5 Computer and Technology Tips for Lawyers

Over the years, I’ve found myself offering the same computer and technology tips when approached by attorneys seeking advice about using online tools to the benefit of their law practices. Below you’ll find my technology tips regarding blogging platforms, business card and logo design, and RSS Feed readers, among other things. Since I’ve oft-repeated these technology tips to so many lawyers in so many different contexts figured it was worthwhile to collect them in one blog post.

(At the outset, please note that I receive nothing for my endorsement of the technology and computer products that follow–I’m just a huge fan of these tools).

1. Buy Apple

If you’re just starting your law practice and thus don’t have existing legacy systems in place, invest in Apple computers. You won’t regret it. I bought my first Macbook laptop computer in 2007, after using PCs my entire life and I’ve never looked back. I know it sounds cliché, but Apple computers simply work the way they’re supposed to and that makes all the difference.

Once you’ve bought an Apple computer, the first thing you need to do is enable your MacBook track pad to right click or learn how to right click using your iMac.   Then, print out this cheat sheet provided by Apple and carry it around with you for the first week: Switch 101: On Windows I used to… It will ease the transition process and you’ll find yourself acclimated to your new Apple computer in no time.

Finally, make sure to join the Macs in Law Offices Google group so that you’ll always have available a friendly support group of very knowledgeable Apple-using lawyers and computer IT specialists.

2. Learn basic HTML

Why should you gain a rudimentary knowledge of HTML computer language? Because if you have a blog or a website, it will come in handy when you encounter bugs. This is because sometimes the user interface just doesn’t work the way it should because a bit of strange coding was thrown into the mix by the platform. So you even though you want the bolded text to end, it doesn’t. If you understand the basics of HTML you can just review the underlying coding and you’ll see that there is code missing that tells the program to end the bolded letters (ie. </b>).

So take my advice, learn the very basics of HTML. It’ll save you a lot of computer and blogging headaches down the road.

3. Use Vistaprint for your logo and business cards

When you first start your own law firm, save money by using Vistaprint to design your law firm’s logo and to supply your business cards. First of all, the first 250 business cards for free and it’s easy to find additional online coupons for subsequent orders.

And you can design a decent logo at a very reasonable price for your business cards, website or blog using Vistaprint’s logo design service. For example, I used Vistaprint to create the lawtechTalk logo.

Once your law practice is more established and you have more money available to spend, consider higher end business cards and possibly hiring someone to create a logo for your law firm. But in the meantime, Vistaprint should do nicely.

4. Use Typepad for blogging

Although many web designers and some blogging lawyers prefer WordPress, I’ve been a fan of Typepad from the very start. I’ve blogged using WordPress, Tumblr and Typepad blogs and prefer the Typepad blogging interface by far. It’s intuitive, easy to use and inherently flexible. Unlike Tumblr, it’s s snap to add items to your sidebars and you never have to worry about adding updates or plug-ins to the platform like you do with WordPress. Also, it’s easy to customize your blog and this blogging platform integrates well with other web-based tools and platforms.

Another benefit is that you can actually design a functional website using Typepad. It’s not difficult to do at all. I just chose created pages within my blog for the different pages of my website.

So definitely consider using Typepad as your blogging platform for your law firm. It’s easy to use and is a relative bargain at just $8.95 per month for one blog or $14.95 per month for unlimited blogs.

5. Use Feedly as your RSS feed reader

I wrote about the benefits of Feedly in 2009. Everything I said then holds true now. It’s still one of the web-based tools that I rely upon the most.

If you’re not familiar with RSS feed readers, they are web-based applications through which you can subscribe to the RSS feeds of various websites. Feed readers are important because they simplify your life and bring information relevant to your  interests directly to you, in one place. This can be very useful for lawyers since it makes it easy for you to stay abreast of information relevant to your areas of practice.

Feedly is a browser add on. Once you install it, you subscribe to blogs and you can then organize your various subscriptions into different categories. The content appears in an easy to read, magazine-like interface. As you open up each item you have the option of sharing it across your various social networks.

One thing that makes Feedly so useful is that it “learns” as you interact with it and serves up the most relevant content based on your usage habits.

Another nice feature is that, as you surf the Web, content can be shared quickly via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter using a mini-tool bar at the very bottom righthand corner of each Web page.

Finally, it’s available for use on your mobile devices (iPhone, iPad and Android devices) and syncs your subscriptions across devices.

So, there you have it. A round up of the computer and technology tips and tricks I find myself sharing the most. I hope you find a few of them to be useful!

(photo: Close-up of typing male hands from Shutterstock)

Legal Technology

, , , , , ,

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    I just logged into TypePad for the first time in months, to try to figure out what you see in it. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I don’t get it. If I didn’t want to deal with updates, I would just use WordPress.com and pay $13–25 per year for a custom domain.

  • http://www.mycase.com/ Nicole Black

    Sam–I find it much easier to create a blog, add items to the sidebars, add images to posts, etc. Overall I just prefer the interface. And every time I work with WordPress blogs, they just seem buggy to me. Something always seems to go wrong, not work the way I would expect it to, etc. Overall Typepad just seems more user-friendly to me. I guess it’s just personal preference!

  • http://www.AschemanSmith.com Landon Ascheman

    I was with you up until point (1). Probably just a difference on preference, but I use a PC for my firm, it’s simple and easy to use, and most software is made for it. Most government offices I’ve worked at use PCs and although it probably has something to do with the cost (they do get the cheap ones), overall they work really well.

    I would say go with the OS that works for you, but be aware of what your office and opposing parties use, and be ready for some formatting issues (not nearly as common anymore, but it happens).

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      It’s definitely a preference. If you want to be on the cutting edge, a Mac is probably the better option. They are also durable, and the customer support experience is generally top notch.

      If you just want something that gets the job done, Windows-based PCs are fine.

  • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave S

    I tried Vistaprint for business cards 2 years ago. The cards came back a weird small size- they were thinner and smaller than normal and the color was not the right shade (I selected blue and it looked purple). They wouldn’t give me a refund- only a partial credit to buy more stuff from them. I ended up trashing the cards and never using the “credit”. It was a waste of money. Maybe it was just an isolated bad experience.

    I recently ordered cards through Staples. They did a great job, the cards came back looking very good. Very reasonably priced.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I’m a happy VistaPrint customer. They’ve done a fine job on numerous orders for different cards. Then again, my cards have all been extremely simple and straightforward. If I were trying to do anything fancy or complicated, I’d find a local print shop.

  • http://attorneysusa.com Brent Rose

    These tips are probably good for a lawyer working alone out of his or her home, but using Macs and Typepad for even a small firm will probably just lead to issues. No major legal software is written primarily for Mac, so you end up running in Windows emulation mode, and then you have to ask yourself, what’s the point? It’s true that Apple has fewer technical concerns, but you’ll have more problems trying to kluge your system together in a PC world, and you’ll get tired of hearing tech support people say these like, “We don’t recommend that our product run on a Mac” or your computer people say, “I’m not sure your server will run right over Appletalk.”

    To my knowledge, there’s no “PCs in the Law Office” Google group. There is probably a reason for that.

    • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

      We run our brick and mortar law practice almost entirely off Apple. There are very few programs you can’t get on a Mac now; this isn’t 1997. There are tons of programs and features you can only get on a Mac, too.

      I keep a PC laptop as a backup, but we’ve needed it about once in six months. There was some software needed for a social security case.

      Having used both PCs and Macs, I’d definitely say Macs are better for business. Especially if you’re doing a lot of work where you PDF a lot of stuff. PCs are fine (you don’t need a Mac) but Apple is my preference.

  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

    1. Yes. Totally agree. Building your firm around Apple, if you can afford it, is a good decision. All their stuff just works. It’s intuitive.

    2. Yes. Totally agree.

    3. Totally agree for a startup firm. My first business cards were through VistaPrint and it carried us through the tough times.

    However, once we started making money, we hired a designer to create our logo and went with high end business cards. In my opinion, this was a good investment.

    That said, if you’re a startup firm with little money, invest in other stuff first. Get VistaPrint business cards. Once you’re making money, spend some of it on nice business cards. Not a necessity, but a nice luxury.

    Also, VistaPrint makes great address labels. Just get something simple with your address on them.

    4. I like WordPress. But I don’t know much about other stuff.

    5. I don’t know what this is.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      But do you prefer chocolate to vanilla? Because if you do, then I do too.

  • http://en.gravatar.com/jtepoorten Jason TEPOORTEN

    Thanks for the tip on enabling the one-finger right click using the track pad. I’ve always used the key and pressed the trackpad. For , I’ve used the .

    • http://en.gravatar.com/jtepoorten Jason TEPOORTEN

      I meant to simulate a “Del” key, use “Fn”+”Backspace”. I didn’t expect my comment to appear crossed out.