If only I had had the opportunity to attend the seminar like this when I first set up my office, I would consider myself the luckiest guy in the world.
When I set up my first solo office some 30 years ago, my books of account consisted of a spiral binder with brown front and back covers. I had a checkbook into which I entered by hand, my deposits and my checks. My office was approximately 10 by 10 and I shared time for the Secretary. This arrangement lasted for approximately two years. All of the equipment was packaged as part of my lease payments with the exception of my dictaphone machine that operated on spooled tape. There was no e-mail, no computer, no fax, but a fairly decent telephone system. The intercom consisted of people yelling back and forth within the office.
What equipment do we need today for the solo law firm?
Certainly, the backbone of all offices is the computer. Today, I would think any clone computer would work. I'm dictating this document using DragonDictate Naturally Speaking Version 5, while staring at a 22" monitor upon which the text is being typed while observing my Eudora 4.0 e-mail on a second monitor of approximately 14". It's no big deal these days to buy a souped up video card that will allow you to have dual monitors. I find that always keeping my e-mail up and available saves me a great deal of time. The computer that I'm going to using has a 40 GB hard drive and it runs on a very fast Pentium III processor. The memory is in excess of 300 meg of RAM. I have such a high RAM rate because of using programs like DragonDictate while running my office management program, ACT 2000; and my Eudora 4.0 e-mail program all at the same time. In addition, we do quite a bit of scanning. Scanning sops up a lot of memory.
I would estimate one could purchase a computer outfit such as the one I'm using for about $2500. In addition, I have a sound card that is designed to be used to DragonDictate. It only cost about $100. Lastly, I'm using a VXI headset called the "Parrot". It has a toggle switch that allows me to use my headset for both voice dictation and recognition and my telephone without removing the headset.
The computer also uses WinFax. This, in its Version 10 incarnation, is quite an amazing faxing tool. It runs all the time. When a fax comes to me, it’s displayed and printed automatically. It's very flexible and so far, bulletproof. I've been using it for over a year. I have a dedicated phone line to my computer which really comes from the days when I was using a dial-up connection for the Internet.
Today, in our office, we are linked to the Internet by an I.S.D.N. line that runs all the time. All of the parties in our office are online all the time. We utilize the Internet for our e-mail system.
E-mail has replaced the "tennis shoe network". It is so simple to attach a document to e-mail and mail it to the intended recipient in our office and it is done all the time. We cut down on a lot of paperwork by using this method to prepare, review and mail documents. (Eudora) (Outlook)
Scanning: in our office, the key secretarial people use scanners. I work more with Debbie Wipfler than anyone else. Debbie has a scanner on her desk. I have a scanner on my desk. Debbie receives my mail from the postman. She opens it and scans all legal data over the network to me. When I receive the legal data, via the e-mail, I pop it open using the PaperPort scanner and the software that was bundled with it. I save the legal data to a directory that is named under the client’s name. All of my clients are listed under C:\my files\clients. While we do not have a "Worldox" situation, I have to say we have never lost a document. I have, in fact, hired experts to come into the office and advise as to whether we needed the Worldox Docs situation. Today, I had been told that our system which is simple in nature seems to work fine and, "if it ain't broke don't fix it". (Paperport Visioneer)
Our telephone system is a standard "AT&T Partners Plus" telephone system consisting of five or six telephone lines. The telephone comes with a voicemail program that is pretty easy to change when you're out of the office on a trip.
We have a postage meter by Pelouze. What can I say.
Our copy machine is by Konica. It functions about as well as any copy machine can function. Believe me, I remember the old days of the Xerox 914. About the only unique aspect of our copy machine that I can tell you about is the fact that its linked to a numerical counter that enables the user to input a client number. By using the counter which is locked into the print command, we are assured that documents copied for a client can be billed to the client. The "Copy Commander" talks to the Timeslips program electronically. All information is fed in the Timeslips to be billed out at billing time. Today, for a rather modest price, one can actually use, in your own office, copy machines that you would only have dreamed about 20 years earlier. There is a running issue as to whether compound machines such as those that fax, scan and copy should be used. The argument in favor of same is to get the “biggest bang for the buck". The argument against the use of same is that if the machine "goes down", your office goes down. In our office, simply because we've grown over the years without basic planning, we use separate stand-alones for each of our tasks.
I wrote a lot of experts for advice on using a central faxing system over the network, as well. I would really like to try to use this, but my partner, Les Steinberg, is against this idea and enjoys the freedom of the stand-alone fax machine. So until I get a new son, which at my age is highly unlikely, I have to yield to his judgment on this particular point.
Voice recognition: You will note, in this situation, I am presenting the original copy of this document together with an edited copy for all users to see what the first draft looks like. I am a devotee of voice recognition. I use it every day. The simplicity of voice recognition allows someone like myself to throw a lot of words on paper with very little difficulty. The reality is the editing functions of DragonDictate are quite simple today. If I have enough time, I can edit my own documents. If not, I let Debbie edit my documents. The advantage that I have over many of you is that I've been working with Debbie Wipfler for over 20 years. She basically understands what I am dictating even before she sees it. This is a tremendous advantage. (Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking)
PalmPilot: When out of the office, I refer to my PalmPilot device. (Palm Visor Ipac Clie) The PalmPilot syncs with our ACT database and that allows me to carry approximately 3000 records of clients and lots of information about them.
With my advanced age, the screen of the PalmPilot professional was becoming harder and harder to read and I kept observing the advancements made in the newer PalmPilot. I finally decided that now was the time to move up to one of the new color modules. I now use an M505. Because the color modules do not have a paging system, I then opted for a stand-alone pager at a very modest price.
Pager: Motorola Timeport. When someone wants to reach me, they could either go to the Internet and type in a text message which would be reproduced on my pager moments after having been prepared, or call a number and enter an active alphanumeric number so that I could return a phone call.
Our ACT database: As my computer is the central nervous system of my law practice, my ACT database is the central nervous system of our office. You may be familiar with databases distributed by Time Matters Amicus or other legal purveyors. The reality is, in all fairness, that these various databases are basically pretty similar in fact. They contain the names and addresses and phone numbers of all of your legal contacts as well as clients. You can enter the name of spouses and children, if you are so inclined. In our ACT database system, as I take each telephone call, I pull up the clients record. I record in the database the substance of my conversation with my client. I, then, copy the data as entered and paste same into Timeslips. (Act2000, Time Matters Amicus)
We use Timeslips for our record-keeping system. This is a system that tracks time and expenses. But it is not a general ledger system. We do have a program for general ledger and that's called Quick Books. (Timeslips)
Timeslips is a very simple system and I'm told it is used by more attorneys than any other time record-keeping system. We've been using it now for the last five or six years and we are up to Version 8. It is a very satisfactory time entry system. It also is available with a portable module, if you wish to keep time on your PDA.
Quick Books is a product by Quicken. It is a general ledger system but not a double entry system. You should discuss the differences with your certified public accountant and see what system you need for your book work. For us, quick books has worked out just fine. It tracks our income and our expenses. It maintains capital accounts and has some reporting features that you may select as part of your package. You may select from full-blown reports that will tell you just about anything concerning your office practice. In our particular office, we only track income of each partner in the firm and expenses incurred in running the firm. We do not have a productivity report which would analyze the amount of hours expended on a client versus the receipt of monies from the client. That would be nice but the expense is believed to be unacceptable in view of the fact we have a father/son relationship in our firm and neither one of us are going to get fired. (Quickbooks)
Printers: We have a couple of label printers: label printers are very handy because certain outsized envelopes are incapable of being put through the printer. I'm told by the secretarial staff they are very keen on labels and they really prefer to use them in most instances. We use the label printers for our newsletters, oversize envelopes, and sending out holiday and birthday occasion cards. (Kyocera HP )
Our office is comprised of two lawyers and three staff. We have a Kyocera printer which is a high volume, heavy-duty commercial printer. Everyone else has individual personal printers on their desks, as well. When I do my work, I will often send my work in draft form to my personal printer for a review on paper. When the job is ready for final editing, I send it out to Debbie via the e-mail and she prints the final document on the Kyocera. We also have a color printer which we use to print compare versions of documents which our clients appreciate as the revisions are printed in red and are easier to notice.
Occasion lists: we keep in our ACT database our clients and other contacts birthdays and anniversaries. When the appropriate time rolls around, ACT allows one to print address labels, as well, for the respective occasion contact. We then place an occasion card in an envelope that would say, for example, happy birthday, happy anniversary, or whatever else we have docketed for the occasion.
Holiday lists: holiday list are very similar to occasion lists, however, these are particular holidays, i.e. Christmas and holiday time. Again, using our ACT database, one can print off labels for designated groups who would be the recipient of our occasion or holiday cards.
ACT allows you to call and segregate your database into respective groups. For example, our office receives referrals from particular panels. We set up the referrals and the referred clients under a special group. In this manner, the client who comes to see us from AARP is in our central database, but in a special group set up for AARP. When we make our annual reports to AARP concerning the number of referrals, it's a pretty simple task, just print the group.
ACT continued: In addition to maintaining a list of acquaintances, clients, and other parties of interest, and notes pertaining to them, the list also contains phone numbers in primary, secondary, fields including pagers, home phone numbers and alternate phone numbers and other fields. By synchronizing the information in our ACT database with our PDA, we can walk around with a fairly sophisticated informational system that is available on a moment's notice.
Summation: This product is a database for the larger cases which are document intensive. It is not feasible or practical for us to take the time in these written materials in order to explain what this software will do. Suffice to say, that if you're involved in litigation involving several thousand documents, you'll educate yourself with software such as Summation or Concordance.
Live Note: Many of you'll find yourselves involved in litigation and the necessity of having to take a deposition either representing the deponent or defending same. Live Note is a program that enables you to interface with the court reporter’s stenotype machine and watch the responses made by the witness in real-time. Live Note has extensive annotation attributes that make digesting a deposition a thing of the past. It is a bit more expensive on the fly and, i.e. about a dollar page, but it saves your client a great deal of money on the back end, i.e. the time it would take you to review and digest the deposition. Because Live Note works in real-time, you'll find that digesting a deposition "on the fly" gives you a great advantage in that you are digesting the deposition while it is still very fresh in your mind.
Casesoft: Casesoft represents to me a new breed of software that is available to litigators. The magical aspect of Casesoft is that after you input factual data into the program, you can generate "what if” questions that are designed to make you think in a more efficient manner concerning possible issues dealing with your case. Casesoft is a factual database with a great deal of cross-referencing aspects. Again, it would serve little purpose here for me to go into the details of what this program is and what it does. Suffice to say Casesoft is available on the Internet and may be found at www.caseoff.com.