TechnoLawyer NewsWire
So many products, so little time. TL NewsWire discusses and links to hot new products and services for lawyers and law office administrators.
Informative and jargon-free, each TL NewsWire article enables you to quickly understand the function of each product, and zero in on its most notable features. In each issue, you can easily revisit previous articles thanks to convenient links.

Every December, we publish the TL NewsWire Top 25 Products of the Year Awards as chosen by TL NewsWire subscribers — including you if you become a subscriber.

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AbacusLaw Goes Beyond the Practice Management Status Quo With Client Intake, Court Rules Calendaring, and Legal Accounting

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Today's issue of TL NewsWire covers an accounting and practice management system that automates client intake, rules-based calendaring, and document creation (see article below). In addition, you'll find links to the previous 11 TL NewsWire features, including our coverage of a corporate messaging service that automatically saves discussions and shared documents to NetDocuments, a Microsoft Word add-in that scores your briefs and offers a spellchecker-like tool which suggests corrections and stylistic improvements, and much more. Don't miss the next issue.

Why is Elon Musk so focused on rocket launches? Because with space travel everything stems from the launch. Now think about your cases. They all start with intake, a process that many practice management systems ignore. But shouldn't intake be a priority?

AbacusLaw … in One Sentence

AbacusNext's AbacusLaw is a popular practice management and legal accounting system with customizable intake tools, court rules calendaring, Outlook integration, and a mobile app.

The Killer Feature

AbacusLaw has an Intake button on its toolbar, which underscores the company's reverence for this aspect of law practice. Click this menu, choose the applicable PALS or Practice Area Legal Solution, and begin entering information about your new matter. AbacusLaw offers PALS for all major practice areas. Each PALS consists of special fields, reports, document templates, and smart intake forms. You can customize a PALS to fit your needs, and create entirely new PALS for niches within your practice.

The intake forms in each PALS are "smart" because they automatically check for duplicate data and link to related information. These forms populate all areas of the software, obviating the need to enter data in multiple locations. Instead of entering all the data yourself, you can have clients, witnesses, and others securely enter information into these forms on your website. You can still take advantage of this automation even if you create a matter the old-fashioned way. Just assign a PALS to the matter and all the associated fields and forms appear for data entry.

Other Notable Features

Rules-based deadline calendaring for litigation matters is another area most practice management systems ignore. By contrast, AbacusLaw includes calendar rules for civil actions in federal courts and most state courts. The calendar rules for California even include specialty courts such as family law. You can set up the applicable rules as part of an intake form or do it later after filing a complaint. The rules calculate all deadlines, and automatically adjust them as continuances and other delays occur.

AbacusLaw also offers automation for transactional practice areas with its built-in document assembly. Choose from dozens of bundled forms and create your own (AbacusNext provides training). After choosing a form, assign it to a matter, fill it out, and generate a Word, WordPerfect, or PDF document for further editing and sharing.

In addition to managing your legal work, AbacusLaw also manages your finances with a full accounting system — general ledger, accounts payable, trust accounting, and of course billing. Every screen in AbacuLaw has a Time Tix button that can start a timer or record a time entry. Reports include all those you would expect, which you can customize. You can also create your own reports.

Because AbacusLaw is matter-centric, you can access all information related to a matter in one place, including calendar events, contacts, documents, and invoices. If you use Outlook, you can also save relevant email to a matter using AbacusLaw's add-in. With the free mobile app, you can access your matters on the go.

"Designed for lawyers, easy to use, and powerful, AbacusLaw helps me manage my practice and do my billing," says Delaware solo practitioner Thomas Shellenberger. "The calendar coordinates well with Outlook and my mobile device."

What Else Should You Know?

Most law firms use AbacusLaw via Abacus Private Cloud, AbacusNext's virtual desktop service. You can host AbacusLaw at your firm if you prefer. Learn more about AbacusLaw.

How to Receive TL NewsWire
So many products, so little time. In each issue of TL NewsWire, you'll learn about five new products for the legal profession. Pressed for time? The newsletter's innovative articles enable lawyers and law office administrators to quickly understand the function of a product, and zero in on its most important features. The TL NewsWire newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Replace Internal Email With NetDocuments' New ndThread Messaging and Collaboration Service

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today's issue of TL NewsWire covers a corporate messaging service that automatically saves discussions and shared documents to NetDocuments (see article below). In addition, you'll find links to the previous 11 TL NewsWire features, including our coverage of a Microsoft Word add-in that scores your briefs and offers a spellchecker-like tool which suggests corrections and stylistic improvements, cloud software for paperless deposition exhibits that gives you precise control over what the deponent sees and which can generate a hyperlinked report of all marked exhibits, and much more. Don't miss the next issue.

Email makes a lot of sense for communicating with clients thanks to its interoperability across organizations. But internal email is a different story. The sheer volume can bury important client messages and prevent them from being filed or shared. Since you're all in the same organization, corporate messaging offers a better alternative — except that it usually creates another location to manage.

NetDocuments ndThread … in One Sentence

Just launched, NetDocuments' ndThread is a secure messaging service embedded within NetDocuments' cloud platform with apps for Windows, Mac, Web, iOS, and Android.

The Killer Feature

ndThread builds on the recent launch of ndMail (for storing email and attachments) to ensure that you'll find all information related to a matter in one location in NetDocuments. This also guarantees a unified platform for communication and collaboration while incorporating NetDocuments global search functionality.

ndThread came to NetDocuments via its acquisition of ThreadKM late last year. Dan Hauck, former CEO of ThreadKM and current VP of Product and User Experience at NetDocuments, spearheaded the project to incorporate ndThread into the NetDocuments platform for matter and topic-based messaging.

ndThread offers a zero-configuration experience on several fronts. For example, there's no initial setup because everyone in your firm can use their NetDocuments identity to login and use ndThread. Furthermore, there's no concern about threaded discussions becoming information silos because ndThread automatically saves and categorizes conversations in the correct matter within NetDocuments' matter, client, or topic-based workspaces.

"NetDocuments' ability to quickly incorporate the ThreadKM technology into its global cloud service speaks to its incredible power and efficiency," says Hauck. "The same encryption, security, compliance, indexing, and search functionality of NetDocuments' robust service now extends to all aspects of ndThread, reducing the need for law firms to rely on outside technologies to quickly and effectively communicate."

Other Notable Features

ndThread offers two ways to communicate with colleagues — direct messages and workspace discussions. Direct messages work like text messages except that you don't need to maintain an address book. Workspaces in ndThread mirror workspaces in NetDocuments and facilitate a conversation among members of a client team, practice group, committee, etc. Notification icons inform you of unread messages (you can also receive email or push notifications).

Workspaces can contain multiple private or open "threads" alongside other matter-related documents and email (e.g., a partners-only discussion). When a new team member joins a workspace, they gain access to all past discussions and documents, helping them get up to speed.

Most of the time, you'll reference documents already stored in NetDocuments. If you add a new document from elsewhere, ndThread asks you to fill out a profile and saves it into the same workspace in NetDocuments. Once a document resides in ndThread, you can use annotation tools to collaborate on it. These annotations reside in a nondestructive layer on top of the document. Collaborating in this fashion brings everyone to the same file, eliminating the drudgery of merging competing redlines or commentary sent in email messages or attachments.

What Else Should You Know?

"We started looking at ThreadKM as an innovative alternative to traditional email communication before the NetDocuments acquisition," says David Pray, Chief Transformation Officer at Bailey & Glasser LLP. "Now having ndThread as part of the NetDocuments platform presents a win-win scenario. We look forward to immediately leveraging ndThread as part of our NetDocuments platform investment." Learn more about ndThread.

How to Receive TL NewsWire
So many products, so little time. In each issue of TL NewsWire, you'll learn about five new products for the legal profession. Pressed for time? The newsletter's innovative articles enable lawyers and law office administrators to quickly understand the function of a product, and zero in on its most important features. The TL NewsWire newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

BriefCatch Offers a Shortcut to the Perfect Brief

Monday, June 04, 2018

Today's issue of TL NewsWire covers a Microsoft Word add-in that scores your briefs and offers a spellchecker-like tool which suggests corrections and stylistic improvements (see article below). In addition, you'll find links to the previous 11 TL NewsWire features, including our coverage of cloud software for paperless deposition exhibits that gives you precise control over what the deponent sees and which can generate a hyperlinked report of all marked exhibits, billing and task management software designed to handle any financial model you devise, including the option to outsource drudgery such as mailing bills, and much more. Don't miss the next issue.

You may have the talent to write the perfect brief, but can you afford to spend that much time on it? Can your client? Why do all this work yourself when you can have one of the country's top legal writing experts edit your work? While you could hire this person, it'll cost you a lot less to use software that embodies his skills.

BriefCatch … in One Sentence

Launched recently, Legal Writing Pro's BriefCatch is a Microsoft Word add-in that scores your briefs, memos, and other documents, and suggests corrections and improvements.

The Killer Feature

Lawyer Ross Guberman built a successful legal writing consultancy, but he wanted to help more lawyers than time permitted. So he spent 18 months working with software developers to incorporate his legal writing knowledge into BriefCatch. Guberman also obtained input from 350 judges.

Much as Guberman himself might start a one-on-one session with an overall assessment, BriefCatch starts by scanning your document and assigning five different scores — Reading Happiness, Sentence Length, Flow, Punchiness, and Plain English. BriefCatch uses a scale of 100 for each score. As you edit your brief on your own or by accepting BriefCatch's suggestions, you can monitor the improvement in your scores.

BriefCatch also generates a Narrative Report — essentially a written report card that explains the pros and cons of your document and how BriefCatch will help you improve it.

"BriefCatch offers instant access to the skills I've long taught at top firms and courts, the tips in my bestselling book for advocates, and the insights I've gleaned from polling hundreds of judges and clients," says Guberman.

Other Notable Features

After gazing at your scores, it's time to get to work with BriefCatch's help. Guberman tells me that BriefCatch is more comprehensive than competing products. For example, BriefCatch identifies inconsistent serial comma use, language lawyers like but judges hate, unusually long sentences, commonly confused words (e.g., breech, statue), repetitive transitions, citation errors, and much more (see the entire list).

This level of detail gives the impression of a nuanced approach that belies the cudgel-like nature of most software. This is best exemplified by BriefCatch's ability to flag passive voice except for certain phrases that lawyers purposely use.

BriefCatch highlights all the potential problems in yellow and displays a spellchecker-like panel to the right. The panel explains why it flagged the word, phrase, or citation, and in most cases offers several alternatives instead of just one. You can accept the suggestion, ignore it, or ignore all such suggestions throughout the document. BriefCatch lists a running total of "changes" versus "ignores."

During my demo, BriefCatch caught a misuse of the word "belies" (unlike my correct use above) in a recent DOJ brief. BriefCatch suggested replacing it with "reveals" or "shows," either of which I can confirm would have corrected and clarified the sentence.

"This product is sublime," says Chris Bayh, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. "Each time it gives me a couple dozen great notes, making a big difference in flow and punchiness. It also helps to make the next brief better the first time."

What Else Should You Know?

BriefCatch resides on Microsoft Word's Ribbon and runs locally, not in the cloud. It costs $240 annually per user (you can get a free trial before buying). Learn more about BriefCatch.

How to Receive TL NewsWire
So many products, so little time. In each issue of TL NewsWire, you'll learn about five new products for the legal profession. Pressed for time? The newsletter's innovative articles enable lawyers and law office administrators to quickly understand the function of a product, and zero in on its most important features. The TL NewsWire newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Focus on Your Depositions, Not Arts and Crafts Projects

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Today's issue of TL NewsWire covers cloud software for paperless deposition exhibits that gives you precise control over what the deponent sees and which can generate a hyperlinked report of all marked exhibits (see article below). In addition, you'll find links to the previous 11 TL NewsWire features, including our coverage of billing and task management software designed to handle any financial model you devise, including the option to outsource drudgery such as mailing bills, a major practice management update, including a new Android and iOS app that automatically captures time for calls and email, and much more. Don't miss the next issue.

For a discovery tool designed to elicit important testimony, depositions often resemble an arts and crafts project. Printing exhibits is time consuming and can get expensive. When you need to travel for a deposition so do your exhibits, which may require shipping them. Given that laptops and iPads have practically become a birthright, it seems like a good time to switch to paperless deposition exhibits.

eDepoze … in One Sentence

eDepoze is a paperless deposition exhibit service that works in web browsers and in a dedicated iPad app.

The Killer Feature

When you depose a witness, you want as much control as possible. You don't want a witness paging aimlessly through an exhibit you just handed out. It's also important to avoid creating a confusing record that fails to capture a witness' interactions with an exhibit.

eDepoze addresses both of these challenges. In presentation mode, you can control which page of the exhibit the deponent sees, and zoom in to make it easier for the deponent to focus on what you're asking about.

Annotation tools such as arrows, highlights, circles, and freestyle drawing can help clarify the deponent's testimony and create useful evidence. During my demo, Division President Jeremy Lindahl showed me how a deponent could mark on a photo where an accident occurred.

"Our goal at eDepoze is to change the way corporations and law firms approach the deposition exhibit process," Lindahl tells me. "Paper is outdated, limited, unsecure, extremely wasteful, and simply unnecessary. eDepoze gives you a better option. Features like Presentation Mode give you more control over your depositions."

"eDepoze actually makes me want to take depositions," says Joseph Baghat, managing attorney of The Privacy Firm.

Other Notable Features

Before your deposition, setup the case in the WebManager, designate the upcoming event (e.g., deposition, witness prep, arbitration) and create deponent case folders. Then upload your exhibits from your desktop or import from Box or Dropbox cloud storage services. In the iPad app, you can add photos from the Photos app. eDepoze supports PDF and text documents as well as common formats for audio, images, and video.

In the case folders for a deponent, choose which documents you may want to use during the deposition and arrange them to correlate with your outline. For physical evidence, eDepoze offers a placeholder so that you can record the exhibit number when introduced. If a previously unknown document surfaces at a deposition, you can add it on the fly. Some eDepoze users have a paralegal monitor the deposition remotely in case they need any additional documents.

During a deposition, you can stamp exhibits before or after you introduce them using any alphanumeric sequence. You can also pass control of eDepoze to other lawyers at a multi-party deposition. eDepoze offers a chat feature that everyone except the witness can use. This enables you to communicate with a colleague without leaving eDepoze. After each deposition, generate an Exhibit Log Report listing all the exhibits you introduced with hyperlinks to each document.

What Else Should You Know?

eDepoze offers two pricing options. You can pay $300 per deponent per day without any subsequent commitments. This makes it easy to bill your client for the eDepoze service as a flat cost. Alternatively, eDepoze offers an annual subscription with unlimited depositions that costs $400 per month. Learn more about eDepoze.

How to Receive TL NewsWire
So many products, so little time. In each issue of TL NewsWire, you'll learn about five new products for the legal profession. Pressed for time? The newsletter's innovative articles enable lawyers and law office administrators to quickly understand the function of a product, and zero in on its most important features. The TL NewsWire newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Billing and Task Management Software You’ll Never Outgrow

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today's issue of TL NewsWire covers billing and task management software designed to handle any financial model you devise, including the option to outsource drudgery such as mailing bills (see article below). In addition, you'll find links to the previous 11 TL NewsWire features, including our coverage of a major practice management update, including a new Android and iOS app that automatically captures time for calls and email, a new marketing automation and client intake platform designed for law firms, including tools for email newsletters and electronic signatures, and much more. Don't miss the next issue.

Law firms rarely charge a simple hourly rate. Instead, most have sophisticated billing needs. Also, a firm's billing model can change because of a new client, partner, practice area, etc. Ideally, you want billing software that can handle any financial model you devise.

TimeSolv Legal Billing … in One Sentence

TimeSolv is cloud billing software with extensive and flexible tools for time and expensive tracking, trust accounting, billing, and task management.

The Killer Feature

If you can think it, TimeSolv can track it. TimeSolv accommodates different billing rates based on the lawyer, task, matter, and other factors — even UTBMS task codes. Law firms often use split billing to incentivize behavior such as rainmaking. TimeSolv can split bills in any proportion, including granular controls such as splitting hours at different rates.

When creating a new matter, choose a default billing arrangement that you expect to use for most time entries. Timekeepers can override this default when necessary. For example, if a case goes to trial, you can use TimeSolv's Task Then Timekeeper setting to charge a premium trial rate.

"TimeSolv is hands down the best legal billing program available today," says Eva DeVincentis of O'Kelly & Ernst, LLC. "Not only is it easy to use, but if you find anything that you need it to do, just reach out to the staff at TimeSolv and before you know it, they've updated it with your request!"

Other Notable Features

TimeSolv greets you with the Time Entry dashboard. A calendar lists the time entered each day as well as totals for the month. To the right you can create time entries before or after the fact with tools such as a timer you can start and customizable abbreviations for entering lengthy descriptions (a cheat sheet lists all stored descriptions). Entering expenses works similarly.

Your support staff can use TimeSolv for free, which is helpful if some lawyers in your firm track time manually and send it to their assistant. Security controls can prevent support staff from doing anything other than entering time. These controls are also useful when working with contract lawyers.

When it's time to transform your firm's billed time into revenue, you can generate a list of Draft Bills by parameters such as client, date range, etc. You can view draft invoices and drill down to individual time entries to make adjustments. If you don't finish your review in one session, icons let you know which invoices you already reviewed. TimeSolv offers trust accounting so you can apply available trust funds during the review process.

You can use TimeSolv's Client Portal to deliver bills, and clients can pay via ACH or credit card thanks to integration with LawPay. You can also email and print bills, and submit bills to ebilling systems. TimeSolv can even print and mail your invoices via its add-on AutoMail service. For the ultimate in delegation, TimeSolv offers Outsourced Legal Billing in which a U.S.-based team preps your drafts bills, obtains your approval, and then sends the final versions, including to ebilling systems.

What Else Should You Know?

TimeSolv offers two-way sync with both the desktop and online versions of QuickBooks. A companion Windows and Mac app called TimeSync captures your time when offline. An extensive suite of task management and budgeting tools enable you to create workflow templates, automatically enter time upon task completion, and even offer flat fees. Learn more about TimeSolv Legal Billing.

How to Receive TL NewsWire
So many products, so little time. In each issue of TL NewsWire, you'll learn about five new products for the legal profession. Pressed for time? The newsletter's innovative articles enable lawyers and law office administrators to quickly understand the function of a product, and zero in on its most important features. The TL NewsWire newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

As a fairly unsophisticated technophile, I find the TechnoLawyer Newswire helps explain new software, gadgets, and other products in language I can understand. Plus, it always provides links to a fuller explanation of the product or service. All in all, a very helpful read for an old lawyer trying to keep up.
- Jack P. Doran, Esq., Law Office of Jack Doran
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