As paralegals (or any legal professional really), it is difficult to keep up with technology trends, firm software, or even client data security. Listeners of The Paralegal Voice are likely ahead of the curve in terms of legal tech education, even though technology evolves so quickly. But what about the lawyers in our firms? Attorneys...
Sam was the founder of Lawyerist.com and is currently developing Client Power Tools. Sam hosted the first 200-something episodes...
The Paralegal Voice covers the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistants. Host Vicki...
As paralegals (or any legal professional really), it is difficult to keep up with technology trends, firm software, or even client data security. Listeners of The Paralegal Voice are likely ahead of the curve in terms of legal tech education, even though technology evolves so quickly. But what about the lawyers in our firms? Attorneys are required by the American Bar Association to maintain a certain level of technology competence to comply with ethical standards, but we often notice that they aren’t caught up. How do we as paralegals assist our lawyers?
On this episode of The Paralegal Voice, Vicki Voisin interviews Sam Glover, lawyer and founder of Lawyerist.com, about why lawyers need to be competent with technology, why paralegals should teach lawyers how to use technology rather than accepting all IT responsibilities, and tricks to maintain your own tech knowledge.
Sam Glover is a lawyer and founder of the online magazine Lawyerist.com, home to the largest community of solo and small firm lawyers on the web. He has written and spoken extensively about legal technology, marketing, management, and ethics, among other topics.
Paralegal Voice: Technology Competence for Paralegals and Lawyers – 7/29/2015
Advertiser: Welcome to the Paralegal Voice, where you hear the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistance by one of the best known paralegals in the industry, Vicki Voisin. A paralegal for more than twenty years, Vicki is dedicated to helping legal professionals reach their goals. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Vicki Voisin: Hello everyone, welcome to the Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I’m Vicki Voisin, the paralegal mentor and host of the Paralegal Voice. I’m a NALA Advanced Certified paralegal. I publish a weekly e-newsletter titled, Paralegal Strategies. And I’m also the co-author of the Professional Paralegal, a Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. You’ll find more information at ParalegalMentor.com. My guest today is Sam Glover. Sam is a lawyer and founder of the online magazine Lawyerist.com, home to the largest community of solo and small firm lawyers on the web. Welcome, Sam.
Sam Glover: Thank you.
Vicki Voisin: Before we begin, our sponsors need to be recognized and thanked. That would be Boston University, offering an online certificate in paralegal studies. If you’re seeking a professional credential, or just want to further develop your skills, Boston University provides an affordable, high-quality 14-week program. Visit ParalegalOnline.bu.edu for more information. And that’s ParalegalOnline.bu.edu. NALA a professional association for paralegals, providing continuing education and professional certification programs for paralegals at NALA.org. NALA is a force in the promotion and advancement of the paralegal profession and also has been a sponsor for the Paralegal Voice since our very first show. And last but not least is Serve-Now, a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high-volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit Serve-Now.com to learn more. The goal of the Paralegal Voice is to discuss a wide range of topics that are important to the paralegal industry and to share with you leading trends. I usually include guests to explore timely topics. For that reason, I’ve invited Sam Glover, editor and chief of Lawyerist.com, to be with me today. Now, Sam, the first thing I’d like for you to do is to tell our listeners about Lawyerist. I do follow Lawyerist all the time and it’s a fabulous resource, but tell our listeners what’s available there.
Sam Glover: Well, Lawyerist is two or three things. It’s an online magazine. We publish daily articles, and we try to be pretty in-depth and thorough with the articles that we publish. They run the gamut from marketing and technology and ethics to the best coffee machine for your office, and we try to have some fun with it. We do a bunch of short posts as well, and since the beginning, Lawyerist has been home to a community of lawyers and we think it’s probably the biggest community of solo and small firms on the web. So to facilitate that, we have a comment section, we have a forum where we answer questions, and I’d call it a magazine, a resource and a community all rolled up into one.
Vicki Voisin: Right. Well I certainly enjoy it and check on it every day, there’s always something there.
Sam Glover: I love hearing that.
Vicki Voisin: Good! And I’m not even an attorney, so there you go. So lawyers are notoriously slow to adapt new technology or they rely on other people in the firm to implement it, particularly paralegals. And I know about this from my own experience. The American Bar Association started to deal with technology. They adapted some rules that require attorneys to understand it and can you explain those rules?
Sam Glover: Yeah. There’s really two rules, and rule 1.6C has been around forever and it says that lawyers have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect attorney client information to keep things confidential that ought to be confidential. And rule 1.1 says that lawyers have a duty of competent representation. That’s not competence as in you have a duty not to be an idiot – I supposed you have that duty to – but you have a duty to know what you’re doing. And just because you’re incompetent – every lawyer who starts out from law school is incompetent to begin with – your duty is to cure that as quickly as possible, and you can totally learn on the job, that’s totally acceptable. But in 2012, the ABA added a comment, number 8 to rule 1.1 saying that lawyers have a duty to stay on top of technology, including the relevant risks and rewards and benefits. And everybody looked at that and it said, first of all, it’s a comment. And second of all, it says lawyers should stay on top of it and it’s not in my state yet so everybody ignored it. But I think the important piece about that is when the ABA promulgated that rule. The report says the reason we did it in a comment is because it’s already in 1.1. You have a duty of technology competence, we were just trying to emphasize it. So those are the two rules that really matter and I think it’s pretty clear when you look at how this all came about and when you think about what representation really is. But of course, lawyers have a duty to be basically proficient with technology.
Vicki Voisin: And along with it, they want to be competitive, and you can’t really do that unless you really are embracing technology. I always refer to the fact that I learned to type on a standard typewriter, but you can’t do that anymore or it’ll take forever to get something done and clients will go to the lawyer down the street, the one who’s the most productive. You always have to serve the best interests of the client – that is if they have any other clients. Do you agree with that?
Sam Glover: Absolutely. I think one of the relevant pieces for that is when Casey Flaherty – who used to be corporate counsel at Kia Motors – got tired of getting bad work product and he said, “You know what? I’m paying a ton of money for lawyers who don’t know how to use their software.” And so he went out and gave them an audit and as he said, the audit took him 30 minutes. It test Word, Excel and Acrobat. And the best pace of any of the lawyers who did it was 2.5 hours and the worst with 8 hours. Now, if you can imagine getting that back and realizing how much money you’re paying for technology incompetence, well, what he did is he said, “Look, I’m going to cut your rates if you don’t improve.” And when one of your big clients says I’m going to cut your rates if you don’t learn how to use Microsoft Word properly, that’s enough of a wake up call that most of those firms finally did that.
Vicki Voisin: And I also find that sometimes you get these new programs and you don’t take enough time to learn how to use them, except them to work right away. And I think that’s one thing that attorneys especially don’t do is to allow their staff enough time to learn. They’ve got to do that. Now I’d like to know if you have any examples of attorneys who have gotten in trouble because of their lack of knowledge of technology.
Sam Glover: So that’s one of the other reasons that lawyers don’t think that this is particularly urgent because there aren’t very many examples of people being hauled up before an ethics board. But there are lawyers who are losing cases because they’re technologically incompetent, and there are lawyers -as I think we just talked about – who are losing clients because they’re technologically incompetent. And so “trouble” depends on how you define it, but yes, lawyers are absolutely getting into trouble. Lawyers in the Gulf of Mexico got into trouble when Hurricane Katrina hit because they weren’t backing up their files and they weren’t paperless. The prosecutor in the George Zimmerman case got into trouble because he didn’t understand Twitter well enough to find out whether or not two key witnesses of opposing sides were linked and potentially conflicted with one another. There are all kinds of examples of lawyers getting in trouble. With ediscovery because they don’t know what native format means. With communications with the court because they aren’t willing to regularly check their email. Or because their systems are getting broken into and their clients are losing money or information that in turn makes them lose money. So lawyers are getting into trouble more or less constantly, but they’re afraid to talk about it and it isn’t by an ethics board necessarily, or it’s not at least directly by an ethics board.
Vicki Voisin: Right. Well then, you recently did publish Lawyerist 4-Step Computer Security Upgrade. I’ve got a copy of it for myself, it’s great. It would take hours for us to cover the nuts and bolts of computer security. I do want to discuss the issue of attorneys and other law firm staff using public WiFi. I caution them about this all the time, but can you explain the dangers associated with that and what could be done about it?
Sam Glover: Aw, man. So I was sitting in a coffee shop one day, and I was thinking about this issue because one of my writers was writing this article on the dangers of public WiFi, and we use a chat room as a back channel for our writer’s room. And we were chatting about this and I was like, “Huh, we say that it’s dangerous but how dangerous is it really? How hard is it to overhear what somebody is doing on their computer?” So I Googled a couple of things, and 30 seconds later I was looking at what someone else in the coffee shop was doing on their computer. That’s totally legal, by the way. I wasn’t hacking into their computer in any way. I was listening to what their computer was sending back and forth to the coffee shop’s modem and their WiFi router. And you can see anything that’s going back and forth unless it’s encrypted, and most of the stuff that you do is not encrypted. Most people are not connecting to their email using encryption, so I can read your emails. Most people are not connecting to an awful lot of stuff that they might be doing for clients using encryption, so I can see all that stuff. It’s child’s play. And in fact, there are many people who do this as a hobby. This isn’t malicious hackers going around doing it, this is just people who are curious to see what you are doing in a coffee shop. They just sit there and watch what you’re doing. And all you need to know to do this for yourself is – I need to give you the term, which is “packet sniffing.” And all you have to do is Google, “How do I sniff packets,” “Packet sniffing software,” and in a few moments with no charge – and you probably don’t even have to install anything on your computer – you too can sniff packets over public WiFi in a coffee shop.
Vicki Voisin: Okay, that is dangerous.
Sam Glover: It’s dangerous enough that if you are looking at things in a coffee shop on a regular basis, I can virtually guarantee you that somebody is snooping what you’re doing, if for no other reason than that they’re bored.
Vicki Voisin: Okay, so what do you do about that?
Sam Glover: Use a VPN. There’s a couple of things that you can do. Number one is when you’re using encryption. So when you’re visiting a website that has HTTPS in front of it instead of HTTP – and if you want to see what that looks like, just go to Lawyerist.com. Lawyerist is HTTPS encrypted, so nobody can see what you’re doing while you’re browsing Lawyerist. Most banks use HTTPS, GMail uses it by default, and an increasing number of email providers are using it by default when you access their webmail interface. Many of them aren’t trying to enforce it when you use Outlook. So that’s one way to do it is using that encryption. But that only encrypts the specific website or the specific connection that you’re making, whether it’s email or Lawyerist or whatever. So if you want to do it broadly, then a VPN is the way to go, and a VPN is Virtual Private Network. You know like in spy movies where they’re always saying, “Give me a secure line”?
Vicki Voisin: Oh, yes, Jeff Bauer.
Sam Glover: Exactly. A VPN is a secure line to the internet for you. It protects what you’re doing between your end and the point that which your connection leaves the VPN. So it’s a pretty good way to prevent people from snooping on you who are next to you. And in my guide I walk through what you need and how to set it up, but if you use Apple things, then Cloak is the one that I use. There’s another called PureVPN, for PC, Android, whatever. And there are a variety of other VPNs out there. They are cheap, I think PureVPN is like $5 a month for unlimited data. And don’t quote me on that, I think I got the price right in my guide but I’m not sure I’m right about it right now. And it will take you five to ten minutes to set up. That was the thing to my guide, it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to start implementing all of the things in that guide. You can encrypt your hard drive before you’re done, before an hour is out. You can turn on the VPN and start using it before an hour is out. You can get a password manager and start implementing all those tips. So we can talk about it for hours, but the guide itself and the tips that I have in there are pretty brief.
Vicki Voisin: Okay, and that’s available at Lawyerist?
Sam Glover: Lawyerist.com/guides. I’m ennunciating Lawyerist because people always go to Lawyers.com and then wonder where our stuff is. It’s Lawyer with an “IST.”
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Well, as I said, it’s quick to read, easy to implement, and so I think everyone should get that guide. It has a lot of great tips in it. We’re going to take a short break right now to hear a word from our sponsors, Sam. So when we come back we’ll continue this discussion.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. I’m Vicki Voisin, and my guest today is Sam Glover, editor and chief of Lawyerist.com. Now, Sam, before the commercial break, we were discussing how attorneys can get into trouble if they don’t keep up with technology and worry about their computer security. But I believe that paralegals can assist with this problem. So do you have any tips for paralegals?
Sam Glover: I think the number one tip that I have is if the attorney that you’re working with tries to dump responsibility for IT in your office – whether it’s security or picking case management software or whatever. If they just try to dump that in your lap, then refer them to this podcast, because it’s their ethical responsibility to be on top of this stuff too. I doubt they’re in the habit – and maybe I’m wrong – but I doubt they’re in the habit of dumping all of their ethics in your lap and just saying, “Here, take care of my law license for me.” Sure, they sometimes delegate those tasks, but this is something that cuts to the heart of an attorney’s responsibility. You cannot be professionally competent if you are technologically incompetent. So the number one thing is don’t let them dump it in your lap. This should be something that everybody at the firm participates in. Everybody at the firm should understand when our communications with clients are secure. Everyone in the firm should understand how to use the case management software that you select, and they should probably have a say in selecting it. Everybody in the firm should know how to use Microsoft Word properly so that when you hand a document back to a lawyer, they don’t screw it up and then give it back to you and then you have to try and figure out how to fix it. It’s a group effort, so that would be the number one thing. And then the number two thing would be to help the attorney that you’re working with learn. Go find some classes, go find some training that can get everybody up to speed on how to use Microsoft Word properly, how to properly redact information in Adobe Acrobat. And make sure that everybody in the firm knows either not to use public WiFi or that everyone is locked down with a VPN and have meetings about good passwords and things like that. It should be a firm-wide thing. What I advocate that lawyers should talk about computer security with their clients, but I also think that firms needs to talk about computer security internally. And it shouldn’t just be something that gets delegated to an IT department or gets handed off to the paralegal.
Vicki Voisin: Thanks, because I totally agree with you, and I’ve had it dumped in my lap more than once, or I’ve been to a convention where I was speaking with a vendor about some really good software that I thought would help our firm, and yet, they don’t really want to explore that. It’s working just fine, let’s just keep on keep on. So that’s not a good thing.
Sam Glover: You know, one of the main concerns I have is – we’re going to talk about the Cloud in a minute – one of the concerns that I have is that lawyers think, “Well I’m not going to use the Cloud, so we’re just going to keep on using what we’re using because it’s working fine.” Well, number one, you’re already using the Cloud. And the fact that you’re ignorant of that just makes you dangerous. And number two, there are important risks with hosting your data yourself that you may not be aware of. And so the idea that we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing because it’s working fine, you don’t know that, actually, until you take a good solid look at it. So I think it’s really unfortunate, it’s discouraging but not surprising to hear that. I certainly know that many lawyers would rather just keep doing what they’re doing and pretend as if technology didn’t advance.
Vicki Voisin: Right. Well, you brought up the Cloud, so let’s talk about Cloud computing. Everyone seems to be heading in that direction and I’m not sure they always know what they’re doing or if it’s always the best direction. So first of all, is it ethical?
Sam Glover: Oh, sure. But I think, “Is the Cloud ethical” is the wrong question, in the same way that, “Should we move to the Cloud” is the wrong question. Because the Cloud is just a different way of having software and solving problems. So there are two sides to the inquiry. The first part of the inquiry is: Is this a tool that will function the way we need it to? Will it get the job done for us in the best way that we can? And then the second question is: Is this particular thing secure enough for us? Does it meet our obligations to our clients? So whether or not you’re using the Cloud is irrelevant, most of the software you use uses the Cloud in some way anyway, so you probably are already using the Cloud, you may not just not be aware of it. So the real question is, is this the tool that works and is it going to protect our client’s information.
Vicki Voisin: Okay then, what is the paralegal’s role in moving to the Cloud?
Sam Glover: Again, you’re already in the Cloud, you don’t have to move there.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. What is the paralegal’s role in floating around in the Cloud?
Sam Glover: One of the things I was really pleased with this year at Techshow I was wandering around the Expo Hall floor and listening to people ask questions of the Cloud software providers and the non Cloud software providers. And the questions they were asking this year were much smarter than they used to be asking. Lots of states are starting to have guidelines for information that you ought to know about the services that you use. But among those questions are: How hard is it to get your information out of that service? Some services make it really easy to backup your data, and some services make it really easy to get your data out in a usable format, and other services don’t. It’s important to know how is that information stored. Is it encrypted on their servers or not and is that important? Should it be encrypted? How do you connect to that service? When you go to sync up your files, are they synced over a secure connection or not and are they encrypted before they’re transferred or not? Now the kneejerk reaction is sometimes to go for the highest possible security that you can get. But that comes at a cost, too – not just financially, although sometimes that’s the case, but in terms of performance. If you want to be able to access your files on your iPhone or your iPad, then you might not be able to use something that goes full lockdown. So it’s important to understand. I think encryption and security is one of the most important things to understand. But also, are you going to be able to use this if the internet’s down? The answer’s often no, but sometimes it’s yes.
Vicki Voisin: Does anyone ask what would happen if that vendor is no longer in business or operates and can you get your files back?
Sam Glover: Everyone should ask that. Everyone should ask that. And I’ve seen a few different approaches to that, but there are a couple of different questions there. One is what happens, let’s say that the company collapses, or it’s acquired, or it goes bankrupt. What happens in that immediate period? There’s a few days or weeks or maybe months where it’s in transition and so what can you do with your data at that point? You should have a commitment to be able to get your data out, probably. The company should have some sort of commitment to you that they are going to take care of the data that’s in it. I just saw an article the other day about acquisitions mean the acquiring company is also acquiring the personal information stored in the company being acquired. So if Facebook were to get bought up, that means whoever buys Facebook knows your birthday and your friends and all that kind of information. And something similar is true for file storage. So you need to have provisions in the contract that make you feel comfortable about that. Some companies have what’s called – it’s a kind of insurance. So I know MyCase, for example, has a company that will keep their servers running for a period of time even if the company goes under. So you’ll still be able to access your files, all the information will be stored, you’ll be able to use it. It won’t be getting updates, which could be a problem for security, but the data won’t go away. So you’ll have a year or two or something like that to finish using the software and they already have a means for you to export your data. But a lot of the stuff is cured by just having a way for you to export your data and then backing it up regularly.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Well listeners always want to know what your favorite apps, tech gadgets and so forth are. So I know you’re a techie, so tell me what do you like best?
Sam Glover: I try to use as few things as possible. It has become virtually impossible for me to live without the Google ecosystem. I use GMail for my email, I use Google Docs for most of the documents that I create, and that’s pretty hard for me to do without and Dropbox, I love Dropbox, I use it all the time. But some of my favorite things are on my iPad. I love GoodReader, which is a way to connect Dropbox or FTP software. You can connect just about anything to it and sync up documents. So when I want to take a client file to court, I sync that folder up with GoodReader and I bring it along on my iPad and I don’t have to bring any paper and I don’t have to use my laptop, I can just pull it up on my iPad, so that’s probably one of my favorite things. And the other thing is that I write a lot – and this is probably less useful for lawyers – but I love text editors. So I use Byword and Ulysses to write in text almost all the time. And I’ve drafted briefs that way too, I like to get all of the word junk out of the way and focus on what I’m writing. And so I’m a big fan of text editors, and those two in particular, Byword and Ulysses.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Well that’s great information, Sam, but I’m wondering, what’s your number one tip for keeping up with technology? It’s always changing, so that’s difficult, but what do you think we could do? The number one thing.
Sam Glover: I’m going to cheat and give you two things. We always try to tell lawyers what they need to know on Lawyerist. So you can be relatively certain that if there’ a massive security breach that you need to know about, we’re going to talk about it on Lawyerist. So I think it’s pretty good following us, whether it’s by signing up for an email or newsletter or subscribing to our RSS feed or following us on Twitter are all good ways to keep on top of what we are doing. But if you want to know what’s happening with technology in general – and I think lawyers have a tendency to want to know, they want to append for lawyers to everything. So what’s happening with technology for lawyers? Well, Microsoft Word wasn’t written for lawyers, neither was Outlook and neither was the internet, neither was whatever browser you use. So I think it’s better to have sort of a general awareness of what’s happening in the world of technology. And my favorite site for that is TheVerge.com. There’s lots of other websites, but that’s the one that I tend to read just to stay generally on top of what’s happening in the world of technology and innovation.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. I hadn’t heard about that one so I’ll be checking that out off for sure. So we’re going to have to wrap things up now, Sam, because we’re running out of time. But if any of our listeners want to subscribe to Lawyerist or get in touch of you or for sure get your 4-Step Guide to Computer Security Upgrade, how would they do that?
Sam Glover: Just go to Lawyerist.com, and if you want to subscribe to our email newsletter, we love that. Just click on newsletter right up at the top. And if you want to get the 4-Step Computer Security Upgrade or our other guides, just click on “Guides” up at the top, or go to Lawyerist.com/Guides
Vicki Voisin: Well, let’s take another break right now. Don’t go away because when I come back, I’ll have news and career tips for you.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. I hope you enjoyed Sam Glover, I thought he just did a fabulous job and had so many great tips for us. I can’t wait to implement a lot of those. Now I want to give you the practice tip for today, or I’m going to give you a practice tip for today. And that is making better use of your time. Working as a paralegal is really all about productivity and meeting deadlines. And so to do your best work, you have to eliminate time-wasting behaviours. You have to discard useless tasks and you really do need to systematize your work processes. Now I have four of the worst time wasters and you may still be engaged in these, so let’s think about that. The first is just always checking your email. It’s really easy to just log in just to see what’s coming in, planning only to spend a minute or two. But before you know it, you’ve lost 15 minutes. And think about that in terms of billable time. Instead of doing that, spend time working on a project that’s going to boost your billable hours. Then there’s failing to make good use of your downtime. We have iPads and iPhones and other portable devices that really do have advanced editing and note-taking options. There’s no reason you can’t take work with you everywhere you go if you want to. Rather than just play a game or read a novel or check your email or Facebook – that’s one of the things that I like to do – when you’re waiting in line or stuck in traffic, edit a report or get a headstart on one of those Sunday tasks that you have. Another thing we do – and we’re bad at this – is we allow interruptions. Too much socializing is a time waster. When you chat with everyone you see on the way to the break room for coffee, people are stealing little bits of your time and you’re giving it away. The solution is to stop being an interruption magnet. Close your door. When people come in, ask, “How can I help you,” rather than, “How are you,” because you’re going to get a long story. Don’t keep candy in your office so that people are always walking by and stopping in and visiting and spending way too long. And the last thing I have for you is don’t spend your time reinventing the wheel. Have systems in place for everything you do more than once, and that would be anything from filing documents or producing documents or responding to any other new demands on your time. Go to Paralegal.com for some important resources that are going to help you be more productive. Now that’s all the time that we have for today for the Paralegal Voice. If you have questions about today’s episode or any other episode, email them to [email protected]. And don’t forget to check out my blog. I just put up several new paralegal profiles that are so interesting. The address for that is ParalegalMentor.com/blog. The resources, again, are available at ParalegalMentor.com. Everything has been designed to help you move your career in the right direction, and that’s forward. This is Vicki Voisin, thanking you for listening to the Paralegal Voice, and reminding you, make your paralegal voice heard.
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Thanks for listening to the Paralegal Voice, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Vicki Voisin for her next podcast on issues and trends affecting paralegals.
[End of Transcript]
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