History Repeats Itself – Don’t Let it Happen to You

In February 2009, I was contacted by a potential client, who was opening a law office. I recommended that he purchase case management software, Adobe Acrobat Professional and a scanner; he also needed time and billing software. Because he was just starting and wanted to focus on the time and billing software, I explained that the ideal product for him was one I did not support and offered to refer him to another consultant who is an expert on that product. He declined. Instead, at the recommendation of friends, he purchased a time and billing product from that is designed for mid- to large-sized law firms, even though I explained it really wasn’t for him. He insisted, and I processed the sale.

Now, roughly 18 months later, he has contacted me again. The software he bought, he discovered, isn’t right for him and he isn’t using it. Instead, he wants to know what I know about another product, recommended by his IT person. I don’t know much about the product, except that it probably isn’t right for him, but he wants it because his IT consultant – who does hardware and networks, not legal technology – has used it. He’s headed for more wasted money, at least if history repeats, as DeToqueville has reminded us.

I say it to clients, I say it in lectures, and I’ll say it here. Don’t buy software because your friends like it. That doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Don’t buy software because your IT person likes it. That doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Figure out what you need, then evaluate the products, and then make a decision. If, after that process, your friend or your IT person’s product is the right one – Great. But if not, buy what you need. That’s why we try on clothes, they may look great in a magazine, but not so hot on us.

Managing the Risks and Benefits of Technology in a Law Office Presentation Online as Podcast

Attorney Dan Siegel’s seminar, “Managing the Risks and Benefits of Technology,” which hepresented on September 14, 2010 to the Philadelphia Bar Associaiton’s Professional Guidance and Law Practice Management Committees and Young Lawyers Division, and through the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, is available as a podcast at http://www.techlawyergy.com/profresp091410.mp3 or the Philadelphia Bar Association’s website – http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/Podcasts_Speaker_Programs?appNum=2. Thanks to Barbara Rosenberg and Hope Comisky (co-chairs of the Professional Guidance Committee) and Paul Kazaras (of the Philadelphia Bar Association) for inviting Dan (president and founder of Integrated Technology Services, LLC) to speak.

The Paperless Court

Apropos my last post about the Paperless Office, I was reading the March/April 2010 issue of Baseline Magazine, which ran a terrific article, “Disaster-Proofing IT After Katrina,” about how the Gulfport Municipal Court in Louisiana was devastated by Katrina and, as a result, the Court secured a grant from the Department of Justice and digitized the entire office (after the hurricane, they actually tried using Rubbermaid containers for filing). Now — after training — the Court runs efficiently – electronically, with everything scanned, calendars/dockets electronic, etc. No more paper files. As the article concluded:

By streamlining its infrastructure, investing in a digital imaging solution and storing data in multiple sites, Gulfport Municipal Court has created order from chaos. It is now prepared for the worst that hurricane season can dish out, while fervently hoping that nightmare never returns.

As we discussed in the PBI “Paperless Office” course, going paperless (or “less paper” as I call it), improves efficiency and avoids many nightmares. In fact, last week after the seminar I walked past the site of the former Meridian Building, that burned down before the digital age and commented how, if the tenants had access to today’s technology, they might have been up and running in new quarters in just a matter of days. I know it’s a leap, but the sooner you make the jump to “less paper,” the better off you and your staff will be.

Paperless Office

I’m just finished lecturing about “How to Go Paperless” for PBI in Philadelphia with attorneys Rachel Branson, Walter Robinson and Twanda Turner-Hawkins. I demonstrated the various software we support and use. Most positive was the very good attendance, with about 35 people at the program. More and more, lawyers are beginning to recognize the need to reduce their reliance on paper, and the need to focus more on how technology makes them more efficient. We’ll be reprising the seminar next week in Pittsburgh on April 29th. Key discussion points today were backups, restoring backups, security and encryption and social media privacy information.

When Tech & Ethics Collide

The latest issue of Lawyers USA has a interesting (albeit brief) summary of an ABA program, Dangerous Curves Ahead: When Legal Ethics and Technology Collide,” presented by Catherine Sanders Reach, Director of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Knowing Catherine, I am sure that the program was interesting and thoguht-provoking. It covered issues, including the Model Rules, Metadata, Email, Social Networking, and Data Security. The topic paralleled a PBI in which I participated, “How Your Computer Can Get You Into Trouble;” it’s also the topic of an article I’m writing for Trial magazine (journal of the American Association for Justice) this fall.

Of greatest importance, the article (and Catherine’s program) highlight the need to be judicious with your use of technology; it’s so easy to take things for granted.

How to Do 90 Minutes of Work in 60 – New Version

On April 7, 2010, Dan Siegel will present “How to Do 90 Minutes of Work in 60,” his popular presentation featuring tips – for everyone, not just lawyers – about how to make your computer more user-friendly and accomplish more with fewer keystrokes and in less time. The presentation will be on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Jenkins Law Library, 833 Chestnut Street. For more information, go to cle.jenkinslaw.org. Unfortunately, Dan has so many tips that it takes 90 minutes to present all the tips you need to complete your work in 60. Contact Dan by visiting his website or by sending an email to arrange for this presentation at your law office (with CLE) or at your business (it’s not just for lawyers).

Reflections on Techshow (Part I)

Having just returned from Techshow 2010 in Chicago, the ABA Law Practice Management Division’s annual trade show and CLE program extravaganza, I was struck by a couple of things. First, no longer did it seem as though every booth was focused on e-discovery. While there is no question that e-discovery is an important issue, I felt as though the issues the vendors focused upon were things like case management (and my friends from Time Matters and Legal Files were present), document management (ditto for Worldox and Fujitsu (Scansnap), legal research (Lexis for Office – Wow! and West’s new product) and other products designed to improve workflow. I, for one, was pleased to see this.

But that doesn’t mean e-discovery is passe or forgotten. Some vendors focused on it, as did some of the programs. Perhaps one of the better programs I attended was E-Discovery in Small Cases, a topic that is often forgotten. Many of my clients handle these “smaller” cases, and they are in fact the bread and butter of many firms. But the e-discovery vendors often focus so much on the big ticket (and big revenue) cases that they forget that these small potatoes are present and their value adds up too.

 In future posts, I’ll talk more about these and other topics. And in my other blog, www.palegalblog.com, I plan to discuss why so few Pennsylvania attorneys attended.

Lexis for Microsoft Office

Admittedly, I’m skeptical about new software, and have always been leery of new developments in legal research, most of which has been more fluff than stuff. At ABA Techshow in Chicago yesterday, however, I drank the Kool Aid and saw the beta of Lexis for Microsoft Office, a very impressive product for conducting research within Word or Outlook. The software really does streamline the work, such as instantly compiling all the documents in a brief for download. I’ve even volunteered to do a beta test, and I traditionally hate being a guinea pig. Let’s hope that I picked a winner.

Windows 7 – Part II – The Good & Atrocious of Customer Service – Dell

Upgrading to Windows 7 can be an adventure if any of your hardware or software has any incompatibility. It’s worse, however, if you order a new computer and it arrives unbeknownst to you with a bad/corrupted installation of Windows 7. Mine did. Windows 7 Ultimate began as Windows 7 “the pits.”

So what did I do? I trudged ahead, using repairs, trying to make things work. Nothing helped. Programs didn’t work, and I was at wits end. Yes, I called Dell, and the first tech I spoke to didn’t know anything – and thus began my trek with Dell that has proven unequivocally that the only person in America who works for Dell must be Michael Dell. In this post, you can read how poor Dell’s support has sunk.

No one had any idea what to do, although they all suggested reinstalling because – well, why not? Never was I given a logical explanation. Then, my system crashed (yet again) and the RAID (the hard drives that mirrored each other) stopped working. At this point, I had probably spent 4 to 6 hours on the phone with Dell, to no avail. This time around it was really fun because no one seemed to know how to diagnose or repair the problem. It took 2 hours to speak with someone who knew how. We resolved the issue, but the Registry had become so corrupt that virtually none of my software worked anymore.

So, I decided to reinstall the operating system. I called Dell, got bounced from one technician to another – and all they seemed to want to do was sell me service contracts – even though I had one. After nearly two hours, I spoke with someone who helped me. Of course, he never told me that you can’t reinstall Windows 7 unless every USB accessory is unplugged, so the reinstall failed and we had to do it again. Then it worked.

Now the system works fine, but I spent at least 12 to 16 hours on the phone with Dell. When I called the number they said was for my computer, they said it wasn’t, and it was an adventure in how not to treat a customer.

But that wasn’t all. Before this, I was trying to find out which toner was the proper one for my Dell printer, and the website wasn’t helpful. So I tried online tech support. Not only didn’t the person know, but he admitted that he was handling three chats at once. After an hour, I surrendered and called. What did I learn? The more expensive cartridge was that way because it was refillable (in other words, when it ran out of ink, I could refill it myself), even though every printer manufacturer tells you not to refill the cartridge. The rep – Oscar, I believe – then asked if I wanted to order through him. I declined, saying  I would order online. He cautioned me, and said that if I ordered online my order my get canceled because the website was so busy. I’m not kidding, that’s what he said. I ordered online, and guess what, it arrived.

My final adventure is probably the worst. My CD drive on one of my PCs hasn’t worked for ages, so I called last Friday (February 26th) and the rep took the information and said a technician would be dispatched to replace the part. With my next day onsite service, I expected the repair by the 2nd of March. No. Not on the 3rd either. So today, I called for status. Guess what? Dell’s computers have been having problems and they told me (after getting disconnected – no matter what they say, no one calls you back like they promise) they had no information at all. They wanted me to call back. This was after being bounced around for another 45 minutes.

Eventually, a technician, David, said he would take the information. But I was upset at this point and asked to speak with his supervisor – Marlon. Marlon said he really couldn’t help me, and when I asked again and again for the name of the other rep, he refused to provide it, saying he could only provide his name and the other rep would have to give me his name. I was transferred back to David, who disclosed his name (although not many Indians have David as their name, in my experience).

I was still upset. After all, Dell has wasted probably 2 or 3 days of my time, and that doesn’t count the days lost trying to get my fancy new computer to work right – and then the days spent reinstalling all of my software. I wanted customer service, and was eventually transferred to Sharon, who kept telling me she was in Panama, not India. She said all of the same pap that every rep is taught from the womb in an effort to appease unhappy customers. She assured me that she would have me transferred to a manager, not a rep or a supervisor and would not get off the phone until I spoke with one. Guess what, she passed me off to a rep, who again re-ordered my CD drive. This time, however, he was insistent that, despite my contract, I would have to install the new one myself. Eventually, he spoke with his (unnamed) supervisor, who granted permission to have a technician dispatched to do the replacement.

The story doesn’t end here. No, David promised that because of the computer problem he would call me today at 4 p.m. (my time) to confirm that the order for the replacement CD drive was made. First, he had to ask what time zone I was in because he didn’t know where Pennsylvania was, and said that he couldn’t keep track of all that information. And guess what, it’s 5:37 p.m. and no call. Also, the rep who re-ordered the CD (and wanted me to install it myself) told me I would receive an immediate email confirmation of the service order. It’s more than 6 hours later and it’s not in my inbox, my spam box or my junk email box.

I have purchased many, many computers from Dell, and own 4 Dell printers as well, plus a Dell DJ, and other assorted products. Always I have been pleased with Dell’s customer service and technical support. Not anymore. Clearly, these experiences demonstrate that it’s more important to try to make a buck than to satisfy customers – even ones like me who are repeat customers. My efforts to get some adjustment for my hassles were ignored, almost laughed at by Sharon (the rep from Panama), and the tech support people are trained to immediately tell you they can’t help with that, they’re just tech support – even when they don’t have a clue.

I ask Dell – is this what your company has become? Have things gotten so bad that it’s impossible to speak with an American, and that it’s equally impossible to obtain tech support or customer service without wasting hours and hours and days and days on the phone? Is it so bad that when you do get a person they make up ridiculous stories about orders being canceled from the website?

One of my businesses is technology consulting for lawyers. While I deal mostly with software, my clients ask about hardware. Forever, I recommended Dell. Now, how can I?

Next blog — more customer service stories.

Windows 7 – Part I

It’s here – Windows 7 – the latest, greatest operating system from Microsoft. I’ve upgraded all the PCs at home and in my office. Generally, the transition went smoothly, but not completely. First, if you do an inplace upgrade (from Windows XP to Windows 7), you’ll need the Laplink Upgrade Assistant software. In every instance, it worked well – although some programs (including all media type programs) needed to be re-registered. But overall, the transfer went smoothly. On the other hand, I don’t recommend migrating your programs from an old PC to a new one with Windows 7. The reality is that the migration process is fraught with problems, and you should only migrate documents and settings, not programs. In future posts, I’ll talk about specifics of Windows 7, why it’s an advantage for law firms to make the plunge, and how lawyers can be more efficient just by chaning the operating. In short, it’s like putting a newer engine in a car – it’ll run faster and more efficiently.

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