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Partnering Up: The Pros and Cons of a Partnership for Your Law Practice

Partnering Up: The Pros and Cons of a Partnership for Your Law Practice on bossreporting.com

Is it in your best interest to go solo or pair up with a partner?

A lot of lawyers dream about making a name for themselves on their own – being their own boss and running their own practice. However, the reality is that going solo can be a daunting experience. That doesn’t mean it’s not an option worth exploring though; as, with any important business decision, it’s important to be fully aware of the pros and cons of forming a partnership before deciding which arrangement best suits your personality and work style.

The pros of a partnership

Any burden is more easily managed when shared, and that’s particularly true in business. A partner can help with:

  • Costs: Sharing the expense of rent, staffing, software, research, marketing, signage, stationery, and technology means you can start out in style.
  • Responsibility: Having a partner may bring peace of mind to your clients since there’s someone available to cover for you if a personal emergency should arise. They can also assist in managing the staff of the legal practice, saving time and effort better spent on clients.
  • Brainstorming: Whether it’s how to bring in new business or solve a complicated issue, two heads are better than one and having someone to bounce ideas off can help with both positivity and productivity.
  • Appearance: For better or worse, partnerships often bring a sense of security to new clients in that they seem more established than a sole practitioner might. A partnership also greatly expands your sphere of personal influence in terms of marketing since you’re now doubling your audience of family, friends, and former clients.

The cons of co-ownership

A business partnership isn’t all sunshine, shared costs, and roses, though. As with all things, the good comes with some bad and part of your decision in taking on a partner involves weighing out the potential for problems.

  • Less control: This could be a good or bad thing, depending on your personality, but if you have strong ideas on how things should work and dislike the idea of making concessions or negotiating around your expectations, then a partner could involve more emotional labor than you’re willing to take on.
  • More liability: It’s relatively easy to guard and manage your own work ethic and reputation but adding a partner to your practice comes with the risk of dealing with someone else’s potentially bad behavior and, if worse comes to worst, a malpractice suit.
  • Conflict of interest: Depending on the size of your practice area, adding a partner could increase the likelihood of running into a conflict of interest that could prohibit your firm from taking on a case.
  • Dissolution: Hopefully it never comes to this but dissolving a business can be as acrimonious as a divorce, and then you’re faced with some degree of starting over again. If you decide to commit to a partnership, choose carefully.

Making a match

The key to a successful partnership in any business involves finding the right match. The greatest benefit to a partnership comes with choosing someone whose strengths and weaknesses complement your own. For instance, an extrovert with strong ideas on marketing and networking is an asset to an introverted personality type who just wants to study and practice law. Diversifying your skill sets can increase productivity and profit while making day to day tasks more seamless.

A difference in perspective can be advantageous too. Avoid tunnel vision in your business goals or client cases by integrating the fresh opinions of someone you respect into the daily dialogue. Although being set in your ways feels comfortable, it leads to stagnation. Find someone who can articulate their ideas in a way that you appreciate and learn to listen with an open mind.

When it comes to finding a partner, you want someone who you can trust, admire, and communicate easily with – much like a marriage. Be clear in your initial intentions and expectations and make sure your business goals line up in a way that’s compatible. Make sure your partner is someone you can vent to, brainstorm with, and that you’ll feel comfortable with when having difficult conversations or exchanging constructive criticism.

Ideally, a partner would be someone you have an existing long-standing professional relationship with; not quite a friend, but more than an acquaintance.

And perhaps you’ll decide that a partnership isn’t for you – and that’s okay too. It’s far better to make that decision up front than to find out along the way. Take the time to assess all your options and invest your time and energy into whatever business arrangement aligns best with your future goals.

Boss Certified Realtime Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Conquer Court Appearance Jitters: Tips and Tricks to Calm Down Quick

Conquer Court Appearance Jitters: Tips and Tricks to Calm Down Quick on bossreporting.com

Harness the nervous energy you feel before court appearances and make it work for you

Even the most confident professionals experience anxiety from time to time, particularly before an important presentation or in high-pressure situations – and presentations and high-pressure situations are what being an attorney are all about. However, knowing it’s a normal reaction doesn’t make pre-court jitters any easier to live with. Reclaim your inner peace with these tips and tricks to calm down quickly.

Prepare, don’t obsess: Obviously, appropriate preparation is essential. It’s also your job. Don’t procrastinate, do your homework, review your materials thoroughly, and have confidence in knowing what you need to know.

Be cautious not to over prepare though. Not only will you sound too rehearsed but exhausting yourself before trial will only add to feeling overwhelmed and irritable.

Breathe deeply: “Take a deep breath” seems like a mindless platitude when your problems feel pressing, but it’s good advice. It’s more about mindfulness than respiration, though. Bring consciousness to your breath by slowly filling your lungs with air, pausing for a moment, and steadily exhaling. Pause again and repeat.

Guided meditation apps can help improve your focus and center your breathing and thoughts. Even spending a quick ten minutes in your car before entering the courthouse can help change your mindset and ease any physical discomfort. Practicing meditation will eventually lead to the ability to connect to a sense of calm and well-being even in the most chaotic of circumstances.

Ritual of comfort: Set yourself up for success by indulging in a ritual that brings you comfort before each court appearance. Whether it’s a rigorous workout to burn off nervous energy or a quiet breakfast in your favorite coffee shop, make time for whatever it is that makes you feel good and create a regular pattern of behavior before each case to create a sense of satisfactory predictability before facing the unknown.

Reframe your fear: Feeling anxious is accompanied by physical symptoms, which is what makes that vague sense of dread so difficult to ignore. Difficulty drawing a full breath, increased heart rate, a flushed face, and chest, sweaty palms, racing thoughts – it all adds up to make feeling nervous seem more serious than it is.

Consider the fact that fear and excitement share the same symptoms. As that sense of unease starts to creep in, tell yourself that it’s anticipation; you’re gearing up for battle, and you have the tools and training to win. Don’t fight the feeling, just add depth to your understanding of it.

Fake it ’til you make it: When all else fails – break out your best acting skills. Check your posture, dress to impress, grin easily, and do whatever it is your favorite T. attorney would do. It may seem disingenuous, but part of your job is to project an image of being cool, confident, and collected. Study your mentors and try on some of the habits or personality traits that contribute to the parts of their demeanor that you admire. Go ahead and get into character before your courtroom performance.

Also, have faith in who you are – even if you feel slightly insecure, it’s unlikely that it’s as obvious as it feels when you’re experiencing it. There may even be a junior attorney emulating the very behaviors you’re so unsure about.

Although it doesn’t feel like it as it’s happening, a little anxiety is a good thing. Being nervous motivates you to prepare and brings a necessary consciousness to the task at hand. Appreciate the benefits of a sense of anticipation and remind yourself that you are a prepared professional taking on a challenge that you look forward to defeating. Dress and act the part, stand tall, breathe deep, know your facts, and remember why you chose this career path in the first place, and you’ll be conquering your court appearances in no time.

Get more advice on polishing up your presentations and appearances on the Boss Reporting Blog.

Boss Certified Realtime Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Law Practice Improvement: The Importance of Tracking KPIs

Law Practice Improvement: The Importance of Tracking KPIs on bossreporting.com

Measuring Key Performance Indicators is essential to the growth of your law firm

Analytics are an important metric for the health of your business. The phrase Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is thrown around so often on business blogs and entrepreneurial articles that it begins to feel like another busy buzzword – a trendy idea that professionals expound upon with very little understanding of its actual meaning or worth. However, measuring the KPI of your law firm is essential for growth and profit.

Knowledge is power, and KPIs can help you understand where your business is experiencing the most return on investment, or which services or processes require more assets than they’re worth. Running a successful law firm involves more than just a simple understanding of billable hours, profit, and loss. Longevity requires you to analyze, measure, define and set goals around your KPIs.

Measuring up

The challenge lies in determining what to measure – the possibilities are endless and should ideally be tailored to your firm’s specific business goals.

To start, evaluate what information is indicative of the success of your law practice. KPI possibilities include:

  • Number of new clients
  • Collected revenue
  • Billed revenue
  • Monthly expenses
  • Cost of client acquisition
  • Client satisfaction
  • Employee leverage

To determine if your KPIs are appropriate, check to make sure they have the following characteristics:

  • Is it quantifiable?
  • Does it reflect the goals of our firm?
  • Is it a key to our overall success?

Keeping track

The most important component of effective measuring is information. Once you decide what your metrics are, you need a system for collecting and analyzing the associated data. Look at what data already exists in your firm’s management system and determine how you will manage that information, and then distinguish the gaps between what data you have available to you and what you need.

The most convenient and effective way to organize your Key Performance Indicators is with a spreadsheet or series of graphs. Easy access to a visual representation of the various elements and indicators can help you identify patterns and areas of improvement.

Many firm management applications include a component that offers dashboard reports, which can help streamline the set-up and review process. Getting well-acquainted with this module of your management software is a worthy investment.

Changing course

To make effective changes, you have to have a true understanding of the meaning of each KPI and why it’s important to your overall success. Don’t rush to make changes through – data will need to be collected for a few months in order to be able to spot trends and measure impact.

Plan to run your KPI reports monthly and analyze the collected information promptly. Once you identify areas of improvement, take corrective action and re-evaluate during your next analysis.

Once you have a general idea of your current circumstances, create benchmarks and set goals for the future. Increasing customer satisfaction can improve your ability to gain new customers or reduce your cost of client acquisition when repeat customers are involved. Working more efficiently or better leveraging your staff can reduce monthly expenses or increase billed revenue. Think of your KPIs as individual cogs that work together to improve production. A minor tweak to one area can result in a ripple effect of changes.

Acting on evidence

Adaptability is essential for growth, and you can’t adapt productively if you don’t have verifiable evidence of where change is needed most. Knowledge is power, and KPIs enable you to make data-driven decisions that help you make informed improvements.

Although measuring KPIs initially feels like more work, eventually, the information collected will improve productivity and profitability which increases the satisfaction of employees and clients alike. Break your law practice down into the components that contribute to its overall success, become familiar with each, and make the necessary changes to help your law firm evolve into its optimal form.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

The Right Steps to an RFP Response: Increase Business with Improved Proposals

The Right Steps to an RFP Response: Increase Business with Improved Proposals on bossreporting.com

An RFP response can be a challenging task, but a worthwhile investment of time

Request for Proposals (RFPs) are an important part of a law practice’s business and formulating the response to one requires information that is thoughtful, well-researched, and timely. RFPs are very specific in outlining what services are required and what the client’s needs are, requiring an individual approach to each request received.

Your firm is often required to provide a range of information, including documentation and examples of experience, as well as responses to specific questions tailored to that project. The client wants specific information in simple terms – gone are the days of copying and pasting from one response to another. The various moving parts of putting together a winning RFP make them a time-consuming and challenging aspect of the business, but if done correctly, the results make the effort worthwhile.

The right response to RFPs

Take a close look: The first step of the process is to evaluate the RFP critically. Gauge the appropriateness before deciding to respond – don’t automatically reply to each request. In order to make it worth the cost of your time, you must be selective about which RFPs you respond to, which requires more than a cursory glance.

Check to see what the issuer needs, determine their intent, and assess what their priority is; are they primarily concerned with consolidation, service, pricing, or counsel change? Also, research the buyer’s trend in procurement to make sure they aren’t issuing RFPs without granting new rewards.

Assemble the right team: Involve your marketing and business development professionals as part of your proposal team. Having a highly effective team has a huge impact on your overall success; include a proposal writer, business development, strategy and pricing personnel, and the lead attorney. If it’s a labor-intensive RFP, you might want to have more than one attorney involved.

If you are the lead for the response, you will be responsible for key decisions and should be listed as the person who will do the work if the RFP requests that information. Make sure everyone involved understands their role and are prepared to contribute.

Check for conflicts: This may seem obvious, but the timing of this step is crucial. Assess the potential of any conflicts before letting the issuer know you intend to respond or accepting. You wouldn’t want to invest the time and concern for a job you cannot do.

Decide to respond: Once you’ve evaluated your team and the response, you need to determine if you’re going to pass on the RFP or submit a formal response. Start with the following:

  • Research if you’ve done business with this issue in the past, or if you currently have a business relationship.
  • Find out if you have professional relationships with specific people who work within the organization.
  • Confirm that you are experienced and knowledgeable in the required services issued in the request.

The RFP is most likely a good prospect if all the above can be answered in the affirmative. If you’re missing an element, re-evaluate your strength in one of the other two before proceeding.

Attorney involvement: Although the proposal writer, marketing and business development team members can help with details such as formatting, verbiage, and research, the attorney needs to be hands-on when it comes to strategy and insight in a way that demonstrates expertise and experience. Read and respond carefully.

State your offerings: Following directions, including well-researched information, and defining your strategy are the foundational steps of an effective RFP response. Make sure you clearly state what service you’re offering, how you will deliver that, why your firm best benefits the client, evidence of past success, and an estimate of cost. Covering all those bases will help you stand out as the optimal choice.

Reviewing RFP submissions can be as cumbersome as preparing them; poorly prepared responses stand out as taking up valuable time and are quickly cast aside. Ultimately, that’s a waste of time and energy for both sides involved.

Create a well-structured and clearly-defined RFP response process, pay close attention to the buyer’s needs, and collaborate with your team members based on their innate talents to produce a response that puts you in a league of your own, while helping you win more RFPs and guaranteeing a better return on your investment of time.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Scan, Store, and Save: The Advantages of a Paperless Law Practice

Scan, Store, and Save: The Advantages of a Paperless Law Practice on bossreporting.com

Tips and tricks to help your law firm transition to a paperless filing system

When you’re rifling through fully-packed file cabinets or maneuvering around stacks of documents waiting to find their permanent home in storage, it’s easy to see the allure of running a paperless law practice. Not only is it more convenient but it’s also environmentally-friendly and can safeguard your clients’ information from fire, natural disasters, or a break-in.

The biggest issue always seems to be where and how to start. Figuring out how to transfer existing documents to digital copies, and where to store them so that they are easily accessible but also protected, is a daunting task. Once you climb that paperwork mountain though, it’s all coasting from there – the effort is worth the reward. Take up less space, waste less paper, and access your files easily and from anywhere with a paperless office.

Putting the “less” in “paperless”

The first and most important step of transitioning to a paperless practice is to determine your goals. Remember that there’s no such thing as “paperless” – the actual intention is to rely less on paper and transition to digital storage. Start slowly by identifying how your firm currently uses paper and what categories those uses fall under, and then begin implementing new processes in one area. For instance, you could start scanning old files and uploading them or create a new digital workflow for new clients. Setting out to digitize everything all at once is a surefire way to feel overwhelmed and wonder if you’re complicating a process that already (mostly) works – but isn’t optimal.

Determine digital storage needs

The right storage option is essential to your success; after all, that’s the problem you’re mainly working to solve. Your best bet is to store your data in the cloud. Online cloud storage allows for around-the-clock access to all your files regardless of where you are. There are a few things to consider when choosing a service:

  • Go with a reputable vendor – this isn’t the time to experiment.
  • Carefully read the terms and conditions and make sure they meet your needs.
  • Determine if the terms and conditions are legally enforceable.
  • Make sure the interface is user-friendly and conveniently accessible.

Think safety first

Since you have an ethical duty to protect your law practice’s data, and since a lot of the information being stored is sensitive material, security is paramount. Whether you store your files in the cloud or on your firm’s servers, it’s important to take steps to make sure the information is safe. Experts recommend that you back up at least three copies of your law firm’s digital data at two different locations. Add an extra level of protection by encrypting the data in order to protect it from potential security vulnerabilities.

Update your workflow

Once you understand how, where, and why you’ll be storing your files, you need to establish a paperless workflow for your law firm and make sure all essential staff fully understands the process and its importance. Consider the difference in treatment of a handwritten document versus a form created online versus a document that must be scanned and stored, and all the options in between. Clarify whose duty it is to complete each task.

Have a system from the start

Implementing an organizational system for your digital documents is important to the success of the project of going paperless. Again, every employee should be familiar with what has been put in place so that files are stored correctly and easily accessed again. You may even consider asking for feedback from your team so that they’ll feel further invested in the process – and you might luck out and have a natural organizer onboard.

Create a protocol for file names too, so that each will be easily searchable. For instance, creating a digital file folder named for each client might be a good starting point, with all relevant documents stored inside.

There are many advantages to going paperless in your law practice, and although the transition may require some effort, being able to save space, search files more easily, reduce your environmental impact, and make backup copies of your firm’s most important data is well worth the additional work.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

Pencil It in: Finding the Right Legal-Calendaring System for Your Firm

Pencil It in: Finding the Right Legal-Calendaring System for Your Firm on bossreporting.com

Organization is part of the job

Time is money, and this is particularly true when you’re a practicing attorney. Being organized and efficient is essential to scheduling your days for maximum productivity, and professionalism and punctuality go hand-in-hand when dealing with both clients and judges. Organizing your day, meeting deadlines, and allotting the appropriate amount of time for each task is not only a form of risk management but it also helps reduce stress and confusion.

Technology has a wide variety of options to assist you in streamlining your schedule; legal calendaring tools can improve your workflow, protect your reputation, and increase client satisfaction. Find the right calendar management tool for your practice by assessing key features, and understanding which tools are the most compatible with your firm’s scheduling needs.

Save the day

Missing deadlines is one of the most common reasons attorneys find themselves involved in legal malpractice cases, so maintaining a constantly updated calendar is about more than just simple etiquette or day planning. The consequences of a missed court deadline can be severe, and it’s easy to make a scheduling error. Court dates must be accurately determined as soon as a matter goes before the court, which can involve internet searches or phone calls and can change based on extenuating circumstances.

The calendaring process is a challenge for firms of all sizes; large firms have more work to coordinate between multiple attorneys, often practicing in different areas. Small firms often have less staff and more limited resources.

There are a lot of options when it comes to maintaining a calendar – from a simple desk blotter and day planners to sophisticated rules-based legal calendaring software that estimates court dates and tracks schedules. The three most popular categories include:

  1. Paper calendars: Although it’s inexpensive and requires no training, a paper scheduling method isn’t recommended unless you’re a technophobe. Not only does it require more manpower, but there are also no options to sync, share, or create reminders. If you are the type that remembers and understands more if you write it down, keep a paper day planner as a back-up to your digital scheduling tool.
  2. General online or software-based calendars: Commonly used calendars like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar are friendly for both budgets and users. The learning curve is low but since these products weren’t specifically designed for legal work, the time investment is high since someone has to be in charge of determining initial court dates and must input that data manually which leaves room for oversight or error.
  3. Legal calendaring programs: There are numerous advantages to utilizing software specifically designed for the legal industry. Rules-based calendaring systems offer helpful features such as built-in court rules databases and keep track of things like holiday schedules, which makes it easier to calculate court dates with accuracy. However, this is the most expensive option so make sure you choose an option that makes you feel as if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Check all boxes

Because of the importance of maintaining an accurate calendar and the potential consequences for failing to do so, there’s a lot to consider before committing to a system.

First and most important, who is in charge of maintaining the calendar? Responsibilities and workflow need to be clearly defined due to all the different moving parts. Decide who submits the information, who researches the initial deadlines, and who inputs and edits the information. Scheduling needs to be a standardized process that can be easily reassigned if the employee in charge leaves the firm.

Another consideration is how the master calendar will be viewable to all and what options are available to back it up in case the data is lost or inaccessible. A cloud-based service allows all attorneys and employees to view the calendar on their own device, and provides an off-site backup. Look into filtering options so that each can prioritize the dates that are relevant to them personally.

If using a legal-based calendaring system, examine how specific it is to your actual work. Will it include all jurisdictions and practice areas that your firm specializes in? Does it allow options that will help streamline invoicing and managing client information databases?

Making major changes to the way your firm handles scheduling may seem like an overwhelming and risky endeavor. However, the alternative of continuing with a system that’s not efficient or all-encompassing is equally daunting. With the right technology and workflow, your practice can reduce the time spent on calendar management, along with the inherent risk of scheduling mistakes, and devote your time to doing good work.

Looking for more technology tips and tricks to make your job easier? Check the Boss Reporting Blog and upgrade your practice.

Legal Briefs: A Quick Tour of Tech News

Legal Briefs: A Quick Tour of Tech News on bossreporting.com

Catch up on legal-related tech news from across the internet

The world moves fast these days, thanks to technology and globalization. It seems like the legal industry always has more to learn and know and do, and it can be hard to keep up with the outside world while also holding down a life and a career. However, staying abreast of legal news is part of your profession if you work in a law-related practice. We’ve collected a sampling of summarized stories about tech trends to keep track of, so you can stay on top of your professional game.

Texas ethics panel says lawyers can use Internet forums for legal questions

The State Bar of Texas’ Professional Ethics Committee recently tackled the question of whether or not seeking advice from other attorneys online followed the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

Because lawyers commonly have informal consultations with colleagues about client-related issues, doing so in online discussion groups, CLE seminars, or with a trusted mentor is permitted as long as the lawyer does not reveal confidential client information, which would break Disciplinary Rule 1.05 which prevents lawyers from sharing information protected by attorney-client privilege.

However, the opinion notes that disciplinary rules allow exceptions, such as Rule 1.05 (d)(1), which allows such revelations when necessary to carry out representation effectively.

“It’s a balancing situation that is very perilous because, on one hand, lawyers supporting lawyers by being mentored is strongly in a client’s best interest, but protecting a client’s confidential information is also in a client’s best interest,” said Scott Rothenberg, the Houston attorney who posed the question to the committee and teaches a State Bar of Texas CLE course on legal ethics.

He suggested that lawyers become familiar with what information is available on the district, intermediate appellate and Supreme Court websites about a case to make sure they do not accidentally reveal identity. Rothenberg also said lawyers may want to include verbiage in their employment agreement that informs clients that social media or informal consultations with other attorneys may be used to better serve their interests.

The human challenges of implementing artificial intelligence as financial services counsel

The age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here, but the laws are still forthcoming. Among the challenges of utilizing AI in the legal industry is the hard-to-duplicate value of the human eye. For example, if there’s a question about a subjective decision in regard to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) regulations, the governing laws are based out of wherever the decision was made – as in a physical location, with a person in charge. But what if there is no person?

Mayer Brown partner, David Beam, said, “There you have an ambiguity because the OCC rules and guidelines don’t address what happens in there. They don’t even consider the possibility that it’s a machine creating these underwriting standards.” He also pointed out that regulations predispose human error. How will that be handled when humans are no longer part of the equation when it comes to error?

Most AI systems will involve some sort of licensed software or technology, and often include a warranty that the software is in compliance with laws. However, AI evolves in a way that most software doesn’t since the machine develops protocols and algorithms as part of its process, which the vendor may not be aware of.

So, if the machine violates fair lending laws, for example by discriminating against a protected class, does liability fall with the person who licensed the technology or the person who used it?

Because of the rapid development and legal ambivalence around AI, there’s a possibility that courts will be addressing issues around artificial intelligence before legislatures even get the opportunity.

Do employers own social media accounts established as part of the job?

The Roanoke Times recently sued a reporter for keeping his Twitter account after leaving his job there, in a case that may have consequences for the future of social media accounts used for business.

BH Media Group has brought a lawsuit against a former employee and sports journalist over his continued use of a Twitter account they claim to own, citing employee contracts signed by the reporter.

BH Media charges that the reporter violated the Defend Trade Secrets Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Stored Communications Act, as well as state laws in Virginia, by continuing to use the account.

However, the reporter, Andy Bitter, claims he is the only person who has used the account since 2011 and was the only one who knew the password and login information.

The lawsuit may help define how a social media account related to a business should be treated under the law, or at least bring more awareness to employers regarding how to protect their interests related to social media accounts after employee termination or resignation.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

Technology, Security, and the Law: Protecting Your Clients and Their Financial Data

Technology, Security, and the Law: Protecting Your Clients and Their Financial Data on bossreporting.com

How law firms can protect the confidential data of its clients

The internet has made many aspects of life easier, including the ability to easily transfer and access information. It’s also revolutionized the business world, enabling many companies to expand upon the services they offer because of the ease of scalability online. You no longer need more brick and mortar space or staff – just more server space (and maybe not even that, thanks to cloud computing.)

However, this newfound availability comes with concerns. Thanks to numerous highly-publicized online security breaches, consumers now want to know who has access to their private information and tend to place a lot of value on confidentiality.

People understand that doing business with your company may involve sharing personal information, but the concern comes with what happens after that. Will your business sell or distribute their data to third-party vendors without consent? Is your business capable of keeping online information safe?

Consumer protection

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted a law to address these concerns. The Gramm-Leach-Billey Act (GLBA) was passed in November 1999 and included privacy protections such as allowing consumers more knowledge or control regarding the distribution of their private information from financial institutions to third parties. The FTC attempted to extend the GLBA to cover attorneys that practiced areas of law that involved finances, such as tax planning and preparation, real estate closing, debt collection, financial planning or management, estate planning, wills, and trusts.

The American Bar Association was eventually awarded an exemption from the GLBA for attorneys, due in part to the fact that ethical guidelines within the legal profession are already very similar to disclosure requirements of the GLBA. However, it’s still essential that law practices that handle financially-related services adhere to the GLBA’s basic tenets, and act within ethical guidelines.

Safeguarding client data

So, not sharing the data of your clients with unnecessary third-parties is the easiest and most obvious first step in protecting data. But in this day and age where everything is digital, how can you go above and beyond to safeguard the information entrusted to you?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and be prepared to revisit this issue constantly. As new technology continues to evolve, so do potential threats. However, some basics to consider include:

  • Email: Using a secure email account is essential. Gmail or other free services are not appropriate for transmitting client information. Encrypt all correspondence and if a subject is particularly sensitive, ask the client what method of delivery they prefer.
  • Staff: Make client confidentiality a part of your company culture. Discuss potential vulnerabilities, only allow access on a need to know basis, and change passwords frequently. Keep paper records under lock and key and store fax machines in a private area. Shred sensitive documents that are no longer relevant.
  • Security: Outsource your initial security set-up to a trusted IT professional to make sure your firm has a reliable process for blocking and responding to threats and vulnerabilities, including software updates, patch management, virus protection, firewall configuration, web and email gateway monitoring, and other technical details.
  • Vendors: Carefully research and choose potential online vendors. Read all related terms and conditions agreements and ensure that these agreements are legally enforceable. Choose well-established, fully vetted companies whenever possible.
  • Encryption and two-factor authentication: Establish that your system is fully encrypted for data in transit and employ two-factor authentication for all remote connections involving the firm’s technical infrastructure.
  • Intrusion detection: Make sure your set-up actively searches for indications of a security breach and retains system logs in case it’s necessary to recreate behavior to determine the scope of exposure.

Technology has made everyone’s life easier – including hackers. Securing your law firm’s digital data is one of the most important business decisions to be made, and then revisited often. Hire an IT expert and ask them to brainstorm all worst-case scenarios before planning to prevent or correct each possibility.

Although the GLBA isn’t necessarily enforceable, your professional ethics are, and security is particularly vital to the long-term success of law practices that handle financial-based activities. Handle your client’s data with care – in the long run, using best practices for secure technology makes your job easier.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

The Silver Lining: How Cloud Computing Can Increase Your Firm’s Productivity

The Silver Lining: How Cloud Computing Can Increase Your Firm’s Productivity on bossreporting.com

Cloud computing offers many benefits

The cloud gives users the ability to share and store large files, backup and sync files across multiple computers, and access, edit, or undelete content from virtually anywhere, without having storage servers, IT maintenance contracts, or even advanced technical knowledge.

Since law firms rely on filing systems full of important data and are dependent on that information being organized and accessible, cloud storage is an ideal option. Whether you prefer to go paperless or desire the convenience of having your files with you anywhere you have internet access, the cloud offers a safe and easily scalable opportunity to streamline the storage and retrieval of the information necessary to run your business from where you are.

What it is

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), gives the following definition: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

In layperson’s terms, cloud computing allows you to use an Internet connection to access software that is stored on someone else’s computer systems. Then the cloud computing provider uses shared computer resources to deliver information to you, the user. The result is that you can access the same software and files found on your desktop computer on any device with an internet connection.

Most lawyers have been using cloud computing in their law offices for years. For instance, if you use Westlaw or LexisNexis for research, you’re conducting that task in the cloud. Same with web-based email platforms like Gmail. Transitioning to a cloud-based software system means you’d be using similar storage for your practice’s files.

What to know

So, what are the ethical and legal implications of storing confidential information in the cloud?

The American Bar Association published a chart of ethics opinions on whether or not lawyers can use cloud-based storage. No states have said no, many have said yes, and some are still undecided and have no official verdict. There’s an expectation that attorneys use “reasonable care” with this form of file storage but what does that entail?

For example, the Ohio Bar gives four factors for lawyers to use to determine if cloud storage is appropriate:

  1. Competently selecting a vendor: A lawyer selecting any support services should do their due diligence into the qualifications and reputation of any selected service. Do research into the longevity and professionalism of a cloud storage vendor and read terms and conditions carefully. What safeguards are in place? Is the agreement legally enforceable? Does it give any ownership of the data to the vendor? Where is the server located and is it subject to international law? How may the vendor respond to government attempts to disclose said data? Consider all the above before committing to a service.
  2. Preserving confidentiality: A lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information. Can the vendor be trusted to safeguard the information? What technology issues may put confidential information at risk and how can that be avoided? Is there an alternate plan for particularly sensitive information that could be at-risk on shared servers?
  3. Supervising cloud vendors: Law firms must make reasonable efforts to ensure that non-lawyers employed to provide a service are compatible with the professional obligations of a lawyer. The contract or terms and conditions of the cloud storage service should make it clear that confidentiality will be safeguarded appropriately and that contracts are enforceable.
  4. Communicating with clients: It’s a lawyer’s duty to reasonably consult with the client about how the client’s objectives will be met. Although it may not be necessary in every case to disclose personal information is being stored on a cloud-based server, there may be particularly sensitive occurrences where consultation and/or disclosure of cloud storage is appropriate.

The keys to successful cloud-based storage in a law practice involve finding a trusted and competent vendor and developing an organized method for storing and retrieving files. Cloud-based computing can increase productivity through increased access, safeguard information in a third-party location, and reduce the cumbersome burden of traditional paper filing systems. Explore the alternate dimension of cloud-based storage and learn how to streamline the information that powers your law practice safely.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Virtual Attorney’s Office: Take Your Law Practice Online

Virtual Attorney’s Office: Take Your Law Practice Online on bossreporting.com

The benefits of going virtual

More and more aspects of life are moving into a virtual space – entertainment, education, banking, public records, shopping, and even social lives. The increasing normalcy of conducting life and business online is changing daily routines, redefining the idea of community, and revolutionizing workforces.

The legal industry places great importance on tradition and formality, and as a result, is often slow to adopt changes that involve technology or anything perceived as unconventional.

However, as the world evolves into online spaces, many law firms are seeing the advantages of a virtual practice.

Linking up

The world wide web is making the world both bigger and smaller; information is endless, the audience is vast, but all of it is so easily interconnected. Everyone and everything is online these days.

The global population of Internet users reached an incredible 4 billion as of April 2018 – there is simply no brick and mortar location with that kind of reach.

An online law practice has greater scalability, is more mobile and efficient, and significantly reduces upfront costs and monthly expenses.

Logging in

The American Bar Association’s 2016 Tech Report defines a virtual law firm as having a lack of traditional office space, heavy web-based interactions, minimal in-person client contact, unbundled legal services, and secure client portals.

Although a lack of traditional office space can seem like an intimidating and impractical shift, there are many benefits to adopting such an alternative business model, such as:

  • Scalability: Utilizing virtual space can broaden your business’s horizons. Burton Law Firm is a good case study of a successful online practice. Rather than one brick-and-mortar location, their attorneys work from virtual hubs across the country. Although the firm is based in Ohio, they have attorneys and clients in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Kentucky. Their ability to work from anywhere helps attract top talent and is convenient for their clients.
  • Mobility: Practicing law involves a lot of work and requires hours of research, communication, presenting, and planning. Advances in technology like cloud-based services and tablets help keep all aspects of business organized in one central location and allow accessibility anywhere from an airplane to the courtroom, improving efficiency and productivity regardless of where you are.
  • Affordability: Aside from the obvious benefit of avoiding the upfront investment of establishing a brick-and-mortar legal practice, an online practice reduces costs in small ways that add up, such as the ability to go paperless, reduce support staff, and eliminate utility bills.
  • Flexibility: Being able to work from anywhere allows attorneys to innovate and create a better work/life balance. One of the concerns about opening an online practice involves meeting clients. Virtual workspaces have gained popularity in cities across the country. These fully furnished meeting spaces often have receptionists, conference rooms, and quiet spaces to conduct business in a professional setting, so you can work from home when it’s convenient but have a more traditional space as needed.

Powering up

If you’re considering opening a virtual space, make sure you have a solid plan for streamlining client communication and securing information. An organization is key if your business is based online. Carefully research the following options to keep your virtual law practice running smoothly:

  • Cloud computing: Cloud sharing services allow users to instantly store, share, and retrieve documents from any location where they can access the internet. Think of it as a mobile file cabinet with limitless space. Find a secure service that works for you and create a workflow around filing important information.
  • Law practice management software: A secure client portal helps keep client communication organized and has the added benefit of instilling confidence about your professionalism. Exchanging documents, setting appointments, accepting online payments, and sending and receiving messages makes life easier for both you and your clients.
  • Digital records and legal tools: Gone are the days of massive physical law libraries – case law, judgments, and other legal records are available with a few taps on a tablet. Detailed data and investigative tools enable firms to build better cases anywhere and anytime with access to a range of public, proprietary, and behavioral information.

As more businesses transition from storefront to a webpage, support for online professionals continues to grow. From shared workspaces to cloud-based software, productivity is possible from anywhere on the planet. Reach a broader audience, grow without constraints, and deliver top-notch service to your clients through technology with a virtual law practice.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

How Attorneys Can Use Social Media in Due Diligence

How Attorneys Can Use Social Media in Due Diligence on bossreporting.com

In today’s world, a lot of living is done online

People share everything from their breakfast to their love life on social media, and the collection and curation of that data can result in a fairly accurate profile regarding who a person is, what they like, where they go, when they went, and even provide insight into the lives and involvement of their friends and family.

Almost everyone these days has some sort of electronic footprint, and this trail of willingly offered and easily available information is a valuable research tool, particularly for those in the legal industry.

When it comes to proving guilt or innocence, social media can corroborate alibis, verify evidence, cross reference testimony, and vet potential jurors, witnesses, and clients.

A new use for the search bar

According to the American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Survey, 21 percent of lawyers sift through social media for evidence during case investigations. This number is expected to grow exponentially as court rulings establish precedents around the authentication and admissibility of online interactions.

The evolution of technology is assisting attorneys in the endeavor of accessing online activity, with industry-targeted software that mines social media data and makes analyses and predictions based on its findings. The resulting information can streamline the jury selection process by identifying potential bias or help to assess the veracity of evidence or testimony.

A legal proceeding’s successful outcome often comes down to who has the right information at the right time, and social media can be your best source for finding it.

Online activity as evidence

Social media accounts reflect who we are and can provide a better understanding of a person or a situation when used in legal proceedings.

Online activity had an impact on the following cases:

  • Personal Injury Claim: Opposing counsel checked the Myspace and Facebook pages of a plaintiff who was suing Weis Markets for damages over a leg injury that was allegedly impairing his health and ability to enjoy life. Photographs posted on social media proved that the employee rode and performed stunts on his motorcycle, activity that was at odds with his claims of injury. The pictures also showed the employee wearing shorts, which was significant because he had claimed in his deposition that he was too embarrassed to do so after the accident. Visible scarring in the photographs confirmed that they were taken after the injury. Ultimately, the plaintiff’s posts disproved his personal injury claim.
  • Proof of Alibi: After spending two weeks in jail for a mugging in Brooklyn, the father of a teenage defendant discovered a Facebook status update his son had made one minute before the crime. The post was written from their Harlem apartment, which was 12 miles away from the scene of the mugging. The boy’s father contacted the district attorney with the evidence, who then submitted a subpoena to Facebook to verify the location the status was posted. The time stamp and location absolved the teenager and charges were dropped.
  • Alimony Evidence: A man sought alimony payments from his ex-wife, claiming unemployment. However, his Facebook page told another story – with posts bragging about owning his own business and albums showing off trips to Las Vegas, South America, and Sea World with his new girlfriend. The ex-wife’s attorney used the posts as evidence to discredit him, and he was denied support.
  • Custody Dispute: Facebook posts damaged the credibility of a father seeking guardianship during a custody case. Crude status updates and photos demonstrated a disregard for the best interest of the child and a lack of consideration for the mother, who was eventually granted guardianship.

Send and submit

According to Jennifer Ellis of Lowenthal & Abrams PC, and Michael Maschke of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., consider the following when introducing social media as evidence: “Is it relevant? Is it more probative than prejudicial? Is there a hearsay problem or exception? And, is it authentic?” Those questions reference Federal Rules 401-402, 403, and 901-902 and are an appropriate starting point when determining admissibility.

A savvy attorney knows the value of utilizing technology to maximize productivity and recognizes the importance of being fully prepared before trial. Social media is an effective tool for performing due diligence and might end up acting as the missing piece of your client’s puzzle.

Looking for more technology tips and tricks to make your job easier? Check the Boss Reporting Blog and upgrade your practice.

Best Jury in a Hurry: Tech to Help Improve the Jury Selection Process

Best Jury in a Hurry: Tech to Help Improve the Jury Selection Process on bossreporting.com

Jury selection is a critical part of the trial process

A lot of planning and effort goes into pre-trial preparation, and the jury selection process doesn’t seem to get the planning time and thorough consideration that it deserves.

A client’s right to a jury of his or her peers is guaranteed by The Constitution, making it a sacred part of American democracy, and the members of that jury are going to have a life-changing impact once they deliver their verdict.

So, attorneys are tasked with the heavy burden of choosing the most appropriate people for the job – without having a full range of information regarding who these people are and if they are suitable for the task at hand. This is particularly difficult for two reasons:

  1. The group of prospects often wants to be anywhere but there and are often misrepresenting their true selves to avoid being part of the trial process.
  2. The attorney is pressured to make a huge decision that will affect a client’s fate with very little information to go on, thanks to random selection, reluctant prospects, and limited data.

When selecting juries, lawyers and judges use a process known as voir dire which is Latin for “to speak the truth.” The judge and both attorneys ask questions to determine the competency and suitability of prospective jurors.

The questions can include general inquiries directed at the entire pool of prospects or specific questions asked of individuals to determine potential bias.

Based on the answers, the prosecution or defense can object to a juror. Each lawyer may request the dismissal of an unlimited number of potential jurors for cause. (For example, if they have prior knowledge of the case or are prejudiced against the case in some manner.)

Each lawyer also has a specific number of peremptory challenges that allow them to excuse a juror without stating a cause.

The information gathered during voir dire is vital to the potential outcome. However, asking the right questions, or even deciding what the right questions are, and organizing the answers in a way that helps select jury candidates can be a cumbersome and timely process.

Jury profiling

In a world where marketing companies, social media platforms, and political campaigns routinely utilize personal information to learn more about their audiences, it seems that the legal industry is behind the times when it comes to using publicly available data to understand their jurors. However, the jury selection process is evolving into a more streamlined and effective experience thanks to similar data-based technology.

Data brokers buy information that private companies collect, often when customers hit the “I agree” button on a website, use a loyalty card, or agree to terms and conditions. They also mine social media activity for information based on likes, comments, follows, and engagement. This is all legal, and often creates a very comprehensive profile of the consumer.

Before a trial, both attorneys usually obtain the names of potential jurors on the day of jury selection. Cross-referencing those names with big data and predictive analytics sources can provide invaluable information about their suitability for the case.

Data delivery

Software that utilizes artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and data mining from online activity can make jury selection a more precise pre-trial process. Jury Mapping and Voltaire are two options that are popular with attorneys who utilize such big data services.

A quick search of the Apple App Store reveals that there is also an assortment of apps designed for attorneys that don’t include the data component but can help with jury selection by organizing the information gathered during voir dire and rating each potential juror based on their answers.

Jury selection is important for many reasons, and any tool that enables an attorney to be more efficient and strategic is a worthy investment. To find out more technology tips and tricks for trial preparation, check out our blog.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

Reporting for Duty: Skills Court Reporters Need to Know

Reporting for Duty: Skills Court Reporters Need to Know on bossreporting.com

Court reporting is a job that involves a specialized skill set.

Like most positions, most of the task-based duties can (and will) be taught as part of the required education. However, certain personality-based traits are necessary for success. If those traits aren’t an inherent part of your personality, and you’re not interested in cultivating them, court reporting may not be the right fit for you.

Although at first glance the court reporter’s role may not seem all that important in the larger production of legal proceedings, their job is actually incredibly important to the process. They capture history in the making through the spoken word and create a record of an event that has significant importance to the people involved.

Character fitness

The most successful and sought-after court reporters work hard to develop or refine certain character traits and skills to perform consistently as a professional. People who are naturally inclined toward the following traits will have an easier transition, but anyone with passion and perseverance can adopt the following:

  • Discretion: As a court reporter, you’re often privy to the most interesting, explicit, entertaining, devastating, and most important, confidential details of fascinating situations several times a day. As a social being, it’s hard not to turn your work gossip into cocktail party fodder, but as a professional, it’s imperative that you honor the confidentiality of your clients. Don’t forget that professionalism is more important than popularity.
  • Objectivity: Although it may be human nature to assign blame and make character judgments, a good court reporter must be impartial and objective. Your duty is to report proceedings in a professional capacity and accurately detail what goes on. Becoming emotionally involved or distracted by a case will only do more harm than good.
  • Composure: There’s a certain degree of mental fortitude required as a court reporter. You will be exposed to evidence, testimony, and media that is both graphic and disturbing and you have to be able to carry on with your job – and your life – with composure. To carry out the work with accuracy and diligence, you’ll have to leave your emotions outside of the courtroom and be capable of mentally stepping away from whatever you witnessed at work when you go home.
  • Organized: You must be early and prepared for every single case, no excuses or exceptions. And five minutes early isn’t early enough – anything could happen to transform a five-minute head start into a fifteen-minute delay. Mornings must be planned to the minute, with every possible issue (from clothing choices to equipment failure to traffic) accounted for in order to be perfectly prepared as proceedings begin. Being a court reporter requires attention to detail, both on and off the clock.
  • Diligence: As with any new skill, becoming a court reporter requires ongoing effort. You have to be the kind of professional who perseveres and consistently works towards the goal of self-improvement. Whether it’s practicing grammar, transcription, or the stenograph machine, there’s always room for personal and professional growth, and you should value any opportunity to do so.

By the book

The items listed above are mostly character traits, and you’ll be more of a natural fit for the job if you already embody those qualities, however, with willingness and a conscious effort, you can practice those values and still excel.

There are also task-based skills that can be mastered with education, training, and practice. A court reporter always needs to improve upon:

  • Business etiquette: This is true for any line of work, but decorum is especially important in legal settings. Dress professionally, understand how to introduce yourself and others, and maintain professional conversation and composure.
  • Language skills: As a court reporter, you must produce a written transcript, so your grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills are vital to your success. You have to be able to hear what someone is saying and quickly transcribe it with few typos and proper punctuation in order to be successful. Quick thinking, good listening, and a solid understanding of language is
  • Customer service: As with any other industry, good customer service is key to getting repeat business and establishing trust. If you can anticipate the needs of your clients, arrive on time, and provide accurate transcripts, you’ll be well on your way to building good working relationships.
  • Shorthand writing skills: Writing machine shorthand is a specialized skill that requires some degree of talent for learning it. Higher levels of certification are a great way to increase your skills, as they require more knowledge and the ability to write at higher speeds accurately.

Court reporting is rewarding work if you’re ready, willing, and able to foster the skills necessary to go beyond certification and into the courtroom. If you’re interested in learning more, read more about what prospective court reporters should know on the Boss Reporting blog.

Let’s Get Technical: The Best Tech to Improve Your Law Practice

Let’s Get Technical: The Best Tech to Improve Your Law Practice on bossreporting.com

Keeping up with advances in technology is no longer optional

Technology can feel like a blessing and a curse all at once. Sure, it streamlines daily tasks and keeps information organized, but it also requires constant updating and understanding; staff needs training, new procedures must be implemented, updates must be processed, and hardware requires maintenance. And it’s all constantly evolving. As soon as you master one platform, something more sophisticated comes along.

However, one quick glance at shelves of those old school-style reference books can make you that much more grateful for the magic of the internet.

The to-do list

Successful integration of technology in a legal practice involves understanding your needs and finding what fits.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, legal assistants and paralegal spend most of their day doing the following tasks:

  • Gathering information and facts relevant to the case
  • Researching related laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organizing hard-copy or digital documents
  • Finding and organizing evidence and documents for case preparation
  • Summarizing reports or information for attorney review and trial preparation
  • Drafting legal documents and correspondence to and for clients
  • Preparing affidavits and other formal statements to be used in court
  • Assisting attorneys by managing exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing transcripts
  • Filing exhibits, briefs, appeals, and other legal documents
  • Calling and transmitting messages to and from clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors

The tech toolbox

Luckily, tools exist that enable all of the above to be done more efficiently and effectively. The key is to narrow down what works for your office, integrate it into your workflow, and master its functions.

Word processing:

Although it may seem like word processing is too obvious, and ubiquitous, to include, it’s too important to leave out of a list like this. Microsoft, Google Docs, and Open Office are the more obvious choices, and all work as intended, but have your staff dig deep to learn shortcuts, formatting tips, and helpful hints like creating and working with templates. Re-inventing the wheel by formatting each form letter is a waste of productivity.

Also become familiar with adding bookmarks or comments during drafts and revisions to make editing or highlighting important points easier.

Online research:

Google is great, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s not the end-all of research and shouldn’t be treated as such. When it comes to legal research and case law, scholarly software like LexisNexis, Google Scholar, Westlaw is invaluable tools for digging deeper into data.

Gather verified information with confidence through these sources and spend less time vetting google search results.

Billing software:

Invoicing can get complicated, particularly when you’re billing by the hour. A trustworthy timekeeping software program is imperative to your financial success. Check reviews and compare programs like Elite, Tabs3, Clio, and Abacus before making a commitment.

Although reviews from other paralegals and professionals are helpful, you’ll ultimately have to choose whichever interface and features feel comfortable.

Document management systems:

Paperwork can create a constant sense of chaos if not properly managed, even if your firm has gone paperless. Many are choosing digital documents over hard copies because they are more organized, easier to search, and saves physical space.

Another advantage is that when you’re using cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive, important documents are also wherever you need them as long as you have an internet connection and your log-in information.

Presentation software:

PowerPoint or Google Slides are both popular choices for the creation of presentations. Although both are fairly intuitive and easy to maneuver, their abilities go much deeper than surface-level and learning what they can do adds polish and professionalism to your presentations.

Whether it’s creating 3D timelines or incorporating graphs, sometimes you don’t know which tools you need until you know those tools exist, so check out some YouTube tutorials for more tips and tricks.

It’s not really that technology is difficult, it’s more than it feels like there is a lot to learn and manage. Narrow down your job duties and maximize your skills to match what’s truly necessary and let technology help take care of your to-do list.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Law and Order: The Evolution of Professional Etiquette

Law and Order: The Evolution of Professional Etiquette on bossreporting.com

Times they are a-changin’ – but do manners remain the same?

There is no doubt that professional etiquette is important; a certain level of decorum is expected, particularly in the legal profession. After all, if you want to be respected, it’s important to be respectable, and manners help make and sustain a favorable impression.

However, society seems increasingly casual. Does that mean it’s acceptable to lower the standards of etiquette? In a world of smartphones, internet slang, dress down days, and digital everything, it may sometimes seem that formality and tradition make you an outsider.

Mind your manners

Generally, rules are like vegetables – good for you regardless of if you enjoy them. Etiquette is usually established to encourage a polite society; for making people feel as if they are a collaborative part of the community, and like their presence is important.

Whether you’re talking to your assistant, a prospective client, or a judge or jury, professional etiquette gives you the polish that commands attention and lays down subtle ground rules that indicate how you would like to be treated in return. Here are some etiquette rules that are non-negotiable:

  • Make an appearance: Your clothing is your first line of defense when it comes to presenting yourself as a respectable professional – dressing like a professional is also easy enough to manage. In the legal profession, overdressing is better than underdressing when you’re on the job. Establish the idea that you take your work seriously by dressing the part.
  • Solid introduction: Be bold about introducing yourself; be the first to offer up your name and a firm handshake in new social situations. Casually repeat the person’s name back to them in the ensuing conversation – not only will it put them at ease, it will help you remember it in the future. Offer a business card and pay attention when you accept theirs; hold it in both hands, and read it (polite, and again, a good mental cue for future recall) before putting it into your purse or wallet. Many may think business cards are becoming outdated in a world of digital data, but their continued use helps establish a professional impression, particularly as they become rare.
  • Respect your staff: Don’t forget that your employees make your everyday life easier through their work, which is reason enough to treat them well, but they also have inside information on the type of person you really are and can become your ally or enemy when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. Say “please” and “thank you,” practice patience, put your earbuds and phone away in the presence of others, and be generous when expressing appreciation.
  • Phone etiquette: Not only should you handle calls professionally, but you should also manage your smartphone. Don’t check the internet, silence your ringer to avoid interruptions via notification, and give the person in front of you your full and undivided attention. One slightly evolving trend in business is the use of text messaging – for appropriate purposes (scheduling and follow-up, for instance), and with the use of professional language and grammar, text messages are no longer taboo.
  • Value time: Time is money, and as someone who likely bills by the hour, you know the full weight of that statement. Arrive early, RSVP promptly, communicate needs and expectations quickly, and understand that there is no such thing as “fashionably late.” Respect the time and attention of others, and they will be more likely to do the same.
  • Watch your words: Act with integrity both on and off the clock. Don’t gossip to ingratiate yourself to others, and proceed with great caution when it comes to getting involved in hot-button topics like religion or politics. If you participate on social media, be careful about what you post – attorneys have been fined for publicly insulting judges. Make sure what you share is informative, factual, polite, and professional; your career could depend on it. Also, be sure to carefully proofread your emails for appropriate tone, timing, and grammar. Although online communication can feel casual, email etiquette is still important.

Professional etiquette doesn’t differ drastically from the basic rules of respect you learned in elementary school: be kind, follow the rules, keep yourself tidy, say “please” and “thank you,” and respect the time, space, and attention of others.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Trial and Error: Polish Up Your Presentation

Trial and Error: Polish Up Your Presentation on bossreporting.com

Practice makes perfect

The statement practice makes perfect is true in any skill-based endeavor, and being a successful attorney requires a combination of talents including knowledge, endurance, persuasion, improvisation, eloquence, and charisma.

From that initial client meeting to the culmination of events that occurs in the courtroom, there are plenty of opportunities for professional improvement, and you may be doing yourself and your clients a disservice by not challenging yourself to grow through practicing your skills.

Although it’s easy to feel like your work day is long enough, or that rehearsing may make your performance feel stale or contrived, practicing is the perfect way to polish up your presentation skills and is an investment that will pay off.

Private practice

You probably do know what to say, you most likely even know how to say it, but pushing yourself past your pre-established limits through the act of practice makes your clients safer, your cases stronger, and eventually, your job easier.

So, what are we talking about here? Practicing your closing statement in the shower? Actually – yes. Setting aside ten minutes a day where you can incorporate the improvement of your presentation skills while otherwise occupied is the perfect way to hold yourself to it. Set the timer on your phone and practice in traffic; better yet, turn on your audio recorder so you can give yourself accurate feedback afterward.

Peer pressure

More formal options for practicing your presentation would include focus groups and mock trials. Remember, practicing is not just for amateurs – every case and client is different, and each audience is unique, whether it be judge or jury. Getting feedback from a diverse group about not only the case but also your options for presenting it can be invaluable.

A focus group should be utilized early and often during trial preparation to gather information and gauge reaction, and it involves recruiting several people to provide feedback on both sides of the case being presented, as well as the methods for doing so.

Typically, participants are given the opening or closing statements, or paragraphs of information relating to the case, and asked for their informal opinion, without receiving instruction on the law in question or learning the full background of the case.

This is a casual process and can be worked on independently by the participants through reading the given data versus a full in-person production. The feedback is an important part of the preparation process and can assist attorneys in structuring their arguments.

Trial run

Mock trials are a more formal approach and are also harder to organize. Think of a mock trial as a dress rehearsal – a focus group is utilized to help you organize your strategies for maximum effectiveness; a mock trial helps you refine, polish, and predict possible outcomes.

Ideally taking place in a simulated courtroom setting, a mock trial should include acting attorneys and a judge. Participants may get to listen to opening and closing statements, hear simulated testimony from witnesses or experts, evaluate potential evidence, and deliberate on a verdict.

Afterward, participants are asked about presentation techniques, the believability of witnesses, their opinions of evidence, and what was important during deliberations. For maximum effectiveness, participants can even be split into two test groups to experiment on the appeal of different approaches to a closing statement.

Focus groups and mock trials are both excellent methods to get a preview of your presentation in front of a pretend jury of peers so you can refine your methods for maximum impact.

Of course, all the above takes time, effort, and energy – valuable commodities that seem all too scarce on top of a regular workload. In order to ease the burden of additional job duties (and decrease the dread involved with the idea of practicing), delegate the set-up of focus groups and mock trials to a staff member, recruit family members and friends, or ask for volunteers among interns and undergrads.

Make these exercises a regular part of your calendar and challenge yourself to improve on a personal level. After all, that’s why it’s called a law “practice” and not a law “perfect.”

Looking for more information to improve your practice? Check out the Boss Reporting blog for Three Ways to Hook and Capture Attention in Presentations.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Why Law Firms Should Consider Text Messaging to Communicate

Why Law Firms Should Consider Text Messaging to Communicate on bossreporting.com

The benefits of texting

Clear communication is crucial to all relationships, but it is particularly important in a professional capacity. A fluid exchange of ideas increases productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction – three key components that bring ease to any workday.

Although a certain degree of decorum is expected, effectively conveying your intended message should be more important than the medium used for delivery.

And in today’s modern world where convenience reigns supreme, text messaging is becoming more popular as a professional tool – but is it appropriate for a law firm?

The evidence

Statistics show that 81 percent of Americans use text messaging daily, with texts being twice as popular as calls. The reality is that text messaging is easier to manage than direct person-to-person contact; texting is often faster, more discrete, and easier to respond to than a phone call.

Many businesses are using that trend to their advantage, not only to make the customer experience more convenient but also to streamline their own efforts. Good communication is whatever works, right?

Emails often go unread, calls are likely sent to voicemail, but texts are usually seen immediately and are replied to faster than either.

Although it can be seen as a negative versus a positive, exchanging text messages can lend a more casual and personal feel to an exchange. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice professionalism – it just gives the illusion of easy access and availability.

As attorney Kendra Stephen told Forbes: “You want to communicate with your clients in a manner they are comfortable with. If your client likes texting, use it. It’s all about keeping your client happy. I would recommend discussing methods of communication in the engagement letter.”

Case in point

Now how would this work in the practice of law? The most obvious answers involve scheduling appointments, issuing updates, and sending reminders about documents that need to be dropped off or signed. Not only are you more likely to receive confirmation but there’s also something about seeing dates, time, and follow-ups in the text that may make a client more likely to remember.

It also creates an easily followed trail of data in case there’s any doubt that the information was shared.

There are also a variety of software programs for professionals that allow texts to be sent and received through business landlines, and that can sync up with appointment scheduling tools to help organize the process.

Another possibility is text message marketing. A 2015 ruling by the Florida Bar decided that attorneys could reach out to prospective clients via SMS within certain parameters such as:

  • Firms must wait 30 days after an accident to send a solicitation
  • Messages must disclose how contact information was obtained
  • Messages must state that it is an advertisement
  • The sender must pay any costs incurred by the recipient as a result of the text
  • Recipient must have the ability to opt-out of future text messages
  • Messages must instruct the recipient to disregard if they already have representation

Laws vary by state, so check with the state bar about possibilities and restrictions if you’re considering a text message marketing campaign.

The verdict

Ultimately, it’s about the client and finding the best way to communicate with them. If they prefer texting to fit their schedule, it’s best to accommodate. Finding success in business – and life – often requires meeting people where they are at and establishing a comfortable relationship through trust and availability.

The trend of communicating through text message is more deeply engrained into our culture by the day, and refusing to utilize that valuable tool may not only be doing your business a disservice, but also the very people you are trying to reach and serve. Text messaging is no longer limited to informal dialog among friends; when used with careful consideration and a focused intention, SMS can help organize your communication efforts and introduce more ease into your business and the lives of your clients.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!