Pro, when used in conjunction with a HP ScanJet or the equivalent, is essential for the family lawyer who frequently is compelled to create responsive pleadings on short notice. Both OmniPage Pro and TextBridge Pro – so long as properly configured for your scanning application – deliver highly accurate text. Configuring entails establishing acceptable confidence levels for recognizing text, and whether only certain portions of a page should be scanned, and whether format should be sustained. Occasionally, image contrast and other physical features should be adjusted to achieve sufficiently high recognition performance.
- Voice RecognitionVoice input became a reality once the discrete speech recognition engines of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were superseded by the continuous speech recognition engines of the late 1990’s. Unlike discrete engines which required users to artificially pause between words, continuous recognition engines such as Dragon systems’ NaturallySpeaking enable users and, indeed, encourage users to speak normally- in a natural manner. The availability of powerful, relatively inexpensive desktop computers have enabled the continuous speech recognition engines to function in near real-time. A significant development for the law office is the incorporation of the Dragon engine into the WordPerfect Legal Edition.
- Naturally SpeakingOnce Naturally Speaking has been installed, you must train the software to comprehend your words and phrases. Training is achieved by reading excerpts from Clarke’s 3001: The Final Odyssey or from Barry’s Dave Barry in Cyberspace. As a bridge to this training function, the user is encouraged to provide select documents so that NS may become conversant with usage behavior and idiosyncrasies. A dictionary consisting of more than 200,000 words is used to build a customized vocabulary of 30,000 active words. New words or specialized terms may be manually added to the active vocabulary. NS actually grows wiser the more that you use the engine and refine the speech recognition as appropriate. Using “Select-and-Say” syntax and dictation shorthands, you may input verbiage faster than you can type. Commands are automatically distinguished from dictated text. Provided that the sound-card is properly configured and matched with a high-quality, properly placed mouthpiece, superb results may be attained.
- How do you know if it works?Unfortunately, a user must try one or more of the various programs to really decide which is more appropriate for use. Many manufacturers offer demo disks; some computer stores such as Comp USA, have fully functioning demos of software (generally mass market software) at their showrooms. Internet-distributed, full-version software calls for payment only if you use it after the stated trial period. Finally, full factory versions are available that die if you don’t license them.
- Time v. MoneyOne can spend time practicing law, or setting up systems to automate the system of practicing law. Some systems that may be worthwhile to automate for a large “wholesale ” practice may not be as useful in a “boutique” practice and vise versa, one must recognize what ones practice is (or will become) to choose the appropriate tools to help automate that practice. One also wants automation to help lead to higher quality of life.
K. Protect Your Computers!
Previously discussed was the importance of backing up data on computers. No less important is protecting your computer and network from computer viruses and recognizing the Y2K problem.
- VirusesThere are thousands of viruses that could “infect a P.C., either through downloads of software, modem, from the Internet, from receiving an e-mail with an attached document or from installing software from a floppy or CD-Rom. One needs to get one of the leading anti-virus programs, install it and update it to protect one’s assets.
IV. ETHICS AND ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE
The Information age is placing significant challenges to our traditional methods of dealing with clients, the Courts, the public (as well as with each other) due to the new ways of communicating. There are new issues that arise as the trend in many parts of the business world is towards the “paperless office”– with virtually all data being stored electronically. Issues of procuring discovery and presenting same as evidence have become more problematic. The following section will discuss these issues.