Workflowy App Available by Jeff Krause

WorkflowyI am not sure how I missed this, but Workflowy released Apple and Android apps earlier this year.

I reviewed Workflowy back in May, 2012 and it was perhaps the most well-received and cited post I have ever written. That’s because Workflowy allows you to organize your tasks in the same way you think about them. Many readers recognized the potential of the tool and I still get comments from people thanking me for turning them on to Workflowy.

The Workflowy app is available in the iTunes store. The app is not as flashy as a lot of other apps. In fact, it looks and operates the same as the web based version. Frankly, I prefer it that way. I don’t need to learn another interface. Log in and you will see your existing tasks. Expand using the “+” and “-” signs to expand or collapse levels. Click in the list and your keyboard appears. Very easy and very intuitive.

I have not tested the Android device but, as it is almost time to upgrade my phone, maybe I will in the near future.

If you would like to try Workflowy, here’s the link.

Create a System Today, Avoid a Headache Tomorrow by Jeff Krause

As my lack of recent blog posts suggests, I have been pretty busy lately. Among other things, Krause Practice Management will be launching a new website soon. More on that in a few weeks.

As far as client work, one of things that has been keeping me busy is training new billing administrators and streamlining the billing process at existing law firms. It is always interesting how the legal technology business runs in streaks. I have done this type of work in the past but three of these projects came to me in quick succession last month.

I realize that a blog post about what is keeping me busy is not all that interesting. That is not why I am writing this post. I am writing because it illustrates a series of problems that could be avoided if law firms ran themselves more like a business. In all of my recent engagements, the story was the same. “Our billing has been done by the same person for years and now they are leaving or retiring. No one else knows how to do the billing. Help!”

The problem is something I touched on in my recent presentation at Considerations for Starting a Law Practice in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Like any other business, maybe even more than others, law firms need systems. Wouldn’t this type of transition be a lot easier if the billing process was documented somewhere?

A firm’s billing process might be fairly complex. For example:

1. Three days before the end of the month, an email is sent to all timekeepers reminding them that all time must be entered by 5 p.m. on the first business day of the next month. The template for this email can be found on the network at …
2. On the first business day of the month, an email is sent to all timekeepers remind them that all time must be entered by 5 p.m. that day. The template for this email can be found on the network at …
3. On the second business day of the month, draft statements are run from Tabs, by going to the Generate Statements screen and selecting the following settings:

The entire system could very well be fifty steps and a good system accounts for at least 80% of the situations that arise. Do not try to systematize every exception. Doing this will overwhelm you and is not all that productive anyway. Note these as they come up and have a place to save your notes in case it ever comes up again.

Going back to my recent work, all of my new clients could have benefited from systems. This type of transition is much smoother if you can hand a list of billing procedures to the new billing administrator. Then, they only have to call me where they have questions. Another method would be to have me review and revise the current systems and then train the new billing administrator on the correct system. Instead, most firms throw the new person into a difficult situation and expect them to learn everything from the very beginning, often on their own. The result? A new non-documented system that resides in the head of one person and, when that person leaves the firm, the cycle starts over again.

If you want to save your firm headaches in the future, start putting systems in place today.

Social Media and Time Management Presentations by Jeff Krause

My recent presentations from the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference are now available for download on the Presentations Download page of the Krause Practice Management Website.  This year, I gave presentations on “A Get Started Guide to Social Media for Lawyers” and “Efficient Time Management with Technology.”  Both the written materials and PowerPoint presentations are available for download.

Repost – Does Your Office Run Itself While You Are Away by Jeff Krause

I am reposting this topic from earlier this year after several requests.

Recently, someone who knows me as a legal technologist asked me to write an article on technology and trial techniques.  In what now seems like another lifetime, I was a litigator.  When I sat down to write the article, I found that I just could not do it.  Technology has changed everything about trial technique in the 14 years I have been away.  On the other hand, I realized that there is something I do every day that helps my clients be successful at trial – make their office efficient while they are away so that they can focus on their trial.

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Same Profile As in Worldox by Jeff Krause

Here is a quick tip on a Worldox feature you may have overlooked.

I often create a Word document, save it to Worldox, then use the Acrobat plugin for Word to create a PDF.  When I do that, a new Worldox profile screen pops up.  Invariably, the profile is exactly the same for the PDF so I fill it in and hit save.

This only takes a few seconds but I do this a lot and, some time ago, I realized there is a shortcut – Same Profile As.  Clicking Same Profile As brings up a Worldox list of my Favorites.  The document I just saved is almost always right at the top.  I select the document and am prompted to use the Description, Full Profile, or Save As New Version.  I pick Full Profile and my PDF is saved to same profile as the Word document it was created from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This saves me ten seconds or so every time I have to do this, which is a lot.  It is also more accurate than retyping the profile each time because there is no chance that I will mistype the client or matter number.

Workflowy Task Management by Jeff Krause

Blawgworld Pick of the WeekThis article won the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week. BlawgWorld is a free weekly email newsletter that links to the best articles on the Web for lawyers and law firm administrators.

I am probably not the only person who has never found the perfect task management tool.  Most legal practice management systems have some sort of task management.  Many people use Outlook.  There are even dedicated task management tools like Remember the Milk and Taskline.  Many of these are great tools and I am sure they work for many people – but not me.

The task management systems in Time Matters and PracticeMaster, for example, seem to offer everything someone needs to track their tasks.  You can track due date, priority, assignments, reminders, client, etc.  In fact, the Time Matters ToDo form has around 30 fields and PracticeMaster has around 20 before customization.  That works for many people and tells a busy lawyer everything they need to know with regard to deadlines.  So, why doesn’t that work for me?

The problem is how much work it is to create and manage the tasks.  I have tasks flying at me all day.  One client calls me with issue A, while another is emailing me issue B and my assistant is reminding me that I was supposed to take care of internal item C.  That’s just the beginning.  If I was to list all of my tasks with a letter, I would probably run through the alphabet two or three times each day.  Thats a lot of time spent entering 20 to 30 pieces of information and I still have to go back and mark them all complete at some point.  In the end, I spend more time managing tasks than I spend getting them done.

I need a simple task system that allows me to quickly note a task the moment I receive it.  There has to be an easy way to see everything that is outstanding.  I also need a way to cross them off the list when I finish them without having to go through a long list, open each record and mark it complete.  While not ideal, I have often found the best task management system for me is a handwritten list on a legal pad where I could write the task down and cross it out when finished.  Until now.

Enter Workflowy.   Workflowy is the simplest task management system I have ever tried.  I have used it for several weeks and it eliminates many of the headaches that have caused task systems to fail for me in the past.  Workflowy allows me to enter tasks in a simple outline form.  At the top level, I have Client Work, Admin, Sales, Marketing and Personal.  Each of these is then broken down into subtopics.  Under clients, for example, I have a level for each client followed by a level for the different tasks that must be done.  If a task has multiple parts or multiple layers, I can enter those as well.

When a task is complete, Workflowy allows me to simply click it done.  I can toggle my list to display completed items or hide them.  If I need more detail, I can add notes to any line.  After a few days, my list was pretty long but the client level organization allows me to pinpoint things fairly quickly.  If I can’t, the list is searchable and I can use hash(#) and at(@) tags in a variety of ways.  For example, in the morning I can make a quick run through of my list and tag items #today if I want to make sure I get to them today.  Simply search for #today and I have my daily list.

Workflowy is a wonderful tool.  It is simple yet elegant and it is the first task management system that seems to work the way I do.  Best of all, it is free for the first 400 items each month.  There is also a Pro version that allows unlimited items per month, password protected collaboration, fonts and thems and backup to Dropbox for $4.99 per month.  Also, similar to Dropbox, you can invite friends to sign up and get additional free space.

In fact, now that think of it, you can help me out if you click here to try Workflowy.  You will get a great task management tool and I will get more space for my seemingly endless list of tasks.

Reverse Mentoring for Tech Skills by Jeff Krause

A busy first quarter has put me way behind on both my reading and blogging.  Yesterday, while trying to catch up, I came across an article from the February 2012 issue of Law Technology News by Brendan McKenna on reverse mentoring.  See Could Reverse Mentoring Fly at Law Firms?

Traditionally, law firm mentoring involved a more experienced partner taking a young associate under their wing and helping them learn both the law and how to practice law.  Reverse mentoring is where the young associate returns the favor by teaching older attorneys about today’s technology.  I see reverse mentoring going on all the time.  In fact, I engaged in it years ago when I was in practice.

Reverse mentoring makes perfect sense and it probably happens within your firm right now.  It will work even better if you formalize the process and set aside time every week or month for it.  I should also point out that firm management should make some allowance for the time spent mentoring and not billing.  If you don’t, your young associates won’t be very excited about doing it.

Need some ideas to get started?  Online legal research, mobility apps, and working remote are good places to start.  Once you start, you will find other topics.

Dropbox, Cloud Storage and Encryption by Jeff Krause

My friend and Lawtopia partner, Craig Bayer, has written an extensive post on Dropbox and similar services that store documents in the cloud. Recently, people have questioned the security of such services.

Craig’s post discusses the various options you have to secure your data and concludes that encrypting your files before you upload them is the answer. Interesting read.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Dropbox and Love the Cloud

Does Your Office Run Itself While You Are Away? by Jeff Krause

Recently, someone who knows me as a legal technologist asked me to write an article on technology and trial techniques.  In what now seems like another lifetime, I was a litigator.  When I sat down to write the article, I found that I just could not do it.  Technology has changed everything about trial technique in the 14 years I have been away.  On the other hand, I realized that there is something I do every day that helps my clients be successful at trial – make their office efficient while they are away so that they can focus on their trial.

You know the feeling.  You are taking a well deserved and long overdue vacation, have to take an extended business trip or try a case that is expected to take a week.  Oh, oh.  While you are out, your phone still rings, emails pile up and your to do list doubles or triples in size.  How can you enjoy your vacation or focus on your trial without worrying about the mess you left behind and will be returning to next week?  Will your office grind to a halt without you there to run it?

There are a number of things that you can do to ensure your law office (or any other business for that matter) continues to work while you are away.  Two that immediately come to mind are systems and delegation.  I going to discuss both in terms of something I do know – law office technology.

Systems provide consistency, confidence and transferability within your firm.  In other words, things are done the same way every time, you have confidence they are getting done, your staff has confidence they are doing things correctly and you can easily transition a task to a new employee.  In the past, systems often meant a paper checklist where employees noted each task as they complete it.  Technology has dramatically changed this.  Today, we can create the checklists automatically, have our computer prompt us for the next step, notify the appropriate people automatically and perform other tasks that used to require much more in the way of direct human input.  Practice management systems are a great place to start here.  Programs like Time Matters and PracticeMaster allow you to create chains of events and automatically generate the next record.  There are even tools that are specifically designed for creating and maintaining systems.  Once the system is in place, it is much more efficient than old fashioned paper checklists.

Attorneys used to be pretty good at delegation.  I can remember a time when few attorneys typed their own letters.  They quickly dictated the letter and their staff typed it up or, in some cases, the staff member drafted it for review by the attorney.  Technology has changed this.  Most attorneys now type their own emails (which have replaced letters and phone calls as their primary communication method) and most enter their own time.  Many now type their own letters, briefs and contracts and some even do routine tasks such as scanning.  I am not necesarily saying that this is a bad thing but, think about it.  How can your office run itself while you are away, if you do the lion’s share of the work yourself?  If you want to get out of the office, you have to delegate more so that things get done while you are away.

Technology can help you with delegation as well.  I use my Grundig Digta 7 to dictate my to do list to my assistant, indicating who to assign it to and when it is due.  She enters them into our practice management system which distributes the tasks and notifies the person who is being assigned a task. The system then produces reports that tell me the status of each task and displays notes as the tasks are completed.  All of this is much efficient than my old system of writing down a long list of to dos and hoping that I could somehow complete them all.  The point is, technology should make things easier, not harder.  Use technology to help you delegate rather than take on more things yourself.

Systems and delegation are common sense business tools.  They won’t help you try your case but they can relieve some of the stress of being out a few day and let you focus on what matters – getting a good result for your client.

Offline Viewing of Dropbox Files on Your iPad by Jeff Krause

A client asked me a Dropbox question this week.  I should have known the answer but the question had never occurred to me before. I had to figure it out.  These types of questions make great blog posts.  If one person is asking the question, there are probably more.

The client was boarding a plane in a few hours.  For the first time, he planned to take his iPad rather than his laptop.  He had copied a number of documents tha

t he needed to Dropbox.  However, when he disconnected from his wireless network, he could not access the documents.  They were only available when connected to the Internet.  He wanted to review these documents while on the plane.  How, he asked, could he save a local copy of the documents on his iPad?

The answer is simple but I did not know it until I looked it up.  Dropbox files are not automatically saved to the iPad.  In order to save a file locally on your iPad, it must be indicated as a Favorite.  You indicate a file as a Favorite by highlighting it in Dropbox and tapping the star in the upper right of the screen.

One more thing.  In the Dropbox settings on your iPad, there is a Local Storage setting.  By default, this is set a 500MB.  If you need to store a lot of files locally on your iPad, you may need to adjust this setting.

For those of you who have never tried Dropbox, it is a useful tool.  It allows you to share files between your desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones.  If you sign up using this link, you can get 2GB of free storage and I get 250MB of additional storage for my account.

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