John Cord Law, LLC

Helping Lawyers Create Compelling Content

Microsoft Word Tips

Head over to the Maryland Daily Record’s Generation J.D. Blog and read Digital Signatures on Word Documents.  In that post, I explain the steps to create and use a digital signature in your Word documents.  If you pride yourself on your paperless office, this will make your life even easier (no more printing, signing, and scanning).

Generation J.D. is a blog that I contribute to every other week, written by young lawyers (not sure that I qualify, anymore, but they haven’t kicked me out, yet!).

Law Technology News

For those of you who have never seen it, the website Law Technology News is a fantastic source for everything technology-related.  For iPad fanboys and girls, check out the article on TrialDirector for iPad.  If you want to know how to use your iPad at trial without any cords tethering you down, see our post at the Maryland Car Accident Lawyer Blog on Using iPad Wirelessly to Present Your Case at Trial.

Dropbox Hacked

Don't use this method to remember your passwords

No sooner did we post about the usefulness of cloud computing than one major provider of cloud computing to lawyers, Dropbox, has been hacked. Dropbox is cloud-based program that allows users to save and share files.  For small and solo firms, it is useful for sending large documents that are too unwieldy for e-mail, and for acting as a back-up for on-site data storage.  

So, a security breach is clearly a bad thing.  Dropbox, for its part, is doing what it can to prevent this from happening again.  

So what do you need to know to protect your information in Dropbox and other hopefully-secure sites?  The key is unique and functional passwords.  What you shouldn’t do is use the same password for multiple sites, and don’t keep a list of all your passwords conveniently saved on your computer.  There are numerous services that can save your passwords–you simply remember a master password, and they will keep the specific information.  Services like Lastpass  and 1Password will save your passwords, and provide a place to securely log in to other websites.   

Many websites, including this one, can evaluate the “crackability” of your current passwords.  Plug a few of your passwords in to see if they make the cut.

Using PowerPoint Slides On Your Website

PowerPoint slides (or Keynote, if you’re a Mac user) are the poor man’s video.  If you can’t afford a camera, tripod, microphone and the editing software to make it look good (or, if you have a face for radio, like yours truly), then you can still give your audience good visual information by providing PowerPoint slides and saving them on your website, blog, or YouTube.

How is this useful?  If you are a lawyer who handles medical malpractice cases, then put up 15 slides on how to choose a medical malpractice lawyer.  Product liability lawyers can create a 30-slide presentation on the latest medical device recall, like metal-on-metal hip implants, or transvaginal slings.  This will give your potential clients something to do other than read a stagnant website.

Here’s how:

  • Step One:  Create your PowerPoint presentation.
    • Don’t forget–you can create links from a slide to your blog, website or authoritative source.
  • Step Two:  Upload the presentation to an online service like SlideShare, Scribd or Docstoc.
    • Alternatively, you can use software like Camtasia Studio (a little pricey, but extremely useful for recording video right off the computer, including YouTube and other videos) to record the slides as you narrate them.
  • Step Three:  Embed the content to your website or blog (most sites will give you an html for that purpose).  Decide whether you want the slides to be available on the host site, as well.
  • Step Four:  Spread the word about the presentation on your other social media platforms–link from Facebook, Twitter, and your blogs.
  • Step Five:  Check your stats–some hosts have analytics programs that measure the reach of your presentation (how many times someone clicked it).  You should be doing this already with your blogs and websites.

That’s all there is to it.  This is a terrific way to break up the monotony of a blog.  Here’s one I did way back when to help new lawyers adjust to the rigors of law firm life.

Cloud Computing: Sounds scarier than it really is

Lawyers have been up in arms about cloud computing for years.  Most of this stems for discomfort for the term.  It’s like other words that cause consternation–SEO, and e-discovery, to name a few.  It’s not really that complicated, but we are hard-wired to fear the unknown.  

Cloud computing is, essentially, the access of information through the internet.  The information doesn’t have to be stored in a public domain to be cloud computing.  Much of it is privately-held information.  Let’s examine some typical cloud computing:

  1. Online banking
  2. Internet-based e-mail
  3. Online social media

Lawyers are mostly worried about security.  We have obligations to keep our clients’ data reasonably secure, whether that data is in hard copy form (the office file) or in digital form (backed up in a server bunker in Iowa).  To keep the hard files secure, we keep the doors locked, the alarms on, and we only use trustworthy cleaning services (have you checked the credentials of your cleaning service?).  To keep the electronic files secure, we need to make sure that the vendors who maintain those files use sophisticated digital security.  

The state bar associations, sensing the near-apoplectic panic among some lawyers, are starting to get involved.  The Massachusetts Bar Association, in Ethics Opinion 12-03,  is the latest to opine that cloud computing can be ethical. In general, a lawyer must undertake ”reasonable efforts to ensure that the provider’s terms of use and data privacy policies, practices and procedures are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations, including the obligation to protect confidential client information reflected in Rule 1.6(a).”  

In a footnote, the Massachusetts opinion references other states that have issued opinions on the subject (hyperlinks added):

The American Bar Association and the bar associations of various states also have addressed the ethical implications of using Internet-based software and data storage services, either formally or provisionally. See, e.g., American Bar Assoc. Commission on Ethics 20/20 “Issues Paper Concerning Client Confidentiality and Lawyers’ Use of Technology,” dated September 20, 2010; New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion 842, dated September 10, 2010; California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 08-0002, approved for public comment in August 2010; Iowa State Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Practice Guidelines Opinion 11-01, dated September 9, 2011; and North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee Proposed 2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 6, dated October 20, 2011.

Others include:

None of these states say its a bad idea.  There are certainly precautions that lawyers must take, but cloud computing, if not here and now, is the future.  As a solo practitioner, I find cloud computing to be easier, cheaper, and necessary.  I don’t have a firm server–all of my data is held on the hard drive, backed up on external hard drives, and double-backed up in online storage.  Many vendors provide me with software that is accessible online, which means that I am less likely to experience problems with the software, or with difficulties running the software on my computer.  All tech maintenance is performed by the company.


125 Technology Tips

The Journal of Accountancy has 125 technology tips.  There’s advice for computer maintenance, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and other pointers.  My favorites?

  • No. 17:  Adding Checkboxes to Word Documents
  • No. 18:  Jumping Slides in PowerPoint (great for presentations where a question derails your linear flow)
  • No. 24:  Convert PowerPoint presentation to video, with narration
  • No. 59:  Free movement to the Cloud (up to 50GB), courtesy of Microsoft

Take a peek–you’re certain to find something useful.