Legal tech coach Adriana Linares unveils a new format for New Solo with a new ask-the-expert segment, pairing a veteran practitioner with a new solo.
First, Linares welcomes guest Brad Reeser to review his firm’s shift to a cloud-based practice management solution, from taking the plunge to dealing with serial complainers during implementation.
An associate at the firm, Reeser, took on overseeing the tech transition, including evaluating options, making a selection, and following through with implementation.
As they walk through the migration steps, Linares shares tips for firms evaluating cloud-based options that work best for their needs.
And kicking off our New Insights segment, Oregon solo Robert Southwell asks veteran Southern California lawyer Eric Ganci about when to opt for a bench trial over a jury trial.
Brad Reeser is an associate of Mason, Mason, Walker & Hedrick in Newport News, Virginia.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lawclerk, Alert Communications, and Abby Connect.
Case Study: Journey to the Cloud
Adriana Linares: Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors, Alert Communications, Lawclerk and Abby Connect. Your legal work requires your full attention, so how can you answer all the phone calls from new or existing clients while juggling your caseload. Try Abby Connect, the friendly industry trained live receptionists who are well known for consistently providing high quality customer service, lead intake and appointment setting to firms just like yours. Visit abby.com/ltn or call 833-ABBY-WOW for your free 14day trial and $95 off your first bill.
Adriana Linares: Hi everyone and welcome to New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I’m Adriana Linares, I’m your host. It’s a new year, New Solo has a new, let’s see, we can’t say look and feel, so I’m going to go with, New Solo has a new sound and feel, I hope you like it. We’ve got a new special segment that you’re going to hear about the middle of today’s podcast recording and I’m excited to get started with a new look and feel for the show, so I really hope you like it.
I’m a legal technology trainer and consultant. I hope lawyers and law firms use technology better, and one of the ways I get to do that is through this podcast where I invite industry experts and lawyers to give us their insights, experiences, trials, and tribulations of trying to run their own practices better or their businesses better. So today, my guest is Brad Reeser. Brad is an attorney, and Brad, remind me where your office is.
Brad Reeser: Newport News, Virginia.
Adriana Linares: Newport News, Virginia. What kind of practice do you all have?
Brad Reeser: So each individual fiefdom has a little bit different proportions to what they do, but our kind of a specialty is Longshore Act defense, which is a federal workers’ compensation statute, and then about 75 to 80% of my practice is the Longshore work, commercial litigation arising out of Longshore coverage and things, and then state and federal tort litigation. Then the remainder remaining 20 is about consumer litigation, employment litigation, commercial litigation, a nice little mix so enough to keep me interested and very busy.
Adriana Linares: Wow, that’s a really interesting specialized area of law that I don’t hear too much of so you must have a boutique firm.
Brad Reeser: I’m not sure if some if the partners are young enough to call it a boutique, but I think it is a boutique firm just because of the Longshore specialty, and it is a pretty niche — I hope I said that right, niche.
Adriana Linares: It comes up all the time on this show. We can never decide if it’s niche, niche or niche, so we’re just going to — any of them will do.
Brad Reeser: Okay, that’s good to know, kind of like voir dire or something.
Adriana Linares: Exactly.
Brad Reeser: But yeah, so different kinds of industrial employers, non-appropriated fund entities, and other kind of interesting people to work for, have that kind of need. So it’s taken me up and down the East Coast the past five years working for some really good people, and I don’t have any plans to stop doing it.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome. Tell me your full name and the firm that you work for.
Brad Reeser: Sure, so full name is Bradley Reeser and our firm is Mason, Mason, Walker & Hedrick. We’ve been around for about 35 years in Hampton Roads area. I work for three partners. We have two other associates. We have about 16 I think employees right now. Sometimes we go up or down one based on volume, but we are staying very busy even among all this COVID craziness. As you well know and the reason I’m here, we had a pretty big IT transition in 2020 and we are I think all for the better, but very much glad it’s behind us.
Adriana Linares: You’re right. The whole reason you’re here is you are — let’s see how can I put this. You play a popular role in firms that are about your size, meaning a firm that probably has less than 30 total employees including the attorneys and they don’t have a full-time IT person. So what happens a lot is change needs to be made and the older partners might look around going, not I, not I, not me, and so the gaze always tends to turn in the conference room to the young attorney in the room, and they either say, hey Brad, you’re the young whippersnapper, you can figure out this technology stuff, or the young whippersnappers will turn to the partners and say, hey, I think we’d be able to run a more efficient firm if we modernized some of our technology and infrastructure. So which side of the coin was your firm on?
Brad Reeser: I think the first one, although maybe for the past four years they probably did grow tired of me like telling them about how to use Adobe and things like that. But to be fair to my partners, they’re not my partners. I’m an associate to be clear. But in the mid to late 90s, they got this PC based case management system installed a file server. For a small firm, that was a pretty big deal back then. As you know, case management platforms and document management tools are moving to the cloud, and we eventually had to make that switch. In fact, if we didn’t make that switch, it was going to get made for us by the owner of the Abacus, the desktop-based platform. They were going to try to push us to the cloud eventually we think. That whole movement in 2020 was really spurred by some compliance issues that our clients pushed down on us. Essentially contractors for the federal government require their stuff contractors to do certain things to secure information technology. We were doing a lot of things but they weren’t really ready for like the 24-page list of really specific requirements that require not just an acceptable use policy, but an incident response plan, and all of that kind of stuff.
Adriana Linares: Security measures and role-based access that a lot of times they require you to be able to set up for users in the firm.
Brad Reeser: Oh yeah.
Adriana Linares: Okay, so there was client impetus for considering change.
Brad Reeser: Certainly.
Adriana Linares: And then you raised your hand, oh so eagerly, and said, I’ll manage this project because I have nothing better to do.
Brad Reeser: Oh, that’s pretty much how it went, not at all. So we are all at a conference room table. It’s got all the attorneys. So you’re already like not happy because it’s a meeting where all of attorneys are there.
Adriana Linares: No money is being billed right now.
Brad Reeser: Yeah, exactly right, the meter is not running. So really the other three attorneys that are the partners, they certainly didn’t have time to dedicate to the project. We’re on the bubble as a firm from being having like our kind of on-call IT guy like we have to really having a need for I think what they call a managed service provider. So someone that essentially is I guess like always available 24/7 to remote in and solve problems that are “enterprise-level”. So we decided not to go with the managed service provider and just kind of drill out all the requirements on this list. As part of doing that, we were like, well, okay, if we’re if we’re doing X, Y, and Z, we might as well pull off the Band-Aid with Abacus, and that’s what happened.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. So Abacus is an interesting product that I get a lot of calls about, and oftentimes it’s from the West Coast. So I don’t get a lot of, and I’ve said this for probably 20 years. It’s so funny. I don’t get a lot of firms east of the Mississippi that use Abacus. For some reason they’ve always been sort of on the West Coast. But when I do it’s been over the past few years that they’re not cloud-based and the migration to either their new cloud-based solution or a better solution under their guys is going to be expensive, so firms start looking around. So my question to you is how did you start looking around? Once the decision was made that maybe we should see what’s out there outside of Abacus and you’re not a full-time legal technology consultant, how did you get started? Where did you sort of point your arrow in what direction and how?
Brad Reeser: I started looking at people that specialize in migrating the data off of case management systems. So one of the first guys I talked to I think specialized in Centerbase, which is another platform. He and a bunch of other people told me all of these nightmare scenarios we were going to have with getting data out of Abacus and into a new platform. So that like led to like consults with MyCase people and like Rocket Matter. Then we eventually came to you, I think I heard you on Neil Tyra’s podcast possibly. Then I got over to your station, and when it came time to do the Clio consult, we reached out to you and we’re very glad we did.
Adriana Linares: Oh good. So all those products you mentioned are great products. What I’ll say very quickly for listeners is when a lawyer calls me or law firm calls me says, where do we start, I’ll say, look here are your top five options, and then there’s two extras, and this is probably the conversation you and I had. I said, if you want the best case management program that’s not to be too complicated and does not include accounting, start with Clio but make sure you look at Rocket Matter and MyCase. Then I’ll say, if you are insisting on having accounting built-in, look at Zola and look at CosmoLex. The other two that I’ll often mention our Actionstep and Centerbase, because they’re pretty robust, they can include accounting, they integrate with document management systems. The thing with those two products is they require a lot of customization and probably a long-term relationship with an outside consultant or someone inhouse that because the expert on the products. So when you’re trying to decide which way to go, those are the three kind of buckets to start in.
For you, I think when we talked about it, I said, you’re actually not that big, you’re already on Office 365, so you know what it’s like to have a subscription service that’s cloud-based. The other suggestion of course is or sort of the overall theme in moving to cloud-based services is you’re going to reduce that infrastructures to where you don’t necessarily need managed services as much. So I think that’s kind of where you got. I think you must have gone through those iterations through different consultants and reading different things and then ended up deciding to go with Clio.
Brad Reeser: Yeah, and it came down to Rocket Matter and Clio for us, and I think everyone will admit that they’re very similar products. There’s just more integrations with Clio, and Clio is a tad more expensive but not really. The thing about Clio is it’s a bigger company than a company like Centerbase. So when you’re risk averse, it’s like maybe you just pay for the market leader in some ways, I don’t know, and I don’t know Clio is like the technical market leader, but probably.
Adriana Linares: I mean they’ve got I think at this point like 400 employees. They’ve got a $250 million injection of funding last year. You know the company is well-developed, well-staffed, and it is a really good product, and what you mentioned, integration is typically the reason most firms end up going with it, because it has so many integrations. Okay, so you went to the demos, you talked to all the right people, and then you turn to the office and you said, okay everybody, it’s going to be Clio. What was everyone’s reaction?
Brad Reeser: Well, I think people lost their minds in terms of the support staff, but that’s because they —
Adriana Linares: So you weren’t getting high fives and hugs as you walked down the hallway.
Brad Reeser: The complaints are always I think louder than the people that are really enjoying it, and I think now that we’re I guess like three months out, I think everyone really likes Clio. It’s undoubted that it’s way easier to get time in and get reports and bills out than compared to what we were using before, and not only that just like anything there’s a learning curve and probably for every cereal complainer I dealt with there were two other employees that were like, oh Brad, we love you for doing this and taking it on. But those emails weren’t as frequent as the complaint emails.
Adriana Linares: They never are Brad, just so you know. I don’t want you think you are in some weird warp in a law firm, they never are. So you decided to go with Clio, and this is an important thing we should also cover because this is what you led with, which was migrating the data. So were you able to get everything out of Abacus and how painful was that?
Brad Reeser: Not painful at all. I guess I’ll have two comments I’ll make on, on that point. So number one is Clio doesn’t guarantee you that they are going to migrate the text of your emails that are saved to any case management product, and our data migration specialist at Clio did that for free. She just did it on top even though she wasn’t contractually required to. So that was very nice. Step two is we didn’t actually migrate any of our old billing data.
Adriana Linares: That’s always a good idea — well, it’s not a good idea, you’d love to have it, but that tends to be kind of rocky ground when it comes to exporting and typical. So go ahead, yeah.
Brad Reeser: Yeah. So it was interesting. Part of that was our firm was using QuickBooks and not necessarily using the baked in Abacus accounting, and they weren’t all synced up. That’s just the fiefdom nature of our firm. But it was super easy to get all of our historical billing data and it just went in with the rate and the gross amount of time billed per line item. We just put the rate at zero I think, and had to do a parenthetical on what the hourly was. So long story short, when you go to generate a bill, you’re just clicking boxes that you want to add to the bill, you change the rate in a batch format in Clio. It’s pretty straightforward and we’ve got all of our data out that we wanted to, long story short.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I think that’s pretty typical. They do free migrations, which is yet another reason that a lot of firms will choose Clio because some want to charge and they do it for you. They have a really good migrations team. So the thing that I want to make sure and tell everyone is that you did all this work. I mean, it’s not like Clio logs into your abacus server and exports your data for you. So you took a lot of time, you spent a lot of time, you and I spent an hour alone together just setting Clio up initially and learning how it works. So you spent a lot of your billable time doing all this.
Brad Reeser: Yes. It’s painful. So getting the data out of Abacus is pretty straightforward. Clio will tell you how to download the certain file that you need to do your back up and then you spend a couple different calls going through except what essentially are Excel spreadsheets and you pick what you want to ex and what you want to import, and then I wrote that up for our firms partners and I said listen, I think this is the best way to do it. This is what they’re recommending. We got the guy who is our de facto managing partner on the phone for very last round with the console specialist and he’s like, okay, this is how we’re going to do it. I think she had it done like five days after we sent her the final import maybe six or seven to finish all of the emails, but we imported something like 10,000 matters from Abacus.
Adriana Linares: Oh, wow.
Brad Reeser: So it wasn’t like a light job, but I guess that’s just the power of some of the tools that you use to get it going.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and you managed to bring over, again for people who are thinking about this conversion, you brought over contacts, client matters, names and numbers, and calendaring information.
Brad Reeser: Yes, and one thing that we actually didn’t bring over, it’s kind of worth noting because it’s the one good thing Abacus did. They saved like a .msg file of your email to a folder that was on your network drive, and then when you clicked it, it was like a link and it would open in Outlook. So we actually have all of those emails still saved on our firm server and there’s a way I’m sure that we can hire someone to actually go take the backup file we sent to Clio and then you have probably take those emails from the file server and put them in the cloud or something, but we haven’t done that yet, and the data isn’t going anywhere. It’s just it’s just not getting used I guess.
Adriana Linares: You might find that it’s not getting missed either and after a year of not having it you might find that maybe we don’t need to import that.
Brad Reeser: Well, and that’s probably what’s going to happen.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I say this all the time if you listen to my show before, I say a lot of times lawyers like to keep a haystack just in case they ever need a needle.
Brad Reeser: Yes, that’s good.
Adriana Linares: So that’s what happens in cases like this. It’s like, oh my God, we can’t get rid of those emails, and then it turns out you never ever need them and having brought them in would have just been or not anyway, so maybe that’s what’s going to end up happening to you. Let me take a quick break and listen to some messages from some sponsors before we go on with this great conversation.
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Adriana Linares: All right everyone, I’m excited to introduce a new segment into New Solo that we’re calling New Insights. I thought it would be great to get more listeners involved in New Solo and thank you to everyone who always sends me notes and feedback about how helpful the show is and I want to make it even more helpful. Here’s how it’s going to work. We’re going to have an attorney who has some burning questions that they want answered by an experienced attorney. Pose for questions, one question per episode, to an experienced attorney who’s going to answer those questions and we’re all going to get to learn together. So my first two guests are Robert Southwell and Eric Ganci. So let me introduce you to Robert Southwell.
Robert Southwell: A little bit about me, I work in Salem, Oregon. I take mostly court-appointed criminal defense cases. I’ve been practicing for about a year here within the county in some of the municipal courts. Obviously, I’m a new solo, so still learning a lot, but before this I actually worked for a couple years as a prosecutor, so always kind of been interested in criminal law and always will be, and you can always find me at southwelllaw.com as well.
Adriana Linares: Thanks Robert. I’m happy to have you as a part of this. And now let’s hear a little bit about Eric.
Eric Ganci: First of all, thanks for having me. My name is Eric Ganci. I am a lawyer in San Diego. I’ve been licensed since 2009. I did 11 years of doing my own solo practice, most of that as a true solo and was focused on doing DUI defense, representing people who were accused and arrested of DUI, driving under the influence, both alcohol and drugs. I did a lot of trials while I was doing that. I have logged 72 trials and I have one trial left to go. I am currently now with Casey Gerry. I got offered a position with them doing civil litigation and I’m very excited that I’ve been with them since about May of 2020. You can go to my website which is ganciesq.com.
Adriana Linares: Okay, Robert. We are excited to hear your first question for Eric.
Robert Southwell: So my first question for Eric is this came up in a trial I had recently. I just had a very difficult client. I was worried they might act out in front of the jury. They have impulse control issues from my jail visit. So I thought it made more sense to go with the bench trial because I didn’t want to do anything to sabotage himself. I didn’t think a judge would hold that against him, but at the same time I feel like the judge — I didn’t agree with the ruling, let’s just put it that way. So I guess for Eric, what are your factors when considering whether or not to waive jury trial?
Eric Ganci: So there’s a few things that I think about when doing a bench trial or a jury trial. The main thing that I would do even before COVID in thinking about a jury trial is thinking about scheduling, because when you have a jury trial the schedule is vastly different than when you’re doing a bench trial. To start when you’re doing a jury trial you’re be picking a jury and so many judges do their jury selection so differently. I’ve had judges where they would pick a jury in half of a day and I’ve had judges where the jury selection would take like a day and a half or longer, and then there would be times where you would start jury selection maybe on like a Friday or me with the court was dark on Friday where I would start on Thursday, but then it would kick over anyway, but I would have my expert like, hey, can you do this date and then that date would then get pushed back which then turns in the conversation of, hey, can you do a date that’s a little bit later and that can just turn into a mess, because if that expert has other obligations or other hearings that they’re testifying for, that could you know mess up your schedule with that, and then also it could mess up the financial stuff of your client or you if you’re paying for the expert that if an expert is charging you for doing holding onto more than one day or has to come back another day to come testify. So that’s a big thing to determine with juries whether to do jury or bench trial.
Another thing that I would think about is whether or not if it was a more guttural issue, like if I think that the main issue at the trial is something that hits you more in the gut, then maybe I would do a jury trial because juries tend to be a little bit more guttural than what a judge can be. But if the issue was more technical or more like legal techie type of issue, then I may want a judge to be hearing that, because many times judges can kind of slice and dice and split hairs with the law a little bit easier if it’s a really fine issue that you’re dealing with. I also had a trial that I did where the client needed to have a resolution of the case period, and of course I wanted to win but we needed a resolution of the case period. The benefit of doing a bench trial with a judge is that you’re going to get an answer in criminal would be guilty or not guilty or in the civil realm it would be like liable versus not liable, and then maybe what the damages would be. But if you’re doing a jury trial not so much on the civil end but on the criminal end, if a jury hangs on any of the charges meaning that they can’t vote for guilt or they can’t vote for innocence, then you get a hung jury, which is not a conviction woohoo, but you just may have one yourself doing another trial.
So another trial could be set like another month or two or three or four or more down the road and then that could push out things that the client needs to do with life in general, with getting things wrapped up or immigration issues or getting experts lined up again, because now we had to redo another trial or maybe they have to pay your fee again if you’re going to be doing a retrial based on a hung jury. So those are some of the initial things I would think about in whether to do a bench trial or a jury trial.
If you have a client that can be difficult either acting difficult or they’re perceived as being difficult that’s going to be a very similar issue both with a jury and a bench and with a judge. The judge may be able to understand it a little bit more whereas juries, you don’t get a chance to like talk about what’s going on and you can’t just like, unless your client testifies, you can’t have them explain why are you doing that. I noticed you’re acting x way, why, the jurors want to know, but with a bench trial you may get that opportunity to explain to the judge or to opposing counsel, probably both, as to what’s going on if there’s a reason that the client is acting the way that they’re acting. If the client is just acting, just being crazy just in general, I don’t know. I guess it’s a toss-up. It depends on who your judges and who your jurors that you may pull. I don’t know if I would want to do — I would depend on what the client’s position was and how I think that they would be portraying themselves. If I knew what judge I was going to have for the trial, that may affect it, and if I knew what pool the jurors were going to be pulled from, that may affect my decision on that too.
Adriana Linares: All right, so that was Robert’s first thought the four questions for Eric. Make sure you listen to the next three episodes to catch the rest of the conversation. Now let’s hear a message from our sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we’re back everyone and I’ve got Brad Reeser from Mason, Mason, Walker & Hedrick and there is no “n” in that Hedrick.
Brad Reeser: Yeah, there isn’t, but that gets messed up all the time.
Adriana Linares: People love put it in there. Mr. Hedrick gets very upset.
Brad Reeser: Oh man. Our parenting company for our paper — don’t ever get me started on the fact that we pay for custom stationery. They’ve messed that up. It’s a long story.
Adriana Linares: Okay, we won’t even talk about it right now. So in the first segment, we really talked about getting you being the engine behind moving your firm from what I refer to as a traditional practice management program that’s server-based to something more modern like Clio, which is what you all decided on. I want to ask you, a lot of attorneys listening or influences in their firm are going to be wondering how it went with the staff. You did say earlier, I had more complaints than I had attaboys. But tell us a little bit about what it took to train your staff, because you did say it also earlier, I find that traditional practice management programs are harder to use, less intuitive, because at the time of their development, we didn’t think too much about the user experience and UI, but now these bottom programs that’s basically everything. So how did your staff adapt to looking at a dashboard on Clio?
Brad Reeser: I think for most of our non-billable staff, it was a lot of learning by doing. You know this but we have the faster sweet plug-in, and even though we had the two firm trainings with Clio. We had a session through you, and then we invited anybody in our law firm to double up in at least two people and then book sessions with you. Not one person took you up on that unfortunately. But anyway —
Adriana Linares: Actually, that’s kind of a good sign when that happens, because that means they aren’t struggling that hard. But I do want to commend you for giving everyone multiple opportunities to get the help if they needed it.
Brad Reeser: Yes. I mean and what we — everyone here at our firm is a professional at the end of the day. So I think you’re right. It probably is a good sign in some ways. But like I said, we had the Clio, we had you, and then once we started doing the Faster Suite training, a couple of people came up to me and said wow, the light really clicked, because seeing that new front end for Clio which is how they like to call Faster Suite, they kind of explain the tools and how things are laid out a little bit in Clio a little bit better. We love the Faster Suite email workflow where you can —
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I was going to say, tell us about Faster Suite and your decision to also go with that one as a layer on, as an add-on.
Brad Reeser: So two reasons we went to Faster Suite. One, because we just hoard data like every law firm. We didn’t want to lose any of our emails. I mean one of them to be linked to our matters. So Faster Suite has the ability to save a copy of your email, not just like a text copy but an actual file copy of the email to the matter. We wanted it for that. Then we also decided against migrating off the file server to a more expensive solution like Net Documents or Box at least this year. So we wanted to use Faster Suite to maybe give us the ability to do that later, but then also once we saw the email tool, we were pretty excited, because so much work happens in email. You get an email come in, you’re going to bill the email, you might have to note the file to put a note in the file for example, and then maybe I want to delegate something to a staff member. Hey, schedule this deposition or follow-up this court reporter or whatever. I can do that with a couple mouse clicks and shortcuts. It’s pretty cool.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. Every firm that has Faster Suite loves it and it is a great add-on to Clio, and it’s not very expensive. So I think — well, we talked about it obviously in advance and I think that was a good decision on your part. Have you gotten into — and this might be what you’re working on now, what about taking advantage and what you just said made me think of this of the workflows and Clio, the assigning tasks, and also talk to me about custom fields and just sort of — now that you have this easy place to add custom information, to merge documents easily, what have you been doing insofar as those options or what are you thinking about over the next couple of months?
Brad Reeser: Step one of the of the migration was just making sure people could use these tools in terms of putting time and getting data and working on matters like they did in Abacus. So Abacus probably did have a document merge tool but they weren’t using it. So what we did was before we rolled this out we set up the fields that we want to use for our two big kind of cases, like all of our workers’ comp cases and all of our essentially tort defense type cases. Then we also have two fields that are, or I think two or three fields on every matter, which is, has the conflict check been done, and who is the referral source. I wanted to start tracking that.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, good idea.
Brad Reeser: Yeah. So we have those fields set up. We have the ability to, for example, generate letters using opposing counsel’s name, case number, the court it’s in, all different kinds of information that we put on different form letters.
Adriana Linares: Let me interrupt you for just a second, because there’s something important here that I think everyone should hear. You created those custom fields and you have created the merge document, so back to you being the one taking on this burden and not billing time. So you’ve been doing all that work yourself, which — the reason I’m saying that is, well one, there is a time commitment that has to be had, but here’s the other thing I just want to say, and don’t take this as an insult because. It’s easy. It’s not as if you had to learn coding or go out and take a class.
Brad Reeser: Oh, no. You’re right. So if you know how to drag and drop files on your desktop, you can copy and paste these fields, which are automatically generated by Clio once you set up your field. You just go to the page where all your custom fields are and then you copy and paste them into a document and get your document formatted like you want to, but I mean what is difficult about this is every time I’d do a form or a workflow, I have to go make sure it’s all perfect and I have to revise this form and it’s not just me copying and pasting, so.
Adriana Linares: The formatting in the word document has to be perfect.
Brad Reeser: Oh yeah. So that is what is holding me up. But for shame a little bit because we’re not using the document automation like we should be, but we’re just going to start rolling out in steps. I mean the document automation is really probably phase two of our migration and using these tools along with some more of our integrations. We already have some integration set up but not as many as we’d like. We’re going to start recovering soft costs with large printing jobs eventually, and then the first thing I really want to automate is the generation of documents subpoenas, because that takes a lot of time and people don’t really want to pay for that. So it has to get automated.
Adriana Linares: True, yeah. When did you start doing the migration and when did the hard work really start?
Brad Reeser: So with the case management transition, the real work started probably in October, because that’s when we started doing our calls with our onboarding specialist. The last day we used Abacus was November 2 I believe.
Adriana Linares: Of 2020, right?
Brad Reeser: Of 2020, so that was the day I did our final back up, close of business I believe November 2, and then we had to use a placeholder matter for a week and then we were “live” with Clio with all of our data migrated, and I think there were two extra days there on the end of the emails. But in terms of doing the document forms, I started that probably a little earlier, and I asked people, hey, please send me all the forms that you want to have part of the billed, any notes you can give me about what your workflows are and what we can automate, that would be very helpful. Two of our paralegals that actually now — they’re full-time employees, but they just are still working remotely. They were really good about saying, hey, for every Longshore case we create these four documents, every time we open a file. These are the things, these are the I think literally 14 or 20 different versions of settlement documents that we use and, gee, that would be great to automate them, because it is a huge time suck to generate this document.
Adriana Linares: So did you get an appreciation for all the work that’s done on the back end by staff by having to go through all this that you probably didn’t even realize was happening?
Brad Reeser: Yeah. I mean, especially some of the paralegals with all of the documents they generate that are very fact-specific in some ways, but it has to get done and, man, I’m glad they’re here.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Well, I applaud your partners for seeing the light, and I’m sure COVID also just made it more pressing to be able to work remotely and not have to remote in and do things like that. One thing I don’t want to forget to ask you and that is you are a Mac and a PC. So talk to us a little bit about just being able to have a Mac or two, and you’re probably not the only one that’s able to work using these more modern programs.
Brad Reeser: Yeah. So I mean I fell in love with the Mac my first year of law school. I had a 2012 MacBook Air and I really loved like the OS and I had probably used like a Macintosh computer when I was a kid or something, but that was my first modern Mac. I still have that computer actually, but I’m using a 2017 MacBook Pro and I remote into my desktop. I have a Dell PC at my desk with two monitors and this is like a great machine to remote into, because you get the best of both worlds. I enjoyed some of the apps. I use OmniFocus for task management and I’m playing around with Drafts and a couple other things. Clio is pretty agnostic, because you’re in the browser. So my new thing is I have my Clio open on my Mac and I have Dragon on my Mac, so I just dictate into note fields in Clio when I for example do a document review and then that’s in the case management system now and then I just go copy and paste that when I go to the PC to do my letter or whatever it is. That way you can for example, save something to a cloud drive or you can email yourself something that you’ve dictated on your Mac, but I can just dump it all into the case management system now. It’s pretty cool.
Adriana Linares: What are you still remoting in for? So what is the infrastructure that’s left at the office that eventually you might replace with something that’s cloud-based so that you don’t have to remote in?
Brad Reeser: Probably two things. One is I don’t technically have to remote in to access the firm’s file server, but I do find that it’s maybe a little easier when I’m in the remoting in environment, and then the Microsoft Office, the Word specifically is just a little bit different in the Mac than it is on the PC, and I like the way the characters and styles and some of the other things, those tools work in the Windows version of Word versus the Mac version of Word.
Adriana Linares: Have you tried the cloud-based version of Word yet?
Brad Reeser: So we all have 365 accounts and have the ability to do so, but I really haven’t.
Adriana Linares: 36:50
Brad Reeser: Yeah, I mean the only experience I have with it I guess is like having a document in SharePoint and then editing that document at the same time with another person, but there’s only one other lawyer in our firm that will play games like that with me and even that partner has limited patience for doing things like that. SharePoint is really hard to use kind of, it’s not intuitive.
Adriana Linares: I implemented SharePoint at the San Diego County Bar, so I don’t know that I would encourage a law firm to your SharePoint for their document management, but I did implement it. We have a server at the Bar Association and I hate servers because I think they’re so risky. So I led moving us to SharePoint and Office 365, and it’s been amazing. It’s been great, but the cloud-based versions of Outlook and Word are getting better and better. Sometimes I look at it and I’m like, wait, am I in the cloud based or am I on desktop. So anyway, yeah, it’s something I encourage you to do and teaching people how to be able to do synchronous edits and changes is very, very cool. But it’s not bad. I’m getting a little more warmed up to it as an option to something like Net Docs, because Net Docs can be expensive. It doesn’t come close to what Net Docs can do. But if it’s the choice between SharePoint and an on-prem server, I’m going to encourage SharePoint at that point.
Brad Reeser: Well, just to highlight your point about security, I mean, if you’re — obviously, as lawyers, we are required to consider the information security setup we have our clients data. If you’re offloading, when you have Net Docs or Box or whatever, you’re essentially offloading a lot of that responsibility to a third-party. I mean, yeah, you have to make Net Documents is a legit company, but I mean do you really need to, for example, pay for a penetration test for your firm’s network and file server when it’s all on the cloud, I mean no way.
Adriana Linares: Well, you could just to be sure. So Brad, last thing I’ll ask you before I let you go is I had another attorney who was the Brad of California just call you up and say, hey, I’m going through what you’re going through. What did you wish you knew then that you know now that you can tell me so I don’t have to be that person later? What are a couple things that you’ve learned or wish you had done differently during this transition?
Brad Reeser: I think maybe what I could have done better is we could have communicated how this was going to look to our staff better before it all happened. So a lot of the communication was maybe or I think almost all of the communication was an email from me every morning saying, hey, here’s what we’re doing. I think having a game plan that is communicated to your staff very clearly right at the outset would be good. So by default, I just had to break it down into like steps for this migration. The first step is make sure we can walk or crawl maybe, just get data in and out, and then level two is, hey, now we’re going to use some of these more advanced tools for example, the document automation and capturing some soft costs, and then I think level three is probably going to be using more tools like Calendly and things like that for consults, but you have to communicate that and figure out what your game plan is rather than doing it in an ad hoc fashion. I don’t mean to criticize myself, but I think that’s one thing I could have done better. Let’s say, I am criticizing myself.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you kind of are, and I don’t know if you should be, because you’ve done a hell of a good job.
Brad Reeser: Well, thank you.
Adriana Linares: Well, that’s great. Well Brad, I can’t thank you enough for your time and helping everyone. You know what before I let you go, I do want to say this. We’ve talked a lot about Clio and I don’t want this to sound like a sales pitch for Clio, what I want you to get out of this conversation if you’re a listener is these are the things that you’re looking to be able to do. So whatever program or text stack you’re considering, the things that Brad is implementing and thinking about and realizes are time savers, efficiency creators, security wins for his firm, are the types of questions that you want to ask when you are doing demos and looking at products and services. I just think you’ve done such a good job Brad of having done that for your firm, but now really you’re going to exploit all those tools between Clio and Faster Suite and the integrations, and within a year, I mean I should have you back on in about a year, you guys are going to be a screaming billing machine, pretty automated. People will be able to work from anywhere on any platform that they want, and I think it’s going to be pretty awesome for you guys. Are your partners happy?
Brad Reeser: Yes, they’re happy for sure. Thank you for having me on Adriana. This has been great. I’m a huge nerd so I love listening to podcast like this and I love coming on and talking about legal technology, and I’d love to be back in a year.
Adriana Linares: We have to do that for sure. Tell everyone where they can find friend follow you, or I know I don’t want to tell everybody, call Brad, he’s got nothing better to do, he’s happy to — but you’re generous with your time and I know you like talking about it. So if somebody wants to get a hold of you, how can they do that?
Brad Reeser: Sure. So, I mean our firms’ website is masonwalker.com and that will have all of our contact information. My personal blog is readwritelaw.com. So my goal is for 2020 to post one article a month there. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on the Twitter, but I never check it, so maybe not there, but you can also call me, (757) 873-3909, that’s the main office number. We’ll schedule something, and if you’re local, let’s get lunch or something.
Adriana Linares: Oh, Brad you’re such a sweet guy, such a smart fellow. I can’t thank you enough for your time. I know everyone will appreciate it.
Brad Reeser: Oh, thank you so much Adriana. It’s been great.
Adriana Linares: All right everyone, we’ve reached the end of this first year’s episode of 2021. Hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoy New Insights and look forward to catching you next month. If you like what you have heard today, please make sure you rate New Solo, helps other lawyers find it, and tune in next time. But until then remember, you’re not alone, you’re a new solo.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.