Archive for the 'Software for the Law Office' Category

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Introducing DeskSpace

Posted by: admin on June 4th, 2009

I had a chance to do a web conference with Nick Lightbody, at Desk Space, to take a look at the new Case Management program that is being released in the coming days.  We spent about an hour looking at the interface and a bit of time looking at the programming behind the scenes of this Legal Practice Management Program.

Desk Space is a very robust program and it looks as though Nick, and his team, have been taking notes on what people want. What do they want? Well, for starters, a lot of folks want control of their data. Desk Space is a child of the File Maker program.  As such, the program resides on your computer. What else is the legal community looking for? Not much else, except…everything. Contacts, calendars, billing, documents (with merging capabilities) and accounting all within one program. Enter Desk Space.

Like similar File Maker Practice Management programs, Desk Space uses a tabs and icon interface but still provides a very clean interface. Like any good Mac program designer should, Desk Space focuses on elegant simplicity. To appreciate what is really going on with Desk Space, underneath the simple design, there would likely be a learning curve, to get the most out of the program. I believe this would be true of all robust practice management systems.

There are some tools (such as job or workflow tracking) that would not be a meaningful tool in my practice. However, if your practice blends civil work, this would be a critical tool. On the other hand, the merge tools built into this program is a unique feature not offered by many competitors. The program also has many of the tools we would expect in a comprehensive program: time management, client management, contacts with “spotlight” search, financial reporting, billing and more.

An immediately noticeable criticism is that many of the naming conventions for the tabs and icons were inconsistent with my own practice. Good news. All the names can be customized to suit your practice. Everything is constructed “soft wired” and the team at Desk Space can change the way anything is described. In addition, many of the features can be finessed to the way you practice. 

Desk Space is also platform agnostic. Meaning it can run on that old PC collecting dust in the closet. But why would you do that?

Overall, I was impressed with the time and thought that was put into Desk Space. It has all the markings of a comprehensive Practice Management tool. Of course, I have not used Desk Space myself, so I am limited to say that it looks very useful. If you are a Desk Space user, we would welcome your first hand impressions in the comments. 

Prices for Desk Space are competitive to what you would see for similar Practice Management Systems on a Mac. Nick did provide that for a short time he would be allowing users to purchase Desk Space at a discount, with some features limited, in order to determine whether this was the right tool for your practice.

For those not ready for SaaS and think the other Practice Management alternatives require to much bending, Desk Space may be for you. The program is designed to be flexible and simple to use. According to Nick, during the beginning phase of introducing Desk Space, early adopters are going to get special attention.  You can contact Nick for a demo: nick.lightbody at deskspace.com

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SugarSync at the Office

Posted by: admin on April 1st, 2009

I read a few reviews of Sugar Sync last year and I had just finished tinkering with Dropbox and MobileMe. Both programs left me unsatisfied and I couldn’t come up with a good solution. MobileMe was slow and unstable. Drop Box had a clunky interface and lacked some critical features (albeit, it was beta).  Others, like Jungle Disk, were met with mixed reviews. I put the whole project off for a while.

After 30 days with Sugarsync…wow! No problems. What I dig about this software is that a physical file (the magic briefcase) resides on my hard drive and then uses the cloud to sync across the other computers. So far, four computers are syncing flawlessly. I think the “magic briefcase” is what makes this product standout against other cloud solutions. This, coupled with the iPhone application makes Sugarsync a new favorite. I can now access any file from my office on my iPhone. Sweet! Now, if I could just get Circus Ponies Notebook on my iPhone, the planets will have aligned. 

Of course, for a proper review, head on over to Mac Esq’s review. He also has some question and answers on Sugarsync. Bad news, since those posts, Mac Esq has turned his back on Sugar Sync and embraced Dropbox

But for our us, Sugarsync is more intuitive and works better than any other solution we have spent 30 days with. Of course, I am still in the honeymoon stage (and we don’t have the “over 25,000 files” problem that Mac Esq dealt with). I just purchased a year subscription and we will see how things go from here.

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Mac Litigator

Posted by: admin on March 23rd, 2009

The folks over at Mac Litigator saw this great deal on Circus Ponies Notebook. I am a huge fan of Notebook and consider it one of my core programs in managing cases. The deal is good for one day only. If you are seeing this on Tuesday, cue the violin.

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Keep an Eye on Deskspace

Posted by: admin on March 11th, 2009

Generating a noticeable bit of buzz in the world of Case Management systems is Deskspace. Before product launch, the Director at Deskspace, Nick Lightbody, has been getting input from lawyers in different practice areas. The developers have been reworking the user interface and integration with Filemaker 10.  The company has suggested a beta release in the coming months.We will continue to follow the developments of the product and post new information as it becomes available.

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How Many Useful Widgets?

Posted by: admin on December 15th, 2008

Look, widgets are not as cool as I thought they would be. When I had my PC, I added some variation of widgets on my computer. Just to make it more Apple-like. In the end, I couldn’t find enough useful reasons to press F12 and visit the widget page. Much like the iPhone apps, there are numerous novel, fun and even silly applications. But nothing that leant to my practice.

About two months ago, that all changed. A program called Easy Envelopes was mentioned in passing. It was an envelope widget. The program integrated with the address book and was receiving a fair amount of praise from my fellow mac-lawyers. After two months of using this widget, I can say that the praise is well deserved. First off, the program is free. Second, it is super easy to set-up and use (as Mac apps should be). And third, the integration into address book is flawless. 

I know there are mail-mergers and Quick Silver superstars out there. You will not find this application handy. But if you are using MS Word or Pages Templates to print up an envelope, you will really love this app.  I still only hit F12 to use this widget. But it is nice to have a reason to hit F12 again. You can find Ambrosia’s Mail app here

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Happy Turkey Day From Law With an Apple

Posted by: admin on November 26th, 2008

Agile solutions is giving me a gift and I am re-gifting it to one of our readers. It is a free license to 1Password. You have heard me sing the praises of this software plug-in. Once you get the hang of it, 1Passwod is a big time saver and a great tool for the busy lawyer. If you want my take, here is a review of the software. Rules of the game: The players: Pick a number between 1 and 100. Closest number wins.  Winner picked on Sunday 6pm Pacific time.  UPDATE: We have a winner. See the comments. Thanks for playing.

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Video for Quicksilver

Posted by: admin on October 20th, 2008

Carnell, of Mac Law Students has done a quick tutorial that will get you started with one of the most interesting programs for a mac, Quicksilver. I have downloaded QS before and never found time to tinker but this video inspired me. Check it out here.

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One More Thing

Posted by: admin on October 16th, 2008

For those of you that already use Bento in your law office, I am sure you heard. For the rest of you that are interested, Bento rolled out 2.0 and you can see the new features heremw08_ben02.jpg

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Still Considering Daylite?

Posted by: admin on October 11th, 2008

If you are, head over to MacUpdate for a 34% discount.  Offer expires tomorrow.

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The Next Big SaaS: Clio

Posted by: admin on September 29th, 2008

I had a chance to use Clio over the weekend and wanted to share my initial thoughts on the product. I begin with my usual caveat: I only used this product as a demo, only for a few hours and with limited data. I have not used it for any real length of time. If you are a former or current user of Clio, we welcome your thoughts in the comments.

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Themis Solutions Inc., the company that owns Clio, is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. With cooperation from the Law Society of British Columbia, the company has developed its flagship product Clio which is a web-based SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) practice management system. The program is, of course, available to Mac and PC users alike. Much like its cousins, Clio seeks to fill the niche market of small and medium size firms. 

Christy Burke was my contact for Clio and I was unable to attend the scheduled demo that I had set up with her. After my apologies were sent off, Christy made a test server with demo data pre-populated. After spending a day tinkering around, I am impressed. If I were to describe Clio in one word, I would say, “complete.” 

The Usual Suspects

Here are the features you would expect: A pleasant user interface that takes it cues from the “Keep it Simple” mantra, matter/case management, time tracking, billing and reporting with customized invoices bill reminders, client/contact management that looks intuitive, task scheduling with all the drag/move and drop functionality of a desk top program. One can export from Google, Outlook or iCal calendars into Clio. Also integrated is Trust Accounting that allows one to maintain trust and bank transaction records. This is the big package. What most would be looking for in a Practice Management System.

Still More

But the one feature that made this an exciting release for me: Document Management. We have heard the document management rumbling before. We want something that allows secure access to documents online, save unlimited document versions, and does everything else. It appears Clio was listening and integrated this feature before the launch. 

This is interesting to some folks, so I include it: Practice Performance Metrics allow one to track current, expected, and target billing figures daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. For some firms, I am sure this will be a welcome bonus. 

So many times on the listserve, I hear the cry, “I just want a program that will handle everything. That has accounting integrated. That has a solid calendaring system. That allows me to track clients documents. Is it so much to ask that it does everything?” Perhaps your time has come. I, for one, have not seen a program so close to fully integrated. 

 

If A, Then B

The single criticism to Clio is that overall interface is a bit busy. It isn’t deafening. Just a little busy. This would stand to reason, given the amount of features included. This is also the issue with ruling by committee. When so many voices clamor for one thing, it gets included. It might not be useful to the criminal defense lawyer, but the family law attorney can’t live without it. So often, the SaaS company gets this statement, if you include X, I will sign up today. You hear enough people ask for X, and sales folks are at the programmers door asking why we can’t include X now?  

Price

Clio is being offered at the introductory price of 50 dollars a month for an attorney and 25 dollars a month for support staff. 

I Still Worry

I know who you are. You don’t trust cloud computing. You remember Red Gorrilla and all those angry customers. To you I say, go back to your parchment paper and feather quill pen and trust no one. Seriously though, I understand that certain folks cannot trust a company to hold such valuable data. They alone are the best person to protect that data. I would assume, as a reader of this blog you surf the net. As such, your computer is fire-walled, encrypted with password protection and that you perform multiple redundancy back-ups throughout the day. That you then do test on the back-ups, ensuring they are consistently mirroring your data. That you do not allow anyone into your office unless they have been fully authorized (and you ran a background check on the lady that empties the trash, because sometimes she gives you the stink-eye).  

My point is, these are concerns you can outsource. Per my discussion with all the SaaS companies I have reviewed, Clio follows the same policies, Clio uses password protection with bank-grade 256-bit SSL encryption. Data is backed up daily to a secure, offsite data center, and daily third-party audits are performed to ensure data security. Clio can restrict access to confidential files or client records by individual or by group via rights-managed security. And, most importantly, if you wish to download all your data back to your hard-drive, Clio provides a way to do this as well.

Finally

I doubt that last paragraph convinced any of you that truly distrust internet software.  I understand. For those of you on the fence, you should visit Clio’s website and set up a demo. This SaaS is one of the most promising releases of the year.