Law Office Software of the Month — NoteScraps

Attorney Software -- NoteScraps

[NOTE: This article that began as a simple software review turned into quite the saga. I've left the entire piecemeal story here for entertainment value, but the bottom line is that this software is now available for FREE (at least for now). Ignore the part that says the software is $20, and read to the end to see how to get if for FREE.]

I can't believe that I first reviewed the program about two years ago, but as I just found myself using it, I decided it deserved an updated review for the benefit of anyone who may not have seen the prior review. When I first published the article, I received a number of emails, mostly from former Tornado Notes users such as myself, thanking me for helping them to find a new, old favorite, as it were.

Right now, are there any sticky notes attached to your computer monitor(s)? Any notes scribbled on legal pads on your desk? If so, you might be a perfect candidate for a simple program called NoteScraps.

Many years ago (geez, I think it might have been in the days of DOS), I used and loved a program called Tornado Notes. The program was like using electronic sticky notes, but with the ability to search them instantly. It was the perfect program for catching information that I might put on a sticky note or, worse, just try to remember. What made Tornado Notes perfect was that it required no effort. Hit the hot-key combination, and up pops a blank note ready for input. Then, when I needed to recall that information, another hot-key combination would pull up all my notes. I would start typing the information I was looking for, and all the notes that did not contain that information would disappear, leaving only the note I was looking for.

Tornado Notes was “upgraded” to a new program that contained far more features, and that was its downfall. The beauty of the program was its total simplicity.

I found a replacement for the old familiar program that I loved so much, called NoteScraps. Continue reading

How to Use Speech-to-Text Dictation for a Quantum Leap in Efficiency

The feeling you'll get when you use speech-to-text dictation.

The feeling you'll get when you use speech-to-text dictation.

I finally removed the small impediment that was preventing me from fully implementing speech-to-text dictation, and I have realized a quantum leap in efficiency as a result. You owe it to yourself and your clients to take a few minutes to read this article, in order to see the amazing things you can accomplish with this technology.

I'm not talking about dictating files that are then given to your secretary for transcription (although you can do that as well). I'm talking about software that allows you to create documents with your voice, instead of the keyboard. If you are resistance to voice-to-text dictation software, it may come from the fact that your experience was similar to my own. Continue reading

Best Client Call of the Week

Frustrated woman making a phone callMy websites all have contact forms, so that prospective clients can email me a question. The forms require that the prospective client provide an email address and/or a telephone number. How else would I contact them?

So, I received an email from a visitor to one of my websites (let’s call her Jane), and I promptly responded.

The next day, I received another email from the website from Jane, asking the same questions again. I responded again, apologizing that she had not received my earlier response.

On day three I received two emails from Jane, and they made clear that Jane was not pleased that I was ignoring her emails. Jane had never provided her telephone number, so I had no means to contact her other than through the email address she was providing each time. I was sure my email was probably ending up in her spam filter for whatever reason, but I responded each time.

Finally Jane called, and she was hopping mad that she had written me so many times and received no response. I explained that I had responded to every one of her emails, and read back her email address.

“Oh, that’s a fake email address. I always use that when I fill out contact forms. I don’t want to get spammed,” she said.

Best Client Call of the Week

angry callerA gentleman called about a case, wherein the amount in controversy was about $1,500 – a clear candidate for small claims court.

“Well, this isn't a case I would be able to represent you on because it wouldn't make economic sense to hire me for a $1,500 case, but I’m happy to give you my thoughts on how you could pursue this in small claims court,” I said.

We often get calls about cases that are best handled in small claims court, so I've created a web page that walks callers through the process of suing in that court. When I get these types of calls I’ll take a few minutes to give the caller some tips on how to calculate the damages and what evidence to present, and then I send them to the web page.

This caller was taking advantage of my kind nature, asking very specific questions about how “I” was going to handle the case; which witnesses I would call, which documents I would use. In each instance, I told him that “I” wasn't going to handle the case, because the legal fees would far exceed the amount he was seeking to recover. In all, during the course of the conversation, I told him about six times that it would not be economically feasible to hire me to represent him given the amount in controversy.

He grew a bit curt when I repeated the refrain for the sixth time that I would not handle the case.

“Why do you keep saying that? Why wouldn't it make economic sense?”, he asked.

“Because this is a case that should be pursued in small claims court, and individuals cannot be represented by an attorney in small claims court. For me to represent you, I’d have to file a full-blown action in the Superior Court, with written discovery, depositions, possible motions, etcetera,” I responded. “You avoid all that in small claims court. Also, there is no basis to recovery your attorney fees, so you'd be spending far more on me that you would be seeking to recover. It wouldn't make sense to spend all that money on legal representation for $1,500!”

“But what if I wanted you to represent me? What would it cost?”

Well, I’m $495 an hour, and I require a $10,000 deposit to start.”

“Why the f**k would I pay you $10,000 to get $1,500! Are you out of your f**king mind?”

Click.

Flat Fee Arrangements Promote a Winning Practice

The Practice of Law - Fee AgreementsFlat fee arrangements are amazingly liberating.

Most of my fellow litigators won't take a case on a flat fee, either because they are concerned that they will grossly underestimate the time the case is going to take and end up with an effective hourly rate of $25, or simply because they think they'll make more on a straight hourly basis.

I acknolwedge that some cases just do not lend themselves to a flat fee because of the unknown factors, but when you have a case with a reasonably predictable time factor, a flat fee is a fantastic way to go, not because it earns you more (although it can), but because it allows you to do more.

This may be counterintuitive to some, and probably blaphemous to attorneys that are only in it for the money, but I'm in it to win and a flat fee gives me greater freedom to do what I need to do to win.

Say you have a case that is crying out for a demurrer. On a straight hourly arrangement, your discussion with the client goes something like this:

You:  “I really think we should bring a demurrer. The third cause of action for breach of contract fails to allege performance, and here they really can't honestly allege performance, so I think that will get rid of that cause of action.”

Client:  “So if you bring this motion the case is over?”

You:  “No, it will just get rid of that one cause of action if we prevail.”

Client:  “How much will the motion cost?”

You:  “With the motion, the reply and going to court, I can probably do it all in ten hours, so $4,500.”

Client: “So I pay you $4,500 and the motion may not work and even if it does it doesn't end the action it just gets rid of one cause of action?”

And what the client is thinking is: “Damn attorneys, he's just trying to run up the bill.”

With a flat fee, all those conversations are eliminated. If I think a demurrer is needed, I bring it. If I think more discovery is needed, I propound it.

And this isn't pure altruism. Yes, I do this to win, but being free to do everything I want to do on a case may allow me to prevail on the action much more quickly, making the flat fee a winning bet for me financially.

A few tips for flat fees: Continue reading

Best Client Call of the Week

Not the one in question, but can you name the country this flag represents?

A “potential client” called this morning to discuss the case she has going in a foreign country. In order not to offend any of the residents of that country by repeating what she said, I won’t identify the country except to say that it is a small, non-English speaking country that I had to run through Wikipedia to confirm that it is in fact a real country.

Yak

She called to ask a question about a very specific procedural issue in her case. Picture getting a call from someone in Transnistria, asking you the deadline for opposing an application for a writ of attainment, and whether the opposition can be served by yak. That was the nature and specificity of the procedural question.

As I always do when I get a call from someone about a case that has nothing to do with California, I asked why she called me.

“Because all the attorneys are crooks here, and you can’t trust anything they say”, she said.

So the next time you hear someone say something disparaging about attorneys, just remember that our reputation is far better than that of the attorneys in this unidentified country.

Stop Attaching Documents to Your Complaint

Businessmen climbing upThe planets must be aligned or misaligned as the case may be, because I've been flooded with callers who are dissatisfied with their current attorneys, and want to fire them to hire me.

I get a lot of these calls, and reviewing the cases to decide if I want them gives me great insight into the manner in which other attorneys handle cases (and the terrible ways that some organize their case files). I have just reviewed my fourth complaint of the day, and encountered one of my pet peeves. I had to take a moment to vent.

All of the complaints were guilty of the offense, but one particular complaint, with attachments, is 125 pages long. The attorney has seriously over-pleaded the case, and that is a topic for another day, but he has also attached 12 exhibits.

It’s actually not proper to attach some exhibits to complaints, and it is often a really bad idea to do so. In the case I was reviewing, the attorney had attached the contract, and I would venture to say that most attorneys would do the same.

Think before you attach! Even in a breach of contract action, you don’t have to attach the contract (at least not here in California). The problem with doing so is that anything you attach to a complaint becomes an allegation. The defendant is then free to cite to any provision in that contract to support a demurrer or other motion. Continue reading

How Does Google Work?

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I discuss all the factors Google looks at to determine which search results will appear on page one.

I came across this very good video that discusses the issues as well, and provides a basic summary of how Google works. The video covers only the basics, but I really like the example used to explain incoming links, which also covers the importance of proper anchor text. I also appreciate that the author never tries to sell anything.

As set forth in How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline, backlinks are important, and they are something you should strive for, but as I show, you can land on page one with no backlinks.

Enjoy!

Five Reasons Attorneys Fall for SEO Scams

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I provide the following anecdote:

There is a classic Peanuts comic, where Linus is going door to door trying to sell wadded up pieces of paper as cat toys. His sales presentation is good, but he never makes a sale. He asks the cat owners to picture the hours of fun their cats will have playing with the wadded up piece of paper. Nonetheless, he can’t get past the fact that he’s selling wadded up pieces of paper. He loses the sale every time, because the prospective customers realize and explain that they can wad up their own pieces of paper.

I don’t know why that comic stuck with me, but I see it played out over and over in real life, especially on the Internet. To this day, solo practitioners who can’t afford it are spending thousands of dollars to have people build websites for them. To fulfill my continuing education requirements, I was at a law firm marketing seminar recently where someone claimed that incoming links are essential to successful search engine optimization (SEO). He claimed that you should have 30,000 incoming links to your site, and as luck would have it, he just happened to offer a link-building service for the “limited time, have to buy it now or the offer is lost for ever” price of $1,950 per month. He normally required a one year commitment, but attorneys signing up on the spot only had to commit to six months. Attorneys were lined up to pay $1,950 per month — a total commitment of almost $12,000 — for incoming links to a single website! The website fiverr.com offers 50,000 incoming links for just $5, and they are just as worthless as what this person was offering.

These sorts of absurd SEO claims and pricing are far too commonplace. By accident or design, many so-called SEO experts mystify the process so that you won’t realize it’s just wadded up pieces of paper, and you can wad your own paper, thank you very much.

I came across an interesting article by Jared Jorde entitled 5 Reasons Attorneys are Easy Marks for SEO Scams on a blog called LawLytics. Jorde has apparently witnessed the same sort of nonsense I reported, and provides a detailed look at the reasons behind the phenomenon. The article is worth a read to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of the scams yourself.

In Big Fat Pipeline, I explain how to create your own websites for just $6 per month, and I use that as a point of reference when someone is offering to create websites for me. I have no objection to farming out that work, and although I have no experience with LawLytics, I’d bet their websites are fancier than my own meager efforts. You went to law school to practice law, not to create websites. So by all means allow the pros to create your sites if your budget permits, but just keep in mind that it isn't magic, and you can wad your own paper.

iPad Tip for Lawyers: Put Your Contact Information on Your Lock Screen

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