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Alt Legal Connect Session Summary: Top Technology Tools to Streamline Your Practice

Alt Legal Team | October 28, 2020
4 min read

On Monday, October 26, Niki Black (lawyer and MyCase legal technology evangelist) presented the session, “Top Technology Tools to Streamline Your Practice” where she discussed the ethics behind using technology in a law practice and what tech tools may be useful for your practice. Black discusses the practicality of working remotely with tools such as cloud computing and mobile computing for lawyers. Black describes cloud computing as when the data and software you’re using is operating on servers from third parties outside of your law firm. In 2011, approximately 16% of lawyers used cloud-based technology in their practice (or were aware that they were using cloud-based tech). Fast-forward to 2020 results (based on 2019 data), approximately 58% of lawyers incorporated cloud-based technology in their practice. In a 2016 study done by ABA Legal Technology Surveys, 84% of lawyers used their laptops/desktops, 93% used their phones, and 51% used a tablet. Black suggests, due to COVID-19 and working remotely, the percentage is now much higher.

In addition to the ABA, about 30 states have issued opinions on cloud computing and have stated that so long as lawyers exercise reasonable care to make sure they protect clients’ confidential data (knowing who has access, how to remove data if needed, who’s in charge of its security), it’s ethical for lawyers to use the cloud. When looking for a software provider, Black suggests keeping these security issues in mind (full list of questions from Black’s book provided here):

  • Encryption

  • Geo-redundancy

  • Data back-ups

  • Extraction of data

  • Transborder data flow (make sure it stays within the United States if that’s where you’re practicing)

  • Financial security

Tech tools:

1. Billing

“Getting paid has been one of the top pain points for law firms with remote work… You need to have tools in place, from start to finish, that can allow you to remotely bill and remotely collect money from your clients”

If law firms don’t have systems in place to help them get paid in a contactless fashion, then it can be problematic. Here are some resources that Black suggests for things ranging from time tracking through actual payments (more resources here):

  • Legal apps/web-based (stand-alone or legal practice management (LPM) integration)
    • Time59
    • Bill4Time
    • LPM apps
  • Legal apps/server-based (server-based billing integration)
    • iTimekeep

  • Non-legal apps (stand alone)

    • Timewerks Pro

2. Collaboration Tools

“[Because of COVID-19] You can’t just stick your head into someone’s office to ask a question. You need to have some way to have those short conversations.”

There are a number of collaboration tools around, some focus on communicating while others focus on collaboration on documents. When looking for a collaboration tool, Black suggests using ones that are familiar with lawyers because they’re more likely to understand the confidentiality you have to maintain and your needs specifically. Here are some web-based collaboration tools that Black mentioned:

  • Free

    • Google Docs

    • Slack

    • Trello

  • Paid

    • LPM Systems

    • Dropbox


    • Glasscubes

3. Secure Communication

“Traditional email is unencrypted and it’s like sending a postcard written in pencil through the post office.”

Encrypted emails are more secure, but forwarded emails lose encryption. Using a secure online portal (encrypted, protected, confined to specific platform) is your best bet for secure communication. It’s important to ensure that you have a process in place (whether it’s case-by-case or for all communication) for those particularly sensitive conversations, especially since many of us are working remotely.

4. Document Storage

There are a number of different options (legal-specific and non-legal-specific) when it comes to document storage. Here are some that Niki mentioned (additional resources here):

  • LPM Platforms, encrypted by company

    • Designed for lawyers

  • Dropbox & Box, encrypted by company

    • Non-legal

  • Spider Oak & Boxcryptor, encrypted by user

    • Non-legal and storage only

5. Scanning Tools

Some apps allow you to take pictures of documents with your phone and create OCR scans. Desktop scanners are the best option in the pandemic for both lawyers and the administrative personnel designated for scanning.

  • IOS Apps

    • Scanner Pro

    • Genius Scan

    • Turbo Scan

  • Hardware

    • Fijitsu Scansnap

    • Neat Scanner

    • Espon Perfection

    • Kodak Scanmate

6. PDF Annotation

There are a variety of capabilities when it comes to PDF annotation/editing. There are apps that allow you to highlight, add written/typed comments, voice notes – particularly helpful if you’re commuting.

  • IOS apps

    • PDF Expert

    • Goodreader

    • iAnnotate

    • ReaddleDocs

  • Web-based software

    • Group Docs

    • PDFEscape

    • PDFOnlineReader

  • Desktop software

    • Adobe Acrobat

    • Foxit

    • Okular

7. Legal Research

  • Google Scholar

  • Fastcase

  • Casemaker

  • Versuslaw

  • Westlaw

  • Lexis

8. Video Conferencing

For more information on secure communication tools, check out this article written by Niki here and here.

  • Non-legal, free

    • Google Meet

    • Zoom

  • Non-legal

    • WebEx

    • GoToMeeting

    • Skype

    • Signal

    • WhatsApp

Access the Recording and Materials: Click here

Resources Mentioned:

  • LawPay (Thanks, Tamara Pester!)

  • Gravity Legal:

  • We use Slack like crazy — my favorite part is (under the paid account) the Shared Channels. We setup a channel with our client, and then each of us can manage which of our people can access the channel (Thanks, James Creedon!)

  • I used to securely message my clients via myCase or Clio (when I briefly used both of those programs) and they would respond via regular email 🙂 (Thanks, Tamara Pester!)

  • Google Calendar (to remind of upcoming events) and Google Drive (to easily share files). (Thanks, James Creedon!)

  • I found a nice research tool called Casetext. (Thanks, Larry Rosenthal!)

  • If you have an international practice, we’ve been happy with Uberconference. We use it for videochat, but also for dialing-in only, and we’re able to provide a country-specific dial-in number. We can also easily record the calls, and the MP3’s remain available for download — you can even share the link to download the audio. (Thanks, James Creedon!)

  • Legaler

  • ScanSnap (Thanks, Suzann Moskowitz!)

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